Sisyphus (2020) 在劫難逃 : C-Drama Series Review

Not to be confused with Sisyphus : The Myth, which is a Korean drama series, Sisyphus is one of the Light On Series promoted on iQiyi in 2020. Light On Series especially in 2020 brought us great stories including The Bad Kids and The Long Night.

Sisyphus starts off bleakly, with a murder committed which throws the police in a frenzy of investigation involving the main suspect Zhao Bin Bin, a young & polite-looking doctor. The series shifts its focus amongst its main characters, with events that link them together. Zhang Hai Feng falls into depression upon the death of his daughter Duo Duo, spelling the doom of his relationship with beloved wife Qiao Xin. He gives up his career to lead a simple life in his attempt to forget the losses, but is pulled back into past events that provide clues that the death of Duo Duo is not accidental.

Husband – wife Qiao Xin and Zhang Hai Feng

As Zhang Hai Feng follows the clues chasing after Zhao Bin Bin, both are accidentally killed in a chase. However, Zhang Hai Feng wakes up in the past whereby his daughter is still alive and his family is in-tact. Although surprised, Zhang Hai Feng takes it as a 2nd chance for him to redeem himself to protect his family. As the stories unravel, the events become more complicated. The well- planned murders of specific people continue to happen, attracting Zhang Hai Feng’s attention. He continues to work with his trusted colleague Zhao Min to investigates further clues.

These clues point towards Liu Yu Qi, a young successful businessman. There seems to be a disconnect but both Liu Yu Qi and Zhao Bin Bin do not seem to know each other. When Liu Yu Qi is found dead, the clues continue towards his fiancée Sun Xiao Meng. However, as Zhang Hai Feng investigates Sun Xiao Meng further, his wife and daughter are still murdered and he becomes despondent. In his desperate confrontation with Sun Xiao Meng, he finds that both Sun Xiao Meng and Zhao Bin Bin are from the same welfare home in the youth.

Sun Xiao Meng & love-stricken Liu Yu Qi

When Sun Xiao Meng is interrogated by Zhao Min, it is finally revealed that she is the main piece that link all the other murders. She is actually looking for revenge for his father’s death, of which she identifies to his previous office. His boss, his other colleague, and her misunderstanding that Zhang Hai Feng is also a co-conspirator leading to his father’s death. Zhao Bin Bin is just the tool that commits the murders on her behalf, who is totally in love with Sun Xiao Meng and willingly does the biddings.

At the same time, Zhang Hai Feng faces off with his distant memory of a watch shop, leading him to seek the shop. In the shop, Liu Yu Qi awaits him for a chat, only to inform him that he is a volunteer in an experiment on human memory. His last statement to Zhang Hai Feng is his next memory stop is 20 years ago in 2004, and the longer one stays in the past memory, the harder it will be to wake up from reality. The series closes with the last scene in 2004, with Zhang Hai Feng visiting Sun Xiao Meng in hospital and encouraging her to have hope & faith in adversity. His future wife Xiao Qin drops by, admiring his kindness especially after Zhang Hai Feng mentions that he takes in Zhao Bin Bin as an adopted son. The End.

The final 2 episodes provides some clues to the events but probably also raises more questions. What exactly this entails, it is never really stated clearly. This series has a lot of holes, whether this is intentional or not, I am not so clear.

Zhang Hai Feng confronting Zhao Bin Bin

If I take a slightly different approach to the series, whereby hints are dropped and for us to imagine the “reality” behind the story – I would probably have a few conclusions on the finale based on the observations throughout the series:

  • Sun Xiao Meng is consumed with hatred for people that she deems as perpetrator in his father’s accidental death. Her hatred grows throughout the years, changing her into someone who will plan the murder to feed her anger. Has she transformed into a psychopath? In my view, yes. She has used her relationships with both Zhao Bin Bin and Liu Yu Qi to achieve her revenge.
  • Zhao Bin Bin is smitten with Sun Xiao Meng’s strength since young. He is always there by her side to support her, loving her deeply. All that he does is really to ensure that she lives a good life, even if it means leaving him to be with Liu Yu Qi.
  • However, I really could not figure out Liu Yu Qi’s objectives nor role in the overall scheme of things. His interaction in Zhao Bin Bin indicates that both love Sun Xiao Meng in their own way. But when he dies at the hand of Sun Xiao Meng, and then resurrected in Zhang Hai Feng’s arc, I am a little stumped. Is he then a fragment of Zhang Hai Feng’s memory at the end? Is he really dead?
  • Zhang Hai Feng is really a workaholic police officer, dedicating his life to protecting others. It is very unfortunate his daughter and wife (in one of his resurrections) also died and he is wracked with guilt that he is unable to protect them. In his attempt to redeem his guilt, he is willing to forgo these painful memories and create new ones. What is quite interesting to me is how the story will unravel in his last stop as he has taken quite drastic actions to try to change the course of the history. If his past experiences in moving back in time is taken as a gauge, the memory seems to guide them towards exactly the same outcome every single time, with perhaps some small variables. Will his journey back to 2004 be any different then?
  • The real science behind the memory experiments – is a bit blurry and doesn’t seem too supported. I will give it a break, and just assume that it can be a reality. My key takeaway is human being really has some issues with our ownselves.

Conclusion 6/10

In recent times, I have been bingeing more on Chinese sci-fi and thrillers series instead of the normal costumed martial arts ancient drama. These sci-fi and thrillers are shorter and quite a different genre, providing different perspectives. I was actually looking for some answers to try to find the explanations to the endings and loose-ends for the series. Unfortunately, I just could not find any answer. Hence, I have taken an easier way out to “imagine” the outcome based on what I have gleaned from the series thusfar.

Although the characters are well-portrayed, none of the characters really leave a big impact to me other than the fact that I did enjoy Lu Han’s portrayal of Zhao Bin Bin. You feel like protecting him, and at the same time he does seem perverted in his own chase of his agenda.

Is it really worth your time? The series is chaotic to begin with, and very confusing with no clarity on direction of stories and answers. Watch this series only if you do not mind a hanging series with no answer to a number of questions that you may have. One of the weaker Light On Series promoted under iQiyi.

Light On Series

The Bad Kid (2020)

The Long Night (2020)

Sisyphus (2020)

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