If the first two episodes of Netflix’s Physical: 100 showed how refreshing a Korean touch on American formats can be, this week’s 3rd and 4th episode perhaps showed its small, but present weakness.
As enjoyable as this week’s pair of episodes still were, one hallmark of Korean television that dragged Physical: 100 a bit this time around was its highlight editing. That is, the way Korean television loves repeating specific scenes in order to get as many angles and as many reaction shots as possible. If there’s a scene the show wants you to savor, they’ll let you know about it.
And Episode 3 was definitely an offender. It wouldn’t be a problem otherwise. But the editing for this episode as it focused on trying to get through all 50 face-offs in Quest 1 felt sort of exhausting by the end. It even stretched into Episode 4.
While the show highlighted a couple more matches, they ran through most of them by merely giving us the results. The very definition of reality show early boot fodder. Which is kind of a shame. And especially as the reactions by the spectators and the outcomes started to repeat match after match. Almost like it was on a loop, yet with different players in the arenas.
Obviously, it’s impossible to showcase all 50 matches unless you were to fill several episodes with just Quest 1. But the way the show chose which matches to showcase, it felt too repetitive than it needed to be.
One interesting difference from last week was that Episode 3’s matches were much more cutthroat and less good-natured than Episode 2’s. That’s partly on the editing as well as they could’ve easily cut out the more sportsmanlike moments post-match. But the competitors they also chose to feature in Episode 3 were much more focused on the game and/or big, confident personalities. The matches were definitely not shown in the order they actually occurred since eliminated competitors still popped up in reaction shots after they had been shown as eliminated.
So the overall attitude felt a little less fun than last week’s premiere episodes, in that sense.
It also didn’t help that early fan favorites like Agent H and bodybuilder Kim Chunri were eliminated in tough matches.
Quest 1 wrapped up with the match featuring the series’ biggest star in Choo Sunghoon. And it was perhaps the saving grace of the conclusion to this opening challenge. The kind of exciting and good-natured competition you would regularly see on a Korean show like this, but maybe not on other shows.
Thankfully, Episode 4 picked up a bit as it finally moved on to Quest 2. The choosing of team leaders and teams are as much drama as you’re going to get from a Korean reality show. But it perfectly set up the actual challenge and the potential for underdog wins.
On one hand, the editing regarding sure wins/underdog fight could be a bit heavy-handed at times. But it was still effective in what it wanted to set-up.
As for the challenge itself, it’s design was again another example of Physical: 100‘s grand and creative scale. As was the fancy (and amusing) common/rest area with walls of protein powder earlier in Episode 4.
Not a huge surprise the show would go first with the David vs. Goliath match-up. And also not a surprise they would wait until next week to reveal the result. But just the mere fact that we finally get a new challenge after what seemed and felt like a long time with Quest 1 was a big relief.
Where I hope the show improves in coming weeks is in how they develop their star characters as well as how they pace their episodes too. The first two episodes did a good job at introducing the many personalities. These two episodes seemed to stumble over what they thought would be good TV. And in the end, it was 50/50.
With pacing, the Korean touch with its more character-driven storytelling is a good thing. But they need to find that balance they had in the first two episodes where the characters and the challenges are better folded together.
Overall for week 2 of Physical: 100, it’s hard not to marvel at the production and scale of the series. That’s probably its strongest aspect and will be what ultimately carries the show if ever any other part falls short.