Xoa Huande's The Captain walks with Toan Le's The General as he shields him from rain with an umbrella | Agents of Fandom

HBO’s ‘The Sympathizer’ Episode 2 Recap & Review: Oh Captain My Captain

The Captain is being pulled in more directions than he can count.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Sympathizer Episode 2.

After a solid first hour of the series, HBO’s The Sympathizer Episode 2 steps up its game in a major way. The second episode drastically benefits from already having the main characters introduced and being able to dive right into the plot.

Episode 2 transitions from Vietnam to the United States of America. Although the pace slows down from the previous week’s devastating and thrilling final moments, the fresh setting and appearance of brand-new characters make The Sympathizer Episode 2 captivating from start to finish.

‘The Sympathizer’ Episode 2 Brings the Captain Back to America

The Captain fakes a smile as he is interviewed for the student paper in The Sympathizer Episode 2 | Agents of Fandom
The Captain (Hoa Xuande) learns the difficulties of assimilation while yearning to go back home. Image Credit: Crave TV/Bell Media.

With the Captain (Hoa Xuande) incarcerated back in Vietnam in the present, he recounts his story to the Commandant. Unfortunately, it begins with the trauma of losing some friends along the way, including the wife and daughter of his blood brother Bon (Fred Nguyen Khan). The loss has left Bon in a deep depression, unable to wash or feed himself properly throughout The Sympathizer Episode 2.

While trying to keep Bon from hitting rock bottom, the Captain is also stuck trying to navigate his life with fellow countrymen in the USA and his duties back home in Vietnam. He is sending coded messages back home to his other blood brother Man (Duy Nguyễn), working for the North in what is now communist Vietnam. Unfortunately, as he reports back to Vietnam, the Southern Vietnamese General (Toan Le) in the United States suspects a spy is in their midst.

As if navigating two sides of the war wasn’t enough on his plate, the Captain also finds himself needing to report back to his old mentor, Professor Hammer (Robert Downey Jr.), who is providing him with a job necessary to maintain his cover as a double agent. The Professor is RDJ’s second role to date in the series, having already debuted as CIA Agent Claude in Episode 1.

Sandra Oh Steals the Show in ‘The Sympathizer’ Episode 2

Ms. Mori and The Captain staring into each other's eyes in The Sympathizer Episode 2 | Agents Of Fandom
Sparks fly between the Captain (Hoa Xuande) and Ms. Mori (Sandra Oh) at Professor Hammer’s party. Image Credit: Crave TV/Bell Media.

Professor Hammer seems dreadfully difficult to deal with due to his comfort with cultural appropriation and overt racism. He even goes as far as to suggest the Captain compose a list of his “Occidental vs. Oriental Qualities” to present at a party later that evening. However, visiting the Oriental Studies office doesn’t come without its perks.

The Captain is introduced to his new boss, Ms. Mori (Sandra Oh). While the two don’t have a chance to hit it off immediately, she takes interest in him from afar. The two finally get a chance to bond over their mutual experience with the Professor’s over-the-top personality and their different perspectives on living in America.

However, things quickly take a vulgar turn, as the Captain opens up with a story from his youth where he used a raw squid to masturbate, then ate it after it was cooked to save his Mom from consuming the man-handled meat. While the story would’ve grossed most people out, it strengthened the relationship between the two of them.

Over the course of the next seven weeks, their relationship grows as their sexual exploits turn into real feelings. Unfortunately, between keeping his double life a secret and managing Bon’s feelings about their relationship, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the Captain in The Sympathizer Episode 2.

The General Stops His Drinking, but Not His Paranoia

The General inspires a crowd in his newly formed liquor store in The Sympathizer Episode 2 | Agents Of Fandom
The General (Toan Le) is convinced there’s a traitor in his midst. Image Credit: Crave TV/Bell Media.

After retreating to the United States, the General falls into an alcohol-clouded stupor. At each and every turn, he convinces himself that someone is trying to kill him and that a spy is in their ranks. During his drunken haze, he even goes as far as to order the Captain to find and kill the mole that he firmly believes exists.

Although the Captain is becoming convinced that the General is losing his mind, he continues to receive coded messages back home in Vietnam from Man demanding he remain vigilant. Despite the Captain’s non-belief, it proves fruitful as the General announces that he has quit drinking and is opening a liquor store. However, even with his new-found sobriety, the paranoia that a spy is among his peers remains sky-high throughout The Sympathizer Episode 2.

At the store’s grand opening, the General incites a riot among his supporters, announcing to them all his fears about a spy that, until then, had been kept a secret. Everyone in attendance, including Bon and the Captain, will be questioned.

The Captain’s Challenges Aren’t Getting Easier Anytime Soon

Ms Mori, The Captain and Bon argue in the entrance of their home in The Sympathizer Episode 2 | Agents Of Fandom
Tensions are high between the Captain (Hoa Xuande) and Bon (Fred Nguyen Khan) as the two are in very different places in their lives. Image Credit: Crave TV/Bell Media.

Thankfully, despite being the spy and someone among the group mentioning his name, neither the General nor Agent Clause of the CIA suspects the Captain of anything. However, after suggesting a peer he knows has ties back to Vietnam, the Captain is charged with killing the man believed to be the spy.

Hoa Xuande performs incredibly as the Captain throughout The Sympathizer Episode 2. He successfully demonstrates the turmoil of being torn between two worlds while trying to remain true to oneself. His performance, along with the addition of Sandra Oh’s Ms Mori and Robert Downey Jr.’s second character of the series, make the newest installment of the series an improvement over the already strong first episode. If The Sympathizer keeps going at this rate, it’ll be more than worthy of the Sunday night streaming spot previously occupied by Game of Thrones and Succession.

The Sympathizer Episode 2 is now streaming on MAX in the USA and Crave TV internationally. Follow the Agents of Fandom socials for all the latest entertainment news and reviews, and check out our interview with the cast below.

'The Sympathizer' Episode 2 "Good Little Asian" Review

'The Sympathizer' Episode 2 "Good Little Asian" Review
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Total Score

The Good

  • Captivating story with strong chemistry from the core cast.
  • Provides new perspectives from all different sides of the war.
  • Sandra Oh and Robert Downey Jr. give incredible performances.
  • Hoa Xuande is a star in the making.

The Bad

  • Potentially unreliable narrator alongside constant swapping between different languages and internal/external monologues make it difficult to follow if not 100% locked on to the screen
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