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Alchemy of Souls: Episodes 17-18

Our heroes must deal with the fallout of two much-awaited figures’ return to Daeho: the heir of a noble line of priestesses, and the Gwanju of Cheonbugwan. Politics just got complicated! With Jinyowon and Songrim at each other’s throats, it’ll be a mercy if anyone gets out alive…

 

EPISODES 17-18 WEECAP

Last week, we left Wook unknowingly holding his father at swordpoint — with his father’s own sword, no less. From this, Jang Gang instantly recognizes his son. The same can’t be said for Wook, who has no reason to associate the parent who abandoned him decades ago with this disheveled wanderer, even when said wanderer knows all about Cheonbugwan’s Gwanju. The one who abandoned that sword — and his son — was a madman. So says Jang Gang, anyway. Will Wook seek vengeance for the insult to his father? No, says Wook. His father wouldn’t want that. Nonetheless, he’ll wear the sword for the sake of his mother’s reputation.

Jang Gang offers Wook a drink from a gnarled bottle. Wook, who has never met a beverage of dubious provenance that he didn’t immediately down, accepts. Father gazes sadly at son. He leaves Wook with a warning: continue chasing sorcery in a place like this, and its darkness will consume your soul. You’ll lose everything. Like me, he doesn’t say — but the subtext rings clear.

Meanwhile, Mu-deok, having ditched the Jin family reunion, regards her face curiously in a market stall mirror. Why do her eyes always hurt when she nears Jinyowon?

When Wook sneaks up to poke her in the cheek, it’s mark of how far their relationship has deepened that she doesn’t immediately initiate violence. Instead, the two proceed to muck about shamelessly with the stall’s merchandise. Mu-deok smears Wook’s forehead with powder. He retaliates, dotting her cheeks with bright blush. A play-fight of epic proportions commences.

After the merchant presumably tells them to go get a room already, they stroll through the market together. Mu-deok’s makeup has faded to a pretty flush, which proves excellent disguise for her actual blush as she remembers Wook touching her cheeks. In fact, Wook’s awful habit of doing charming things like guiding her out of the way of oncoming wagon traffic is proving disastrous for her dignity.

Later, Mu-deok remembers something about the newly-returned “Jin Bu-yeon”: she uses a familiar object as a walking stick.

Of all the things Yul was expecting from his friends, an interrogation regarding the location of his umbrella was presumably not one of them. Mu-deok, playing bad cop, gets right up in his face. When Wook (tentatively donning the role of good cop) points out she sounds like a wife with a cheating husband, it’s weird for everyone involved. Still, eventually, they put the pieces together: So-yi the swindler whom Yul saved in the marketplace and the supposed Bu-yeon are one and the same.

A moment’s maternal tenderness from Ho-gyeong leads So-yi to conclusions of her own. That embroidered blindfold with the Jinyowon emblem? Turns out, it was hand-stitched by Ho-gyeong herself — ironically, in case Bu-yeon ever found herself lost. It’s identical to the cherished keepsake So-yi stole from Mu-deok.

The penny drops. Clearly, a more elaborate lie is needed to maintain her cover. She begins telling everyone she senses bad things from Mu-deok: spiritually speaking, the vibes are rancid.

Ho-gyeong can’t help but question Bu-yeon’s reappearance. For one thing, it’s hard not to dwell on the fact that her daughter’s ears look different. Luckily, Mu is here to dispel all doubts — or rather, cheerfully bribe them away. Whilst delicately skirting any outright statement, he strongly implies that if Ho-gyeong wants the ice stone Jang Gang once took, she must declare Bu-yeon her successor. Cast away her doubts, and she can have relic and daughter for the price of one! She just needs to do one teensy little thing first… facilitate the fall of Songrim.

There’s a larger scheme at play here, which becomes apparent when So-yi is delivered to the trusty Murder Chamber at Cheonbugwan. Before the ranks of masked cultists, Mu declares that he will finally reveal the identity of their Danju. To her utter astonishment, he gestures to So-yi. It’s not long before she’s reveling in the attention: yet another perk to her newfound status! Alas, in actuality, it’s a poisoned chalice; Ha-sun has already set her sights on So-yi’s body for her soul-shifting purposes.

The next day, in firm defiance of Songrim, Jinyowon declares a Unanimous Assembly — to which, unprecedentedly, the royal family is invited. Ho-gyeong begins with a spirited list of charges against Songrim: ransacking Jinyowon’s relics; trampling on Cheonbugwan’s authority; and treating all other organizations as suspects. On paper, Jin’s track record looks pretty shocking. The other leaders murmur mutinously.

Ho-gyeong declares her bold intention to break a 200-year-old rule. At this, So-yi steps forward, resplendent in spiky eyeliner, holding a box. She is announced as Bu-yeon, official successor of Jinyowon. The crowd watch in disbelief as she opens the box to reveal — the ice stone.

The Assembly devolves into chaos. Amid wild accusations about Songrim’s lies, the debate at hand is Seo Gyeong’s original intentions: would he want the stone destroyed, as Jin claims, or do they now have proof, as Ho-gyeong contends, that he wished it preserved?

Things speedily unravel when it is suggested the ice stone is held, not by Songrim or Jinyowon, but by a third party — at which point, it becomes a violent, embarrassing free-for-all, where even Yeom, aging medic that he is, throws down with the other grandpas.

Jin watches in despair as his esteemed friends and colleagues, preeminent in their fields, engage in magical fisticuffs on the Assembly floor. Worse still, they’re ignoring his command to stop! At Ho-gyeong’s admonishment, however, they return to their seats — which seriously rankles. His No Good Very Bad Day continues when Ho-gyeong suggests that Jinyowon relieve Songrim of its right to call Assemblies.

It’s time for an ultimatum. Jin forbids Ho-gyeong from taking the ice stone outside of Songrim. Right on cue, ranks of Songrim fighters flood through the door — at which point, seems that slap-fights on the Assembly floor will degenerate into outright war. Then, a drum sounds.

Once again, Wook and Mu-deok demonstrate that if there’s one thing at which they excel, it’s theater. With Mu-deok behind the scenes, providing the perfect soundtrack for a dramatic entrance, Wook strides down the hall with the regal grace of a man about to give every single one of his former tutors a piece of his mind. Politely, of course. Because he’s here to tell them what Seo Gyeong actually wanted. Songrim hid nothing. The answer can be read plainly in Words of the Heart.

In terrifically plausible fashion, there follows sheepish whispering as all the seasoned magical academics struggle to recall the precise contents of a set text they read as undergrads. Soon, it is decided the book shall be fetched from Jinyowon. Jin privately determines this to be a stalling tactic; to his knowledge, Words of the Heart says nothing regarding the ice stone.

But, as Wook reveals to Won in a furtively-assembled meeting down the hall, he was speaking in earnest. Words of the Heart proves that Seo Gyeong was willing to leverage the ice stone against the laws of nature — to save the dying woman he loved. Wook intends to follow his example to the letter.

He also has some nasty news to share about Won’s mother: though still alive, she’s being puppeted by Shaman Choi. Won, who has been pulled in every direction by Mu’s manipulation, his father’s obsession with the King’s Star, and his own private doubts, takes this latest blow on the chin: it’s nothing he hadn’t suspected.

Back in the hall, things get ugly. The King, gazing avariciously at the ice stone, demands a practical demonstration. It can bring people back from the dead, you say? Well then. Let’s kill someone to prove it. How about — her? And in a move that just about oozes evidence of the banality of evil, he gestures to the only servant in the room: Mu-deok. However, for Mu-deok, it’s a god-sent opportunity. Hesitating purely for the sake of authenticity — she assents.

Serene in the knowledge that, after everything, it all comes down to this — one last death-defying leap in the face of an audience who would gladly see her go to hell if it entertained them — Mu-deok stands in the courtyard before Ho-gyeong. She’s just grateful that Wook won’t witness her last stand.

Ho-gyeong promises she’ll make it a painless death. But it’s clear that “painless” is relative, as she swiftly follows that up with using her magic to crush Mu-deok’s windpipe. Only So-yi is aware of the central irony: that this violence amounts to a mother-daughter reunion.

Suspended choking in the air, Mu-deok blacks out. But then, in a rush of Bu-yeon’s memories, her eyes flash blue, and she breathes out one last word: mother.

Even as Ho-gyeong falters, the Queen and Mu exchange conspiratorial grins. Now is the perfect moment to send Shaman Choi’s soul into So-yi’s body, using the ice stone’s activated energy. There’s a hitch, though: someone else is controlling the stone, and it’s making a beeline for Mu-deok.

Storm clouds spiral. So-yi, terrified that this reveal might be irreversible, dives into action with a move worthy of the KBO League, whacking the ice stone into orbit with her umbrella. The storm roils and twists, enveloping the two women — before whirling them away.

At Jeongjingak, with Wook, Won and Yul, all is wreathed in dreamlike fog. The other mages, rattled by the crack of thunder, begin to inquire quite earnestly whether they all might be dead — especially when Yun-ok emerges like a fairy from the mist. Even Won’s effort at maintaining an air of princelike dignity is marginally marred when he clings to Wook’s arm in fright.

Before long, they learn they’re surrounded by a magical barrier — one that violently repels whatever it touches. On the heels of this comes another discovery: So-yi and Mu-deok are here. With the barely-suppressed panic of one whose capacity for creative embellishment is being stretched to breaking point, So-yi pleads blindness: don’t ask her what happened! Mu-deok serenely claims she was here all along.

There’s a self-contained pensiveness to Mu-deok that persists even as she’s ordered to make tea for the Prince. Once she’s alone, we learn why. Her powers have finally returned.

Not only that: they’re theoretically limitless — at least here, inside the ice stone. Back in the whirlwind, she was confronted by a vision of Bu-yeon, who told her that the stone’s power is governed by balance. Earn one, and lose the other. Mu-deok swore she could endure it — before plunging her foot in her mouth. Pro tip for building a healthy relationship with the woman whose body you’re piloting: stop accusing her of being a relic of Jinyowon!

Having achieved her dearest goal, Mu-deok is content to bide her time, dreaming — and scheming — of grandeur. Or rather, she would be content if people didn’t keep ruining her mood with stupid orders. The assassin Naksu needn’t concern herself with mundane matters like replacing chipped teacups and wiping tabletops! She eats chipped teacups for breakfast! Tabletops flee in her wake! Except… for some reason — call it habit — she can’t seem to stop doing servant things?

One thing she knows for certain: it is beneath her dignity to play nursemaid to a bunch of obnoxious mages hungry for sujebi. Still… perhaps it can’t hurt to be Mu-deok for long enough to finish the dish? But, just this once! Then it’s over! No more Mu-deok!

In fact, once she shifts souls, she can be anyone at all. She could prance around as King, if she felt the urge. She could rock a goatee and be Jin Mu. (Ew, maybe not him.) She could swan about Songrim, flipping Park Jin’s luxurious mane of hair like Daeho’s answer to a L’Oreal commercial, and nobody could tell her otherwise! She could —

– finish up making noodles for Wook? He does like noodles. But, just one last time.

Later, she approaches Wook. She tells him she’s made noodles. That she’s leaving now. That they are inside the ice stone — that she has regained her power like in Lake Gyeongcheondaeho, and that this is the end. Earn one, and lose the other is the rule by which she nows lives.

Except — that’s not actually how it goes. When she approaches Wook, he doesn’t respond the way she expected, because, that simple, bloodless conversation? That was all in her head. In reality, Wook interrupts her, having already guessed that they’re inside the ice stone. He wishes she’d regained her power, like she did in Lake Gyeongcheondaeho! But, he’s afraid that she’ll break her promise and abandon him — so, with plain sincerity, he asks her not to do so.

Mu-deok can’t believe he can say such things without embarrassment. But, of course, they both know Wook is long past that; he learned to be brave at around the same time he learned to decipher love letters. Can Mu-deok be equally honest with herself? The answer will have to wait, because Yun-ok is calling for Wook. He leaves her with a packet of honey biscuits, sweetly assuring her there’s no need to share.

Yul, meanwhile, shares his own honey biscuit with So-yi. He knows she’s a con-artist, but he also remembers Wook saying she’s being used like Naksu. The parallels are striking, and sharpened precisely to jab at the soft underbelly of Yul’s finer feelings.

So-yi may be taking a swan dive off the moral deep end, but her smile upon seeing Yul is radiant. He’s startled when she urges him not to mention having seen her as a beggar: is she trying to spare him? She is indeed.

So-yi’s woes only intensify when she’s cornered by Master Kang. Having brought himself back from the brink of petrification by draining his host’s mother, he’s ravenous for energy. They’re on the same side — but, to prove that she and this unwished-for ally are truly simpatico, she’s obliged to lure victims to his makeshift lair. After snacking on a hapless Jeongjingak mage, he decides to satisfy his hunger for revenge: she must bring him Yul.

During a misconceived attempt to show off his spells before Won, Beom learns the hard away that the ice stone sucks the energy out of your sword like a straw. Mu-deok is quick to realize the implications. The ice stone empowers soul-shifters, but it feeds on the ordinary. Leveraging its energy to shift souls means she must drain everyone here to death. Like So-yi, she must choose between love and survival — but, unlike So-yi, there’s no external threat. The threat is herself.

As she stares at the barrier, Won approaches, warning her to take care. It’s sweet that he’s concerned — though, the chivalry of this gesture is admittedly undermined a bit when he insists she thank him for his thoughtfulness. Mu-deok, feeling guilty about the death to which she’s mentally consigned him, offers him a honey biscuit in recompense. Forget it, he says. Then, because he can’t resist, he adds that he should take them all: by that logic, they’re his gift to her.

Mu-deok, strangely touched, insists that he takes one as a symbol of gratitude. But, Won’s an expert in the arithmetic of metaphor, and he knows this one doesn’t add up to the weight of his feelings. He’d prefer something bigger. Mu-deok replies, this is enough. And so, he turns away, unwilling to hold onto her, or to accept something small — and ensuring that I’ll never again be able to consume a biscuit without crying a little over what could have been.

So-yi, in a creative bid to exterminate her enemy, orders Mu-deok to fetch her blankets from the mages’ quarters, where Master Kang lurks. Instead, Mu-deok runs into Yul, who is trying to light a fire… badly. The trouble with magical expertise is that mundane tasks become fraught with complication — and the existence of brazier lids is apt to be forgotten. Mu-deok, though appalled, realizes that Yul’s leg is probably aching from the humidity.

Yul is moved that she remembers. She remembers he likes pine pollen snacks, too. But, what’s the point of remembering when she never bought him any? Yul, unaware that Mu-deok has also condemned him to death in her mind, assures her she can do so next time. Whilst Yul is content that they’ll always have Danhyanggok, Mu-deok is determined to cut him away again. In true gentlemanly fashion, he urges Mu-deok to find Wook; he’ll fetch the blankets instead.

Upon hearing where he went, So-yi scrambles away in pursuit of Yul. With barely the pretense of blindness, she blocks his path. Too late: Master Kang emerges, falling upon the weaponless Yul who is forced, once again, to wield his favorite variation on a sword — So-yi’s umbrella. It’s a little less effective without magic: he’s battered to the floor with a barrage of spells. But, Yul and So-yi are momentarily spared by Yun-ok’s canny intervention: unlike Yul, she’s a dab hand at wielding fire, setting Master Kang’s coat alight as distraction.

They manage to flee, warning the others. Wook connects the remaining dots upon hearing that the soul-shifter was capable of wielding magic: Mu-deok’s powers have returned. He knows what he has to do.

Mu-deok, meanwhile, has come to the conclusion that before she murders everyone in cold blood, she’s going to save their lives. It makes sense, okay! However, when she runs into Beom, he tells her that Wook is about to die. Horrified, she learns he has set out to trap Master Kang in the secret room. Won tries his best to discourage her from following — but, even as he grabs her sleeve, Mu-deok reminds him that he said he wouldn’t hold on to her. Conceding, he lets go.

It’s finally time to break out her old sword. Bracing herself before the closed door of the secret room, with Wook’s name on her lips, Mu-deok swallows back her tears. She opens the gate. As Master Kang turns to face her, Naksu is once again unleashed.

She sends out a blaze of energy, unsheathing her sword. As Master Kang rushes towards her, she takes him out with a dazzling version of her signature move: Tansu. It’s all over in a moment.

Now weeping openly, she enters the room. It’s empty of all other inhabitants, but it still takes her a moment to realize — her pupil lives. Wook is standing right behind her. Why did you hide it? he asks. Because, she replies, I wanted you to die. Why then, he asks, in the same steady tone, did you come for me? Because, she cries, I thought you would die. It’s a beautiful encapsulation of the entire episode’s dilemma.

Fearlessly moving forward, Wook asks her to fulfill her promise: to aim her sword at him. In an eerie echo of their first meeting, she does so. Then, after holding it for a beat, she chooses to lower it.

It’s Wook’s turn to honor his promise. And so, he does. He moves forward, cradling her by the back of the neck. And then, they kiss — and kiss, and kiss.

Friends, Beanies, that ending made me bawl. Yes, true love exists in this world! Yes, when I say that, I am specifically referring to the love between a reformed assassin and her pupil who thinks grand romantic gestures only count if they involve risk of death — next question, please!

In all seriousness: wow. That last episode was practically architectural in its design. Bit by bit, Mu-deok dropped her defenses, until she could give Wook what he asked of her at the beginning: honesty. All the illusions — the fantasies, the vaguely megalomaniacal power-grab schemes, the promises that she’d drop her disguise after this one last task — were stripped away down to her last, literal weapon. And don’t get me wrong, Naksu’s sword is still an emblem of revenge; she wielded it thinking she was paying back Wook’s death. Nonetheless, now that she’s regained her power, there’s the possibility of using it for other, less destructive purposes. After all, her first move was to make tea — her second, to consider who she wants to be now.

As always in Alchemy of Souls, character development feels earned. Even as Wook and Mu-deok make progress, they tend to cycle back to their worst habits: Wook, by retreating into lassitude; Mu-deok, by deciding to cut and run. And there’s always a danger it’ll happen again. But each time, they’ve risen to the challenge together. This latest death-defying leap of trust is by far the most satisfying. Normally I’d end on a sillier picture, but honestly? Let’s have one more shot of that last, glorious kiss. We’ve earned it too!

 
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The ending of episode 17 had me in shock and this close to tears. Did Jin Ho-gyeong just snuff life out of her precious daughter with her very own hands? I’m still in denial. This is one time I want them to use the alchemy of souls. Bring Jin Bu-yeon back please. So imagine my calm when it seems like she is still alive somewhere in episode 18.
Episode 17 itself is the highlight of everything AoS last week. This is the first time an odd numbered episode completely outshines an even numbered episode, for me.

I have to give this to Jin Ho-gyeong 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻. Despite her blind in the head persona that has grated my nerves but also well understood, kudos to her for finding the found daughter sketchy right from the point the false daughter appeared. And she remained consistent with it. That scene where she withdrew her hand from So-i’s grasp is everything. Everything is forgiven, Lady Jin of Jinyowon.
Just when everything is forgiven, she commits the worst deed in all sincerity of heart. The worst deed not against humanity but herself and her daughter. All is still forgiven. I just wanted her to catch a break. She’s an imagery and epitome of everything calm and collected and unwavering so I wonder how she’s going to hold out on this one. She’s been doing quite well with her composure in ep 18 but I would like them to touch on it a bit more in the finale episodes. Can a therapy consult travel back in time to help this woman process things properly?

The Unanimous Assembly really exposed the cards of everyone in the mage world. No wonder the ice stone was safe and stored in Jinyowon (that’s if we exclude what we know about Master Seo and Jin Seolran based on Words of the Heart). Even though it wasn’t in the discussion at all, it was stored in the best place possible.
And I liked the politics that surrounded the assembly. It brought back the push and pull thingy that made me love Sagueks so bad. Jinyowon vs Songrim. I could watch it ten times over. Jinyowon asking to relieve Songrim of its power x Songrim placing everyone on lockdown. Bring on the power tussle guys.

So we do not get the ‘Uk, I’m your father moment’ which would have felt so ‘I don’t know' cause hey! It’s Jang Gang and we know the height of what he did. Who says a fight couldn’t have broken out between them both in Gimae. But we did get a conversation Uk should have heard 10-15 years ago. Good thing Jang Gang knows he messed up 20 years ago. The person I want him to have a conversation with is Park Jin. Someone needs to tell him everything he has coem to realize without mincing words and the only person culpable of such is Park Jin. Every other person would be giving him a little spank on the head when he needs something worse. You ruined a lot of lives with your cowardice, and by extension might have brought chaos to Daeho with your absence.
I was thinking Jang Gang would do something drastic just as he promised he would at the time of Uk’s abandonment so I’m just watching...

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...to see what he’s gonna do at the end with this arc. But I must say that Jang Gang is really strong. His sealing technique is at the top for it to maximize Lake Gyeongchangdo , and required Bu-yeon to bypass it.

Nothing should happen to Seo Yul. I beg thee writers. Despite the disadvantage Yul put up a very good fight. Good job, Daeho’s young finest. It’s Dang-gu’s turn next.
I was quite surprised Master Heo’s granddaughter could use her healing powers to fight. Good one.

While I'm not game with So-i at all, she's been great in her role as an Harbinger of Death and Destruction (non-doctor Hodad), I can't help but acknowledge what it is that she's feeling for Yul. I hate to say it but it's real and genuine. He's the only one that makes her think of herself in second place. Even willing to blow her cover just to warn him.

Why didn’t the young men share their info with Park Jin, at least for the sake of the assembly? It would have saved them a lot, a whole lot.

Bu-yeon must really have some bad mouth. Naksu is the Master of clap-backs and retorts but Bu-yeon won this round.

As ep 18 unfolded, it seemed to me like Naksu hasn’t been ‘enlightened’ by her experience. I don’t know what her old self was like but with the snippets we were shown, she currently seems worse than her old self prior to soul shifting. Her prior self had more empathy despite being cutthroat. This one lacks empathy.

Episode 18 felt like a filler episode. Nothing happened for 50+ solid minutes. Naksu accesses her power only for me to see two Tansu displays 😒, without swordsmanship of any sort. Like really. What the?! Yul did way extraordinary than the show allowed Naksu to. I’m overjoyed with Yul’s stand( that was my highlight for episode 18), the guy practically saved the lives of the surviving Jeongjingak mages so I thought Naksu would show us something at par, but no. I don’t know why the show decided to give just two displays after waiting for 18 episodes for her to get access to her power. Talk of shortchanging me as a viewer at it’s peak. To think I waited 50+ mins only to get something mediocre for that scene they teased in the preview two weeks ago is pissing me off as I type. It didn’t even last a minute or a minute 30 secs. The episode ended up leaving me with a sour taste I got pissed at the high ratings it got. Ep 17 should have gotten that rating instead.

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To the only member of the Royal Family with his head thinking correctly 👏🏻. I like CP Won so much for his objectivity and clear insightful manner. I like him as much as I like Park Jin in that regard. Just subtract Park Jin's stubbornness(which I also like) cause is not like CP Won to be like that. I either want him to become King here but I guess the timing we have won’t allow that, but I want to see him resolve Queen Seo’s soul back to original, to see him take an active part of the entire process. There are so many a few things I draw insight from in his character but what I like the best is that he calls a spade a spade. And he doesn’t take things blindly. And a glaring reminder of what to do so as not to have to inherit other peoples enemies. Even if Jin Mu was right with his claims( which he won’t even in an alternate universe), CP Won is someone who’ll check things out himself, verify them and let his findings guide him as he moves forward.
For someone who’ll lead a country one day that’s one of the basic philosophies he needs and he has it on top gear. I don’t see him falling for the antics of the people in his cabinet. Whatever divisions arise amongst his cabinet wouldn’t make him tilt to any angle. And I’m sure he’ll strive to keep them from coming for each others throats...or necks. Daeho really has good things coming their way.

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I loved the part where CP Won confessed his feelings to mu doek. I was thinking how in an alternate universe they would make sense. *He wanted something bigger not a honey cookie * 😢

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Episode 17 was riveting and flew by and I also had the same sentiment that this is the first odd number episode in a long while that outdid the even number one (I also found ep 18 filler-y after an phenomenal ep 17) The tension for ep 17 was just right. An episode's ratings seem to reflect the previous episode's reception. For example, people may have enjoyed 17 so much that they checked out ep 18 to see what happens next.

While I don't like Jin Ho-gyeong, I really feel for her. The snap reaction to Mu-deok's "eomeoni" was perfect combo of acting, directing, and editing. It felt so visceral, especially in hindsight when it doesn't look like she has completely realized that Mu-deok is Bu-yeon. It was just her instinct to stop.

Ep 18 was a bit odd in that it made me feel like we're getting Naksu from the first week. I'm not sure if OG Naksu had much empathy besides saving Yul as a teen. She grabbed OG Mudeok, noticed she was blind, and threw her away like a rotten fruit. Then, she took a girl to do a soul-exchange with, knowing that poor girl would die in her body.

I guess it all points to human greed for power - even when it's used to do things they see as good. The existence of something so powerful as the ice stone even had Seo Gyeong keep it around to save his love - which then led to all of this soul-shifting stuff sticking around.

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That 'Eomoni' scene was perfect and raw. I also think Jin stopped out of motherly instinct once she heard the word, and or she's is probably on the way to piece two by four. I'm sure that with the display right before they transferred to Jeongjingak, she would have finished piecing things together but not have the time to address it. There happens to be more pressing matters on hand for her at the moment.

The moment she became comfortable and conflicted with leaving everyone to effects of the ice stone overload, I began asking myself 'What's the difference between Naksu and the bad guys?'. I'll just stop here so I don't ruin something I've liked for 9 weeks now.

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Ep 18 was a bit odd in that it made me feel like we're getting Naksu from the first week.

MD/Naksu does seem to have regressed to her character around eps 1-3, but that didn't seem inconsistent to me. She starts out thinking constantly of what she will do when she gets her energy back. She makes plans and takes action (the master/pupil bargain with Wook) to get it back. She continues to affirm and rehearse those plans, even when Wook gives her sword back to her with Master Lee's warning, even after she admits a change in her feelings about and actions toward him and others. It might also be galling to be a servant in Songrim with these cocky young mages, whose power she once far exceeded, ordering her around and speaking down to her. She never once wavers in her statements either to Wook or in her internal monologues about what she'll do: become Naksu the Assassin again. (Although we're meant to read in that she does subconsciously have doubts.) She has a roadmap and she's following it. When her power fully returns in an instant, it would be natural not to suddenly question everything but instead to take the next step along the road and start to carry out the plan she's been reiterating and rehearsing for so long. When she takes in new info - Cha Beom's loss of energy and injury, her understanding of what BY's words about trade-offs mean, Wook's straightforward plea not to leave him - she applies that to her situation, just as she has always done, but this time with the emotional intelligence she has gained while experiencing life as Mu-deok.

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When she learnt what was going on with Cha Beom's loss of energy and injury her reaction was what I didn't expect in a way I didn't like.( I had to go back to watch before typing the next lines).
She was still determined to leave them be, not until she learnt of the extra dire situation they're in. She's not an assassin who is comfortable with collateral damage so it was really out of character for me and that soured whatever conflict it was that she was having with the 'save them don't save them' thingy. They should have placed another major character in there to face Kang in the storage room and I'll find her conflict more challenging.
Well good thing they were risking being energy sucked because it brought her to a resolution. But I'm indifferent with the entire journey to the point of resolve.

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I totally agree. I think she acted in a way that was totally consistent with what she's been telling herself she would do, and with who she's been telling herself she is, throughout the whole show. It's just that she was finally confronted with the actual choice, instead of just the hypothetical. And now we got to see her internal struggle, her constantly reassuring herself that she would get past sacrificing all of these people, her clear lies to herself to justify what she was wanting to do next. And the culmination of that was the scene in the secret room, and that's why I think it was so perfect. I've been wanting introspection from her for a few episodes now, and this was the episode that delivered. I honestly loved every bit of this bottle episode because I felt like we got to spend time with Cho Yeong in a way that the writers have resisted doing before.

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Totally agree with you, @jls943. I loved Episode 18 as much as Episode 17 but for very different reasons. They each served a different and necessary purpose for the show.

For Episode 18, I really like how the episode unfolded such that Mudeok found herself considering the deaths of people in what was conveniently the "right" sequence — from:
• mages I happen to know but don't necessarily like;
• to the Prince who is not unkind
• to Yul, who could have been her first love, then
• finally to Jang Uk, whom she loves and who loves her back.

The prospect of their deaths became harder to accept as she considered these people and her relationships with each of them . . . until she could no longer deny that getting her power back just wasn't as important as the lives of the people around her.

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Oooh, I love this, @kdramacurious! I hadn't considered the order before! But you're right, she starts off confronted with a relatively small sacrifice of Very Annoying side character mages, and eventually scales all the way up to Uk. The lie that she was fine with it got harder and harder to tell herself.

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Your comments on episode 17 are insightful and bring up important points. Ugh. Jang Gang get's little sympathy from me because he ran away leaving this mess, and yet I was relieved that he can see he messed up.
I do disagree that nothing happened in episode 18. It was a major character episode for Cho Yeong/Mu Doek/Naksu--if only for her to learn about herself. I thought the writing was wonderful in capturing who she was--as she kept expecting herself to make the choice to kill everyone and put herself first--and who she has become now that she has opened herself up to love and friendship and has received them in return. The humor that comes from her acting this out was great, but the true poignancy came in the last scene as she realized there are somethings--someone, at least--more important to her than herself. Really a powerful character moment.
In addition, I think we saw good set up for shifting alliances with the young rising generation. I actually want So-I to join our gang and be a double spy. And our Crown Prince and Wook are a formidable team in the making.
And excuse, me but that KISS. The emotion. The waist clasp and her hands around him with the swords. If that wasn't worth it all...

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Episode 17 > Episode 18 for me too. I felt like nothing really happened in episode 18 except the kiss at the end of course 😅

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Truly, nothing happened in 18 but there were memorable moments I guessed I didn't notice due it being a filler episode for me so I over fast-forwarded things a lot, hence missing a bunch of memorable scenes.
Just rewatching I missed 1. CP Won's prince worthy confession that pulled heartstrings ;2. The same conversation with Seo Yul. CP Won's beats Yul's hands down. Also Naksu saying 'Yul will die' with regret, care, and conflict on her face; and 3. The conversation between CP Won and Uk on how they'd act if the ice stone is offered to them and is in their possession.

I'll do my best to resist from that button next week so I don't miss this tiny gems here and there.

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It's also the first time I found their romance resonating with me. When Mu-deok said 'Make me another promise'. That's where I began to see things with them, reluctantly.

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Episode 18 is all about Cho Yeong/Naksu's eyes being opened to the person she has grown into becoming. It is a character episode that was sorely needed to continue her coming of age story.
I can understand that for those who prefer action this episode may have seemed like a filler, but a drama becomes hallow once the characters become stagnant and no amount of plot or tense action sequences saves it. The plot is driven by our investment in the characters.

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Lady Jin is close to shattering I think. She has the air of someone who is holding things together by her fingernails and getting desperate. She is doing things she would never normally do and making terrible choices out of desperation and fear. And she is going to hate herself once the dust clears.

I was sadly not surprised that she was so vicious with the method to kill Mudeok (that is definitely not painless, suffocating to death is awful). I think she is really beginning to hate Mudeok, perhaps partly because that girl is causing her to doubt what she wants to see. And that kind of congnitive dissonance can easily come out as rage at any target you can convince yourself is "at fault". Before ep 17. my real worry was that Lady Jin would find out that her daughter and Naksu were sharing the same body and would blame Naksu for stealing her daughter from her and lash out without thinking about the consequences to her own child.
It's terribly tragic... and I find myself worrying a lot about BuYeon. How do you deal with your uncle and your mum trying to kill you (for whatever reason)? How do you trust people ever again?

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"Lady Jin is close to shattering I think. She has the air of someone who is holding things together by her fingernails and getting desperate. She is doing things she would never normally do and making terrible choices out of desperation and fear. And she is going to hate herself once the dust clears."

Yes, but how much sympathy am I ready to feel for her? Pretty much none. She has been solidly bitchy the entire series, and obsessed with shutting out her younger daughter in favor of her missing one. She chose the wrong ally - short term win/power but long term/ultimate destruction.

You're right about her chosen method of Mu-Deok murder, she chose the most dramatic and (sorry, sweetie, I know what I promised but...) painful that she could. Lady is very aware of her audience in the moment. She is a well-tuned politician thanks to Jin Mu, and it gives her the sort of slimy, sketchy air that true politicians always have.

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Yeah, I both feel for her sometimes and feel that she is bringing all of this on herself when she really didn't have to. The allies she has chosen... yikes. (And how is Jang Gang "stealing" the Ice Stone from her reason to blame and hate all of Songrim??) I can see some of the person she was in those flashbacks to before BuYeon disappeared but she has hardened over the years and that will only hurt her and her family even more now. (I think she was a hardened and estranged leader long before Jin Mu got back into her company but he knew where to hit her to tempt her that last bit, he's good at that.)
But the strangling someone to death in front of an audience, I think that was my point of no return...

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I just need a minute to collect myself.

“Why did you hide it?”
“Because I wanted you to die.”
“Then, why did you come for me?”
“Because I thought you would die.”

And there we have it. The most perfect microcosm of these two and their entire relationship. I love how aware Jang Uk is that Cho Yeong is upset about and trying to suppress her feelings for him. And his response is to be as open as possible about his. I also love that after all Cho Yeong’s schemes that have nearly gotten Uk killed on basically every occasion, he set a trap for her in return when he went of to confront the soul shifter himself. And just like she did those things to test his limits, he was testing hers to. Would she come? Would she save them all? Would she save him in particular? And after that, would she stab him, or would they come to a new understanding? It was neatly done.

On the scale of totally-closed-off to heart-on-your-sleeve, I think Cho Yeong really needs someone as open as possible. We got to see the full spectrum of options in episode 18, starting with CP Won stopping himself just before he admitted things to himself and to her. Then we continued with Seo Yul intimating tender things about their time together in a disguised way. And finally Jang Uk straight up telling her what he was afraid of – that she would break her promise – and that he would be devastated if she did.

Some of the best looks in these episodes: Park Jin thinking through why on earth Mu-deok would have smiled at the prospect of the world’s most dangerous and foolish experiment (can we dethrone this king yet?). CP Won looking after Mu-deok as she goes to the secret room after Uk. Cho Yeong, crying but determined as she stares down the soul-shifter in the secret room. Jang Uk as he takes in Cho Yeong’s swordpoint at his neck, before he settles into the acceptance of whichever option she chooses.

Shout out to the scene where Cho Yeong is imagining taking over the bodies of powerful men! I died.

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I hadn't thought of the parallel of Uk pushing Naksu the same way she always pushes him. Every time she pushed him, he got what he wanted in the end every time. So he pushed her to admit what she wanted, which was him.

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Uk is the master of stealing everyone's moves!

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Haha. So true.

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I died too during the imagery scene. It was my second yet best laugh out loud moment this week, the first being CP Won hiding behind Uk, clutching his arm🙈. These two guys have one nice bromance with a sibling antic as a dessert.

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Cho Yeong is the youngest Jin sister, the one played by Arin. Bu-yeon is the person who is part of Mu-Deok played by Jung So-Min. I think you may have confused the two names.

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No. She's right. Cho Yeong is Naksu's original name, the daughter of the Cheonbugwan mage. Jin Cho Yeon is Jinyowon's 2nd daughter. Confusing, I know. 😅

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When they revealed Naksu's original name, I was like, "really show? out of all the possible names, you need to name her something that is almost identical to another character?" That's why I always use her full name when I call her Cho Yeong, it at least helps a little bit.

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In Korean, it is not confusing since the last letters in the two names are completely different. But, yeah, you definitely have to double check your spelling. 😅

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That set of lines about wanting other to die at the same time not wanting them to die was the PERFECT expression of Naksu especially. This is the expression of internal conflict I was waiting to see expressed!
You don't spend years as an assassin without having major psychological effects, cutting yourself off from feelings and other humans all the time. But that "bottle episode" stuck situation meant that she had to face her conflicting motivations. I am sure part of her just wants everyone else to be gone (dead or not) so she can run and run away and be rid of all these entanglements. And part of her cares so much for Uk but not just Uk. She wants to be able to break things off with Yul again, telling herself that him dying is just like when she broke off their relationship last time.

I adore how Uk turned the tables on her. When things get tough, he doesn't retreat to self-protection and defensiveness. He just steps out with almost crazy risks, willing to risk his very life and pride all the time, in such honesty and that takes ridiculous amounts of courage.

All of the interactions between Uk and Naksu have felt like an extended duel, mostly with words. They parry, and back up and advance and do this circling of each other and themselves. But he lowers his sword and defences so much more easily than she does. He knows when to back up though cause he can see how close she is to closing herself off and running.

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Yes! I love how you put it. I also think Uk has been incredibly brave in their whole relationship (not just because he's nearly died because of her schemes like 47 times!). I love that we had a conversation between them this week about how easily he says what she considers embarrassing things. And he just replies that he would rather feel embarrassment for a little while than regret not saying or doing something for a long time. I think it was important for her to hear that perspective. Love your duel analogy too, very fitting!

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True and i also like that Uk is very transparent in many occasions especially with Naksu,he just says what he thinks in that situation most of the times from the start...When he is annoyed,when he is hurt he just says it rather than seeing the usual silence that makes way for misunderstandings,like the ex. of when they were in Danhyanggok and he was upset of her teaching Yul how to cook and not him...

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Isn't it refreshing to have a ML who says what's bothering him? A revolutionary idea! Drama writers, take note.

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Lol yes. I had such a good chuckle when Jang Uk revealed a rather large streak of possessiveness in Episode 6.

That quietly-spoken "I am certain that I sensed cheating." statement paired with Mudeok responding to Dang-gu's call without the "appropriate" level of indifference just cracked me up.

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Personally, I'd have translated what she said more like this:
"Because you were supposed to die"
"Because I was afraid you might die"

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Ooh, thank you! I like the subtle differences. Sometimes I wish I had multiple subtitlers to choose from and could watch versions translated by different people to get different perspectives. Languages are just the best.

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But then is his love really unconditional?

He was literally playing tit for tat to get her to show her hand!

What if she really didn't have the power... given that no one knows enough about the ice stone, what if she didn't or there was another condition? Him setting the trap business is something that makes me uncomfortable.

He is supposed to be a one in a million and once in a century kind of human in love, if he is now using assassin like methods then... I don't know what to say.

Just my opinion: I think this slowed the pace of the story. We were at a moment when a mom tries to kill her daughter and political chaos is happening and lo-behold we are now given access to Naksu's brain, which we have had no idea about.

She has already said in her thoughts that Uk is the man she loves, she let him kiss her without killing him, she was worried about being alone with him in case she behaved erratically because of her sucking a human's energy, she did say that she loved him to death even if it wasn't directly to UK, she spent a night looking for the gift that she knew he was upset about... I mean is it really necessary for her to become emotionally 100 in a day? Also, for someone analytical and someone who survived in the shadows by killing people for so long -- post soul shifting she has become non-analytical, not curious about what is happening to her own body and definitely lost her warrior instincts. Uk on the other hand gives better lightening quick reactions. He heard Yul's sword in episode 1 end/2 beginning, he realised Gil Ju was going to hit (when she had hugged him -- she was so emotionally moved that she didn't hear Gil Ju but in that entire sequence, too many times she missed) and am sure there are more examples.
She didn't even try thinking about why the mirror broke or how did she get power there, why her eyes hurt, why did she first feel that the box had a broken jade? This was about body discomfort, every normal human first thinks of themselves and why their body is fit/unfit.

Sorry, if this sounds like meanderings but too many inconsistencies in her character for me.

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I hear what you are saying about Naksu's lack of curiosity in Mudeok's body, but to be fair, I think a lot of what you're attributing to the OG Naksu is coming from you and not the story. We don't actually know that Naksu was analytical. We really only see her in one battle with Park Jin (where she shows amazing skill but ultimately loses) and in flashbacks as a teen. You assume that she is super analytical because it seems like she should have been in order to be an assassin. Then again, she was killing mages who had been soul shifted - thus they had the bodies of trained mages but the souls/memories of younger people. In other words, maybe she didn't have to be a super-assassin. She just did what Jin Mu told her to do without question. All we really know about the OG Naksu is what we see of her in Mudeok. Maybe she only did what she was told and never really learned to be curious?

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You assume Naksu could entertain the idea of another soul being in her body but that's impossible from her POV because that never happens (and indeed, never happened to anyone else on the show as far as we know) so she probably can't even concieve it. Also, she literally jumped into the body of a random blind slave. The odds of her assuming this was a superpowerful priestess are crazy small. And again, she would assume the person whose body it was originally is forever gone (as in died along with Naksu's body where they were supposed to shift to).

And Janguk was trying to do more than get a love confession, he was trying to save everyone's lives. Because he realized if his suspicions proved true, Naksu would let them all die and leave with her powers.
Although I do agree that maybe confronting her directly would have been better, the more I thought about it the more I realized he was basically using her tactics against her - how many times has she brutally risked his life and safety without even asking him, all for her own selfish purpose? Guess you could say the student became the teacher this time, haha.

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Although I do agree that maybe confronting her directly would have been better, the more I thought about it the more I realized he was basically using her tactics against her

Yes! Plus there's also the fact that he had been wanting to talk to her (as Yul noted) but hadn't been able to because she had been avoiding him.

So even if he'd been wanting to confront her, he never got that chance. By the time he pieced things together and realized she had her powers back, the soul shifter was already killing people and he felt obligated to put a stop to it.

And if stopping the soul shifter also happened to get a prickly former assassin to admit some truths to herself, then maybe that was just bonus?! haha

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"All's fair in love and war" is their moto after all.

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It didn't make me feel uncomfortable at all that he tested her in that way. It's not so much that he didn't know exactly how she would react (or at least have a lot of faith that she would react the way she did), he wanted her to see that reality. I think (and I think Jang Uk thought) that one of the main problems is that it was all hypothetical. She needed it to become a real decision she would have to make in order to really decide. And so he did something risky (in lots of ways!). I think it's telling that the risks were basically all on him, at no point was he risking her safety any more than it was already, unlike all the times she trapped him in incredibly dangerous situations. So in some ways, he was turning her own tactics back on her, but in others he was using them in a more general way to get her to see that she had changed, and that she wasn't ready to make the same decision she would have been ready to make a few months ago.

I also think that what we got in ep 18 wasn't her affirmation that she loves Uk - we've already had that in lots of little ways. What we got was her realization that she had changed enough to spare all these peoples' lives when it went against her own self interest, and maybe that she isn't going to fight her feelings (at least not as much) for Uk going forward.

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I am late to the party and coming here to read (some of the 397 comments!) to catch up on Beanie thoughts, and your comment is causing my giddy enjoyment to be prolonged.
That last scene is one of my favorite written OTP scenes ever. It succinctly says everything these two have been though and their relationship. I had to catch my breath too.

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In order of how they were shown, the King is the last if Naksu shifts into a man’s body, he was so ridiculous 😅. Park Jin (Yoo Jun-sang) carries the trophy 🏆, please. The Uncanny Counter is on my radar thanks to his portrayal here in Alchemy of Souls.

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Just realized episode 18 was a very expensive bottle episode. And what a bottle episode it was. Naksu kept trying to leave everybody, but she just couldn't. Because over these past 18 episodes she's changed. She's learned. She's grown. I think she knew there was no turning back, but she tried to pretend she could be the same person she was before because as strange as it seems, that would be the easier option for her. She wouldn't have to depend on other people that way. She wouldn't have to trust anyone. And that kiss! I love that she never once let go of her sword.

Final thought, I have to admit I laughed when Naksu strolled into the episode after dying and coming back to life. And then she made tea. I love her.

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At least they managed to shove a heap of fake flowers in through the neck of the bottle! I was worried about the special effects suffering later in the run if the production blew its budget or ran out of time, and that's what the ponds full of flowers looked like. Also I think they just pasted the CGI chisu waves from Wook's and Yul's duel right onto the secret-room scene.

Jung So-min was was brilliantly multilayered in the super-chill tea-making self-talk. She's telling herself, "I'm cool, I got this, just gonna warm up these superpowers a little while I strategize, no rush 'cause I'm totally BACK now" while the reality slowly rises up through her like floodwaters.

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I also thought episode 18 looked a bit cheap and the whole bottle episode concept is usually done for budgeting reasons. I'm curious as to why there would be flowers within the ice stone-effected world though.

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I also wondered about the presence of flowers and was thinking maybe it was necessary as a plot device?

They had to show that some things can't pass through the barrier (like the flower that Jang Uk threw) while other things (like rocks) can go through.

Other than that, the whole thing did seem somewhat arbitrary.

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You could definitely tell right when they ran out of money. I'm assuming the CGI is why they pushed these episodes back.

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I'm hoping to see more amazing CGI which is why they needed an extra week...but now i'm scared they've run out of money and are editing/altering scenes to minimize use of CGI.

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Maybe they're saving it all for the finale. Fingers crossed!

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Maybe some big funding will come in and they will all suddenly run off to Jeju (Atty Woo/PPL joke).

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These last two episodes felt quite special to me and got me feeling quite emotional. Especially episode 18, tears almost fell down as I watched Naksu realize and struggle with what getting her powers back would mean: the death of all the people she came to care about while living as mudeok.

Gosh I love Seo Yul, I NEED TO SEE him happy, seeing him shaking in fear and feeling guilty while Mu Deok interrogated him about the umbrella was just Chef’s kiss!

What about the crown prince, such a well written and nuanced character! I can’t help but admire his openness about his own greed when asked about the ice show!

Now that show is almost coming to an end, I can’t help but feel a hint I’d sadness. Yes there will be a season 2 but wait 1 or 2 years before getting it « shrugs » I just can’t.

Anyway enough rambling, can’t wait for next’s week final episodes hope they won’t « fumble the bag » for the ending because lord knows after last year’s Mr Queen I just can’t deal with another disappointment.

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*stone

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They are filming Part 2 now. It won't be a 1 or 2 year wait.

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Yh.
And the adjectives Dang-gu used didn't make it any better😅. A husband caught cheating? What the...! I was already mouthing 'Yul is going to have another Pinocchio moment if someone doesn't intervene'. I was left in LOLing stitches during that scene.

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When I think that the whole drama would have been avoided, had Jang Gang simply closed Jin-Mu's energy gate...

-The banter between the Crown Prince and Uk was sweet as always.

-I just had to laugh at Jang Uk casually drinking alcohol from a stranger in unfamiliar grounds. Did Jang Gang give him some secret portion?

-It makes absolutely no sense that they would leave a soul shifter who has started "recovering" unguarded. His "mother" could just walk in like no man's business!

-How TF has Naksu not yet figured out after 18 episodes that Mu-Deok is Bu-Yeon with everything that has happened and given how smart she is? I need some consistency from the Hong sisters. Smh

-Were those 2 were really kissing without ensuring that the soul shifter was dead? 😑😐

-Episode 18 really felt empty. It's as though nothing really happened to move the plot forward.

-I totally get Sol-I... It's Seo Yul after all, even I would momentarily give up greed and selfishness for him😍.

I don't even care what they do at this point but Yul had better recover very quickly from his injuries.

I aspire to attain master Lee's level of Zen attitude

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When I think that the whole drama would have been avoided, had Jang Gang simply closed Jin-Mu's energy gate...

😂 So many moments in this show when a sliiiightly different choice could have made it the shortest Hong Sisters drama ever, instead of the longest. They're just messing with us at this point.

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They are definitely messing with us 😂 but we have no way out

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I was also pretty surprised that that guy's mother just popped in there -- and that she even knew he was there. You would have thought they would have kept it a secret, since he was a soul shifter, and all of them get chucked into the lake.

And I also was worried that the soul shifter was still alive, but I guess Naksu's tansu attack is just OP.

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The looking back "if only" feeling of those choices is part of what I feel has frozen Jang Gang in the past and left him a shell of his former self, unwilling to do anything.

But I am pretty sure, even if Jin-Mu had his powers closed off... he still would have found a way to get his revenge. And the Ice Stone would never have stayed sealed. Everything would just have gone to hell in a slightly different way ;)

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Were those 2 really kissing without ensuring that the soul shifter was dead? How many of us were half out of the swoony kiss because somebody needed to keep a fish-eye on that petrified guy?

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I'm happy to know I wasn't alone 😆.

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Lol, I, too, was also worried that the soul shifter was still 'alive' because we didn't see him becoming petrified.

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Everyone’s gushing about the kiss scene, but really all I’m replaying is the scene leading up to that: Mudeok tearfully walking into the room thinking Wook is dead and the fifty range of emotions Jung Simon evokes in a span of 45 seconds when she finds out that he’s really not dead.

Gahhh, just hand JSM an award already. That and her now infamous “Eomoni/Mother” line is more than proof of her acting prowess.

I actually loved ep 18 & how it encapsulated everything the drama set out to be: a bibimbap of comedy, fantasy & romance in equal proportions. It did a wonderful job of showing Mudeok’s reluctance in fleeing w/ the ice stone & gave us such wonderful scenes between her and each of the boys. The different chemistry, relationships, & feelings she has for each of them is golden.

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I agree. I loved that scene beforehand but the kiss scene itself didn’t move me anywhere as much. I know it is a bit heretical to say this given the comments but the kiss seemed too rehearsed and paint - by - numbers to truly convey the love and sorrow and impending loss facing our pair. Too many KD kisses are drained of the appearance of spontaneity which is such a pity.

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I unexpectedly liked the way the kiss worked out. I hate the staged kisses that feel like they’ve been directed to death, but in this case I guess I felt the lack of passion was better. It was much more about hands and proximity than actual lips-on-lips heat. He’s cradling her head, and she’s stretching up to meet him, and they’re delicate both in the kiss and the way their arms go around each other.

With these two weirdos and their ongoing love/maim relationship, this felt better than a heated clinch. It wasn’t tenuous (no one felt like they were wary or unsure) but the touch was incredibly light. No physical force behind it at all, but close proximity. It made me think of the whole bird analogy from early on. The kiss was gentle, and this is pretty new territory for both of them.

I don’t know. It felt like that entire kiss was less about passion and more about the last trust barrier dissolving. Everything had been telegraphed in advance so she knew exactly what that “promise” would mean, and she asked for it anyway. And he followed through in a way that didn’t minimize it as a first genuine kiss but as something that was more. She gave up a LOT with that admission, beyond wanting to be with him, and the kiss didn’t distill it to hormones.

Anyway! I was impressed they did something other than a passionate embrace. It surprised me, but in a good way.

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@Miranda: I always enjoy reading your thoughtful comments as they make me think, and this one is no exception. You have articulated your views really cogently and humorously, and I am happy to have read and considered them.

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Sometimes I’m on a VERY different wavelength from everyone else (hello, Doom at Your Service) but I’m very into the actor moments and LJW has been consistently good at them across a bunch of shows. I’ve enjoyed your comments too, even though I stubbornly refuse to register and so can’t upvote comments!

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@Miranda: Thank you. I so would like you to register but I remember what you said when I tried to encourage you to registe. I respect your reason even if love to read more of your comments.

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I love this. I too was thinking of the episode where Mudeok remarked to herself “but I am Uk’s bird egg”.

In light of the ep18 kiss, her giving up her whole quest to return to a lonely past life full of hatred, and embrace a new unknown with someone who has unreservedly chosen her each step of the way,—

“But, I am Uk’s bird egg”.

That wonder, that disbelief that someone would care for her- who had no one and was used and abused to be a tool for revenge, the shadow assassin without a shred of guilt-

Matched with a reckless love(r), that promise fulfilled in the kiss in that secret room where he once jokingly coaxed her to be his wife,

She finally drops her defenses and chooses to be his bird egg.

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I love the symbol of the bird egg.
It gives the feeling of how fragile her trust and survival really is, so easily broken.
And once she is a bird, it is very likely that she will fly away, never to return so everything is very fragile and it takes a great deal of courage to approach her. Uk really does come towards her at times like he is approaching a fearful, injured wild animal which is a pretty good metaphor.

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Yes! Y hat’s the bird analogy I couldn’t quite remember - something that implied delicate care. An egg is fragile enough to break and he’s been aware of that from very very early on, even as she constantly tries to get him killed. The only way any of this was going to work was for him to create the space for her to crack the shell herself.

And good for him that when she does start coming out of her shell, he doesn’t scare the tar out of her by being extra. He very much focused on her and stayed in character.

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OMG, this is why I love DB platform ❤️. I am surely to read each and every single comment here and try to look from a different POV.
I will definitely looking back this week episodes with a new pair of "eyes" and "mindset" to ensure that I wasn't in a slump!
Keep writing your thoughts here, Beanies 😊

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While I am having a blast watching AoS, the real treat is, as you say, the conversation here.

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I just finished episode 18 and completely agree! These two are more mind than heart, they are like two chess players calculating each other’s next moves and perhaps that’s why they understand and love each other so well. It was not a passionate kiss but it was right for them.

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Yeah, for me I swooned for the emotion and character growth that was the catalyst for the kiss rather than the mechanics of the kiss. Also, the shot of her hands still holding her sword while fully embracing him was beautiful visual storytelling.

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Me too - I am a huge Jung So Min fan, and even I was fluttery and tearing up watching her walk into the room where she expected to find the ex-Uk's body. And the flash across her face when she didn't, and then when she heard footsteps... perfect.

The kiss was kind of funny to me, actually - those two, apart from the absolute opposite nature of their personalities and how they handle relationships, the simple height difference with her being so tiny and him being so tall was working against them, never mind the 23 layers of blue silk to deal with.

There is still a wall between them, primarily constructed by Naksu herself, but kudos to Uk for being willing to keep pushing on it and finally for breaking through. Not that she's putting up much of a fight anymore, but she has threatened to kill him recently just not quite as often or with as straight of a face as before.

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I loved episode 18 too, and I was surprised to read here that others didn't! We finally got to see Cho Yeong's internal struggle play out and it was beautiful to see how her relationships have developed, especially with the three boys!

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You confused me for a sec by using “Cho Yeong” as I couldn’t immediately place it. Then, I did!

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Sorry! At this point, I feel like I'm using whichever name makes the most sense to me at the time, so when the character is feeling murderous = Naksu, when we're getting to see growth and love and relationships = Cho Yeong, and when she is just doing servant stuff and using the ridiculous accent = Mudeok. Honestly there are no rules, haha!

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I'm with you! I was entertained by both episodes and really excited about the finale. It's sad that so many people are feeling so differently. I love how this show is a nice blend of plot and character and we see development of each, albeit not always in the same episode. My one nit to pick is that I sure hope they don't "resolve" the issue of not having Jung Su Min in part 2 by splitting her 2 souls - Naksu into her original body (OG Naksu actress is coming back) and Bu Yeon into So-i. I really, really don't like So-i and I'm worried they are going to try to rehabilitate her. I mean, she stole from a blind woman (who treated her as a friend), was complicit with multiple murders and willingly offered up mages to the soul shifter. Just because she has the hots for Yul doesn't give her a pass in my book.

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They are doing a very good job in redeeming So-i. How could they use my dear Yul is my bone of contention. They're doing a job and at the same time forcing my hand to reconsider and wish for her survival.

So-i action here is a classic case of 'it only takes a few minutes of vulnerability to send her into their good books, on the way to the nomination for an award of redemption'.

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I really don't like So-i either. Once a grifter, always a grifter and narcissists rarely get redeemed. They just move on to the next mark.

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I agree! I liked the internal reflections that were part of ep 18. She is trying to say goodbye to the three boys and trying to convince herself she doesn't care if they die, doesn't care if she never sees them again.
I have wanted Naksu/Cho Yeong to have some time to reflect on why she is doing what she is doing and at what cost for awhile now. So I enjoyed the quieter pace of the episode and watching her face as she thought through all the ramifications...

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I feel like we are just on the exact same page right now.

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Yay! There are lots of different ways to look at and feel about this drama for sure but it's nice to have a kindred spirit ;)

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I know @bethy80, I love reading everyone's different perspectives, I feel like it really deepens my drama experience. I like my ideas to be challenged and I think it helps me articulate things better and more clearly. But that doesn't mean I don't also appreciate finding folks I agree with!

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I also found episode 18 super entertaining and it flew by for me! Ep 17 was also good but 18 was better because it was focused on the main characters only and no silly useless filler scenes with supporting characters.

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I loved Wook walking and talking at the same time. No pause. He knows exactly what he’s saying and why, he strides towards her completely knowing who he is and what he’s about to do.

It’s not typical, that walk-and-talk. Directors usually keep the silent walk for dramatic effect. But that was perfect.

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You description of that scene makes me want to rewatch it 😅

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A firm stamp from me that LJW is a great young actor, despite him being in lead role for 2nd time. A massive growth indeed!

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AOS otherwise known as Filler:The Drama.

If we were at an earlier episode, I probably would have dropped it or at least put it on hold to binge it and fast forward when all the episodes are out. I am really not a fan of the "psyche lol" trailers or that the actual new content is a few minutes each episode.

Also, the kiss was spoiled in the trailer and the lip action/directing was also underwhelming. I walked away with a sour taste in my mouth this week. I feel like the writers take me for a fool and are wasting my time.

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I think one of the biggest problems with this drama to me is how they keep spoiling everything. the previews, season 2 cast news.... it's a fantasy story that should have high stakes to keep us on the verge of our seats, but a lot of things we already know will happen in one way or another. stop the previews!

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The writernim makes me feel that they didn't know pull-and-push/ give-and-take concept 🤦🏻‍♀️. Good things most characters can solve hidden agenda and not hiding facts from each other but they way they spoon-feeding/ spoiling with many2 scenes and news are bad for viewer like me.
They should learnt the concept " the right amount" as per Wookie's dialogue 😏

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for once I miss misleading previews LOL

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Nado 🤧...the 2 weeks anticipation gone with every minute after this week's episode. I hate the fact that they put kiss scene in the trailer (I am all for trailers, y'all) and it happened twice in AOS.
They should just keep it hidden like BP ep 11! That works better for me.

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*preview, not trailers 🤦🏻‍♀️

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This week, I am most intriguing on reading our @alathe weecap and his POV.
Am I the only one who felt sideways at the moment?

Wow, the storyline already going sideway of my liking right now. The high anticipation on fighting scenes between Master Kang and Naksu just flew away within few seconds 🤦🏻‍♀️. Huge let down and such a knock on my head for having much expectation!

Not so keen about the ending as well as watching for season 2.
Gaaaahhhhhh, nothing much yet happened except 1 or 2 scenes (BuYeon calling her Mother and Wook realized about Naksu's regaining her power back) that moving the storyplot while the rest magic of AOS is fading right thru the window.

Although I might want to rambling out about Naksu and So-I's selfish-ness, Go Won and Yul's push-and-pull confession with Mudeok, I'll leave it to our witty Beanies. 2 more episode and I can finally move on.

Update: watching both episodes TWICE in order for me to get the gist back and be more attentive towards small details. Still cannot feels the hype as everyone talking about 😥. It is becoming a poison for me at this stage, we need a 'bezoar' scene for remedy!

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exactly how I feel too lol
I was basically watching ep 18 waiting for jang gang impactful entrance in that assembly to be the one to solve the barrier problem but not even that happened (maybe it will be ep 19, who knows at this point.....)

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I wasn't the only one waiting for Jang Gang's entry.
I doubt Jang Gang's entry will be in 19. If it is, my money is it'll be at the tail end. Heavens be blessed if it occurs earlier. AoS seems to be the kind of show that'll benefit from not showing previews at all cause this last two weeks have been disappointing.

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he just has so much presence and he could be a nice shift in dynamics within every possible group. the older mages, songrim, the royal family, uk. I guess we will have him for season 2?? I hope so.

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If season 2 is a prequel as I'm hearing, it is sad that season 1 is the last of him.

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@jerrykuvira
Where is everyone getting this prequel info? I've been able to find nothing about Season 2 being a prequel that is not pure speculation. Regardless of what it ends up being, we'd likely still have flashbacks to the past acts of Jang Gang, Jin Mu, etc. just as we've seen in Season 1.

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@elinor I don't really have a direct source. Everything's based on read-says here on DB and the little lines on soompi(just based on the casting headlines). Joo Sang Wook hasn't signed up for the next season. But he can't even appear. The focus of the next season is on Naksu mainly and there's no way Jang Gang fits in unless he came back incognito to Daeho and nobody recognized their Gwanju. He's been away for how many years now? Naksu began operating as an assassin years after he absconded.

But I guess the ending of season 1 will tell if it's a prequel or a sequel.

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If he comes in only to die and not do anything to the story, I might just throw the ball at my mobile! Come on Hobo Ajjusshi do something to move the story.

Thank god Uk didn't become like his father as Naksu kept pushing him else another potentially nice magician would have been wasted coz of weird emotional reasons! :D

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@jerrykuvira and @elinor : Soompi has an article about Season 2 expected in December, JSM might not be there and that the story has 3 parts and chances are this will be a sequel.

Prequel was mentioned in articles in mid-July. However, now it is a matter of 3 months so we will know around Christmas time. Happy AoS Finale viewing.

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Still cannot feels the hype as everyone talking about

You are not the only. In fact, only people who are still interested or fan of the drama are commenting in length and keeping the discussion going. I highlydoubt if S2 will manage to retain the 5-7% rating when JSM is out because even the magical/fantasy aspect of the story is beginning to show holes and becoming uninteresting.

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It's normal that people who are interested make up most of the commenters this far into a show's run, but I appreciate the views of the non-fans because they bring up points I might not have considered and make me think harder about what I like and don't like and why. I'll just point out that for many viewers, including me, 'beginning to show holes' ≠ 'becoming uninteresting.' At least not yet.

Season 2 is a total unknown at this point. I'll judge it on its own merits when it show up. Ratings don't mean a bean to me.

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Of course, there many dramas that I enjoy even with plot holes to an extent, but I never equated "holes" to "uninteresting plot". I only mentioned the drama is starting to show its weakness in all 360 degrees.

I also agree ratings does not decide the value of a drama, but production team considers it as a main criteria to either extend a show or cut the episodes short. I would be happy if S2 is a bigger success for the sake of the actors involved because I thoroughly enjoyed every second watching them for the first 14 episodes, but I stand my opinion that majority are watching it because of JSM.

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For me, it is solely due to Lee Jae Wook 😉. Definitely not in majority then 🤭

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@fydea : me too! I am here only for Lee Jae Wook and the bickering. In this role he has shined.
I loved his rolled hair, blue dress and saying "Mudeogi" with the "th" sound!

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@fydea Hello!
I chanced upon your comment because I was responding to something and just wanted to say thank you.
Now that the drama is over, I can say it. Episode 20 was a hit in the gut and well made on its own.
but for me there were too many subplots that didn’t deliver the blow they should have. Some episodes were draggy.
I am hanging in there to watch s2 but I am praying that it is tighter.

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The “date” in ep 17 made me realise that we’ve never seen Mu Deok happily smiled or laughed until then. Even Naksu in the flashbacks. So heartbreaking 💔

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My favorite scenes by far were: (1) Naksu daydreaming on whose body she will shapeshift too next. I admit I was partial to Park Jin and his luscious hair. King is next because he is King but Jin Mu is a definite no for me. Any other mage but him. (2) The other is Won's scenes and him clutching to Uk's arm. I can already envision how their bromance will prosper once they elevate to the two best leadership roles in Daeho. (3) Bu Yeon's verbal smackdown of Naksu. How dare you indeed when you survive because of her?! A little gratefulness would've been better. (4) Seo Yul being the hero that he is! I hope he will be okay after all is said and done. (5) the long overdue conversation between Jang Gang and Uk. But it would be better if Uk knew who he was.
What Sol-i did for Seo Yul makes me want her to survive the mayhem. Despite her schemes, she may have a real heart hidden underneath it all.
Another wish I have is that Jin Bu Yeon get reunited with her Mom and sister. Despite the circumstances of her birth, I want her to be with her family and be cherished by them.
Two more episodes to go. I sure hope the ending will be good.

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I'm not sure if she can survive with that creepy blood worm. I think JIn Mu has to keep it in control. I want Jin Mu to bite the dust, but I'm afraid that would mean Sol-i dying too. If she doesn't die from that, I get the feeling she would die to save Yul.

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I forgot about the bloodworm. Her blowing her cover already makes her dead once Jin Mu gets wind of it. I hope she does save Yul so atleast she can make up for her selfishness and the innocent lives that JM killed.

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The best ending I can hope for So-i is her sacrificing herself for Yul. She has been responsible for way too many innocent people dying. At least that way she would not be all bad, and choose something besides selfishness.

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I agree, let's hope they don't redeem her. She is the worst. She wants bu yoen dead and that's not cool.

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Her sacrificing herself for Yul would definitely redeem her.

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Those were all high points for me too :)
Bu Yeon really intrigues me and I really hope she gets some kind of family life after this. Her mum has done some seriously shady things and that is going to have consequences. And icky Dad still has to be dealt with. My biggest hope there is that the two sisters get reunited and are a strength to each other after all they've been through.
Seo Yul is by far my fav male character in this show. He puts his life at risk for a girl he barely knows but he has compassion for her in spite of the fact that she has part in so many people's deaths.
I would believe So-i could possibly be redeemed if she finally does something that doesn't just serve her own interests. I believe that she has real feelings for Yul (at least a true caring although she barely knows the guy so I will not call it love). But saving the person you like still is pretty much serving your own interests. You are saving them because you want/like them.
Her feelings for Yul will really show their reality if she has to show love and caring even if she knows she has no real way to be with him.
Her enjoyment of people bowing to her, her smirk when she knows the soul-shifter will kill off Mudeok for her, the way she has rationalised all the deaths she has been part of... that has a long way to go before showing me she can be truly redeemed.

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I'm definitely over this drama. If there were more than 2 episodes left, I wouldn't finish.

The story dragged in these two episodes, and I didn't find Naksu's internal struggle even remotely interesting or relatable. The kiss at the end felt forced, as did So-i's desperation to maintain her cover. Which is sad because that should be more compelling, but I'm afraid they brought her in too late in the drama. If there had been more episodes of So-i faking her new life and less exposition about Shaman Choi's plot to take her body, this would've been a much stronger storyline. Everything that took place over these two episodes could've been said in 15 minutes. Sigh.

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I always struggling to finish Hong sisters drama too. Hotel Del Luna is dragging and couldn't much remember the finale (except cameo Blue Hotel manager by KSY). Aahhh, poor actors and actress of AOS 😓...

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Amazing recap @alathe!
Reading through the comments here I was a bit surprised that the episodes fell flat for some because I thoroughly enjoyed these episodes.

I feel like we’re finally starting to tie up some loose ends here, although I’m surprised Naksu hasn’t figured out the body she’s inhabiting is Jin Bu-yeon yet. Seems a bit out of character as she’s usually sharp.

I enjoyed the mix of action/comedy and romance in the last 2 episodes and I felt they moved the plot along nicely.

The brawl for the ice stone reminded me a little of the Lord of the Rings and the struggle over the One Ring. I guess it’s the age-old adage of unfettered power and human greed being the downfall of mankind.

The absolute best scene for me was Secret Room scene. Yes, I would’ve liked to have seen Mudeok show more of her new powers, but I suppose the show could be trying to show us how powerful she is by dispatching Master Kang with two moves. Naksu was the most powerful mage in the land after all. All this was put behind me when we got the scene between Mudeok and Jang Uk.

Oh my god. Where do I even begin? JSM’s acting was stellar - the part when she was nearing a breakdown and then quickly collected her emotions when she realised Jang Uk was alive. That exchange between Mudeok and Uk when he asked her why she hid and why she came for him - that was poetic!

I had complained about the last few episodes because I felt like their chemistry was dwindling, but later postulated that perhaps her feelings are only revealed in life and death situations. Boy did they serve!!! I’ve re-watched the scene countless times now.

Now my only fear is that we aren’t going to get a happy ending for them (which unfortunately seems very plausible). I don’t think my heart can take it, and I’m still trying to figure out where things could go from here.

Fingers crossed that we get a great finale!

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I was surprised these episodes were disappointing for folks as well! I must just be the exact intended viewer for this drama, haha!

The looks on both Mudeok and Uk's faces during the secret room scene were so so so amazing. I loved the expression you mentioned, when she realized he was alive, but I loved his when she put her sword to his neck just as much - slightly startled, but then calm, and focused back on her. brb need to go watch again.

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Loved loved the last four episodes, so much so I rewatched the entire first 16 episodes and then reread the DB recaps too. It's been quite a ride. Would love Buyeon to rejoin her family and for Naksu and Uk to have their happy ending but I accept both may not happen. Just please have Yul and Crown Prince survive in the finale.

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I think most viewers enjoyed it, the show achieved their highest ratings ever this weekend. But you know people who casually watch and enjoy don't bother to comment online much lol. Anyway, while not perfect, I think these episodes were great and proper entertainment with terrific acting and wonderful emotional development for the leads.

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You're right, I'm sure on here we get a strange cross-section of people who really loved it or were super unsatisfied. I'm glad it's doing well though!

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Me too - then again, I didn’t watch the previews. So I had no expectation of
how the episodes would unfold.

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I still stand by my ground that Ho-gyeong is the most densest person alive I mean COME ON "her ears are different" THAT made you doubt everything?? I'm sorry but my strong dislike towards her is mainly because shes such an a** towards Cho-yeon.

Apart from that, I loved the rest of the episodes this week! Yul and his "Can you see me?" had me cackling girl couldn't even keep up the act cuz of a guy LMAO
Also Naksu just having an internal crisis the entire time was so hilarious esp towards the end of ep18 where she was being so serious then was like "on second thought i feel bad" man shes such a mood.

But the ending of ep17 had me standing up and losing my mind it was SO good! The way So-min delivered her lines and emotions was insane. I cant believe we are down to the final two eps, at this rate anything could happen and I have a feeling they might leave us on a cliffhanger till part 2.

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If it's anything to help with the ears.

I must say that Bu-yeon's ear is a very significant character here in Alchemy of Souls. It is actually absolutely correct albiet ultimately ridiculous that it took the ears for Jin Ho-gyeong to smell foul play. Why? Master Heo made the same comment about Mudeok's ears right at episode 3. He found Mudeok's ear familiar. It was way early in the drama for someone to point out the peculiarity of Mu-deok/Bu-yeon's ear but it is all starting to make sense and piece itself together. Even Jin Mu mentioned that So-i's ear was a bit similar to Bu-yeon's.

If a stranger could find the ear familiar, how wouldn't Jin Ho-gyeong decipher it. They could fool her with everything but never the ear. That was where they miscalculated.

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The ear thing was a surprising callback. In episode 3, I thought it was just Master Heo saying that as an excuse to twist her ear. I wonder if koreans also pay more attention to ears. In kdramas, I see them clear their loved one's earwax with a long q-tip. I wonder if this takes place in fictional Daeho too.

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That was cleverly set up by the writers. Traditional medicine in many cultures considers the earlobe to be linked to vision, so Heo Yeom might have performed acupuncture or some other treatment on BY for her blindness when she was young. And ears don't change as much as other features, at least after early childhood. If Lady Jin was familiar with the basic shape of young BY's ear, the difference would be a huge red flag although she's slow to admit it to herself because she wants so badly to believe BY is back.

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There were more than 2 scenes where Lady Jin looked at Mu-deok peculiarly, as if opening up to the idea that she is her daughter. But as always, she is trapped by the notion that her daughter is blind. If she knows how Mu-deok actually used to be blind, then perhaps she would finally be able to piece the puzzle together.