The first season of Sweet Home premiered on Netflix in December 2020, and it was one of my most-anticipated TV Shows back then. I was sucked into the story basically instantly. I always like to pay extra attention to the “feel” of any movie or series. There was something about Sweet Home right from the very first second that just captivated me. Sure, the knowledge of it being a post-apocalyptic monster-filled journey definitely helped, as I am a sucker for those, but there was something else. I could go into how the color grading was beautiful or how the entire thing had a sort of sadness but also hope embedded into it, but that wouldn’t be enough of an explanation. The entire thing is beautifully shot, and there’s something about the visuals that just pins you in front of your TV.
Of course, the other two major factors when it comes to any kind of good media are story and characters. Both of which are absolutely excellent in this case. So let’s dive into the first: Here’s all you need to know about Sweet Home Season 1’s story.
This is not your typical cast and story. The entire thing plays out in a rundown apartment building: Green Home that houses people who either lost their way in life or were on the verge of losing it all. That’s how we meet the new resident, Cha Hyun-Su (Song Kang), who moves into the apartment building with barely anything to his name and a date set when he would kill himself. His life – as we get a glimpse into it – is basically empty, living off of ramen, playing video games, and avoiding everyone at all costs. Very early on in the story, he encounters the young ballerina on the roof, Lee Eun Yoo (Go Min-Si), who basically tells him that it would be rude of him to kill himself in the building. It would be inconvenient for the residents. Throughout the first episode, the creators very cleverly hide all the signs of what’s waiting for the protagonist of the show. From small hidden conversations in the background, through imagery. It is right in front of the viewer’s eyes from the get-go. At first, it’s not even really clear if you should root for any of the characters.
They are all very flawed and, to be completely fair, very human. They are not your typical protagonists at all. Sure, they put in a lot of work to represent characters we all know from other post-apocalyptic stories, like people who stay greedy and money-hungry even though the world is collapsing around them and would even push any of their family members in danger just to save themselves. But it is by no accident that this type of character pops up in virtually every apocalypse-themed story.
They don’t mess around with the outbreak for long; it happens in the very first episode as people trying to go to work simply can’t because the entire building is locked down and the security guard is gone. The first monster encounter is horrifying. If you’ve ever read Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain (or watched the series), imagine the monsters from that. Now, the thing about people turning into these monsters is that it is not your regular storyline. It’s not an infection or virus; it is heavily implied to be a curse called Crucru, which basically turns humans into monsters based solely on their desires. Therefore, there are a ton of different monsters that appear, one scarier than the other. The other twist on it is that one of our main protagonists, the previously mentioned suicidal Cha Hyun-Su, shows the symptoms right in the very first episode. But for some reason, he avoids turning into one of the monsters while also maintaining all of their abilities. The survivors – a very colorful group of people – all end up staying on the ground floor together while trying to survive it all.
The characters are the driving force of this entire series. When I say that there are no small parts in here, I mean it. I think there’s only one character that I could single out as underdeveloped and just expandable, but everybody else is crucial. As you may all know, I’ve been hooked on Korean entertainment for a long time now. I always say that what hooks is how well they understand the importance of character development and the relationships that they build into their stories. I have many favorite Korean titles that I watched more than once, but I had to realize before writing this article that my most rewatched title is actually Sweet Home. This is incredibly funny to me because this is what I wrote about it in my big Korean Movies and TV article:
I will admit that the first watch was indeed a rough start as I wasn’t as hooked as I would have liked to be. Mostly because of what I mentioned earlier: at the beginning, it’s hard to root for any of these characters. But that’s the beauty of it. There are so many characteristics that are built in here, so many real human emotions, flaws, and beauty too. Yes, there are characters that will do the right thing but simply can’t be called a hero. Lee Eun-Hyeok (Lee Do-hyun) is one of the most perfect examples of this. He steps up as the leader of the group at the beginning and, right from the start, makes incredibly questionable but, at the same time, well-thought-out decisions.
In one of the episodes, the electricity cuts off and all the generators are in the garage that’s also closed down. He sees a monster on the camera feed and makes the decision to send the most capable person, a firefighter and former special forces member, Yi-Kyung (Lee Si-young). Nothing wrong with that, right? The only problem is that Eun-Hyeok fails to warn Yi-Kyung about the monster. Later on, he decides to use Cha Hyun-Su to send him on supply runs as they realize that his incredible strength and regenerative powers could be of use. Basically, using him and completely disregarding all the pain he goes through. But – thankfully – the show didn’t just leave Eun-Hyeok as a despicable character. His character development and change by the end is one of my favorites that happens.
There are no meaningless deaths among the main characters, and just like in Game of Thrones, no one is safe here. I am a very emotional person, and if a movie or series fails to make me feel, it is simply not good. Easy as that. When I tell you all that I was weeping during almost every single episode, I ain’t lying. Characters I despised at the beginning but grew to love with all of their flaws were incredibly hard to watch go. I can safely say that Sweet Home has some of the saddest – and most heroic – deaths.
Sure, the series is not without its flaws and things that could be improved upon. For instance, the music is something that I’ve found a bit jarring at points and not really fitting. And no, I am not talking about the Imagine Dragons – Warriors song and how it was used multiple times. If you have ever watched any K-content, then you know that using the same song in similar scenes is a very common practice. My problem was more with the use of songs that just didn’t seem to fit some of the scenes. It was definitely something that very occasionally took me out of the moment. The other thing that was a bit weird for me was the passage of time, as it is not always very clear how many days have passed between episodes or in just one given episode. The series starts with a time jump where, in the first scene, it is snowing, but then we go back to August. So, based on just the weather, months had to pass between when it started and when the first season ended. But it never really feels like that, and it is never really implied, either. But these are really just my nit-picking criticisms regarding the entire thing that’s otherwise near perfect for me.
The ending of season 1 and all the revelations we got are what make the next installment so exciting. Once the military shows up at Green Home demanding to release the special infected (Cha Hyun-Su) to them, all hell breaks loose as an underground tunnel explosion makes them open fire on the building. The remaining survivors are forced to escape, but Cha Hyun-Su and Lee Eun-Hyeok stay behind. Hyun-Su goes out to let the soldiers take him (the moment the series starts with) as he is afraid of his newly found powers, and Eun-Hyeok stays inside the collapsing building because the symptoms show up in him too. and he is afraid that he can’t resist the turn like Hyun-Su did.
The survivors escape through the tunnels, but as the military waits for them at the end, Yi-Kyung decides to join their forces while the others are taken away to a “safe camp”. However, the biggest twist was the reveal that Hyun-Su is in a military truck with Sang-Wook (Lee Jin-Wook) driving, even though in the middle of the episode, he died (and made me very upset because he was my favorite character). As it turns out, the other special infected that was present in the previous two episodes and then got “killed” by Hyun-Su didn’t actually die. The body he used was gone, but his blood got out and got into the thug with a heart of gold, aka Sang-Wook. And that’s where they left all of our protagonists.
Based solely on the series – without reading the webtoon – I am already a bit afraid of what will be the endgame for Hyun-Su and Sang-Wook. It’s already fairly certain that Sang-Wook is not the same as he was before, and their conflict will probably be the main focus of the entire thing other than the spread of the curse in Korea. This brings up the other question: Do we have a Train to Busan/Peninsula situation on our hands where it was revealed that the virus only spread in Korea? Or does this curse affect the entire world? What kind of secret project did Yi-Kyung join as she served in the military? Will we find out what happened to her fiance? And the biggest question is – I did not watch the main trailer for season 2 as I don’t want to spoil anything – will we see what happens to the other survivors? The kids, the Ballerina, the Mother, and other remaining residents of Green Home? The mystery behind the curse and if it can be turned back at all or stopped before it is too late is also looming above the entire thing so it will be very interesting to see what happens. What I hope is that they won’t abandon the little things in the story. What made the first season so amazing is that they were not shying away from all those little details that made it all so much deeper and meaningful. Hopefully, that will stay, and we will get the answers we’ve been looking for.
Sweet Home Season 2 arrives December 1st on Netflix, and you can all bet your asses that this gal will write about it, so keep your eyes open when that drops here on Couch Soup.