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
Episode 14 – | Review Score – 4/5
Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. When it comes to Penthouse, Korea’s wildly popular makjang, that much is especially true. The end of season 2 felt pitch-perfect in a way, with the conclusion helping to round out all the big plot points and put all our evil Hera Palace residents behind bars.
When a third season was confirmed, many questioned just how this show would trump what’s come before. The first episode essentially undoes a lot of the work done during the finale, allowing this season to finally round everything out with a big conclusion.
The story itself begins with Seo-Jin and Dan-Tae escaping from prison, eventually leading to the other residents getting out in their own ways too.
Revenge is the name of the game here, and that comes against Su-Ryeon, Yoon-Hee and Logan. Penthouse has never been shy about killing off main characters (and bringing them or their twins back) but here, everything is given an air of finality to it, given it’s the final season.
The plot itself essentially continues this “good VS evil” story, but it does feel a little too sporadic and random compared to seasons past. While seasons 1 and 2 had an overarching murder mystery to lean back on, this season feels like it’s designed to try and top the ratings by injecting constant cliffhangers, shocking twists and character deaths. While compelling at the time, on reflection these don’t always work as effectively as they could.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely moments of surprise here but given what we’ve seen before, it’s hard to get invested when the show has a knack of including fake-out deaths and long-lost twin arrivals.
There are several deaths this year that feel like they’re going to be reversed, only to arrive at the final two installments and realize they won’t be. Had the show not used this gimmick so much in the past, it could well have been more impactful.
The characters are still intriguing though and the balance between shocking drama and light bites of levity works really well to keep that conventional Penthouse flavour going. There’s a lot more background surrounding Dan-Tae this time too, and seeing his rise from poverty to the lofty heights of Hera Palace could easily be a spin-off in its own right.
The rest of the characters are a mixed bag, with Seok-Kyung’s redemption one of the bright sparks of the show. Yoon-Cheol is just sort of there, with very little too do, while Kyu-Jin and his wife are pretty ineffective after their inclusions in the first two seasons. Still, if you’ve made it this far with the show, you’ll undoubtedly be invested to see how it all ends.
This is another point of contention though and as we all know, this can make or break a series. While it doesn’t break Penthouse per-se, it does make for a difficult show to recommend re-watching. The final scenes feel tonally at-odds with what we’ve seen across the season while a few loose ends are left frustratingly dangling when the final credits roll.
Overall though, Penthouse has been a wild ride but this third season runs out of steam long before the 14th episode. There’s certainly some stand-out moments but unfortunately it’s held back by a story that drags its heels and struggles to effectively usurp what’s come before.
It’s certainly not a bad season but it’s not a particularly good one either, swimming around in mediocre waters and struggling to give this one a satisfying send-off. Still, it’s been quite a ride hasn’t it? And this is one rollercoaster that won’t be forgotten for a long time to come.