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.
Over the course of the last few weeks, I have blasted through three different Asian Dramas: Black, Descendants of the Sun, and Refresh Man. After I finished the last one at 3 AM last night, I decided that watching something in English might be a nice change of pace, so I went through my recommendations and Star-Crossed popped up. Now, I’ve read Romeo and Juliet, and while it is not my favorite Shakespearean play I do enjoy it’s themes and gimmicks well enough. The main one being the idea of a set of lovers that are kept apart by the expectations of society. It’s my kind of cheese.
That said, I am barely two episodes in, and I have a few thoughts.
Firstly, the series starts when a spaceship full of humanoid aliens called Atrians crash-lands just outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Almost immediately, the human military is gunning down the Atrians because they believe that they are coming to take over the Earth. And I think it’s honestly kinda ridiculous. Throughout the entire opening, I kept thinking that these nutters have seen waaaaaay too many Sci-Fi movies. Anyway, one of the children runs away and hides in a barn, where he befriends the little girl that lives there. He is found the next day and shot by one of the soldiers while protecting the little girl.
So, yeah, the American government kills most of these aliens and puts the rest in a concentration camp, which they call the Sector. After ten years there, and a lot of Americanization, seven teenage Atrians are allowed to attend a local high school. Most of the students are terrible human beings and bully the new students. One of the humans at the school is Emery, the little girl from the opening all grown up (and looking scarily like the main actress from The Vampire Diaries), and one of the Atrian boys, named Roman, remembers her as the girl who showed him kindness on Arrival Day. Though how he recognizes her I will never know.
Anyway, they make friends again pretty fast… Just in time for her father to accidentally shoot his father. This puts Roman in a position of power in the Atrian government. Plus there’s a group of renegade Atrians that want to fight for liberation or something. It’s all very political, and I’m finding that aspect pretty interesting, but I don’t want to spoil the whole thing for you. Instead, I want to talk about the subtext, which you can’t ignore because the show won’t let you.
More than anything else, this show is about racism.
So much of this show makes it obvious that they are trying to mirror real-world racism in a way that is… hard to miss. The Atrians don’t look all that different from humans, with the exception of tattoos that appear on their skin, yet they are bullied by the student body. They are insulted for not participating in the Pledge of Allegiance (in the only school that still does that apparently). One of the girls is almost assaulted by some male students, and her brother gets into a fight to save her, then gets scolded for his choices.
And I am honestly not qualified to talk about this in much depth, because I am not an expert on racism in America. And this show just baffles me. Why don’t any of the minority students try to befriend them or talk to them or show them compassion? The show takes place in Louisiana for cripes sake, this can’t be a coincidence! I don’t live in Louisiana, so I am not an expert and please keep that in mind, but isn’t Louisiana in an area of the United States that had a lot of trouble with segregation and stuff? Did none of that happen in this universe? I don’t know, I just feel like the minority students would be the first to welcome them. GAH! This bothers me. I think it just boils down to the writers missing a great opportunity, or royally messing it up. I’m not sure yet.
I feel like the CW just operates in its own little world of “there’s no prejudice or racism here — unless it is plot convenient.” And, like, there’s still the question introduced about using peace or violence to accomplish integration. It just feels like the show wants to yo-yo between these serious themes, but not really dude.
As for the star-crossed lovers angle, I think their relationship is progressing a lot faster than what feels natural, and it is also annoying me. Like, Roman and Emery nearly kiss (probably) after a party in Episode 1.
I’m curious to see where the show is going to go, so I’m not going to stop watching, but I just hope it gets better.
Have a fantastic day, by beautiful readers.