*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).
One set sweet; one set cruel. Both have daddy issues.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now for some key differences between the two:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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