Episode 8 of Pachinko begins In Osaka 1938. Noa is picked up from school by Isak and taken home. He tries to convince a fellow student to stand up for himself, given he’s being bullied by his peers. Back home, there are birthday celebrations for Noa’s brother, Mozasu.
Sunja and Isak are both there, of course, and as Mozasu is encouraged to pick something from the table, we don’t actually see what.
Why doesn’t Isak pick up Noa from school?
Isak fails to pick up Noa from school. The reason stems from his church being ransacked by police. Isak has been arrested and apparently the crime is very bad. It would appear that someone has actually called him out by name too, but all Sunja knows at this point is that it could be politically driven.
It’s a serious situation, and something that Sunja intends to try and fight against. She sends Noa off on his own to bring Yoseb, who could help things. He heads down to the police station, but as Sunja sits and waits, Yoseb speaks to the officer. Noa translates. They’re not saying much but Yoseb is determined not to let his brother sleep in a jail cell. He’s going to speak to his boss and try to swing things in his favour.
However, when Yoseb mentions this is a political crime, he quickly realizes that his boss isn’t going to help here.
Why is Isak arrested?
Outside, Sunja learns that there’s more going on with Isak than she first thought. War is on the horizon and spies are everything. Isak taught the community that there are power in numbers. He managed to bring people together, uniting those working in the factories.
Sunja meets with Hasegawa, who happens to be a professor; “a Communist-something” as Noa puts it. Basically, he’s a rebel, and together with Isak they had dreams of bringing together workers from other countries to fight for peace and fair wages. Someone caught wind of what has been happening and outed him to the authorities. Unfortunately, this means that Isak is going to be found guilty.
As they talk, police suddenly come storming into the room and arrest the professor and his wife. Sunja is also taken in for questioning, where she admits coolly that she can’t read or write. She also calls Isak a good man, adamant that she knew nothing about his endeavour.
Sunja is allowed to leave but Isak is not so lucky. He’s taken away by the police and not allowed to say goodbye to his son. As the car drives away, Sunja and Noa chase them up the street. It’s no good; Isak has gone.
What does Hana tell Solomon? Does she die?
Back in the 1980’s, we cut to the hospital where Hana is close to dying. Her eyes have yellowed, Sunja sits in the corner cutting an apple, while the doctor reveals the news to her parents that Hana is in a lot of pain. Outside the door, Solomon breaks the news to his father that he’s going to stay in Japan.
After what’s happened with the old lady, there’s no way he’s going to be accepted back in the States. When he brings up the deal with Mamoru, Mozasu is shocked and points out that actually, he too was offered the same lucrative deal from the man’s grandfather. “It’s the same blood! I won’t allow it.” He says. Solomon refuses to listen though.
What convinces Solomon to fight back? Why is he working with Mamoru?
Back inside with Hana, she speaks plainly to Solomon, pointing out that the Americans made a fool out of him. “It’s time to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Whatever it takes, grab it all. Show them no mercy.” She rasps, demanding that he fight back and do what he can. Hana wants him to live for her and fight back against those who would wrong him.
What is Solomon’s plan? Why is he working with Mamoru?
Solomon realizes that Colton Hotels are still at play, so Solomon meets up with Mamoru again and decides they should work together. 10 billion yen has already been sunk into the project but it won’t be easy for them to sign over the deal for the grandmother’s lot of land. The thing is, if Solomon could sweep in and organize a coup with her, they could ask for anything and cripple the very company that screwed him over.
Solomon knows that the grandmother won’t sell to him but Mamoru has his ways of persuasion. If he can get that land, Solomon promises to drive a hard bargain with his old employers and bleed them dry. They’re on a tight window though, given there could be a financial crash in the future, especially if Mamoru mentioning the banks seizing lots of land is anything to go by.
For now though, we’re graced with a beautiful juxtaposing shot of Hana and Sunja. The former, is taken up onto the rooftop and given a beautiful final send-off before she passes away. There’s joy in her final moments. Back with Sunja, grief and sorrow look set to drown her, as she’s left on her own with no Isak.
Back with Solomon for now though, Sunja hands over the pocket watch that’s been in her family for years and tells him he’s responsible now. This watch saved their family, as it becomes clear that this is the same pocket-watch that Hansu bought from the pawnbrokers. She wants that same good luck to be bestowed on Solomon and his future endeavours.
What does Hansu say to Noa?
Back in 1938, Sunja decides to try and make kimchi, intending to sell some down at the market while their family is on the ropes. With Isak gone, and Josef struggling too, Sunja promises to chip in and do what she can to make sure they don’t go hungry.
While Noa is heading to school, Hansu happens to rock up in his white suit. He brings up the Kanto Earthquake and how it split their world into a before and after. He knows what it’s like to lose a father and tells Noa that it’s not good enough just to survive. He needs to thrive as well.
“Be better than everyone around you. Not just Koreans but Japanese too.” He urges the young boy. He wants Noa to be so good that everyone around him has to respect him – and to never look back. It’s a solid bit of advice, and something that sees him hand over the pocket watch we earlier saw Sunja hand Solomon.
How does Pachinko Season 1 end?
At the market, Sunja finds herself struggling to fit in and sell her kimchi. Thankfully she’s offered a place right next to a butcher selling meat. It’s just in time too, as all the workers show up from the daily commute. Hearing all the workers either side of her shouting out, she takes the initiative and steps up as a saleswoman. She begins selling kimchi in the street as the camera pans up and we fade to black.
The Episode Review
Before we leave, there’s a beautiful scene at the end of the show where several Korean women, survivors from this turbulent time in Japan, are interviewed. This alone helps to give a snapshot of what life was life, and it’s an amazing addition to an excellent series.
Pachinko has been beautifully illustrated across its 8 episodes and while the ending is going to leave many curious regarding the fate of this utterly absorbing and heartbreaking story, it seems almost academic at this point that Apple will renew this. I mean, if Truth Be Told and Greatness Code can both get second seasons then there’s no reason why this one can’t!
Pachinko’s final episode is a beautiful demonstration of survival; the personification of backing a lion into the corner and watching as it strikes back with fierce determination. Both Sunja and Solomon have this same trait, with the former selling kimchi in the street and the latter determined to fight back against his employers no matter what.
The story involving Isak is tough to watch though and seeing that he was a rebel is pretty shocking. Keeping the camera at Noa’s level, seeing all of this almost through his eyes, is a really clever stylistic choice and it’s an understated quality that I’m sure many are going to overlook with this one.
However, Pachinko should not be overlooked. This is a solid show and a beautifully presented journey. It’s clear that this isn’t the final destination for any of these characters, and I don’t know about you guys, but I may have to read the book after watching this!
Is Pachinko the best show of 2022? That is, of course, debatable but right now it’s set a very high bar indeed.