Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score – 4/5
I said it last year and I’ll say it again – Penthouse is a crazy, dramatic, beautiful mess. Moving into its second season, Penthouse takes everything that made season 1 such a catastrophically glorious show and dials it up to 11. Despite some illogical character jumps and crazy, crazy twists, the show delivers some hugely addictive TV.
With a more condensed and streamlined run this time around, Penthouse Season 2 ditches the 21 episode set-up and squeezes in some surprisingly tight character work across its follow-up. In fact, this second season outshines the first in many ways, with some decent twists and strong character progression.
The story this time uses the same motif of a murder mystery as the first. Instead of Hera Palace though, the drama unfolds at the 28th annual Cheong-A Arts Festival. Seo-Jin prepares to read out the winner but there’s a problem. One of the girls has been killed outside and as all our characters scramble out, they’re left to wonder who could be responsible.
This sets up the basic foundations for a compelling whodunit but the show extends beyond that to set up a showdown between our proverbial villains and heroes. At the center of all this are the dastardly Seo-Jin and Dan-Tae, who prepare for their marriage and company merger. They look set to take the Penthouse by storm too – until a face from the past returns. It’s Yoon-Hee.
Desperate for revenge, she aligns herself with Logan and an unlikely companion (which we’ll keep spoiler-free here.) As the season progresses, this power struggle begins to encircle all our other characters, bringing the fight right to Dan-Tae’s doorstep. Throughout the story secrets are revealed, turncoats show their true colours and the ending sees one side collapse and fall away.
To reveal much more would be a disservice but suffice to say there are some incredibly tense and dramatic moments. There are some wonderful twists in here too, including one right at the death of episode 13.
These twists are ultimately what kept Penthouse going during its first season but here the show boasts much more depth with each turn of the screw. Each of the main characters have individual moments to shine, including Yoon-Hee, Seo-Jin and Dan-Tae. In fact, these three characters have some really nice arcs across the season as a whole.
Although Dan-Tae still revels in the “evil Chairman” trope, there’s just enough nuance with his character to feel like he could have the rug swept out from under him at any moment.
The first time around, Penthouse kept a balanced focus on the kids and the adults, with drama unfolding at the school and the Penthouse. This time around the kids are kept at arm’s length, with bullying scenes kept to a minimum. They’re still here though, namely with Je-Ni in the firing line for helping Ro-Na out. However, there are noticeably less of them here.
Whether more scenes were omitted in the wake of the current scandals in Korea is unclear. What is clear however, is that the focus this time leans much more into the adults.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing and you can tell everyone involved in this production are having a great time. The story tangles itself into some pretty messy knots but there’s something endearing and addictive here to keep you watching until the end.
That is ultimately what makes Penthouse such a crazy, unique watch. It’s essentially a makjang on steroids, delivering everything we’ve come to expect from soapy melodrama but cranking that up to unprecedented levels. Sure it doesn’t always make sense but boy does it make for some good TV.
Is this the most prestige K-drama of the year? Absolutely not. Is it a guilty pleasure? Heck yes. Penthouse is an addictive, soapy mess and one that will leave you desperate for more when the final credits roll.
Verdict - 8/10