Bulgasal: Immortal Souls: Episodes 11-12 Open Thread
How deep does this thing go?! With more reveals, and more peeks at our backstory, we learn yet more about our hero’s past. But the more we learn, the more we learn we don’t know. And it’s crazy timing, because the relationship between our leads is starting to change…
EPISODES 11-12 WEECAP
Wow, I am more confused than ever about what the origin of this whole fate truly is. And I love it! It unfolds in such a way that we feel like we’re getting a fresh reveal, but with each reveal comes the question of whether it’s true or not. Can we trust Ok Eul-tae and the way he slowly dribbles out information to Hwal? Can we trust Sang-eon, now that we know more about her most recent reincarnation? And can we even trust our hero, after we see some questionable behavior in new flashbacks?
Of the many things I love about Bulgasal, it’s that we’re as much in the dark as our hero and heroine. We are fed the same snippets of information they are, and are left to make judgements based on these fragments. And this week, that starts to get to both Hwal and Sang-eon — both are newly torn by the trust they’ve built with each other, and the understanding and acceptance of who they are in the present. Hwal’s conclusion in the bathroom with Sang-eon is the same as mine at this point: I’m just going to go based on what I know and remember to be true.
Of course it’s more complicated than that, and if Bulgasal has taught us anything so far, it’s that not only can our characters not trust their memories, or the supposed memories of others, but that the wider stories around those memories can uproot everything they think they know.
So basically, we have two more weeks of this drama, and the tangle is only more tangled than ever, from the true backstory 1,000 years ago, to all the past flashbacks we were confused about last week. We get such a fragmented, disjointed narrative that we can’t be sure of anything. Isn’t it delicious? I just hope this all means we are in for a glorious mind-blowing ending. I hope I cry.
But back to the plot this week, much to my surprise little Do-yoon survives (yay!), which is not only the happy news everyone needs, but it makes Hwal more vulnerable, makes him open up to Sang-eon, and allows Sang-eon to be the light he needs. She assures him the past won’t be repeated. Gulp.
Do-yoon’s recovery, also, I suppose, is necessary so Hwal can hear a second confirmation of the truth he’s trying to prove: that Ok Eul-tae was the one that killed his family 600 years ago. With this confirmed by a second party, Hwal is sure. He dramatically burns the scroll of the Sang-eon bulgasal that he’s been toting around for centuries, and it’s a great turning point in the story.
Because Hwal’s sole drive is revenge against the killer of his family, he now turns all his hate on Ok Eul-tae, and this shift allows what was already happening to happen more fully: he softens towards Sang-eon.
Episode 11 serves to build our “family’s” closeness even more, and the pause in the dramatics and violence of the story is nice; I also think it’s timely to see not only Hwal softening towards the people around him, but Sang-eon having enough time to breath so she can realize (awkwardly) that she’s developed feelings for Hwal. (I know some people don’t love this Hwal + Sang-eon angle to the story, but I am just eating it up!)
Additionally, though, the story is digging deep into this almost spiritual bond that all the characters have because of their fate, and the more time they spend together, the more all of it feels like it’s heading towards a giant final climax. In particular, Do-yoon’s request that Hwal not take revenge after all — this will surely be a part of that puzzle.
And so, Hwal and Sang-eon become the fighting unit of the group yet again, united over their common enemy more strongly than ever, and they hatch a plan to kill Ok Eul-tae. But, of course, it’s not that simple. Hwal now wants to protect Sang-eon rather than ruin her, and he takes off alone for his meeting with Ok Eul-tae.
It’s all coming full circle, and Si-ho’s past-reading abilities are tapped more and more. She reads Sang-eon’s past and they learn more about her in the 1970s timeline. Here, she was obsessed with the fact that both bulgasal must kill each other; she wanted to make them stab each others’ hearts, which is the only way they can die. This crucial info is also confirmed as Hwal and Ok Eul-tae face off.
It’s crazy to me how Ok Eul-tae seems to have a bead on everything, but is either so evil or so manipulative or so desperate (or maybe all of those) that he doesn’t tell Hwal what he really needs to know. Or he makes promises to do so, and then when he says something, we don’t even know if it’s true.
Among the many pieces of information Eul-tae drops is that bulgasal aren’t truly immortal since they have no souls, and that they are always part of a pair who need each other to exist. If one dies, the other dies. Or so we’re told. Either way, this symbiosis is strangely fascinating.
It’s all pretty epic and believable to me at this point, but it’s the backstory where things get sticky. Ok Eul-tae drops knowledge that it was him that turned bulgasal Hwal originally — and by Hwal’s request, he says. WHAT! “I brought that woman to make you bulgasal,” he says.
And as if all this isn’t confusing enough, we also have a flashback where it looks like Hwal takes Ok Eul-tae’s soul and gives him the dark hole. So I don’t know who to believe, what to believe, what happened when, why… and I’m loving every minute. This unraveling plot hasn’t gotten stale for a second.
Interestingly, it looks like the thing that will shift the balance, and shift the entire story, is not the “truth” of the past that Hwal and Sang-eon uncover, but their feelings for each other. Sang-eon all but confesses when she runs out to find him, saying that he’s become more important to her than her revenge.
Hwal might be bothered by Sang-eon’s feelings, but it’s not like he isn’t starting to feel something as well. And we knew this was coming, and it seems Ok Eul-tae did as well. He’s dying and desperate during their forest encounter, but forced to react to Hwal’s new perspective on Sang-eon — because Hwal says that though he wanted to kill her when she was bulgasal, that he wants to protect the person she is now. Weep!
But this is our other clincher. Ok Eul-tae says grimly, “You made the same decision 1,000 years ago,” implying that Hwal’s one-sided love for Sang-eon in that timeline was what created the hatred/divide/whatever between him and Ok Eul-tae. But who knows what to believe at this point!
It’s so much to try to figure out, and the plot goes deeper still as we end our episodes. Ok Eul-tae revives himself with the blood of another minion, but his words are still ringing in Hwal’s mind: “The woman you never leave behind.”
That woman has been stabbed by, and stabbed, an attacker sent by Ok Eul-tae, and it looks like it’s the beginning of the end. Hwal cares for Sang-eon’s wounds in the old house, stitches her up, and even washes the blood from her hair (in a gorgeous moment only K-dramas can make).
However, it’s not until the pair separate that they both realize: the fresh scar on Sang-eon’s shoulder is exactly where her twin’s scar was. And just like that, it seems to wake up a part of Sang-eon’s consciousness. She mentioned something overtaking her when she stabbed the baddie, and we see that happen again — still in the bathroom where so much action occurs — when she stabs Hwal in the heart with a pair of scissors.
I don’t know who is more shocked, Hwal, Sang-eon, or me. This fate goes deep and with the pieces we’ve been given, I certainly can’t see the end of the tunnel yet.
But then again, even evil genius Ok Eul-tae needed a huge wall of notes and images and scribbles to figure out the path of this evil fate, so maybe we’ll get there too by the time the story ends.