Picking up where “Chapter One” left off, “Chapter Two” of Apple TV+’s Pachinko delves a little further into the class and race issues under Japan’s colonization of Korea in the early 20th century. In this episode, Sunja (Minha Kim) is now a young woman coming of age in a country that is changing and modernizing but still under the oppressive thumb of its rulers. We also see how these issues of class and race are a throughline in history as Sunja’s grandson Solomon (Jin Ha) is still contending with it in the 1980s as he tries to make headway in the high-brow financial world. Solomon is trying to win over upper management after being passed over for a promotion he feels he deserves by closing a deal that their firm has been having issues with because of one elder holdout in a real estate buyout. But being Korean at a Japanese firm, Solomon’s loyalties are questions, just as loyalties were tested decades ago.
The lasting effects of colonization are still on full display in “Chapter Two” even as the blatantly unaware white man, Solomon’s co-worker Tom (Jimmi Simpson), begs the question, “why can’t we just all get along?” like colonization and “us versus them” isn’t deeply steeped in his ancestors’ history. But this episode poses an important question that is still relevant today. As an immigrant, where do your loyalties lie — to your homeland or your now “adopted” country? Can you be loyal to both, or is it a zero-sum game? Should you have to “denounce” your cultural heritage to “fit in” to your new world?
Even if it’s a tragic history — even more so at times — you can try to forget and move on, but in the end, your past will always come back, no matter how far you try and distance yourself from it. “Chapter Two” is also like a mini-history lesson as historical events play out in the background (the death of the Emperor), and you get the feeling that these things, although in the background now, will come to play a significant role in the unfolding of this story and Solomon’s life trajectory. He is in a cutthroat, all-consuming business world that is globalizing and everything is becoming interconnected.
But “Chapter Two” is not only about Solomon’s professional life — meanwhile, Sunja is still reflecting on her past as she contends with her sister-in-law’s failing health. In these moments, our minds wander back to all the decisions and situations that led us to this exact moment — and for Sunja, that means her romance with the dashing and powerful Hansu (Lee Min-Ho). Hansu is the new district fish broker sent to this area from Japan. He’s Korean, but he’s been in Japan for his formative years. He’s intriguing to Sunja because he’s not like the other men she comes across in her day-to-day — he’s powerful, sophisticated, and worldly — everything she’s told she’ll never be. He’s her “white knight.” And Hansu is immediately attracted to Sunja, he can tell there’s something more to her.
Although the two start out occasionally meeting while Sunju is doing laundry, their connection quickly grows to something more intense. Sunja reconnects him to his roots and his poor Korean past that he has so desperately tried to distance himself from. Hansu opens Sunja’s eyes to the vast world that is waiting to be experienced — he inspires Sunja, and she now knows that this doesn’t have to be her lot in life. And his line about America being “everything and nothing” was so telling. They both give each other what they so desperately long for. But something seems to be off with Hansu, for you know, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is.
“Chapter Two” gives us more of a glimpse into what has made Sunja the woman she is now. We start to see the connection between the title of the series and this family’s story. Life is like the Pachinko machine — one choice or move can ricochet us to a different path. We have no real control over the outcome. There are unseen forces that impact our life’s trajectories. It also delves more into the erasure and assimilation of a people and that suffering and how it affects generations to come. We see that Sunja is beautiful, resilient, and strong, just like the country she comes from. The feel in this episode is still epic and grand and really draws you in. You connect with the characters and really want to see where their story goes. And one would be remiss if they didn’t mention how fun the series’ opening credits are — it’s like a journey through history mixed with joy, fun, and dancing.