Bride of the Water God 2017: Episode 2
This fish continues to flail out of water, though it’s not so much the flailing that’s enjoyable as it is his denial that there is any flailing going on at all. I’m eager for the rest of the plot to get moving, but I’m entertained by the misunderstandings that keep popping up and throwing comic fodder in our paths.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
In the Water Kingdom, the high priest looks into his mystical bowl of water, which functions as a crystal ball of sorts. The water reshapes into the image of our heroine So-ah, and the priest explains that she is fated to die before Ha-baek returns and claims his throne.
In the human world, Ha-baek declares that he will “awaken” his servant and kisses So-ah. She’s surprised, but her eyes flutter closed while his stay open, and he seems flustered by that. He pushes her back and stammers that she is now his person.
He regains his godly composure (which comes off more like comical bluster in this world) to say that she should be feeling something entering her heart and mind. “You have gained a god’s kiss. You should feel honored,” he declares.
He waits expectantly for So-ah’s gratitude, although she just blinks at him uncomprehendingly. His demi-god servant Namsuri hurries over to pick Ha-baek up and remove him from the situation, ha.
A safe distance away, Namsuri puts Ha-baek down, who’s indignant at this treatment. A second later, So-ah’s scream cuts through the air: “You crazy bastard!”
Namsuri frets that the information awakening didn’t happen. Ha-baek orders him to fix the situation with So-ah, and when Namsuri hesitates, he figures he’ll do it himself. Namsuri protests, though, telling him that he can’t go around kissing human women suddenly, and that he’ll get slapped if he goes to her now.
So-ah returns home all flustered and upset, although it’s as much with herself as it is with Ha-baek. “Why did you close your eyes?” she wails, mortified. “I have to find a logical reason for closing my eyes.”
She tells herself to confront the issue and overcome it, only to hear Ha-baek’s voice calling, “Hey, Servant!” She turns to see Ha-baek in her mirror, and the moment of the kiss replays before her eyes. She yells at the couple onscreen not to do it, and hears his voice saying that something should be entering her heart and mind, just as a bell rings from afar.
So-ah denies it emphatically, and envisions going to that far-off bell to silence it. She orders Ha-baek’s image to leave, and to her relief, the mirror returns to normal.
At his floaty house near the river, Ha-baek thinks of Namsuri’s warning that he’ll get slapped for kissing So-ah. He calls So-ah quite stupid for not recognizing a god’s grace for what it is. He looks over at a snoring Namsuri and notes that he already has one dumb servant, then clings to the belief that So-ah will awaken and seek him out.
Then he thinks to his initial flustered reaction to the kiss, and tells himself, “It’s nothing. It’s just that the world has changed.”
The camera pans over the river and dives deep, down to the bottom of the riverbed, where an old-fashioned mobile phone rests.
The next morning, So-ah groggily gets up and her first thought is last night’s kiss. Then she sees how late it is and panics, until her alarm clock rings and reminds her that it’s Sunday. Ha, is that nurse Sang-yoo’s voice blaring? The alarm rings again to warn her not to go back to sleep, and to go exercise instead.
It rings with more nagging instructions, so So-ah yanks out the batteries and vows to kill Sang-yoo and go to hell. She tries to go back to sleep, but it’s useless by now.
At the park by the river, Ha-baek wonders why there are so many humans here today, and gets shooed off the walking path by a cadre of power-walking ajummas. He’s intrigued by the workings of a bicycle, and Namsuri suggests he check out the skate park, where a competition is underway.
Ha-baek is not impressed at the skateboarders’ tricks, though he does observe their movements closely. Namsuri whines at Ha-baek to give it a try for the prize money, so when the announcer assumes Ha-baek is a contestant, Ha-baek confirms that all he has to do is all four tricks to win the cash. He even declares that he’ll win 2nd and 3rd place too, and picks up a skateboard lying nearby.
So-ah happens by, out for some exercise after all, just as Ha-baek makes his way to the top of a ramp. He lets loose, hitting a number of complicated tricks on various apparatus while the crowd goes wild. As he flies through the air, he locks eyes with So-ah, and she hears his words again about something entering her heart and mind.
He calls out, “You’re here” as he passes, and So-ah hurries away. Only moments later, his voice calls out, “You in front, Servant! I am here!”
He’s skateboarding after her, and So-ah hastens her pace. So-ah wonders why she’s running away just as Namsuri asks the same thing, only to have Ha-baek declare, “She’s not running away, she’s seeking me out!” Lol, his delusion is pretty hilarious.
He shouts out to So-ah that he’s here, calling her stupid as though she’s running away not having seen him.
So-ah darts into a tunnel, but when Ha-baek gets there, all he sees is a group of ajummas doing tai chi, all wearing giant sun visors and face masks. It’s a perfect cover for So-ah, who blends into the crowd. The ajummas start power-walking, and Ha-baek can’t quite make out where So-ah is.
It allows So-ah to escape and later break off from the pack, and she catches her breath by the waterside. A soccer ball flies by and lands in the water, and as she looks out at the river, her hand starts to shake and she’s overcome with a feeling of pain.
It prompts a flashback to a younger So-ah struggling underwater, begging for someone to save her. She cries for her father, and sinks further down.
Ha-baek and Namsuri return to their floaty house, glum because the contest refused to give them their prize, thinking Ha-baek a pro trying to score an easy buck. Namsuri whines that he’d told Ha-baek to not go all-out with his skills, and that he he’d had those powers, he’d use them for Ha-baek’s sake.
Ha-baek says he was going to win all those prizes for Namsuri’s sake, which makes Namsuri overcome with gratitude. Until Ha-baek adds, “…is not something you expected I would say, is it?” Namsuri slumps down feeling dejected and hungry, and tells Ha-baek to give up on his human servant awakening.
Resort CEO Hu-ye is told there’s some resistance with a piece of land they’re trying to buy, which belongs to a certain Chairman Shin. Hu-ye says he’ll deal with it, and then we finally see his last name displayed on his desk: Hu-ye’s a Shin, too.
Hu-ye’s secretary hears that it’ll take some time to acquire the part to fix his windshield wiper, which makes Hu-ye think of So-ah and how the bill will be quite high.
Sang-yoo deflates to hear the repair amount, and broaches the topic cautiously with So-ah, wondering if he can find a way to lessen the price. So-ah just tells him to stand tall and handle it through insurance. Sang-yoo updates her on a couple of patients, and So-ah heaves a tired sigh—which seems to echo in the room, though she doesn’t see anything there.
Ha-baek complains when Namsuri finally wakes from his nap, and doesn’t want to hear about Namsuri’s weak half-god body that feels tiredness and hunger like humans. He declares that they will be going “home” now, and hands over Sang-yoo’s business card.
On the taxi ride over, Ha-baek observes the driver and states that he wants to take the wheel… which gets them kicked out of the cab, heh.
So-ah hears that the landlord dropped by and wants to raise the deposit, and rushes out to the street to catch him. She comes running around the bend just as Ha-baek steps out of another cab, at the same time that Hu-ye’s car stops at the red light.
An elderly man walks across the long crosswalk and declines multiple offers from pedestrians to help him across the way. So-ah jogs ahead of the man, but then—to the surprise of both Ha-baek and Hu-ye—she pulls out a phone and pretends to read it, slowing her walk to keep apace of the old man. Essentially, she’s shielding him from impatient drivers who start honking when the light changes and he’s still walking. Hu-ye smiles to himself, and his driver notes that she’s suited to her doctor’s gown.
So-ah loses sight of her landlord, and jumps when Ha-baek appears in front of her. Assuming she’s been awakened, he informs her that she won’t have to provide much help while he’s here—merely a house to stay in, food for Namsuri, clothes to wear, and a lot of money.
So-ah pulls Namsuri aside to speak to him as the patient’s guardian, advising him to take Ha-baek to the hospital. When Namsuri says they have nowhere to go, she tells him to try social services, stating that it’s the state’s responsibility to help them, not hers.
As she speaks, a flashback to So-ah’s childhood shows her coming home to see her living room overrun with other children eating at her table and playing with toys. She tosses aside her bag angrily.
Ha-baek asks why she helped that old man across the street if she doesn’t care about helping others, which she tries to deny. He doesn’t believe her, and notes that she’s not being honest.
So-ah tells them not to show up again, threatening to call the police the next time. Ha-baek warns that if she goes now, he’ll abandon her for good. “That’s the best thing I’ve heard,” she says, and leaves.
So-ah gets a call from Sang-yoon, who tells her she needs to sign paperwork for her old patient who’s admitting himself into the hospital. When he pauses, another voice says, “You’re in trouble—do you know who that is?” It wasn’t Sang-yoo, but another voice adds, “You’ll be in agony.” She whirls angrily, thinking it’s Ha-baek, but finds nobody there.
Namsuri sighs that they’ll have to resort to digging up the gold he buried the last time he was here—but when they go to the field where he put it, they find only high-rises. Wah-waaaah.
At a nearby restaurant, a monk digs in to a huge table of food as Ha-baek walks by, and immediately he’s filled with alarm.
Ha-baek glares at the sound of Namsuri’s grumbling stomach, but does finally give in and allow him to buy a few hot cakes (using the bit of cash So-ah had given them). Namsuri outlines their challenges: They need to find a place to stay, and they need to earn money to keep Namsuri fed.
Ha-baek suddenly orders someone to stop following and show himself—he’s talking to the monk from the restaurant, who rises from the shrubbery. The monk recognizes Ha-baek and introduces himself, and Namsuri racks his brains trying to figure out why he looks familiar.
When Ha-baek says he doesn’t know who he is, the monk says, “There’s no reason you shouldn’t know. You can’t not know!”
With that, he launches himself at Ha-baek and plants a kiss square on the lips. Ha-baek throws him off angrily, and the monk crows that he really has lost his powers.
The monk says he’s been waiting for this day: “You’re in big trouble now!” And then he runs off as fast as he can go.
Namsuri recognizes the monk as a god who was forced to leave the Water Kingdom because of Ha-baek and another water god, Mura. Namsuri worries about the consequences of receiving the god’s kiss.
In an underground parking lot, a car screeches to a stop just in front of Hu-ye, and a young woman steps out sniping at Hu-ye for coming here to mooch some more. Hu-ye just ignores her, turning instead to the older man who steps out: Chairman Shin, who warmly greets Hu-ye as nephew. The snippy woman is the chairman’s granddaughter, SHIN JAYA (Bae Nuri), who snaps that Hu-ye isn’t family just because he’s in the family registry.
It’s Jaya who seems to be the money-sucking leech here, and she whines for her grandpa to give her an entertainment company so she can pursue being a star. Grandpa refuses, leaving her pouting.
Inside the elevator with Hu-ye, Chairman Shin sighs that he spent a lot of money sending Jaya to medical school. He seems a Scroogey type of miser, and happily picks up a coin from the floor. Chairman Shin asks about Hu-ye’s plan to build a new resort and cuts to the chase: How much will he make from the deal?
So-ah tries to make her case to her landlord’s agent, asking him to talk to his boss about not raising the deposit on the clinic. He relays his boss’s sentiments on the matter: that she should move to another building since she can’t even pay the rent here. So-ah says she’ll talk to the chairman herself, but the agent barks that she can’t.
Hu-ye discusses the plan for his resort, but a knock interrupts their conversation. He sits up in interest when So-ah walks in, and she’s a bit abashed to recognize him before making her case about the increased deposit. Chairman Shin lays out his stance clearly and simply: Pay up or move out.
Left with no recourse, So-ah bows and exits. As she waits for the elevator, she hears Ha-baek’s words from the other night: that she is his person now, and will encounter all sorts of troubles if she doesn’t accept it. She wonders if this kind of trouble is what he meant before shaking aside the thought—and then, a voice rings out, “Please give me water! I’m so thirsty!”
So-ah looks around, confused, and her eyes land on a withering plant. The voice adds, “Give me water! Will you have me dry out and die?” Then she bumps into another woman, and can actually hear her thoughts as the other woman gripes internally at her for blocking her path.
Hu-ye joins her at the elevator and suggests that she try the bank again. She tells him it’s none of his business, asking why he’s such a busybody. He replies that she is as well, reminding her of her actions at the crosswalk.
She’s embarrassed that he saw that and says she was just walking. He notes that she can’t be honest about it, echoing Ha-baek’s words, though he adds that it’s not a criticism. When he mentions the wiper repair, So-ah cuts him off to say she’ll let insurance handle it, and Hu-ye says, “I was going to say you didn’t have to pay it. Is that being a busybody?” So-ah practically kicks herself, but forces herself to agree to pay him back.
So-ah hears that her former patient, Ma Bong-yeol, ran away before being admitted to the psychiatric hospital as planned. Still, she argues that he’s no longer her responsibility and tells Sang-yoo to let the hospital handle the situation.
Ha-baek and Namsuri ride the subway, and when a stomach grumbles, this time it seems to come from Ha-baek. He stares longingly at a child eating a corn dog, though he haughtily denies it and refuses Namsuri’s offer of his remaining hot cake.
Namsuri wonders at the monk being here in the human realm, after challenging Ha-baek to a duel. He’d quaked in fear and dropped his sword, which struck a tree, and a fragment had marked Ha-baek’s face. Mura threatened to kill him, and he’d run away, apparently to the human world. Namsuri wonders why the monk instigated the duel in the first place, but Ha-baek just says he was nuts.
Ha-baek catches a glimpse of his neighbor’s phone screen and his eyes widen. He can only see the back of a woman’s head in the video, but he wonders, “Mura?”
He follows the woman off the subway at the next stop, and Namsuri notices too late to join him. The subway train departs with Namsuri still in it, leaving Ha-baek stranded alone on the platform.
He looks up across the way at the opposite side, where So-ah’s patient, Bong-yeol, is standing. The two men lock eyes, and the patient sees the air rippling in between them, like water.
It’s not long before Bong-yeol posts of the encounter to his SNS account, and Sang-yoo calls So-ah to tell her that the patient is talking about having run into a god on the subway platform. So-ah just sighs that she’s the one who’d like to meet a god right now.
Ha-baek returns to his floaty house, accompanied by Bong-yeol, who buys him an array of food. Ha-baek does his best to keep his nose in the air and ignore the food, although the craving grows stronger and becomes increasingly difficult for him to resist.
Bong-yeol snaps a selfie with Ha-baek in the background, saying that people will believe him now that he has proof, and uploads it to his Instagram. He chatters on about another believer friend whom he calls TF1004 and apologizes for not having met Obama yet. Ha-baek asks blankly, “Who’s Obama?”
So-ah arrives at the subway platform just as Sang-yoo informs her of a new Instagram post. He sends it to her, adding that this patient attempted suicide the last time he was in a mental hospital. That news makes her take this situation more seriously, but she still insists that they leave it to the others.
Exhausted, she slumps onto a bench and asks aloud, “Why is everyone being like this to me? I won’t live like that.”
She takes a reluctant look at the Instagram post—and recognizes Ha-baek in the background. Sang-yoo texts her the location of the picture, probably knowing she’ll end up going despite all the protests.
Bong-yeol is shocked that Ha-baek has no idea who Obama is, and starts rattling off facts about his life and career. Ha-baek says dismissively that none of that makes any sense to him, and that the only thing he can say with certainty is that this Obama person isn’t going to save the world.
So-ah spots them and hides her face behind a newspaper, while a stunned Bong-yeol asks who will save the world if not Obama. Ha-baek says he doesn’t care about human matters, and when Bong-yeol mentions TF1004, Ha-baek states, “He’s a fake.”
That crushes Bong-yeol, who yells that he’s lying. Ha-baek stares him in the eye and states his own list of credentials as water god, emperor of the divine realm, yada yada, and says, “One person can ruin the world, but one person can’t save it. And so, that is not something Obama can do. So do your work properly, instead of wandering around like this.”
So-ah worries that Ha-baek is handling this badly, and Bong-yeol yells in frustration that he can’t do anything no matter how hard he tries, and that he can’t live like this.
So-ah calls out to the patient and urges him to talk to her, promising to listen to what he really wants to say—that he wanted to show his father, and that’s why he’s been trying to meet Obama. Bong-yeol screams that he already tried to talk to her, but she ignored him.
While this dramatic scene plays out, Ha-baek turns away in disinterest, fixated on the chicken leg he swears he doesn’t need, though he’s equally reluctant to throw it away.
Bong-yeol refuses to let So-ah near, and tells himself that he’ll just talk to TF1004, the only person who listens to him. He starts walking toward the water, and So-ah’s legs freeze, unable to get any closer. It’s her trauma, triggered, and she whispers, “Dad?”
So-ah tells Ha-baek to grab the patient, but he tells her to do it herself. Unable to move, So-ah tries to appeal to him with words, but he accuses her of pretending to listen to him while never intending to save him at all. She denies it, but the sight of the water makes her shrink back, and Ha-baek notices her breathing growing ragged.
Flashback to 14 years ago. So-ah’s in high school uniform as she stands on the bridge, trying to call her father, who won’t pick up the phone. Ah, it’s her phone we saw lying on the bottom of the riverbed. She breaks down crying, then says, “I’ll make you regret it for the rest of your life.”
So-ah flings her cell phone into the water, then gets up onto the railing of the bridge. She hits the water and sinks down into its depths, but as she looks up toward the surface, she thinks, “Save me.”
She starts to kick and swim upward, but she doesn’t gain any ground and her cries grow more desperate as she sobs for her father. Her limbs go slack.
“I regretted it,” So-ah says now. “It was cold, and dark, and scary, and nobody was there.”
But somehow, teenage So-ah makes it to the riverbank and pulls herself up out of the water.
Bong-yeol says that he’s going to die, accusing her of not believing that he’ll do it. He jumps into the river and immediately starts flailing, and So-ah drops her phone in her panic, feeling helpless. She prays for someone to save him, thinking of her father again, and tries to force herself closer to water’s edge.
Bong-yeol sinks deeper into the water, and his body eventually goes limp. Ha-baek watches as So-ah forces herself to run toward the river—and then grabs her as she runs past, calling her rash and complaining of how noisy she’s being.
He solemnly entrusts his chicken drumstick to her, then dives in. The fear overcomes her and So-ah sinks to the ground, begging for him to come back. She breaks down into a mess of guilt and fear, huddled low.
Moments later, Ha-baek reappears to remind her she’s being noisy. He’s dripping wet, with Bong-yeol sprawled out on the grass nearby. So-ah hurries to perform CPR on him, starting with chest compressions and moving on to mouth-to-mouth. Just before she makes contact, Bong-yeol sputters and wakes, insisting he’s saving his lips for TF1004. HA.
So-ah hugs her patient, apologizing and thanking him. Ha-baek is pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, until he spots his precious drumstick lying in the dirt, and then he screams at her, “I told you to take care of this! I’m not saying I’m going to eat it. Our Namsuri is hungry!” Hee!
Ha-baek looks uneasy when So-ah starts to approach, and backs up nervously as she gets close. But then she grabs him around the waist and holds on tight, thanking him too. It throws him for a loop, and as he stands there stunned, the high priest’s voice says, “Fate… is fate.”
In the Water Kingdom, the high priest’s disciple asks him what he means by fate. He says in annoyance that he won’t tell her, but she keeps pestering for an answer. He says firmly, “It is a secret of nature.”
Okay, we’re settling into this world and this drama, so I feel like I have a better idea of what it’s going for. It’s not a perfect execution, but I do enjoy the setup and like that the mystical element is complex enough to give us a lot of direction in the plot. I’m not necessarily watching this for Ha-baek’s quest to find the other gods and the stones, but because there are a number of rules and steps laid out for us from the start, I feel like there’s less chance of the plot stagnating in one place when we can move on to the next part of the journey.
I’m liking the setup of this fantasy world, and in that regard I’m actually glad I haven’t read the original manhwa. I get the sense that the original is more complex in mythos with a lot more character development, and it’s always a challenge to translate something so richly drawn in fantasy to a drama format, with its constraints on time and budget and scope. I have little complaints with this world and premise, but I also see how it’s such a deviation from the source material that the connection becomes puzzling. I appreciate how that can be a source of disappointment, independent of the drama’s merits, because I find myself wondering what on earth the producers of My Sassy Girl were thinking in invoking the original when they could have just made it its independent show.
But perhaps I also place an undue amount of faith in this show’s writer and director, whose works I have absolutely loved and found innovative and creative in the past. This writer wrote Misaeng and Arang and the Magistrate, so I have perhaps more faith than I would otherwise that she will tell an interesting story with clever plot elements. The PD did Nine and Queen In-hyun’s Man, which were both fresh and sharply directed, so I’m really hoping they show their pedigree here.
Mostly, right now I’m riding a lot on the Ha-baek comedy line, and found today particularly funny with all the juxtapositions between his very serious reactions to very silly events. Even though the suicide patient isn’t anything to laugh at, I thought the show balanced the moment successfully, treating his and So-ah’s anguish as real while also working in some drumstick hijinks in the background (and sometimes foreground). The god’s fixation on a mundane piece of life is a tried-and-true device for the simple reason that it’s hilarious and it works—the Goblin had his artwork, time-traveling Hyun-jae has his smartphone, and now the water god has his precious drumstick.
Had Nam Joo-hyuk been going for genuine gravitas, I would have found him horribly miscast here, but as essentially comic relief, I’m fine going with it. I hope he’ll be able to carry the emotional storylines once the mood grows more serious, but I sort of see So-ah as the straight man here. She’s not necessarily the most winsome character, admittedly, though I can appreciate what they’re doing with her character—it’s sort of the more traditional tsundere treatment that a hero gets, in that she seems cold and unfeeling but betrays glimpses of a tender heart underneath. I suspect it’s a defense mechanism wrought by her trauma, and while I sort of wish I cared more about what happened with her father, I see potential in her arc. Maybe she’s in need of humanizing as much as Ha-baek is, and they can walk that path together. Preferably with lots of chicken legs.
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