‘Pandora: Beneath the Paradise’ Season 1 Recap & Review: Is It Too Unpredictable To Be Good Enough?


“Pandora: Beneath the Paradise” is exciting, exhilarating, and all the other good words you can think of that accompany a fast-paced show. But one tip: do not binge-watch it. If you do, that will be like getting on a 16-hour long roller coaster, and that benefits nobody. This series is best taken 2–3 episodes at a time. Unfortunately, I did not follow our own advice, which is why I suffered from the numbness that comes when one has to process too many twists. It kept things exciting, but only when watched over a period of time. 

On another note, “Pandora: Beneath the Paradise” made us realize that more than a second lead syndrome, I prefer despicable villains who move heaven and earth for the person they love. Nobody captures this trope better than a K-drama. Lee Sang Yoon had my heart torn into pieces due to his lack of a single redeeming quality. If only he had not ventured into the territory of human trials, I would have rooted for his love story. But the fact that he could never see anything beyond what he desired, not even the dilemma of the woman he loved, made me realize that he was beyond saving. Pyo Jae Hyun made me think of the actions of another person, Zacarias, from “The Marked Heart.” However, he redeemed himself in the end, unlike Pyo Jae Hyun, who was beyond gone. Continuing the comparison, I was not as irritated by Simon as I was by Kyo Jin. But that has more to do with my love for Pyo Jae Hyun than anything else. On another note, it bothered me how a lot of the characters had no clear moral compass, with Sung Chan being the worst in this regard. Then there was Min-Young Hwi. 

As much as we love Korean dramas, must there always be an angle about an illegitimate child who is hated by the stepmother? Why do these women not leave their husbands? Hell, why did Hae Soo never leave Do Jin, even when she was clearly not in love with him and suspected him of having an affair? While we are talking about her, it looks like the world is still a long way off from understanding nepotism. For those in the back, it is not just about a conscious use of power but all the benefits it gives you anyway, which you will not consciously step away from. Other than this one part, she carried the show along with Tae Ra and Jae Hyun, but since I mentioned that, I don’t understand the need for Ha Jun’s character. Other than adding a few of the many twists to the tale, which wouldn’t have made a difference in the larger scheme of things, what purpose did he serve other than to push Tae Ra’s emotions? Don’t get me wrong; despite all my criticism, I enjoyed watching “Pandora: Beneath the Paradise.” I would have just enjoyed it a bit more if it had been crisper. Either way, this is how “Pandora: Beneath the Paradise” Season 1 plays out, which we will be discussing in a non-linear fashion.

Spoilers Alert

How Did No. 50, Aka Mun Ha Gyeong, Become Hong Tae Ra?

Mun Ha Gyeong became No. 50 to protect her brother. The person who kidnapped them trained kids to become elite assassins. The ringleader of this entire operation was Director Kim Seon Deok, a ruthless woman who takes special pleasure in breaking out into random screams when dealing with people. She blackmails Ha Gyeong to train under her for the safety of her brother. Ha Gyeong agrees, and soon enough, she is one of the best. One day, she finds that just like her, Ha Jun is also being trained, and he is No. 150. She takes a chance, and they run away together, but as luck would have it, they are chased by the goons, who capture Ha Jun while watching Ha Gyeong fall off a cliff. They assume that she is dead, just as Ha Gyeong thinks her brother is dead after her memories return. But unknown to them all, Ha Gyeong is rescued by Jae Hyun. He had first seen her during the car accident that had killed her parents and his mother. He was the one who rescued her when she fell off the cliff and had it arranged for her to have a new life as Hong Tae Ra, away from any shadow of her previous one. In fact, it was two years later that he met her again. He and Do Jin take Hae Soo to France to help her recover from her father’s death, and that is where they run into the Hong sisters. No doubt it was all set up by Jae Hyun. When the Hong sisters come back to Korea and contact them, the love story takes off. Basically, Jae Hyun fabricated a life for Hong Tae Ra, gave her time to settle into it with the help of Yoo Ra, and then introduced himself to marry her. But, of course, the past can only stay hidden for so long.

What Are The Complications Of Tae Ra’s Memory Coming Back?

The thing is, if Tae Ra’s memory had come back, it could have been just that. She could have gone back to her life as Hong Tae Ra after listening to her husband’s reasons, and that would have been it. But her life is hopelessly intertwined with the ones near and dear to her. When Hong Tae Ra had her accident, she was escaping with her brother, who had just assassinated President Go Tae Sun. The president was the father of Go Hae Soo, and she had never recovered from the trauma of it all. Following that trail led to the discovery that it was Hae Soo’s father-in-law, Jang Geun Mo, who had ordered that hit to prevent Go Tae Sun from exposing his corruption. Geun Mo had come to regret it and, in fact, had tried to stop the assassination from happening, but it had been too late. The uncovering of this was all intertwined with the fact that Jae Hyun was running for president, his company was conducting human trials with technology that was stolen from Jang Kyo Jin, and Hae Soo believed that it was Tae Ra who had killed her father. Sprinkle in the fact that Tae Ra never asked for this life, and her husband’s obsession with her and power, in general, made him go to extreme lengths to keep them both.

Come to think of it, Tae Ra could have just abandoned it all and run away with her daughter. But she was driven by a sense of justice, not to mention the need to protect the people she cared about. As much as she was saddened by Yoo Ra’s betrayal, Tae Ra couldn’t ignore that she had looked out for her in her final moments, right up to the point she was killed by Jae Hyun. Tae Ra also couldn’t ignore the threat to Hae Soo’s life from Director Kim Seon Dook, who wanted to kill her because she knew the truth about them. And when Kim Seon Dook was killed by Jae Hyun, the initial suspicion was on Tae Ra, though she later figured out the truth. However, his elaborate deceptions and manipulations ensure that she will never be able to escape him. Jae Hyun and Sung Chan would go to any lengths to get what they wanted.

Sung Chan wanted the glory that comes with scientific discovery, and he had not hesitated in endangering Kyo Jin’s life, whose research he was claiming as his own, and was further harming him by trying to use him as a test subject. It did not matter that he was never able to successfully replicate its results or bring it to fruition because it wasn’t his mind that had conceptualized it. His greed was enough. Talking about greed, there was Jang Geun Mo, whose greed harmed so many people in his way, and he finally landed in jail, ready to repent for the rest of his years so that he may face his friends with a blank slate in heaven or the next life. Accepting his jail time was his repentance. Then there was his wife, Min Young Hwi. She could never accept Do Jin as her own child, and when Kyo Jin was in a coma, she blamed Do Jin without any facts. She basically wanted to push HATCH forward, despite its nefarious means of functioning, so that her son could benefit from it. But her sons were different. Do Jin took time to find a strong footing, but once he did, he was firmly on the side of Hae Soo and Tae Ra. As for Kyo Jin, he falls prey to Jae Hyun’s schemes and dies (that’s what we believe for an episode or two), along with Ha Jun and Si Jeong.

Throughout this time, Jae Hyun has been running for president and has emerged victorious in the race. Full points to him for finding the time to run a successful campaign while being such an elite criminal and keeping the appearance of a family together despite it falling apart. But that doesn’t last because Tae Ra plays her final game. When Jae Hyun tries to reset her memories back to when she was still his happy wife, she pretends that it has worked while acting behind the scenes to execute her plan.

How Does Hong Tae Ra Get Her Revenge?

When Min Young Hwi learns what Jae Hyun has done to her son, she wastes no time confronting him and Sung Chan. The latter confesses everything he has done, which sends Young Hwi into a rage, and she stabs his neck. She then meets Jae Hyun, who similarly confesses his crimes, but he is the one who gets the better of her. It turns out that everything he was doing and saying was being recorded and broadcast to the outside world. Everybody gangs up on him—Hae Soo with her cameraman and even Do Jin with his questions. But Tae Ra steps in, shows her faith in her husband, and takes him away from there. While Jae Hyun is planning how their family can escape, Tae Ra finally tells him that her memory was never gone. With this, she drives off a cliff and into the water. But this stunt of hers does not dim Jae Hyun’s love for her. He carries her out of the water and falls back unconscious. When he wakes up, it is a different world for him. What happens is that Do Jin was waiting at the scene, and he injects Jae Hyun with something that makes the authorities think that he is dead. Tae Ra plays the betrayed and beautiful wife who was taken in by the words of her conniving husband. Within 24 hours, before the effect of the drug can wear off, she takes away his body after he is declared dead. But Jae Hyun isn’t dead. He is alive, and Kyo Jin, who has survived the fire, is subjecting him to one painful reality after another. In what is going on in Jae Hyun’s head, nobody except him thinks that Tae Ra ever existed. Bombarded with such simulations, one after the other, Jae Hyun is being punished by the group for the way he toyed with their lives.

Leaving him and Kyo Jin to it, Tae Ra starts going by her real name, Mun Ha Gyeong. She plans to go to Switzerland, where she can also get surgery to remove the chip in her brain installed by Jae Hyun to control her. As for Do Jin and Hae Soo, they make the decision to divorce each other, though they want to stay friends and co-parent their son. But this is not the end of it all. Young Hwi finds that Kyo Jin is alive. She is absconding from the police, and she secretly meets Kyo Jin. But in a small mishap that happens, the apparatus controlling Jae Hyun malfunctions, and he wakes up. He tries to attack Kyo Jin, but Young Hwi comes in between them. She dies due to the impact of the blow, and Kyo Jin is left devastated. Jae Hyun immediately goes back to his house, where he finds Hae Soo and knocks her down. Do Jin, who gets the updates from Kyo Jin, rushes to the townhouse and, upon not finding Hae Soo there, panics, thinking Jae Hyun might harm her. Having no choice, he stops Tae Ra from leaving the country and asks her to save Hae Soo. Tae Ra sends her daughter away with the nanny and makes her way to the cliff, where Jae Hyun is holding Hae Soo hostage. However, it turns out that it is not Hae Soo but a mannequin. By the time Do Jin and Hae Soo get there, Jae Hyun holds Tae Ra at gunpoint. He is on the brink of insanity due to what he has suffered with the simulations, and the pleas of Hae Soo and Do Jin fall on deaf ears. The only thing Jae Hyun wants is for his daughter to never find out that her father is a bad man. In fact, he tells Tae Ra that he finally understands what it means to have your will taken away from you. With that, he shoots himself and falls to his death.

A few years later, Tae Ra is with her daughter in snow-clad Switzerland. A healed Kyo Jin comes to visit her, but it is not all as good as it looks. Later, when Tae Ra goes to give him a towel, she sees lightning marks on his body—the exact ones that were on her husband’s back, which he got after he killed Yoo Ra. As Kyo Jin turns back and smiles at Tae Ra, it isn’t him but the face of Jae Hyun. This could mean a few things. Considering how “Pandora: Beneath the Paradise” loves to keep giving twists, this could be a hint that Jae Hyun survived the impossible circumstances of shooting himself in the head and then falling off a cliff, after which he somehow got rid of Kyo Jin and got plastic surgery to look like him. A more rational explanation would be that this is Tae Ra’s trauma acting up. It has to have an effect after what she endured for years. Another explanation would be that the chip in her brain was not successfully removed and is malfunctioning this way. We can assume that Tae Ra got her revenge, but she did not come out rosy and happy in the end.

Final Words

“Pandora: Beneath the Paradise” has been a riveting series, and if you have the patience, then rewatching it could prove to be far more entertaining than the first watch. But for now, its thriller soap opera quality has delivered us oodles of entertainment every week, and we are very happy.

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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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