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Alchemy of Souls: Episode 2

Tensions are running high in this jam-packed episode of Alchemy of Souls. Our male lead is determined to persuade the bloodthirsty assassin he hero-worships to take him on as pupil, whilst our heroine fights the urge to stab everybody and leave. Both are struggling with the physical and magical limitations placed on them, but maybe they’re in a position to help each other – provided they can survive each other’s schemes for long enough.

 
EPISODE 2 WEECAP

We open in flashback-land! Turns out the mage from last episode was, indeed, Wook’s father, JANG GANG. Emerging from his wife’s deathbed with their newborn son, he’s tormented by the thought that it was the king who fathered his child.

So, he does the only reasonable thing: storms out to the courtyard in full view of all his mage buddies, and performs a ritual to permanently block the baby’s energy gate, and thus his magic. Y’know, as you do.

As an adolescent, Wook tearfully swears he’ll find a master to change his fate. Then, he’ll take his father’s sword – a cruel reminder of the power he cannot wield – and break it in two. Holy generational trauma, people.

Back in the present, things are only marginally less dysfunctional. In the aftermath of the attack on Songrim, Wook’s deadset on persuading Mu-deok to be his master. Mu-deok’s equally intent on stabbing him and making a break for it. Still, they’re forced to stick together as everyone at Songrim is ordered to gather at the training center. The attackers, a grim-faced Jin announces, allies of the soul-shifting assassin Naksu, broke into Songrim via a spy on the inside.

To draw them out, he’s enlisted the aid of noble scion JIN CHO-YEON (Arin), who has brought a family heirloom. This deceptively fragile jar contains Gwigu, a ferocious dog spirit. Apparently, soul-shifting leaves a gap between soul and body, through which evil energy emerges, and thus Gwigu can sniff out those who would otherwise go unnoticed. Mu-deok, the soul-shifter currently going unnoticed, is understandably fearful.

Things get tense as Gwigu inches ever closer to our heroine, who tells Wook to feign ignorance if she’s caught — not, she adds, out of loyalty, but because it’s her duty. However, Wook steps valiantly before Mu-deok to shield her from its gaze. It’s pretty big of him, considering how many times she’s threatened to kill him this evening.

Luckily, Gwigu launches itself at a plain-looking man behind Mu-deok: turns out, he’s the spy! It’s grim watching him steadily turn to stone and be cut down by Songrim’s fighters; for Mu-deok, it’s a reminder of her probable fate.

The four young heirs from Daeho’s noble families — known as the “four seasons” — gather post-attack, but the meeting has all the awkward energy of a bad high school reunion. Turns out Cho-yeon is Wook’s ex-fiancee, and things get snide as they trade jibes about Wook’s latest training fiasco.

As for Mu-deok — for the umpteenth time, the poor woman tries and fails to leg it. Wook stops her, determined to convince her to be his master, even as he ends up at the business end of her trademark death glare. Somewhere along the way, they get sidetracked gazing into one another’s eyes (okay, fine, it’s to check whether or not Mu-deok’s tell-tale blue irises are visible), but this cute interlude is drawn to an abrupt halt as Gwigu reappears. It’s out for blood — specifically, Mu-deok’s.

Our assassin does what she does best: nopes out and flees. Meanwhile, Wook proves himself a hero by unflinchingly facing the worst monster of all: the ridicule of his peers.

In the training room, Wook’s ex-fiancee and her entire entourage watch in horror as Wook stands shameless amongst the shards of the Gwigu pot, which he’s “accidentally” dropped. Meanwhile, Mu-deok looks up in relief from where Gwigu, almost certainly about to kill her, has now disappeared.

The situation may be farcical, but Wook’s punishment is very real. After an excruciating public dressing-down from Jin, he’s ordered to sit and repent in the courtyard, unmoving and unspeaking. This is more severe than it sounds. Once, subjected to similar punishment, Wook nearly died from chill, as his energy gate is barely open enough to protect him from the elements. Learning this gives Mu-deok pause — she’s no stranger to bodies and their limitations.

So, she gives him all a hardened murderer is capable of giving to the first person who ever meant her help, not harm: a promise not to kill him. And, a farewell. Having stolen his spirit plaque for safe passage, she plans to disappear. Wook can only watch in devastated silence as the person on whom he’d pinned his hopes bows and departs.

What follows for Mu-deok is a mixture of horrible consequences and frightening good fortune. Armed with the plaque, she returns to the gisaeng house, intending to sell it, but she’s overheard by an acquisitive eavesdropper, who steals the piece for herself.

We move to the shady organization to which Mu-deok belonged as Naksu. A cloaked leader addresses his followers, promising soul-swapped bodies to all who sacrifice themselves for him. As he leaves, it’s revealed he is JIN MU (Jo Jae-yoon), assistant Gwanju to the new king (a title seemingly tantamount to Second Head Mage). His archers stand outside, and proceed to massacre the mooks within.

The purpose of this becomes clear when word spreads that Jin Mu has brought the bodies of Naksu’s accomplices to the palace, sparing no one for interrogation. Jin is in a political pickle; Songrim’s reputation has never looked shakier, with a broken barrier and a shattered Jin heirloom as black marks on their record. Mu, conversely, is up for promotion to replace the current Gwanju (Jang Gang) — poor Wook being an nonviable successor, owing to his magical inability.

All that’s left for Mu is to tie up the loose ends. Namely, Naksu. Mu-deok, still desperate to reunite with her organization, survives the assassin he sends to silence her only by chance: the gisaeng who stole the spirit plaque is mistaken for Naksu, and is summarily dispatched. Shaken by this betrayal, Mu-deok returns to the city… to witness her old body burn. Naksu has been publicly cremated.

As if the dread of watching yourself incinerated wasn’t enough, it brings up heavy memories for Mu-deok. As a child, she watched her whole family die in a fire, after which a mysterious stranger offered her the opportunity for power if she came with him. Now, over the flames consuming the promise of all those years’ training, Mu-deok meets the eyes of Wook.

He’s been busy. Leveraging his influence as son of the Gwanju, he has recovered Naksu’s sword, hoping that it’ll restore her body’s power. However, Mu-deok’s triumph is short lived: although the sword recognizes its owner, her new, fun-sized muscles are insufficient to unsheathe it.

Cue the utter horror of both. Wook puts it blisteringly: they’re both useless. He must resign himself to his powerlessness, and she, to an ordinary life as Mu-deok. To this, Mu-deok responds that she’d rather die.

Wook’s reply is scathing, but she proves sincere. At the ledge above Lake Gyeongcheondaeho where her organization drops its dead soul-shifters, she steels herself — and jumps.

Naturally, this is not where it ends. The surge of energy the lake provides is enough to allow Mu-deok to unsheathe her sword and temporarily regain what was lost. Trouble is, it doesn’t stick. As she explains to an anguished Wook – who has rushed to find her after realizing the impact of his words – she needs a powerful mage to release the energy within her.

Far from being useless, it looks like our heroes can help each other. But, not without a characteristically wild gambit from Mu-deok. At Sejukwon infirmary, Wook mourns that all he can offer her are some eye drops to conceal her blue irises. That’s not true, she replies. I want you to be my Lake Gyeongcheondaeho. Also, I’ve poisoned your tea, and this is going to hurt.

It’s a desperate gamble that ties her fate irrevocably to his, but if he survives, she promises to be his master. As Wook quietly asphyxiates, Mu-deok explains to the harried leaders of Songrim and Sejukwon that he will die in six hours. The only way to save him is to open up his energy gate and expel the poison.

At first, it looks like this death-defying scheme will end in, well, death, making this the shortest-lived Hong sisters drama ever written. However, even as Mu-deok is being tortured for information, HEO YEOM (Lee Do-kyung), head of Sejukwon, can’t bear to see Wook die, and performs the ritual to unlock his energy gate.

The episode ends on a gorgeous high note. As a recovered Wook cradles Mu-deok, half-unconscious from torture, in his arms, she calls him pupil — and he too addresses her by her proper title. The one who almost got them both killed. His crazy master. All the while, my heart pretty much explodes with the force of a thousand feelings.

Alchemy of Souls has been barreling through the action, and I’m largely loving it. This show’s frenetic ambition is its strength, and I adore spending time in its intricate fantasy world. Admittedly, at points, important emotional beats – notably, Mu-deok’s despair on being unable to unsheathe her sword – are sped-run less convincingly. I’m also sad that the original Mu-deok, whose soul was unceremoniously shunted aside, remains unmourned by the narrative. That said, this drama is finding its feet, and the pitch-perfect acting and off-the-charts chemistry between our two leads propels it forward beautifully.

What I love about Wook is that his arrogance never tips into dismissal where Mu-deok is concerned; he’ll hold his own, but his respect for her is ironclad. As for Mu-deok… well, what’s not to love? From her quizzical head tilts to her utter inability to be normal about eating chicken, she is captivating. I’m hopelessly invested in this couple. Normally, I’m unmoved by the falling-unconscious-on-your-love-interest’s-shoulder trope. This time? I got chills. Even after only two episodes, it felt earned. So, bring on Episode 3!

 
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Is the magic sword magic enough to not rust?

"making this the shortest-lived Hong sisters drama ever written"
Wouldn't want to beat Joseon Exocist's record, would we?

Anyway, I'm loving it.

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I too literally burst into sparkles and hearts with the ending there; the whole 'my pupil' & 'my crazy master' exchange, followed by the conveniently falling into a hug trope, was surprisingly heart fluttering considering this is only episode two. Equally goosebump raising for me was the ghost dog scene with Wook stepping to protect her and MD telling him to feign ignorance if she gets caught, my poor heart was running at twice the speed because of equal parts fear and love at their building protectiveness for each other.

MD and Wook are also just equally insane and I'm here for it - the fact that he's not batting an eyelid about her being a soul shifter or a notorious assassin and her nonchalantly poisoning him to force the elder mages' hands and betting everything on a dude she met like one day ago. They're just both such charming combinations of swagger, cunning, sweetness (its lurking there underneath it all with MD), principles, impulsivity and brashness - two powder kegs that are going to explode dazzlingly once they do find their sync with each other as partners and potential love interests (provided the writing doesn't go downhill).

I'm also really interested to see how this good-bad division of Songrim and the Soul Shifter people (I forgot their groups' name) is going to be explored. There's already hints that the Songrim brand of 'no nonsense' righteousness might not exactly mean they're the good people and that there might be some method to the madness of the 'evil' side, especially considering what we know about MD's childhood. The whole thing reminds me a little bit of the whole Sith/Jedi Star Wars split and I hope they do explore this idea of good/bad being a matter of perspective sometimes and the also shades that exist in between.

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I love the build up to the final scene between Jang-wook & Mu-deok.

It started with Mu-deok whispering to the kneeling JW, “I’ll spare you if you’re ever this close to me again,” in the middle of the ep when she never expects to see him again to MD intentionally poisoning JW and risking both their lives to reach her goal. Ahh, juicy stuff. Much better than just having MD tortured & playing the damsel in distress role waiting for JW to save her – so glad this plot point was subverted in the script.

Both MD & JW stand on equal footing in terms of being savvy and cunning and that makes for such great bantering and chemistry between the two. Can’t believe I’m already so invested in this pair when it’s only episode 2!!

Cute scenes:
-Wook prying Mudeok’s fingers off one by one from her blade when she was(n’t) threatening to kill him
-Park Jin slipping & falling while chasing after JW. (I’m dying to know if that slip was intentional or if Yoo Jun-sang really did accidentally fall & they just kept that in, ha)
-Dang-gu rubbing the top of MD’s bun in a circle as if he was rubbing Buddha’s belly for good luck^^

Shoutout to the beautiful beach/cliff scene at sunset when JW finds MD with her sword pointed at him (super curious to know where this location is in Korea~)

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THE SLIP I almost forgot but it gave me a good laugh, I'm going to put my money on it being an accident that was just too good to leave out 😂

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One of my favorite moments was early on, when Wook offers she could be his wife instead of his master. We all knew how she’d react to that, but Wook’s return expression was hilarious - like “what, why are you reacting so violently?”. As though it was a perfectly normal alternative and she’s surprised him with an overreaction.

He’s been doing this all the way through - he really does focus on the endgame and then just fits the middle pieces in as he goes. Want to stop the ghost dog from eating MD? Smash the pottery. Want to keep his sorcery teacher disguised? Marry the teacher. It’s very practical! And not only does he not give it a double meaning, he reacts as though SHE’S making it weird.

It would have been very tempting for both of them to lean into the innuendo thing, and neither of them are. It’s refreshing!

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It's incredibly smart writing (thank you for pointing this out!) I was trying to put my finger on why I love the two leads and this is why :)

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Kudos to the location scout for that beach/cliff scene. It looks different than other cliffs (sageuk cliff of non-doom!) and beaches usually shown in dramas. Maybe they used CGI to touch it up or caught the location at a different angle. It was a beautiful wide shot with the characters looking tiny compared to the vast landscape.

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JSM looked so tiny, it was kinda weird when LJW looked normal.

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I love the way this worked out. Mu-doek/Naksu still has her killer mindset- including a willingness to put both of the lead character's lives on the line in a gamble that pays off. The final moments of the episode were fantastic- and the wonderful way in which she calls him pupil, but he responds by addressing her as his crazy master were pitch perfect. Precisely because she really is crazy but not insane, she is capable acting far outside the box- and of teaching her pupil things he probably would never otherwise learn.

Please note that Mu-deok is also now emancipated from her organization- and knows the identity of the ultimate bad guy. That means that our heroine has an unusual freedom of action- no family ties and no ties to the evil organization which has cut her off.

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our heroine fights the urge to stab everybody and leave

😂 But really, who doesn't?

Despite the train wreck I see coming 100 km down the track, I'm impressed at how much fun this is so far and how fast the stakes have gotten sky-high. Jung So-min is crushing it and Lee Jae-wook is holding his own, although I noticed him struggling to keep a straight face during one of his lines about opening his "energy gate" and I can't blame him.

Thanks, @alathe !

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Haha, no worries - glad you enjoyed! :D

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Okay - the Hong Sisters definitely watched some xianxia Mainland Chinese dramas and said hmmm.
I'm here for this show - fast-paced (right now) and its got a good balance of lore, character, some funny bits. No character is annoying so far.
LJW hair in the side profile is making me laugh though - what is happening?

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With the gate closed for decades, all his spell energy started leaking out the back of his head and frying his hair as it passes through?

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I feel like the Hong sisters watch and enjoy dramas in addition to writing them. I remember them doing scenes that parodies some dramas or make meta-references...and I think they did reference to a hong kong movie in one of their earlier dramas. Fantasy Couple was an adaptation of the American movie, Overboard. And as badly as they screwed up korean odyssey, the characters were based off a mythical character in a centuries' old chinese novel, Journey to the West. They've actually taken on quite a bit of folkloric characters - like Chunhyang (though that drama takes place in modern times), Hong Gil Dong, and gumihos.

And even though the xianxia/high-fantasy type of storytelling happens in other korean mediums, no one has brought it to kdramas. The hong sisters may make missteps, but I like how they try out new things.

I don't know why they didn't just leave LJW's hair alone. Minhyun pretty much gets to keep the same hair he probably wears to Starbucks.

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"Minhyun pretty much gets to keep the same hair he probably wears to Starbucks."

Lol. Lucky him, he probably spends the least amount of time in the makeup/hair department before filming. He can legit roll out of bed & get onto set in 5 seconds flat.

Also, well said about the Hong sisters. They tend to crash & burn, but props to them for always trying to new genres or putting new spins into old myths/folklore that no one else wants to touch with a ten foot pole. Their type of humor (parodies, meta references, etc.) also tend to swing well with me.

And "My Girl" & "Delightful Girl Chung-hyang" will always have a special place in my heart. (Too bad alot of Beanies here seem so young & forget that they were the ones behind those gems!)

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I'm loving that. Though I feel a weird disconnect where I expect the actors to start speaking in Chinese any moment. And the korean dialogue is a little cringey right now? Maybe it will get better over time.

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I really gotta hand it to JSM for portraying Naksu so well especially with controlling & maintaining her tone & expressions!

At this point, I'm just praying the drama would continue along well and not divert off track.

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Your recaps perfectly capture the slapdash hilarity and fun of the Hong sisters' tale. Thanks! and keep on doing what you're doing.

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Wook's father was kinda a jerk. Because of his pride, he made his wife to be unfaithful when she knew nothing... He could at least protect her reputation.

I like how the story unfolded. I thought somebody would stop the cremation but poor Naksu lost her body. It made her very determined , her plan was hurtful for Wook but worked. But now, how will he hide that he's training? I think it will be fun to watch him learn with Mu-Deok.

I have an issue with the hair style of the characters : Fall looks like he was in the 21th century, the same for Summer with his blond hair, Wook? It looks like they found an idea only the front part and asked the director to not film the back of his head because his haircut doesn't make any sense.

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Well, if Wook's father wasn't a "kinda jerk", we wouldn't have a "twisted fate" story. I hope that he returns at some point (although publicity seems to indicate he was a cameo or special appearance??).

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Wook already has a twisted fate by his conception, his father didn't have to tell everybody that Wook wasn't his son and making his wife looking bad. The poor woman just died...

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I suppose there is also the possibility that Wook's father didn't speak of an affair but it was an assumption/rumour that was created due to his behaviour? It's hard to say as we don't have background of how the character interacted with his wife pre-story, but for example if he had been affectionate and doting towards her and then that attitude visibly changed after she became pregnant I imagine the rumour mill would have gone off its rocker and would likely have been confirmed through the treatment of Wook.

Regardless, Wook's mother gets the short end of the stick no matter the scenario.

I wonder if the show intends to reveal a little more of what happened back then at the beginning of each episode.

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His "My Son?" was pretty clear for me after blocking the baby's energy.

But I agree we need more elements about the past and how the King reintegrated his body, the consequences, etc.

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In this ambiguous world building, it could be said that DNA may create the human body but it is the merger of spiritual energy (souls) that forms conception (and transfers the personality traits to the child). Wook's father may feel violated by the king tricking him so the king could begat a "royal mage," something new and more powerful than the old crown.

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Till it end of the past story I actually expected the King to fool Jang Gang and steal his body while he died in his former sick body...I even expected that he would still be inside Jang Gang body after Jang Uk was born...
Guess i've seen to many dramas...
Now,is Uk a prince or not?
Remembered the King leaving that will or something...Does the current Prince know?

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@Miky It sounds like it's really hard to find compatible bodies. Usually, the incompatibility would cause a person to lose power and become a rock after some time (which could possibly become Mu-deok's fate if she doesn't get more powerful to counteract that). King would probably want a king's funeral and not a soul-shifter funeral (aka being tossed into the ocean)

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Never going to get over MD's look of 'you disrespectful little sh*t' every time Wook speaks down to her.

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Too many Jins! I need a diagram.

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Relationship charts and character descriptions are posted at MDL (are we allowed to mention another site?)

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Thank you so much! Just what I need 👏🏼 I don’t know what that is but will try to find it.
I think we can mention other sites.

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Oh duh, MDL, found it and you are the writer! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Thanks again!

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About twenty minutes into episode 1, I decided this drama would be a lot more fun to watch with my 12 year old, and I was not wrong. There's something very Disney Marvel-ish about it so far (despite it being on Netflix). My daughter likes kick-ass female martial arts characters, so it was fun to see her getting excited over Naksu's very impressive abilities. I'm glad Jae-Wok Lee and Jung So-Min are paired together because their acting is so much superior than the other young scions from the Mages families, who look like they are taking their cues from a cartoon version of their characters (but then, is the acting in the Marvel spinoffs really any better?) All in all it was a enjoyable watch with my daughter, and if she gets interested in it enough to watch on her own without me occasionally, I won't mind. As an aside, the storyline of Naksu/Mu-doek taking on Jang Wook as her apprentice reminded me of the Hong Kong dramatization with Andy Lau of the classic story of Little Dragon Girl by Jin Rong (Gum Yong), which I remember watching when I was around my daughter's age. However, I don't get the sense that this story, however fun, will reach the beauty of that narrative...

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I'm glad the person writing the AoS recaps (alathe) is excited about this show.

I love just about everything with this show, but most of all I love the fact that the ML and FL are INTELLIGENT, yes all caps writ large - am I a fool for thinking their brains won't be sucked out by aliens at some point?

Ep. 2 ending was indeed heart fluttering/spine tingling and best of all, it was not some stupid "cliffhanger". The foundation is set for moving forward.

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Thanks, @Kathryn51 - I'm glad you're having fun with the show/these recaps! :)

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frankly, a sword like that should always be held in two hands, you dont chop through a head with this.
havent taken a look but it sound bit too excess for me.

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'you dont chop through a head with this.'
😂😂. Tell that to Munno, Cheok Sagwang, Gae Pa-yi or Sagal Hyeon. These people are swordsmasters without the inclusion of magic and they will pull that feat anytime.
A sword might not cut through, but it would do in the hands of a swordsmaster. We are dealing with swords with the some of the wielders infusing their energy/chakra into it. That's tantamount to increasing its efficiency by 30% in the hands of a novice, and more than 100% in the hands of a swordsmaster. So yes, it is very thinkable to say they'd(the infusers) cut a head through with one hand at the hilt.

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you´d be surprised how resilient a persons´neck is. In real life there is no such thing as chakras and magic.

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In the fantasy -esque world, of which Alchemy of Soul is, there's chakra, and magic.
And if you happen to know a lot about the world-building around swordwielders, you'd see that there exist a top excellence class of wielders who cut through the neck, despite its resilience.

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A risky gamble so early in the episodes plus her unapologetic explanation to Songrim's mages. Naksu might not have her strength for now, but her wit is on the high side. JSM portrays this physical weakness and fraility in a way that both pokes fun at the situation and, vividly expresses the helplessness of her situation. I love forward to when she embodies Naksu as a whole - a fragile deadly assassin that shouldn't hurt a fly, without losing Mudeok in the process of course.

Songrim mages are enough foil to our hero and heroine but with the introduction of Jin Mu...I hope he remains a villain without a foil.

Naksu knows the magic she needs to unlock her energy gates and wield the sword, and the lake is a good channeling source. She has the knowledge and has found a good ingredient, so why wait till Wook is able to unlock it for her unless she wants to amass physical strength first.

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Like Wook told her, unless she wanted to live in the water until she amassed her energy, she should just live as Mu-Deok. And thank goodness, that she suspected that Wook's blocked energy can do the same thing the lake does to her if it was to be unblocked.

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We also need to see how long can she actually live in the body...Why is this body choosen(for sure we'll get a past connection or something,kdrama!)and were is the soul of MD or will it show secondary reactions later on like we've been told about the returned(Soul Shifters)...I mean she did enter a living body unlike others maybe who inhabitated a dead one and the mark is already unique unlike the others and no frictions to be kicked out...

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I'm looking forward to the hijinks when MD will be training Wook secretly 😅

Wook's dad was really a jerk ! What happened was more of his fault than anyone's to be honest.

I feel that the Mage 4 big families were not really responsible for the death of Naksu's family. I wouldn't be surprised if Jin-Mu was actually the one behind everything

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I actually hope they are,it will duelve into a more complex and grey area rather than the standard formula of the big bad guy...

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How could he switch bodies with the king and not expect anything? Not take any precautions or set up any boundaries? It seemed ridiculously naive for a man who can create and kill shapeshifters. I guess our story would have no setup, but even knew he was being incredibly stupid. Which is why maybe he acted so horribly afterwards—he hated himself for being so stupid.

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This master and pupil love interest reminds me of Chinese drama Return of Condor Heroes XD
I am very sold with this drama, even before it's aired. Bring it on drama!

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Now that you mention it, there are other similarities, such as the fact Yang Guo was unable to perfect his martial arts because of his father, and Xiaolongnü was the only one who taught him. And his Dad's name's also Kang XD

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I like coming back to read recaps after watching this drama because so many of the commenters pointed out the scenes that I too noticed and liked! Stay good drama!

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I'm surprised by how much I'm liking the drama despite my strong aversion to fantasy historical settings like in those cdramas with long-haired characters flying around with magic. This drama has a lot of those plus the cheese and whack hairstyles and design. I think it's because I enjoy LJW and JSM together and their characters are likable. The story also reminds me a bit of my favorite Hong sisters drama You're Beautiful where the male lead discovered the female lead's secret identity early on. On the other hand, I'm wary of the drama reminding me of my most disliked Hong sisters drama Big where they pretty much discarded the younger male lead actor and Gong Yoo's original character. In this drama's case, I think it would break the story for me if they never try to explore Mu-deok the blind girl's character. Body-swapping stories in kdramas tend to disappoint me in the end. I also hope this isn't the last we see of Nak-su's original actress as she has an enjoyable screen presence and I liked her a lot in Sweet Home.

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I was also thinking it was You're Beautiful set in a fantasy realm because you got a masquerading heroine and three guys with a similar set of attitudes. This made me wonder if Wook, Yul and Dang-gu moonlight as idol singers XD

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wouldn't take too much to get Yul to moonlight as an idol singer ;)

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I, too, felt like leaving the real Mu-Deok completely unacknowledged was unfortunate; I assumed, incorrectly it seems, that she would be part of the larger plot and lead to complications down the road.

Despite that, I'm loving this show so much right now. Again, it's unlikely looking at the Hong sisters' past dramas that this one won't eventually become tiresome and deflated but until the air starts to come out of the balloon, I'm going to continue to lap it up. The leads are doing a great job shifting from comedy to over-the-top fantasy-fueled drama (I'm really loving Jung-so min here!), and their chemistry is unexpectedly strong. I was thinking they might be cute together, but their dynamic is more interesting and complex than that. I hope it stays this nuanced!

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I do wonder if they will actually cover MD down the road. My current suspicion is that MD may have been Naksu's original body, which may be related to how the mark didn't show up on her chest but in the eyes and why MD was blind. In asian dramas, there's always switched kids. I'm guessing soul-shifting is probably not healthy for really young bodies.

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Oh.. This one actually makes sense! I hope they will explore this more.

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I get the feeling the next block will add Karate Kid training elements into the martial arts meets Harry Potter world building.

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I will comment below on the the developments in episode two. Just a quick comment on Joo Sang-wook’s appearance as Jang Gang, father of Wook and absent head if Cheonbugwan.
I loved JSW in the recent KING OF TEARS. I loved him in ALCHEMY also however the whole time he was on screen he gave me Lee Bang-won vibes. I wonder if the two productions filmed simultaneously and JSW just jumped from one set to the other to do his lines. (I am kidding!).

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He mentioned in an interview he filmed Alchemy of Souls once he finished wrapped up The King of Tears. He said he rather struggled in his scenes in the former drama because his modern dialect didn't come out easily heh

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Thanks @alathe! I enjoyed your weecap almost as much as the episode - you capture the riotous fun that it is!

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Aww, that's really sweet - I'm super glad you enjoyed! :D

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Another super fun episode! I loved the fast pace and the dangerous scheming, but my favorite part was the way the two leads built rapport with each other in subtle and unsubtle ways. His protecting her from the smoke dog, her understanding that they both have physical limitations, their act of master/servant in front of his friends, his getting her sword back and knowing that she would be there to watch her body burn, her telling him that she would spare him if she ever saw him again, and of course their acknowledgement of their new master/pupil relationship at the end. All of it was so good. But let me just say: the glance that they shared when Gwigu attacked someone behind them was just the best. It was a shrug in eye form and I was there for all of it!

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This seems exaggerated, but Jang Kang seems to emulate the fate of Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein lost the stability of his life and his bride due to his ambition of wanting to recreate life which went against the laws of Nature. This sort of parallels Jang Kang's narrative so far, who tried to find a way to revive the spirit of the dead through body possession, and his dangerous venture toward the forbidden arts with the death of his wife and his roaming. Also in both cases, the subjects, the Creature and the King respectively, were directly responsible for the sages' downfall.

Speaking of which, I wonder if Jang Wook's mother was of weak health, which subsequently drove Jang Kang to dabble in the alchemy of souls to extend her existence.

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ooooh that is such an interesting parallel that does fit so far, how did you think of that?!

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Just my studies in English Literature acting up. We studied Frankenstein during the last semester, and it is really a fascinating tale if you learn about Mary Shelley's life, literary and scientific influences. Never thought my English Literature background will be of use in my daily life lol

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Gang, do we really believe that Jang Gang and the King switched back?

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Loved the second episode even more and rewatched both ep 1 and 2 after it was done. It's been years since I've done that with a drama. Just so many goosebump moments. I know the Hong sisters may let the drama go sort of flat in the second half of the series, but I think having such a strong opening 2 episodes is worthy of praise for the writers, directors, staff, and actors, considering some dramas take a week or two to get going. You have to be really immersed and hold any judgment of the high-fantasy-genre in check in order to translate from writing to screen. Pretend this aluminum sword is a powerful sword and that magic is coming off it! Waving your hands like you're pulling the water with magic!

I love not only the chemistry between the lead actors, but the chemistry between the characters in the writing. They're pretty perfect for each other. They're desperate and weak (for now) and have a sense of loyalty. Jang Wook looks like he has friends, but there is no way he can relate to his friends and his teachers and the mage organization who raised him if he is the only one without powers. His chatty friend is even like "oh he's defenseless". It's like sending a Squib to Hogwarts in Harry Potter terms. And the two have already been through life and death together. Mu-deok/Naksu's gamble was so bad-ass and works well with a partner who would seek out an assassin (who kills mages) as his master. Mu-deok's got the experience and Jang Wook's got some book smarts.

The Four Seasons are okay so far. They're like the F4 from boys over flowers - in that we're friends because we're all richer than the others. I look forward them joining Mu-deok in her quest for vengeance, answers, and destroying that assistant gwanju.

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Why didn't Cho-yeon put her dog back in its urn? Fortunately, she seems to be able to magic it back together. I was trying to figure out whose family Jin Mu belongs to, but he's not from the Jin family? I assume Ho-kyung is Cho-yeon's aunt, but who is Heo Yeom is to Yul?

I hope Wook's "Just be careful when you kiss someone" line comes back. Mu-deok did it, and the elders understood that she only poisoned her young master to get them to open up his energy gate.

As with all body-swapping dramas (Big, Oh My Ghostess, Mr. Queen), the question is always whom does the hero/heroine love - the soul or the body? But since Wook knows Mu-deok is Naksu and Naksu's body has been burned, it's clear that he'll end up with Mu-deok.

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Jin Mu is from the Jin Clan, he's the half-brother of Jin Ho-kyung, the matriarch of the Jin Clan, the head of Jinyowon and the mother of Jin Cho-yeon, I believe (it says that Cho-yeon is the youngest daughter of the family, and Ho-kyung "lost" her eldest daughter). The Jin Clan is a matriarchal clan, so Jin Mu was excluded from the succession of the family's administrative duties because he's a son.

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Thanks for the family explanation, @sooyi! Since Jin is Dang-gu's uncle, I assumed he and Ho-kyung would get together, but clearly not since she's married.

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PARK Jin is Dang-gu's uncle, not Jin Wu.

If Park Jin aligns romantically with anyone, I think it will be Kim Do-joo - they were featured together at the big press conference.

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That's true, Park Eun-hye was not at the press conference, only Yoo Jun-sang and Oh Na-ra. I wonder if Jin would be allowed to take a maid as his wife.

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The eldest daughter was a step-daughter of Ho-kyung- not a "blood" Jin as far as we know. I think she's Mu-deok but I imagine it will be a long time before we find out.

Things that make one go Hmmmmmmm????? Were Wook and the step-daughter "engaged" as children before she disappeared? And was the engagement to Jin Cho-yeon similarly "arranged"?

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I don't think the "eldest daughter" is a step-daughter of Jin Ho-kyung because in her character profile, it said, "she cherishes the memory of her eldest daughter who was lost as a child", which insinuates some degree of proximity between the two. Also, her husband, Jin Woo-tak, is not a Jin by birth -- he took her surname when they got married because he's a matrilocal husband.

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Haha, I hadn't thought about it before, but I hope that line comes back too! I love their banter, and I'm trusting that it won't die out as their relationship changes and evolves.

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"but who is Heo Yeom is to Yul"

They are both from the same region where the Seo family is prominent. I don't think they are related.

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In Episode 1 after gisaeng Joo Wol introduced the Four Seasons, Naksu flashed back to her family being killed and called out the mages by name "Jin, Seo, Jang, Park" with Heo Yeom as "Seo-ssi." So I wonder how he's related to the Seo family even though he has a different last name.

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Interesting that you read "Seo-ssi". It was a simple "Seo" (and Park, Jin, Jang) on my Netflix feed (USA).

Here is what the character description (found from TvN and posted by me on MDL) says: "He is a collateral family member of the Seo family. Since the main house of the Seo family is far from the capital city, he takes out the Seo family's representative duties are performed on behalf of the Seo family". So, other than Seo Yul (and one other family member "Councillor" (?) Seo), he appears to represent the Seo family while in Songrim.

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In Korean, Naksu said, "진씨, 서씨, 장씨, 박씨" 씨 meaning family.

If Heo Yeom is Yul's collateral family member, then he must be his great-uncle? The brother of Yul's maternal grandparents or paternal grandmother? Thanks for the character description, @Kathryn51!

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Hi @alathe, awesome recap, I was grinning all through with the running commentary, quick question, are you new here? if not, how did I miss your recaps? I am on the alchemy train until the Hong sister does what they do best...Wreck-it.....so cheers to future recaps.

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Aww, thank you - I'm super glad you enjoyed! I am indeed new to dramabeans, and having a great time so far! :D

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Welcome 🥳 we always love to see newbies doing a deed for the good of the community and although this type of drama is too scary for me to watch I can look forward to reading the recaps. Thank you.

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Thank you @alathe for these recaps. Your recaping style is reminiscent of javabeans and girlfriday when they were recaping here--humorous and engaging with a gift for sarcasm. Also, thank you to the Beanies here who share fascinating thoughts and insights.
I am with the general consensus here that the spark of this drama is absolutely Wook and Mo Deuk. The acting and chemistry of Jung So Min and Lee Jae Wook have exceeded my expectations and hopes. They have drawn me in when otherwise I am still not sold. Generally such period dramas are not my cup of tea for their politics and violence and usual grim endings. (I knew there would be a torture scene--there always is!) But I found myself thinking about it long after I finished it, which means I am hooked.
Others have pointed our possible literary influences the Hong Sisters may have drawn upon or that have similar themes: Arthurian legend, Frankenstein's Monster, Indian folktales, Chinese Wu Xia. King David (Bible) and, oddly, The Host (Stephanie Meyer) also come to mind. Especially, The Host, which is about a parasitic alien species called "Souls" that takes over and follows one Soul whose human host refuses to leave. It made me wonder if Mu Deuk's soul really left and it that is why Naksu's soul switching status mark is unusual. Perhaps her body is hosting two souls with Naksu's being dominant (she would be, right?). We never saw Naksu's body conscious after the switch which makes me suspicious. Either it's convenient or the Hong Sister's have something up their sleeves still.
And I may be the odd one out but I find Wook's coifed hair so flattering on LJW and also visually fresh. Also, perhaps it tells us something about his character--a warning that he is not the incompetent fool most people take him for. I keep trying to figure out how it is created. hahaha

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Aww, thank you - glad you enjoyed the recaps! :)

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No OST has been released yet, but if I read the Hangul credits correctly, that gorgeous song at the very end of the episode is by Kassy and is called 아 리 운 - which I couldn't satisfactorily translate, except maybe the last syllable is 'luck'? Any help from beanies who can understand Korean? I think the one at the end of ep. 1 is by Car the Garden and is called "Wounds Become Beautiful Traces."

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Thank you. I was entranced by the song. It was excellently placed to prolong the emotional notes of the last scene.

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I read that the title is "Wounds Become a Beautiful Trail", but translating Korean to English is not for the faint of heart.

It will be reportedly be released on June 26 at 6:00 p.m. KST.

Article: http://www.slist.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=363928

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