Full Sun: Episode 1
Full Sun (alternatively known as Beyond the Clouds) premiered on KBS this week, setting itself apart as an intense melodrama from other dramaland offerings. It doesn’t, however, reinvent the wheel in the genre, giving us some happy(ish) beginnings for our characters to set the stage of the angst-ridden rollercoaster this show will likely become in the near future.
Even though the show’s double-header premiere day translated to rather dismal ratings (Episode 1 clocked in at a painful 3.7% while the next episode, which aired right after it, ticked up to 5.1%), the first hour was still narratively meaty without feeling too heavy. So let’s enjoy the happiness while it lasts because I’m sure we’ll be in for a world of pain for the next fifteen hours. That counts as a silver lining, right?
SONG OF THE DAY
Zitten – “고래 (Whale)” from the OST [Download ]
EPISODE 1 RECAP
In a wide-open field, a man (Yoon Kye-sang) trudges through the deep snow, blood dripping behind him. His eyes are filled with sorrow as he narrates in a yearning voice, “If I could go back to my childhood… to when I blew my whistle, and my father would carry me on his back and run…”
“Or to the moment when I first saw your bright smile,” he recalls. “Or if I could only go back to when everything went wrong…”
His past memories are intercut with snippets of what’s to come (for us, as viewers): a diamond shining brightly in the sun; a gunshot; a man being rolled out on a gurney; a woman crying outside; and so on.
Cheeks stained with tears, he raises a revolver to his temple: “If I could only got back to that day… Then, if I had wiped the tears from your eyes, could I have lived as me, as Jung Se-ro?”
We rewind to five years ago to see JUNG SE-RO work as a flower delivery boy, carrying in a heavy bouquet to a rooftop studio. Its recipient HAN YOUNG-WON (Han Ji-hye) puts down her tools to literally stop and smell the roses as Se-ro watches her with a tinge of interest.
He doesn’t miss a chance to impress her then, offering to give her a hand with her welding project, worried that the pretty lady will hurt herself. But she brightly replies that she isn’t welding, which is when Se-ro takes in the handmade jewelry pieces strewn about in her messy studio.
Needless to say, Young-won is a master at her craft, though, she’s also a bit disorganized in her behavior and thoughts, jumping from one task to another without much regard to her dangerous work environment. But her friendly and energetic personality makes her quickly likable in my eyes—and dare I say, in Se-ro’s as well.
She grabs Se-ro’s hand to check his watch for the time, much to his surprise, before hurriedly running out. Despite the bravado Se-ro puts on about safety, she’s the one to tell him to be careful when he nearly slips on the steps. Aw.
Young-won’s assistant, Manager Min, has a fright when she sees her boss march through the high-end jewelry storefront in her overalls. That’s the furthest concern from Young-won’s mind at present (if at all), since she’s more interested about her afternoon appointment with “a handsome man” than hearing the rest of her workday.
And who can blame her when her appointment is with none other than her boyfriend GONG WOO-JIN (Song Jong-ho), with whom she exchanges hearts over the head. They’re cute.
Young-won presents him with the choice of good or better news over lunch, and when he chooses the latter, she springs on him: “Congratulations, we’re getting married.” Huh? Wait, does he know that?
It’s telling that the sudden news doesn’t seem to surprise Woo-jin, though, his disconcerted expression at the printed wedding invitation hints at something deeper. The reason is because Young-won’s father disapproves of the idea of her marrying Woo-jin (due to a lowly upbringing, perhaps?), but Young-won loves him and presses that they get married first and deal with the consequences later. Never mind the notion that hell hath no fury like a disapproving father.
She averts her gaze to avoid the resulting embarrassment, but he accepts her proposal in the form of a diamond tennis bracelet, promising that he’ll give her a ring at their small, inclusive wedding in less than two months’ time.
Woo-jin explains the meaning behind the bracelet’s name of “Silver Lining,” which extends from the saying that “every cloud has a silver lining.” Taking her by the hand, he assures her that there’s a brighter future for them once they pass through the dark clouds.
They both joke over exchanging engagement vows in a noodle restaurant, and when Woo-jin asks about the other envelope, Young-won leaves it on the table and steps out without a word. Inside is a company invitation to an upcoming international jewelry fair in Thailand.
He runs out, beaming, and embraces Young-won in congratulations at the exciting news that her company Belle la Fair is getting global recognition. She in turn congratulates him for marrying such a successful woman like herself.
Giving her a kiss on the forehead, Woo-jin tells her that her deceased mother would be proud of her. Young-won suggests they go to Bangkok together to celebrate their engagement.
As it turns out, flower delivery is just one of the many part-time jobs Se-ro juggles. He’s smart and charming enough to use the friendly rapport he has with his dry-cleaning boss in order to borrow a customer’s suit for an upcoming interview.
Se-ro lives with his grandmother at home (glad to see that Nice Guy house is getting work. Times are tough, you know?), who finds her grandson talking with Dad on the phone. Se-ro wants to go see Dad in Bangkok, but Dad says he’s planning to come to Korea to see them both anyway.
Not if Grandma can help it as she snatches the phone to bark at her careless son not to bother because she’s alive and kickin’. Ha, Grandma’s got spunk that’s for sure, and she also has an adoring relationship with her grandson.
We learn that Dad’s day job is a con man, as he and his fellow scammers SEO JAE-IN (Kim Yuri) and PARK KANG-JAE (Jo Jin-woong) admire their near-perfect counterfeit diamonds in preparation for their next job at the International Jewelry Fair in Thailand.
Back at home, Grandma dotes on her grandson with some final encouragement for his interview, insisting that she has no expectations at all. Heh. All she hopes is that Se-ro doesn’t live like his father, who will come crawling back to them one day even without Se-ro’s persuasion.
Se-ro masks any disappointment about Dad well enough by saying that he must have inherited his smarts from Grandma, who bitterly remarks, “Your father’s smart, too.”
Once he’s alone, Se-ro takes out an old whistle from a drawer. He blows on it with a smile, and a flashback takes us to when young Se-ro would blow on the whistle in warning. Dad would come running at that cue, and run away from the cops, carrying his son on his back.
But it’s Dad’s checkered past as a convict that creates issues in Se-ro’s interview the next day, which contradicts his fluent English depiction of his globe-trotting father as a fearless businessman. Perhaps this lie is what Se-ro believes as well, because he tells his interviewers that Dad’s days of thievery are behind him.
One interviewer asks him, “Do you love your father?” Se-ro does, and when asked why, he simply replies, “Because he’s my father.”
In a last attempt to win over his interviewers, Se-ro sits back down to tell them a story about two people who met at a mountain’s summit. Although one took the given path and the other wandered around, they both asked each other the same question at the top: “It was hard, wasn’t it?”
The same applies here because Se-ro believes he’s reached the top with his other candidates and certain that he’ll end up promising the same things they will. His interviewers don’t seem very convinced.
It’s no surprise that the news of Young-won’s engagement is met with shock and disapproval from her chaebol family. Young-won argues that finding gems is in her line of work, and that Woo-jin is one such rare gem. She brushes their counter-arguments off of her shoulder, before skipping out to catch her plane.
Young-won has an amicable relationship with her stepmother Madam Baek at least, and entreats her for help to convince her father—after all, she accepted her father’s re-marriage less than a year after her mother’s death.
Young-won cheerily apologizes for the mention, and while Madam Baek is in favor for marrying for love, she’s still blown away by the sudden news.
Daddy Han asks to see Woo-jin, whom we see sitting in his car just outside the grand house. Woo-jin has come prepared for this inevitable conversation, offering to sign anything Daddy Han wants in regards to the marriage.
Daddy Han chuckles; he’d prefer that Woo-jin doesn’t accompany his daughter to Bangkok. At Woo-jin’s explanation that it’s a work trip for him as well, Daddy Han wonders if the reason why Woo-jin won’t end things with his daughter because he also approaches marriage like business.
But his face darkens when Woo-jin retorts that he believes it’s Daddy Han who uses Young-won in his business dealings, using her as a puppet while collecting profits from a paper company in Hong Kong.
Though it sounds like a threat, Woo-jin clarifies that he’s asking for a favor in exchange for this information: “Permit me to protect Young-wonnie.” (Interestingly, the address sounds similarly to young-won-hee, which means “forever” in English. In either case, he’s asking for Dad’s blessing for marriage.)
Woo-jin knows he’s driving a hard bargain, but he also has the documents to back up his claims. He knows that he’s putting Daddy Han in a corner, but he also has Young-won’s best interests at heart.
Daddy Han asks if anyone else including his daughter knows about this, and hangs on Woo-jin’s answer of “not yet.” Even without the dramatic music cues, I think we’ve all seen enough dramas to know that Daddy Han isn’t a man to be trifled with.
The conversation still weighs on Woo-jin’s mind while cozying up with Young-won on the plane. Once they’re in Bangkok, Young-won wraps up a successful presentation to introduce her jewelry line and confirms a diamond set is in the works.
She paces in worry afterward until Woo-jin arrives with their diamonds to be used in her jewelry line. Young-won immediately holds one up to the sunlight, and examines it to see a unique feature: her name microscopically inscribed on the gemstone itself.
She hugs Woo-jin in joy, and the public display of affection makes Manager Min uncomfortable, especially the part about a romantic getaway if Young-won places first in the fair.
Se-ro takes that surprise trip to Bangkok after all, taking the same flight as the happy couple. He finds Dad’s business empty, though, and smiles at a group photo taken with himself, his father, and Kang-jae.
Dad isn’t at the business because he and Jae-in are posing as investors at the fair. Woo-jin permits his prospective customers to evaluate the diamonds in person, and Dad swallows a nervous gulp to see the inscription on the real diamonds.
That certainly complicates their plan to switch the stones out for counterfeits, so they hedge until Woo-jin suggests they go to a professional evaluator. And who should work at that office as a translator but Kang-jae, who looks back at the open case while the evaluator’s back is turned.
Kang-jae confirms the diamonds’ authenticity to his “guests,” and knocks over the walkie-talkie in distraction. And if there was a switch that took place in that moment or beforehand, we don’t get to see it.
But Woo-jin is a keen man because he senses that something’s off when he decides to check the diamonds after seeing his customers off. And when he sees the stones are clean, he knows that he’s been robbed.
Woo-jin calls it in and runs into Kang-jae just a few feet from the exit, keeping his voice pleasant until he’s pushed out of the way. He gives chase through the corridors until Kang-jae runs out of breath, exhausted.
Kang-jae offers a hefty sum in exchange for Woo-jin to close his eyes to the heist for one second, a deal Woo-jin flatly refuses. “What about the next ten, twenty, or thirty years?!”
Agreeing to such a deal would mean living as a criminal like him, Woo-jin argues. Kang-jae tries a different tactic, but Woo-jin demands the stones back. Their argument quickly evolves into a tussle, and at one point, the pair of diamonds fly over the railing to the ground below.
Both men jump down to retrieve them, and the fight continues with fists flying. Kang-jae gets his hands on one stone and Woo-jin grabs the other before security arrives.
Kang-jae runs to climb into his getaway vehicle, which then speeds off into the distance. Woo-jin relays updates through his walkie-talkie… only the call gets picked up by the security guards riding in the van with the con artists. Turns out that Woo-jin’s walkie-talkie had also been switched out, which means he’s been communicating with the pseudo (or bought-off) agents this whole time.
Meanwhile, Young-won is dealing with a frustrating exhibition rehearsal, which isn’t nearly a bad a day as Woo-jin has been having. It’s about to get much worse too, because he gets knocked out from behind by an unknown perpetrator.
Then we learn it’s Kang-jae who made the call, and both his accomplices are against the idea of holding anyone hostage. But Kang-jae argues that Woo-jin knows their faces, so they’ll take him now and work out a plan later.
Young-won calls for a last-minute switch to use the diamonds in the showcase instead, then admits that she’s not confident in winning this fair with her rubies set—she has to win if she wants to stand up to her father about marrying Woo-jin. Manager Min approves of that motivation, but er, is she allowed to do that? Aren’t there rules in place for this?
Dad and Kang-jae argue all the way back to their hideout, where Se-ro is waiting. They’re both on edge as they greet Se-ro, who had expected a warmer welcome from both of them.
Dad and Se-ro relocate to the riverfront, where Se-ro takes the opportunity to give all the presents he prepared for Dad over the years but couldn’t give him because he always ran off without a word. That sure drills the point of Dad’s absence in his son’s life, doesn’t it?
His explanation for coming this time is simple: “I missed you.” That, and he had hoped to bring Dad home.
But Se-ro is sharp enough to know that Dad is up to no good again, having overheard the previous argument. He decides that they should cut ties once and for all after Dad run away again this time, and he sighs exasperatedly when Dad protests that this is his last job.
Dad pulls the “Who am I doing this all for?” card, but that’s the last straw for Se-ro, who takes out his old whistle that he’s kept all these years. He didn’t want to be a whistleblower (I couldn’t resist!) to Dad’s misdeeds, but it’s all that he has left of him.
“How much longer do I have to blow this [whistle] for?!” Se-ro rages. Dad chases after Se-ro and knows what to say to diffuse his son’s temper. Then Dad decides to return to Korea with Se-ro, promising to lay his hands off of this last heist.
Se-ro isn’t sure whether to trust Dad’s words to meet up later that night, but Dad grabs him in a hug… and stuffs something into his backpack. The diamond?
Back at the hotel, Young-won replaces the center rubies of her main piece with something-like-but-not-necessarily real diamonds. As for Woo-jin, he’s currently tied up in a darkened room and is told someone will pick him up once the thieves are out of the country.
Kang-jae admires the stone outside and boasts about Se-ro, whom he’s known ever since the boy was young and followed him around, calling him hyung. But at that moment, Kang-jae realizes that the other diamond is missing, and we cut away to see Dad arranging another drop-off.
The jewelry fair’s fashion show takes place that evening as models strut down the runway wearing their designer pieces. Young-won’s now diamond necklace shines brilliantly to the judges’ approval and a standing ovation, but her worries about Woo-jin prevents her from drinking in the praise.
At the same time, Se-ro arrives at the same hotel and meets one of Dad’s “friends,” who rifles through Se-ro’s bag until he finds the doll containing the diamond. Realizing what all this is about, Se-ro calls no deal and takes the diamond with him.
The crowd waits with bated breath for the judges’ results. Young-won is declared the winner, and the MC reminds everyone that fake stones are magnetic and no piece has ever been disqualified. I think that’s about to change in about five seconds.
And sure enough, the necklace sticks. Uh oh.
Elsewhere, Kang-jae manages to chase Dad down in the streets and gets worked up when Dad says he’d never pickpocket someone he practically raised since he was a boy. Kang-jae has some deep-seeded grudges against Dad, but buries them for now, asking for the diamond.
Dad persists before pushing Kang-jae out of the way to make a run for it. Kang-jae gives chase through the narrow streets and obstacles, and is just about to catch up to him in an open road… when Dad gets slammed by an oncoming van.
Young-won leaves a sad message for Woo-jin and asks to be left alone. Then she remembers the villa that he promised they’d stay at if she won, and the romantic setup leaves her speechless.
An old anniversary video is projected onto the big screen, and his smiling face brings tears to her eyes.
Se-ro returns to the hideout to look for Dad, only find the place ransacked. You can imagine his surprise when he discovers Woo-jin, who has wriggled out of his binds. Astounded, he asks if Woo-jin was trapped here.
Young-won, meanwhile, continues to watch the video in tears as projected Woo-jin tells her the sun is always behind every cloud and promises to always make her smile. Aw, that would have been a cute proposal.
She whirls around calling out Woo-jin’s name through her tears, just in case he might be hiding somewhere. But we know he isn’t there.
Woo-jin is both rattled and apprehensive, telling a still very much confused Se-ro to move aside. He doesn’t listen to Se-ro’s questions and charges at him instead, but Se-ro evades the attack and pushes him off, demanding to know who it was who kept him here.
Woo-jin pleads with Se-ro to move aside if he isn’t involved, and Se-ro lets him pass. But neither of them are aware that a sniper scope has locked onto Woo-jin’s position, and just as he passes behind Se-ro, a shot flies through the window.
Se-ro looks back in shock. As reality sinks in for both of them, we hear Se-ro’s voice repeat: “If I could go back to that time… Could I have lived as me, as Jung Se-ro?”
What an intense opening hour for Full Sun, not that I would have expected anything else from a show that sought to bring lots of emotion and drama. I must say that the show certainly delivered in those areas, though, we’re still just scratching the surface. And after the most recent wave of romantic comedies in dramaland, a heart-gripping melodrama makes for a refreshing change of pace.
The show does a nice job of orienting the viewers to this world and introducing us to the character who inhabit it, where even the shortest interaction and/or explanation provides insight to their relationships and motivation. Take for instance, Se-ro and his relationship with his father, whom he still loves despite his constant misconduct for one solitary reason: because he’s Dad, even if he is an occasional absentee dad. That unconditional love Se-ro has for Dad trumps his disappointment time and time again, giving Dad the benefit of the doubt and offering him one more chance over and over.
In that way, I like that Se-ro isn’t a cipher to solve, which we have Yoon Kye-sang’s acting range to thank for, with his chameleon-like abilities to change from sorrow to smiles at the drop of a hat. These initial feelings towards our hero may change as we fall deeper into the rabbit hole, but I rest assured in that our leading actor will be able to carry us through Se-ro’s transition from the nice and principled boy-next-door to the more tragic hero we got a glimpse of in the future.
If I were to voice some complaints about Full Sun though, one would be in the aesthetics with its washed-out color palette, especially when indoors. It initially struck me as a step away from the richness of the drama’s teasers (darn you teasers for building up expectations like that!), and I checked some different versions to see if it was just a trick of the eye. Some were better than others in that aspect, and really, a minor complaint that doesn’t take away much for a casual viewing experience.
The other, however, is a directing concern. Don’t get me wrong because overall, the show does an acceptable job on that front, but it became most apparent in one particular scene when the camera shook like it was a handicam… while our heroine was wrought with emotion watching a video actually recorded on a handicam. It makes me nervous if this is how the PD will choose to convey the show’s dramatically emotional scenes (because there’s definitely going to be a lot of that) because I’m going to be disoriented before the targeted emotion (read: sadness and paiiiinn) kicks in.
Still, Full Sun has all the ingredients of your traditional melodrama cocktail: a wrongfully accused hero, a star-crossed romance, and lots and lots of tears. I’ll drink to that.
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