Mr Sunshine Episode 1 Recap
The newspapers put up on the walls have articles about Lincoln being shot dead, the conscript bill (compulsory enlistment) and how to avoid it, U.S Navy needing men for 12 months. We can hear the train and bell code while the scene pans to a store “New York Music Box”.
It’s dark and misty as a man (Lee Byung-hun as Captain Eugene Choi) walks down the street and stops outside the store and looks at a music box, which is playing.
In the morning, he (Captain Eugene Choi) walks down the corridors of the Naval academy in his Navy Uniform and returns the salute of 2 soldiers. He walks into Major Kyle’s (an American) office, who is reading the newspaper on his desk which has the headlines “Acquiring the frontier through ‘War like a Picnic’”. He asks the officer why he isn’t in the hospital but the officer brushes it away saying that he can still walk but cannot use guns anymore. The officer says that he is satisfied that he is still alive and asks Eugene how he managed to pull him out of the ditch to which Eugene says that he did it for a promotion. The officer tells him that it worked since both of them got a promotion and a call from the whitehouse.
At the white house they meet President Theodore Roosevelt who says that since the Atlantic European region is conquered, he now wants to shift focus to Joseon (Pacific region). He asks them to head to Joseon and gives them the assignment.
Once outside, Kyle comments that it’s a sensitive situation where Eugene is a part of the US Invasion and Joseon being his homeland. Eugene says that though he was born in Korea, his homeland is America as Joseon has never taken him in.
Eugene is at his desk looking at reports, old pictures and photographs. He looks at one photograph and then scans the map of Joseon and recollects as the camera pans into the seas.
5 American battleships cut through the sea as they head towards Joseon.
It is June 10 1871, 8th year of Gojong’s reign as a rider on horseback rides into the palace bringing news of the battleships spotted on the coastal waters of Ganghwa. King Gojong (young king) listens along with his men at the court as the rider relays the message that the ships want to explore the Ganghwa area and they blame Joseon for burning the foreign ships back in 1866. He says that today they want to establish diplomatic ties with Joseon.
When Gojong asks about America, the Warden of Hyeon says that America is nothing but a small village established by Washington and refers to its people as barbarians. Gojong tries to say something but the warden strongly says that they cant have diplomatic ties with America. The warden then goes on to order more soldiers and armaments to be deployed in Ganghwa region.
Two men have a discussion over tea and the man of the house says that the troops deployed are a small number to take on the ships. The visitor says that the regent is worried about the uprising more than the western barbarians. Just then, a slave (Lee Shi-A)comes in and starts laying the table. The visitor ogles at the slave and he cant take his eyes of her. The host notices this too and after the slave leaves he comments that since his visitor had moved to a bigger house he must need more female servants. The visitor ignores the comment and says that he wants to become the Chief magistrate. The man laughs and says that the position is not vacant to which the visitor says it could be vacant by tomorrow. The host understands and says that this slave is already married and he could find him a virgin but he is stopped mid sentence as the visitor bangs his cup on the table. The visitor then says a place can be made vacant and that the husband can be gotten rid off. A man (assuming it’s the slave’s husband) overhears the conversation as both men continue to drink.
A small slave boy struggles as he carries a large bundle of firewood through the woods. He stops and looks up at a bird in the sky. A nobleman asks him what he is looking at and the boy replies that he is wondering how one black bird can ruin the view of the sky. The nobleman warns him that slaves’ eyes should be on the ground because if they aim for the sky they tend to die young. The slave boy says that he is aware of it and bows to the nobleman and continues to walk.
Back at the courtyard of the house, the slave and her husband were caught trying to escape and the master orders the husband to be rolled up in a mat and to be beaten. The slave woman starts screaming in despair and begs for mercy. The slave boy walks in just then with the firewood. The slave woman begs the master not to kill her husband and says that it was all her idea. The slave boy comes running to her but is stopped by the others and we learn that he is actually her son. The mother is horrified as the master says that her son also would’ve known about this and orders him to be taken away. She is bawling as she denies the son having any knowledge of this and begs them not to kill her family. The master says that child should bear the parents sin and orders the mother and son to watch as they start beating the husband.
The mother covers her son’s eyes and sobs helplessly as she clutches him closely. The son gets up and runs to the young master who is watching this with his pregnant wife and begs for help. The young master says that the same punishment awaits him too if he dares to help and pushes the child away. The master orders to kill the child too to teach the slaves a lesson. Hearing this, the child runs toward one of the men trying to strike him with a stick but is thrown to the ground. The mother yells out the child’s name, “Yu-Jin!”
As her husband and child are being beaten the mother shakes of the person holding her runs over to the pregnant wife and grabs her hairpin and hold it to the pregnant wife’s neck.
The mother threatens to kill the mistress. The master orders his men to kill the mother but the mother digs the hairpin into the daughter-in-law’s neck to show that she is serious and it starts bleeding. The young master looks at his wife helplessly but the father-in-law doesn’t seem to be bothered. She tells the master that he can save his children and she will save hers. The mother removes a tasselled object from the pregnant lady’s robes and throws it to her son.
As he takes it, she tells him that it is worth at least 3 mals of rice. She tells him not to exchange it for anything less and asks him to run away and never come back. Yu-Jin hesitates and stands rooted to the spot crying. The master orders his men to kill the child first and the mother retaliates by saying that she will stab the baby first and moves the blade to the mistress’s belly. The young master is alarmed at this and he asks Yu-Jin to run away. The master again orders his men but this time the pregnant woman warns them not to move and the slaves stop in their tracks. She says that she is watching them and threatens to punish them late if they move. Yu–Jin hesitates as he looks at his mother. He starts crying as his mother says that both (she and her husband) their deaths wont be in vain if he escapes.
The people start screaming as the the lady goes into labour and Yu-jin starts running. The master takes his bow and starts shooting arrows at Yi-Jin but he misses and hits the person chasing him. Yu-Jin manages to get away and his mother lets go of the mistress and falls to the ground. When the master aims the bow at her she asks him to kill her. He says that as much as he wanted to he cant do it because his promotion depends on it (the visitor from yesterday had asked for her). He turns and shoots that arrow at her husband killing him instantly. He orders his men to clean up the mess and lock her up but she gets up and runs as the pregnant lady gives birth.
A crying Yu-Jin stops running once he is in the forest.
The pole on the well has a piece of the mothers clothing and her shoe is in the well ( she has jumped into the well killing herself)
In the forest his mother’s words asking him to run away and never come back echoes in his ear. He tucks the tasselled object in his shirt and runs away.
The other slaves chase after him but lose him in the woods.
Back at the house the master orders slave hunters to find the 9-year-old Yu-Jin. When asked why he is spending so much on a slave he says that Yu-Jin is an asset. II Sik (Kim Byung-Chul) assures the master that he will find Yu-Jin as draws a portrait from the description and Choon-Sik (Bae Jeong-Nam) draws a sketch of Yu-Jin.
Yu-Jin runs through the fields and survives by eating stolen sweet potatoes off the fields. The slave hunters are hot on his tracks. He manages to lose the slave hunters at the mountain top as he hides behind a rock. He then lies down on the rock.
The new mother (young master’s wife) cradles her new-born as she places her hand on the gash in her neck.
Yu-Jin finds a place to sleep between the edge of the rocks near the edge of the cliffs.
The next day he is eating food slyly when a man asks him the food is tasty. Yu-Jin chokes on his food and the man says that if he eats that fast he will get sick and directs him to a nearby well before leaving.
Yu-jin goes to the man and gives him the tasselled object and tells him that it is worth 3 mals of rice but he will take only 2 ½ mals. He says that he will forego ½ mal in exchange for the food. When the man says he has no use for it Yu-Jin asks him to sell it. The man refuses by saying that Yu-jin looks like a slave kid and he cant sell something that a slave stole. Yu-Jin claims that it wasn’t stolen and that it was worth his mother’s life. The man shoos Yu-Jin away by saying that he cant take something that expensive. Yu –Jin asks the man to give him 2 mals of rice and allow him to stay the night as he is tired. The man refuses but they are interrupted as they hear someone calling out “Eun San”. Yu-Jin hides as an American comes in.
The man (we know him now as Eun-san) gets up while telling the American that he won’t sell his China. The American speaks in Korean and asks Eun-san to sell him the china as the ship from America had come in and he has to return. When he says that the admiral of the ship likes Chinaware, Eun-san asks both Yu-Jin and the American to get out as he doesn’t want to sell.
As the American follows Eun-san, Yu Jin pulls the American’s coat and asks him where America is. Just then a gong sounds disturbing the birds making them fly into the sky.
As the second gong sounds, the soldiers ready their weapons for battle.
Bombs are launched from the sea into the mainland and Ganghwa goes up in flames. After a series of bombings, the civilians help the soldiers of Ganghwa launch cannon balls at the American battleships stationed at the coast but the battleship returns their fire. A boy tries to run but he loses his footing and an explosion goes off behind him. His ears start ringing following the explosion and he watches in shock as the battle consumes the lives of the people around him. A man shakes him out of his frozen state and asks him to get into action.
We hear the voiceover narrating that they (Joseon) were fighting back even on the face of crushing defeat. Despite being on the verge of losing no one deserted the battle. Even though America has overwhelming military power, the Koreans (with matchlock guns) keep getting back up and they are fighting over and over again fighting under their generals flag. When faced without weapons, they throw rocks and dirt at American soldiers. He narrates that he has never witnessed such a raging and fearsome battle.
A Joseon man (interpreter) follows few Americans on the coast as they walk along.
At the palace everything is normal as the maids serve the King at his table as he has his food.
In the battle, the man asks for fire and the boy lights it up but the gun backfires and the man dies instantly. The boy goes over to his father who is nearby asking for fire. The boy suggests that they run away as they will all die if they stay back. The father refuses and tells him that they need to stand guard here. The father takes the rifle and goes forward but takes a fatal shot and falls backward. The boy holds his father calling out to him but his father goes limp in his arms. The boy is hysterical as he cries over his father’s body.
He notices American soldiers approaching and picks up his father’s gun that is fired up and points it to them asking if they were the ones who killed his father. He fires and the shot hits the Korean man (interpreter) who was walking with the Americans. The man falls to the ground clutching his knee as the soldiers surround the boy. The boy and the interpreter look and bore into each other’s eyes.
The American flag is planted on the battlefield strewn with corpses and remains from the aftermath of the battle. It rains at night and the voiceover narrates that 243 Joseon men had died in the battle while 100 had drowned.
It is reported to King Gojong that General Heo had also lost his life in the battle. When the King asks if they lost, the scholar maintains that the cant say they lost since they didn’t establish diplomatic ties with America. Gojong asks if America lost and the warden says that it’s an empty victory for America as it didn’t get them the diplomatic ties (though they have superior armed forces) and it was a fruitful defeat for Joseon as they did not give in. Gojong doesn’t seem convinced while the other scholar says that they have taken 20 prisoners and suggests negotiation. The warden tries to silence him by saying that they didn’t know what the Americans will demand in exchange for the prisoners. He goes on to call the prisoners as cowards who failed their duty and says that they should be disowned and never allowed back into court. He also says that peace offer is equal to selling the country and refuses to entertain that either. Gojong and the scholar wear anxious expressions as they remain silent.
The interpreter informs the admiral that they have failed to establish diplomatic ties with Joseon. The admiral comments that Joseon is tough unlike Japan who had opened up their ports in fear. A person from the court is there for diplomatic talks and asks the interpreter what the admiral said. The interpreter says that they want to civilise Joseon savages and if they are not interested then leave them. The Joseon diplomat is angered by the interpreter’s language and reprimands him.
The Americans click pictures of the Joseon prisoners and also of themselves cheering on the ship.
The interpreter comes along when the prisoners ask him about news from the Joseon court and says that Joseon has abandoned them. The prisoners refuse to believe that their country has abandoned them. He comments that they are ignorant to risk their lives for the country and getting nothing in return. He prods the boy (who shot him in the battle) with the stick and says that he will kill the boy himself.
Just then the American soldiers come and inform the interpreter that they will be releasing the prisoners of war. When he asks them if they wont be killing the prisoners, they say that The US is a righteous country and these people had fought fiercely for Joseon so they will be released as a sign of respect. The interpreter is disappointed and wonders if he should turn to Japan now.
After being released, the boy form the battlefield builds a grave for his father at the mountain top. He is crying over the grave thinking about his fathers death when Eun- san calls the boy using his name “Seung-gu”. Seung-gu looks up at Eun-san and continues to cry over the grave. It is sunset as the place is filled with grief-stricken families mourning over the graves of their loved ones.
Eun-san dresses Seung-gu’s wounds and says that his wounds aren’t serious. He asks Seiun-gu to stay over for time being and to accompany him tomorrow to the Kiln site but Seung –gu says he wants to go to his father’s home where he had kept his guns. Eun-san comments that Seung-gu can’t even kill an ant so why would he require guns. He says that he can build traps and knows how to trim fox and rabbit fur. Eun-san asks him to wait out the winter and go in spring. Seung-gu asks Eun-san not to worry about him. Eun-san says that Seung-gu’s father had died a righteous death so that his children could live in this land. Seung –gu responds by saying that he will not die like his father and that is the reason why he wants to hold a gun in his hand this time. He says he wants to destroy this country that abandoned its own people with his own hands. Seung-gu says that he will become a rebel and Eun-san acknowledges him.
II-sik and Choon-Sik (slave hunters) are waiting at Eun-san’s house and enquire about Yu-jin. When Eun-san answers evasively and Choon-sik draws his sword out but Eun san stops him and hits him. Seeing Choon-sik on the ground II-sik says that probably Eun san hasn’t seen the boy and they go away.
Yu-jin has been hiding in one of the crates and Eun-san discovers him. He says that he doesn’t remember making this piece of pottery (referring to Yu-jin) and he asks to see if it breaks and kicks the crate. Yu-jin rolls out of the crate and Eun-san asks him to get lost. Yu-jin tells Eun-san about his parent’s death. He goes on to say that he will be beaten to death if he is caught or starve to death if he isn’t. He says that he has nowhere to go and asks for help. Eun-san says that its none of his business and says that he has got enough problems. Yu-jin says that he will go to America and begs Eun-san to pretend like he never saw Yu-jin.
Just then, the American (who offers to buy Eun-san’s china ware) comes in and asks what is wrong with Yu-Jin. Eun-san asks him if the guy called “God” really exists and the American confirms it. Eun-san asks if God listens to prayers and the American says that he does. He tells the American to pray loudly asking God to take care of Yu-jin for all the Joseon men that the Americans had killed. The American is sceptical as he doesn’t know the boy. Yu-jin thanks Eun-san profusely and gives him the tasselled object saying that he will repay him for this generosity. Yu-jin says that he will repay it with his life and that’s when Eun-san grabs the tassel and shoves it into Yu-Jin’s shirt and asks him to survive in America. He tells the American that he will give him the pottery. Yu-jin takes teh tassel and places it inside his robe.
The ship sails to America and the American takes Yu-jin in a crate as a part of the cargo.
He spends the voyage hiding in the crate and coming out just to eat from the cargo crate nearby. The American visits him and gives him water every now and then and he comes out to explore when people aren’t around. He watches the happenings from the gap between the wood panels in the crate. He peers out of the window and sees the Brooklyn Bridge under construction (New York City). The waterway is dotted with ships and is a busy harbour.
Yu-jin walks around the market and is startled at the steam engine’s sound when it goes over the street. He bumps into the American and he asks for a place to stay. When the American refuses, he offers to eat less and work hard in exchange for accommodation. The American still doesn’t budge and Yu-Jin says that the American had told that God sees everything and goes on to ask if God isn’t here. The American agrees to take him in.
He says that he will take care of Yu-Jin for a while but wont keep him permanently. He asks Yu-jin to teach him Joseon language and that he will be returning to Joseon in 3 years. The American asks for his name and Yu-jin says “Choi Yu-jin”. The American says that he has a great name and that they have it here too as “Eugene -the great and noble”.
Yu-jin works as a porter at the railway station but he loses the money to a group of American kids. A beaten up Yu-jin walks dejectedly and stops at the “New York Music Box” store (the same store from the opening scene with Eugene) and looks at the music box and breaks down in tears while listening to the music.
We cut to the scene where the American boys had beaten him up and later on he is a bit grown up and is still getting beaten by them. When they leave he tries to get up and watches a group of American soldiers walking past him. A soldier tosses a bar of chocolate to Yu-Jin. Yu-jin gets up and watches them walk away. The bully comes and says he is taking the chocolate and Yu-jin tells him that its okay he can take it as he (Yu-jin) has found something else. The bully searches him asking what he has found and Yu-jin replies “ a way to become an American”.
Yu-jin stands at harbour and cuts off his long plaited hair.
The interpreter visits the Japanese leader and tells him that though he was born into a poor farmer’s family he knew he had something that will bring great wealth eventually. When asked what it is he says it’s Joseon. He asks for 50000 won and in return he will give the leader Joseon. The leader comments that its a meagre sum and the interpreter says that Joseon is not worth more than that. He says that with 1 fleet of Un Yo they can tear down Joseon. He says that whether they fight or surrender Japan won face any loss.
Once outside, he walks with the support of a cane as he limps. He is followed by a man who pulls out the gun and starts running and a gunshot is heard.
A woman (Kim-Ji-won as Hui Jin) holds a baby in her arms as two men come in. She asks them where Sang-wan is. She asks if the revolt went wrong and the man tells her that she has to pack up and leave with the baby. He says there was only one gunshot with no return fire or a confirmed kill and that one of their own betrayed them. She gives the man her baby and breaks her wedding picture and traces her thumb over her husband’s image. She tucks the picture under the baby’s clothes and says that she has just given birth the day before and if she goes along everyone will die. The man is shocked but she opens the trap door and asks them to go. She hears footsteps approaching and tells the man that she will try to buy them some time. She tells him that he has to survive to protect Sang-wan and her child. She bids them goodbye and touches her baby sadly before bidding goodbye and the men leave.
She takes a gun and closes the trapdoor and shoots the couple of men who try to come inside. The next lot of men are armed and they fire several rounds of shots and the interpreter is with them. They walk in seeing her bloody on the floor but she grabs the gun and shoots one more person but gets shot again and falls to the floor. She tries to reach for the gun but after kicking away the gun, the interpreter throws a gold biscuit on the floor as reward. The traitor steps forward.
We cut to her husband Sang wan (Jin goo) surrounded by the police. The traitor asks him to lower the weapon and he says that he is a part of the Righteous Army. He asks how much they paid him to live as a shameful father and a shameful son without honour and without a country for rest of his life. The interpreter shoots him in the head but he doesn’t die yet. The interpreter walks forward and the Sang-wan says “For the sake of Joseon, I am asking you Lee Wan-ik…” and dies. The interpreter(Lee Wan-ik) says that the husband never got his answer because he took a snitch for a friend.
We cut back to the wife who learns about the traitor’s identity as he picks up the gold biscuit. The interpreter asks if she thinks that just killing him will change the fate of Joseon and adds that there are men everywhere who live off of the fate of Joseon. She asks him if he thinks eliminating their organisation will change his fate. He asks her about the whereabouts of other members and she says that they are off to kill him. Before dying she says that even though it will take time they will come for him. The interpreter comments that he will be selling Joseon piece by piece.
The two men bring the child and the ashes (Sang-wan and his wife) to Sang-wan’s father’s home as the servants cry for their young master. Sang-wan’s father hears them out as they say that it’s a girl child born to Sang-wan and the woman he loved. The maid servant rushes over and takes the child from them.
The female voiceover says that is how she met her grandfather for the first time. In a small box less than a foot long were her mother and father’s ashes. That autumn (we see Japanese soldiers attacking Joseon) the Joseon that many died to protect was destroyed by Japanese Naval forces. The number of Japanese soldiers was just 14.
1894, 31st year of Gojong Reign
A man puts up a notice of a new reform. II-sik and Choon-sik (slave hunters) are watching and Choon-sik falls to the ground reading the notice. He says that the new reform states that slavery is abolished and that they are done for now and also the civil service exam is abolished too. II-sik says that they must make use of the opportunity and think about what the free slaves and nobles who can’t get office jobs need.
They open up “Anything you want store” and they say that they will provide any service the people want ranging from being a pawnshop to being detectives. They notice a customer but recognise him as a slave that they had caught for the Yoo family. They are worried if he will recognise them but the former slave says he wants to find the landlord of the Yoo famly who had caught him. II-sik comments that the world has turned upside down and Choon-sik says this is the period of change.
The master (the one who killed Yu-Jin’s parents) is selling his land to tenant farming to buy a watch for his grandson Kim Hee-Sung (son of the pregnant lady whose neck was stabbed by Yu-jin’s mother)and pay for him to study abroad. Hee-Sung is seated facing away from the grandfather and a pocket-watch is next to him the servant cries out saying that he is still in debt and he cant pay off his debt if the master sells of his land. The master tells the servant to blame his ancestors for not leaving him any land. The servant cries saying that he needs to repay the debt and persists that he has a family of 7 and begs the master to help him. He orders the man to be taken out after telling him that he should think about becoming a slave. The man wails as he is escorted out. The master comes and sits next to his grandson Hee-Sung and comments that now that the laws have changed, the lowly ones also have started raising their voices. Hee-Sung keeps frowning and his grandfather comments that he looks handsome with short hair. When asked about the gift Hee-Sung says that it is a precious gift to be given to him. The master says that he is proud that his grandson is going abroad and that he is happy. He tells him to broaden his knowledge and come back in a year to get married. Hee-Sung’s grandfather says that he will arrange a position for him. Hee-Sung says that he is not interested in the national affairs but his grandfather brushes it off saying that the position will take care of him and interest is not necessary. The grandfather says that he cant rely on his son but he has high hopes for Hee-Sung and he wants what he has acquired to be protected by Hee-Sung. He advises his grandson that in order to do that, he has to never be satisfied with what he has and not to have limit with what he has. He opens the pocket watch and compares it to infinite time. Hee-Sung wears a serious expression as he looks at the ticking watch.
At another home, accessories and make up are arranged as a young noble woman Ae-shin who is Sang-wan’s daughter (Kim Tae Ri) sits reading. She comments that all the hairpins look great when asked but she is disinterested in them. The old woman who is arranging the accessories comments that it is evident that she is lying and both of them laugh. The lady then brings out a newspaper and hands it over to the woman who places it in the book and closes it. She pays for it and the old woman comments that she is a peculiar girl as she is more interested in the daily newspaper than the jewels. She asks the old lady to come back in two weeks and arrange a bargain for her as she reads this. The old lady agrees.
As Ae-shin reads the newspaper her voiceover says “Yesterday seemed like a distant past, today felt unfamiliar and tomorrow was terrifying. It was a time of turbulence. All of us each in their own way were living through the rapidly changing Joseon”
We cut to the montage showing all the characters as adults.
Image courtesy TVN
This was a good start to the series. The plotline is complex with at least 4 tracks going on simultaneously so it is good that the story is not rushed and proper screen space is given for each character for ease of understanding. I found it a bit difficult to follow up with certain characters as most of the characters were left unnamed and the official positions that they hold weren’t revealed clearly.
Episode 1 basically covered the back story of all the characters and we can understand the emotions that stem from them with regard to patriotism. We saw a soldier- Captain Eugene Choi, a rebel- Seung-gu and a traitor interpreter– Lee Wan-ik, all having a strong dislike towards Joseon and will be happy to see its downfall.
I like the character sketch of all the women namely Yu-jin’s mother, pregnant wife of the young master and Hui Jin (Sang-wan’s wife and Ae-shin’s mother). They were all portrayed as strong willed mothers who protect their children at any cost.
Yu-jin as a child displays righteousness and negotiating skills (asks Eun san for rice) though he is a slave. He is also quick witted as he takes decisions instantly though he is in hostile and dangerous situations.
The cinematography is mind-blowing as the beautiful visuals made me forget that I was watching a drama and I felt that I was watching a movie. I am eager to watch the next episode to see how the plot unfolds.
-By Soul Sword-