If we thought ‘Chapter Four’ was good, ‘Chapter Five’ of Pachinko was even better. We now get to see Sunja really come into her own and the life experiences that make her the woman she is in the 1980s. We see the sacrifices she has had to make for the good of her family and the hardship and obstacles she has had to contend with and overcome. We see how these experiences have colored her viewpoint of the world. The episode opens up with Sunja arriving in her new home, Osaka, in 1931. After traversing the rough seas, Isak and Sunja meet up with Isak’s brother, who he hasn’t seen in years. Sunja feels like an unwanted outsider in this new world. There is an overwhelming sense of wonder and apprehension and fear. But luckily, Sunja’s new sister-in-law Kyunghee (Jung Eun-chae), happily welcomes them into the family, even while her husband questions his brother’s naivety and Sunja’s motives. This is a weird and testing time for the independent and head-strong Sunja as she must rely on the help and kindness of others. We see Sunja and Isak’s relationship strengthen through tender and emotional flashbacks as the episode progresses. We also see Hansu come back into Sunja’s story through the pocket watch he gave her in an earlier episode.
Then we fast forward to Busan in 1989 as Sunja has finally returned home for the first time in decades. She is amazed, euphoric, and consumed by the nostalgia and finally being back home. It’s sensory and emotional overload. This feeling is in stark contrast to her feelings when she first arrived in Osaka. In ‘Chapter Five,’ we get to see more of Sunja’s relationship with her son Mozasu (Soji Arai) as she regals him with stories of her childhood as the memories come flooding back. Until now, Mozasu has just been a periphery character, so it’s good to finally see him take up more space, even if it’s still in Sunja’s shadow since all of her sacrifices and struggles were for him. While there, Sunja also tries to pay her respects to her father, which leads her to reconnect with Shin Bohkee, one of the orphan girls from the boarding house. She fills Sunja in on life after Sunja left her mother.
But Sunja is not the only one reconnecting with her past. We find Solomon contemplating whether he’s ready to confront his past and try to find Hana. On his new self-discovery journey, Solomon reconnects with an old friend of his while searching for the mysterious Hana. This episode finally gives us more clues about Hana and her relationship with Solomon and how she fits into the larger story — although there are still many questions. His old friend opens his eyes to the unhealthy and unfulfilling path Solomon is on in his quest for professional success as he climbs the corporate ladder. Although his friend doesn’t have much, he’s still happy and fulfilled and pities Solomon because he’s chasing after things that will not give him this. And on top of that, he’s being black-balled in Tokyo and on shaky ground with his job because of his antic with the elder landowner in last week’s episode.
Still coming to grips with what he did, we realize that Solomon is in a precarious position because he’s only in Tokyo because of a work visa sponsored by his job, without which he won’t be able to return. So we see how Solomon’s life is playing out similar to his grandmother’s in terms of a search for home and belonging. We also get more of a glimpse of the relationship between Solomon and Naomi and the pressure they individually face in the corporate world — her as a woman in a patriarchal society and Solomon as an “outsider.”
‘Chapter Five’ almost feels like a subtle female empowerment episode. We see Sunja come into her own in Osaka when she must take matters into her own hands, bucking the societal norms and not caring if she’s going against the grain — a trait that she seems to hold on to through the decades. But Sunja isn’t the only one — Kyunghee also begins to stand on her own, which is hard for her since she comes from a completely different upbringing than Sunja — she doesn’t consider herself as strong. But as their relationship strengthens, the two of them will take on this scary world together. But Kyunghee isn’t the only one who admires Sunja for her strength, her new husband Isak does too. Through Sunja’s fortitude and strength, the sickly Isak will survive — literally and figuratively through “their” son.
‘Chapter Five’ was filled with so many tender and emotional scenes — from eye-opening reunions to intimate scenes with the newlyweds. It is a full-circle moment for Sunja as she confronts her past and realizes that everything will be okay. Her long-awaited journey back home was the ultimate catharsis. We also dive a little more into the history and everyday life of Koreans living in Osaka in the 1930s — always living in fear as outsiders in their new home and having to suppress their Korean identity and culture. In the end, this episode teaches us that we cannot fit back into the person we used to be — as life goes on and we have these life experiences and have to make hard decisions, we can’t hold on to the person we used to be, we have to grow, or else we won’t survive, and the world will consume it.