Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 2
I like! Scholar Who Walks the Night is a fun mix of fantasy and romance that’s well executed and sticks to the basics — a strong central character who’s more than human but struggles to be more human than anyone. I’m also happy to say that I like our heroine, who has the harder job of establishing herself in the second episode after that heartbreaking backstory we got yesterday. But she’s spunky and wily and even a bit of a fangirl, which grounds all of the fantasy in a perspective that we can relate to. Not that heart palpitations at the beautiful vampire scholar’s closeness needs explaining. Pretty sure that feeling is just universal.
SONG OF THE DAY
Rocoberry – “달 그림자” (Moon Shadow) [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
We rewind to our crossdressing bookseller Yang-sun happily running into the gibang in search of the book-loving scholar. She’s a little hesitant when she comes upon a man sketching a portrait of a half-dressed gisaeng, but is relieved to learn that this isn’t the scholar she’s here to meet—he wouldn’t be doing such low-brow things, she decides.
Only she catches an eyeful of the sketch and her eyes bug out at the artistic skill. She runs inside and asks if this is really his own work, exclaiming at the realism and air-squeezing at boobs for emphasis. Well that’s one way to pass as a boy. She entreats him to consider illustrating books for her.
The artist is taken aback, but he seems mostly fixated on Yang-sun’s face. Does he recognize her? He asks for her name and gives his: LEE YOON (Changmin), and waits expectantly for her to answer. But then she’s called for her appointment with the scholar.
Again, the events in this scene are slightly varied from the one that closed out the last episode: Our vampire scholar Sung-yeol is hidden behind a privacy screen and requests the bookseller to track down Prince Jeonghyeon’s private diary.
Yang-sun’s runaway chipmunk sends her pawing all over Sung-yeol to catch it, and once she’s close up, she gapes at his beauty and Sung-yeol quickly raises his arm to cover his face. Of course the mutinous chipmunk bites her finger, and Sung-yeol immediately reacts to the smell of blood.
The gisaeng next to him is alarmed and calls an end to the meeting (so she must know he’s a vampire), but Sung-yeol tamps down his bloodlust and says it’s okay. Yang-sun is still staring at his pretty face and says aloud that he’s truly handsome. He tells her to get treated for her wound and walks out, and the gisaeng SU-HYANG (Jang Hee-jin) hands her the list of books to track down.
Yang-sun is thrilled to get the scholar as a client after months of legwork, and wonders about the prince’s diary on the list—there’s no Joseon prince named Jeonghyeon, so is it a work of fiction? Oh, so he’s been wiped from history altogether? Innnteresting.
Sung-yeol’s inner circle includes gisaeng Su-hyang and scholar Ho-jin, and they ask if Sung-yeol really believes that Prince Jeonghyeon’s diary might survive after he was wiped from the history books by evil vampire Gwi.
But Sung-yeol says it’s possible that the book was just in someone else’s hands this whole time, and he takes out two recently published novels under Prince Jeonghyeon’s pen name Eumlan Seosaeng.
Ho-jin wonders if someone plagiarized the prince’s work, but the others point out that every record of the prince’s existence has been erased. This is the reason why Sung-yeol has come to Hanyang, because these books first appeared here. The only thing he’s sure of is that this new Eumlan Seosaeng either knows of Prince Jeonghyeon, or has his original works.
Ha, and who should be distributing said books in the streets but our very own bookseller Yang-sun, who is quite the talented salesman. She reads enticing bits of the story with flair to a small crowd, then offers up copies to find out what happens next. The crowd gets dispersed when a pair of officers tromp over suspecting the distribution of forbidden literature, and Yang-sun hurriedly packs up her books and makes a run for it.
Our artist from the gibang Yoon has his friend look into Yang-sun’s identity, but is disappointed to learn that he isn’t Seo Jin, the person he was looking for. The friend says that it’s already been ten years, and even if Jin were alive, being the child of a traitor would mean living in hiding.
Yoon refuses to believe that Jin might not be alive, and says with determination that he’ll continue searching and believing as always.
Yang-sun returns home to her parents—a father who copies books, which is where she must’ve learned her trade, and a mother who’s prickly towards her for being her husband’s child out of wedlock.
Her half-sister Dam-yi is an illustrator, and she sketches as she asks Yang-sun about the beautiful scholar she saw. Yang-sun swoons as she says that he looked just like the night scholar she imagined, and was so beautiful she wanted to kiss him right then and there. She says that as soon as she laid eyes on him, the night scholar novel she’d been stuck on started to write itself in her head.
Dam-yi asks if unni really believes that vampires exist, and Yang-sun says that the night scholar isn’t just any vampire—he’s a good vampire who saves innocents and fights evil—and she swears that she heard a story directly from someone who saw him.
Yang-sun animatedly tells the tale of a group of human traffickers who were about to rape and sell a group of women and children, when the night scholar busted into their camp to save the day. I love that her story is punctuated with a comic book superhero entrance for The Night Scholar, complete with god-lighting.
Yang-sun stops her story just as the night scholar turns red-eyed and gets ready to chomp down on the baddies… and asks if that doesn’t make Dam-yi want to read her book. Yes! Hurry up and write it!
Dam-yi swoons and says that whether or not he’s real, the night scholar in unni’s novel is wonderful. Yang-sun insists that he’s real, and even hopes that someday he’ll read her novel and want to meet her. Yang-sun says that as soon as she makes enough money, they’ll fix Dam-yi’s leg.
Yang-sun’s story turns out to be true, because we see Sung-yeol standing over the human trafficker’s dead body as Su-hyang tells him that the women and children are safe and will never go hungry again.
She also reports that nothing shady came up in her background search on Yang-sun the bookseller, but she asks what happened to make him react that way earlier. He must be way more in control of his bloodlust than the average vamp if she’s surprised, but Sung-yeol says that he smelled a scent he couldn’t withstand—any longer and he would’ve ripped into Yang-sun’s throat.
He sighs that he’s a beast who could turn and eat people alive at any point. Su-hyang argues that Sung-yeol is better than any person she’s ever met, and says that if he gave her eternal life, she’d serve him forever.
Sung-yeol: “I crave the blood of the woman I love and sink my teeth into her neck as I make love to her—because that is a vampire’s true nature.” He asks angrily if she’s tempting him to turn her into a vampire, if she really thinks she wants to live that way.
He continues, “My heart is still human but my body craves the blood of the living. I resist and resist, but once a month I have to drink blood to survive. Do you know how many I have killed that way?”
He yanks out a dagger and stabs the corpse in front of him (ignoring Su-hyang’s warning about the moon), and the trafficker’s eyes flash red and he bares his fangs just before he dies. The moon gets covered in dark clouds as Sung-yeol kills him, and he lights the body on fire.
Evil vampire Gwi darts his eyes open at that moment, almost as if he can feel that vampire’s death. He stands on rooftops overlooking the city and muses that Sung-yeol is good at hiding just like Hae-seo before him, and wonders what he’s been up to for the last 120 years.
Sung-yeol lets Gwi chase him over rooftops, letting his presence be known but never letting him get too close. Gwi calls out to him and asks if killing all those vampires will do any good to relieve the anguish of his beloved giving up her life to save him.
Sung-yeol remembers the horror of drinking Myung-hee’s blood to live, and cries as he looks up at the sky and talks to her now: “I killed you. It’s gruesome and painful, but I will endure… so that I can kill him. So that I can end this beastly life.”
Yang-sun takes the time to teach peasant children how to read and write, and says that soon they’ll be able to read all their favorite stories about Jeon Woo-chi and Hong Gil-dong all on their own. A little boy says that he’s more eager to read about the night scholar by Moonlight Rebellion (Yang-sun’s pen name), and she promises to let them read for free.
That’s when a pair of loan sharks crashes her lesson to shove her around and ask how she’ll ever repay her debt if she’s letting people borrow books for free. She borrowed a large sum to pay for her father’s medicine, which has more than doubled now because of the shady loan shark.
Yang-sun assures them that she’s snagged an important book collector client and will repay them in no time, but the loan shark gives her three days to pay it all back or he’ll sell off her entire family.
Sung-yeol and his sidekick Ho-jin head to a house where Eumlan Seosaeng’s novels are said to have originated, but all they find is blank paper being made, and a trough full of fresh dead bodies. Sung-yeol says this isn’t Gwi’s handiwork—they died by the sword, which means that they aren’t the only ones looking for the same writer.
Elsewhere, a minion reports to an older man hidden behind a screen that everyone was dead by the time he arrived, but he couldn’t find the son. The older man tells him to find the son, who knows their faces, and to move up the timetable for their plan by distributing flyers tonight.
Yang-sun tries to sell her night scholar story to a group of gisaengs, who all prefer Eumlan Seosaeng’s works. She makes a pretty penny distributing those, and she overhears the gisaengs gossiping about “the scholar” and how no one can seem to land him in their beds, not even Su-hyang.
Yang-sun learns that they’re talking about Sung-yeol, and swoons a little to hear that he keeps women at a distance because he’s still heartbroken over the death of his first love. The others chime in with different rumors too, like maybe he’s broken down there, or prefers men.
They have fun teasing Yang-sun to be careful around Sung-yeol because he might like a man who’s pretty like a girl, but Yang-sun says that rumors must just follow Sung-yeol around because he’s so handsome.
Yoon bursts into the room and asks if she’s talking about him, and takes Yang-sun aside to show off his latest drawing. Hahaha, she just turns the book every which way with eyes bugged out while muttering, “That position… is it… possible?” Yoon brags that he doesn’t draw things he hasn’t experienced firsthand, and Yang-sun takes another appreciative look before declaring him amazing.
She feels Yoon staring at her and asks why, and he says that she just reminds him of a very good friend he lost ten years ago. He says that the friend ran away and left him behind, and took one half of something he treasured. He takes out a small brush case.
A flashback sends us to the palace, where a young Yoon is the prince. He asks his father if he can give his friend Jin half of the brush case that his father has passed down to him. His father and his advisor, Jin’s father, smile to each other at their sons’ friendship and watch happily as the boys each take half.
Yoon purposely watches Yang-sun’s face as she marvels at the brush case, and notes that she doesn’t seem to recognize it. He makes plans to meet her the next day to pick up some books, and she gets up to go meet Sung-yeol for a delivery.
Yoon’s friend runs up to tell him to flee, just as a large group of palace guards bursts through the gibang’s doors and starts tearing the place apart. They drag everyone who isn’t a gisaeng outside for inspection, and Yang-sun runs nervously from room to room trying to avoid getting caught with illegal books.
She tries every room and runs to Sung-yeol’s room at the very end, and thinks it’s empty because she doesn’t see him changing behind a screen. She flails nervously as the guards move closer, and opens a dresser to stash her books inside. Thinking quickly, she grabs the women’s hanbok tucked in there, and begins to undress.
Sung-yeol peers out over his screen and watches her curiously (she has a scar on her shoulder, which I’m pretty sure he sees), at first surprised when she undresses, and then amused. He notably doesn’t look away, either. The way he just stands there leisurely watching her change is making me a little woozy.
He finally decides to make his presence known, and says that she missed something important as he picks up the cloth that she had been using to bind her chest. Yang-sun’s heart leaps to her throat, but Sung-yeol picks now of all times to ask if she found the books he asked for. He’s impressed that she located the rare books, though she still hasn’t found the prince’s diary.
The guards get closer, and Yang-sun asks with pleading eyes for Sung-yeol to help her. He asks why he should, when she’s breaking the law masquerading as a man to sell books and could get him in trouble by association.
She fights tears as she says that she’s the breadwinner responsible for her family, and begs for his help just once, promising that she will never forget to repay the favor.
He reaches behind her to snap her headband off, and her topknot falls in a slow-motion cascade of hair. He takes a step closer and leans in until he’s right in her face: “How do you know what favor I will ask of you?”
Su-hyang stands at Sung-yeol’s door and warns the guards that they can’t disturb the very important guest staying here, but they ignore her and bust in anyway… to Sung-yeol half-dressed, lying on top of Yang-sun. Su-hyang is more surprised than anyone, and once the guards take a good look at Sung-yeol’s face, they’re convinced he’s just a patron and move along.
Sung-yeol laughs to hear that the guards have been sent to track down a prince who frequents the gibang, and he gets up abruptly, leaving Su-hyang to peer curiously at Yang-sun’s sudden transformation.
Yoon’s trusted friend sighs over the close call, wondering why the prince risked going to the gibang. Yoon just says breezily that at the gibang there are women and booze, and someone who looks like his friend.
But once they arrive at home, Yoon’s grandfather the king (Lee Soon-jae) is waiting for him. The king angrily tosses a scroll at him and says that there are flyers all over the city and demands from scholars that the prince be dethroned.
Yang-sun walks home in a daze, and finds the streets littered with that same flyer. One of her patrons runs up and asks if she knew who Eumlan Seosaeng was when she was selling those books, and whispers that it’s all from the diary of the late Prince Sadong (Yoon’s father).
Yoon is made to read the flyer aloud before the king, which says that Prince Sadong was framed as a traitor and put to death by a conspiracy between the power-hungry Norons and the king (hm, familiar much?). It also says that the same thing happened 120 years ago.
The king asks if Yoon really believes that he killed his son for power, and Yoon’s expression grows dark as he flashes back to his father, trapped in a dried-up well to starve to his death. It’s an overt Crown Prince Sado parallel, with little Yoon crying for the king to reconsider as he watches his father die a slow death.
Back in the present, Yoon says that Prince Sadong was not his father—he’s never forgotten that the king put a knife to his throat and told him so—and asks to be stripped of his position if he’s causing the king harm. But the king refuses to let the royal line end with him.
Sung-yeol is impressed by the flyer that’s been spread all over the city, since it would require a network of rebels with someone powerful behind them. He says they’re wrong though—it wasn’t the Norons or the king who killed Prince Sadong, but Gwi. He remembers seeing it himself as Gwi dragged Sadong out of the well and fed on him.
Sung-yeol decides that he needs to find Eumlan Seosaeng first, and figure out whether this person made the connection between princes Jeonghyeon and Sadong because he knows about Gwi.
Gwi has that same flyer in hand as he tells a frightened young girl all about how he killed Prince Sadong because he stole Jeonghyeon’s diary from Gwi and tried to get rid of him. He points up, where Sadong’s body is entombed inside the wall of his lair. Well that’s creepy.
He says that if this Eumlan Seosaeng has the diary, he must be killed too. He carries the little girl into a tub and asks if she wants to stay this young and beautiful forever, then drowns her in the water.
Yang-sun stares at her reflection in the river and thinks back to the night when she was hiding out in Sung-yeol’s room. The favor he asks of her is to find out who Eumlan Seosaeng is, and she hesitates. He lets her stew until the guards are just outside the door, then picks her up in his arms and carries her over to the bed.
He lies on top of her and unties his shirt, and she averts his gaze nervously as he inches ever closer, turning her face to meet his eyes. He leans in like he’s going to kiss her…
Back at the river, Yang-sun scoffs, “A scholar? A scholar among scholars who loves books? Yeah right!” She calls him a playboy and shouts huffily about how he toyed with her when her life was in danger and stomps off into the woods, unaware that someone is following her.
Sung-yeol’s friend hands him a book delivery from Yang-sun, and he’s shocked to find an original copy of Eumlan Seosaeng’s vampire novel, which Prince Jeonghyeon wrote 120 years ago to tell the world about the vampire secretly ruling the palace. All copies were believed to be burned in a fire, but somehow she got her hands on the original.
Yang-sun makes her way through the dark woods in search of Sung-yeol’s house, and feels someone behind her. No one’s there when she turns around, but then suddenly a ghostly young girl wafts toward her. Ack, it’s the little girl Gwi turned into a vampire.
Yang-sun approaches hoping to ask for directions, but then sees the girl’s glowing red eyes up close and takes off in a run. She’s no match for the vampire though, who appears in her path and picks her up with one hand, and tosses her against a tree.
The little vampire girl is about to bite down on her neck when Sung-yeol flies down and flings the little girl off. Gwi can sense what’s happening and smiles: “Kim Sung-yeol, at last you’ve taken my bait.”
Yang-sun looks up at Sung-yeol and gasps, “Who are you? Are you not human?” He turns to her, just as Gwi arrives in the forest.
I do hope that yesterday’s cliffhanger being rewritten today is a fluke that won’t be happening on a regular basis, because I hate hate hate it when dramas set me up for fakeouts. Doing it the clever way (where the events we see can be interpreted differently) is one thing, but actually changing what happened and erasing events that we saw is confusing and annoying. This time it didn’t much matter that Sung-yeol didn’t vamp out in front of Yang-sun (though it’s totally different to say that he’s that in control of his bloodlust, methinks), but I can see it becoming a problem down the road when the stakes are life and death, if I can’t trust cliffhangers not to rewrite themselves in the next episode. Let’s stick to one version of the story, shall we?
It’s too bad that the crossdressing jig is already up, not that I really would’ve expected a vampire to be fooled by Yang-sun for long. I just liked that she was already an established bookseller who was known as a man throughout town, which made her disguise a little more believable, and gave Sung-yeol less reason to keep her at arm’s length. But perhaps we’ll get the best of both worlds if she continues to be a man to everyone except Sung-yeol, who gets to mess with her because he knows her secret. I like that he still has a cheeky side underneath all that broody exterior, which reminded me of how adorable he was as a human when he was the stray cat sneaking into his fiancée’s room. It still saddens me that he isn’t that guy anymore, but maybe Yang-sun will bring out that dormant romantic in him, and force him to engage with the living as more than just a hero in the shadows, waiting to finish his mission and die.
I’m curious about his penchant for the smell of her blood in particular—is there something supernaturally special about her, or is it just a way that his attraction to her manifests? It’s simultaneously intriguing and disturbing if he finds her extra delicious-smelling because he’s attracted to her, but vampire romances tend to specialize in playing that dangerous sexual tension, where resisting her becomes the ultimate test of willpower or expression of pure love. Sung-yeol is already established as an unusual vampire who can mostly resist his craving for blood and stays away from women so that he doesn’t repeat history with his first love, so the irresistible smell of Yang-sun’s blood will be narratively important—both to weaken his usual resolve and to give him something even harder to overcome. ‘Cause yunno, the tortured hero needs more things to be tortured and heroic about.
So far I like the way that our main players are being set up for the larger story ahead, with Prince Yoon picking up where Prince Jeonghyeon left off because of the unjust death of his father, and Yang-sun’s position in the story as the link between Yoon and Sung-yeol, who won’t want to work together but will need to work together. Not to mention her curious connection to all of Prince Jeonghyeon’s novels. I find her secret life as an author so endearing, with all of the swooning over heroic vampire scholars. It makes me more excited for her knowing that her cute fangirl dreams will come true, though I trust that Sung-yeol will manage to show her exactly how much she shouldn’t want her fantasies to be real. But I think her sunniness will be infectious in a great way. A guy could stand to smile once a century while he’s waiting to save the world, right?
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode
- From the press conference for Scholar Who Walks the Night
- Lee Jun-ki the scholar walks nights, breaks hearts
- Character stills for Scholar Who Walks the Night
- Red-eyed and book-hunting Scholar Who Walks the Night
- The bloodlust is awakened in Scholar Who Walks the Night
- Lee Hyun-woo sets the stage for Lee Jun-ki’s vampire transformation
- Characters in costume for Scholar Who Walks the Night
- Scholar Who Walks the Night sends both leads to the hospital
- First script read for Scholar Who Walks the Night