Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 8
Another episode of Arang, another layer of plot peeled back. The gods learn a little more about the kind of power they’re up against, giving us a glimpse at the endgame. And finally! A clear answer on what Arang is made of—and it’s a lot more than just sugar and spice.
Plus! The hero starts on the path…to being a hero? Awesome.
SONG OF THE DAY
Coffee Boy – “이게 사랑일까” (Is this love?) [ Download ]
EPISODE 8 RECAP
After being cleaned up and treated by the doc, Eun-oh wakes up painfully in bed. And finds Dol-swe snoring on him, having fallen asleep literally hovering over him. Why is the dumb adoring lug so cute?
Eun-oh’s first words are to ask what happened to Arang, and Dol-swe says that after such a fall, only one conclusion is possible. He sent men to find her… corpse.
Eun-oh immediately heads out, ignoring Dol-swe’s protests.
Bang-wool is back in the marketplace, wearily trying to peddle her pseudo-supernatural wares. She’s in the middle of lunch as Dol-swe comes roaring by and stares slack-jawed. I love how her rosy-tinted images of Dol-swe are usually more grotesque than swoony. Ah, the beer goggles of love.
Dol-swe just remembers her as the woman who slammed a pot lid into his head, and he storms back to confront her. But then he sees her in a new light too, and… gulps? Omo, don’t tell me you’re just as smitten? These two are perfect for each other.
He wipes a drop of kimchi juice from her lip, and then they both snap to their senses. Shocked at himself, Dol-swe bolts and wonders if he’s crazy.
Eun-oh rides to the shore where Arang washed up, though by now she’s long gone. He scans the water intently, shouting her name. He wonders where she went, and whether she’s awake.
Aw, it’s a notable shift, using her name; he once said he’d never call her by name and he’s stuck to it (using Amnesia instead). Then she dropped from the cliff and he screamed, “Araaaaaang!” I love that we’re seeing this change in both characters, precipitated by near-death experiences (or, you know, death experiences), where the worry outweighs that self-denial on the surface that usually keeps them from acting like they care.
Meanwhile, Joo-wal arrives at home with Arang, who’s still sleeping.
Finally Eun-oh goes home and asks the Bangs whether anyone has come to claim the remains from the mass grave. They reply that nobody has; those bodies have nothing to do with the people of this village.
It doesn’t make sense to Eun-oh, and one Bang suggests that they could date back a long while, and therefore these dead people aren’t known to the current inhabitants. Eun-oh scoffs at that idea.
The Bang Trio is relieved that magistrate seems willing to drop the issue. With everyone terrified of Lord Choi, nobody dares step forward—they all know how he hates drawing attention to their village. Too bad Dol-swe overhears this conversation. The Bangs deny and dash.
Dol-swe finds Eun-oh brooding and tries to cheer him up, saying he can give the girl a nice funeral once her body washes up. Uh, not the consolation you think it is. He tsk-tsks at the state of this village, with the people living in fear of upsetting Lord Choi.
Eun-oh wonders how they can discover a murderer in their midst and not clamor for the truth to be discovered. Dol-swe points out that it’s not so different from Eun-oh, who shows no interest in the world, which, touché.
That night, Eun-oh paces his yard, replaying his earlier conversation with Arang—the one where he’d callously tried to drag her up to her death site and she’d fired back that he doesn’t know how frightening the moment of death is.
Joo-wal watches Arang sleep, asking who—no, what—she is that Mom would have ordered him to keep her close. Is it me, or does anyone else get a chill down their spine whenever someone asks what Arang is?
Mom returns to her secret cavern, which we can pretty much call Hell on Earth, and summons her swirly black energy. She bleeds from her hands onto two pieces of black paper—is this how she makes her unholy talismans? Must be, because the blood arranges itself into symbols on the papers, which Mom places on the hilts of two swords. The talismans absorb into the weapons, presumably infusing them with her demon-power.
Mom takes out the twin swords with an evil gleam in her eye. Or is it redundant to add “evil” to anything she does? Just a gleam, then. And are we saying she gets demonic superpowers, invisibility from the gods, AND deadly human weapons? Dude, not fair.
She says, “The time has come to test the swords.” She summons her two demon-reapers, handing one to each.
In the woods, a mother and daughter run screaming from a man charging after them with a knife. Mom lunges forward at him; he hits his head on a rock and the knife ends up in her chest.
The souls emerge from the two bodies and get bound by a reaper’s red ropes. Mom fights hers, desperate to get back to her sobbing daughter—and then out of nowhere the two demons show up to sever the ropes. Reaper gets slashed too.
Infused with Mom’s power, the swords do their work and the reaper… dies? He dissolves into wisps of smoke, and then the demons slash the mother’s ghost into smoke too. Hmm, so they’re either destroying souls, or releasing them from whatever laws of the supernatural-verse that bind them to their roles. Is Mom out to destroy the gods, or to unleash anarchy on the world?
The murderer ghost, however, gets dragged along with them. Why, ’cause he’s sufficiently evil and therefore useful?
But two reapers (one of whom is Mu-young) show up to stop them and a swordfight breaks out between the four. Aie, this is visually confusing; they’re dressed so similarly—couldn’t Mom make her minions a new outfit, or something?
Mu-young loses his partner, but he manages to stick one of the demons. He isn’t able to catch the second, however, and it runs off with the ghost.
Minion brings the ghost to Mom’s altar, and while she’s annoyed at the interference, she’s pleased to have a new soul to… eat? She places her hand on the ghost’s face, who dissolves into black wisps that are drawn into a red urn. AHA. It’s the same type of urn that held her demon-reapers—so she’s building a minion army!
Mu-young reports to the gods and shows them the one sword he managed to pick up. Hades is particularly furious that Mom would take one of his reapers, while Jade Emperor views the talisman emblem and deduces that their foe has recovered much of his (her) skills. Furthermore, his actions suggest a hint of urgency.
(The gods refer to their unseen enemy as “that nom,” or that guy, which suggests that they don’t know who it is or that she’s a she. Mu-young seems to be withholding his suspicions from them, holding on to hope that it’s not who he thinks it is.)
Hades returns to his underworld throne and rages. Not that he has a sunny disposition to begin with, but it’s an uncommon anger; Jade Emperor says it’s been a long while since he’s seen him that worked up.
Mu-young asks Jade Emperor if he knows who the enemy is. If he knows that their skills have been regained, that means he knows what they once were.
Jade Emperor: “It isn’t important who that nom is. What’s important is how to catch him.”
Mu-young asks why they can’t catch him—is it because he’s human, and therefore not under their purview? Jade isn’t forthcoming, but Mu-young presses, wanting to know at least one thing: Is Arang related to this most recent incident? Jade Emperor sighs and leaves. Oh come on, he asked for just ONE straight answer!
Eun-oh charges out in a hurry, ignoring the villagers gathered at the gate. They tell Dol-swe they’re here to request something of the magistrate, but Dol-swe smirks that the magistrate won’t bother—he has no intention of doing anything magistrate-y.
Eun-oh scopes out Arang’s lakeside thinking spot, but she’s not here. Where she could have gone? Where else would she have to turn? An idea strikes, and he rides off in a hurry.
Arang awakens in an empty house and wanders around, looking for Joo-wal so she can thank him before heading back to the magistrate’s office. Arang decides to ask the ghosts for help, but curiously, there’s not a soul in the entire estate—not human, not supernatural.
She looks in all the expected places, but none of the usual suspects appear: No kitchen ghost, no well ghost…
At the edge of the estate, Arang finds a stone staircase leading into a wooded area, and heads off in that direction.
Lord Choi pays a visit to Mom, having recovered his good health and spirits. He assures her that he’s taken care of the grave and offers to have the magistrate killed—he can do it without Joo-wal knowing and tie up all the loose ends.
He’s eager to get back into her good graces and chatters on, but Mom orders him to shut up. Not a good sign. He leaves in foul spirits, muttering that he wishes he could just off her. Shh, don’t say that out loud! I don’t even like the guy and I fear for his safety.
Arang heads into the bamboo forest, looking for signs of life. There’s a well-traveled path here, with two poles stuck on either side like gate markers. Both are inscribed with red talisman emblems.
She reaches out a hand to touch them, and even though she makes no contact the symbols start to glow from within. She doesn’t notice this, however, because Lord Choi interrupts angrily, stalking toward her. Ah, so the path leads to Mom’s. Convenient, that.
Lord Choi shoves her back and demands to know how she come here. Arang stares at him wide-eyed—almost like she recognizes him. Does she?
Meanwhile, inside her hut, Mom turns her head, sensing Arang’s presence. Shivers.
Joo-wal steps in at that point, calling Arang his guest. He starts to lead her back to the house, but Dad yanks her back and declares that once she’s entered this place, she can’t just leave it.
Adding an extra layer of nervous energy to this scene is the way Joo-wal’s eyes keep flicking down the path as he speaks to Dad, like he’s afraid of waking the slumbering beast. He steps closer and whispers the warning—doesn’t Dad remember what happened with the other day when he acted carelessly? He must mean the illness Mom inflicted, and that reminder gets Lord Choi to back down.
Then Mom comes walking down the path, watching them retreating to the house. She puts her hand up to the talismans and feels its energy, saying, “That girl…”
Arang apologizes for wandering, and Joo-wal asks if she’s okay. She assures him that she’s fine, with her super-strong heart (that’s an understatement). Joo-wal offers her a ride home or a change of clothes, but Arang declines, saying that she has to get him to cough up the new clothes. Heh. I love how this drama makes the acquiring of new clothes a character point for Arang. Old ghostly habits die hard.
Arang cheerily thanks him and starts to leave… but something has her turning back for a second look. It’s that pavilion where she’d once felt heart palpitations, as Joo-wal sat painting.
Unnerved at this sense of deja vu, she asks for his name. Ohhh, she never connected him to his name before! (The first time with the heart-flutters, she only saw his back. Every time afterward, they hadn’t had a chance to trade introductions.)
She hears his name, and clutches her heart. He asks for hers, and she answers, “Arang.”
She asks if he’s seen her before. He says they met at the funeral, and at her prompting he recalls, “Oh right, the woman’s name was Lee Seo-rim.” Not exactly the response of an ardent lover, and Arang looks troubled. She dashes off upset.
Eun-oh arrives at Abandoned Mountain, equally fearing that Arang is here and that she’s not. He senses something and mutters in alarm, “This shouldn’t be happening. How could this be?” Eeeek. I have no idea what he feels, but that response alone is enough to chill my blood.
Eun-oh arrives at the mass grave site—and swears, finding the ground completely covered up. It’s fresh soil, and he knows “they” must have had something to do with it.
Lord Choi’s handiwork, of course. With the graves literally buried, anybody who keeps insisting on their existence will look the fool.
Arang races to her thinking spot by the waterside, sure that her heart’s pounding is just the same as the last time. She wonders why Joo-wal can’t recognize her, and why he speaks so indifferently of Seo-rim.
His voice cuts in, asking why she came here instead of the magistrate’s office. He admits following her here, acting the part of budding lover, like he was too worried to leave her. Though when she rejects his hand of comfort, the nice guy look turns to a displeased one behind her back.
Joo-wal follows her back to the village, keeping a step behind. Talk turns to the magistrate, and she’s surprised to hear Joo-wal knows him, although she remembers they did briefly meet in the road the other day.
Joo-wal says they actually met before—the first time was when they’d discovered Seo-rim’s body. Arang stops in shock. Then the magistrate knew who Eun-oh was all along?
*Record screeeech. Stop.* Wait, now I’m having to rack my brains trying to figure out who knows what about whom, because this is all stuff I thought was out in the open.
Working this out: Arang and Eun-oh have crossed paths with Joo-wal several times, and each time she merely thought of him as a “young master” in town. She didn’t know that this was her supposed beloved fiancé, and Eun-oh never connected the dots for her so she assumed he was on the same page. Thus now she’s feeling like Eun-oh hid the truth on purpose (and okay, I suppose he did. To spare her pain, I think?).
Just then, Eun-oh’s voice booms angrily: “What the heck are you doing here?!”
Eun-oh storms up to Joo-wal, who says he intended to escort Arang home first thing in the morning, and took a little longer than anticipated. Angry Arang keeps her eyes averted and stalks past the gate without a word.
Eun-oh follows her inside and starts to make an excuse for why he never told her about Joo-wal. She shuts herself in her room, slamming the door in his face with a glare.
But she pops right back out to demand an explanation. They fire questions at each other, totally ignoring each other as they essentially hold two separate conversations: He wants to know how she ended up with Joo-wal, and she wants to know why he pretended not to know Joo-wal.
He’s upset that she didn’t come home immediately and let him worry so long, softening his tone to say he was afraid she hadn’t woken up. She fires back, “If I hadn’t woken up, would that have been a problem?”
She answers her own question, saying that of course he’d have a problem—he needs her to find his mother. And that’s why he didn’t tell her about Joo-wal, isn’t it, because he thought it might interfere with the Mom-search. “You phony,” she sneers. (Literally, lump of phoniness.)
He takes issue with that, so she gets right in his face and repeats herself, spitting out each cold hard syllable. She tells him she’ll never give over her memory for a phony like him.
The peanut gallery has seen this whole exchange, and now Eun-oh confronts the Bangs over getting rid of that gravesite. Who gave them the order? Lee Bang caves and says Lord Choi did. Eun-oh demands, “Lord Choi told you to bury the grave?!” To which they ask confusedly, Huh?
Turns out they’re talking about different things; the Bangs are referring to the remains of the dead, which have been cremated on Lord Choi’s order.
Eun-oh grabs Lee Bang and rips into him for following a citizen’s orders instead of his actual boss. But he’s reminded that in this village, Lord Choi’s word is law. They plead with him to just let it go and remain quiet, for everybody’s sake: “Magistrate! That’s the kind of place this is.”
Eun-oh orders them to summon Lord Choi immediately, and to prepare his official uniform. Shit’s about to go down.
Eun-oh fumes that he may prefer turning a blind eye to other people’s situations, but even that has its limits. This time he’ll have to show them all what the proper chain of command is.
The reappearance of Arang has Dol-swe scratching his head (well, more than usual). He definitely saw her fall off the cliff, but she’s totally uninjured. “Is she not human?”
He’s on the right track, but takes a sharp left turn: “Is she a gumiho?!” Ha, wrong drama. Though admittedly I wouldn’t rule out gumihos in this world. He decides that must be it—she even looks just like the way people describe gumihos. How else could she have bewitched Eun-oh?
Dol-swe laments the lack of confirmation methods to prove his theory. But then he remembers the shaman, which brings a blush to his face and a fresh bout of mortification at his wayward thumb (for brushing her lip).
In heaven, Mu-young mulls over his suspicions, finding a small bit of consolation in the Jade Emperor’s comment that the Big Bad’s identity isn’t important. He tells himself, “Mu-yeon, there’s no way it would be you.”
The Jade Emperor joins him for tea, and asks him what it tastes like. Mu-young doesn’t know. Jade Emperor explains that he’s developed a tea whose taste expresses one’s emotions (ha, mood rings and now mood teas?)—so if Mu-young doesn’t know what it tastes like, he doesn’t know how he feels.
But Jade Emperor figures that doesn’t make sense for Mu-young, and declares his tea a failure. While Mu-young takes this in, Jade mumbles to himself, “What else should I mix with it? Poop?” HAHA.
Joo-wal visits Mom that night, who asks sharply why he’s not bringing Arang to her: “Do you still not trust me?” Uh, is that a trick question?
Joo-wal stutters in fear, apologizing and bowing. Gah, every time Joo-wal turns into a terrified little boy, my heart twists a little more for him. Corrupt is corrupt, but still, how he got there is so sad.
Mom gentles her tone and lulls him back by telling him not to doubt her: “Does it trouble you that much, wondering why I have such interest in that girl?” She offers to tell him why: “That girl does not die.”
So the unkillable aspect isn’t a design flaw or a side effect, but the very crux of the matter. And yes, total demon-bait. Arang’s immortal—a being nobody has ever seen before. Mom adds, “If I can have that body, I can live forever. I must have that girl.”
As Mom narrates, we see Arang waking from sleep and stepping out into the courtyard, finding Eun-oh pacing there. She zooms right past him, though, not even acknowledging him.
Mom asks Joo-wal for his help in procuring Arang, saying that he won’t have to kill anybody again. Reeling from her big reveal, Joo-wal stammers, “W-what happens to me?”
Still in Loving Mom mode, she smiles and assures him that he’s the most precious thing in the world to her. “Son, how could I abandon you?”
She holds out a hand to his face, and despite his fear he leans into the caress. She asks, “When I have that girl for my own, won’t you call me Mother?” Yes, because the one thing this drama was lacking was creepy.
But it’s just the thing to speak to Joo-wal’s innermost desires, and he asks, “What must I do?” She tells him that to get Arang to come of her own will, he is to find out what she most wants: “Win her heart.” If he becomes her sweetheart, he can get her share all her thoughts with him. But Mom has a condition: “Leave your heart here.” You mean figuratively, right? ‘Cause one can never be too sure with her.
Lord Choi responds to Eun-oh’s summons, though in his mind he’s not bowing to Eun-oh’s demand. He’s just, you know, going out for some air and all. The Bangs roll out a literal red carpet at the office, which Dol-swe takes great delight in dirtying with his steps.
Eun-oh emerges ready for battle, wearing his magistrate’s garb like armor.
A surprise visitor arrives in the form of Joo-wal, but aside from a brief bow to Eun-oh, he doesn’t stop to speak with him. It’s Arang he’s interested in, and he invites her out. She hesitates, and Joo-wal gives her a once-over, taking in the ragged damo clothing she’s still wearing. Eun-oh blusters in outrage at his impudence.
Joo-wal says he needs her help with something, and reminds her that she promised to repay him for his help. Arang momentarily fumbles for an excuse, but when she sees Eun-oh hovering in the background, that makes up her mind for her: “Fine!”
Eun-oh stalks off muttering incredulously about ghosts going out on dates: “And in my front yard!” Haha.
Just then Lord Choi arrives, and the two men shoot each other dark looks. Them’s dueling eyes.
They trade a few barbed pleasantries, with Lord Choi offering to fix up the shabby old government office if Eun-oh finds living there uncomfortable, like a host to a guest. Eun-oh fires back that he’ll take care of his own office himself, thanks.
They get straight to the point as Lord Choi asks for the reason behind Eun-oh’s request. Eun-oh growls, “It wasn’t a request, it was a summons.”
That’s… a strange ending. Not in theory, but in the abrupt way we just cut to credits, like they realized they ran out of time and had to cut out where they were. Oh well, in the scheme of things it’s a tiny point; it’s just odd given how well-paced the show usually is.
I’m liking how the Joo-wal storyline is playing out, in that it has all the trappings of a conventional love triangle, yet the reasons driving him to participate are so far afield of the norm that it feels different. This gives us the appropriate scenarios for Eun-oh to feel jealous and threatened, and we’ve seen how he’s stubborn enough to keep himself in self-denial unless there are serious outside factors forcing his hand. I anticipate lots of great things to come, so long as the drama doesn’t get too complacent about following the conventional trajectory of this kind of love relationship. Somehow, though, I don’t think conventional will be a huge issue with this show.
I expect Joo-wal to exert himself to win Arang over, confusing her own emotions, which will be a great complication given her own crossed wiring regarding her physical reaction to him. I notice that she didn’t feel heart palpitations until she recognized that particular pavilion on Joo-wal’s estate—because she’s spent plenty of time with him by this point (and in his arms, to boot) without such reactions. I suspect she may have actually died here at the house—which also explains why she didn’t feel anything in the murder shack, even when lying down on the altar of death.
But for now, I actually anticipate the confusion this elicits, especially when Eun-oh’s struggling to convince himself that he doesn’t care. Once Arang is back safely alive, Eun-oh reverts to calling her Amnesia, meaning his guard is back up. But it’s the moments when he’s not thinking, when he’s slipping up and using her name, that show he’s totally fooling himself. I can totally dig watching him fighting with himself, because it’s revealing and also totally amusing. Just as long as he doesn’t carry on for too long, since I want to see him getting attached enough for the impending separation to carry due weight. (Because, uh, she’s leaving, right? Immortal ghost and all?)
Eun-oh’s noncommittal attitude extends beyond Arang, though, which is another development I enjoyed watching unfold. We’re seeing little flashes of him getting more and more involved, despite his insistence that he doesn’t get involved with other people’s affairs, even when they’re suffering. I suspect he’s actually the type of person who’s in danger of being overwhelmed with emotion and attaches deeply when he lets himself, which is why he usually forces himself to detach, before he winds up hurt. Arang had his number, for sure, when she called him the warm heart inside the cold act.
Dol-swe was pretty convinced that Eun-oh would turn away the villagers with requests, because that’s the Eun-oh he knows. But the donning of the uniform marks his readiness to assume the role for real—even if he probably will continue insisting it’s just temporary. He’s starting to care, and who knows? Will Miryang finally get its proper magistrate after all?