This past Saturday, Netflix started releasing episodes for their new Korean drama, Mr. Sunshine. I don’t usually catch new dramas as they are airing, I usually watch them after they’ve completed, so I was really hoping that this would be the one I could watch as it came out, and as it happens, it might just be.
So, I didn’t actually watch the trailer until after I watched the episode, but the reason I put it on my list is because I think there was a blurb about a soldier falling in love with a princess, plus there was period clothing, but we’ll see where that goes. What this episode actually is… is BACKSTORY!
Yes, most of this hour in a half is all the setup you will need to understand the story as it progresses. And I’ll be honest, I was confused for a lot of it. It took me a while to realize that we had jumped into a prolonged flashback. A lot of characters are introduced, many of them die, and some of them will be important later.
Summarizing the Plot through the Characters (Kinda)
The beginning of Eugene’s story arc looks very promising. He was born a slave, named Yu-jin, but had to run away because his father was killed by their master, and his mother committed suicide to protect them both. He then travels to a port city just as it is attacked by Americans, and stows away on a vessel returning to the States. The man who helped him stow away then helps him get on his feet in America and he gives him the American name Eugene. Eugene is beaten by the local boys in the area and generally has a hard time. Then he sees a black man amongst the soldiers and decides to become a soldier himself, which will eventually take him back to his home country.
During the attack on the port town, we are introduced to Seung-gu. His father is a gunner that ends up dying during the battle and is actually killed in front of Seung-gu. In his grief, Seung-gu shots his father’s loaded gun and hits a Korean man (a translator for the Americans) in the leg. He is then captured as a POW and taken aboard the American ship with some others. The king’s advisors convince him not to negotiate for their lives, so it looks like they are going to die, but as a gesture of goodwill, the American soldiers let them go. Seung-gu is determined to take down the government that betrayed him and resolves to become a rebel. I am probably going to really like this character.
The other main player is a girl named Ae-sin, who is the granddaughter of a rich nobleman. Her story starts really late in the episode, but from what I can gather her grandfather is Eugene’s old master, and he had at least two sons. The one, who I think is the eldest, was present during the murder of Eugene’s parents. Eugene’s mother held his pregnant wife hostage so that Eugene could escape. The pregnant wife gave birth to a child and survives with a scar on her neck. I expect this will become important later. The other son likely ran away with his wife and joined some kind of rebellion, but on the day that his daughter was born, he was killed. His wife gave their daughter to a trusted friend and dies so they can get away safely. Shortly after, the daughter is returned to her family, as well as the ashes of her parents. If the romance that I was promised actually happens, I bet it will be between Eugene and Ae-sin. The first real thing we learn about her is that she is curious about the world around her.
I was constantly resisting the urge to look up if America really attacked Korea in 1871 because it’s not a part of America’s imperialist past that I was taught. I did notice a few historical inaccuracies on the American side of things; they erect the modern American flag for instance, even though America didn’t even have all 50 current states until 1959 when it forcibly annexed Hawaii. But I’m a sucker for historical dramas, so I expect that I will really enjoy this series. The characters have grabbed my interest, the setting as grabbed my attention, and the plot has started on its way to being a very good story. I just hope it lives up to my expectations.