Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 17
Now we’re getting somewhere! After the lack of movement last week—getting through those two plot-stagnant episodes was a chore, I’ll tell you—we have a nice uptick in tempo today, with scholar-nim working through a fresh strain of angst. I’d say it’s amazing how much of a difference it makes when a story moves on from telling you stuff you already know, over and over, and takes you into new discoveries, except it’s not so much amazing as it is totally obvious. Glad to see Scholar finally got the memo!
SONG OF THE DAY
Mot – “Cold Blood” [ Download ]
EPISODE 17 RECAP
Sung-yeol arrives in Gwi’s lair before he can kill Yang-sun, and declares that this is a fight between them, and that he should let her go. He also orders Su-hyang to leave, which tips Gwi off to her true loyalty.
Gwi sneers that he already knows of the secret plan in which Yang-sun is a crucial part, and taunts Sung-yeol by digging his nail into her shoulder to draw her blood, knowing it’ll be extra-tempting to him.
The prime minister comes to in the palace after being knocked out by Sung-yeol, and is found by a guard. He orders the others mobilized to scour the palace to find their “rat,” growling Sung-yeol’s name.
Just outside Gwi’s lair, Hak-young dies in Yoon’s arms after stabbing himself with the hawthorn dagger. His grandfather is still alive but fading, having been bitten and likely to turn into a vampire himself. Yoon is forced to stab him too, apologizing to both men as he does.
His guard warns him that the prime minister is headed here with troops, so Yoon gives the order to hide Hak-young and his grandfather’s corpses, and to call together the officers who are loyal to him. Shortly later when the prime minister arrives, Yoon feigns ignorance of the disturbance when the minister tells him Sung-yeol is afoot.
Underground, Gwi continues to taunt Sung-yeol with Yang-sun and reveals that drinking her blood won’t kill him. He bares her neck and moves in for the kill, and Sung-yeol darts in to stop Gwi. He puts himself in front of the ladies and faces off against Gwi, who goes over the various possibilities for torturing our main couple, like killing him first and making her watch, or vice versa.
The two vamps engage in a fight, but Gwi notices that Sung-yeol’s not as powerful as he was the last time. He beats him down repeatedly, until Sung-yeol falls down gurgling blood. Yang-sun rushes to his side while Gwi disdains how his lack of feeding and human love have rendered him pitifully weak.
Yang-sun is alarmed to hear it, and sucks her own blood to then feed Sung-yeol with. I suppose it’s nicely poetic that the gesture is also a kiss, but I’m not gonna lie, it’s kind of stomach-turning. Gwi notes that a love between a human and a vampire always ends in blood.
The blood does the trick in reviving Sung-yeol, but… his convulsions seem particularly violent this time, and his eyes flare blue this time. He seems extra-energized and whips upright to grapple with Gwi—and now Gwi is the one struggling to maintain the hold.
Su-hyang tells Yang-sun worriedly that this isn’t the Sung-yeol she’s known and urges her to safety. Sung-yeol is positively feral as he slams Gwi into the wall, roaring like a wild beast.
The ladies make it outside, but the prime minister and Yoon clash over Yang-sun; the minister wants to sacrifice her, and Yoon refuses. The prime minister orders his men to grab her, ignoring the king’s reminders that they would be committing treason, and soon Yoon finds himself fending off multiple soldiers. He does a credible job holding his own (though I have to suppose that none of the attackers actually want to be the one to kill their king), and fends them off until his own men arrive.
Inside, the fight rages on. Gwi’s blows hardly seem to affect Super Sung-yeol, who strikes with such power that the whole cavern seems to rock.
Yoon instructs the ladies to flee the city, and tells Yang-sun solemnly, “I’m sorry, Jin. If we meet again, I will apologize properly then. If you accept it, let us meet again as friends.”
Suddenly, Gwi’s doors open and out steps Sung-yeol, looking dangerous and wild. Su-hyang warns Yoon to be wary of the queen, who is loyal to Gwi (ack! Well-meaning, but ack!) and ushers Yang-sun away. The guards attack, but he’s impervious to their swords, which don’t even make a scratch on him.
Gwi struggles to his feet inside, roaring Sung-yeol’s name in fury, but too injured to go after him. He reads the clues in a different way now, connecting the dots between the matrilineal blood and the guardian vampire.
As the sun rises, Sung-yeol looks over the city, his instinct telling him to drink more of Yang-sun’s blood.
The prime minister reports to Gwi about Sung-yeol and Yang-sun getting away, and how the king helped them. He promises to round them up before they can leave the city, and Gwi holds in his signs of pain until he’s gone. He doesn’t seem to be in danger of death, but looks like he’s feeling pretty beat up.
With Su-hyang’s warning ringing in his ear, Yoon can’t help but eye Hye-ryung with doubt when he returns. She’s relieved to see him safe, but he can scarcely look her in the eye and just says that he’d wanted to be a good, strong king who could protect his people, including her, but that he’s sorry. She asks what he means by that, just as guards arrive. Judging from how Yoon blocks her in a protective gesture, I’m guessing this isn’t his doing.
Ho-jin lurks around a guard checkpoint, where he hears that a vampire was at the palace last night, and Yang-sun is wanted. The ladies have managed to evade capture thus far, but Su-hyang worries about finding a hiding place with guards crawling the city. Thankfully they’re found first by Hunter Baek and his two new minions, who usher them away to a house before they’re spotted. (Hilariously, neither of the minions has realized until just now that Yang-sun is a woman, and the realization has them slack-jawed.)
Nobody knows where Sung-yeol is now, and Yang-sun worries both for his safety and for the dramatic change that overcame him when he drank her blood—it’s like he couldn’t even recognize her. Su-hyang comes to a new realization, that Yang-sun may be part of the secret plan to defeat Gwi, if her blood unlocks power in the guardian vampire. However, the downside seems to be that Supervamp loses touch with his human side… and that makes him no different from Gwi.
Yang-sun wants to go searching for Sung-yeol now, feeling responsible for his condition. Su-hyang is more practical, pointing out that Yang-sun may be the cause of his change, but she’s also the one person who may be able to stop him, and thus they can’t lose her.
The prime minister has Yoon and Hye-ryung captured, and he exults in gaining the upper hand. He revises history conveniently, painting himself as the hero and the king as the bad guy for both selling out the nation to the vampire, and also being ungrateful to the vampire that spared his life. Hye-ryung glares at her father, who gleefully tells the king how she has actually been his ticket to success, working for Gwi all this while.
But he calls her useless now, and has both of them thrown into prison. Hye-ryung is stricken with remorse and apologizes to Yoon in tears for lying to him, owning up to everything. Contrary to her expectation, Yoon continues to treat her with concern, and admits that he suspected she was working for Gwi back when she first presented him with Sung-yeol’s black hanbok.
Yoon asks when she was first taken underground, and explains that after his father died and his mother left the palace, he was surrounded by enemies and opportunists. Dealing with them taught him to size people up and their motivations, and it was Hye-ryung’s tears that showed him her real feelings. A flashback shows Yoon at Hye-ryung’s bedside as she’s locked in a nightmare, crying out to be saved.
Yoon asks how she endured, and she replies, “I needed strength. The strength to make it impossible for anyone to hurt me or my mother.” She says she sinned against him, but he takes her hand and tells her it’s okay, embracing her while she cries.
Sung-yeol roams the city streets while people rear back in alarm, and a harsh voice in his head tells him that they’re cowards who make him sick. But then, just as he’s about to lurch at one angry citizen hurling insults his way, another voice cuts in, saying that these people are just victims. The warring voices catch him by surprise, and he reels in confusion.
Su-hyang treats Yang-sun’s wound and tells her that Sung-yeol will be looking for her—but there’s a good chance he’s only after her blood. She explains how his thirst won’t abate until he’s drunk all of her blood, but if he regains his senses once that’s quenched, he may be unable to forgive himself. Which means that in either case, he’s at risk of never returning to his former self. She looks at Yang-sun with sympathy and says she wronged her.
At court, the prime minister has all but taken over, and jeers at the protests of the other officials. Soldiers step in to keep him at a safe distance from the angry court, and he reports to Gwi about the current situation.
Gwi has been feeding on bodies to regain his strength, though he’s still badly injured. He gives the prime minister the go-ahead to put his plan into motion, which is to pin things on Sung-yeol—they can make people believe he’s the palace vampire who’s been whispered about all this while. The prime minister seems to be angling for a shot at the throne and urges Gwi to handle that quickly while it’s still manageable, and Gwi agrees to decide tonight.
He does make the prime minister gulp by demanding Yang-sun’s capture soon, warning that the prime minister will die if she can’t be found.
Ho-jin and Hunter Baek settle upon a plan to smuggle Yang-sun out of the city and to Sung-yeol’s secluded home, which entails hiding her in a wagon. She lies down in it, covered like a corpse.
Sung-yeol races madly through the woods, trying to escape the battling voices in his head, which argue back and forth like the proverbial Evil and angel on your shoulders. He clutches his pounding head as those voices take form and appear before him, with Righteous Sung-yeol reminding him of his purpose, insisting he’s not a beast.
Evil Sung-yeol, on the other hand, hisses that his human side died 120 years ago, and that there’s no use in clinging to his humanity now. When Conflicted Sung-yeol grabs Righteous Sung-yeol’s throat, Evil goads him to finish the job.
In prison, Yoon and Hye-ryung are well aware that they will likely die at nightfall. Yoon is prepared to go down fighting, but insists that Hye-ryung live on.
The prime minister arrives and announces Yoon’s impending dethronement. Yoon asks to be taken to Gwi right now rather than waiting till night, and asks that Hye-ryung be spared. Hye-ryung asks her father scornfully if he really thinks Gwi will keep him around, or make him king, when he’ll just be cast aside.
“No,” the prime minister announces. “Now I will use Gwi.” Okay, good luck with that.
Yoon is left in the cell while Hye-ryung is dragged away, and she grabs at Yoon’s hand. But she’s yanked off, and her hand pulled out of his grasp.
When they’re alone, the prime minister informs Hye-ryung that she will be spared, though Yoon will die. He orders her to go home to her mother, but she asks to be sent to Gwi instead, offering to aid her father in becoming king. He doesn’t believe her, but she sinks down to her knees and begs for him to spare Yoon’s life, calling this the first and last request she makes of him.
So Hye-ryung accompanies her father underground, where she sets out to appease Gwi, saying that he was right and she was wrong about attaining power by being next to the king. She calls the king powerless and useless, and says that she fears what will happen to her if he is killed and she is reduced to an object of scorn. And so, she offers to be Gwi’s woman—a proposition that shocks her father.
When asked for his opinion, the prime minister suggests banishing the king, which would be easier for the people to accept. Gwi intends to visit the palace tonight, and dismisses the prime minister from his presence.
In the forest, Conflicted Sung-yeol lets Righteous go, and Evil sneers at his weakness, saying, “This is why you can’t defeat Gwi.” He charges at Evil instead, but stops short as Evil reminds him that even if he helped the king to defeat Gwi, people will just call forth another vampire to help them later. Like they did with Gwi in the first place.
Conflicted Sung-yeol takes a swing anyway, but Evil Sung-yeol evades and says that he may believe people are better beings than vampires, but they aren’t—they’re more responsible for killing each other than anything else, and use the excuse of justice and righteousness to do it. He tells Sung-yeol that he’s vastly superior to humans, and if he lets go of his attachment that’s holding him back, Gwi would be no match for him. Drink her blood and get stronger, he encourages.
Sung-yeol lunges at the evil vamp, but can’t make contact. His swings grow wilder and wilder until one connects—with Righteous Sung-yeol, who spits up blood and collapses. Ack! I mean, I know it’s a metaphor, but poor guy! Evil Sung-yeol cackles at him and tells him to drink Yang-sun’s blood, and when Righteous falls limp, both apparitions disappear.
Yoon is stripped of his royal clothing and led out of the palace in ropes like a criminal, to be sent off to exile.
Hunter Baek is almost waved through with his wagon, since the sight of corpses has become commonplace these days. One officer halts them to inspect the corpse, and when he raises a sword to stick through the body, Hunter Baek has no choice but to intervene. It blows their cover, and Yang-sun scrambles out of the cart and is recognized as the wanted criminal. Hunter Baek prepares to do battle, warning his attackers that he’ll send them all to the afterlife.
Gwi is suspicious of Hye-ryung’s reasons for returning to him and asks if she’s doing this to save the king out of love. She returns that it doesn’t matter even if that were true, since to Gwi, love is a base human emotion. She adds that nobody knows him better than she does, and when he asks for her assessment of him, Hye-ryung answers, “You are lonely. You cannot become a human and thus hate them, and make them unhappy.”
He says she must know what he’ll do if she wants to stay with him, and she tells him to do it. He agrees, but thinks to himself, “But I never had any intention of saving the king as you wish.”
Out in the woods, Yoon’s escort party pauses, and the guards exchange nods before drawing their swords. Yoon doesn’t even look surprised.
In the city, Hunter Baek fights off guards skillfully, taking down a number of them before he’s stabbed in the gut. Badly wounded, he prepares to fight agin as he’s surrounded… just as Sung-yeol arrives.
He barely exerts himself as he takes down guards left and right, their weapons just glancing off his body. He makes his way toward Yang-sun, but just as he gets to her, Hunter Baek stabs him clean through with his sword. He gasps out, “You must… find your human heart.” Then he collapses.
Yang-sun grabs Sung-yeol in a back-hug, and the blue light extinguishes from his eyes. He turns to face her, then falls weakly to the ground. She cradles him in her arms as he falls unconscious.
Night falls, and Gwi heads to the palace. It spurs a memory of the first king, Taejo, who had summoned him and struck a deal for Gwi to help him eliminate the current Goryeo dynasty to set up the Joseon nation. Gwi had asked what he would receive, and had been told all of Taejo’s descendants would serve him: “You will rule the night.”
Now, Gwi thinks that his deal with Taejo will end here, “Because you all have forsaken the promise first.”
At court, while awaiting Gwi’s arrival, the officials speculate that the new king will obviously be the prime minister. So they’re in for a shock when the doors open, and it’s Gwi wearing the king’s robes, trailed by Hye-ryung. Damn, he looks good as a king.
Amidst their stunned murmurs, Gwi takes a seat on the throne and announces, “From this moment, I am king.”
I suppose we could wonder why it took Gwi so long to command the throne, staying underground and ruling only by proxy, but it seems fair to presume that the puppet-king arrangement had been working just fine for centuries, and Gwi never felt the need come out this strongly. Or nobody has pissed him off to this extent before, forcing him to give up his secrecy in an effort to retaliate. I think we can all agree that nobody’s gotten under his skin like Sung-yeol, and it’s clear that Sung-yeol has been actively evading Gwi for the past 120 years, so it’s only recently that Gwi’s been so riled up.
Personally if I were an all-powerful vampire I’m not sure that my idea of a perfect life would be to rule a small nation invisibly, but Hye-ryung does hit the nail on the head in her assessment of him as a lonely creature whose longing has twisted into hatred and antagonism. That’s a totally human reaction that I’m sure we’ve all seen before, and I see him as being unable to shake his attachment to the human race, even while it manifests as contempt.
Because I can understand Gwi’s paradox of love-hate (which we’ve seen in his violent attachment to Sung-yeol as well—you get the sense he can’t decide if he wants to tear him to shreds or be his best friend), I really enjoyed the three-way Sung-yeol battle in the forest, I swear not just because we got three Lee Jun-kis at once. I liked that Evil Sung-yeol actually made a lot of reasonable sense, and that it was actually more difficult to put your faith in Righteous Sung-yeol’s entreaties, because that requires trust and vulnerability and the possibility of being wrong (and wronged). Nothing Evil Sung-yeol said about human vice was very wrong, since yes, people can be assholes. And it’s so often easier to give in to hate than put yourself out there with love.
I thought the twist of Yang-sun’s blood was clever, albeit handled clumsily since we’ve already seen him tasting her blood before, and it never turned him into a wild animal. In retrospect I do recall that each time was no more than a drop or two, and he did wonder why her blood was so potent, so I do think the writing had this beat worked in well in advance. It’s just that it totally takes the punch out of the transformation, because it leaves you (or it left me, at least) scratching our heads wondering, “Wait… but he’s had her blood before…”
That aside, I find this new interpretation of the secret plan more convincing than the one they’d assumed all along, so I’ll go with it—it has a similar dilemma of sacrifice built into it, but this one packs more of an emotional punch because Sung-yeol is the one who has to benefit from Yang-sun’s blood. And as Su-hyang pointed out, the thing that might get the old Sung-yeol back (as in, bringing him out of his bloodlust-driven frenzy) is the very thing that will lose him, since he isn’t likely to handle killing her very well. That it echoes his initial trauma with Myung-hee adds an extra twist of the knife, which sucks for him but is nice for conflict purposes.
Of course, I do feel like the drama’s resolution kind of sucked the tension out of things by having her bring him back so easily. I would’ve liked for more of a struggle, especially after he already metaphorically killed his human side, but I suppose this drama isn’t one to overcomplicate its narrative themes when the blatantly simple one will suffice. Love is the cure, humanity will save you, etc etc etc.
- 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
- Dramabeans Podcast #29
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 8
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 7
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 6
- 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