Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 19
The show sure is stepping it up for its last couple of weeks; I’m really pleased with the flow of emotions and relationship developments in the past couple of episodes, heading into our finale tomorrow. Scholar Who Walks the Night certainly wasn’t without its missteps and had a pretty wide range of ups and downs, but I’m glad that at least it looks poised to wrap up with some nice character moments and emotional layers. Though as we know, it ain’t over till it’s over.
SONG OF THE DAY
Standing Egg – “햇살이 아파” (The sunlight hurts) [ Download ]
EPISODE 19 RECAP
Sung-yeol is astonished when the people don’t shrink back from him upon being identified as the Night Scholar, but instead gather around him to help him up. He and Yoon have been weakened by the fight against the vampires, but make it away before Gwi arrives.
Gwi’s not happy to hear that Sung-yeol’s rebels have again thwarted him, and finds one black hanbok left behind as a message. He orders an exorbitant reward be offered up for information leading to their capture.
Safe for now, Yoon and Sung-yeol relocate to a hideout with the people they rescued. Yoon points out that Sung-yeol gave them hope and is different from Gwi, though Sung-yeol replies that he’s merely acting out the role of the Night Scholar for their benefit. He was created to destroy Gwi, and thus must also be destroyed afterward—what the people really need is Yoon, he says.
Yoon admonishes him not to talk like that, and adds, “Take care of Yang-sun.” He asks what kind of person Prince Jeonghyeon was, supposing that he was honorable and good for Sung-yeol to have served him so long. He compares himself unfavorably, thinking of all the people who have died under his rule.
Sung-yeol tells him of Prince Jeonghyeon’s playful side, writing racy novels and making jokes, and teases that Yoon and Jeonghyeon were the only two royals to be such profligates.
Yang-sun and Su-hyang have spent the night anxiously waiting for Sung-yeol, and perk up to hear Ho-jin bringing good news. He explains that Yang-sun’s Night Scholar Chronicles have been spreading like wildfire among the populace, and people are ripping down the wanted signs depicting Sung-yeol’s face and buying up black hanboks. Moreover, they’re dying to know how the story ends.
Yoon credits Yang-sun and Sung-yeol for being largely responsible for this turn in public sentiment, but Sung-yeol is still worried for the struggles in store. The more they fight and continue the black hanbok brigade’s activities, the more Yoon is in danger, and the more lives they’ll lose. Yoon says that Gwi’s lies are starting to be revealed, but Sung-yeol knows just how cruel he can be and says they must find a way to kill him sooner than later.
Yoon is onboard with that, but emphasizes that the plan can’t sacrifice innocent lives, including Yang-sun’s or Sung-yeol’s. Sung-yeol argues that they can’t win this fight without spilling blood. Still, Yoon is determined to minimize as much of that as possible, even declining offers from his people to join in the black hanbok brigade.
He’s also been working out the finer points of Prince Jeonghyeon’s plan, and has decided that this fight is a chance for him to atone for his sins against his people. Whether or not he returns as king will be a decision put to the people. Then he asks if Sung-yeol would accept him as a friend once the fight is over, and Sung-yeol replies by asking if he cares that his friend is a vampire. They both smile.
The hideout is found by a troop of soldiers, who demand that the people hand over the black hanbok rebels said to be hiding here. Several men dressed in black step up, declaring themselves those rebels, but before they can be apprehended, Yoon orders them to stop and steps to the front, telling the soldiers not to intimidate their people.
The soldiers are reminded of the huge reward promised and make a move to go for Yoon, but this time Sung-yeol steps in and draws a literal line in the ground with a sword, warning the men not to cross it if they want to stay alive. He bares his fangs and hisses, and the soldiers retreat in fear.
Sung-yeol advises Yoon to relocate to his home, because this is no longer safe. Yoon agrees to meet him there after he checks on the queen.
In the palace, Gwi does not take the news well of his officers’ failure to apprehend the rebels. Worse yet is the news that the people are starting to question Gwi’s “heroic” stories, where he’s the one rescuing the people from that vampire on the rampage. The prime minister warns that he can’t go around using violence on everyone, but Gwi thinks he can subdue them by making them see their leader going down—Yoon.
His sidekicks are relieved to see Sung-yeol arrive safely home, where he peers over Yang-sun’s shoulder as she’s writing her Night Scholar story. She describes him coming home to his sweetheart and enveloping her in a hug, and he does just that. He says her fame has surpassed Eumlan Seosaeng’s, and everyone is abuzz with curiosity over how Night Scholar will end.
She asks what he thinks will happen, and he says he doesn’t know, since he can’t know the Night Scholar’s heart. OR MAYBE YOU CAN. Just sayin’. Yang-sun says it’ll probably be “a common and obvious ending” where the two lovebirds get their happily-ever-after. Well, I guess for him it’s a happily-for-a-long-time-until-she-dies.
He remarks that readers may be disgruntled that a hero story turned into a love story (hi there, meta), and she quips that it’s her prerogative. She asks if he’s unhurt, and he replies, “Your faith was a great strength to me.”
Sung-yeol passes along a greeting from that young girl who’d been captured earlier, and she asks if he saved her. He replies, “That girl—and you—are the ones who saved me.” She squeezes him tight in a hug, and says that she wrote that novel partly to inform people of Sung-yeol’s true nature, but also because she was so filled with longing and emotion that she couldn’t contain it.
She asks if he missed her, and he agrees that he did, and kisses her.
Yoon’s men have been unable to get into the palace to see how the queen is doing, to his continued worry. He entrusts his man with the message to tell Hye-ryung he’ll save her, and asks for the reply to be sent to Sung-yeol’s home, where he’ll be staying.
Sung-yeol & Co. brainstorm for their next move, and Yang-sun suggests destroying Gwi’s underground lair, with him in it. The team explains how difficult this would be, since they’d have to get all those explosives into the palace, and also rig the lair from within in order to inflict the damage necessary. The sidekicks dismiss it as futile, and Sung-yeol agrees that it’s riddled with difficulties: “But it’s not entirely impossible.”
He suggests that they blow up the cave while he’s fighting Gwi, and that sounds so dangerous that Yang-sun rescinds the idea. She looks for other ways around the problem, like figuring a way to get Sung-yeol to drink her blood that wouldn’t kill her.
Yoon arrives at Sung-yeol’s home, and the two confer. Sung-yeol shares his intention to kill Gwi by blowing up his cave, ensuring that he’s inside when the others set off the explosion. Yoon understands that Sung-yeol would be going down with Gwi and argues that he can’t leave Yang-sun behind, reminding him that Sung-yeol had promised to be his friend. They’re all fighting for their loved ones, he says, not to lose them. Listen to your king!
Hye-ryung informs Gwi of the people’s reactions, and says that things aren’t going as he wished—scaring the people is easy, but not moving their hearts. Gwi surprises her by conceding that he’d erred in ignoring her counsel before, and agrees to do as she advises this time. Or rather, he twists what she’d said about love making people stronger and says he’ll use that love against them.
She looks alarmed, and rightly so, because Gwi announces to his council that he intends to lure Yoon to the palace of his own will. Using the queen as bait, he’ll announce her public execution for the crime of spying for the palace vampire, which is sure to draw Yoon in.
Hye-ryung knows Yoon would do just that, and makes a last-ditch attempt to divert his death, writing him a letter that night.
In it, she severs their marital ties (she means in spirit), calling herself Gwi’s woman and saying that there’s nothing she can do to help Yoon. So she entreats him not to put himself in any harm for her sake, or to look for her, and apologizes for not being able to be with him through the end. She encloses her queen’s hairpin with the letter, donning a simple pin in its place and stripping her garb down to the all-white of a criminal.
She’s making it sound like she intends to serve Gwi going forward, but Yoon is certain she’s doing this for a reason and demands an explanation from his subordinate. The man was ordered not to let Yoon know of the queen’s impending execution, but he caves and explains Gwi’s trap to get Yoon to the palace.
Knowing this, Yoon can’t just stay here and heads out full of purpose, ready to face death if need be. When Sung-yeol sees him on his way out, he doesn’t let on what he’s about to do and just asks him to keep living and make Yang-sun happy.
That night, Hye-ryung is led out to her execution, and along the way Gwi reminds her that he’d warned her love only makes people weak. Hye-ryung tries to persuade Gwi to not go through with this idea, suggesting that he kill her now to wipe out that human heart he holds in such contempt. Gwi actually seems hurt as he asks if she hates him so much that she can’t bear being in his company any longer.
Hye-ryung even asks him to leave behind this fixation with people whose hearts he’s unable to win over, and to live somewhere away from people with only her at his side. And again, he seems jealous that she’d go to this extreme to save Yoon.
Hye-ryung answers that it’s not only for that reason, and that she was able to see through Sung-yeol how Gwi must have felt all this while, guessing that he was envious of those people whose hearts he could not have. I’d say she strikes a nerve, but he orders her to be quiet and sneers at her to watch what he does to her husband.
Sung-yeol asks Su-hyang to procure explosives, deciding that this is the only way to take down Gwi—the longer they wait, the more lives that will be lost. She understands that he means to die with the plan, and he admits as much while also warning her not to get the idea to die with him. Gently, he tells her that she was the one who allowed him to feel the passing of time after being stuck for so long, and that watching her grow from a child into a beautiful woman made him happy.
He tells her to be happy, and she thinks, “Every moment I spent with you was happiness.”
Yoon arrives at the palace, to Gwi’s satisfaction and Hye-ryung’s alarm. Yoon does the noble thing in assuming Hye-ryung’s blame, knowing her “crime” is just a trumped-up charge to get him instead, and tells Gwi to kill him instead.
Gwi’s all too happy to oblige, and adds that Yoon will have to do one thing for him—be turned into a vampire. Then the people he’s so eager to protect will become nothing more than food to him. Yoon dares him to try, vowing to cling to his senses with everything he’s got, and rip Gwi apart.
Gwi leans in, baring his fangs and readying to take the bite—and behind him, Hye-ryung pulls out her plain silver hairpin, grabbing the dagger hidden inside. Stab!
The dagger sinks into Gwi’s back, and he roars in pain and whirls around—and in the process, he slashes Hye-ryung in the throat. She collapses, bleeding out, and Yoon rushes to her side desperate to keep her alive.
Hye-ryung tells him, “The heart you gave to me… I was thankful for it. Even if I die now, I have no regrets.” Yoon cries in protest, “No, you must grow old with me, and die with me at the same time.”
But she goes limp in his arms.
Gwi looks stunned—and dare I say, even regretful? Yoon wells up with rage and goes after Gwi with a spear, but thankfully for him, they’re interrupted by Sung-yeol, who steps in and delivers several painful blows to Gwi before disappearing.
Gwi staggers in pain from the stab wound, screaming at Sung-yeol to come at him, then looks down at Hye-ryung’s dead body. It stokes new anger, and he roars so fiercely that the crowd screams and scatters.
Sung-yeol drags Yoon safely back to headquarters, ignoring Yoon’s plea to be let go, to die with the queen. Sung-yeol asks if he would render Hye-ryung’s sacrifice meaningless by doing that, and Yoon whispers that he can’t go on anymore.
Sung-yeol’s voice hardens as he delivers some tough love, reminding him of the people who could be oppressed and abused for generations to come. So it may be difficult to rally on, but Yoon must overcome it, for the sake of the people looking to him.
He heads out, thinking, “I will take Gwi away with me.” He asks Yang-sun to give Yoon space as he recovers, and thinks, “If I go away, you will also hurt and face difficulty. If only I could, I wish I undo things to before I met you, then leave.”
Gwi carries Hye-ryung’s body back to his lair, and tells her, “I didn’t want to kill you this easily.” He sighs that he’d wanted to keep her with him for hundreds, thousands of years. He takes her hand, asking forlornly, “Who will send me cold smiles at what I do now, or spit out impudent words about how pathetic I am?” Written out like that it looks silly, but it’s actually rather affecting; you do really get the sense he loved her in his twisted way.
Talk of Gwi’s true nature spreads among the people, with the scholars taking the charge in organizing rebellion. A coup is planned for tomorrow night, and this makes the perfect timing for Sung-yeol’s plan to blow up Gwi’s lair.
The explosives are readied and he calls for a meeting of his black hanbok rebels to plan the details. Ho-jin begs to be allowed to fight, wanting to go down with Sung-yeol, but Sung-yeol instructs him firmly that his role is not as fighter. The people who preserve the world, he says, are not the fighters like himself but the people who tend to the blood-soaked ground and nurture the life back into it.
He asks his team not to inform Yang-sun of his plans… but of course, she’s already listening on the other side of the door. She feigns ignorance and keeps up her chipper mood with effort, and asks to see him out on his errand.
So they head out together, both pretending he’s just going away for a day trip and will be back safe and sound tomorrow night. Yang-sun tells him that her book will end with the next installment, and asks what kind of ending he’d like to see.
Sung-yeol replies that it would be nice to have the one that most people want, and when she asks what happens if the Night Scholar dies fighting, he says it isn’t such a bad ending if that rids the world of Gwi.
Yang-sun asks what’ll happen to the sweetheart left behind, and Sung-yeol says that she’ll be sad, of course, but as time passes, she’ll realize that what he wanted till the very last was her happiness.
Yang-sun says that he sees that woman as too weak, and informs him that the sweetheart has probably already decided to live and die with him. She says firmly that the Night Scholar will not die, but will come back for his woman’s sake.
She promises to show him the last book first, and asks him not to be late in returning home. He agrees, then they put on small smiles as they make their goodbyes.
But Yang-sun’s tears spill over they part ways, and he also turns back with tear-filled eyes, thinking, “I’m sorry, Yang-sun.”
When the prime minister enters the throne room that night, he stands petrified in shock at the sight: Dead bodies litter the chamber, while Gwi sits on the throne a bloody-smeared mess. Is this like a person going on a bender after being dumped?
Gwi drunkenly motions the prime minister closer, saying that this (massacre) was nothing—all those bugs just kept buzzing around his ear. He adds that it was sad what happened to the queen, and that he didn’t mean for that to happen.
The prime minister hastens to assure him that it’s okay, but that angers Gwi, who asks how the man can just stand there when Gwi killed his daughter. The prime minister bows his head and declares his fate aligned with Gwi, adding (opportunistically, of course) that Gwi needs him in the palace during daylight hours.
Gwi asks incredulously, “Are you even a human?” Quite the damning thing to hear, coming from the bloodsucking beast. Gwi orders the man out of his sight.
Sung-yeol gathers his rebels to outline the plan, which will start when Sung-yeol enters the underground palace to fight Gwi, at which point they must blow it up. “I will go with Gwi,” he declares.
There are a number of things about this show that I’ve found disappointing (the music, for one—oh gah, the terrible music), but one thing I’ve been quite impressed with is the treatment of Gwi, who at the outset seemed like he was going to be just this outright bad guy. I thought he had an interesting backstory (as the monster called by humans in a Faustian deal, not just a monster out to claim power), but he could have so easily gone the way of the laughable cartoon villain, with corny lines and overdramatic deliveries. And I’ll admit, some of those early scenes were unintentionally funny, and Gwi could seem amusing rather than frightening.
So props to Lee Soo-hyuk for really going for the character, full-out, with not even the barest trace of embarrassment or shame about how cheesy it could have been. Anytime an actor feels embarrassed, it’s automatically game over for the character, and there have been better actors derailed by less cheesy characters in better dramas than this. But Lee Soo-hyuk really went after it, which makes him a solid counterpart to Lee Jun-ki, who did the same thing in treating Sung-yeol with gravitas, always. So even when the drama wasn’t in a dire moment, I always believed that their conflict was as epic as they were portraying it.
The idea of the lonely monster is familiar, I think, and I like that the show arrived there kind of sideways. By that I mean it didn’t adopt that as its mission and hammer that in through big gestures or symbols; it was allowed to trickle out in smaller beats and acting moments. I like this idea of Gwi being full of bravado and contempt, and because he’s so powerful, he could remain locked in his denial pretty much forever because nobody would dare challenge him. Or if they did, he’d drink them and then he’d be back to his safe den of denial.
Which is why Hye-ryung’s death was a nice way to show us a bigger glimpse into his mind. I liked her character enough on its own, once she started to fall for Yoon and show more human conflict and remorse, but I think I like her even more for the way she brings out character in those who love her—namely, Yoon, Gwi, and even her sniveling coward of a father. Yoon’s loss is a blow, but Sung-yeol manages to (for now) deliver a firm reminder that he has more to live for. It’s sweet (though a little trite by now) that they love each other enough to sacrifice themselves for each other, but as Sung-yeol points out, sacrificing both lives would nullify hers, so the more effective and perhaps honorable thing to do is to live and make that sacrifice really count.
Whereas Gwi getting all depressed-drunk, like a person gets grief-stricken and goes a little crazy, is a nice touch, as is his horror at the prime minister’s lack of humanity. Now isn’t that a fine moment, for the literal monster to find your morals reprehensible? It’s oddly satisfying, that last exchange in the palace.
I know tomorrow will bring things back to our central characters, and I am actually curious about how Sung-yeol will resolve his plan and desire to die with our desire to keep him alive and happily in love. But it was a satisfying penultimate hour, I thought, to give us a little time with the twisted second leads, giving a little extra meaning to their lives and, in some cases, deaths.
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 18
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 17
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 16
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 15
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 14
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 13
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 12
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 11
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 10
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 9
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- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 5
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 4
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 3
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 2
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 1