After the slow burn of the first two chapters of Pachinko, now we start to get into the juicy stuff. “Chapter Three” reels viewers in as Sunja and Hansu’s romance progresses, and a mysterious stranger comes into her life. This episode lets viewers in on their forbidden, secret romance. We root for Sunja, and we want her to rise above her given lot in life because we want those who are “deserving” to win — she’s headstrong, intelligent, and caring — she has the world ahead of her. But we are left heartbroken when Hansu reveals his secret — the reason why we felt like something was a little off with him.
We could never figure out if it was really loved on his part — he seems sincere, but it also feels as if something is holding him back from going all-in — is it his image and people’s perception or something else. Sunja wants marriage, and her new news makes her want it all the more. But Hansu’s idea of how their romance will play out is completely different from what Sunja imagines — is it just cultural differences? Sunja is devastated by the news, and as she tries to move on — even though she has put her and her family’s reputation in danger — Hansu’s demeanor turns on a dime.
Meanwhile, a mysterious and gravely ill stranger washed up on the doorstep of their boarding house. As Sunja’s mother nurses the gravely ill young man back to health, we slowly learn things about him. Isak is a Christian missionary, and we are left wondering what impact he will have on Sunja’s life and the generations to come. At the same time, Sunja opens up to her mother about her situation and is heartbroken because she knows the plight that lies ahead for Sunja, and it’s not an easy road. Isak overhears Sunja’s secret, and when he recovers fully, he feels compelled to help Sunja and her family because it’s the least he can do.
Flash forward to the 1980s, and Solomon is working on the deal that could make or break his career — all he must do is convince the elderly grandmother (Hye-jin Park), who is the last residential holdout, to sell her family property so that a big hotel chain can build there. She is a formidable opponent for Solomon, and his usual tactics and just throwing money at her might not be enough to get her to budge. So Solomon turns to his grandmother for help, thinking that she can connect with and get through to the older woman and convince her to do this for her children and their children.
The scene where the two grandmothers reminisce and connect is one of the most influential and thought-provoking scenes in the series so far. It begs the question of why we cling to the past and what obligations previous generations have to younger generations and vice versa. The grandmother asks if it is “our lot to constantly sacrifice.” It means so much more coming from some who were run from their homeland and everything they knew. It unfolds slowly and deliberately to drive home the impact and give viewers the space to really digest the back and forth between the two women and contemplate what it means for us. When the women part, you feel as if that were cathartic for both of them and that the encounter has opened their eyes. We also find out that Sunja hasn’t gone back to her homeland since she left — and just maybe, she’s yearning to finally return.
In “Chapter Three,” we also see more (or hear, rather) of the mysterious Hana (Mari Yamamoto), who keeps calling Solomon at the office with cryptic and vague conversations. We’re still trying to piece together who Hana is and where she is, as well as what her connection with Solomon is. Is she playing a game? Is she sick? This relationship is intriguing and makes you want to continue tuning in week after week to unravel this mystery. And before the episode concludes, we return to Sunja, who now wants to return to her homeland — the one she left as an outcast.
We see her strength and determination as she is forced to leave so many years ago but is fully ready to embrace her outcast status because she was loved by an outcast, her father. She has made it to where she is even though she should never have, foreshadowing what is to come in Sunja’s journey. And the full circle moment where she makes the same promise as her father made wraps up the episode in a heartfelt and earnest way.