Hwayugi: Episode 5
With romantic feelings growing, magic-induced or not, the question becomes more pressing of what is real and what isn’t, and if something that has its roots in falseness still has value. I’m not sure I know the answer to that, and it’s too bad for our perplexed heroine that she doesn’t either.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Mawang donates a valuable 1930s film to a museum and brushes aside the praise with false modesty (while basking in it internally). It’s another good deed in his efforts to amass points toward immortality, and he enjoys the attention it brings him.
As he and Secretary Ma leave the meeting, they see employees moving a display for a famous general’s sword, and Secretary Ma calls the hero an outstanding person for saving his country. Mawang points out that it’s not the general who saved the country, but the ghost trailing the exhibit—a woman who greets Mawang with a bow.
Secretary Ma supposes that if people knew that it was a nameless woman who saved the country and not the lauded general, people wouldn’t be so precious about that sword. Mawang says that there are a lot of historical artifacts here whose true stories will differ from what is widely believed.
He supposes that some artifacts may hide terrible secrets, and in a nearby room, the ghost of a young girl in a kimono looks up and smirks.
Sun-mi and Han-joo arrive at a motel whose owner has been so spooked by strange happenings that he’s put the place up for sale. Han-joo explains that the rumors involve unsettling happenings that interrupt couples in the throes of passion.
As they look around, Oh-gong appears and joins them, making himself comfortable in the cushy room. Han-joo wonders why Oh-gong has been following them around recently, still put out from when Oh-gong rudely told him to get lost (not knowing he was in danger of a zombie attack).
Sun-mi says that Oh-gong is protecting her, and Han-joo assumes her agency assigned her a bodyguard. Then as Oh-gong plays with various amenities, Han-joo wonders if they gave her a deficient bodyguard since she’s not famous yet, haha.
When Han-joo steps aside to meet the owner, Oh-gong admires the comforts of the room and wishes he could live here. Sun-mi snaps that this place isn’t for living in, so he asks innocently what it’s used for, bouncing on the bed and saying he’ll have to sleep here tonight.
Sun-mi calls him out for pretending he isn’t being suggestive and asks if it doesn’t embarrass him to talk like this. Oh-gong says it does embarrass him, but whips out the bracelet and says he can’t help it because he loves her. “It turns out love is like that,” he shrugs. “So what if I’m a little embarrassed, when I could sleep here tonight with you?”
Sun-mi snaps that she’s embarrassed by all his love talk, just as an idea hits. Suddenly dropping the annoyance, she approaches Oh-gong, leans in close, and grabs his shoulders while he gulps at the change in attitude.
She tells him that lovemaking is what draws the demon out, but Oh-gong points out that they’ll need a stronger display than this, indicating the bed. So Sun-mi timidly pushes him down and lies down next to him, and Oh-gong inches closer, asking what they do if the monster doesn’t appear. She gets shy as he leans his face toward hers, and closes her eyes.
Just then the demon pops up, and Oh-gong hilariously tries to motion it away so he can kiss Sun-mi. The demon refuses, so Oh-gong tells Sun-mi to wait just a moment and pops up, quickly defeats the demon, and then returns to bed saying that there’s more than one demon and they ought to continue.
Sun-mi sees through the ruse, and Oh-gong stamps his feet in disappointment, crushing a tissue box. Then he notices a hole in the box—inside which is a tiny camera, pointed at the bed. So it was the dirty greed of the filmer (who shot unsuspecting couples and sold the videos) that drew the demon here.
Han-joo returns with the motel owner, and when the man sees Sun-mi holding up the hidden camera, he bolts. Sun-mi orders Han-joo to catch him, and Oh-gong blows a bit of magic dust that throws Han-joo into a tackle.
Afterward, Sun-mi says hopefully that given the way they caught both the bad demon and the bad human today, it should be possible for her to prevent the worldwide disaster she saw in the jar of misfortunes. Oh-gong doesn’t much care about the bigger picture and says he only cares about protecting her because he loves her. Holding up his bracelet again, he says he’s not concerned with the things she loves, just that he loves her at all.
That reminder deflates her spirits a bit, and she dismisses him, intending to go for a walk enjoying the air and her favorite music. Oh-gong says that she ought to enjoy the walk more with him at her side, but at her non-response, he realizes that’s not true. She points out that he may love her, but she doesn’t return the sentiment.
Now his mood is soured too, and he tells her to go off alone, taking the opposite direction. Seeing Oh-gong leaving makes her remember his words about how he’ll eventually leave and she’ll be alone again, and she tells herself to pull it together.
That night at the museum, a security guard finds his way to an ornate vanity chest and mirror. He senses a presence behind him, and turns to see the little girl in the red kimono. In Japanese, she asks if he’s trying to find out who she is and declares that nobody can know, but he doesn’t understand her words.
She vanishes into a cloud of smoke, and the guard doesn’t see her flitting by as he walks the hallways. Suddenly, she reappears and zooms up to his face, frightening him badly with her death glare.
Meanwhile, Mawang is pleased to see that he’s made the front page of a portal site for being awarded a presidential medal for the rare film donation. Heh, I love how he pretends he doesn’t love being praised while clearly loving every second of it. Secretary Ma offers to alert the group chat room of his achievement, but tells her not to, since they’ll have seen the news online.
When he arrives at home, the security guard congratulates him on the medal and also gently chides him for taking up all the visitor parking spots—there are multiple cars parked, all apparently here for him. The guard suggests that they’re here to congratulate him on his medal.
Mawang carries in a couple packages addressed to zombie girl Buja (grumbling at her home shopping fixation), but today he’s too happy anticipating a celebratory party to be annoyed at little things.
But it turns out Buja only cares about her packages, which litter the living room, and PK’s bottle of champagne is meant for himself. Mawang tries to bring up his medal in conversation, but Buja and PK are more interested in her purchases and ignore him.
Mawang finds CEO Sa cooking up a storm in the kitchen—all side dishes for Oh-gong. CEO Sa offers to make Mawang his favorite dishes too, but Mawang grumpily declines, and then is put out even more when CEO Sa accepts his answer right away.
Next he spots Oh-gong using up Mawang’s skincare and launches into a lecture on house rules. Oh-gong barely listens, but he does congratulate Mawang on his award, and suddenly Mawang is all generosity, even showing Oh-gong how to use his products.
Oh-gong is in a lousy mood because Sun-mi doesn’t like him. Mawang points out that he already knew that, but Oh-gong says he didn’t realize that one-sided love would hurt so much: “It feels like I’m always on the losing end, which sucks.”
Sun-mi drops by the bar, where Summer Fairy suggests she call Oh-gong for company. Sun-mi declines that idea, since he’d only come because the bracelet forced him to; his feelings aren’t real.
Summer Fairy wisely notes, “You’re disappointed that it’s not real.” Sun-mi denies it, saying merely that she’d be a fool for taking seriously something that’s fake.
“But you shouldn’t ignore it, either,” Summer Fairy tells her. “In any case, he loves you, and will feel pain because of it. It will hurt for real.”
The next day, Oh-gong visits Frosty’s ice cream stand and learns that Sun-mi visited the bar last night, and is glad to have another place to wait in hopes of running into her. When he spots a group of fangirls huddling in the cold, hoping to glimpse PK here, he scoffs at their foolishness.
Frosty, on the other hand, feels sorry for them and says they wait because they love PK, even though PK finds it burdensome. Feeling the parallel, Oh-gong thinks PK should like being followed around out of love, rather than finding it burdensome. Oh-gong decides not to take ice cream to Sun-mi after all, insisting that he won’t put himself out to give her gifts or seem pathetic. “Why would I give her things like this?” he scoffs.
“Because you love her,” Frosty replies. Oh-gong asks if he truly seems like those fangirls, and Frosty avoids his gaze. “Even so, I’m the Great Sage, Equal to Heaven—shouldn’t I be a little different?” Oh-gong asks desperately.
The fangirls erupt into squeals when PK arrives, and Oh-gong realizes with horror that he’s just like them and swears.
At the real estate office, Han-joo informs Sun-mi that a mountain of hidden camera files were uncovered at that motel. He puffs up at the thought that he took down a criminal and brags about how he was so intent on catching him that his body flew of its own accord.
Then he comments that her bodyguard sure didn’t do much to protect her and suggests she request a replacement. Sun-mi says she’s not in a position to, adding that the bodyguard isn’t with her of his own volition. Han-joo teases that she’s just susceptible to his pretty face, hee.
Sun-mi steps into her office to find an ice cream bag floating in the air, controlled by a dour-looking Oh-gong. He takes issue to Han-joo wanting him replaced and barks that she should replace Han-joo instead. Sun-mi points out that she’s worked with Han-joo much longer than Oh-gong, who isn’t in a position to demand things.
“So you don’t like me, but Han-joo is valuable?” Oh-gong complains. Sun-mi opens the ice cream container and points out that Han-joo would know she doesn’t like peanuts in her ice cream. Oh-gong asks if she likes Han-joo, and Sun-mi reminds him that he doesn’t care about what she likes.
“Then if I cared about what you liked, would you tell me?” he asks. “Even if I tell you I love you, to you they’re just bothersome words, and no matter how I hurt, you don’t care. I realized that.”
Sun-mi remembers Summer Fairy’s advice, and Oh-gong tells her he’ll care from now on, asking for things she likes. He notes her preference for strawberry ice cream and FT Island (ha), to which he comments, “I thought you liked pretty faces, but they aren’t.”
Oh-gong lights up when Sun-mi says she likes the color green, because he likes it too. He finally makes the connection that it’s important to know what she likes, and asks what else there is.
Sun-mi stares into his face for long moments, and her unspoken answer seems to be “you.” But she shakes it aside and lies that she can’t think of anything right now.
Arriving home, Mawang is pleased at the lotus-scented candles that Buja burned to cover up her zombie stink. She says that Oh-gong advised her to do it because Mawang has a sensitive nose, which is surprisingly thoughtful of him.
Mawang notices she’s watching his audition show and approves of the choice. Buja says that the show made her recall something, and sets out to demonstrate a dance. It’s partly zombie lolling, but also partly trained dance moves, and Mawang is impressed.
Unfortunately, she gets stuck in the splits after dislocating a joint, and Mawang is forced to drag her out in a bag to his car. Once again the security guard catches him, so Mawang exposes his armpits and flaps them in the guard’s direction, sending him running off holding his nose.
Mawang takes her to the Lucifer building and feeds her another energy ball, harvested from the 2002 World Cup, which should help her recall some of her memories from before she died.
He accidentally opens his wall panel revealing the painting of his beloved, and explains that she is an immortal who fell to the human world as punishment for a sin. Asked what punishment that is, Mawang says, “Living in misery, and dying in pain. Having to live a cruel life over and over.”
Note: The show hasn’t identified her yet, but we can call her Princess Iron Fan now; it seems the show expects us to draw that conclusion. In the original story, Princess Iron Fan is Bull Demon King’s wife, whom Monkey tricked in an effort to take her magical fan.
Mawang thinks back to her being shot in her Occupation lifetime. In Fairy’s bar, Patriarch fills in the rest: That was the last time she was seen, but she’s destined to live miserably forever. The only thing Mawang can do to help is become an immortal and break the cycle of rebirth. It should be possible, Patriarch says, so long as Oh-gong doesn’t interfere. Well, that’s a big if!
Summer Fairy finds it promising that Oh-gong has been quiet in recent days because of the bracelet. Patriarch says that makes him nervous, because Oh-gong is not one to remain quiet.
At home, Oh-gong notices that Buja’s voice is sounding perkier, which she attributes to the energy ball. Noting that Mawang shared that energy with her, Oh-gong says, “We should share things and live harmoniously together.” Why do I feel like whatever he’s planning, Mawang won’t consider sharing?
Secretary Ma meets with the museum director regarding the film donation and museum display. She suggests that Mawang’s contribution be displayed in a different area, indicating the area containing the Japanese girl’s vanity.
The director explains that the spot is reserved for a different display; the vanity was donated by the family of a well-known independence fighter and founder of a national foundation. Secretary Ma accepts this, and when she steps aside, another employee nervously brings up the rumors swirling online regarding that foundation—that it was actually in support of Japanese colonialism.
The director warns him to shush, dismissing the rumors of a ghost. But he peers into the mirror curiously… and glimpses that Japanese girl in the glass. When he whirls around, she’s gone. Ack!
Suddenly she reappears, and asks angrily if he’s trying to find out who she is. She declares that anybody who finds out her identity must be done away with. Overcome with shock, the director faints.
Secretary Ma returns and orders the girl to stop, then wonders why a Japanese ghost would come out of an artifact belonging to a Korean independence fighter. The girl’s face hardens as she glares, then vanishes.
Secretary Ma walks through the museum halls in search of the child, and arrives in the screening room where the donated film plays. The girl appears onscreen, and Secretary Ma realizes she’s escaped into the film.
Secretary Ma takes the film reel back to Mawang and reports what happened. With the film scheduled to screen tomorrow, he can’t have the ghost girl popping up unexpectedly, and decides to go inside to get her himself, and to take Sun-mi with him.
Sun-mi and Oh-gong are, at the moment, at a different theater to catch one of her favorite movies (Won Bin’s Ajusshi). There’s some time before the movie starts, so she asks if Oh-gong wants to watch anything else, and he gravitates to a risque poster, saying that fewer clothes means a warmer movie. Psh. (It’s Jung Woo-sung’s Scarlet Innocence.)
But they get called over by Mawang then, and head to Lucifer Entertainment (with plenty of grumbling from Oh-gong). Sun-mi suggests canceling the screening and burning the reel, but Mawang points out how terrible it would look for him to donate something, get a medal for it, and then burn it to a crisp.
Sun-mi agrees to enter the film to catch the ghost, but tells Oh-gong to stay out of it. She reminds Mawang that he’d trapped “our Oh-gongie” last time, so this time she wants Mawang to accompany her.
Surprised but pleased, Oh-gong tells her to be sure to be done within an hour so they can watch their movie.
With that, the reel is set up and the two enter the film world of 1930s Gyeongseong (now Seoul). Watching from the screening room, Secretary Ma says they’ll have to find the ghost within the hourlong screening time, and Oh-gong says confidently that they will, since “our Sam-jangie” has to see a movie with him.
Inside the picture, Mawang cautions Sun-mi to be careful not to damage the film while they’re here, and she pauses in front of a movie poster. He offers to stop by a theater, but she’s in a hurry to finish this task and Mawang notices that she seems quite into the idea of her movie date. She just says it’s because she likes that movie.
Referring to Secretary Ma’s crude drawing of the kimono ghost, Sun-mi deduces that the garment was pricey and suggests looking for a kimono shop. But as they wait for the trolley, Mawang recognizes someone across the street: Iron Fan. He sends Sun-mi on without him, telling her to call for Oh-gong if she encounters danger.
He loses sight of Iron Fan, but spots the matchbox on the ground that she left behind. He also confirms the date, which puts them a year before she died.
PK takes Buja to a practice studio to jog her memory of her past life, although she can’t recall much beyond a vague feeling of longing. PK steps out to get another energy ball, and as Buja looks around, a snippet from her past life flashes in her mind: her rehearsing a dance in a similar studio.
A girl enters the studio and wonders who Buja is, and Buja doesn’t quite know how to answer. She’s Alice, the girl who’d attracted the diet monster, and she snaps at Buja to leave and complains that she’s “annoyed to death.”
Temper piqued, Buja warns that saying things bug her “to death” could get her really dead. Alice just shoves her and orders her to leave.
Buja falls straight back to the ground, stiff as a board, eyes glassy. Alice worries that she’s dead, and runs up to PK when he joins them. Before he can say anything, Buja swings back to her feet without changing her rigid posture, floating up like a vampire.
Alice screams, and PK does the only thing he can think of and knocks her out with a blow to the neck. He chides Buja, who sniffs that Alice is “rude enough to anger a dead person.” Can’t really argue with that.
PK takes the unconscious Alice to Summer Fairy’s bar, deciding that they’ll just say they were drinking and made her memory spotty. Buja shares her memory of dancing in the studio, and PK offers to look up whether any dancers went missing.
Buja wonders why she died, and PK warns her that she was murdered and thus the answer won’t be pretty. Is she prepared to face the truth? The thought makes Buja teary-eyed, and she excuses herself for some air.
Summer Fairy tells PK that was mean of him, but he replies that sometimes coldness is needed.
Buja paces outside, telling herself not to cry. In the distance, she sees a man exiting a building, and it triggers a memory—he’s one of the hit men hired to dispose of her body. The man bows to a man in a car, then seats himself in the passenger seat, and Buja watches the car drive off.
Oh-gong takes a look at the haunted vanity and tries to puzzle out the relationship between the young girl and the elderly Korean lady in the display picture. This time, Secretary Ma notices the mole on the grandma’s cheek—which is awfully similar to the mole on the ghost girl’s face. If the girl lived to be a grandma, what’s the deal with the ghost?
In Gyeongseong, Sun-mi arrives at a large mansion, where a nanny chases around a young girl named Akiko (aha, our ghost). Sun-mi is mistaken for the daughter of Count Nakamura, who received a medal from the Japanese emperor, just as Akiko’s father did. The maid is proud of this fact, since it’s quite unusual for a Korean person to receive a medal from the emperor (though most Koreans wouldn’t consider that an honor).
Sun-mi is shown into a gathering of Japanese sympathizers. The sight fills Sun-mi with distaste, and she avoids joining the group by excusing herself to the bathroom. A girl goes running by, and Sun-mi starts to follow, calling Akiko’s name.
In the city, Iron Fan waits outside a club with a dagger hidden in a shaking hand. When a Japanese man called Boss arrives, Iron Fan lurches at him with dagger outthrust, though it gets deflected easily.
Iron Fan accuses him of killing her husband and child, then attacks a second time. Again, he blocks her and sends her flying into a cart. But before he can do more damage, Mawang appears and grabs the Boss by the throat, throwing him through the air.
The Boss’s men jump in to fight Mawang, but are no match for his strength or his superhuman powers. He flings them through the air one after another, and when they’re all downed, he turns to Iron Fan and extends a hand to her. Tentatively, she takes it.
In a cafe a short time later, Iron Fan asks if he knows her and warns him not to intervene: “I have to kill that bastard.” When she feels around for her matches, Mawang hands her the box he retrieved, then clasps her hand in his, pulling off the scarf she wrapped around her scrapes.
He gently rewraps her hand in his scarf and tells her, “In the end, you’ll kill that Japanese man. Then you’ll be chased, and be killed.”
“I know,” she says. “I’m doing this because I want to die anyway.” She tells him to drop by her shop later, then pulls her hand from his grasp and gets up to go. She pauses to look back at Mawang with a smile, but his expression is stricken as he watches her go.
In the mansion, Sun-mi comes upon an empty room containing that vanity chest, and stops to take a look. That’s when Akiko appears to tell her not to touch it, because she’s hidden her family’s treasures inside.
Akiko zooms up to block the chest, and Sun-mi asks why she’s pretending to be Japanese when she’s Korean. She demands Akiko’s real name, which angers the ghost, who growls, “Our family is no longer Korean!”
The girl calls her stupid and disappears, just as the telephone rings on the vanity. Sun-mi answers, and it’s Secretary Ma, telling her that the ghost isn’t actually the ghost of a dead person—it’s the soul of a living person. We see that the grandma from the museum display is indeed alive.
Secretary Ma instructs Sun-mi to meet Mawang where she entered the world, and Sun-mi heads outside. But as she walks away from the house, a gunshot rings out. Sun-mi freezes, struck.
Akiko stands with her family, pointing an accusing finger at Sun-mi. An officer aims a rifle at Sun-mi’s back.
Sun-mi falls to the ground.
In the screening room, the film comes to an end and clicks off. As Sun-mi lies on the ground, the world around her starts to go dark. With a smirk, Akiko’s spirit vanishes.
Sun-mi thinks, “This can’t happen. I have to leave. I have to see the movie I like… together…”
Through her blurred vision, she sees Oh-gong stepping into view toward her. He calls her name, but despite his orders to open her eyes, they slowly fall closed…
And then, suddenly, she snaps awake with a gasp.
She’s in a movie theater with Oh-gong, watching Ajusshi, an ice cream cone in hand. She wonders what happened, and Oh-gong simply says that he told her he’d give her all the things she liked. He points out the strawberry ice cream in her hand, the green dress she’s wearing, the movie: “…and me.”
Back at Lucifer Entertainment, Mawang explains to Secretary Ma how Oh-gong was able to save Sun-mi after she was shot. Oh-gong didn’t burn the film in this reality—he went into that world and burned that up.
Back in the film world, we see Oh-gong picking up Sun-mi’s prone body. The world had stood still as he’d carried her away, erupting into flames behind him.
“He burned the world in which Sam-jang was shot and died, which is how he was able to bring her out safely,” Mawang explains. “For her sake, Sohn Oh-gong destroyed one world.”
In the movie theater, Oh-gong watches Sun-mi watch the screen, and smiles to himself.
As for the destroyed film, it’ll be explained away as lost in a museum fire. Mawang thinks back to his encounter with Iron Fan, and how she’d invited him to visit her shop. But now he won’t be able to, he says forlornly.
Mawang arrives at the award ceremony to receive his medal, and is surprised to see another recipient arriving: the grandma formerly known as Akiko, now Kang Myung-ja, wheeled in by her grandson. Mawang grimaces in distaste.
It’s worth noting that the grandson is a familiar face—he’s the well-liked politician Buja recognized from the gym, suggesting that he may have something to do with her murder.
Later, Grandma Myung-ja looks at her medal, a sinister glint in her eye. She pulls out another medal from its box—the one her father was given by the Japanese emperor.
Then young Akiko appears in Grandma Myung-ja’s mirror, and granny spells it out in case we haven’t put it together: She was once Akiko from the family honored with a medal by the Japanese empire, but now she’s Kang Myung-ja, recipient of a medal of honor from the Korean government, and nobody will ever know she was once Akiko.
The hateful little girl points out, “But you know! Everyone who knows Akiko must disappear.” Oh shit. Well that’s what we call a fatal loophole.
Grandma Myung-ja gasps in horror as Akiko zooms up to her, and sometime later, she’s discovered dead in her wheelchair.
Han-joo is awarded a certificate of honor for capturing the criminal, and offers to treat Sun-mi to dinner. Sun-mi requests a raincheck since she has plans to see a movie tonight, and Han-joo tells her to have fun with her boyfriend.
Sun-mi says she doesn’t have one, but Han-joo names her bodyguard, saying the interest was obvious. Sun-mi concedes that he does like her, but Han-joo asks, “It wasn’t you who liked him? It looked like you liked him a lot.”
He figures Oh-gong must know this too since it was so evident, and Sun-mi worries, “That can’t happen.”
The thought puts a damper on Sun-mi’s mood, and she broods on her usual bench outside. She recalls Oh-gong describing falling for her as disastrous misfortune, and saying he’d leave her eventually because his love is fake.
She calls his name, and he appears before her with a smile. She says she doesn’t want to see a movie together after all, and he asks why.
“Because I like it,” Sun-mi replies. “I like being with you, who says he’ll do everything for me. You say you love me, and I think I’ll come to like you. But you’re fake. I’m such a fool that it’s painful.”
Since he said he’d do everything she liked, she tells him to never do what she hates. “I truly don’t want to like you,” she says. “Don’t ask me to like you.”
“If that’s what you want, I’ll do that,” he says.
When Mawang comes home that night, he’s pleased to find no coat on his bull statue, and lotus-scented candles filling the house. Oh-gong congratulates him on his medal and offers him a glass of his best wine.
Explaining that he has more to share, Oh-gong says that because of the bracelet, he feels pain—but so does Sun-mi. “Then shouldn’t you feel pain, too?” Oh-gong asks. Mawang looks at him quizzically, not quite understanding.
“Let’s share our pain,” Oh-gong says. It dawns on Mawang that Oh-gong has done something, and guesses that it was the wine. Oh-gong confirms that he put something in it: “Sam-jang’s blood.”
Mawang calls it a bluff, saying he’d be able to smell the monk’s blood anywhere. Oh-gong reveals that that’s why he filled the house with fragrant lotus-flower candles—which happen to be what Sam-jang’s blood smells like.
Mawang realizes he’s been tricked—and that the blood drop he’d saved in his ring is now gone. Mawang’s eyes flash red as his temper rages, and Oh-gong says that when Sun-mi arrives, he’ll be able to feel the full effects of not being able to have something he desperately wants.
The front door opens, and Sun-mi steps inside the house. The closer she gets, the more pain Mawang feels, trying to hold in his reaction, while Oh-gong grins devilishly.
Muahaha, now this wasn’t a twist I saw coming, but it does seem exactly the clever and mean sort of thing I’d expect of the Monkey, binding the source of his predicament to the predicament himself. I don’t know if binding Mawang to Sun-mi does anything to help her, but I can see how it irked Oh-gong to be the only one suffering like this and gave him satisfaction to force Mawang to feel a bit of that struggle. I don’t know exactly how this shared pain will affect the dynamic going forward, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it changes things, since the team is really in it together now.
I thought this episode was quite good at advancing the relationship quagmire, because Sun-mi’s developing feelings certainly make things extra-murky and difficult for her and I found that really engaging as a dilemma. I didn’t really love the story device we used to get there, although my quibble is more of a tangential point; I just felt vaguely uneasy at the crudely painted anti-Japanese storyline. I don’t take issue with anti-Occupation sentiments in Occupation-era storylines, because that’s entirely believable and of its time, but I feel like the writers oversimplified the evil here. I could see Akiko’s motivation stemming from the desire to remain unknown, but grown-up Grandma kind of seems to be evil for no reason, and thus I didn’t find her that compelling (though I did love the stylish trip back to Gyeongseong).
I know the argument isn’t as simplistic as painting Japan as the source of all badness; the baseline argument is more that Koreans who turn their backs on their own nation to personally profit from siding with their oppressors are traitors of the highest order, which is a more nuanced and credible argument. But I would have liked a better depiction of evil in this story, although I don’t think the Hong sisters are particularly great at giving any of their supernatural forces much of a layered portrayal. That’s something that could really elevate their supernatural stories to be even better, because even though I’m finding this drama plenty entertaining, I feel like we could do more with the demons and ghosts than flitting them in and out of scenes. Not every demon has to have an emotional backstory, but I’d like some of them to! Or at least draw emotional threads out of our main characters’ storylines. Mostly I consider it a missed opportunity. I know, you can’t have everything.
I’m not quite sure the logic of Oh-gong’s rescue fully clicks with me, but I did like the display of fire, since I’d been wondering if fire would come into play at some point. (The title Hwayugi is a play on Seoyugi, which means Journey to the West; subbing hwa for west suggests a fire element.) I don’t know if this will be it for fire imagery, but I found it a vivid way to impress upon us how he literally set a world on fire to save his love from death. Even if that love is forced. Sorta, kinda, temporarily. Because that’s a line that’ll be blurred soon enough, if it isn’t already.
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