Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 3
Okay, now that the plot is in place and the drama has settled into its groove, I feel like we’ve got a good handle on what this drama is and will continue to be. I’m finding Scholar Who Walks the Night to be fast-paced, light, with a healthy dollop of cheese—it’s a little gooey in places, but totally entertaining and well-meaning. I do think the cheesiness could go awry if the drama had worse actors, or if the show hinged upon its heavy romance bent rather than a packed plot, but because I’m enjoying the mythology and worldbuilding underlying the plot, it makes the show fun rather than cringeworthy.
SONG OF THE DAY
Kim Sarang – “Magical” [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Our noble vampire-hunting vampire hero Sung-yeol swoops in to save Yang-sun before she’s attacked by Gwi’s little vampire girl. Yang-sun is injured in the process and, as she fades into unconsciousness, asks if Sung-yeol is something other than human. She whispers “vampire” and then is out.
Sung-yeol turns to the vampire girl and says that since she’s fixated upon Yang-sun as her target, she won’t give up until she’s drunk her blood: “That is our nature as vampires.” So he pulls out the hawthorn dagger used by vampire-hunter Hae-seo and holds it up under the full moon, stabbing the vampire through the heart with it. She literally turns to dust before his eyes.
Sung-yeol turns to the unconscious Yang-sun, wondering how it is she got her hands on Prince Jeonghyeon’s “Vampire Tale” novel, believed eradicated from the earth 120 years ago. There’s no time to dawdle, though, as Gwi was alerted to the encounter when Sung-yeol took his “bait” and now speeds over to intercept him. But Sung-yeol is just as fast, and carries Yang-sun away before Gwi arrives on the scene.
Gwi takes in the pile of ash and sees blood on a nearby tree, the taste of which makes his eyes flash red. He says he can’t leave such a tasty meal for Sung-yeol to enjoy on his own and takes off in hot pursuit. Hm, so our two main vamps both sense something irresistible about Yang-sun’s blood, do they?
Sung-yeol has to battle his bloodthirsty instincts when smelling the blood that falls from Yang-sun’s injury. It’s a mighty struggle to tamp down the urge, but he manages to retain control just as he senses Gwi’s approach. Realizing that Yang-sun’s blood makes it easy for Gwi to track them, he sets her down—and stabs her in the shoulder with his dagger. Aie!
Gwi can tell he’s closing in on his prey, arriving in the forest mere moments after Sung-yeol. But the trail has him circling the same spot—and then he sees a wild animal sniffing around, its pelt dripping blood. Ah, Sung-yeol had taken Yang-sun’s blood and rubbed it on a rabbit, buying time as Gwi followed a false trail. Gwi bellows in frustration and resumes the chase.
Sung-yeol makes it to a waterfall and urges Yang-sun to hang on just a bit longer, then takes a running leap off the cliff. They land deep in the water below, and as a half-conscious Yang-sun struggles to breathe, she thinks of her father and sister, not wanting to leave them behind but feeling that she may be facing death.
Sung-yeol keeps them under for a long while, hoping to outlast Gwi’s pursuit, and employs some mouth-to-mouth to give her air. (Sure… it’s about the air…) Above water, Gwi realizes he’s lost the trail, not at all convincing when he sneers that it would be no fun catching him too easily. He screams in rage.
When the coast is clear, Sung-yeol brings them back to the surface and carries Yang-sun to the riverbank. He checks for breath and administers CPR, desperate to know how she found the prince’s book. At least, I’m pretty sure he’s saving her life in theory. Is he even blowing air?
Finally she responds, spitting out water and resuming breathing. Sung-yeol takes her to safety and undoes her shirt, pausing at the old scar on her shoulder that he’d noticed last time. He slashes his own palm with his hawthorn dagger and drips his blood onto her stab wound, which sizzles as it heals.
His gisaeng companion Su-hyang is alarmed at the thought that his cut may not heal—that hawthorn dagger must be powerful against vampires. He just tells her to attend to Yang-sun, heading back out to the forest to retrieve Yang-sun’s dropped bag, which has been picked up by Gwi.
In the bag, Gwi finds a copy of the racy novel she’s been selling, authored by Eumlan Seosaeng. Gwi wonders if Eumlan Seosaeng is the reason Sung-yeol risked exposure after all these years of lying low—and if this Eumlan Seosaeng in fact has the prince’s secret diary. It had been stolen away from Gwi by the dead Crown Prince Sadong and has been lost ever since.
Flashing back to ten years ago, we see Prince Sadong in his final days, wasting away at the bottom of a well. He asks for water, but when he sees that it’s Gwi lowering a bucket, he spills the water on the ground. Gwi chokes the breath out of him as he demands Jeonghyeon’s diary in exchange for his life. He insists that he’s destroyed anything that might eliminate him, but Sadong says that he’s found a method—and Gwi will never find it, even if he kills Sadong. Furious, Gwi bites into his neck and drinks his blood—and from a distance, Sung-yeol witnesses the encounter.
In the present, Yang-sun is still out, and Su-hyang argues that it’s only a matter of time before Gwi finds him now, and that the best way to prevent that is to get rid of Yang-sun. Sung-yeol disagrees, arguing that they need to hear how she came upon that book and mustn’t allow her to come to harm.
The next day, undercover prince Yoon waits in the marketplace for his meeting with Yang-sun, willing to wait for hours even when there’s no sign of her. His friend asks if he still believes Yang-sun to be his childhood friend Jin, arguing that aside from facial similarity, there’s no reason to think so. Yoon knows, but says that of everyone he’s met thus far in his search for Jin, Yang-sun feels most convincing.
But then, Yoon spots a figure lurking suspiciously in the distance. Hm.
Yang-sun dreams fitfully about the fight in the forest—the vampire girl, Sung-yeol flying down from the sky and flinging her aside—and wakes up with a jolt. She’s disoriented at her surroundings, and as she’s wondering where she is, Sung-yeol calls her outside to talk.
Yang-sun asks if he saw that girl in the forest, but Sung-yeol feigns ignorance, saying merely that he saw her collapsed in the woods and brought her home. He asks why she was out alone at such a late hour, and she explains that she was going to ask him about his interest in Eumlan Seosaeng. Because the author is linked to those traitorous flyers that were dispersed in the city—the ones alleging that Prince Sadong was framed for treason—she supposes that everyone will be out to catch him.
However, she wants no part in taking him down, since she has sold his books to feed her family. Ah, she thinks Sung-yeol’s pursuit of the author must be to capture him, and is declining to help further.
Sung-yeol asks why she gave him Eumlan Seosaeng’s “Vampire Tale” book if she feels that way, and she replies that the two Eumlan Seosaengs are different people—same name, but different writing style. The Vampire Tale is over a hundred years old, and she’s giving it to him, her most prized book, in thanks for saving her life.
Sung-yeol says that he’s not hunting down the writer, merely looking for an old friend, and asks how she got her hands on that book. Yang-sun says she’s always been interested in vampire stories, so when she saw it show up at a bookseller’s shop last year, she bought it. She adds that she’s already put word out to locate Jeonghyeon’s secret diary, but since the network is keen to remain off the government radar, they won’t talk to outsiders. She offers to take him.
At the palace, the king’s advisors press for swift capture of the flyer’s distributors, who are a threat to the current regime. They insinuate that Prince Yoon has something to do with it—if the supporters of traitor Sadong are backing Yoon, they must dethrone Yoon quickly and prevent a traitor from ever having the throne.
But the king won’t have it, and barks at his council for being incompetent and rash. So he’s not entirely in their hands, and furthermore, when he’s told they’re running out of money for construction on the new palace, he snaps that they can find more in all the officials’ corrupt slush funds.
An affronted minister reports to Gwi about the king ignoring their advice and focusing on the new palace and his succession. Gwi inhales the scent from Yang-sun’s bag and supposes that it’ll lead him to Sung-yeol.
Meanwhile, Sung-yeol talks with his two sidekicks, who have found a potential lead to Eumlan Seosaeng. He ignores Ho-jin’s warnings about going out in broad daylight and heads out with Yang-sun right away. She takes a moment to admire how beautiful he looks in his black robes, calling him the hero of a romance novel, which he ignores.
Su-hyang watches them leave together, and while I know she’s fully on Sung-yeol’s side, I really don’t like that dark look on her face whenever she regards Yang-sun. She puts a man on their tail.
Sung-yeol remains aloof as he leads her through a dense forest, and she thanks him for saving her twice, once at the gibang and once in the woods. She gets bashful when he asks when she started dressing as a man, and replies that she’s always lived this way: “I’ve never lived as a woman.”
She doesn’t have any memories before the age of ten, either, due to a big accident. She was very ill for a while, and a traveling monk had commented that you had to be a male to have a long life—and the next day when she put on boy’s clothing, she was suddenly better. It was her fate to live as a man, she says.
He asks if it’s difficult, and she replies that there are a lot of advantages—like earning money, and reading books. She loves her work, and feels bolstered whenever she sees the people finding encouragement or hope in the books she finds them.
He stares at her a long while, and when she asks why, he says simply, “Because [you’re] beautiful.” That steals her breath for a moment, until he clarifies, “Your heart is beautiful.”
Prince Yoon surprises his best friend Hak-young by heading out into the forest to hunt, which is not one of his usual habits. (Interesting to note how Hak-young is a scholar in the same position Sung-yeol once occupied, whose friendship with the prince also mirrors Sung-yeol’s.) But when he takes aim to shoot a deer, he suddenly whirls around and sends the arrow in a different direction—straight into the arm of the man following him.
Sung-yeol follows Yang-sun through the city streets, and notices that they’ve picked up a tail. Yang-sun doesn’t see, and leads him to a one-armed merchant who deals in curios and rare books. He says he hasn’t found that book, but allows the two to browse his library, and they start to work their way through the piles and piles of books.
Yang-sun dives in with enthusiasm, wanting to do what she can to help Sung-yeol and repay his favors. He asks to look alone and sends her away, and she heads out reluctantly. Once alone, he zooms through the books with his vampire hyperspeed, though with no luck.
Taking the forest road back, Yang-sun starts to clue in to the fact that she’s being followed. She doesn’t see anybody near her but flashes back to the vampire girl and starts running. The henchman draws his sword and chases.
She trips and starts to fall, but before she hits the ground, an arm reaches out and pulls her upright—it’s Sung-yeol (hyperspeed to the rescue!), and one hard look at the henchman sends him retreating fast. She’s badly shaken and warns him of the danger in going after him, but Sung-yeol tells her he has to confirm something and takes off, intercepting the henchman readily and demanding to know who sent him.
Yang-sun catches up to him a short while later, worrying that he put himself in danger. Her fear of more vampires attacking sounds silly when he says it aloud, but he gives her a pendant made of hawthorn that he says will ward off wild animals, who dislike its scent. He ties the pendant around her neck and adds cheekily that it’ll also keep away those bloodsuckers she’s scared of.
A sudden rain falls, and Sung-yeol takes her hand and leads her along the forest path. He watches Yang-sun whirling happily in the rain, which brings back the memory of his rain-soaked kiss with Myung-hee in his past life.
That memory bleeds into this one, and the smile fades from his face as he comes back to the present.
Arriving at a creek, Yang-sun winces in pain, and he asks about the shoulder scar he saw. She says it’s related to that childhood accident when she was bitten by a wild dog, and they smile at his quip that she’s got a history of attracting wild animals.
Yang-sun washes up by the creek and shoves her face under the water, which triggers a memory of Sung-yeol kissing her—excuse me, administering life-saving mouth-to-mouth—while she was half-conscious. She stares wide-eyed at him as the memory flashes back to her, but decides she’s having racy dreams now, chuckling at herself.
At the palace, Prince Yoon has his follower tied to a target and uses him in archery practice, sending arrows flying within inches of his face. He recalls these kinds of activities happening to his father, Sadong, and wants to know who is behind the henchman’s movements.
The king arrives upon the scene with his entourage of councilors, and one official recognizes the henchman nervously. Yoon explains being followed for days and reported on, and declares that the mastermind is here. The king is loath to declare someone a criminal on his word alone—they at least need a confession from the criminal.
Yoon faces the man to appeal to him with cold logic: He’s facing death either way, either by the backer who will retaliate, or Yoon, who won’t intervene to save him. Yoon adds that the henchman’s family has been moved to a safe place. While the mastermind would have the family killed, the prince gives his promise to protect them.
That’s enough to make him break, and the man names the official responsible, the head of Sungkyunkwan (university). He’s saved the written orders and can offer them as proof. The king orders the case investigated with both men to be imprisoned.
Meanwhile, Sung-yeol gets to the root of the other henchman’s mission, tracing him back to Su-hyang. He rails at her angrily for taking it upon herself to hire an assassin to kill Yang-sun behind his back, no matter that she was driven by concern for his safety. She’s not appeased at his tactic of giving Yang-sun that hawthorn pendant, which erases her scent from vampire detection, and asks if he has deeper feelings for her.
That makes him angrier, and he says harshly that he’s not so free that he can allow himself to be shaken over a woman. Furthermore, Jeonghyeon’s diary is more important than his own safety, “Because that is how we can be rid of Gwi. Because that is how I, too, can end this beastly life!”
He declares firmly that he is keeping Yang-sun, as well as Su-hyang and their sidekick Ho-jin, purely to achieve those ends. “If you want anything more, leave my side immediately,” he orders.
In town, Yang-sun comes to blows with her merciless loan shark, who is terrorizing her family and demanding his payment. He strikes her across the fist and muses that he could sell Yang-sun as a prostitute, but his arm is intercepted by Yoon, who sees the commotion and steps in.
Calling Yang-sun a friend, Yoon takes the loan shark aside and offers a pouch of money to pay off the debt. He gives the friendly warning that Loan Shark will be held accountable for his crimes soon, and points out his other friend as a high-ranking minister’s son and the prince’s very best friend.
That settled, Yoon helps Yang-sun get her family home, not letting her in on the details of his exchange with the thug. At her formality around him, he encourages her to consider him a friend.
Gwi meets with the king late that night and instructs him to call Yoon back to the palace and capture Eumlan Seosaeng. The king resists, warning that he’s taken measures so that if Gwi kills him, word will be released to the world of Gwi’s existence. He intends to go after the information Sadong had found; Sadong had told him of the diary’s contents before dying. Looks like this king’s still got a bit of fight left in him.
Gwi doth protest again that no method exists to destroy him, and the king calls him on the bluff: “Then kill me.”
Gwi advances and bares his fangs, and the king braces for death. But Gwi holds back, saying that he can always kill the king and prince once he’s failed to find Eumlan Seosaeng.
Gwi returns to that well where he’d killed Sadong, and Sung-yeol watches from a distance, thinking back to the night of Sadong’s death. Ah, Sung-yeol had stepped in to divert Gwi, giving him the chance to exchange a few words with the dying prince.
Sung-yeol had identified himself as Jeonghyeon’s friend, and Sadong had recognized his name from the book. Sung-yeol had asked how to destroy Gwi, and the prince had gasped with his dying breath, “The way… is people.” So tantalizing, and yet so unhelpful. As of yet.
Yang-sun hears that her contact has located the diary and hurries to tell Sung-yeol of it. Sidekick Ho-jin is so excited that he lets slip more than he should, saying that the person who knows of the diary must be Eumlan Seosaeng.
In a hurry to get to it right away, Sung-yeol hurries out despite it being broad daylight—the black clothing does protect him, but the sunlight does seem to have an enervating effect. He flags, but insists on waiting with Yang-sun to meet the contact.
And then, he spies a noblewoman in the crowd, head covered but face visible. She’s the spitting image of Myung-hee, and almost in a trance, he approaches her. The woman looks up at him blankly while Sung-yeol calls out tearfully, “Myung-hee-ya!” Then he pulls her in a tight embrace, while Yang-sun stares in shock.
Scholar Who Walks the Night isn’t going to be one of those dark, spine-tingly, or super-clever types of supernatural shows—not in the way of Buffy or X-Files, for instance—and it sometimes does make me laugh out loud with how obvious its setup is, but it’s all good-natured fun and I’m liking how quickly the packed episodes move.
It’s also nice to get a supernatural show that defines its world very clearly, giving us clear rules and establishing boundaries to its mythos. And this isn’t something that need come at the expense of suspense, because us viewers don’t need the mysteries of the plot in order to feel tension or curiosity. I find that so many genre shows make that fatal flaw, in thinking they either shouldn’t or needn’t tell us what the rules are in order to keep interest going.
It’s actually quite the opposite—in a genre show, we understand that the world is fantasy and therefore go into it with idea that anything may be possible. So it’s up to the show to tell us what the idea is or isn’t, otherwise we’re left to wonder what’s allowed and what’s not.
Scholar totally has moments where it feels like a romance novel come to life, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Well I suppose if you consider romance novels a negative thing, that might not work for you, but it’s something that feels very soonjung manhwa—those romance comic books that go after the young female audience. It’s funny that through Yang-sun’s eyes, it kind of is that romance, where she lives in the natural world free of beasts and monsters, and she daydreams about those supernatural fantasies and the beautiful man who’s always saving her from things. From Sung-yeol’s perspective we’re in an entirely different show, and it makes me hope we get to keep Yang-sun in the dark for a while longer so we can explore that fun dissonance.
I do think the plot saves the drama from going too far in that pure-romance direction (even with the multiple excuses for kiss scenes and handholds), and Lee Jun-ki’s acting helps as well, since he’s not going for the cheesy romance angle but takes a deadly-serious bent to his character. It’s one of the show’s biggest assets, because even if the overall tone is lighter than his acting performance, he has to put that intensity out there in order to get us to buy into the character.
The show is still a bit rough around the edges with its effects and music cues, and I wonder how much more moody and effective it could be with a smoother edit all around, but thankfully story is always king, and the show does give me confidence that it has tons of that on the way. It’s always nice not to look at the clock wondering when a show’s going to end, and to feel comfortable letting it carry you along on the narrative ride without worrying that it may not know where it’s heading. (I didn’t just jinx us, did I? Unjinx! Unjinx!)
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 2
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 1
- 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