Bulgasal: Immortal Souls: Episodes 13-14 Open Thread
It’s a brutal batch of episodes this week. More pain, more loss, and still no firm understanding of the root of the evil fate that’s cursed all our characters for so many centuries. Each reveal creates only a deeper question, and in our penultimate week, our hero has to face the possibility that he’s only been chasing his tail this whole time.
EPISODES 13-14 WEECAP
Back into the cinematic bathroom we go, with Sang-eon reacting to the horrible memories of bulgasal Hwal with a cruel smile on his blood-smeared face. She stabs him with the bathroom scissors much to his shock (they’ve shared such intimate moments not minutes before this) — and we learn this action of hers is only an echo of what happened 1,000 years ago in that scene of bloodshed. Sang-eon (or whoever she was then) raises a blade against bulgasal Hwal, but he catches it with his hand, giving him the infamous scar on his right hand that’s been with him since. Oh snap!
You might think we can gather some meaningful intelligence from this flashback, but when they talk about it, Hwal and Sang-eon realize they both recall the same scene, but in each, the other is the bloodthirsty monster. So I don’t know what’s going on.
Thanks to her new fated shoulder scar, Hwal is sure that Sang-eon will continue to get her memories back, and that she’ll hate him when she does. I beg to differ, but we shall see.
But there’s something else that we learn through another 1,000-year-old memory, and it’s Hwal and Sang-eon in each other’s arms. They both seem like bulgasal lovers, and Sang-eon is smiling down at an adorable infant, with another child nearby. Wait, are they a happy little bulgasal family?! Alas, bulgasal Hwal worries that she’s obsessed with the children and will leave him… and that’s the end of that memory. Why oh why don’t they tell each other these memories more openly? It would make things so much easier.
Something (stupid) possesses Aunt Lee, Si-ho, and Do-yoon, and despite being safe at the mansion, they travel back to the dilapidated house they all prefer to call home. This decision leads to the brutal mayhem and death that everyone will have to face shortly.
They know Ok Eul-tae will make a move, and Hwal rightly takes his threat to harm the people around him seriously. But while Eul-tae might be in despair over Hwal’s rejection of him (seriously what is up with these two!), he hatches a pretty diabolical plan. And it works.
Ok Eul-tae’s control of the mayor means control of the police, which means control of DETECTIVE HAM (Choi Jae-woong), Hwal’s enemy of the past. They “arrest” Si-ho and Do-yoon and Aunt Lee follows to protect them. But of course they’re not going to the police station. There’s a monster-turned-human who lives in a forest, and as with all of the reincarnated monsters, Ok Eul-ae has a give-and-take with him. In the past this monster killed people and strung them in trees; in the present he doesn’t do much better.
Ok Eul-tae’s aim, of course, is to get Sang-eon at any cost, and Si-ho becomes the bargaining chip. In the horrifying scuffle, the tree monster is about to kill all three of them — until something flips the switch in Aunt Lee, and she starts prophesying.
Ok Eul-tae is there — in all his splendorous tangle of love and rage and longing and hate — and her words are so terrifying to him that he loses himself and kills her in the disgusting bulgasal fashion we have witnessed many a time. What did she say that freaked him out? Something about how an evil spirit will come from the dark hole, about feeding on a father’s blood, and that the soul will go back to its owner.
At this point in the story, this game of musical souls is exhausting my brain. I don’t know who was originally who, and I don’t know who is good, or bad, or if that is even a mechanism that we can understand these characters by. It seems to be true that 1,000 years ago, bulgasal Hwal stole Eul-tae’s soul, became human, and then wanted him to turn him back. But why?
Much like Hwal and Sang-eon said last week, I’m going to trust what I know and see to be true, and that is Sang-eon’s fearless commitment to keeping Hwal from losing his humanity, and Hwal’s emotional devastation over not only losing Aunt Lee, but the possibility of losing the others as well.
The tree monster attack spans multiple scenes, but it culminates in the cornfield scene, used to great effect (in fact, this drama uses all of its settings to great effect). Though Do-yoon and Si-ho are on the brink of death, they’re saved by the timely arrival of Hwal, and of course Sang-eon, who is the target everyone is after.
Despite not revealing a lot in terms of the past fate, this plot point really starts to bring things full circle. It’s the darkest and most desperate everyone (everyone!) has been, and also, the memories of the past are starting to echo for everyone. For example, Si-ho sees a bit of her own past with Do-yoon (I gasped!), while Detective Kwon remembers meeting Hwal as a young boy.
And as ever, Ok Eul-tae lurks around in the background, trying to pollute everyone against Hwal. His jealous rage (or whatever it is), knows no bounds. But while he seems to have rocked Detective Kwon’s loyalty, Sang-eon remains unchanged.
At this point, she’s seen Hwal as his absolute cruelest and most bloodthirsty, whether in the present, or their centuries-old past — but she remains loyal to him, and who she believes him to be.
Lost in torment and regret and the fear of losing more people he loves, Hwal basically forces everyone to leave the house and makes it sound like he doesn’t care about them anymore. Sang-eon, Si-ho, and Do-yoon drive away, splintering their group once and for all — if this really is a separation, what the heck have we been doing this whole show? Thankfully, this just turns into what I think is the final test for Sang-eon’s loyalty. Will she leave the ragey and tormented Hwal behind, or will she return to him, and give him what he needs?
Not only is Hwal grieving for Aunt Lee, but he’s torturing himself over the affection and sympathy she begged for his entire life, that he never once gave her (gah, those flashbacks!). To make Hwal’s descent even more painful, at this point he’s had his eyes sliced (out?) during the tree monster fight, and he’s going around with the same gauze over his eyes that his poor son did 600 years ago. It’s tragic, but it’s also damn good tragedy (with a capital T).
And so, Sang-eon returns to him (she’s our heroine after all) in his worst moments, about to fall on his sword. They share a wonderful embrace (the way he grabs a hold of her!), and she comforts him. No lie, I’m 100% here for this. The scene is not only lovely, but it’s made even stronger because Sang-eon has seen what he’s capable of but still believes in his goodness. And I think their bond might just be the key to unlock everything in the past.
So where do we stand? We have two episodes to go, and a ton of past to stitch together yet. It’s impossible to tell what’s what, even if we do get some instant replays, like Ok Eul-tae remembering Hwal taking his soul and giving him the dark hole.
There’s a ton of foreshadowing to deal with as well — Ok Eul-tae says that Hwal will be abandoned by everyone he cherishes, just like in the past, and while that’s definitely a theme that’s haunting this drama, I’m not sure he will lose Sang-eon this time.
As for Hwal and the genesis of his own tale, I’m lost. He seems rightly upset that he and Ok Eul-tae were once on the same side, and that he asked to become bulgasal and started this whole game of musical souls, but my brain can’t quite string these moments into a narrative that makes sense. The drama better do it for me next week!