Hwayugi: Episode 3
It’s been quite a couple of weeks for Hwayugi, and to be honest I was actually surprised that tvN ended up airing the show this weekend. (Nutshell version: After the controversy erupted over the injured staffer, filming shut down for four days for safety inspections, a press conference was given, and questions were raised about the future of the show. In the end, the show hired on a third PD, Nine and Bride of the Water God director Kim Byung-soo, to head a C team for filming.) As of now, we appear to be back to a regular airing schedule, but we’ll see if that remains the case.
It’s really a shame for the show itself, because I enjoy the story and find the adaptation clever, and particularly love the twist we get in today’s episode. The show is funny and romantic and interesting, but it’s been so overshadowed by the production issues that the narrative and creative work has taken a backseat. I hope for the show’s sake that it can find a way to stand on its merits.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
We resume where we left off: Sun-mi, the ghost-seeing girl with the unfortunate fate of monk Sam-jang, learns that Monkey King Sohn Oh-gong has been trapped inside the picture world she’d escaped. Moreover, because of the promise he made her as a child, she now holds the unique power to call Oh-gong back to this world—something his frenemy Mawang hadn’t anticipated when he’d locked him in the picture in the first place.
So she purposely slices her hand to attract demons with her blood, then hollers Oh-gong’s name into the sky. Moments later, he comes flying through the air and lands at her feet, banishing the demons with one blow.
Oh-gong pushes her behind him as he fights more of the demons that come at her. With an endless stream of enemies headed their way, Oh-gong decides to address the source: Seeing the bloodstain in the grass that’s attracting them, he causes the blood to rise in droplets, transforms them into butterflies, and sends them flying away. The demons chase them instead.
Sun-mi is amazed that Oh-gong even appeared, and when she uses his name, he tells her to use his full title: Great Sage, Equal to Heaven, Sohn Oh-gong. He blows on her bloody hand, and immediately the cut heals over.
“That’s amazing, Sohn Oh-gong,” Sun-mi says. His face suddenly hardens and he grabs her wrist firmly, saying, “It drives me crazy, I can’t stand it.”
Nervously, she asks if he still sees her as food, and struggles to free herself.
Across town, Mawang fumes at the foolish human for freeing Oh-gong again, levitating in a beam of red fire, ignoring Secretary Ma’s warnings to calm down before he’s spotted by human employees. Mawang rages at the idea of Oh-gong becoming immensely powerful if he eats the monk, while idol PK is all for running away in case Oh-gong already ate the monk.
But then, Patriarch runs in to inform them that Sun-mi put the gold circlet on Oh-gong. Suddenly Mawang is happy again, and his fiery beams dissipate.
Sun-mi backs away as Oh-gong ominously advances, and orders him to stop. He does, but reminds her that she’d said that misfortune could arise after putting the circlet on him. He confirms that a disastrously bad thing has indeed happened: “My loving you.”
He doesn’t say it lovingly, though, and tells her matter-of-factly, “Because of this, I think I’m madly in love with you. That’s trouble, isn’t it?”
Patriarch explains to Mawang how, in olden times, the circlet was placed on the head and delivered great pain (this is the way the original story has it, tightening on the head when a spell is recited). However, it was deemed limiting to only deliver physical pain; this modified circlet affects the heart, using love. Thus, Oh-gong has effectively become Sun-mi’s besotted protector.
Over drinks at a pojangmacha, Oh-gong complains bitterly to Sun-mi about the circlet. He yells that he should be dealing with PK right now, but he misses her so much that he can’t make himself leave. Haha, I love this.
Sun-mi disavows responsibility, saying she didn’t know those effects of the circlet when she gave it to him with that kiss. He demands that she prove it by kissing him again and leans in with puckered lips expectantly. She shoves him aside, calling that a trick to get her to kiss him, and he readily admits it.
She’s so embarrassed by his (loud, attention-drawing) talk that she hurries away. Oh-gong follows her, griping that he doesn’t like how he’s behaving, either, “But what can I do when I’ve fallen in love?” Then he shudders at the idea, annoyed at how pretty he finds her right now.
Oh-gong demands that she remove the circlet, and when she refuses, he demands a kiss. She snaps that his love is his own problem, since she doesn’t love him back, and walks off. Oh-gong clutches his chest and gasps in pain—because her words hurt him, ha. She mutters that she thought he was really in pain, and he asks eagerly, “Were you worried? Say you were worried. I think it won’t hurt then.”
Oh-gong boasts that he’s so powerful that he doesn’t even feel physical pain… then shivers at the cold and steals Sun-mi’s scarf, complaining that he’s from warmer climes. But when Sun-mi shivers, suddenly his encircled wrist trembles, and his expression softens in sympathy.
He (grudgingly) returns the scarf to Sun-mi, noting that he truly is afflicted. He explains that while he was trapped, his heart constantly hurt, and the moment he returned and saw her, he knew for certain: “That it hurt because I missed you so much.”
Then he suggests that since this situation is too much burden for both of them, she could just remove the bracelet. She doesn’t fall for it, and he heads off sighing about what a crappy situation this is.
Sun-mi can’t help but be flustered at this whole situation, but she warns herself to be on her guard.
One of Oh-gong’s blood-butterflies flutters down to a macabre scene in a field: Two hit men dig a grave while the corpse of a young woman lies nearby (Lee Se-young).
The butterfly lands on the girl and absorbs into her body, leaving a mark on her collarbone… and moments later, the body revives. Moving brokenly, Zombie Girl lurks nearby, waiting until the hit men finally notice the missing body.
Spooked, they run to the car and decide to tell their client they finished the job without incident. A voice sounds from the backseat, and when they see Zombie Girl sitting just inches away, they drive off in a panic.
In the commotion, they lose control and veer off the dirt road, sending the car rolling down a hill. Zombie Girl emerges from the smoking wreckage and limps off.
After a night of partying, PK offers his car keys to his date, since he’s too drunk to drive. She complains about the sideways-parked car next to them—and when PK reads the plate, he realizes with dismay that it’s Oh-gong’s.
Suddenly, Oh-gong’s car vrooms to life and speeds off… chasing a squealing boar down the street. It’s not long before police cars join in and the chase makes the evening news.
PK ends up groveling at Oh-gong’s feet for betraying him (Oh-gong: “I never really trusted you, so I don’t feel that betrayed”) and insists that Mawang was the mastermind. They’re in the office of CEO “dongsaeng” Sa Oh-jung, who confirms that Mawang was the one who decided to use the circlet against him.
Oh-gong decides that he won’t fight Mawang over this… but he’s not above a little payback and muses that he could send a few “flies” to annoy Mawang.
Which is why Mawang is soon plagued by an endless stream of phone calls and visits from monsters who have heard he found the monk. Mawang denies the rumors while cursing Oh-gong for spreading them, because now all sorts of monsters are hounding him for a bite of the monk.
Secretary Ma suggests that since the news has leaked, perhaps they could all split the monk to eat together, licking her chops hopefully. Mawang barks at her to cut it out.
They pause at an unexpected sight—a large peacock with golden feathers, shining brightly in Mawang’s office. The feathers fold up into a fan, and the figure holding it turns—to reveal Jang Geun-seok, HA.
He’s Peacock (likely a reference to a Buddhist wisdom king), also a famous actor, and he pleads for just one bite of the monk. Mawang tries to fob him off with a number of cheap tricks, pretending to give in and then running away, but Peacock persists in chasing and begging.
Mawang comes home to see Oh-gong’s fur coat slung over his bull statue again, and spits on it in vexation. Oh-gong greets him cheerfully, saying that he was just protecting his food by sending off all the annoying flies swarming around it.
Mawang asks if Oh-gong really just considers the monk as food, since the bracelet has made him a loyal dog serving his master. He explains that the circlet was his way of protecting the monk.
Oh-gong replies that Sun-mi was quite resistant to his requests to remove the bracelet, so he’ll have to ask Mawang for his help later: “Kill her and get rid of her. I’ll ask you at the crucial moment. Also, dry-clean that coat.”
Mawang is confused that Oh-gong is so eager to kill Sun-mi since he was certain the bracelet would punish its wearer with love. He wonders if it’s a fake bracelet, while Oh-gong gets weepy over a jar of seasoning sauce he’d made intending to cook the monk with. He cries at the thought that he missed his chance to eat her back then, but then adds, “But if I actually lose her, I’d really be agonized!”
Oh-gong gets a little wild-eyed and vows to get rid of the bracelet and eat the monk. “When that day comes…!” he vows, and then cries, “Ah, I’m so sad!” Haha, I love how confused Mawang is at his mood swings.
Sun-mi tosses in bed, thinking of Oh-gong’s declarations of love and wondering to herself, “Was it a mistake to call him? The Great Sage, Equal to Heaven, Sohn Oh-gong.”
Then she turns in bed and gasps, because Oh-gong is suddenly right there, smiling down at her. He teases her for calling him in the middle of the night to her bed, but she protests that she merely said his name out loud. He says he can only come to her if she says it with a longing heart.
Sun-mi promises not to call him unless she’s in a dangerous situation and tells him to go. He singsongs to her that he doesn’t want to, then starts rooting around in her kitchen. He comments on her empty refrigerator, and she says defensively that she doesn’t need much when she has no family, friends, or lovers.
“You have me from now on,” he tells her. “When you need me, call. I’ll wait for it.” Sun-mi tries not to be affected by that and tells him she won’t call, and he says, “Then what about me? Should I just die from missing you?”
She asks why that would happen, and suddenly he’s all indignation, brandishing the bracelet and exclaiming, “Because I love you annoyingly to bits!”
When she refuses again to remove it, he growls in frustration before vanishing into the air. Oh-gong reappears outside, and slams the bracelet down onto a boulder with a roar. All that does is split the boulder, and he sighs that despite his anger, he already misses Sun-mi.
The next day, Sun-mi and her employee Han-joo drop by the home of a client who wants to move out of her apartment because of excessive noise upstairs. The curious thing is, the apartment above is empty, but even as they speak, thudding noises sound from the ceiling.
Sun-mi looks around to investigate the noise, and looks inside the bedroom. Suddenly the room darkens, and a girl’s ghost materializes above, banging its head against the ceiling. When Han-joo joins her, he can only hear the sound, so it’s Sun-mi who informs him that the source isn’t coming from the upstairs apartment—it’s coming from this one.
The ghost turns its head to look at Sun-mi, and reveals a face full of eyeballs. Sun-mi grabs her talisman umbrella and holds it out like a shield, then sends the bewildered Han-joo out of the room.
Sun-mi battles her fears to confront the ghost, who startles her by dropping down in front of her, upside-down, and making swipes for her umbrella.
Out of nowhere, Oh-gong appears and vanquishes the ghost with one blow of his golden scepter, then chides Sun-mi for not calling for him. Then he chides himself for following her here because he missed her, when leaving her alone could have been his chance to let her die.
Sun-mi snaps that she could have handled a ghost alone, and he replies that she shouldn’t get angry because that hurts his heart… but if she wants to keep getting angry, she could always get rid of the bracelet.
She tells him to leave, and he pouts at how easily she can dismiss him. But after he vanishes, Sun-mi smiles at the thought of Oh-gong coming to her rescue.
As Mawang gets fitted for a suit, PK laments betraying Oh-gong, not having expected he’d come back so easily. He swears that his loyalty to Mawang is true, but Mawang scoffs that he has any loyalty and leaves him with this bit of wisdom: “A pig that is fat on the outside… is also fat on the inside.” LOL.
Mawang brags about how he fills out a suit better than humans, and PK notes that monsters risk detection when they present themselves too perfectly, suspecting that Yoo Jae-suk is going to be outed soon. Heh.
PK wonders what important meeting this new suit is for, and Mawang replies that he’s saving it for when he meets monk Sam-jang. His eyes flash as he sniffs the ring containing Sun-mi’s blood, and PK begs to have that blood droplet. Annoyed, Mawang levitates PK in the air, then drops him on his rear and warns him not to covet things that don’t belong to him.
At her office, Sun-mi sits down to lunch when suddenly Oh-gong appears and comments on how she has nobody to eat with. He tells her to call him at mealtimes: “I’ll be with you so you aren’t alone.”
He promises to show up at the next meal, but obligingly leaves when she tells him to go. Ha, and when she opens her lunchbox, the peas are arranged in the shape of a heart.
Sure enough, Oh-gong is back for the next lunch, this time with a gift. Since she clearly doesn’t mean to invite him to eat with her, he presents a stuffed monkey that he’s named Sohn Yook-gong (it’s a play on words; oh is five, yook is six). When she sighs at his cheesiness, he tells her he’ll send Seven and Eight and bombard her with cheesiness unless she removes the bracelet.
She dismisses him again, but she does smile at the monkey doll, and even buys an extra lunch the next day, looking around expectantly for Oh-gong to show up. She asks Yook-gong if she should call Oh-gong here, but decides against it.
Instead, Oh-gong visits Frosty’s ice cream cart today, pouting at Sun-mi’s constant rebuffs. Frosty suggests that Sun-mi might be waiting for him, but Oh-gong shakes his head and declares that he won’t be going anymore.
So Sun-mi eats, strangely disappointed at the peace and quiet.
Back to Zombie Girl, who shows up in the truckbed of a farmer couple. They wonder why the dog has been barking nonstop recently, not noticing that Zombie Girl has hitched a ride.
Mawang and Secretary Ma turn up at Sun-mi’s office, and Han-joo attends to them while they wait for her return. Mawang spots Sun-mi’s Pororo slippers nearby, and both he and Han-joo flash back to their embarrassing encounter earlier when Mawang had been sniffing them.
Han-joo asks about the reason for their visit, and Mawang mentions a contract with his agency. Han-joo is amazed that they’d want Sun-mi to be an entertainer, given her terrible “audition” on his show. He supposes that “any dog and cow” really can make it as celebrities these days, while Secretary Ma takes issue with his denigration of dogs and cows. (Ha, she’s a dog monster.) You can practically see her trying to kill him with her mind.
Sun-mi returns and meets with Mawang, though she doesn’t know why he’d want to talk to her. He reminds her that he saved her with the gold bracelet, and declares that he’s here to claim payment for that. He proposes that she contract with his company; if she declines the contract, she’ll have to return the bracelet.
She sees the catch now and calls this a cheap move, but he doesn’t care and paints a comically grisly picture of what would happen to her if she returned the bracelet and got herself killed. He leaves her to think it over, confident that he’s made it impossible for her to turn him down.
Back at his office, Mawang is pleased to see that Lucifer Entertainment has hit the top of the search rankings, though today it’s for an unusual reason: Old pictures have surfaced from a century ago. Netizens just think it’s Mawang’s doppelganger, though Secretary Ma notes that she’s also in the picture—she’s the dog by his side. (Her powers were weaker then, so she spent more time in her natural state.)
Mawang’s mood turns sad as he recalls that time, and we flash back to the world in the photos, back in the Occupation era. A woman runs through the streets from officers and is shot in the back, falling to the ground just a few feet in front of Mawang.
Mawang’s eyes fill with tears as he recognizes the woman (Kim Ji-soo guest appearance), who dies before his eyes.
In the present, Mawang walks to an inner room lined with old art, where a wall panel slides away to reveal a painting underneath. Featured is that woman, dressed in hanbok.
Now we see her running along a cliff in the heavens, chased by swordsmen. When she comes to a dead end, she leaps off of it, falling through the clouds, possibly to another death.
Looking stricken, Mawang wonders, “In this life, where are you and what pain are you enduring?”
Sun-mi mulls over Mawang’s offer, which would require her to catch demons for him. In turn, he’d amass points in his quest to become a Taoist immortal. She’d protested that she isn’t capable of that, but he’d told her to use Oh-gong. She realizes that this was Mawang’s plan all along, dismayed that she played into it.
Han-joo drops by and spots the contract, wondering if she really means to pursue an entertainment career. She hedges that she’ll probably have to attend some “special” events and perform some “mixed duets.”
Han-joo leans in to ask if she could connect his daughter to Lucifer Entertainment; at six years old, she dreams of being a singer. Sun-mi agrees to mention an audition, but firmly shoots down his suggestion to bring the girl to one of her “events.”
Sun-mi wonders what kinds of events might be in store for her, and imagines herself at Lucifer’s offices, being debriefed by Mawang on monster-fighting missions as though they’re mundane singing gigs. She leads a ghostbusting team with Oh-gong, PK, and even CEO Sa as backup, and they pile into a company van like the world’s most motley idol group.
Breaking into her reverie is a text message from her uncle, which simply tells her to deposit money into his account. She heads to the bank, where she makes the odd request for the clerk to bag her money so that she doesn’t touch it. On her way out, she buys a bag of popcorn snacks for her grandmother.
The farmer couple arrives in Seoul, and pull over their truck momentarily for a bathroom break, still unaware of Zombie Girl in the back. Nearby, Sun-mi walks to the intersection and notices a little boy ghost huddled to himself. Stopping to talk to him, she guesses that he died in an accident here and offers him some popcorn, pouring it into a cone fashioned from a promotional flyer.
Her presence awakens Zombie Girl, who pokes her head out of the tarp and spots Sun-mi nearby, walking across the intersection. Sun-mi turns back and sees Zombie Girl standing there, but doesn’t make much of it.
Zombie Girl, meanwhile, picks up the flyer Sun-mi left behind, which contains her contact information. She hobbles on, while a news report helpfully informs us of an idol trainee who recently went missing. The picture is, of course, of Zombie Girl.
The two hit men apparently survived the crash, and panic at the news report. They’re determined to stick to their story, that they successfully buried this girl in the woods.
Sun-mi arrives at her uncle’s gate to an icy reception. He and his wife refuse to let her step inside their house, but she says she’s just here to give them money for Grandma’s memorial, assuring them she didn’t touch it. They take the money, but reject the popcorn (to put on Grandma’s table) and shut the gate in her face.
She overhears Uncle insisting that Aunt throw salt at him to rid him of her bad juju, because Sun-mi ruined the lives of everyone around her.
Sun-mi contains her hurt as she heads off, though she’s waylaid by her cousin Mi-joo, who steps outside and calls out to her.
Chatting at a cafe, Mi-joo says she feels bad for the way Uncle treats Sun-mi. But not so bad that she doesn’t hit Sun-mi up for money too, telling a sob story about how tight finances are with a baby on the way and her husband taking on more loans.
Sun-mi offers it, of course, remaining gracious as they part ways. But as Mi-joo and her husband drive off, Sun-mi glimpses a demon riding in the backseat and runs after the car, though she quickly falls behind.
Mi-joo and her husband are oblivious to the danger behind them; the husband’s excited at getting the money and assures his wife that he hasn’t had very much to drink. The demon whispers for the husband to speed, possessing him with its energy, and the car blows through an intersection and barely misses hitting an oncoming car.
But suddenly, Mi-joo’s car starts spinning in the middle of the street, in perfect circles—orchestrated by Oh-gong at the side of the road. He stops the spinning as Sun-mi pulls up in a taxi and rushes to the car, telling her cousin to get out. Spotting the demon in the back, Sun-mi flings handfuls of red beans at it, but it just makes the others think she’s crazy, and the demon possesses the husband again to spur him to drive on.
But when he hits the gas pedal intending to drive right over Sun-mi, the wheels screech uselessly in place. It’s Oh-gong again, and this time he slams the car down, resulting in four popped tires.
The husband blames Sun-mi for causing this, and gets in her face to yell at her. Oh-gong steps in and grabs him by the collar, warning that his actions drew a malevolent spirit to him and almost got his family killed.
The demon tries to sneak away, but Oh-gong grabs it in his clutches and vanquishes it easily. He finally lets the husband go and warns him not to drink and drive again—and that yelling at Sun-mi again will mean his death.
Oh-gong flings him aside, then asks Sun-mi why she didn’t call him again. He declares that he really won’t appear anymore unless summoned, then heads off in a huff.
When Mi-joo asks if Sun-mi called “that gangster” here, Sun-mi agrees, liking the idea that he showed up for her. Mi-joo complains about Oh-gong’s actions and demands compensation for the car he wrecked, but for the first time Sun-mi pushes back.
She says, “All this time, I had nobody by my side. No matter if I was scared or lonely, or upset like now, I had nobody. So I held back and lived pretending I was fine. But now, I have a name to call. I feel reassured. I won’t hold back anymore.”
She calls this Mi-joo’s responsibility to handle, and calls her cousin shameless before leaving her to her mess.
At the bar, PK and Patriarch discuss the latest events, and PK is tickled at the shift in their unofficial “rankings”: If Sun-mi works under Mawang, and she’s the one controlling Oh-gong, PK now outranks Oh-gong. PK adds that he’ll soon be dating Sun-mi, although Sun-mi doesn’t know this yet.
Sun-mi meets with Mawang to ask if contracting with him will allow her to gain something she wants: to be an ordinary person. Mawang explains that being the monk Sam-jang means she has a certain calling—but if she fulfills that calling, she could live as an ordinary person. But it’s up to her to figure out what that is.
Mawang is so eager to get this arrangement going that she wonders at his rush to become an immortal. He replies that every day that passes matters, because that’s an extra day of pain that someone is suffering.
Sun-mi startles him with her astute observation that he carries the burden of someone needing rescue. He’s impressed and gives her his “You pass” stamp of approval, which she recalls him doing when she was a child. He says that just like then, all she needs to do is be careful of Oh-gong: She mustn’t release him from the bracelet the way she released him from his mountain prison.
Zombie Girl staggers her way across town to Sun-mi’s office building, finally arriving outside just as Han-joo leaves the office and drops by Sun-mi’s (next-door) apartment to drop off a package. Zombie Girl grabs the door before it swings closed, letting herself in.
Han-joo grumbles as cuts open the box, and nicks his finger in the process. That scent of blood travels through the air and alerts Zombie Girl, sending her beelining toward the scent like a zombie on a mission.
Out of nowhere, Oh-gong stops her and smacks a talisman to her forehead. It flashes as it makes contact and freezes her in her tracks. Noticing the zombie clutching Sun-mi’s flyer, he wonders why she’d come looking for her specifically.
Then, he hears Sun-mi calling his name and smiles. He tells Zombie Girl to stay put, then poofs away to Sun-mi’s side.
He finds her sitting on a bench outside alone, and notes that she’s not in any danger. She says she called him to be a drinking companion, asking if it’s okay to call him just for his company. He throws her some finger hearts and says of course: “Because I love you.” Lol, could anyone make love confessions sound any more flippant than Monkey Man?
She admits that she doesn’t hate the sound of those words, but he tells her not to get too used to them, asking her to please reject his love and get rid of his bracelet. And of course he immediately follows that by agreeing to open her beer, “Because I love you.”
Sun-mi tosses handfuls of popcorn onto the ground, and children ghosts come forward to eat the offerings. He wonders at it, and she explains having bought them to offer to her grandma.
Oh-gong remembers her mentioning Grandma before, back when she was a child. He sighs that times were good then, when he could run away from Sun-mi. She sighs that times were good then because Grandma was with her.
So Oh-gong grabs a handful of popcorn and tells her to say, “Grandma, enjoy these.” She does, and he tosses them into the air, where the kernels disappear with a flash of light.
…and across town at the memorial ceremony she wasn’t invited to, a small shower of popcorn rains down on Grandma’s memorial table.
Oh-gong tells her where he sent them, and tosses more popcorn in the air until the bag is empty. In her memorial photo, Grandma’s face broadens into a smile.
Sun-mi thanks Oh-gong sincerely, and he repeats his familiar refrain about removing the bracelet. But she tells him regretfully that she really can’t remove the bracelet now, because she contracted with Mawang as payment for the bracelet in the first place. And to fulfill that contract, she needs Oh-gong.
Mawang looks up at his painting of his beloved, and asks her to wait just a little longer.
Oh-gong says she’s sold him to Mawang. She says that if she fulfills Sam-jang’s calling, she should be able to live normally, and asks him to stay with her until then.
Sun-mi shares, “To be honest, these past few days, I found the thought of you coming to me to be reassuring and not lonely. You felt like family, like a friend, like a lover. I really like having someone like that.”
“It hurts me to ruin a good feeling,” Oh-gong replies, “but what connects us is an event of misfortune. We shouldn’t forget that, should we? Even now, it feels like something really bad is going to happen.”
Across town, the talisman stuck to Zombie Girl’s face flashes again. It falls off and dissipates… and Zombie Girl (re-)reanimates.
The front door beeps open as Han-joo returns, worrying that he left something behind. He finds his phone on the counter, not seeing Zombie Girl lurking…
Oh-gong explains to Sun-mi that at this very moment, her employee is likely being torn to shreds. She says he should save him, but he points out that their contract only involves protecting Sun-mi: “I don’t care if any other human dies.”
Han-joo pauses near the exit to tie a shoelace. Zombie Girl reaches out for him…
Oh-gong asks if Sun-mi wants to save other people too. “Fine, I’ll do it,” he says, and holds up a wrist. “But in exchange, remove this.”
I love this love-as-shackle plot device! There’s something so wonderfully comedic about this setup where the cavalier Monkey is actually saddled with feelings of love, and how his head is completely aware that it’s a spell even as his heart undergoes the throes of real(istic) love. The flip-flopping emotions are hilarious to watch, and Seung-gi has this natural and off-the-cuff delivery that is perfect for both sides of the coin.
Where it really gets fun, of course, is when the lines get blurry between what is love enforced by a bracelet and what is actual love brewing in Oh-gong’s heart, because I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing both of those aspects growing. I’m willing to bet he’s going to blame everything on the bracelet and insist that none of those feelings are his own, and I’m so looking forward to the day when he gets an inkling that maybe it’s not quite so cut and dried as that.
It’s also refreshing to watch a courtship unfold where both sides of the push and pull action come from the same person, which is great. We get to see Oh-gong being swoony and flirty (and I honestly never saw Seung-gi as sexy until this episode, but wow did that happen all of a sudden), but he’ll undercut his own drippiness before we can even cringe at how romantic it is, because he’s the one who hates the schmaltz more than anyone. Honestly, I think this dynamic is pretty brilliant.
I have a few quibbles about the actual structuring of the episodes, because I feel like there isn’t a lot of neatness in introducing monsters of the week or beginning and ending storylines to conform to episode lengths. It sort of feels like episodes end when time runs out, and not because a story wraps up (sort of like a daily soap, rather than an episodic drama). It’s not a huge complaint, but I just prefer shows where episodes feel like they’re complete mini-works of storytelling that make up a bigger complete arc. But given that I don’t care too much about any of the monsters themselves, I suppose this loose plotting allows us to avoid fixating too much on tertiary characters.
Last but not least, I was pleased to catch a glimpse of Mawang’s backstory—I was honestly not sure if he’d get much emotional development since he’s carrying so much of the comedy. But I like this idea of the tragic love—and more poignant than a lost love is the lost love who suffers, whom he’s desperate to save. Things suddenly feel more grounded once you give him a reason to care, which gives me a reason to care.
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