Series creator/showrunner Soo Hugh explains Episode 8’s “expiry,” earning some of its key moments, and the season’s postscript tribute.
For a story about decades of resilience and endurance, it made sense to end Season 1 of “Pachinkowith a perspective from 2021.
After eight episodes chronicling the intertwined fates of an entire family tree, “Pachinko” focused on Korean immigrants to Japan, namely the Zainichi women who left their homes like Sunja (Minha Kim) does in the season. Apple TV+ series opener. Showrunner and series creator Soo Hugh originally envisioned these women’s stories as the end of the planned four-season arc for “Pachinko”. For a variety of reasons, Hugh felt the urgency of what they shared in their talks couldn’t wait.
“While I was reviewing [Episode] 108, I thought, ‘Am I going to have four seasons?’ And how many members of the first generation will still be with us? They lived a long time. So I started having this anxiety about the interviews that if we didn’t do them in this first season, I’m not sure we’d ever see them,” Hugh said. “I really felt it was important to see their faces. This show is fiction – I never mean this show is a documentary – but it’s built on the backs of people like these amazing women who lived .
These interviews, conducted last year by writer and historian Jackie J. Kim-Wachutka in Osaka and Kyoto, were also tied to a visual idea woven throughout this “Pachinko” adaptation, which depicts how characters navigate between the worlds of Korean and Japanese languages. .
“What was incredible was that we couldn’t find an interpreter for the women. When we had a Korean translator, they would say, “I can’t understand them. When there was a Japanese translator: “I can’t understand them. It was really Jackie, who dedicated her life to bringing these women’s stories to the fore. She’s the one who really had to go through them. This language is its own thing in itself. I knew I was going to use color coding for the show’s subtitles. But it really inspired me to really go for it with yellow, blue, yellow, blue.
This decision to bring this documentary element to the end of the season is an effective counterpart to another idea Hugh said she had for the show from the start: Sunja’s season finale comes as she sells kimchi at a local market to passers-by like her, those who yearn for a piece of the home they left behind.
“That was the very first thing I knew about the show, period. Even before I broke Episode 1, I knew what the final scene was going to be,” Hugh said. “When you read the book, you get the feeling, of course, that the final scene of the whole first season was going to be Sunja going to the market and selling kimchi for the first time. You hear her voice shouting ‘Kimchi’ and she’s fighting for her survival. In some ways, once you know that, you’re just looking back and getting started.
Bridging the distance between two moments in time – Sunja relives her life in Osaka with her husband Isak (Steve Sanghyun Noh) and the nearly 60-year-old Sunja (played by Youn Yuh-jung) watching her grandson Solomon ( Jin Ha) forging one’s own path – is a method that Hugh and the show’s writing team have talked about a lot. Given the freedom to establish the series’ “present” at any time and move through memories, slipping between each chapter in the life of Sunja and those around her has become a delicate balancing act.
Juhan Noh/Apple TV+
“This show uses three different editing languages to transition from moment to moment. One is this connection of images where the same image connects one place to another. If you use it too much, it just becomes a gimmick. The second is this very, very long dissolution. The past stays just a little longer, almost like a ghost over the present. And a third are hard cuts. The two time periods conflict with each other,” Hugh said.
It was one thing to find the visual language to go from one to the other. It was quite another to consider the totality of all the events that occur between each of these given ripples.
“Not only do we cross-reference time, but we actually have to know everything that happened in between, because it affected the present. We realized in the writers room, we don’t just break up a season, we let’s break 80 years. It was a bit daunting at first,” Hugh said. “We’ll also have time jumps where you jump forward in time. You teach the audience, ‘That’s what you missed. This is the important part that happened while you were gone. There is now a one year old baby here. It was a really fun challenge, a puzzle to solve.
Part of the creative success of “Pachinko” is the show’s ability to bring emotional richness to a story structured and organized in this unexpected way. Episode 8 takes another gamble by having some of the pivotal scenes from the show’s past anchored by one of the younger members of the ensemble. Young Noa (Jaejun Park) must serve as a translator for Sunja, his mother, as they both attempt to locate Isak and free him from custody.
“I’m a sadist. When you think about it, I ask a little boy not to just speak in Korean, which was going to be his mother tongue. But this little boy has to say most of his scenes in Japanese, right? Hugues said. “The idea of finding a unicorn who will be perfectly bilingual, unless the movie gods really favored me at the time, I knew I was going to give this kid hell. . But my God, how amazing was he?
Decades later, Sunja and her family experience a different kind of loss as Hana (Mari Yamamoto) lies dying in the hospital. The episode’s director, Justin Chon, helps highlight the ways the “Pachinko” characters find other ways to communicate. Hana’s final moment of understanding with her mother Etsuko (Kaho Minami) comes with barely a word spoken between them.
“I think what I like about what Justin and Mari and Kaho have done is that the camera doesn’t have to do much. It’s a very simple locked camera because it’s a goodbye scene. If he had shot that with a traditional cover, it would never have worked,” Hugh said. “It feels like the audience is the odd one out. I have this gut reaction because I don’t feel entitled to be there. It’s such an intimate goodbye scene. And then you have Nico [Muhly]is the music. We tried different partitions on this. It’s the classic example of, if you overdo it, you won’t feel anything. If you do too little, you won’t feel anything. It really must have been Goldilocks’ musical cue there.
Although their interactions play out with minimal dialogue as Hana slowly slips into unconsciousness, the episode makes way for a more cheerful sendoff. Solomon, with a few minutes to spare, takes Hana to the rooftop so he can give her a bit of the Hawaiian vacation she’s mentioned in their past conversations. Going from momentary chaos to momentary joy of being outside the sterile hospital room, Hugh found help from Dan Mangan’s cover from “In the plane over the sea”.
“It was written in the script, because I’m a big fan of Neutral Milk Hotel. I think Jeff Magnum has one of the most glorious voices in the world, but when we put the original version in the edit, it didn’t work with his voice. It was just too modern. I did not know what to do. And we tried to score, but I still had that song in my head. So I just googled “aircraft over marine cover”. And it manifested. We set it up and it worked like a charm,” said Hugh.
On the day of the episode’s release, Apple TV+ announced that “Pachinko” has been renewed for a season 2. Much like the original plan for the end of this opening season, Hugh said there are parts of this saga that are immediately compelling threads to follow.
“There are so many stories to tell. I think of Sunja and where we left her. And I love Kyunghee. Kyunghee just has this amazing story in season 2. And then nowadays, with Solomon, I just want people to understand like we’re watching a human being in training. Season 1, he’s just clay. Its storyline is meant to unfold at a slow pace, as it takes place over a year. But it is divided into four seasons. Sunja has the luxury of traveling through time like a rocket. With Solomon, we’re going to get final form at the end of the series with him,” Hugh said.
If “Pachinko” feels like a show that teaches you how to watch it, that’s partly by design. All of these cross-generational conversations here, especially when they come to a halt in this season finale, are invitations to continue, whenever these new episodes may arrive.
“I hope this feels like the end of a journey. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to answer all of your questions. I hope this feels like the end of something. But it should also feel like we have left a lot of good questions on the table,” Hugh said. “We use the word cliffhangers a lot in television. It just makes sense that with the architecture of a show you want audiences to come back. I think for the finals it’s just my personal preference that i want it to feel like a long exhale when you say goodbye to a season if you pile everything to the very end i’m not with them when they get to expire. We’ve worked so hard on this show, so in the last 20 minutes, I want to be with the audience when they expire.
Season 1 of “Pachinko” is now available to stream on Apple TV+.