Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 18
It’s a lovely episode about confronting your worst fears and choosing to fight the good fight, no matter how dismal things seem right now. Our hero loses faith in his own humanity, but that’s when the people around him begin to step up in some impressive ways, proving that sometimes, having someone to protect isn’t a liability, but a source of strength.
SONG OF THE DAY
Broccoli, you too? – “사랑한다는 말로는 위로가 되지 않는” (The Words I Love You Aren’t a Comfort) [ Download ]
EPISODE 18 RECAP
Yoon gets led out of the palace like a prisoner, but on his way to exile, the officers turn on him with swords drawn. He asks if they’re really about to kill their king, but they charge forward anyway. Thankfully there are a few rogue officers scattered among them, led by Hye-ryung’s head spy. He guards Yoon and says that he was given secret orders by the queen, so Yoon takes his sword and joins the fight.
He corners the leader who’s taking direct orders from the prime minister, and asks the men whom they’re serving—the king or a vampire. Yoon says that they needn’t serve him, but he intends to stay alive to reclaim their nation from a vampire.
He tells them to run away now if they’re too afraid to return to Gwi empty-handed, or to stay and use their swords for good if they want to help save the country. Look at him, being all inspirational. A few run away, but the rest fall to their knees before him.
Meanwhile, Gwi puts on the dragon robes and sits on the throne before the court, declaring himself the new king. He decides that Emperor has a nice ring to it, while the ministers become outraged. The prime minister delicately tries to say that Joseon has laws and he can’t just become the new king, but Gwi argues that he was the one who helped make this country and its laws.
He’s concocted a whole narrative to support his ascension too: Sung-yeol is the evil vampire who was living in the palace, and Yoon was the weak king who was serving him. Gwi paints himself as the hero who ousted them both, and took his rightful place on the throne.
He asks Hye-ryung to confirm this, which she has no choice but to do. Gwi’s first order of business as king is to appoint a new advisor, and he simply tells them that the job will go to the person who offers the highest bribe in silver.
The gang gets Sung-yeol back home, still unconscious, and Yang-sun sits at his beside. He dreams of walking through an empty town seeped in a dense fog, and his parents appear and disappear, then Prince Jeonghyeon, then Myung-hee.
He chases after them one by one, but begins to realize that he can’t catch up to them. He looks down in horror as the wound on his hand opens up and starts to bleed, and he tells himself: “I am a beast. I cannot keep people by my side. Even if a hundred, no two hundred years pass, this is how it must be.”
But as soon as he says this, Ho-jin runs up to him in the street, out of breath and complaining that he can’t keep up with Sung-yeol if he walks that fast. Sung-yeol just stares, expecting him to vanish like everyone else, but he doesn’t, and just keeps chattering away. Aww, see, Ho-jin will never leave you!
Sung-yeol cracks a smile as he realizes that Ho-jin won’t vanish like the other apparitions, and follows eagerly when he hears that Su-hyang has found the bookseller they were looking for. Su-hyang greets him with a book, and he sits behind a screen until Yang-sun appears, just like the first time they met.
She says she’ll find him any book he wants, but he tells her not to worry about that anymore and hurriedly takes her by the hand. But as soon as he does, they’re suddenly in Gwi’s lair, and Yang-sun is being held captive again.
This time, Yang-sun stabs herself with the dagger in Gwi’s hand—exactly the way Myung-hee did—and falls to the ground. Sung-yeol screams, “Nooooo!” and rushes to her side, and she tells him to drink her blood before dying in his arms.
He quivers with rage and looks up at Gwi… only it’s not Gwi anymore, but Evil Sung-yeol, who laughs back at him. Well that’s disturbing.
It’s jarring enough to wake him from his dream. Yang-sun asks cautiously if he recognizes her, and he gets up with a start to ask if she’s okay, and how they got away from Gwi and ended up here. Yang-sun is shocked to realize that he has no memory of what happened after running in to rescue her.
The story about Sung-yeol being the evil vamp spreads through town like wildfire, and his recent attack in the marketplace only supports Gwi’s false claims. The prime minister is still convinced that he can bring Gwi back down to his proper place in the basement, though Hye-ryung is skeptical.
She only cares about Yoon’s safety, and her father sneers at her for loving him. She fires back that her father is the one who sacrificed his daughter to get the throne, only to be relegated to being the help for ten years.
Gwi is bored by the ins and outs of politics, as expected, and Hye-ryung advises him not to overlook the ministers’ dissatisfaction. She tells him that the people might not be able to choose who becomes king, but they can choose not to serve him. He counters that she’ll see for herself how weak humans really are, then walks through the palace and drinks the first guard he sees, turning him into a vampire.
Yang-sun tells Ho-jin and Su-hyang about the amnesia, and asks them not to tell Sung-yeol the truth about what happened, at least for the time being. What, you’re just not going to tell him? That drinking your blood makes him Evil Supervamp With No Soul?
They follow suit and lie to Sung-yeol that he saved them from Gwi without much trouble, though the story already gets dicey the second he asks after Hunter Baek. Sung-yeol wants to go survey the current situation, so Ho-jin quickly offers to go instead.
The ministers complain that Gwi can’t just declare himself king and demand silver, but he says it’s all in preparation for war. He plans to kill all the vampires (well, all but himself, of course), and wants all the silver melted into bullets. Do silver bullets kill vamps in this universe? Would be nice to know the rules.
Right on cue, they’re alerted to an uproar in town because there are vampires on the loose. They’re terrorizing the citizens and killing everyone in their path, and Gwi rides up like the big hero and shoots them down, tenderly returning a child to her mother.
We know that Gwi made these vamps, but the people see him as their savior and bow down before him. He declares that as king, he will rid the world of vampires for good. Damn, he really is an evil genius after all.
Sung-yeol finds it weird that he’s healing so quickly after his injuries, and can tell that Yang-sun is keeping something from him. He scolds her for offering herself up as a sacrifice to Gwi, and tells her not to ever leave his side again.
He gets close enough to notice the wound in her shoulder, and the smell of her blood brings back Evil Sung-yeol’s voice in his head, urging him to drink her blood. He asks what happened to her, but when she refuses to give him a straight answer, he demands for Su-hyang to hand over his black hanbok. The gang tries to gang up on him, to no avail.
As soon as Sung-yeol steps out into the busy marketplace, the crowd flees in terror, calling him a vampire. He stops one merchant, who says that he attacked them the other day, and he made more vampires who then killed more people.
Sung-yeol starts to regain a few memories of tearing through the streets and attacking people, and is horrified to think that he might’ve made more vampires. He returns to Gwi’s lair, which is empty now, but being back there is enough to bring back the important memories—drinking Yang-sun’s blood, and turning into Vampy Blue Eyes.
He finds Gwi sitting on the throne in the palace, and Gwi is happy to see Sung-yeol, as always. Sung-yeol is furious and threatens to bring him down this instant, but Gwi just chuckles and asks if he drank the rest of Yang-sun’s blood in order to do so.
Sung-yeol says that he can’t just become the king because he wants to, but Gwi challenges, “Then drag me down. It’s not like you can’t—you only need to drink her blood.” Gwi wonders what will happen to the throne then, and muses that the scarier, more powerful vampire will take control. Eek. Why are the options Bad or Worse?
Gwi prods Sung-yeol to admit that he came here because he wants the throne for himself, and says that it’s time that they take their rightful place above humans. Gwi thinks it’s no different from humans eating animals, and says that despite fearing him, the people still follow him.
Sung-yeol says that they don’t belong in this world, and what the people really want is for them to disappear. He says that Gwi will die by his hand anyway, but Gwi asks why—because he killed the woman he loves, or simply because he killed many people? Gwi: “Are you clean? Can you live without the blood of humans?”
That gets Sung-yeol right where it hurts, and he can’t come up with an answer. Gwi asks why he’s expending so much energy for people, and suggests that Sung-yeol go live a nice, long quiet life with Yang-sun. Once she dies and Gwi gets sick of playing king, he offers to let Sung-yeol have the throne.
Sung-yeol shouts for him to stop, but he’s the one who stumbles and backs away in the end, leaving Gwi laughing in his wake. The laughter ceases the moment Sung-yeol is gone, though.
Gwi returns to his lair, where he tells Hye-ryung that Sung-yeol seems to have lost his will to fight back. He says it’s because he has someone to protect—as does Hye-ryung—which is a weakness when you’re doing battle. Hye-ryung argues that it can also give people strength, but Gwi tells her that Yoon escaped with his life, so her weakness remains intact.
Ho-jin and Su-hyang know they have to tell the truth when Sung-yeol returns, though they worry that he’ll blame himself. Sung-yeol demands to know what happened to Hunter Baek, and when Ho-jin admits that he died protecting them, Sung-yeol asks if he’s the one who killed him.
Yang-sun swears that’s not what happened, and Sung-yeol is even more distraught by her presence, remembering that he was trying to kill her and drink her blood. He declares that as of now, the secret weapon is destroyed, and locks himself up in the back room.
Yoon confers with his black hanbok brigade, and learns of the rumors spreading throughout town about Sung-yeol going evil. He doesn’t think it’s likely, and decides to meet with Sung-yeol and find out for himself.
Sung-yeol has holed himself up for days, and Ho-jin worries that he might just plan to live the rest of eternity in there. Su-hyang stops him from charging in and suggests that Yang-sun go in instead.
Yang-sun enters cautiously and counts out loud all the times that Sung-yeol has saved her life, and adds that he’s saved countless others too. He argues that if he’s killed even one innocent, none of that matters.
He’s riddled with guilt because has no idea how many he killed while he wasn’t in control of himself, and calls himself a beast. But Yang-sun puts her arms around him in a back-hug and says that he would never do that.
Her unwavering faith in him seems to break him out of the funk for the moment, and he looks into her eyes with a hint of a smile. Ho-jin runs in and gets flustered when he interrupts their romantic moment, but tells them that Yoon is here.
Yoon tells Su-hyang that Hye-ryung is the one who saved him, and that even her remaining by Gwi’s side now is all in an effort to keep him alive. He says that Hye-ryung is his person now, and he’s determined to protect her.
Yoon hears from Sung-yeol what happens when he drinks Yang-sun’s blood, and the inherent problem of making him so strong that he can defeat Gwi… only to become another Gwi. Yoon tells him that they have a more urgent problem on their hands with the vampire attacks that are springing up in new cities, and asks Sung-yeol to save those people first.
Sung-yeol asks if he can be sure that these attacks are Gwi’s doing, because he doesn’t remember how many he killed while he wasn’t in control. But Yoon argues that the Kim Sung-yeol he knows would never kill an innocent, and urges him to believe in himself.
Yoon tells him that Gwi is creating vampires to kill people so that he can show up and save them, and in doing this over and over, he’s amassing quite the public following. Yoon says that even if his efforts don’t make a dent in overthrowing Gwi, he’s going to fight to save his citizens.
Yang-sun walks Yoon out to his horse, and Yoon apologizes for everything. She admits to resenting him, but not anymore. He wants to find a way to fight Gwi that doesn’t involve hurting her, and she says that she’d sacrifice herself willingly (yes, we know), but now she’s worried that Sung-yeol will lose his humanity because of her.
Yoon puts a reassuring hand on her shoulder and says, “People with someone to protect are strong—I learned that from you and Kim Sung-yeol.”
Encouraged, Yang-sun returns to writing her Night Scholar sequel that night. She tells Sung-yeol that it might be a small thing, but she wants to do what she can to help people see the truth, and not be blinded by fear.
Sung-yeol smiles and lets her return to her writing, then later finds her asleep at the desk. He picks up the book and reads the latest page that she wrote, describing how he drank her blood and lost control, but quickly regained himself and returned to fight against Gwi.
She writes, “At first, the people were afraid that the Night Scholar who came to rescue them was just another vampire like Gwi. But soon, they all came to know what it was that he was really fighting for.” Aw, that’s really moving. It’s simple, but the way she writes it like it already happened makes it seem true.
Sung-yeol smiles as he reads it, and carries her to bed. He tucks her in and sits with her for a while, thinking to himself that he’d like it if things came to pass just like her story.
He heads out that night to spy on the palace guards, who carry in crates of silver and talk about the cities they’re headed to tonight and tomorrow. They don’t know how the king always knows where a vampire attack will take place, but they call him a hero.
Yoon goes to the first city with his rebel brigade and finds a vampire massacre already in progress, and as he fights, Sung-yeol arrives and joins the fray. It’s a bloody fight, but Sung-yeol saves Yoon from being bitten and they manage to kill all the vampires.
By the time Gwi arrives to save the day, there’s nothing but corpses lining the streets. He calls out to see if there are any survivors, and one man comes out of hiding to report that a group of men in black and a scholar came to his rescue.
Gwi makes sure that this man is the only eyewitness, and promptly slashes him with a sword on the spot. Sung-yeol and Yoon are watching this from a distance, and Yoon has to stop Sung-yeol from running over there in a rage.
They head inside to clean up, and Sung-yeol trembles with anger as he looks down at the blood that they’re wiping off, and says that he’ll never forgive Gwi. Yoon wonders how they’re to keep up when they have no idea where the next attack will spring up; Sung-yeol tells him where the next one will be tomorrow, but that’s as far as he knows.
Yang-sun finds her Night Scholar book open, and she wonders if Sung-yeol read it. Ho-jin freaks out when he can’t find Sung-yeol, but Su-hyang says he’s likely out rescuing people. Ho-jin worries for his safety and argues that the people won’t even know that Sung-yeol is saving them and Gwi will get all the credit, but Su-hyang points out that he can’t just let people die—he has to do what he can.
Yang-sun says that she intends to do the same, and says she’s completed the latest volume of her Night Scholar Chronicles. She worries about how to distribute them now that all her bookseller friends are gone, but Ho-jin takes the book from her happily and says he’ll find a way.
He seeks out a bookseller and offers lots of money for him to copy and distribute the volume, but the man takes one look at what the book is and says no. Ho-jin hangs his head and takes the book back, but the bookseller clarifies that he can’t take money for this, because he knows Eumlan Seosaeng’s daughter wrote it, and he received their help after his father’s death.
He gathers Dad’s old contacts, and they make copy after copy of the novel and spread it far and wide for free. And soon, rumors of Gwi’s heroism begin to be contradicted by those who’ve read the Night Scholar novel.
As news of Sung-yeol and Yoon’s nightly battles spreads, we see them fighting back-to-back against a new horde of vampires. They’re both extremely weak after the fight, and one man rushes up to Yoon, recognizing him as the king. Yoon says that he wouldn’t dare call himself their king when he allowed his people to suffer this way.
The people argue that he saved them, but Yoon says he didn’t do anything: “The one who saved you is this person, who has been battling Gwi for a hundred years.” He points to Sung-yeol, who can’t contain his bloodlust and growls, eyes glowing red.
Most of the ministers are already on Gwi’s side and spouting his virtues, and when one of them mentions the Night Scholar novels, Gwi orders them all burned and everyone caught reading it killed. An officer runs in to say that another vampire attack is happening, but Gwi is furious to hear that the black hanbok brigade already took care of the threat.
The crowd screams in horror when they see that Sung-yeol is a vampire, but then a young girl breaks free from the crowd to run over to his side and help him up. Sung-yeol remembers her from the gibang—she was one of the girls who was to be sacrificed to Gwi.
She tells the crowd that this is the Night Scholar, and to Sung-yeol’s utter shock, people start running over to help him. They rush to his side to help lift him to his feet, carrying him to safety.
Aw, what a moving scene. It’s so Spiderman (that scene when he’s unmasked on the subway always makes me cry, goddammit), with the hero being recognized for his act of heroism by a group of strangers. There’s a poignancy to their acceptance that you don’t get from Yang-sun or Yoon or anyone else trying to convince him that his sacrifice means something, or that the world will look past the surface and see that he’s different from Gwi. Someone you love can say it a million times and you’ll never believe it, but a group of citizens who come to your aid even when your fangs are showing says everything—they see the man, not the beast. And to someone like Sung-yeol, that is actually a reason to continue existing and fighting.
I really enjoyed this arc over the last two episodes that turned the central conflict inward to Sung-yeol, and really challenged him to ask himself if he’s really different from Gwi. There’s no shortage of guilt in Sung-yeol’s life as it is, but when he loses his grasp on humanity and sees how easy it is to cross that line, Gwi’s accusations actually start to worm their way into his head, and I like the themes that come into play when Sung-yeol backs down because he feels like he no longer has the moral high ground. Is he actually different, or does he just desperately want to be seen that way, to feel less like a beast? Does saving all those people matter if he’s taken innocent lives? Is it Sung-yeol’s nature that defines him? His motives? His actions? Of course Sung-yeol is so hard on himself that he doesn’t see that his having a conscience to fight his inner Evil Vamp in the first place already makes him different from Gwi. And the fact that he broods all day over the weight of his actions, or fears his own nature more than anything is what keeps him tethered to his human side.
I would’ve liked to spread this week’s conflict out over more episodes to really draw out the emotional implications and focus on Sung-yeol owning his role as a hero of the people, not in a glorified way, but as someone who fights the good fight anyway, no matter how bleak the outlook. That’s always the most moving choice that a hero can make, and we have everyone from Yoon to Yang-sun to Sung-yeol making the choice to do their part, no matter how tiny a role it might play in the overall war. It was a really rewarding episode of growth for many of the characters, and I’m sad that it flew by instead of being given the proper buildup. Still, it was a nice payoff to see Yoon and Sung-yeol fighting side by side, choosing to fight that uphill battle one vampire attack at a time, with no end in sight.
The best part is that Yang-sun actually finds a purpose again and plays a crucial role in the fight, and not even as a human sacrifice, or a damsel that needs saving! I don’t know why it took her so long to remember that she’s a writer, but thank goodness she did, because today I remembered why I liked her in the first place. She managed to do in one fell swoop what Sung-yeol or Yoon could never do, even if they fought a hundred of those nightly battles—she captured the hearts of the people with a story that they could relate to, and gave them a hero to believe in. There’s power in that, and I love that this comes from Yang-sun. Her unwavering faith in Sung-yeol is what moves him to rejoin the fight, but without the novel, he and Yoon would be fighting a losing war. She makes it possible to create a movement, and for the first time in a long time, that makes me excited for what they might achieve together.
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