‘Sweet Home’ is a South Korean live-action TV series based on the 2017 webtoon of the same name by Kim Kan-bi and Hwang Young-chan. The South Korean television series narrates the tale of a world where humans suddenly start turning into monsters. In its premiere season, the show revolves around the tenants of the Green Home apartment building. It portrays their desperate efforts of survival as their world quickly becomes feral around them. What is notable about ‘Sweet Home’ is that it doesn’t use the basic, well-known human-monster differences as the core issue. Instead, it focuses on how its characters, both humans and monsters, respond to their circumstances. Beyond all the action, gorefest, evocative imageries, and the thumping tracks by Imagine Dragons, ‘Sweet Home’ is a show about individual desire. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Sweet Home: What’s With The Mystery Disease?
Not long after troubled teen Cha Hyun-soo (Song Kang) shifts in the Green Home apartment building, people begin changing into monsters and attacking others. Although Hyun-soo and others primarily think that this is a disease, it later turns out to be a curse. It’s not contagious, and it has infected everyone. The monsterization in this show is the result of people’s most ingrained desire. The eye monster is how the original human‘s scopophilic tendencies have manifested, whereas the protein monster represents its addiction with physical fitness in its previous life.
New Rules For Infectees
Totally unaware about who will turn next, the survivors form a tentative team under the leadership of Lee Eun-hyuk (Lee Do-hyun). He who builds an effective system to ensure their safety and perseverance. Food and water are distributed. Roaming anywhere alone is forbidden. And most importantly, the ones who start showing symptoms of metamorphosis are quarantined. Hyun-soo begins to change initially in the series but never completely goes through it, converting into something completely different from both humans and regular monsters. Ever the practical, Eun-hyuk keeps Hyun-soo alive through the Golden Hours, the span of time when monsters are vulnerable. He often sends him out on dangerous tasks, knowing that the latter has the best chance of completing them because of his apparent immortality.
In the season finale, the human-monster conflict again takes the spotlight after the military drops flyers promising sanctuary to those who inform about a “special infectee” like Hyun-soo. While Seo Yi-kyeong (Lee Si-young) doesn’t contact the military with the lead she was given earlier, one of the other survivors does. With the group still processing from the outlaw attack in the former episode, Eun-hyuk’s system has come apart.
Yi-kyeong Finds An Underground Path
When the other special infectee begins indistinguishly killing the other survivors, Hyun-soo has to choose between them and one of his own kind. For all the time he has been serving as their errand man, they are now like a family to him. In the ensuing war, he undergoes yet another change, becoming a one-winged species, and kills the other special infectee. As the military reaches there and corners the building, Yi-kyeong discovers an underground path that can take them outside by digging at the same place where Ahn Gil-seop (Kim Kap-soo) was before his death.
Sweet Home Ending
Religion, especially Abrahamic mythology, has an essential role in the plot development of ‘Sweet Home’. Up until his demise in episode 8, the devout Christian Jeong Jae-heon (Kim Nam-hee) works as the physical representation of the theological themes in the show. His constant fight with alcoholism as well as the typical humility of a faithful keep his desires distant, preventing him from turning.
Other characters, like Lee Eun-yoo (Go Min-si) for example, have found their own way to get around the problem. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have regret or unfulfilled desires. Eun-yoo holds herself responsible for the deaths of her and Eun-hyuk’s parents. Also, even before the monster apocalypse she knew that she is not going to become a ballerina because of her injured foot. And yet, she denies to give in to those never-ending questions that often start with a “what if” and manages to keep her humanity for now.
Cha Hyun-soo’s Depression
Hyun-soo’s life is full of tragedy. He used to be a brilliant, happy kid until a rich classmate started making fun of him. The constant mental and physical tormenting brought him into serious depression and seclusion. The one moment he tried to stand up against his tormentor, made his father lose his job. It also unintentionally caused the death of a classmate’s mother. The more isolated he became, the more shame his family felt about him. He gained some friendship and camaraderie online, and that was enough to make him feel good for the time.
But then, his entire family dies in a car accident. Because of what he had thought as their discrimination towards him, he had been hoping for them to die in the deepest, darkest corners of his mind. But when that actually happens, he gets to know the ultimate truth about his immediate reality—he is now all alone in the world. Every day, he wakes up with suicidal thoughts and even decides a day to finally do it. But before that day arrives, the monsters start showing up.
Cha Hyun-Soo’s Metamorphosis
It is that ingrained desire for a family, that leads to his metamorphosis. Despite being quite aware of the fact that Eun-hyuk and others have been merely taking advantage of his quietness, he decides to fight for them against the other infectee. A one-winged demonic entity is a famous trope in anime that refers to someone who is swinging in between the thin line between their humanity and true evil. In a series like ‘Sweet Home’, in which some monsters depict human qualities and people often commit acts of intense brutality without a thought, Hyun-soo acts as the meeting point of two extremes.
Sang-wook’s Secret Metamorphosis
In the concluding phase of season 1, he becomes represents the best of both kinds as he steps out of the building to meet the awaiting soldiers, alone, but for the first time in his life, without fear. He becomes unconscious in the ensuing gunfire. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a military vehicle with Pyeon Sang-wook (Lee Jin-wook). The last time Hyun-soo witnessed him, he was taking Park Yu-ri to a pharmacy to buy an inhaler for her and was shot by the other special infectee. He observes that the other man doesn’t have the severe burn marks on his face. Unbeknownst to him, Sang-wook has gone through a metamorphosis of his own, with his aspiration to ensure Yu-ri‘s safety being the catalyst. What is more shocking is that he is wearing military gear.
From the starting, the rest of the characters just assume that Sang-wook is a criminal. The final moments of the show prove it is quite unlikely. He is perhaps a former special forces officer like Yi-kyeong. It’s fact that he meticulously hid by pretending that he can’t shoot, even during the outlaw attack. If the disabled (or dead) soldier beside him is any hint, he probably attacked them while they were transporting Hyun-soo. He has managed to overpower them. This would mean that both of them are now running from the military.
Lee Eun-hyuk Self-Quarantines
Eun-hyuk’s major aim throughout the season has been the safety of the group as a whole. To achieve that goal, he is intending to risk any human, including himself, if a particular situation demands for it. Because of his what looks like distant and even detached mannerisms, others like Yi-kyeong incorrectly conclude that he doesn’t feel empathy. In contrast, he is worthy of incredible understanding and sacrifice. After their parents’ death, he dropped out of school to make sure that Eun-yoo’s training as a ballerina does not face hindrance. After the monsters begin increasing, he rapidly becomes the de-facto leader of the group of survivors because of his natural leadership abilities.
He then realizes that he is undergoing the process as well, due to his desire to keep everyone else safe. He puts himself in self-isolation, standing to the rules that he himself has created. His great sacrifice is for his sister and others. He is aware that he is now their greatest threat, so he isolates himself from them.
Sweet Home: A Hunt Begins
With the aid of the pet dog of one of the survivors, Yi-kyeong discovers a way out of the underground tunnel, only to find that the military is waiting for them at the exit. It is the time for Yi-kyeong to confront her own realities as well. As she didn’t use the beacon, the commanding officer tells her that their deal is no more in work. But they still have something that she needs—the information about what happened to her fiancé. As the rest of the group are boarded on a truck, she puts on military gear. Possibly, she has striked a new deal with the commanding officer, and it is probably to track and find Hyun-soo.