Song of the Bandits Season 1 Episode 1 Recap – What Happened In Gurye?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: September 22, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
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Song of the Bandits Season 1 Episode 1 Recap
Song of the Bandits Season 1 (Credit - Netflix)

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

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Summary

Song of the Bandits gets off to a rollicking start. Despite some clunky expositional dialogue, it delivers a lot of character and action, and lays out a pretty clear and exciting mission statement for the rest of the season.

Episode 1 of Song of the Bandits might suffer from some clunky expositional dialogue, but it delivers almost everything you could want from a premiere while also almost working as a self-contained story, with all the build-up and payoff you’d expect in a feature film or complete series. If this is only the start, it’s easy to imagine how entertaining the future might be.

Anyway, fittingly, this first episode is largely about the introduction of important characters and story elements.

We’re in the 1920s. Korea is under Japanese occupation, with the Government-General of Joseon and the Oriental Development Company keeping a tight grip on everyday folks. However, as is always the case under the heel of oppression, resistance is beginning to foment in various quarters in ways both obvious and not.

Who is Lee Yoon?

Our protagonist is Lee Yoon, a soldier who was once indentured to a Japanese Major named Miura and has thus served at the Japanese army’s behest. Through various engagements, he has made a name for himself as a war hero, but Lee Yoon is traumatized by things he has seen and done, particularly an incident at Gurye that seems to have irreparably damaged his relationship with Miura, who, having freed him, considers him a personal friend.

Miura, though, still obviously considers Lee Yoon property. When the latter asks for permission to leave for Gando in order to track someone down, Miura refuses, throws a tantrum, and pulls a gun. He’s still fundamentally a coward, though, so he has no choice but to watch as Lee Yoon leaves.

Who are the bandit gangs in Gando?

There’s a simple, essential conflict going on in North Gando, which is laid out to Lee Yoon by Seon-bok, an old friend and former fellow slave of Miura who has made herself a fortune peddling weapons. It’s Chinese land littered with Joseon people funded by Japanese money. With so many conflicting interests, the place is a powder keg just waiting for a spark.

There are plenty trying to create this spark. We get an introduction to the gang of bandits led by Jang Ki-ryong, and his rival Nodeoksang crew. Killings occur in the streets daily, and nobody seems keen on intervening, and the Japanese army due is to roll in and occupy Gando any day now.

Why does Lee Yoon feel guilty?

Eventually, Lee Yoon makes it to Taepyeong-dong and meets up with Choi Choong-soo, the leader of an ethnically Korean settlement in the region and a former independence fighter. Here, we get an explanation for why Lee Yoon has been torturing himself with drink for so long.

Before that, though, a “peasant girl” named Eon-nyeoni, recently taken in by Choong-soo, tries to kill Lee Yoon. It’s her to whom he explains that he believes himself worthy of death at Choong-soo’s hands for his actions in Gurye. She agrees to let him go and tell her client that she killed him, though she does deliver a final message from the client himself, intended to be heard before Lee Yoon’s death: “A dog dies when it leaves its home.”

Gee, wonder who that could be from?

Song of the Bandits Season 1, Episode 1 Ending Explained

Towards the end of the episode, Lee Yoon confesses to Choong-soo that, while working for the Japanese, he was instrumental in the deaths of his wife and family. This is what he and Miura were arguing about. He didn’t want to massacre the people in Gurye and tried to intervene, but was ultimately powerless to prevent the tragedy from happening.

Choong-soo isn’t in a forgiving mood and seems determined to kill Lee Yoon, but they’re interrupted by a Nodeoksang raid. Once again, Lee Yoon tries to intervene but is thwarted. There are many casualties. In response, Lee Yoon arms himself and takes out the entire Nodeoksang gang single-handedly in a fantastic action sequence.

Now, Lee Yoon has found a purpose in aiding the Joseon people in fighting against the Japanese. He plans to assemble his own gang out of outcasts and bandits to resist the occupation.

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