There’s something about that feeling when everything seems to hang in the balance. A turning point has been reached, but for what? How? Why? Frustratingly, part of the journey is in the discovery and figuring out what to do once it becomes clear something’s got to give. Based on Like Flowers in Sand Episodes 1-2, our primary characters Kim Baek-Du (Jang Dong-Yoon) and the more mysterious Oh Yu-Gyeong (Lee Joo-Myoung) have entered this period of their lives. It’ll just take a bit more time for them to realize it in what is likely to be a slow burn of a series.
Like Flowers in Sand Episodes 1-2 takes its time rolling out its story. Much like Geosan County, where the series takes place, things move slowly here. The source of excitement for the community surrounds ssireum (Korean wrestling), more specifically, the Geosan County Office Ssireum Team and the drama within. For Baek-Du, in Episode 1, he is on the verge of retiring. Hailing from a long line of ssireum players and once deemed a ssireum prodigy, Baek-Du has fallen far behind since his return from mandatory military service. Feeling the end of his career coming, Baek-Du makes a drunken proclamation that he’ll retire if he doesn’t win the next championship game.
While Like Flowers in Sand Episode 1 is as slow as molasses, there’s a lot of work done to flesh out Baek-Du as a character. He’s immature and none-too-intelligent. He’s not the most graceful person, either. At this point in his ssireum career, he’s become used to being made fun of by the townspeople. All he’s ever known is ssireum, and now that he’s more than proved that he can’t live up to his potential, what else is there for him to do but quit? By the end of Like Flowers in Sand Episode 1, it’s difficult not to feel empathy towards him and his situation.
Lingering in the background of Like Flowers in Sand Episode 1-2 is the mysterious arrival of Oh Yu-Gyeong. Her arrival seems designed to disrupt the general quiet of Geosan County. In Episode 1, she doesn’t appear until halfway through the episode, but what glimpses we can derive involve her face being hidden from view. It isn’t until the end of Episode 1 that she comes into focus. The symbolism behind her face coming into view is easy to put together after the events of Episode 2.
Baek-Du, upon losing the championship match, spends most of Like Flowers in Sand Episode 2 chasing Yu-Gyeong around. Upon immediately recognizing her as his childhood friend, Oh Du-Sik, his excitement is palpable. Unfortunately, Yu-Gyeong spends the bulk of the episode denying she is Du-Sik, even when mounting evidence says otherwise. Her ability to chuck men over her shoulder with no problem in the ssireum ring is the leading bit of evidence for Baek-Du. Throw in the anecdotal information about everyone remembering Du-Sik as ugly and Yu-Gyeong’s habit of hiding her face with the umbrella, it seems pretty clear that she is the childhood friend he has been looking for.
As the episode continues onward, Baek-Du finds himself face-to-face with his father, Kim Tae-Baek (Choi Moon-Sung), who has since learned that he is planning to retire. Refusing to accept this, Tae-Baek drags his son back to the ring and tells him to fight him one-on-one. Depending on how the fight goes, only then will Tae-Baek acknowledge that it is time for his son to retire. It is here we experience how Baek-Du truly feels about ssireum and how ‘what if?’ continues to linger in his mind. With his father having little in the way of advice, this scene ends in a moment of hopelessness for the young man.
Like Flowers in Sand Episode 2 ends with Yu-Gyeong confronting Baek-Du in the ring about both his wrestling and her identity. It’s made pretty clear at this point that she is Du-Sik, but has taken on a different name for reasons unexplained. The arrival of a mysterious, well-dressed man (Yun Jong-Seok), who refers to Yu-Gyeong as “honey,” is where the episode wraps.
Like Flowers in Sand Episodes 1-2 take its leisurely time. Much of the focus is on fleshing out Baek-Du and building out the mystery surrounding Du-Sik/Yu-Gyeong. But that does not appear to be all that the series will cover. A mysterious accident in Episode 1 sets the stage for a secondary plotline surrounding a criminal case. Baek-Du’s friend, Cho Seok-Hui (Lee Joo-Seung), is convinced that something is up. Eventually, the series will likely pivot to cracking that case for us. Given that Geosan County is heavily entrenched in ssireum, it seems likely that the crime is connected to that.
As it stands, Like Flowers in Sand Episodes 1-2 is a slow burn. It’s clear that it’s asking viewers to be in for the long haul as it sets up the pieces needed for this sports drama. With a strong hand at characterization, if you’re a viewer who prefers character development over plot, this might be the drama for you. If you prefer something faster in pace, you tap out before getting in too deep.
Like Flowers in Sand Episodes 1-2 are now available on Netflix, with new episodes airing on Wednesdays and Thursdays through January.
Like Flowers in Sand Episodes 1-2
Like Flowers in Sand Episodes 1-2 is a slow burn. It’s clear that it’s asking viewers to be in for the long haul as it sets up the pieces needed for this sports drama.