Pachinko Season 1, Episodes 1, 2, 3: Recap & Ending Explained: American streaming giant Apple TV+ dropped the first three episodes of their latest Korean show Pachinko on 25th March. Based on a novel of the same name written by Manhattan-based journalist Min Jin Lee, the series will have eight episodes. The first four of them are directed by the Columbus and After Yang fame contemporary master Kogonada. Meanwhile, the rest of them are by Blue Bayou breakout Justin Chon.

Check out the recap for Episode 4 here

From what its initial act has promised, this seems like an impressively focused show. The narrative itself is so strong that even a faithful and less than cinematic approach would work sufficiently to hook you. However, it works like testing waters for Kogonada. Having recently dived into the parcels of Asian identity with his sci-fi wonder After Yang, he gets into conceiving a portion of full-fledged K-Drama with this.

This delivers interesting results, to say the least. One might say that it hits the rare weak notes absent in his two feature-length works. The one-hour episodes are easy on the eyes, but also considerably slow-moving. Given the vast and ballad-like stretch of the source material, the intercutting timelines can present a divisive problem. However, the visuals feel like engaging essays written in one fluid stroke of ink. To add to this, the performances are incredibly understated and persuasive. The melodrama is not bitterly outdated. Instead, it is promisingly subversive rather than only basic and bearable.

Overall, there’s a lot to look forward to. Here is our attempt to explain Pachinko to you!

Pachinko (Season 1), Episode 1, 2, 3 Recap:

The show’s timeline alternates between the period of Japanese-occupied Korea, and the present day, which is set in 1989.

1915, Japanese-Occupied Korea

The show starts with the fishing village of Yeongdo. Yangjin seeks the help of an elderly shaman woman for the birth of her next child. While she already had three children prior to this one, all of them died shortly after their birth. The shaman woman, mentioning a curse, gives Yangjin a safe space for the birth of her child. This one, a baby girl, turns out healthy. She, along with her crippled outcast husband, names this daughter of theirs Sunja.

The show then follows the eight-year-old Sunja, who is quite clever. She fearlessly bargains for her fisherman friend’s fishes to be sold. She is also shown to be quite brave and fearless, as she bravely skims the depths of the sea in order to have a catch. At the same time, we are made aware of the oppressive regime around her. In a brief scene, we see a Japanese policeman arresting a common man for a crime he didn’t seem to actually commit.

Childhood trauma also marks a brief appearance in Sunja’s life as a little girl. Her fisherman friend is always eyed by the policemen because of his fierce patriotism. One day, a few policemen come to the shelter home run by her mother and bully her father to inquire about the fisherman’s whereabouts (since he’s a family friend).

Sunja gets scared since it was her who asked the fisherman to go away immediately. Anyhow, the men make peace with the lack of their knowledge and make a vile exit. Later, the fisherman is arrested and dragged publicly into the market. Sunja fearfully sees the abuse of her warm old friend, hiding squeamishly behind her father. She also witnesses the death of her father due to tuberculosis.

Pachinko Season 1 - Episodes 1 2 3 (1)

The show then picks up nine years later. Koh-Hansu is a rich, dashing young man who functions as a dealer on the docks. Even though he’s brutal, he is fair in his payments to the fishermen. The wealthy young man pines for the beautiful Sunja, who is a regular at the market.

One day, a few Japanese men on the docks try to rape Sunja. Mr. Hansu arrives on the scene and beats them black and blue, thus saving her. Sunja thanks him, saying she’ll be indebted to him. A romance starts to blossom between them, and Hansu comes every day to see her doing the laundry by the river. Hansu wants Sunja to read and write, and tells her that education is the key to unlocking better opportunities. Sunja loves the idea of escaping poverty, but dismisses a potential urge to leave her land.

Soon, they passionately make love in the woods. After this, Koh-Hansu leaves Yeongdo to go to Japan. In this duration, Sunja realizes that she is pregnant with Hansu’s child. When he comes back, she tells him everything about it. Hansu is delighted to hear this and gives her a clock as a gift. He excitedly predicts that the child will be a son, and says that he’ll buy her pretty dresses if it’s a girl. Sunja quickly tells him to accompany her to his mother to talk about their wedding. This immediately puts Hansu off, who says that he already has a family.

Actually, he has a wife and three daughters. It’s a marriage that he likes to call ‘an arrangement of convenience’. However, he can’t escape the same and he thought that she knew everything about him before romancing him, including his relationship status. He assumed that she was happy to be a mistress of his. Anyhow, he told her that she’ll be living in a mansion with her mother and learn how to read and write, and have a lot of children with him. However, she dismisses his patronizing plea and runs away.

The same day, an ailing young man, a Christian missionary named Isak Baek, reaches her mother’s shelter home. He is in a very bad state, but his physical strength makes him dodge death and get well. It is at this point that Sunja tells Yangjin about her pregnancy. The next day, Isak dresses up to go, and Yangjin asks her daughter to see him off. At the port, she glances upon Koh-Hansu but deliberately ignores him.

Related to Pachinko (Season 1), Episodes 1, 2, 3 – Columbus [2017] – A Soulful Tribute to Human Connection and Architecture

1989, Los Angeles

Solomon Baek is a handsome young corporate nine-to-fiver working in America. As with anyone with an appearance like him, his national identity is second-guessed as Chinese, Japanese or Thai. His crippled Korean origins are out of the question. Anyway, he is denied his promotion once again. So, he makes an offer to close a difficult deal in Tokyo towards his management. The offer is taken, and he flies first to Osaka, his homeland.

Solomon is still a non-residential Korean because his family is based in Japan. His father Mozasu has a pachinko store (a traditional arcade game house operated mechanically), which he doesn’t really approve of. He then proceeds to meet Sunja, who is actually his grandmother. Sunja still possesses her unwavering honesty and speaks frankly about her grandson. She always reminds him that he’s better off in America.

Gradually Solomon is able to win over the support of the Japanese company’s management. He is also able to settle the deal there, and the company is now able to buy the land of the old lady who possessed it, a lonely NRK whose children live far away from her. In fact, at her age, she studies at a school. Solomon is able to buy the land because of the support of Sunja, who shares the woman’s sentiments. Meanwhile, Solomon’s stepmother figure Etskuo finds out that her daughter Hana works in soapland (meaning, she’s into prostitution work). This is relevant information because Hana has been mentioned previously, and she was romantically connected with Solomon.

Hana calls Solomon when he’s at office. It’s clear that she is in one of the large buildings near his office. During the celebration of Solomon’s deal’s success, she calls her and coughs repeatedly, suggesting a terminal illness.

Pachinko (Season 1), Episode 3 Ending Explained:

In the past timeline, Isak takes Sunja to a restaurant near the port. This is supposed to be a sign of how grateful he is. Sunja has never been to a restaurant previously and thus is flattered.

Without mincing his words, Isak tells her that he overheard the conversation between her and Yangjin. Without judging Sunja for bearing another man’s child without marriage, he proposes she accompanies him to Japan. He tells her that she’s welcome in the missionary. Sunja finds it convincing and accepts Isak’s offer.

What the acceptance of Christianity and Japan brings to Sunja’s life remains to be seen. Is her relationship with Koh-Hansu a thing of the past? What is Hana suffering from and why hasn’t she returned? And can the curse possibly return? Those who have read the text already know the answers. And yet, the treatment is gripping and investing. I am excited to get further into this world!

Pachinko (Season 1), Episodes 1, 2, 3 are now streaming on Apple TV+


Pachinko (Season 1), Episodes 1, 2, 3 Links – IMDb, Wikipedia
Pachinko (Season 1), Episodes 1, 2, 3 Cast – Soji Arai, Youn Yuh-jung, Jin Ha


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