Mini-Recap: Netflix’s “Physical: 100” Finale + Season Wrap-up

Physical 100 Finale Recap

No spoilers.

Netflix’s Physical: 100 wrapped up its inaugural season run and crowned its first peak body winner. Before getting to the finale itself, let me just say that the series as a whole was a refreshingly fun and exciting competition. Both compared to other Korean variety programs and especially compared to Western reality competition programs.

But when/if the series returns for a new season of 100 hot, hard, buff bodies, they will definitely have to tweak some things in order to produce a peak reality competition program.

Now to the finale, I’ll start with the biggest and maybe only criticism. And that is with the very Korean variety show quirk/element that is the audience reaction. I think the finale would’ve been able to shave off half an hour from its 80+ minute runtime if they did not include those reaction shots which were completely unnecessary and actually took a lot away from the final Quest.

First of all, those audience members aren’t even supposed to be here anymore. They smashed their busts, which means they’re done. Technically, they’re supposed to have left the arena. Obviously, they’re still around. Especially when it seems very likely they filmed everything in a day or two.

Physical 100 Finale Recap

But the show has done so well in maintaining this tense atmosphere and the illusion of banishing the eliminated players. Utilizing the cavernous soundstages to their aesthetic advantage. So having the eliminated players doing color commentary and cutting to their random reactions during the final Quest really removed you from what is supposed to be the battle of goliaths. The exciting, no-holds-barred final face-offs.

Just focusing on the final five competing would’ve maintained that uber competitive atmosphere.

Instead, those unnecessary scenes just prolonged the episode longer than it needed to be. And worse, took away a lot from the tension and excitement of the final competition.

Part of that, though not as egregious, was the Last Supper scene. It was funny how they suddenly get all sentimental which is obviously a contrast to their cocky, brash attitudes at points during the competition. I wonder if it would’ve been better if they had inserted some of that into the first moments of the final Quest instead. Or weaved it into a better sequence of them entering the final arena.

The “dinner” was a calm before the storm sort of thing. And definitely reminiscent of western reality competition programs before their finales. But I think it was awkwardly placed here and maybe could’ve been used in a stronger way to support the actual challenges instead. Especially in place of the eliminated players acting like YouTube reactors.

Maybe also inserting some of those sincere feelings earlier in the series. Sprinkle them around more to help add depth to the characters instead of hyping up the stereotypical jock attitudes of some.

Anyway, on to the tasks themselves. On one hand, the Quest was a bit underwhelming because I was expecting a huge final challenge. Something that tops any of the previous Quests. It’s the finale, after all.

On the other hand, I get the idea of wanting to test the finalists in different areas. It makes sense, though the order of challenges can certainly influence the final outcome depending on what the finalists’ strengths are.

Having the five challenges in the final Quest served as sort of a Final Exam. Using all the skills they were supposed to have excelled at during the other Quests.

Which is why I did not think there should’ve been any kind of team/partner element in this Final Quest. It’s supposed to be one-on-one-on-one-on-one-on-one. One could argue that there’s a strategy involved in picking your partner. And strategy was definitely involved in the previous challenges. Strategy is a strength as well.

But I think it was another idea that could’ve been done better. Perhaps for that challenge, have four different colored tiles. Or have four colors and have an equal number of pairs for each player to flip over. It negates the need for partners. And makes it even more challenging. There is still strategy involved of course. But I don’t know.

Back to the first challenge, the five-way tug of war was good. Having them need to grab a key to unlock was a good way to make it more unpredictable.

The shuttle run definitely brought me back to elementary school and the Presidential Fitness Test lol It’s a good challenge of stamina and endurance. Though I actually think it would’ve been a good challenge to have with more players. Especially with players of different body types and with more women too. It’s the kind of challenge that doesn’t automatically favor one over another and could’ve made for some interesting outcomes.

Finally that crossfit final task was alright. To be the decisive challenge to find out who is the peak human body though? I’m not so sure. It’s another challenge that could’ve been done with more people. That would’ve required a lot of rope of course. But it’s also another task that could’ve yielded different results.

Physical 100 Finale Recap

Honestly, they probably should’ve switched Quest 4 and this Final Quest. The challenges in Quest 4 were much more finale worthy. Plus the Greek god theme would’ve fit perfectly as the ultimate challenge for the finalists.

Back to the season as a whole, it really was a refreshing change of pace for Korean television. And highlighted how western reality competition programs have gotten far too soft or have focused on petty things rather than more exciting actual competition.

For a potential 2nd season of Physical: 100, the show will need to find ways to even out the competition more. That is, find a good balance of challenges to span the entire season. Maybe start out with team challenges first before moving on to one-on-ones. Have the challenges focus more on individual strengths and talents rather than pushing the team mentality so much, especially in the final Quests.

This is supposed to be a competition to find the best, most peak human specimen. Not to theorize how grouping together all the perceived alpha males will eliminate all the fodder.

With that kind of mentality, it discredits everyone else and assumes the alpha males will win regardless. But that’s definitely not the case. Obviously, no one is saying you have to lower the standards just so we get more women or smaller men into the finals. But be able to craft challenges that don’t obviously favor certain qualities over another.

And since this is a reality competition program, throw in unexpected twists to throw the contestants off a bit. Seeing how they respond to unexpected challenges is all part of what makes a peak human all the more perfect.

The show’s shtick was all about how the competition was a study on the human form. Whose body deserves to be immortalized in plaster. But while giving the atmosphere of that is part of what made the show fun and intriguing, let’s also remember that it’s really just a reality competition program akin to Survivor or The Challenge or Ninja Warrior or even Big Brother and The Amazing Race.

The show leaning into that reality competition mindset a bit more would go a long way to fixing some of its shortcomings.

All season I’ve said that Physical: 100 has been so great in how it is the anti-western reality show. Its Korean touches being what sets it apart from the rest. But by the end, and especially evident in this final episode, maybe it needed more of that western influence to just simply bring it all home and wrap up strongly.

Physical 100 Finale Recap

Again, Physical: 100 has been an overall great series. A creative, well-produced and refreshing format with some legitimately big personalities (most of whom left too early) that resulted in an exciting time.

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