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Metro K-Drama Roundup: Metro Editors Discuss ‘The Penthouse’

It may not be for everyone, but ‘The Penthouse’ is so intriguing and entertaining

In the past two episodes of Metro’s K-Drama Roundup, the Metro editors talked about what team they’re on in Start-Up—Team Nam Do San or Han Ji-Pyeong—as well as other the other dramas they’re tuning into. A popular answer among the panelists was The Penthouse, a new series that premiered this past October, and is set to run until January next year. 


The show is set in the luxury Hera Palace apartment with 100 floors, following the stories of Shim Su-ryeon, an upper-class woman and the queen of Hera Palace; her husband Joo Dan-tae, a succcessful man in business and real estate; Cheon Seo-jin, born into a wealthy family and described to be “arrogant”; her husband Ha Yoon-cheol, a chief surgeon at a general hospital, and described to be “ambitious”; and Oh Yoon-hee, who comes from a poor family background, working hard to make her children part of the upper class.

As the storylines on the show heat up, the Metro editors talked about their thoughts on the show. 


On the panel for this discussion:


Geolette Esguerra: Metro.Style Editor-in-Chief

Justin Convento: Metro.Style Culture Editor

Grace Libero: Metro.Style People Editor

Anna Rosete: Metro.Style Living Editor

Leah Puyat: K-Drama veteran

and Juana Yupangco: K-Drama fan

Juana: I started Start-Up and Penthouse. Penthouse is very promising. It’s nice and trashy.


Leah: The Korean version of the Real Housewives.


Juana: Yes! It’s probably the trashiest one I’ve seen.


Geolette: I only watched one episode. I haven’t even reached some of those scenes yet but it’s super intense. Just with the first episode there’s already a death! Of course it revolves around this luxury apartment complex of 100 floors. In the first episode, I never saw any of their neighbors. I’m not sure if they will appear in the latter episodes but it seems like it’s gonna revolve around the Hera Club. They’re couples and once single and they also congregate together and it turns out their lives are intertwined more than they thought. Of course there’s this outsider who is Oh Yoon-hee, so she’ll be the one who’ll rise in the end but I’m curious because they all have their kids so it’s really a big ensemble cast. There’s so many characters, their stories are so layered. Every episode is so dramatic which is why its ratings are so high in Korea.  

What are your initial thoughts on this series?

Juana: It reminded me a lot of Sky Castle


Justin: For me, I realized the Koreans really love shows like this and World of the Married and I guess they really just like all this intriga! They’re just like us! 


Anna: They have an appetite for pulling hair and blood. I’m sorry Amor Powers but this is something else.


Leah: I think they even have a name for it, diba? I think they call it mukjang? It’s marked by really over-the-top drama. They have the slice-of-life dramas which are more realistic, and then they have this genre where they really lay it on thick. No pretense of being realistic, I mean they really just layer and layer and layer all the melodrama and all the extreme behavior.


Juana: That’s interesting that there’s a whole different genre for it and how they can differentiate that. 


Geolette: It has reached double digits already. For its first episode it’s at 13.9% and in Seoul it’s 15% actually and that’s pretty high.


Juana: That’s really high. 


Geolette: In the Philippines, we all watch it on Viu, so to watch it you have to download the Viu app. You can watch it in your free time. I would actually prefer watching it during daytime. 


Leah: I think there’s something in human nature that if there is this group of people who seem to have it all—you know, they live in a nice place, they have beautiful clothes, they themselves are beautiful—something in us wants to see what’s their flaw. Like what they did with the Greek gods like, Athena is so wise, Aphrodite is so beautiful, but then they must have cat fights all day long. They named their building after Hera. That’s why Zeus is always having flings and affairs because she’s the classic wife you have to run away from. That’s the kind of wife who live here, they drive their husbands away with their bitchy behavior.


Juana: May favorite was ‘yung hinampas ‘yung Bordeaux sa asawa niya


 Geolette: It really revolves around these three girls. Oh Yoon-hee, towards the latter part of the episodes you’ll see her backstory and how she’ll rise and actually start defending her kids. 


Leah: Her daughter’s so pretty! 


Geolette: And can sing so well!  


Leah: I see her as a big star. She can be a Song Hye-kyo, she’s so pretty. And the way her emotions are all on the surface. You can really feel her emotions. 


Grace: She played the young Jun Ji-hyun from My Love From the Star


Geolette: And of course, Oh Yoon-hee’s nemesis is her past classmate. I wouldn’t say frenemy because I don’t think they were ever friends. They were competitors through and through. I wonder if the school is owned by her father or something like that.


Grace: Grandfather I think. 


Juana: Close enough!


Geolette: She turns out to be this super hotshot, successful classical singer. But turns out someone was actually better than she was so the standards weren’t that high. So she used her money to get her to the top. Money and influence to be the top soprano. And then this mysterious character, Shim Su-ryeon, she’s the wife of the owner of the complex. So far we still don’t know what she’s about. We just know that she’s gentle or she seemingly loves her husband.  


Leah: She has these lingering gazes that they make you think is she hatching some kind of plot? Does she have some ironclad prenup that he has to give her the building or something?  


Grace: I know na the answer, I saw na but I’m not gonna say it!

Who do you think should watch this show?


Anna: Everyone who’s bored! Everyone who’s bored in quarantine. Everyone who needs intriga in their lives.  


Grace: I think it’s not for everybody. Those who like to have a break from romcoms, ‘yun. With the Sky Castle feels, the intensity, those who appreciate intense dramas will like The Penthouse. But definitely with all the violence, parang it’s not for everybody. 


Leah: That Taylor video of “Bad Blood.” Parang girl squad vs. girl squad. Girls against girls eh.  


Juana: I was telling Justin yesterday, that Grace is right—it’s not for everybody—so I was telling her at our interview yesterday that for me, K-drama has become a solace for me. The news is so depressing, it’s so stressful, work piles up, so I can’t watch something that’s stressful because the news is like that. It’s already like that. With myself, the dramas that I tend to choose are calming, they’re like may love story, it’s easy, everyone has to look good. I watch The Penthouse in the afternoon with a drink, maybe, not for bedtime.  


Anna: I think watch it with your friends, like with a group of women who you can talk to after and you remind yourself that it’s a work of fiction. It’s like World of the Married, don’t take it home with you. 


Grace: Remind yourself that not everyone is as evil as these characters. 


Geolette: Some tips in watching The Penthouse: Watch in the afternoon, maybe with a drink. Watch with some friends, you can form a group, the way everyone watched World of the Married together, you can do the same thing. Alternate with romcoms or something fun and totally mindless so that you have an outlet after each episode. You can either get super hooked or get so inis with it. 


Grace: I watch it at night when my baby’s sleeping na so that I’m not gigil. It’s my me-time when I watch it. 


Geolette: When you’re watching also, you can really take note of the interiors, because that's a big feature as well. All the clothes, how they keep their house clean, how they have their help picking up after them. The long-list of support people that they have. Their lackeys, and their tutors and everything else. 


Anna: If anything that’s the reprieve in this show it’s to witness that kind of luxury. It’s like voyeuristic kind of, looking into other people’s luxurious lives. 


Geolette: So the question is where is this located actually and is there such a thing? Is there something similar in Seoul that’s this luxurious? 


Juana: I heard there’s a place called the UN Villas is like that.  


Geolette: In terms of architecture, it’s a mix of art deco and a lot of classical features as well. Pretty snazzy. And of course when you ride that elevator outside it really must hurt your ears. I like seeing the children. I’m interested.


Justin: They’re so catty!


Geolette: I’m curious about the twins. A lot of interesting things to note. As far as fashion is concerned, like Sky Castle, you can imagine to dress according to who they’re representing. The classical singer is always in these vampy outfits.  


Justin: Her boudoir and her vanity is… wow! 


Grace: What’s interesting here is parang dalawa ‘yung female lead. It’s rich vs. poor.  


Geolette: Su-ryeon naman is in these ethereal gowns. She’s innocent, so that’s her look. Yoon-hee is the one who doesn’t care how she looks, except for her scarf which she removed. What about their husbands? Justin: They’re so bad! They’re always complaining about their wives.  


Grace: Walang happy couple sa show na ‘to. Walang ideal couple. 


Geolette: There’s another female. She’s the doormat… the ideal wife. The ideal in-law who’s super kawawa who’s being bullied by all her in-laws. A lot of archetypal characters here. I guess it makes it easier because it’s really a big cast.  


Justin: It’s easier to remember them. 


Anna: It’s also a critique on what’s going on on their side of the world.  


Justin: Koreans love doing that reflection of their society. You look at Parasite and they like to point out socio-economic divides. This show has that. You see it in contrast with how the single mom with the scarf is living, how she’s working so hard. 


Geolette: A lot of insights we get whenever we watch K-dramas. It’s a reflection of who we are as well and it also reflects our values, who are we drawn to in shows, who do we appreciate, and who are we attracted to as well. 


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Lead photos and screenshots from IMdB