Drama Recaps
Records of a Night Watchman: Episode 1
by | August 4, 2014 | 132 Comments

MBC’s new supernatural fusion sageuk Records of a Night Watchman premiered today, and I don’t know if it’s because I set my expectations really low (or because the really terrible trailers made me), but the show is off to a decent start. Granted, it’s a world filled with ghosts, magic, and dragons—you have to be prepared for a certain amount of cheese when what’s written on the page and the CG outcome isn’t always as seamless as you’d wish. But there’s a hefty mythology in play that blends a familiar element—Joseon royalty—with a complex supernatural universe that manages to feel pretty epic at times.

I can’t say whether that’ll hold up past the first episode, but I am intrigued. I’ll keep watching to see if it’s something I want to keep recapping, but for now I make no promises. Ratings-wise the show got off to a good start in first place at 10.9% (Trot Lovers came in at 9.1% and Temptation followed at 8.3%).

 
EPISODE 1 RECAP

A narrator tells us that in a time long ago, there was a battle raging between the world of ghosts and the world of humans, between those who denied that ghosts exist, those who used ghosts, and the ones who chased them out. The humans on the front lines of that battle are called the Night Watchmen.

Our journey through space ends on an eclipse, and fades into an old man’s eye. The man casts some kind of dark magic on the mountainside and becomes young again. He hands his serpent staff to his minion and says that a murderous energy has been unleashed, and soon Joseon will be stained with blood.

In the palace, a tiny toddler prince plays games with the other court children, attended to by a very fussy mothering eunuch. The prince, LEE RIN (later Jung Il-woo), is a good-natured little boy who doesn’t quite register the unfairness of the power imbalance between him and his older, illegitimate brother GISANGUN (later Kim Heung-soo).

When Gisan bumps into Rin by accident, EUNUCH SONG (Lee Se-chang) pitches a fit that the prince might’ve been injured, and the other children insist that Gisan bow in apology to his little brother. He swallows his pride and complies, and watches Rin with a long face as he plays with the other children and brags about the scarab cage their father built for him.

Suddenly a strange energy stirs in the air, and an eclipse darkens the sky. Everyone looks up curiously, and their eyes widen to see a meteor shower looming down on them. Giant flaming rocks come crashing down left and right, destroying everything in their path.

Little Prince Rin stands frozen in that spot and Eunuch Song scrambles to pick him up and piggyback him to safety, surrounded by the remaining guards. In the chaos Rin doesn’t have a chance to go back for his pet scarab, but Prince Gisan braves the falling rocks to retrieve it.

KING HAEJONG (Choi Won-young) hears the report of the damage to the palace, and stops cold when he’s told that Rin is missing.

Up in the mountains, Evil Minion enacts the second phase of the attack and slams the serpent staff into the ground. Waves of energy turn into clouds of black smoke that descend upon the city. What’s creepy is that the smoke monsters are clearly sentient, moving through the people with purpose, looking for something… or someone.

Two of them swoosh through the palace and stop when they reach Prince Rin’s entourage on the run, and collide with two of the guards. Oh no, the black smoke seeps into them, taking over their bodies. Ack, it’s demon-possession! Ruuun!

Rin and Eunuch Song look on in horror as their own guards turn against them, killing everyone who stands in the way. They run as the other guards fight off the black-veined demon-possessed attackers. Curiously, as soon as the other guards have been killed, the demons turn on their hosts, stabbing themselves, and then seep out again as black smoke. Creeepy.

Eunuch Song cries that he’ll protect Rin until the end, but it’s not long before a demon catches up and wraps its smoky tendrils around his foot. He uses all his strength to fight it off, and shouts for the prince to save himself.

Rin cries that he won’t leave him, but Eunuch Song screams for him to go. Once Rin starts running, Eunuch Song makes his last stand and tells the demons they’ll have to kill him to go any further… so that’s exactly what they do. Poor Eunuch Song.

Now that Rin is all alone, he’s quickly outrun by two smoke demons who loom above him like predators. He backs away from them, whimpering in fear, when suddenly a man swoops in like he fell from the sky and cracks a whip that makes the demons back away.

He tells the prince to run, and Rin watches the badass warrior agape. With one swift throw, he sends talismans and blades flying, and they magically pin the smoke to the wall as if they’re made corporeal by the talisman’s magic. He decrees, “Ghosts, return to the afterlife!” and they dissipate.

During the chaos, Evil Minion breaks into a palace storeroom and steals a scroll. That’s a pretty elaborate diversion for a simple theft, no? He leaves behind an ornamental knife as a signature.

Rin runs through the woods calling out for his father, and comes face to face with another smoke demon. It’s about to overtake him when the king lunges with his sword, having arrived just in time to save his son.

Rin breaks into a huge smile and goes running toward his father’s arms; what they don’t notice is that the ghost is still there, creeping along the ground and clipping at Rin’s heels. Just as he’s about to reach his father, the black smoke yanks Rin back and dangles him in midair by the throat.

The king screams for his son but nobody seems to know what to do. Thankfully our badass masked night watchman JO SANG-HEON (Yoon Tae-young) comes flying in for a second rescue, and a talisman pins the ghost to the tree.

The king catches Rin as he falls, and Sang-hyun kills the ghost. It must be the last one standing, because that brings back the sunlight. The king sighs in relief when Rin regains consciousness for a brief moment, and he nods knowingly in Sang-hyun’s direction.

In the aftermath, Rin is safely back in the palace, but lies ill with a fever. His parents tend to him, as his grandmother the queen dowager warns the king that they can’t stand for such attacks on the royal family. She orders him to uncover the traitors behind the deliberate attack and punish them accordingly.

Oh phew, Eunuch Song didn’t die—he frets outside, worried about the prince. The queen dowager warns him on her way out that if Rin doesn’t wake up in time to become the crown prince, she’ll have Eunuch Song’s neck.

The court ministers beseech the king to punish the attackers, and an argument brews between the ministers who heard (and believe) they were attacked by ghosts, and those who chafe at the idea that the supernatural world exists. The king declares that whether human or ghost, he’ll make them pay.

Once the king is alone, Jo Sang-heon (now dressed in his normal warrior garb) reports the theft of the scroll and shows him the knife that was left behind. He says that the protective barrier to keep the monsters out of their world is starting to break down, and the king tells him to call an emergency meeting of the night watchmen.

Meanwhile, the spell-casting masked Blonde Zorro in charge, SADAM (Kim Sung-oh), unravels the stolen scroll with an evil glint in his eye.

The king’s night goes from bad to worse when the queen tells him that Rin is missing. We see him wander through the woods in a daze—is he possessed, or just being watched by something creepy? Something’s not right with him.

He’s looking for his pet scarab, and when he finds the cage floating in a lake, he jumps into the water. It seems shallow enough for him to tiptoe along, but then suddenly a wisp of black smoke grabs him by the ankle and pulls him underwater.

He flails, drowning, and the king jumps into the lake to fish him out. He’s breathing at first, but then he goes limp in his father’s arms…

Late that night, the king and Sang-heon make their way into a secret room hidden behind a wall. It’s a strange transition seeing as how we don’t know what happened to Rin, but if he’s tending to business, the prince must be okay?

He sits down with the head of the night watchmen (one of the ministers in his court) and shows him the knife left behind by the person responsible for the attacks. The minister says the mark is from the Yongshin (Dragon God) Tribe in Mount Baekdu, an ancient tribe that worships imugi. (Imugi are proto-dragon serpent monsters that must amass great power to become dragons.)

Their leader Sadam is a sorcerer who can conjure ghosts, and based on the scroll they took during the attack, their goal seems to be to free the imugi that’s been bound inside Mt. Baekdu.

He adds that Rin’s ailment must be supernatural and can’t be cured by human medicine. Sang-heon says that there’s a supernatural flower that grows in the heart of Mt. Baekdu that cures mystical ailments, and the king orders them to prepare for the journey.

Rin cries in his sickbed over the lost scarab that his father gave him, calling it his friend. The king promises to retrieve his pet on the way back and tells Rin to fight off the sickness until then. He then leads his army deep into the mountains, where Sadam sees them coming from his perch at the very peak.

When it gets dark, the king’s army finds the road blocked by mystical boulders, forcing them to turn around at a dead end.

Sang-heon feels something coming and prepares the archers to attack, and they watch dumbfounded as a lone horse gallops toward them, transforming into black smoke on the way. In the blink of an eye, the horse turns into a giant boulder, flattening everything in its path.

Okay, Smokey the Horse was pretty cool, but then the next wave of attacks comes in the form of giant skeletor monsters with glowy eyes that look like they hopped out of a video game (or Pirates of the Caribbean), and I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to be laughing, but I am.

The warriors fight back, but no matter how many times they stab at the giants, they won’t die. Because they’re already dead, I want to explain, but then Sang-heon finally figures out that they’re made of dead things. He slaps a ghost talisman on one to make it killable, and then strikes with a sword to the heart. They all vanish into thin air.

A little girl suddenly comes out of a tiny crevice in the cliff and waves for the army to follow her. Sang-heon is wary that it might be another trap, but the king doesn’t see another way out and decides they’ll follow. She leads them to a group of mountain people called the Mago Tribe, whose leader can see the future and already knows why the king is here.

She says that they can give the king the flower he needs to save his son, but the member of their tribe who can perform that magic has been taken captive by the Dragon God Tribe. The little girl pleads with him to save her sister, and the tribe kneels before the king.

He says that he is only the king of men, and wouldn’t dare to get involved in the world of the gods. But the tribe leader takes him to a sacred cave to show him a bow and arrow given by the gods that can only be wielded by the king of Joseon.

The king approaches carefully, and when he first puts his hand on the bow, the ground shakes and he can’t lift it. But then the cave grows still and he can feel something change, and the bow lifts in his hand.

Sadam taunts his captive shaman YEON-HA (Yoo Da-in), making sure to make us feel extra creepy about the fact that this all-male tribe has kidnapped this girl so she can be “reborn” to serve their dragon god. Creepy cult leader much?

He brands a mark into her neck and casts a spell, as she screams in pain and fights against her chains.

Late that night, Sadam leads his tribe in a primal chant, wearing the craziest headdress you’ve ever seen, I guarantee it. It’s… just… wow. He says that tonight they’re going to awaken the dragon god, ushering in a new world that will belong to them.

They bring Yeon-ha up to him, and he tells her that she’s now going to be put to use. She spits in his face and declares that she is a Mago Tribe shaman, not one of them, but one powerful tap of his serpent staff makes the mark on her neck glow, and she struggles from the pain.

They chain her up to the tree to be made a sacrifice, and Sadam begins to chant the spell written on the stolen scroll. He approaches with a knife…

Suddenly a shower of arrows rains down on them, and the king’s army charges in. Go, king’s army, go! They clash with the tribe, but Sadam continues toward Yeon-ha to finish the ritual before he loses his window.

The king attacks him just in time to save her, but in the tussle, Sadam manages to knick her arm with the blade and the king knocks it into the water. Agh. With her sacrificial blood on it? This is bad news bears…

They continue to fight, but then a scary rumble begins to make the lake water ripple, and then a giant freaking imugi comes flying out of the lake.

The king gathers his wits in time to order a round of flaming arrows, but that just pisses it off. Thinking quickly, Sang-heon orders the night watchmen to put up their shields, which at least ensnares the imugi in some kind of electric supernatural force field.

The king fights Sadam and nearly gets killed in the process, so Sang-heon rushes to his rescue and takes over, urging the king to focus on the imugi. Ah right, the god-bow. Shoot it down!

The king grabs the bow and arrow and aims for the imugi, but Sadam sees what’s happening and sends a round of arrows at the men holding up the force field. It’s enough for the imugi to break free.

Sang-heon uses the moment to send a spear right into Sadam’s chest, knocking it into place with one push of the hand. His men finish Sadam off with swords, and he falls into the lake.

The imugi beelines for Yeon-ha, and the king gives chase on horseback, drawing his bow and searching for the source of the imugi’s power, under the scales that run in the opposite direction. He finally spots it and lets the arrow fly…

And it lands with precision in the perfect spot, sending the imugi crashing down to the ground in a heap. Nice hero moment.

He leaps off the horse and cuts Yeon-ha’s chains down for good measure, and the night watchmen run to the imugi, where it shrinks and turns to stone.

In the morning, Yeon-ha returns to the army’s camp with her little sister and her tribe elder. The king sees that she’s still bleeding from her arm and tenderly bandages her wound, and Yeon-ha promises to use all her strength to conjure the mystical flower to save Prince Rin.

 
COMMENTS

Honestly, I was expecting it to be much worse. I was excited about Night Watchman early on because I’m just a fan of supernatural genre shows, but the promo material (and okay, some of the casting) put me on edge and I’m still a little worried for what’s to come. But the premiere surprised me because for the most part, it told a cohesive story, introduced me to a supernatural universe, and executed a fair amount of action in an engaging way. I feel like the downside might now be that the backstory is better than the main story, a la Gu Family Book. I don’t think I’ll get attached to the father more than the son, but I wonder if the scale of the supernatural ‘verse holds up once the king’s dragon war is over.

I don’t know that they actually had to have quite so many action set pieces in one episode, though I’m then going to contradict myself by saying that Yoon Tae-young’s night watchman character is by far my favorite because he’s so badass. He’s the kind of character that keeps a show like this grounded, because no matter how many puffs of black smoke he’s fighting, he does it like there’s a person on the other side. And you have to give props to Kim Sung-oh, who commits to his character no matter how ridiculous he looks. His costume actually makes me go slackjawed, it’s so crazy. How does he do it with a straight face?

To their credit, the actors ground the outlandish plot by playing everything straight—you buy into the world because they act as if it’s not at all strange to be interacting with ghosts and gods. It also helps greatly that we have very familiar story elements at the core, underneath all the action and the magic: a palace drama between princes, a king’s love for his son, a warrior’s dedication to his king, a eunuch’s devotion to a tiny child prince.

This is the stuff that engaged me, so I hope that they don’t lose their focus trying to out-magic themselves. I think it’s a feat that the imugi didn’t make me laugh out loud (I’m totally cool with dragons—there’s just a fundamental level of execution you need to pull one off without inciting laughter), and I thought the cooler element was the ghost-demons of black smoke (like Supernatural but with a higher level of sentience in smoke form). They were surprisingly eerie and I liked that they were doing ghosts in a different way that kept them from being the usual specter-forms.

It’s not an opening that blows me away, so we’ll have to see how the full backstory plays out, because it could very well be the kind of show that changes its tone quite drastically once the prince grows up. I’m back to being cautiously optimistic, but it’s a show that teeters so close to the edge—you know, the one where you go over and it becomes too ridiculous to be taken seriously but too serious to be campy—that I worry about that balance once we get a new cast. Again, no promises for recaps, but I’ll keep an open mind and keep watching.

 
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132 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Uj

    if its not too bad then perhaps its worth a try!

    • 1.1 mai

      i’ll echo that :-)

      i really, really miss jung il-woo!

    • 1.2 capricorn

      Go Seung Hee (adult Do Ha) needs to go to acting school… her actings needs a lot of work. The acting was so obviously not good that I was wondering if she was an idol and it looks like she used to be with Kara. Everyone else is fine and I am otherwise enjoying the drama.

  2. laraffinee

    Thanks for such a good recap!
    I had to look up several cast lists to figure out who was really who in this fast paced first episode.

    Cheesy CG aside, I love the concept of this drama, and I am all in….unless it goes down the stupid road.

    This first episode was pretty exciting!

    • 2.1 Lilly

      I did the “Look at this” guy test on it and the guys like the special effects and action. Always nice to find something the guys will watch with me.

  3. Hedwig

    this drama is my new drug of choice!! The premise is sooo insane but the story is so well told/acted that its addictive!! ;)

    keeping fingers crossed that the rest of the episodes follow thru!

  4. jess

    Thanks for your recap. It is a well objective review. The actors like the king and the watchman , eunuch, the ministers are the ones that carry this episode for me. The story plot is still very weak and boring like out of a cheap chinese drama fantasy drama. The action scene is need improving cos they are not smooth like the chinese drama counterpart. They got to learn from them.

  5. Sue

    Some parts I liked, some parts made me laugh (unintentionally), and I actually fell asleep during the last battle(tough day at work). Anywho, parts of it intrigued me enough to check it for a couple of more episodes before making up my mind.

  6. sogazelle

    Thank you for the quick and great recap GF…

    Sageuks are not my thing…but I wanted to give it a try for Jon II Woo and Yunho…and boy… did I love the 1st episode!

    I enjoyed all the creepy… the cheesy…the child actors… and the king! (my ahjussi crush!)

    and I cannot wait for the next episode…

    • 6.1 vicky

      I can understand you…Choi Won-young is so damn sexy and hot! ^^ And he’s a great actor! Everytime I see his fiery eyes and hear his thrilling voice my heart races like hell. Love him so much!
      If you didn’t see 3 Days then see it, he is the bad guy there ;)

  7. Jkfan

    For some reason, all of this reminds of the TVB dramas’s back in the 90′s of such as the “God of Zhu Mountain” and other such as the “Condor Heroes series” type of story. I don’t know why, probably because I grew up watching this type of drama from Hong Kong, it seems similiar plot. But I will watch it because of the the lead guy. He has been great in every movie I have watched of him. He seems to be the same cocky cute guy that you just can’t be mad at that winning smile he has.

    • 7.1 Laya

      It reminds me of… The Legend meets Jumong. With the two sisters and the older one being a shaman and getting branded (Kiha! Sujini!) and the bow and arrow (Jumong!).

      • 7.1.1 Kiara

        Reminds me of Legend too especially with Yoon Tae-Young who also played Yeon Ho-Gae, Dam-Deok’s rival.

        • 7.1.1.1 Laya

          Oh wow. I didn’t even realize that was Ho-gae!

        • 7.1.1.2 Snickers

          Thanks. I thought he looked familiar.

          Also, add “The Hobbit.” Dragon, missing scale, and Man of Lake-town.

  8. Peridot

    I love fantasy and want this show to be decent at least (I won’t aim for much higher). I hope that the narrative tones of both the father’s story and the son’s story are not too disparate. I also love dragons and this one wasn’t too bad. Poor imugi. It’s stuck in the middle between its former serpentine life (or the one it wants to cast aside)and its potentially magnificent future. I must make use of one of Britney Spear’s songs, with minor changes: “I’m not a snake, not yet a dragon…..” Corny, corny, I know ;).

    I fear the Gu-family book parallels so I must keep my fingers crossed. I love Kim Sungoh and I must give him credit for giving his all to the role (I would love to see some behind-the-scenes footage).

    As an aside, when the King went to take hold of the bow that only Joseon kings can wield, I was both reminded of King Arthur (the stone-encased sword) and Rama (Shiva’s bow).

    • 8.1 charmcasy

      oh.. u do know a lot bout indian mythology too it seems!
      that last line reference..
      honestly if ever koreans make a show based on indian mythology it would be insanely hilarious coz they wont actually need much study material its more or less the same.. the shamans black magic evil king n queen n a lot more.. the only distinction btwn the two is that they come endowed with better cinematography n advanced graphics which makes it more realistic n better treat to our eyes!

      • 8.1.1 Peridot

        Yes, I used to read a lot more. I did a couple of projects based on the Ramayana when I was an undergrad :).

        • 8.1.1.1 charmcasy

          oh.. it sounds cool!

    • 8.2 Carole McDonnell

      I’m trusting (hoping?) we don’t have too many one-episode ghost of the week story overtaking the arc. And hoping we don’t have too much silly over-the-top princely humor. There are just so many gisaeng houses a profligate can hang out in without dragging the plot down. So the writers better not decide to overdo my Il Woo-ssi’s witty sly side as a reason for light humor. I don’t want super-oppressive doom-filled scenes but I don’t want our prince being too silly either.

      • 8.2.1 Peridot

        I agree with the princely-humor comment.

    • 8.3 Gidget

      “Poor imugi. It’s stuck in the middle between its former serpentine life (or the one it wants to cast aside)and its potentially magnificent future.”

      Personally, I have a hard time sympathizing with something that wants to go from rookie-evil to badass-evil.

      • 8.3.1 Peridot

        LOL Dragons are misunderstood creatures ;).

        • 8.3.1.1 FGB4877

          Yep. Fujur (Falkor) from the Neverending Story would agree ;) .

      • 8.3.2 Gidget

        Heh. Yep. They’re duplicitous little chameleons…

  9. Danna

    I had to check it out to see what all the fuss is about the headdress

    • 9.1 Wag_a_Muffin

      Didn’t Sadam (the head dress wearer) have a weird David Bowie back-in-the-day vibe going on? (I admit it. I’m old.)

      • 9.1.1 Ki

        I was struck by the similarity to David Bowie long before I recognized him from his roles in Inspiring Generation and The Man from Nowhere (and Hyun Bin’s secretary in Secret Garden!) Kim Sung-oh sure has fun with his roles.

        • 9.1.1.1 PlumWine

          That’s the same guy!??!! I have to go look up this cast.

        • 9.1.1.2 Snickers

          I recognized his voice, but had to google his name to be sure.

  10. 10 Riya

    I have to admit, the first action sequence with the smoke monsters were pretty cool.
    I am not attached to any characters yet, but I am looking forward to the bro dynamics. Speaking of which, where did the elder brother disappear to after the first attack?

    And the blonde haired villain looks like he stepped out of an elaborate idol boy band MV. I half expected him to start rapping halfway through the sacrificing ritual.

    It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. But as I am a sucker for the paranormal/supernatural stuff (and Jung Il Woo :D )I will stick around.

  11. 11 WM

    I actually had some Clash of the Titans (original) and Jason and the Argonauts flashbacks. lol I was surprised that the hour went by so fast and that the set up was so quick. All the characters and the plot lines are firmly in place. I will definitely watch episode 2 in the hope that it stays as well paced. Even if it is so cheesy I need a bowl of crackers.

  12. 12 Mikey

    I thought the first episode was okay. I like the choice of monsters but the head villian just wasn’t impressive. Its good to see a fighting king of Joseon rather than a sickly wimp that lets the factions walk all over him.

    Funny seeing the Queen Dowager was just on You’re Surrounded W-Th drama.

    • 12.1 harmonyfb

      And the little girl playing the shaman’s sister was the sick daughter on “Two Weeks”. I found both cameos very distracting.

  13. 13 fandomnerd12

    I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those demons was Abaddon or the Knights of Hell.

    Not-so-great CGI, somewhat cheesy plot, but okay. I’ll give it a few more episodes.

    Thank you GF for recapping this episode! (:

    • 13.1 Snickers

      Abaddon is done. It’s Dean Winchester!

  14. 14 maddragonqueen

    I thought I wasn’t gonna like this (*coughbadtrailerscough*). But I do. I really, really do. It’s just the kind of thing my Lord of the Rings obsessed, Dungeons&Dragons playing high school self would’ve gone bananas over.

    I am still totally that teenager at heart, and I really dug this show.

    I would probably even like this MORE if it got cheesier and fantasticker. (“Fantasticker” is a word because I SAY it is a word, what?)

    • 14.1 PlumWine

      I wouldn’t have guessed from your moniker. *snicker* I have a house filled with dragons myself, so no worries.

      I enjoyed it also, even some of the cheesy effects. I just roll with them. (I thought the rock was the worst, but the horse and specters were great.)

      If you like really cheesy with mockery watch the series Mystery Science Theater 3000. Now I know why I mutter at my dramas. That and I muttered “Gu Jun Pyo, you idiot!” through out my first kdrama.

      • 14.1.1 maddragonqueen

        Of course I’ve seen loads of MST3K!! I am also totally guilty of talking at the TV screen. Sometimes all those feels just have to be expressed!

        Admittedly, I wish the CGI were better. But I can get over that if everything else is good, and so far I’m pretty happy. Magic and dragons and fighting and crazy ghosts! I’m on board with ALL of that!

  15. 15 Youngdally

    I normally hate the beginnings of dramas where they’re all about the child versions of the main characters even though it may be necessary, but it was intriguing.
    I hope it improves, in all aspects, although it may be hard to improve the CGs.

  16. 16 panshel

    Night Watchman is the drama I was looking forward to the most, so I’m both excited and apprehensive this may turn out to be a disaster.

    If we’ve already established that talismans are effective at killing ghosts, then why doesn’t Sang Hyun just always use talismans instead of submitting his men to fight a losing battle against the ghosts? That little girl freaked me out because I assumed she was a ghost, and every time she turned around, I was scared she would turn into Toshio from Ju-on: The Grudge. For some reason, the love line between the king and the shaman weirds me out because I see it as him cheating on the queen, even though kings normally keep concubines.

    Thanks for the recap, girlfriday!

    • 16.1 Carole McDonnell

      yeah, i felt the same about the love story with the shaman. So annoying that women have to fall in love with their rescuers all the time. But am wondering if she is the mother of our future hero or if the bitter half-brother who picked up Gab is gonna be our hero. If she has to exist for the hero to be born…oh well. But from the preview, it looked as if she might be deceiving the king, no?

    • 16.2 Wag_a_Muffin

      In almost every anime & live action movie the action heroes have skills (mad skillz) that after they utilize them I think, “why didn’t they just haul out that badazz ability in the first place?”

      Because the episode/movie/story would be loads shorter?

      But you’re right. It doesn’t make sense–if I can point a finger gun at anyone, say, “bang” and they’re incapacitated, why let all my guys DIE before I use it?

    • 16.3 bbstl

      I thought – you’re the king, can’t you send your hundred best guys to get the flower? Stay home with your sick son!

  17. 17 Sajen

    I liked it interesting story though the set up reminds me a bit of this European movie I saw, I don’t remember which country it was but definitely European, called NightWatch, I think my memory is hazy. But I believe it was about a group of people with special powers protecting normal people from the creatures of the night.

    It was a bit cheesy but that actually works in favor of the casting of U-Know as horrid acting is a big factor of cheese.

    • 17.1 Liang

      Russian, based on a book (from a series of 5 books).
      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0403358/

      A good movie, I don’t like horrors or anything that resembles them too much, but I really liked this one.

  18. 18 DaniDani

    I thought the black smoke ghosts were very Dementor-like, that was my second thought. My first thought was what the hell is wrong with those meteorites? Some of those are big enough to be creating significant craters! Bad science, writers, bad science!

    • 18.1 bashful

      Me too, the black smoke swirling around reminded me of the Dementors and the Death Eaters of HP… According to wikipedia, meteorites can be very large too. So, maybe the writers do know something about meteorites. ;-)

      Thanks GF for this recap. Hopefully this drama will continue to be intriguing and entertaining. :-)

    • 18.2 Quiet Thought

      Not meteors, I think, but the magical equivalent of volcanic “bombs” thrown out by an explosive eruption Some of them are rock, some of them are volcanic ash barely holding themselves together as they fall. Both will kill you, but they aren’t moving at meteoric speed and you can even dodge the, if you aren’t busy panicking at the sight of an erupting volcano. Which is what I would be doing.

  19. 19 dfl-123

    Thanks for the recap and photos! Will start watching when JIW makes his entrance :-)

  20. 20 kanz

    Gu Family Book also off with compelling start and good backstory and we all know how it ended. So I’m not sure if this drama will any good since I think the supernatural elements are a bit ridiculous.

  21. 21 mysterious

    Good first episode. And the little girl who led the way into the mountain is the daughter from Two Weeks. She is so cute.

  22. 22 JJK

    Hmm, I’m not sure how I felt about Night Watchman based on the first episode. It felt like a blend of a Chinese Wuxia drama (when the person with the serpent-coiled stick appeared) + Harry Potter (when the ghouls that looked very much like dementors were chasing the crown prince) + How to Train Your Dragon 2 (when the dragon emerged from the lake). Might watch the next episode to get a glimpse of Jung Il Woo and other main casts.

  23. 23 dahlia

    Thank you for the recap! After reading it, I think I’ll take a crack at watching this show after all. :) Hopefully it’ll remain entertaining!

  24. 24 redfox

    oh king mother, the stone face Kang. Fed up with her. tell me when she is gone and I´ll start watching.

    the eunuch is really cute.

    but all in all, it is like Faith II with CGI

  25. 25 Suzi Q

    It was a weird and entertaining first episode. I was surprised there was so much action, and the CG reminded me of past Harry Potter movies.
    Parts were very crazy.. the people running from the meteor shower and the soldiers dodging the fake looking boulders, and fighting with the giant skeletal warriors.
    I wished the wardrobe mistress could have come out with some better costumes. I thought they were early cheesy Halloween costumes or something out of Comic-Con especially the dude with the blond hair and the mask. LMAO!
    I liked the badass night watchman. He’s the one to watch in this drama. Hope we see more of him in future episodes.
    Anyhow, it seems to me that the king is making goo goo eyes with the shaman at the end? I can’t figure this drama. Is it suppose to be scary or just funky?

  26. 26 gettk

    This is on par to be one of the worst dramas I’ve ever seen. Will I even make it to the 2nd episode? I don’t even know.

    • 26.1 mystisith

      There was a snark fest on twitter. People are having fun with it but not necessarily for the good reasons. ;)

  27. 27 lyla

    I think this drama have a high budget i hope this drama success but then they have a hallyu star yunho…so his fans will watch and buy all the dvd..

  28. 28 amal

    entertaining storyline but the CGI disturbing me if not so much… superb acting tho

  29. 29 march

    entertaining first episode and superb acting

  30. 30 Divyrus

    I am gonna wait it out till its 3 weeks in and see reviews before starting !
    Already too many dramas !

  31. 31 juja

    Sadam looks like a Russian artist/ singer with that hair, those familiar with Russian show business will know what I mean.

  32. 32 john

    There are just too many CGI. Going to give it a few more episode to give my verdict

    • 32.1 windsun33

      Same feeling here – and not even well done CGI. I barely made it through the first episode, so will probably pass on this one.

  33. 33 Kaybee

    Wow! I love the recap! Girfriday’s sense of humour is amazing. Most times, I like reading the recaps more than actually watching the drama because it feels like reading an interesting fantasy/ romance/ political/ business/ etc fiction.

    I might give this drama a go. I liked the costume of Jung Il Woo in the promos.

  34. 34 redfox

    I got an idea. I think this show would work better in the style of Beetlejuice, you know, life-size stop motion dolls and real backgrounds, kinda camp, puppet-theater like, but still in the context of a story more real-looking than CGI.
    In Beetlejuice, it felt like you are in someones´ dream. You don´t need to try too hard to make a dream look real. It HAS to look different. but they are trying to look CGI look realistic and I think it is a mistake.

  35. 35 Ace

    Don’t know what to say after watching. I could maybe compare the first episode to Trot Lovers which I liked the least out of all the currently airing dramas. I’ve already set my expectations low and I haven’t even seen Yunho yet.

    What did they do to my favorite secretary (Secret Garden’s Kim-biseo)? I’ve always liked him in his dramas and films, but his character here is so cheesy. Psychic Sadam? *snerk*

    • 35.1 Wag_a_Muffin

      Okay. I had to go look him up & what a shocker. (I never guess that was the actor playing Psy-Sad.)

    • 35.2 Quiet Thought

      For some reason, that useless junior shaman lady looks like she might grow up to be Lady Mishil. But they gotta give her some decent lines to emote!

      “Some people may slay dragons and some may slay ghosts, then think they’ve won the day. But not Lady Mi shil’s people!”

    • 35.3 bbstl

      Once I figured out who he was, I yelled “Secretary Kim!”

  36. 36 maira

    it was as bad as the trailer and not even in a funny way .
    pass !

  37. 37 lenrasoon

    Despite all action scenes this first episode was kinda of boring for me, the CG was also pretty bad too. I might watch it until the 3rd episode but if it doesn’t get better i’ll just drop it.

    Thanks for the recap!

  38. 38 Fab

    Shows like this always start promising with a lot of action and entertainment. So I am very cautious, I’ll wait until next to decide…

    • 38.1 Fab

      next week

      • 38.1.1 Lilly

        Agreed. Lots of time the second episode gives a good clue.

  39. 39 Carole McDonnell

    Thanks so much for the recap.

    Am loving the Faith/Arang vibe. Not a lot o motley regular commoner ghosts so far but ghosts dragged from the underworld by wizards/shaman with world domination apparently on their minds. A king who is also a warrior. Royal advisers dragging out the word “Jhona” with mega-gravitas. Can life get even better? Can i be even happier?

    Love the actors in this story and smiled to see my favorite kid actress. Love Prince Rin and the bitter-looking half-brother. Plus looooooooove Jung Il Woo. So far my favorite supporting character is mother hen Eunuch Song. Can’t wait to see how he clucks around the grown-up prince.

    So good having a hottie Big Bad who is distant. Whatever he looks like under that goth luxury rap mask of his, so far he hasn’t fallen in love with anyone or shown any need for my healing maternal care. Honestly this kinda villain is so rare in dramaland, I’m relishing it. Drama please don’t give our Big Bad a chance to fall in love.

    am totally psyched! Been wanting sajeuk and magic for a while…and now am having both.

    • 39.1 Jenna

      Thanks so much for the recap gf! You cleared up some of the confusion regarding relationships and characters.

      Carol, you doll! It was such a pleasure to read your thoughts on the drama. I feel the same way. So many critics preceding your opinion. I loved the first episode.

      • 39.1.1 Peridot

        I always love Carole’s comments as well :). My opinion of this show is somewhere in the middle, but I think that it can be decent. There were things I liked and I want to see how certain lines develop. Plus, I love Kim Sungho :).

      • 39.1.2 Carole McDonnell

        Thanks so much. I loved this episode. I’m going to keep hoping in it. I thought the dragon was well done. These production houses aren’t rich so for what they could do…I’m satisfied.

    • 39.2 Peridot

      But I still want Big Bad to not be one-dimensional so let’s keep our fingers crossed. And, while I don’t require love stories, can’t someone find love and still be evil (minus 1)? Of course, I’m just joking: no love or maternal care is required. But you can always minister such care if you feel the need ;). As long as our villain is not comical or too over the top (Gu Family Book, I’m looking at you!), then I’m okay :).

      • 39.2.1 Carole McDonnell

        Yeah, he could find love if he wants but whether he falls in love because he really falls in love or just has a powerful desire for a woman and forces her to be his paramoor…both possibilities seem “done.” I know a villain doesn’t quite seem real if they don’t have a human side to them but I cringe anticipating how the writers can make this guy a villain.

        Maybe there will be another villain also, a human villain who doesn’t see ghosts. The narrator implied there would be great heroes on all the sides: skeptics, ghost-seers, ghost-users. So maybe the cast of characters will be majorly different and awesome.

        Right now we don’t know this villain’s motivation or goals. Is he wanting to take over the world because human kings are useless? Does he want to be powerful and just plain a God? Is he bitter against humans? He’s humorless, that’s for sure. A trifle too goth-hot…and he makes me think of flute-player in Faith…who simply looked cool. And bit like the character Sting played in Dune. But we shall see.

      • 39.2.2 Carole McDonnell

        You just had me thinking of Old guy villain in Joseon Gunman. We don’t have any reason to dislike him. He is old therefore a lover of conservative politics who wants to retain power, therefore villainous. But when we have a young villain, you’re right…we really do need to see why he is the way he is. Probably just love for power, which is the basics for villains.

        • 39.2.2.1 Peridot

          These are interesting thoughts. But I hope that he does not end up another Flute-player character. Does he really need that mask? Regarding your distinction between older villains and younger ones, I would say that its nice to have some depth no matter the age. I don’t need motivation per se; after all, not everything can be neatly explained and compartmentalized. People are complex and their actions can be convoluted or not clearly defined. As an aside, Blond-villain guy ;) might be someone who is extremely devoted to his imugi diety. Maybe he doesn’t necessarily aspire to power of his own.

          • 39.2.2.1.1 Carole McDonnell

            True, young shaman might have been told to do all this. Will await the worldbuilding/mythos. Am seeing how it’ll build up on what the narrator’s already given us. I like depth in my villains, if only to make them not be caricatures and similar with the same personalities, intents, and purposes. I only used the Old guy villain thing in Joseon because it’s so typical of old guy villains. He likes power, he wants to defend the status quo no matter what. Young villains are often used as “rebels” or “revolutionaries” or guys with psychological issues.

            This young villain has a mask; Lord knows why and wanted a woman shaman. Why because she’s a shaman or because she’s a woman or both? Why was he tryin to get the vow and the shaman type skinship out of her? Does he want to join his body with hers or to pool their power? I wish he didn’t wear a mask though. I get very nervous when my villains are fashionable. Maybe they were aiming for a Phantom of the opera vibe but it just felt very Kanye at a fashion show.

          • 39.2.2.1.2 Peridot

            @ Carole “I get very nervous when my villains are fashionable. Maybe they were aiming for a Phantom of the opera vibe but it just felt very Kanye at a fashion show.” That’s why I love you :)!

            Yes, yes, all good points. I was getting a masculine/feminine vibe: not necessarily that the forces were in conflict, but there could be something going on there. The (makeshift?) tribe of Sadam is an all-male one; while the other tribe is more complete, I still got a more feminine vibe. It would be interesting if the show explores the dichotomy and symbiosis of the feminine and the masculine. I was a little unsure of what Sadam wanted from the shaman. Was he going to kill her, use her energy?

          • 39.2.2.1.3 Carole McDonnell

            @Peridot, wow! I hadn’t thought about the dichotomy thing! Now you have me really intrigued. Why doesn’t this tribe have women? Ooooooooooooh, anticipating.

          • 39.2.2.1.4 Peridot

            @Carole, yeah the gender elements caught my attention. I’m glad that my thoughts piqued your interest :).

          • 39.2.2.1.5 Carole McDonnell

            me too! Thanks so much!

        • 39.2.2.2 Gidget

          Ha. A lust for power is the basics of all politics too. Regardless of what side of the aisle. The 20th century’s greatest tyrants, dictators and mass murderers of their own people all claimed to do everything ‘for the people.’

    • 39.3 soprection

      I’m not even watching this show but I had to reply to say that I agree about villains losing their appeal when they fall in love. Man, I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate when I start watching a drama and a villain and/or ruthless, immoral character is plotting and scheming and generally being deliciously evil and then they fall in love and they develop a conscience or they don’t care about revenge anymore. It’s just depressing. I’m still mourning it in this Chinese historical drama I watched, Qing Shi Huang Fei. It’s a shame.

      • 39.3.1 Carole McDonnell

        Such a hard row to hoe, def. I totally understand that we have to humanize the Big Bads so we don’t get away with easy judgmentalism but the love interest thing is waaaaaaaaaay too easy.

        Right now Merchant Choi in Joseon Gunman is such a great villain because we see his humanity in the way he loves his daughter and in his desire to give her a better life than his. If she ends up being his downfall/achilles, we can understand.

        And in Gap Dong, we could pity at least two of the Gap Dongs becuse we kinda understood them. In Gu Family, they told us about the villain’s motivation way too late in the story for us to truly care..so he was a caricature for most of the series. I don’t want a villain like that in Night Watchman.

        I’m just hoping this villain walks the perfect line. I don’t want stereotypical evil big bad…and i don’t want badly-done villain achilles’ heel love story.

      • 39.3.2 Peridot

        Yes, if the villain has to find love at all, can’t he still be villain-y? :). Please don’t mind some of my silliness on this thread :).

        • 39.3.2.1 Patch

          Or their love interest is a villain too? They could mwahaha together and hero proof each other’s plots for world domination.

          • 39.3.2.1.1 Peridot

            Yes. In the first Crow movie (don’t mind the use of this example), the villain had his equally villainous and twisted consort.

          • 39.3.2.1.2 Patch

            Gargoyles -Xantos and Fox.
            Never has there been a more perfect villainous pairing.

            …from my limited watching experience any way.

        • 39.3.2.2 Carole McDonnell

          I have a feeling this villain will be doing a lot of poses that designed to look cool. Of couse, if he can act, then there might not be a lot of voguing but….right now the villain has to porve he’s “real” to me. I like how determined and distant he seems but if he does the Sting thing throughout…i’ll lose my patience. I want him to back up that hipness with real old skool villainy gravitas.

  40. 40 denwanai

    I asked my husband to watch the first episode with me, hoping that this may be one we could enjoy together. wrong. Too cheesy- which is okay on some dramas, but the actor that plays the king – no emotion at all. When his son was drowning, no expression. Whaa? Won’t continue with this one. not my cup of oocha.

  41. 41 MONOT

    When the show has such good looking cult leader and evil minion, I just end up sort of rooting for them. Kim Sung Oh’s hair though..

    Main thoughts running through when watching:
    “The good guys just stare and take a long time to do anything, if I were the villain they would be..”
    “Oh wait why are the villains so slow too? Don’t just stop and pause with the good guys!?”
    “For someone who should be a VVVIP, his guards sure let the king do very dangerous stuff”

  42. 42 harmonyfb

    DRAGON! Seriously, best thing about this episode. That was a freaking AWESOME dragon. I’m so bummed it’s already stone dead (hee!), but I imagine that wasn’t cheap to cgi. The entire time it was on-screen, I was grinning from ear-to-ear. Dragon. Yay!

    The not-so-good stuff? Well…some of the acting was less than stellar (bad wig bad guy, I’m looking at you), some of the story choices seemed ill considered (why would the king go off to fight ghosts when he has a whole secret organization to do just that while he runs the country? I usually find myself disagreeing with any character played by Lee Jae-Yong, but this time, I was right there with him – what was the king thinking?) And speaking of odd story choices…how the hell did Prince Rin wander off? You’re telling me that an injured Joseon prince doesn’t have eleventy-billion nursemaids and guards? Pfffft.

    And creepy-weird “tribe”, if y’all have no women, you’re not really much of a tribe. I’m just sayin’. You’re really more of a gang. Or a cult, you know, with the whole dragon thing and all.

    In conclusion: Woot! Dragon!

    • 42.1 Carole McDonnell

      Being turned into stone is often only a temporary situation.

      • 42.1.1 harmonyfb

        We can only hope. :)

    • 42.2 Sirena

      “DRAGON! Seriously, best thing about this episode. That was a freaking AWESOME dragon. I’m so bummed it’s already stone dead (hee!), but I imagine that wasn’t cheap to cgi. The entire time it was on-screen, I was grinning from ear-to-ear. Dragon. Yay!”

      The dragon was awesome! :)

    • 42.3 John

      The Bad Guy’s Bad Wig : It’s the same color as Ji Hyun-woo’s bad hair in Trot Lovers !

    • 42.4 Gidget

      “And speaking of odd story choices…how the hell did Prince Rin wander off? You’re telling me that an injured Joseon prince doesn’t have eleventy-billion nursemaids and guards? Pfffft.

      And creepy-weird “tribe”, if y’all have no women, you’re not really much of a tribe. I’m just sayin’. You’re really more of a gang. Or a cult, you know, with the whole dragon thing and all.”

      LOL

  43. 43 Gidget

    Thanks for the recap.

    As usual, GF has a way of taking just about anything and making it seem interesting enough that I want to check it out.

    From how it’s described I love the premise of the show and how they’ve described the clash of the worlds. My main worry right now is that my mind will want to quarrel with the Production Designer. I already don’t like the color tones and costume design. If the story holds up, I’m probably going to be constantly irked that the Korean equivalent of Disney/Pixar/Lucas isn’t involved.

    The Production Designer seems to be aiming at stylistic fusion, but it comes off as disjointed; alternating between lazy/borrowed and (in the costume design that’ll be in upcoming episodes) artistically pretentious. A show that’s supposed to be about the clash of a bygone era, shouldn’t be styled with distinctly modern textiles. I could buy off on it if the clash is with, – I don’t know – aliens; and the show is saying things were once more advanced/modern, but then regressed. But not when it’s about ancient world orders. I want fusion to fuse, not distract. As it stands the costuming is Mad Men meets Conan the Barbarian meets 1980′s office furniture.

    Still, I’m hoping to be wrong about this and they make me like their vision of this world. I really, really do want to like the show. :-)

    • 43.1 Gidget

      Well now that I watched the first couple of episodes, it’s probably just bad promo photos.

      I like what I see inside the palace.

      The country folk: hope they’ll make some tweaks to make it less look-I-made-my-costume-myself-with-stuff-I-found-at-Goodwill!, but it might be possible to learn to look past it.

      The villain, bahahahahahahahahahahhaahahahahahahaha. There are no words for that.

      l.o.v.e.d. the second episode.

  44. 44 Sirena

    While watching this episode I couldn’t help but compare certain scenes with other films/dramas that I’ve watched. For example, the scene where the King and his men are at the mountain and they battle those skeleton creatures reminded me of when Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas are at the Mountain of the Dead (in the third LOTRS film). Also, for any BTVS fans there is an episode in season six where Giles is sword fighting with a animated skeleton :)

    This first episode has made me want to continue watching to learn more about these characters and this supernatural/magical world. I just hope that this drama does not start off well and end poorly.

  45. 45 Patch

    In tone, varying acting ability and production budget this drama does remind me of Saturday night BBC offerings like Robin Hood, Merlin and the cheap episodes of Doctor Who. If it stays at that sort of level I’m going to be fine with this drama. Hopefully it’s not going to go Gu Family Book on us.

    Is the dragon tribe like reverse amazons?

  46. 46 Adal

    I loved the first episode. So far so good, loved the plot, acting and cgi. It’s certainly different. Hope the drama keeps up its momentum so it can continue being recapped. It’s a shame though, that the drama was trashed on the strength of its crappy trailers. One thing Hollywood has thought me is that the flashier the trailers the more likely the movie is gonna suck, so I have learned not to put too much stock in advertisements or the quality of posters or trailers.

  47. 47 Quiet Thought

    That was some lovely lush mountain woodland they were passing through. I kept hoping that the shamaness would introduce herself by saying: “Welcome to beautiful California. We are the people of the mighty Redwoods, guardians of the Sacred Weed.”

    • 47.1 Sirena

      @Quiet Thought, Good one!

  48. 48 sommi

    Some are saying that this drama copied from Games of Throne.. the dragon, magic ,etc. Have anyone else seen the similarities since I have not watch Game of throne.

    There is way too much CG and it does remind me of a cheap wuxia fantasy drama from the 90s. Even the opening scene of the four leads seem to be taken from some china/hongkong /taiwan dramas

    • 48.1 Quiet Thought

      One of the problems with a genre classic like ‘Game of Thrones’ — or, for that matter, ‘Lord of the Rings’ and
      ‘The Three Musketeers’ reaching a outside audience is that it becomes the first experience of that genre for millions of people.

      None of the elements in this series are particularly original, but neither are any of the elements of ‘Game of Thrones’. GoT’s distinction as a novel(s) was that it took the feudal politics common to most Sword & Sorcery novels, elevated them to a complex, intense level worthy of a Chinese imperial court or Italy in the time of the Borgias, and made that the center of the story. Not my idea of great reading, but they were well crafted and it suited the interests of millions of others.

      That said, there are no magical or fantasy elements in Game of Thrones that haven’t been used in a couple of thousand other fantasy novels of that genre. And ten thousand or so fantasy short stories or a few hundred Wuxia films. Martin just shuffled the deck and made something new and interesting out of the politics.

  49. 49 earthna

    Oh, what a first episode. Makes me wonder if they spent the whole production money on this one. Haha. It also scares me that the quality would go down when they’re pressured by live shoots. Ahh, I’m being too paranoid.

    I watched it without seeing the trailers or knowing what it’s about so I’m totally confused about the plot. I know it’s only the first episode but it would’ve been nice if it explained a bit more.

    Anyway, I might keep watching. It’s been a while since the last Jung Il Woo drama that I’ve seen. Thanks for the recaps, girlfriday!

  50. 50 Sfgirl

    Is it just me or young Gisangun looks like a baby Song Joong Ki? Heh! I had to do a double take when I was watching the show. Just look at the screenshot that GF posted!

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