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Alchemy of Souls: Episodes 3-4

Buckle up for some high octane master-apprentice shenanigans, as our hero hones his magic at an unprecedented — and dangerous — rate! The political situation grows perilous, and our protagonists have managed to anger everyone. Luckily, our favorite bloodthirsty assassin is ready to do what it takes to protect her pupil, whether it involves spying, scheming, or abject humiliation in front of the crown prince…

 

EPISODES 3-4 WEECAP

Our heroes, having defied death, return to Sejukwon. Here, in a moment of aching trust, Wook kneels and swears to serve Mu-deok. She warns, less tenderly, that this relationship has a built-in expiry date. Once Wook trains to full strength and restores her power, they must part ways. Wook, whose abandonment issues run deep, seems skeptical, but agrees.

Time for training! Mu-deok gives the lowdown on three key magical techniques. Jipsu, the ability to gather the water’s energy. Ryusu, absorbing this energy. Chisu, controlling it for explosive results. Her demonstration of the fearsome moves she employed as a master assassin would be impressive — if it didn’t cause her to collapse, winded. Unfortunately, her new apprentice is no better; even in her scrawny secondhand body, she beats him soundly in a fistfight.

Still, there’s hope. Ordinarily, it takes years to master even Jipsu. Wook’s got an ace up his sleeve: when the kindly Yeom restored his energy gate, he channeled roughly a decade’s worth of magical power into his body. How does Mu-deok verify this? By shoving him back, stripping his outer robe, and pressing her hands up close and personal against his stomach, of course! Flawlessly awkward.

So, the energy’s there — now, to harness it. For this, they need Yeom’s personal breathing technique: only then can Wook metabolize the power before his benefactor does anything awkward, like, um, ask for it back. What better way to learn than to stalk Yeom’s relative, Yul?

Well, as it turns out, almost anything. When Dang-gu spots the master-apprentice pair squabbling in the library, Wook declares they’re here to spy on Yul because of his maid Mu-deok’s embarrassing crush. Curbing her murder-glare, Mu-deok follows Yul to the Jeongjingak mages’ changing room, where he tells her to leave. However, circumstance – and, by circumstance, I mean a gaggle of half-naked male mages preparing to bathe – forces them to press up close behind a curtain. Mu-deok sneaks a grope at Yul’s stomach, but he flusteredly shoves her away.

Yul proves no fool. When Mu-deok offers a last-ditch fake love confession to get another chance at feeling him breathe, he snaps that he knows what she’s trying to do, and why – and it won’t help Wook. He turns to leave. But, after several of Mu-deok’s failed attempts to grab him, the bird whistle he took from Naksu’s body has fallen from his robes.

Mu-deok plays the whistle, and, like the Pied Piper, draws back Yul. They strike a deal: Mu-deok will return his precious keepsake in exchange for Yul’s breathing technique.

Meanwhile, Wook’s been busy. With a judicious bribe of liquor, he’s managed to fend off Yeom’s attempts to retrieve his energy. In fact, whilst carrying his inebriated elder back home, he’s pilfered his breathing technique! Upon finding Mu-deok, though, his triumph is eclipsed by seeing her stand close to Yul. It’s not full-blown jealousy, but it’s not nothing, either. Mu-deok, for her part, indulges in some deadpan teasing, waxing lyrical about Yul’s handsomeness.

Wook’s well on his way to mastering Jinsu. This is appalling news for Jin, who’s honor-bound to act on what he was told by his friend Jang Gang. Wook, he knows, is not Gang’s son, but the late King’s. If he catches the attention of the royal family, he could be killed for treason — the smallest hint of fame will spell his doom.

Therefore, when the man he regards almost as a son asks for an invitation to Songrim, Jin has no choice but to refuse. Publicly. Adding insult to injury, he returns Wook’s father’s sword — the one he lacks the power to unsheathe. Then, the worst blow of all: Wook is banished from Songrim.

Things get even uglier when Jin demands the return of Wook’s spirit plaque. Wook can’t exactly explain that his assassin master purloined it during one of her ill-fated bids for freedom. So, he has to claim he lost it. The punishment for a lost spirit plaque is one hundred floggings; Jin doesn’t hesitate to give the order.

Stone-faced, Wook endures each blow as his friends watch in horror. Finally, they finish. However, Wook, in a move so ballsy it defies belief, tells Jin that he has only received ninety-nine blows. He demands that Jin himself deliver the last.

It sends Wook reeling to the ground. Jin inwardly pleads for Wook to stay down — to give up, and live a quiet life. Instead, Wook pushes himself to his feet. When he leaves Songrim, it is with head held high, Mu-deok walking proudly at his shoulder.

Back home, Wook’s not so stoic. Actually, he’s depressed, and wallowing in long baths. Moreover, the flogging jump-started his body’s magic absorption: Wook must suffer brutal heat, as the energy burns up, then excruciating cold as it recedes.

The heat is easily combated through ice baths. The cold nearly kills him. Mu-deok bundles him in blankets, slaps his face to keep him conscious, and when all else fails, holds him close. Wook, evermore heroic, insists that if he dies, she must take his energy. Mu-deok, evermore herself, replies that if she knew how to do that, she’d have killed him already. Still, we get some incredibly sweet content, as Mu-deok murmurs stories, helping him through the night. Whilst she speaks, she pats his arm to comfort him. (I die.)

By morning, Wook is recovered, and stronger for it. Nonetheless, he still can’t unsheathe his father’s sword. This becomes an issue sooner rather than later, because he has a crown prince to contend with.

PRINCE GO WON (Shin Seung-ho) is striking for two reasons: his unerring ability to raise a single eyebrow in skepticism, and his ill-judged loyalty to his mentor, Jin Mu. The latter has led him to fear the Four Seasons; he’s here to assert his power by demanding Naksu’s sword — and Jang Gang’s, too. When Wook refuses, Won proposes a duel. To make things semi-fair, he draws a line in the dirt: Wook wins if he can drive him past it.

Wook’s no combat savant; Won knocks him around the yard without breaking a sweat. Luckily, help is at hand in the form of Mu-deok and a brimming chamber pot! Her genuinely ingenuous solution is to slop its contents between the two fighters, causing the prince to recoil in fastidious horror — right over the line he drew.

Meanwhile, Dang-gu has gone to check on Wook. Yul tags along to speak to Mu-deok, and Cho-Yeon has somewhat confused plans to scold Wook, then treat his wounds. In short, three Seasons arrive in time to hear the fourth effectively tell a prince not to let the door hit him on his way out.

Won doesn’t exactly take this lying down. Instead, he tries to behead Mu-deok for staining his sleeve with toilet slop. But, as his blade comes whistling down, it’s deflected. Wook has accomplished the impossible: in that moment of peril, he unsheathes his father’s sword.

And what a sword! It’s positively luminescent with lake-power. Wook lunges forward to fight in deadly earnest: something is forcing his body to lurch forward, puppet-like. His friends wrestle away the sword, but Wook’s right arm is dealing out dizzying blows due to an uncontrolled surge of power. Thinking fast, Cho-Yeun whips out a magical binding bracelet, restraining the disobedient limb. Sadly, Won’s still out for blood.

As the Four Seasons bicker over how to navigate this political quagmire, Mu-deok resorts to desperate measures. She kneels before Won. She holds up the chamber pot. With wide eyes, she offers to drink it in penitence.

Wook’s honor won’t allow this. He also kneels, offering to drink in her stead, causing Mu-deok to go on a truly phenomenal face journey through seven shades of irritation and perplexity. Wook’s doting housekeeper, KIM DO-JOO (Oh Nara), throws herself forwards. She’ll drink from the pot! Hot on her heels comes Dan-gu! He’ll help drink! Cho-yeon steps forward and… shrieks at the stench. She tried.

Luckily, Yul still has his wits about him, and offers Won what he actually wants — an excuse not to watch this debacle unfold — by saying they dare not challenge him. Won takes him at his word, whilst also taking the opportunity to leave.

Wook’s ecstatic at having achieved Ryusu — enough to pull Mu-deok, who still reeks of toilet sluice, into a tight hug. (She hugs back pretty well for someone who claims to avoid non-murderous intimacy.) He’s determined to head back to Songrim and show Jin the fruits of his labor.

This is a mistake. Jin, forced into cruelty by his knowledge of Wook’s fate, demands that he remove the binding bracelet on his arm. He obeys, struggling to hold his sword aloft. But, it’s too much for him. His arm plunges forward of its own accord, stabbing Jin in the shoulder.

Jin doesn’t bat an eyelid. He just stares, hard. But, when Cho-yeon attempts to defend Wook by praising his duel with Won, he explodes into fear and rage. Mu demands that Wook be imprisoned for attacking the prince, and Jin agrees.

In Wook’s cell, he and Jin face a harrowing conversation, awkwardly asking after the wounds they inflicted on each other. For Jin, the problem is unbearable: it breaks his heart that Wook won’t consider an ordinary life. For Wook, the betrayal is enormous: even his patron wants to see him fail. Jin levels one last blow, telling Wook that he’s the result of his mother’s love affair. This lie hurts all the more when you remember that Jin himself was in love with Do-hwa.

Unbeknown to our heroes, wider problems are emerging. Mu’s lackey, GIL JOO (Choi Ji-ho) suspects that Mu-deok is Naksu. He’s currently escorting a sinister soul-shifter into the city, for purposes unknown. Meanwhile, another mysterious stranger has stolen Gwigu, transferring the formidable dog-spirit into the body of an ordinary mutt. Still, the biggest concern is that Wook has lapsed into a depression that even Mu-deok can’t lift.

Luckily, she’s master of the creative solution. With Dang-gu’s help, she orchestrates a meeting between Yeom and Mu. It doesn’t take much goading to get Mu to agree to an official duel between Won and Wook — potentially, to the death.

There’s no time to waste: Dang-gu and Yul help Wook flee Songrim. He and Mu-deok allegedly plan to lie low in Mu-deok’s hometown until things settle. However, as they set sail, Mu-deok reveals that it is Danhyanggok, Naksu’s home, that they’re headed for… to train.

Cue Wook: “You’ve poisoned me again!”

As ever, Alchemy of Souls is driving me wild with its tightly-plotted theatrics. Whilst the successes of Episode 3 are punctuated by some uneven comedy, Episode 4 is a triumph from start to finish. As always, our leads’ rock-solid chemistry carries the day, but the supporting cast is coming into their own. Jin and Wook’s thwarted, pseudo-parental relationship splits my heart in two, and I’ve a growing fondness for Yul’s quiet dignity. Cho-yeon is another standout: she’s adorably prim, and deeply erratic; I can’t wait to find out more about what makes her tick.

I’m earnestly rooting for our heroes, because the balance of sympathies is so deft. Wook tries so hard, and fails so often, but his main opposition comes from those who love him. Mu-deok is masterful and vulnerable in equal turn, but she’s unafraid to humiliate herself in the service of a scheme. In short, everything is beautifully complex. Plus, I’ll confess, I don’t usually giggle at toilet humor. But, this episode’s toilet humor? Solid genius. Bring on next week!

 
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The game is afoot! So many things to love about this week (the second hand embarrassment from MD launching herself at Yul, the banter & bickering, the comedy, whatever is going between Park Jin & Dojoo, and the heart fluttering scenes of people either getting really close to each other out of ‘necessity’ or just staring into the depths of each other’s souls *sighs dreamily*) but what caught me off guard is my expectations that have been thwarted at every turn (in a good way). Once Wook unsheathed his sword, I expected him to naturally become a pro wiz and then force Jin’s hand at accepting him - what I didn’t see coming was the fact that he can’t control his powers yet, the fact that Jin is as stubborn as ever, and the smart decision (on Mudeok’s part) to flee and train rather than face the Crown Prince. Likewise I thought MD would try solve problems with her fist at some point this week and was pleasantly surprised by her smarts in how she manipulates situations with her obnoxious facade in tact. I also thought she’d run away after that little fight with Wook, but its heartwarming how she’s not giving up on her pupil. On that note, equally surprising is how much MD is warming up to Wook - I certainly didn’t expect her to hug him back considering her no nonsense and icy persona. I also like that the CP isn’t straight up just evil, he’s ambitious and arrogant for sure but that’s about it & the fact that he didn’t want to accept the duel (which also surprised me) initially was an indication of that. Gives me hope that be might join our Fantastic Four down the line in the fight against evil.

Also two things that’ll be food for thought till the next episode - should Wook learn about how Jin’s loved Dohwa, without any context that could lead to some very dangerous yet logical misinterpretations as to why Jin seems so against letting Wook become a mage. And now that Wook’s punishment,if he doesn’t show up for the duel, has been set to him loosing the his rights as the Gwanju heir apparent, that’s technically an ideal outcome for Jin right? So I wonder if him potentially blocking Wook from returning will further hasten the cracks in their relationship.

And finally, Yul. Look, I am captain aboard the SS OTP, BUT my heart flutters every time him and MD have a moment especially when its those bits where you can see him using that beautiful brain of his to see past MD’s pretence. I adore Wook to bits though so whilst I might be developing a bit of SLS, it’s not at the expense of my feelings towards the leads and honestly it’s perfect because that means I can watch any potential love triangle scenes down the line with glee and double the heart fluttering rather than angst.

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I was 100% prepared to find Yul a one-dimensional clotheshorse with a pretty face and nothing behind his vacant expression.

I am 100% delighted to be wrong.

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Same!! I was ready for Cha Eunwoo 2.0 (tbf love the guy, but jury is out still on his acting for the most part) but was very happy to be proved wrong hahahaha

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I'm actually surprised that the two idols don't look so out of place among the other good actors. They are so far doing a good job! This makes me wonder, if the previous lead girl really was bad at acting for her to be replaced, but I ain't complaining about Jung So Min is so charming here.

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I forgot that Spring is also an idol - props to her, they're both doing a good job indeed. And yeah it really does make you wonder about the previous lead, and whether there's more to that issue than just 'bad acting' 👀

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who was the previously cast actress?

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it was Park Hae-eun I believe!

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ohhh, i like Jung So Min very much in this role, so i'm glad she stepped down then!

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That would have been a VERY different show. MD would have been extremely young, and while I can see the comedic potential of that, I am really enjoying an older MD whose main difference from the others is class. Adding age to that would’ve been a real double whammy.

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I think this is what comes out of careful casting, though I don't know what was up with the the FL switch. I think idols can still fit as long as you match them up with the right role.

I also think acting in a fantasy with magic and swordfighting and against greenscreen backdrops can be awkward or feel cheesy for some actors to get over. You really have to feel committed. I think idols can get over that sort of thing better because they're always doing "concepts" and having to look comfortable with it no matter how weird the concept.

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Ditto on your entire comment 😆

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Very much enjoying that the vibe is still comrades rather than lovers, even when they’re hugging or sleeping together. On some level, they just really LIKE each other’s quirks. Wook is hilariously both sympathetic and opportunistic about how Mu Deok’s powers aren’t full strength, but he really doesn’t disrespect her and in many cases, is incredibly loyal and deferential. Meanwhile Mu Deok really seems to be impressed by Wook’s willpower, determination and surprising flashes of true nobility. They’re both complete weirdos but they click. And delightfully, they are NOT yet clicking in a way that involves lingering stares and weird touching.

Less thrilled at slut-shaming the woman who got raped by a bodysnatcher to her son. Not cool guys.

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You said everything about this pair that I wanted to say.
And yes, I want the truth reveal so that Do Hwa can stop being labeled as an adulterer. The way those who supposedly love her continue to use her gets my blood boiling too. But I do ache for when Wook finds out the circumstances of his birth.

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I really hoped Do Hwa never found out that she was raped by the bodysnatcher and that her husband was still good to her during her pregnancy. Ugh, what a way to end the last 9 months of your life.

I wonder if DoHwa had mage powers too.

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Everyone and their mothers were getting piggyback rides in ep 3. Lol.

Likes:
-Mudeok’s bun is the new pigtails that unruly boys (& those secretly crushin’ on them) like to yank on to get their attention :)
-Love the fast-paced dialogue. The show doesn’t waste my time nor give me a chance to absentmindedly check my phone to scroll through social media through the episode.
-MD gasping for air after running one lap around Wook – that’s how I feel after jogging for 30 seconds. (What a useless body I possess, indeed!)
-Actually, that whole scene between MD & Wook next to the stream was hilarious. I could watch them bickering everyday as a daily drama…or as all of Part 2.
-I sooo did not expect Yul to send Mudeok flying on the bridge when she was getting all grabby. Lol.
-The special effects as they drain the souls out of the bodies & they gradually turn into stones is top-notch. (Now imagine if all those corpses resurrect into zombies…that would make for a good plotline in Part 2, heh)
-The scene where Wook kneeled down to his new master, Mudeok, at night with the backdrop of the bamboos had beautiful lighting and camera angles.
-I’m digging the setups to the comedic scenes. They’re unconventional! (How do we get MD & Yul closer? Build in this need to steal his breathing techniques!)
-Excellent acting by LJW in the last scene in ep 3, especially after he staggers back up after receiving the final flogging from Yoo Jun-sang.
-As stated above, every description of Yul on the web is that he’s ‘perfect’ & a renaissance man - as most second leads are set up to be – but it’s wonderful to see that this drama actually shows it with his actions & words. He’s quick to pick up on MD’s craftiness & knows something’s afoot, but because he’s genuinely a straight-up nice guy, he’s not going to blurt it out to everyone or separate the two. This is how you build a strong second male lead to make people root for him, not just rely solely on his good looks!

Does this mean Wook will start calling her Master Ddong/똥 from now on too? :p

(Thank you, Show, for giving me the comedy I desperately needed after a very bleak week of watching my country regress into a fascist, masochist, gun-ridden society…)

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The breathing setup to initiate intimacy reminds me Hong Sisters's sly use of setup for skinship in Master's Sun (no spoilers). Perhaps in contrast the skinship between Wook and Mu Deuk feels natural and authentic.

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When I saw the posters, I was sure I would dislike Seo Yul with that pretty boy perfect face and 21st century haircut. But he's so gentle and intelligent. And not at all boring. I am so pleasantly surprised.

Naksu and her arrogance trapped in a useless body is still hilarious even though she didn't threaten that many people with death this week!

I really wish drama people would just be honest. Tell him his life is in danger if he becomes a mage. Tell him there will be war. Goodness.

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Just one addition to her kill list! But isn't she just running out of people to mentally add to her list since she spends all her time at Wook's home or at Song-rim? Maybe she'll run into more potential victims in their next location?

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There are so many reasons I love this show – the cinematography; charming characters, old and young, each with their own unique personalities; truly sweet moments (my fave: Park Jin and Kim Do-Joo: “So let us not hurt each other”); small and big moments of comedy; examples of loyalty, trust and heartbreak (“Uk, just stand down”).

But without a doubt, what I love most is that our leads are genius – the type of genius that thinks outside-the-box, takes extraordinary risks, do-or-die because each one finally found someone that cares about their future (because they are still acting mostly from self-interest). I’m not the type to analyze characters and personalities (why did so-and-so act this way), but I do believe this: Jang Wook and Mu-Deok will remembered as one of the top kdrama couples for a very long time. Unless aliens suck out their brains at some point which, unfortunately, is not exactly impossible with the Hong sisters.

“Whilst she speaks, she pats his arm to comfort him. (I die.)” I die as well. Each and every time I re-watch.

Final word – Do. Not. Kill. The. Dog.

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omg i didn't even consider the dog might be collateral at some point, PLEASE NO

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I mean, the dog was already dead. Gwigu possessed the body of a dead dog. I doubt the dog-spirit can die. Gwigu will just go back to its black smoke form.

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I am glad I was not drinking when I finished reading your comments. I thought the SAME thing when the dog was introduced. Childhood trauma from all the animal movies.

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I love that they already had two versions of the scene between Park Jin and Kim Dojoo! I think they are so sweet together and share so much, not least of which is a parental-level amount of concern for Wook - also adorable. I sort of hope this type of scene becomes a running joke of the show, when they get indignant, insult each other, then acknowledge that they didn't really mean it and awkwardly make up.

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When he called her a squirrel for picking acorns to make acorn jelly, I lost it! It reminded me of My Girl - an earlier Hong sisters drama- where they had a middle-aged single woman and a middle-aged man have their own funny romance.

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Plus, I’ll confess, I don’t usually giggle at toilet humor. But, this episode’s toilet humor? Solid genius. Bring on next week!

Same same @alathe . I do not like toilet humour, but this was the best few minutes I had watched and not a single second did I get disgusted😂😂😂

I love the double entendre dialogues given to Mu Deok. They are so funny and I think the crown prince too might fall for Mu Deok at some point. All in all I'm loving Mu Deok and Jang Uk's relationship growth of slowly opening up to each other.

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I was totally disgusted, but I was also at the same time 1. touched (Wook is a trouble-magnet, but he's so loved) and 2. impressed (since they were putting the prince in the position of being vulgar enough to demand that they drink shit water). I also think the Crown Prince may fall in love with Mu Deok!

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I agree with all the comments and I hope we all remain this happy.

I rewatched the first 2 episodes while waiting for the 3rd to air and I rewatched the 3rd while waiting for episode 4😆. I'm enjoying this show a little too much.

Please drama, be good to me/us until the end!

Ps: I can feel the SLS creeping in and I'm resisting

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I did the same with the rewatches too - and now I'm about to go back and watch it all again to pass time before the next episodes hahaha

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Me too,me too!

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I would watch the episodes and then rewatch after the even episode because I'm bummed that I would have to wait another week. It's been awhile since I want to rewatch an episode to take the edge off.

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After the series started so furiously with the first two episodes, I have the impression that it was a little more uneventful in episode 3. But maybe that's also because Wook and Mu-deok had fewer word duels.

By now, so many characters have appeared that I have to really concentrate to keep track of them, especially if, like me, you have trouble getting all the names right.

Just when I thought I'd like to see the training sessions, the two of them set off for Naksu's home. I am looking forward to the next episodes. The landscape shots are magnificent.

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I miss Naksu's display of swordsmanship and hope they get to bring it up to speed soon. Her wit however, is doing a good job of placating.

The chemistry between Park Jin and Kim Do-joo is one that I always love in dramas, especially Park Jin's innocence persona. To have all that power only to be brought down to incoherent speech when his undying love for Do-hwa is poked is...😂😂. That said, thier fealty towards their respective first loves runs deep and I hope they break out of it soon and make 👶ies.

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Like, when Dong-joo and Park Jin do get together, I'm sure they'll bicker about who liked who first, and who confessed first lol

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Yul and Naksu's conversations are my favourite ones. He sees everything she's doing. The scene on the bridge was really good.

I was disapointed by Wook. Why didn't learn to fight. He had the time! but I guess his training will be fun to watch. I'm surprised that he's not curious about her past as an assassin, she was the ennemy of his friends and mentors.

I found Nasku's plan pretty dangerous. She put him in danger just to motivate him, without thinking to the consequences.

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I thought they were training at Sari Village and not Danhyanggok. She is really bringing Wook to Naksu's place? Wouldn't it created many suspicious possibility?
Ep 4 was just a chef kiss for this week. From emotional flogging bruises until the hard truth while you-lost-on-yourself scenes, damn it was a well potrayed by our hero!

Can't wait to see more banter between our OTP, with Chul Soo's character in next episode. Weekend, please come sooner ✌️

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This is the first time I watch this kinda of genre and I am enjoying, but... Sometimes I feel lost ("we can fix this with this and this"), and sometimes I feel like the writers are just adding stuff because they dont know how to resolve the initial conflict. The way the were able to open his energy, was bleh. He could have done that without the need of his maid.

I am still confused how his father is not his father, but he was able to open the sword. (To be honest, the whole father thing is a mess)

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For Songrim, to defy Jang Gang's standing order/instructions is comparable to defying the King. So yes, it had to take Mudeok putting his life in absolute danger to force them to defy him. That was why she didn't tell them to combination of the poison she fed him, so they won't know what to do and also panic thinking they don't have enough time on thier hands. And as we saw, despite Wook being in danger Park Jin was still resolute on following Jang Gang's instructions, and he was even more resolute when you couple what Jang Gang told him.

To understand the paternity crisis, just think about it this way. The body/blood and soul are two separate entities. And on the basis of soul, it seems highly likely that Wook is the deceased Kings son, that's when you now add in the Big Deeper situation/consternation that occured at the point of his birth.

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We really ought to call Mu-deok "Naksu" because her character is the soul, not the body. Wook and Yul fall in love with Naksu, not Mu-deok. Like other body-swapping dramas Big, Oh My Ghostess, and Mr. Queen where the lead loves the soul (yet ends up with the body).

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Given that Jang Kang is an extraordinary person himself, I hoped the whole Big Dipper thing would not be because he's been tainted by the dead rapey king's soul, but because he was just meant to be the extraordinary son of the Jang Kang and Do Hwa. Wook was so heartbroken to hear that he wasn't his dad's kid. :(

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I'm loving this so much that I'm afraid it will all go wrong in later episodes! I can't remember laughing so much at toilet humour which I usually hate. I agree with the other beanies comments here too in regards to our couples chemistry, possible SLS, and the rattling pace of the show. How will this be maintained? I'm crossing everything at the moment!

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I love everything about his drama so far, the cast, the story, the humor. Can't say more. Just love it!

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Watched first 3 episodes but just can't seem to like it. The story sounds great, fan of jung so min, and fan of the fantasy/historica genre but it's just not it. The comedy seems misplaced and the story feels rushed.

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I think I am getting too many Potter vibes as the series moves along. The four mage houses against the Slytherin Palace dark arts; the soul shifters acting like Hallows . . . I kind of hope I am wrong.

I did not like or understand why Uk went to Songrim to get back his position when he could not control his energy. It was a mistake. He was not ready. It was a lazy plot point to put him back in danger and runaway to train with his master. It was funny that Mu-Deok was called out for being in all Uk's dangerous situations - - - who else runs around with their indentured maid? ) but no one questions her behavior when the world is still searching for Naksu.

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Really, in order to save on casting, period dramas in almost every country cut down on the number of servants that should be lurking everywhere. In a non-technological society, having extra bodies rather then machines is always a sign of status. All of these high-ranking people should have maids and servants tagging along. Wook keeping Mu-Deok with him is what any Joseon or Ming noble would do. Her knowing where the chamber-pot is is also proper for her place in society.

The beautiful part of it is how Mu-Deok's slightly off attitude as a servant is betraying her as Naksu. Not to the nobles, but to the other servant! He knows there is something different about he, and that little narrative arc is a fine combination of script, acting, and direction.

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It was quite easy to understand Wook's action when he went back to Songrim.
He really want the recognition that he was denied before. For the promises of being accepted as one of the Songrim society once he managed to unsheathed Jang Gang's sword. Childhood (especially at puberty age) scars deeper than you thought it would be. Those words uttered (by Jin) was always be kept in your mind forever until you liberate yourself from it.

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Songrim was his entire world. He grew up next to the other Seasons. I'm sure they started training when they were really little and he was excluded from all that. It wasn't shown much, but it seemed like having his spirit gate blocked made him physically weaker than the average guy in Songrim since everyone is always like "protect our little Wook!"

And then there were the rumors that he wasn't his father's son and "illegitimacy" is always a touchy subject. His yearning for belonging and having the goal posts moved really hit me hard.

Also, Wook is only like 20 in the drama, so he's just out of his teens.

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Also wanted to give kudos to Park Byung-eun for his excellent portrayal of the douchey/smarmy/rapist king. I wish he was a main cast member instead of just a cameo - he's showed more emotions and range of acting here in these 5 minute scenes than he has in "Eve" so far! (I loved his character in BTIMFL.)

Really stunning landscapes & outside locations used in this drama. (Scouting locations is hard work so gotta give credit & love to the behind-the-scenes team!) They need to publish a list of all the location shoots because they would instantly turn into major tourist hotspots!

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Agree with all of this! The king is the worst but I feel his desperation and then gross contentedness with himself after he returned to his own body. Definitely great acting there.

I find myself rewinding slightly so that I can watch the beautiful fall scenery multiple times.

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Even if the writing crashes in this series later, that chamber-pot sequence is utterly epic and worth the price of admission.

That scene also highlights something fine about this series: none of the characters are STUPID. These people all got where they are by be intelligent and knowledgeable. The Four Seasons are not airheads, the older characters are sharp and not easily conned. The senior servants are world-wise and observant, as they should be.

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"The Four Seasons are not airheads"

Well, Cho-yeon is pretty ditzy. 😊

But agree about the others - if this was a kdrama in current times of college-age students, the plot would be based on how UNintelligent or irrational the characters are.

If the writers suck their brains out at some future point for some plot twist or meaningless tension, I will be very disappointed.

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Curious if Im Chul Soo’s char. is the other mage mentioned by Heo Yeom as reaching the ultimate power level.
Still hope the ones who killed Naksu family are the ones she believes.
It will make way for a more complex and grey story and characters rather than having Jin Mu as the ultimate mastermind behind it all manipulating all the others as a reveal…
Jang Kang had quite the motivation to eliminate her father after we’ve seen in episode 6 and would love to see it going this way as the children navigating the truth that Songrim and the other fractions aren’t exactly clean nor always the good guys and that they did spill blood for what they believed the greater good(in this case hiding Jang Uk origin and “fate”)…
Still hope Naksu will have also her own bigger story line as not being relegated as a tool to make our hero powerful…

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"Teacher Lee" (Chul Soo's character) appeared on our screens right after Heo Yeom mentioned the 2nd mage, so it's a pretty good guess.

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I haven't seen such good chemistry between leads in a while! It's uncommon to have a pair who can handle deadpan humor and heavy emotional moments with equal deftness. I'm also growing to love all the secondary characters, although I live in fear of a love triangle (or square). Jin and Do Joo are the standouts for me; I hope they get a second chance at love with each other.
I love Wook and Mu Deok's dynamic of "these two would wreck each other in an instant if their interests weren't aligned". And of course the nature of their relationship is fun too: master and servant in public but master and pupil in private. They each have power over the other and they've entered into a game of mutually-assured destruction, which will hopefully lead to a fiery romance. They're both so ambitious and so stubborn, and watching them butt heads one moment and defend each other the next is absolutely delicious.
I haven't been this invested in an airing drama since Bad and Crazy; I'm excited to see where it goes!

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I love your definition of the couple dynamic: "mutually -assured destruction". Hope you won't mind if I plagiarize it from time to time.

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Oh, feel free!

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Slowly, slowly with each episode my DoDo scars are fading. While I remain wary, I really like the mutual respect each lead displays to the other.

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O/T. Lol about DODO. My opinion has always been that LJW was innocent in the DODO ending debacle other than having to read his lines (to get paid) that the true culprit in the mess i.e. writer-nim wrote for his character. Then from the same writer was the beautiful epilogue to episode 15. Go figure.

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I really enjoy Naksu and Jang Wook's dynamic. This might spark a debate, but there are often times when I feel like the strong heroine's male partner is either too subservient and loses his selfhood at her presence, or too antisocial to the point he feels like a toxic male partner (and it's concerning when people try to paint him in a positive light).

You perfectly described Naksu and Jang Wook's chemistry. Speaking of which, it reminds me of the lyrics of Sam Smith's "Fire on Fire".

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I would agree! Sometimes the "shrinking violet male lead" is a consequence of the writers overcompensating to create a "strong female character" (honestly, does no one know how to do that without flattening other characters or being condescending? smh), and there's also the fact that it's just challenging to write two strong-willed, self-possessed characters in such close proximity. The Hong sisters are pulling it off so far, and I hope it continues!

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Any time that we see a fantasy we have to accept that there will be some truly irrational elements BUT even though both my wife and I are enjoying this show a lot there are some fundamental logic flaws here:

Specifically, there is the problem of Wook's supposed status as a pretender to the throne. How? What would be the basis for that claim? Soul-shifting is not something that one makes public. Yet this is the reason that Wook's father blocked his energy channels- to protect him by rendering him 'ordinary'. But that very act of wanting to protect him plus the fact that his son has obviously inherited his abilities means that he instinctively if subconsciously understands that Wook is actually his son regardless of whose soul occupied his body at the time the child was conceived. No stupid remark by the dying king could change this simple fact- nor make Wook an heir to the throne.

But we will simply have to accept this illogic and just enjoy the ride anyway.

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In this land of fantasy, there appears to be a dynamic or relation between one's "soul" and the physical strength (or weakness) of the body it inhabits. Apparently that's the Daeho version of science.

As for protecting him, the King's Star appeared in the night sky on the night JU was born. So there are people (like Naksu's father) who know that there is a possible heir that threatened the new King on the throne. Anyway, that's how I rationalize Jang Kang's actions.

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In addition to soul-shifting and being born under the King's Star, I wouldn't be surprised if there's some parallel pathway to the throne for Wook - his mother's ancestry, unrevealed illegitimacy of the current King or crown prince, traditions that haven't yet been explained about how royal succession is established, etc. I love that we already have at least one matriarchal clan to introduce the idea that being the first-born son isn't always what matters most.

I'm sure the Hong sisters still have plenty of rules they can make up as they go along.

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Even if the king didn't rape Do Hwa, having any child - especially one born from a genius mage- with such a prophecy is dangerous. It could be indicative of future treason. I think there is tension between the royals and the mages of Song-rim (similar to tension between royals and church in some histories) so any sort of murkiness can be devastating.

Like the royals could turn it around and say Jang Kang forced the soul-shifting and Do-Hwa seduced him to produce a mage that would take over the throne. Like some big Song-rim plot.

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I lost it when they were negotiating about drinking the dong water 😂Absolutely hilarious. Mu Deok is easily my favorite character in this show and I have such a sweet spot for Wook. He usually has admirable tenacity, so seeing him broken by the lie hurt, although it wasn't an excuse to lash out at Mu Deok. Still, the clever minx found a way around his moping and I am so stoked for the training montage to begin! Bring it on!

P.S. Thank you Hong Sisters very much for this drama, so far it is everything that I've needed in dramaland. Excluding the evil no-good's early 2000's frosty tips, which I could totally do without. All in all, I can't wait for next week.

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Yoon Seo Hyun is the one playing the star gazer and Naksu father...
There are korean articles about his acting comeback in the drama in case people wanna know the name of the actor...At the moment didn't see him included in the eng. lists of cast actors

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A master craftsman who records and manages the stars of the past.

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Ooh. The gives food for thought.

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Yes, I realized him as someone related with Naksu too (after rewatch again 😅). Is he part of Jin family, that would be another interesting twisted fate...
Will Hong sisters navigate the stories well until ep 20? 🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞 (dramaland, please be nice to us for proper closure)

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His name is Jo Choong so guess they didn't go that route...
Now i'm curious what is the name of our heroine and also how she ended up meeting Yul...

Still have a bit of hope Hong Sister will break the mold and not be afraid to make their characters on a more grey and complex spectre,taking a page from wuxias that aren't afraid of having complex character rather than the mold good vs bad...
I mean they did it once with Manwol somehow...

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Wow thanks for the hint.. i did not noticed that. I'll be busy looking this up while waiting for the next episode!

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Maybe it's just me, but I find Park Jin quite an unhinged character. I get that he's a man who treats Wook harshly to protect him, and he doesn't dare to show his softness as the head of an elite institution, but I find the two sides of his personality he has showcased so far like two emotional extremes. And I was truly concerned about if he had the ability to sympathize in the scene he considered lying that he’s Jang Wook’s father right after he hurt him by darkening his mother’s name. I find it ironic how the resident villain, Jin Mu, is much more subdued in contrast (yet I take it as an illustration of how he keeps mum about his ambitions). Despite my reservations about Park Jin’s character, I do enjoy his small talks with Dong-joo, they act like parents who fuss over their child’s well-being and education, with Park Jin as the strict father and Don-joo as the nurturing, compassionate mother. I do hope Dong-joo convinces him of Jang Wook’s capabilities, drive and courage, and teach him to be his pillar rather than a cage, so he could properly defend him from his enemies when the time comes.

Naksu and Jang Wook have an interesting symbiotic relationship. While they do use each other, they are much more intimate and caring toward each other than they let on for a strictly business association, and they back-track if they were too cruel with their words. Naksu, in spite of her being unwavering assassin, is capable of providing consolation, and Jang Wook has surprisingly a lot of empathy and the tendency to admit his faults, even though he grew up ostracized and demeaned for his inability to use magic.

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I have neve watched historian drama so this is the first fantasy historical drama that I will be watching and I am all for it. In fact, it is the only drama I will be watching henceforth.

So excited about this drama.

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Thank you @alathe for continuing to recap AoS.
I have to admit that without Wook and Mu Deuk, I would not be interested in this story (of course it is early in the drama still). Yet, the drama is able to be absorbing because I care so much for these two. I actually find myself having to shake myself back into the world around me; this is, for me, a mark of good storytelling (of any medium). The Hong Sisters have created a pair of characters you can't help but root for and KJW and JSM have made them real. Which means, the angst is really going to hurt.
I reeled when Wook lashed out at Mu Deuk because they have a bond at soul level that already seems magical. I had to double check that we are only on the 4th episode during the scene where Mu Deuk is comforting a freezing Wook. He really pulls out a vulnerable side in her, doesn't she? And she respects his inner strength and recognizes his thirst to prove himself and achieve his potential which means he can BE himself.
Otherwise, I am curious about our younger generation and what kind of world they will create. I really hope we get them working together rather than divided by ambition or family loyalties. And I hope that Jin, who has been the only father Wook has known, is able to reconcile with Wook when the truth is revealed. That scene was tough and you just know that something is bound to happen to Jin; he feels like an Obi Wan Kenobi character who will end up sacrificing himself for Wook.

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I assumed Wook was only able to unsheathe his father's sword because Mu-deok's life was in danger, so he wouldn't have been able to do it in front of Jin. I also assumed the sword attacks evil people on its own like Crown Prince Won, so it stabbing Jin makes me suspicious.

Wook hugging his master out of celebration for finally doing it was cute, and I'm glad Mu-deok didn't push him away and hugged him back.

Yul is smart, so I think he figured out Mu-deok is Naksu from her whistle playing, and when he let her take his breathing technique, he saw the blue mark in her eyes.

Although we wouldn't have gotten the groping, I wish Yul was in the Park family and Dang-gu the Seo family. Dang-gu and Yeom are both comic relief with platinum hair, while Yul and Jin are calm and collected. More importantly, Yeom should've been a Seo. How can his breathing technique be the same as the Seo family when he's not a direct descendant of the Seo line? Yeom is Yul's distant relative.

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So this show is not a hot mess then? It's safe for me to give it a watch?

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This show is great fun and soooo much better then the Chinese Wuxia fantasies it is based on. I've watched a couple and flipped through a bunch of others--they tend to be fifty episodes long--and often wished that someone would make a shorter Korean version; that is, one with witty dialogue, detailed characters, and better acting. This one is better made then a lot of the equivalent British fantasies that came out recently.

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I think I'll give it a go then. I was skeptical at first but it looks to be a good one. Thanks 😊.

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Just don't mind the exuberant CGI in the first two episodes.

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How often does one see master/apprentice cuddling in bed or hugging under autumn leaves? Only studio dragon can romanticize the setting and make us forget the weirdness of it if this was real life. Imagine uk was hugging the buddhist monk under the falling autumn leaves instead lol

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Episode 4 is the best so far. Also I swooned at the bridge scene with Naksu and Yul.

I think it’s neat that Wook’s master is Naksu, whose former master is Jin Mu, whose unofficial master was Jang Kang. In a roundabout way, Wook is learning from his bio-dad.

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can i just say here that Joo Sang Wook never, ever looked so dang good as he does in this drama?? he should do more sageuk!

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Every time he shows up on screen here, I am mesmerized by how good looking he is in this drama. Poor Park Jin. LOL! Compared to all the handsome young 20-somethings, Jang Kang really blows them out of the water with his good looks.

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I love Mudeok's inner monologue and the BGM of it!!!

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I have to say I’m enjoying this drama (& not just because my daughter has become a fan). The plot is interesting and suspenseful without cheesy elements. I’m really interested in finding out what happens with Jang Wook, and whether he succeeds in becoming a great mage and takes his rightful place (but is that head of the Jang family and gwangju or as the heir to the throne?). His character is so sweet and upright that he seems more the son of Jang Gang than the prior decrepit king, despite the soul switch before his birth. And where will Naksu/Mu Deok’s loyalties lie in what I sense is an impending battle between the palace and Songrim? Will her resentment against the mages she thinks destroyed her family keep her their enemy? On the other hand will she take revenge against Jin Mu who abandoned her and left her for dead (and then ordered the killing of the woman he thought she had soul swapped with?). Was it Jin Mu who taught Naksu her skills and the alchemy of souls, or was it Jang Wook’s father? I hope the drama keeps up the high level of interest and suspense through the rest of the twenty episodes….

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I am curious about all these questions as well. As much as I think Wook would make a good king, I wonder if he would want to be one.

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This show has A LOT of supporting characters, and typically I find that off-putting bc I can't keep up with all the character development / plot lines (e.g., The King: Eternal Monarch ... OY! ... that was hard ... couldn't follow who was who in which universe). Anyhoo ... AoS is so great, particularly the leads, that I'm working extra hard (... don't judge) to follow all the characters / plot lines ... so far, so good. Can't wait for next week!

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