09 July 2024

K Drama Review: The 8 Show (2024) 5 || 5

I've heard about this show from my sister. But I wasn't really that interested because she complained about how violent it was and how annoying some characters were. That is until Oppa mentioned that IU was supposed to be part of the cast. IU's drama choices have been spot on for me so far - Persona, Hotel Del Luna, My Mister, Moon Lovers, The Producers, You are the Best, and Dream High. And for the people behind this drama to consider IU, I believe they had good material to back them up. It helped that it only had 8 episodes which are less than one hour each. I regret not watching it sooner because this one was definitely worth our time. 


The story's premise is simple. It gathered eight people who were on the verge of giving up on life mostly due to bankruptcy. These people were lured with money and were made to join a competition that required them to be locked up in one building with each of them assigned to their own floors. They all earned money per minute, with the amount increasing as the floors go higher. The catch? The contestants need to earn time to keep the show going. And how do they earn time? By doing stuff that will "entertain" the sadistic people behind the show. Things become very complicated when the participants' greed and competing interests take over, leading to numerous violent instances of power struggle. The show takes us through how the contestants fight their way out of the heartless and cruel game they're in that will allow them to go back into the world they used to dread living in. 

Bae Seong Woo as First Floor

Background: Daughter was sick but was kicked out of the hospital due to lack of funds. Wanted to commit suicide to cash in on his insurance policy for his daughter's medical expenses.  

It was easy to be sympathetic towards First Floor. He had a leg disability yet he lived on the lowest floor, which meant he earned the least among the participants. It was also easy to classify him into the good list without any evil intentions. But knowing that this was accomplished actor Bae Seong Woo (Live) that we're talking about, I was quite sure that there's more to his slow and pitiful character. And as the show progressed, I found him really smart for figuring things out like how the King game was rigged and how he orchestrated the final attack on Eighth Floor despite being tied up himself. And while First Floor's story had a sad ending (to be discussed later), I felt that he was pivotal in finally putting an end to the show. His huge sacrifice helped free everyone from the show's bondage. 

Lee Zoo Young as Second Floor

Background: Wanted to help cover a colleague's medical and settlement expenses from an accident. 

I already liked Lee Zoo Young in Live (she was also in Samjin Company English Class). But I now love her!!! She was so badass as Second Floor. She was straightforward and brutally frank. She had no qualms challenging jerks from the top floors. And she can definitely fight. 

But the best thing about Second Floor is how she has a genuinely kind heart. Yes, she can appear and act rough but she never hesitates to choose to do the right thing - all the time! She was not greedy as in fact she volunteered to share her prize money with First Floor just to end the show. And despite all the abuse and torture she got from the top floors, she was never vengeful. She didn't think of hurting them even when they were already in power. And I loved what she said about wanting to leave with dignity. I even understand why she had to lock up her lower floor friends just to make sure that no other "entertaining" stuff happens that will unnecessarily prolong the show. 

Among all the characters, Second Floor would probably be the best for me. Because even if she had to go through so much, her fierce loyalty to justice and doing what is right never faltered. 

Ryu Jun Yeol as Third Floor

Background: Wanted to jump off a bridge after being bankrupt (and constantly chased by loan sharks) when he was duped by a friend to invest all of his money in a scam. 

It was easy to assume that Ryu Jun Yeol (The Producers, Reply 1988, Little Forest, and A Taxi Driver) was the main character in this show. It was totally imaginable based on his personality and past projects that he would lead in something unique and different like this drama. But looking back after finishing the show, I realized that while he was the first participant featured in the pilot episode and he was the narrator, he didn't really get significantly more screen time than the others. And that's one of the things I really appreciated about this show. All eight characters had their own time to shine and act like main leads. 

Third Floor might not be as rich and/or smart as the top floors but he was definitely quick-witted. He did this best when he thought of buying CCTV footage to find out who went around pulling off the toenails and tooth of the upper floors in violation of their collective agreement to stop doing "entertaining" stuff and to simply let the time run out to end the show. That was so clever because that stopped Sixth Floor from his Russian roulette game. 

Next to Second Floor, Third Floor is probably one of the participants with better values. I liked how he organized that mini get together in the end even if it seemed impossible for him to find everyone. 

Lee Yul Eum as Fourth Floor

Background: K pop idol wannabe who failed to debut and instead ended up as a parking lot attendant who was humiliated by former schoolmates. Epileptic.

The first few episodes made it appear that Fourth Floor (Lee Yum of Nevertheless) was a useless baby who was immature, indecisive, always scared, and super whiny. I would have probably been fine with her if she ended there. But of course, she had to be a traitor who colluded with the top floors. She was actually a perfect minion because of her extreme fear, she always did whatever her "superiors" say. 

In the end, however, Fourth Floor redeemed herself because she was instrumental in bringing down the high and mighty Eighth Floor. Who knows how much longer everyone had to suffer if Fourth Floor was not brave enough to end things there. 

Moon Jeong Hee as Fifth Floor

Background: a nurse who was married to a rich dermatologist who cheated on her. She retaliated by seeing another man who scammed her so she ended up mortgaging her husband's properties. Husband sued her. Diabetic. 

We can probably say that Fifth Floor (Moon Jeong Hee of Vagabond) was a mommy-ish fence sitter who always tried to be considerate of others and to pacify those involved in confrontations. She was probably the least physically tortured among the participants because her medical skills proved to be really invaluable for both sides. She can treat those who were hurt and she seemed trustworthy enough not to betray anyone. However, her illness and kindness proved to be her weak points. And while she might not have been abused physically, she probably suffered the most traumatic sexual abuse from Sixth Floor. And I guess that proved to be her breaking point because she demanded a reward of castrating him. 

Park Hae Joon as Sixth Floor

Background: a former professional baseball player who was removed from his team due to illegal gambling. He now sells cars, signs autographs during rare chances that fans recognize him, and is extremely violent. 

When picking who the most evil one was, I was initially torn between Eighth and Sixth Floors. But I guess I'd just give Sixth Floor (Park Hae Joon of 12.12 The Day, 20th Century Girl, Tune in for Love, Misaeng, My Mister and The World of the Married) the second place. Yes, he was an arrogant ass who was so easy to hate. He was a jerk who didn't care about First Floor's disability and he didn't mind beating the hell out of Second Floor. Yes, I could not stand his violence. But I feel as if his violence comes out as some sort of misplaced aggression. I don't think he is an entirely evil person who wants to hit people just for his own pleasure. I somehow feel that he did some of the stuff he did because Eighth Floor was manipulating him. No, I don't condone what he did. And I agree that he deserved the injuries he got. I just don't think that he's the biggest evil of all. 

Park Jeong Min as Seventh Floor

Background: a TV writer who is desperately in need of a good break after his proposals have been rejected and criticized repeatedly. 

Seventh Floor (Park Jeong Min of Miracle: Letters to the President, Mr. Sunshine, and Reply 1988) was the group nerd. Everyone assumed he could figure out everything after he explained how the prize money grew bigger as the floors go higher. Initially, that made him appear trustworthy. But once the lines were drawn, he emerged to be probably the biggest traitor among all of the participants, having switched sides at least twice. Sure, he might have instigated the rebellion by pushing the lower floors to the edge. But a lot of people were hurt along the way that I cannot simply forgive him for what he did. 

Perhaps in an effort to atone for his sins, Seventh Floor did the noble act of sharing his prize money with First Floor's family. And he might be getting more money if his show proposal based on the game he participated in gets approved. 

Chun Woo Hee as Eighth Floor

Background: a performance artist who has been rejected (and ridiculed) a lot of times. 

And now, let's save the best villain for last. Eighth Floor (Chun Woo Hee) was annoying right from the get go. At first, she just seemed totally carefree and thoughtless like when she bought personal stuff like designer clothes with the group's time. But as the story moved along, it became very apparent that she was the most evil one of all. While Sixth Floor would attack others who hit him or were mean to him, Eighth Floor brought revenge to a whole new level. Her act of withholding food from everyone when they voted for her room to be the trash room should have been a red flag already. And what really cemented her role as the meanest of all was when she purchased live footages of all the other participants so she can laugh at all of them as they writhed in pain. And her sleep deprivation/water torture was extremely evil. She seemed to have no soul at all. She probably deserved going to jail after destroying an art gallery, but I'm pretty sure she didn't mind that as long as she was able to exact revenge on her tormentors.

P.S. This was supposed to be IU's character. 


It might be easy for others to simply dismiss this show as another Squid Game.  The similarities are there - poor/desperate participants, games, violence, money, and all for the entertainment of a select few.  But as you look closer into this show, you'll realize that it's different. And probably, way more brilliant than similar shows. I would have to credit Oppa for opening my eyes to the message this drama was trying to convey. I might have missed it if I watched it on my own. I just hope I can articulate the things Oppa told me. 

Think of the entire building where our participants are staying in as a microcosm of society. Think of the floors as some sort of caste system where some are unfairly "higher" and "more superior" than others. Then everything will make sense. 

You have your ruling class on the top floors - the rich, the intellectuals, who think that they have the right to act all high and mighty. The "haves" as Third Floor called them. The epitome of this level would definitely have to be Eighth Floor - the opulence of her room, her possessions, her designer clothes, and her thoughtless attitude towards the people around her. She was a brat who thinks she rules the world and everyone else should bow down to her. If she does not get her way (like when she was voted to be the trash room), she will throw a tantrum by withholding something precious to those "below" her (food in this case). 

As expected, the rich band together to protect their common interests. They identify with each other because they all feel they're perfect, entitled, and everyone else is beneath them. And it does not help that luck is often on their side too. 

Then you have the middle class represented by Fifth Floor who are often the fence sitters and pacifiers who are mostly contented with maintaining the status quo. They're fine as long as you don't make them go through hardships. 

And finally, you have the poorer ones on the lower floors or the "have nots" according to Third Floor. These are the people who are always exploited because they are desperate. They are always at the mercy of your ruling class and taking the crumbs of the rich. 

We can't really blame them for making poor life choices because of the outrageous circumstances they're in. Yet, they're continuously shamed and ridiculed for their "bad decisions." 

They do all the hard work and they're used to "entertain" the ruling class but life never gets better for them. They remain poor while the rich just keep getting richer. 

First floor's room is the smallest and lowest (and the rooms get bigger and have higher ceilings as the floors go higher), yet, he had to keep everyone's trash for a long time. And when Eighth Floor refused to be the second garbage room despite the majority's decision, it was Third Floor (who had a smaller room compared to the others) who had to volunteer to be the new trash room just so everyone can get their meals and water again. 

And just like in any society, every class has its own breaking point. Things won't always be peaceful because class struggle will be inevitable. The way the lower floors tried to revolt against the top floors. It was nice to see Floors One to Three united when they realized that they cannot get the change they wanted if they keep on giving in to the demands of the top floors. They refused to take the bait of additional coins in order to make them leave and go back to their rooms. But alas, your ruling class will do everything to divide the group, to create factions that will break them up. And in this case, you have Fifth Floor who succumbed to the pressure of her diabetes which left her no choice but to grab the precious coins dangled before her so she can get her much needed food and drink. 

Unfortunately, the lower floors did not even need the top floors to instigate unrest within their group. First Floor's greed got in the way. He wanted to earn more so he wanted to prolong the show despite their earlier agreement to let the time run out. He had to think of "entertaining" things to do, which involved pulling Fourth Floor's tooth and the toenails of Sixth and Eighth Floors. 

Can we blame Second Floor for acting all dictatorial when the time mysteriously extended despite their agreement to end everything? Not at all. Everything would have succeeded had it not been for Fifth Floor's weakness. 

When it's revealed that First Floor's motive was actually to earn more so he can switch rooms, I feel a bit more sympathetic towards him. And when we find out that he actually had to pay for a new room, with an exorbitant amount that he can probably never earn, I pitied him even more. I felt that Second Floor's suggestion that they all share some of their money with First Floor was fair. But since nobody seemed to agree, can we really blame First Floor for being so unhinged that he had to resort to that death defying circus act that eventually led to his demise? 

And in the end, just like in our society, you get that sad realization that nothing really changes. The poor remain poor (or even become poorer) despite their best efforts because the odds have been stacked against them from the start. As for the rich, they just keep on finding ways to be richer (partly or even mainly due to their exploitation of the lower class). As Third Floor wondered in the end, would things really change if you tried to live to be a better person? 

The ending was poignant with Third Floor using his prize money to post billboard ads to call the other participants to First Floor's funeral. First Floor's family is still unaware of his death. A guy, presumably Seventh Floor, visited the family and told them First Floor was working overseas and he gave them money to last them a lifetime. Eighth Floor was in jail for excavating an art gallery. Sixth Floor sent a funeral wreath. Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Floors gathered together to pay their respects to First Floor. Will they see each other again? Maybe, maybe not. But that collective experience definitely bonded them for life. 

Oppa says...5.

Noona says...5.