Drama Battle: ‘Penthouse’ vs. ‘SKY Castle’ (*Updated*)

*Update as of 6/6/2021: I wrote this post when Penthouse had just begun airing. Some viewers were comparing it (in a negative light) to SKY Castle, so I thought I’d go ahead and write objectively about the similarities and the differences between the dramas. This post is not an in-depth analysis of the two dramas, a fact I find pertinent to disclaim since Penthouse is now already on its third season. Incidentally, if you’re interested on hearing my opinion of Penthouse as it continued airing, simply click here.

I have to begin by saying that those who are not even giving Penthouse a shot just because it has a lot (truly a lot) of similarities to SKY Castle are sorely missing out. If you liked SKY Castle, wouldn’t you want to watch something with the same vibes? If you’re purely not interested in the drama, by all means, drop it. But if the only reason you’re not watching it is because of peoples’ comments saying it’s a SKY Castle copycat or whatever, I’d encourage you to still give it a shot. I confess I almost dropped it after watching a few minutes’ worth and seeing the similarities. But I decided to dismiss SKY Castle from my mind and give Penthouse a fighting chance. And you know what? I’m glad I did.

It’s not my new favorite drama or anything, but I’m sincerely enjoying Penthouse as its own cinematic piece. In fact, check out my review of its first two episodes if you’d like to see more of my thoughts on it.

Also, just for the record, I’m not Team SKY Castle or Team Penthouse. I like both, and I aim to keep this comparison post objective and fun.

Hopefully Penthouse can come out from under the shadow of SKY Castle someday; for now, let’s look at the two dramas when stacked side by side. Just for giggles and grins.

Warning: If you haven’t watched SKY Castle or Penthouse: War In Life, not only will you probably not enjoy this post to its fullest, but be warned there are spoilers for both dramas ahead — especially the fully-aired SKY Castle (as opposed to Penthouse, which only has four episodes out at this point).

Starting off with similarities (buckle your seatbelts):

The good ole boys’ club

Let’s start off with the most obvious, which is that both dramas have an elite, exclusive group that most of our characters belong to. Both groups are filthy rich, entitled, and snobby (with a couple of exceptions, but that’s something that exists in both dramas as well).

the adults of ‘SKY Castle’
the adults of ‘Penthouse: War In Life’

The twins

One set sweet; one set cruel. Both have daddy issues.

‘SKY Castle’ twins:
Cha Ki Joon (Jo Byeong Gyu) and Cha Seo Joon (Kim Dong Hee)
‘Penthouse’ twins:
Joo Seok Hoon (Kim Young Dae) and Joo Seok Kyung (Han Ji Hyun)

The poor girl who bests all the other teens and ends up dying under suspicious circumstances

In one case, it’s schoolwork — and in the other, it’s classical singing. Either way, both girls beat out their financially wealthy peers whose families are well-connected. Neither girl comes from wealth or power, and both actually end up tutoring in the richer families as well. Kim Bo Ra’s character is much more well-liked by the other teens in general, however, while Jo Soo Min’s character is despised by the others.

Kim Bo Ra as Kim Hye Na in ‘SKY Castle’
Jo Soo Min as Min Seol A in ‘Penthouse’

How they die is also comparable: both girls fall from a great height either into or next to a fountain. Both deaths initially seem like suicides, but deeper investigation proves otherwise.

The two women who knew each other as children and reconnect as adults

And neither pair got along when they were kids either.

Han Seo Jin (Yum Jung Ah) and Lee Soo Im (Lee Tae Ran) in ‘SKY Castle’
Oh Yoon Hee (Eugene) and Cheon Seo Jin (Kim So Yeon) in ‘Penthouse’

The birth secrets

I ask you: can a true drama even exist without at least one birth secret? SKY Castle and Penthouse don’t seem to think so.

quininee
Kim Byung Chul as Cha Min Hyuk

And in order to keep those secrets truly secret, I won’t even include pictures here. Because I know there’s someone out there who ignores spoiler warnings. Mwahaha.

The loud, flamboyant mom

Who sometimes provides comic relief, but other times provides the need for an Aspirin.

Oh Na Ra as Jin Jin Hee in ‘SKY Castle’
Shin Eun Kyung as Kang Ma Ri in ‘Penthouse’

The overarching theme of motherhood

While both dramas revolve around families and include mothers, fathers, and children — both also specifically zone in on the relationships between a mother and her child(ren). Every adult female character in both Penthouse and SKY Castle is either a biological mom or a stepmom (each one has stepmothers represented). Both dramas explore what caring for one’s child looks like and — just as significantly — what crossing the line looks like as well, even when a mother thinks she has her kid’s best interests at heart.

Kim Jung Nan as Lee Myung Joo in ‘SKY Castle’

Now for some key differences between the two:

  1. To my recollection, SKY Castle doesn’t have anyone cheating on anyone. Not so with Penthouse, where a pivotal plot point involves two married individuals being caught in an extramarital tryst on camera in the titular penthouse.
  2. In SKY Castle, the “good” adults are ones that come from the outside and move into the neighborhood where all our main characters live. In contrast, Penthouse‘s “good” adult is a woman who is already in the exclusive inner circle, not someone who comes from the outside (though let’s wait and see what happens with Yoon Hee because I’m wondering where the drama is going with her).
  3. In general, I think the characters of Penthouse are worse than those of SKY Castle. There’s no middle ground with them; most seem super evil and manipulative. On that note, Penthouse seems to generally be much more of a soap opera/melodrama than SKY Castle, which tends a lot more towards realism (at least, as far as K-dramas go).
  4. The overall theme of SKY Castle — and one reason it was such a success — revolves around the cutthroat methods used by the parents to ensure their children’s “success,” specifically in the realm of education. This drives the entire plot and storyline of SKY Castle. While the parents of Penthouse are certainly concerned about their kids’ images, the drama has a wider scope of storylines driving the action (i.e. the illicit affair between two of the parents, the birth secret I mentioned above, or the classical singing aspect — to name only a few). Rising to the top and staying there by whatever means necessary isn’t the core of Penthouse, as it is in SKY Castle.

Of course I can’t write a 100% complete comparison yet because Penthouse: War In Life has only just begun airing. But, so far, these are the major differences and similarities that strike me. Please feel free to comment your thoughts below! Do you agree that Penthouse should be given a shot as its own drama or do you think it’s a copy of SKY Castle? All thoughts are welcome. And of course, if you think I forgot something that should be listed in either the similarities or differences, please let me know in the comments!

If I’ve learned one thing from writing this, it’s that I want to re-watch SKY Castle again.

As always, thank you for reading and happy viewing!

And if you want another interesting read, be sure to check out my most recent post about the unique presentation of domestic abuse in the recent K-drama, At A Distance, Spring Is Green.

Would you rather listen? Check out my podcast: i dream of dramas

Or, you can follow my blog, Twitter, or Instagram accounts (also linked in my bio) to stay updated and also get some extra thoughts of mine that don’t necessarily always make it into my blog.

14 comments

  1. Pingback: New ‘SKY Castle’?: ‘Penthouse’ Episodes 1 & 2 Review – musings of a dramaholic
  2. whytho · December 20

    i watched both and honestly both are amazing in their own way, though i am enjoying penthouse more

    Like

    • Kayla · December 20

      Thanks for your comment!

      Like

    • Serene · March 30

      Hi! Now that penthouse has already been finished airing, which do you think is more enjoyable and has a great plot? SKY castle or penthouse? hehehe I am so torn about what to watch first.

      Like

      • Kayla · March 30

        Hi! Thanks for your comment! Personally, I like ‘SKY Castle’ much more. While it’s more realistic, ‘Penthouse’ contains a lot of extreme melodrama (which some people prefer — to each his or her own). As to the plots, I think both are creative and unique!

        Like

  3. Anonymous · January 3

    tbh the penthouse characters made sky castle characters look like saints

    Like

    • Kayla · January 6

      Haha, love this. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

      Like

  4. Pingback: Unpopular K-Drama Opinions: 3 Extremely Popular K-Dramas I Didn’t Like (And Why) – musings of a dramaholic
  5. Yoms · July 12

    Penthouse has jaw dropping plot twists every time and that makes you have huge trust issues but its really worth to watch. We are in the final season so let’s see the endgame of it!!

    Like

    • Kayla · July 12

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts on Penthouse!

      Like

  6. Varsh · July 18

    I just finished The Penthouse and i’m planning to watch Sky castle now. I am so excitedd! but i started watching the first episode and its a bit boring will it get more interesting later on??

    Like

    • Kayla · July 18

      Thanks for the comment! I like ‘SKY Castle’ more than ‘Penthouse,’ so I personally think it is very interesting — but of course everyone has different tastes in dramas. (One important thing to keep in mind if you do decide to give ‘SKY Castle’ a try is that it does not have the same soap-opera-style melodrama that ‘Penthouse’ does.) Again, thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Like

  7. Cara · July 20

    Penthouse is highly recommended for someone looking for some extra drama lol but penthouse is really good but my patience could not handle it sometimes. Personally prefer sky castle cus it’s more realist. My summary on both is that they are both extremely good and kinda the same but penthouse is just extremely overdramatic with the twists.

    Like

    • Kayla · July 20

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your take on both dramas!

      Like

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