Episode 4 of “Pachinko” ended on a pretty triumphant note as it featured both Solomon (Jin Ha) and Sunja (Youn Yuh-jung) claiming their Korean heritage in their own way. Sunja’s bond with Korea was largely tragic as she had to leave everything that made her who she was due to Hansu’s (Lee Min-Ho) betrayal. And it hurt to even think about the time she had spent in Korea. So it was a big deal for her to find the courage to go back there with her son, Mozasu (Soji Arai). As for Solomon, he didn’t prioritize his Korean heritage as he spent most of his teenage and adult years in America doing business with the Japanese (who, despite being polite, hate Koreans) . Therefore, it was a big deal for him to stop serving either side and help fellow Korean i.e. Geumja (Park Hye-Jin) retain what belonged to him instead of giving another victory to the Americans and the Japanese.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Learn more: ‘Pachinko’ Episode 4: Recap and Ending, Explained: Solomon and Sunja Reclaim Their Korean Heritage
Sunja in Japan and Sunja in Korea
Directed by Justin Chon and written by Franklin Jin Rho and Soo Hugh, episode 5 of “Pachinko” opens in 1931. After a tumultuous journey on an overcrowded ship, Sunja (Minha Kim) and Isak (Steve Sanghyun Noh) reach Japan and are greeted by a jovial Yoseb (Han Joon-woo). On their way to Yoseb’s house, the audience, along with Sunja and Isak, see how the Koreans are pushed into the dirtiest corners of the city by the Japanese. And if that weren’t enough, Koreans are forced to live in fear of being imprisoned for speaking ill of the Japanese. All that fear momentarily dissipates as soon as a warm and empathetic Kyunghee (Jung Eun-chae) greets the trio and inadvertently brings Sunja to tears by serving her Korean rice.
Yoseb expresses his misgivings about Isak and Sunja. But Isak and Sunja bond over the fact that they saved each other from their respective predicaments. The next day, Sunja has yet another nervous breakdown after realizing that Kyunghee washed all her clothes because they were starting to smell bad. However, the truth is that Sunja kept them that way to hold in the smell and soothe her homesickness. Luckily, thanks to the kindness of Kyunghee (who is played so beautifully by Jung Eun-chae), the heartbreaking incident allows Sunja (played to perfection by Lee Min-Ho) to trust Kyunghee, as Sunja surrenders. realizes that Kyunghee carries the same pain that Sunja thinks is exclusive to her.
In 1989, Sunja and Mozasu walk through a fish market, just like Sunja did in her teenage days, and Sunja indulges in a variety of delicacies even though she just ate at the hotel. Then they proceed to scatter Kyunghee’s ashes in the water, which is cut with Sunja and Kyunghee’s bond over their homesickness, so this moment just hits you like a bag of bricks. But that’s not the only reason Sunja is in Korea. She also plans to visit her father’s grave and pay her respects. The only problem is that the place Sunja thinks is the cemetery location is actually a parking lot now. Mozasu asks if Sunja is sure this is the right place, and she is adamant. Mozasu assures us that the people who moved the graves must have taken care of Sunja’s father’s grave as well.
Solomon is looking for Hana
Solomon learns that Shiffley’s are considering letting him go after his little drama during the Geumja house deal, meaning he won’t be able to leave Tokyo for a while as they are the ones sponsoring his visa. While having a conversation with his childhood friend, he also learns that the best place to look for Hana (Mari Yamamoto) is the Yoshiwara area. But before embarking on this journey, he has a little (accidental) interaction with Naomi (Anna Sawai). It largely focuses on Solomon’s dance routine, his relationship with Hana (she is Solomon’s father’s girlfriend’s daughter), Hana’s character, and how she ran away from home. However, a flippant remark from Naomi about whether Geumja had always planned to humiliate Solomon angers him to the point that he leaves the conversation with a misogynistic statement about Naomi.
The next day, Solomon begins searching for Hana in the Yoshiwara area using a photo from their school years. It hits all kinds of dead ends. Finally, he finds himself in a store where he meets Haruki (Hiromitsu Takeda). Now, if you were as surprised as I was by Solomon’s familiarity with Haruki, because he’s never appeared before on the show and you haven’t read Min Jin Lee’s book, well, don’t you do not worry. Here is an introduction: Haruki was Mozasu’s classmate. But he was ostracized because of his disabled brother and an abandoned single mother, and the rumor that he was a burakumin (a lower caste in Japan). Mozasu didn’t discriminate and they became best friends. Prior to his apparent ostracization or escape from the confines of mainstream society, he forged a bond with Solomon.
‘Pachinko’ Episode 5: Ending Explained – Are Solomon and Sunja’s Victories Short-lived?
Trouble strikes Sunja (in the 1930s) when two goons arrive at Yoseb’s house to tell Kyunghee that Yoseb owes their boss money and he hasn’t paid yet. Kyunghee is scared and Sunja steps in to not only promise that the goon boss will get his money back, but to scare the goons enough to leave them alone. After they leave, Sunja reveals Hansu’s watch and tells Kyunghee that they can sell it and pay off Yoseb’s debt. Kyunghee shows reluctance because she thinks Yoseb will handle it. But Sunja, overwhelmed by the feeling that she owes something to Yoseb and Kyunghee for their generosity, urges Kyunghee to help her in this endeavor. Eventually, they move on, surprising Kyunghee how quickly Sunja has adapted to Japan. Their happiness is short-lived as the duo return home with a pissed off Yoseb. Elsewhere, the abandoned Hansu learns that Sunja is in Japan as the man who bought Sunja’s watch returns it to Hansu.
In 1989, Sunja goes to the company office to find out where her father’s grave has been moved. She is bombarded with all kinds of questions about her citizenship and how she got from Korea to Japan. This angers Mozasu and he retaliates. Offended by this situation, Sunja angrily leaves. But they are both stopped by the official, and she asks Sunja and Mozasu if they know Shin Bokhee (Yeji Yeon), that is, one of the girls who lived in the boarding house of the mother of Sunja. Sunja has tears in her eyes to find Bokhee (Young Ok Kim), who lives with her little dogs in an apartment complex. Bokhee recounts everything that happened after Sunja left, from the war to depression, the disappearance of Sunja’s mother, and the death of Donghee (Bomin Kim). For your information, this scene features some of the best actors I’ve ever seen. Later, Sunja finds her father’s grave, and after paying her respects to him, she decides to leave for Japan. Mozasu reminds Sunja that they still have a few days ahead of them. Sunja says she overcame her mental block from coming to Korea, and now she knows she can come back. It’s all that matters.
As for Solomon, he is having a good time with Haruki. But since he is Solomon, instead of respecting the life Haruki has chosen for himself; he tries to “help” Haruki by offering him the money he has in his pocket. Of course, it’s insulting, and Haruki responds to Solomon saying he always felt bad for Solomon. However, since Solomon is so privileged, feeling bad for him seems wrong. Shattered by this confrontation with reality, Solomon leaves. Things get worse when he receives confirmation from Tom (Jimmi Simpson) that he’s been fired from Shiffley’s, which means Solomon is now stranded in Japan. And before he can fully digest this information, he receives a heartbreaking call from Hana asking him to come save her or else she will die this time.