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Alchemy of Souls: Episodes 19-20 (Final)

The rollercoaster that is Alchemy of Souls is hurtling its way to a gorgeous finale! Our leads are trapped in the ice stone’s confines, and fast running out of sensible options. Luckily, wild magical experimentation is our hero’s middle name. Meanwhile, the past is about to catch up with the older generation… and the consequences will be catastrophic.

 

EPISODES 19-20 WEECAP

We return, once again, to Bu-yeon in the boat. Turns out, it wasn’t just Mu looming sinister behind her — but also, her father. Whilst content to exploit her for their schemes, he didn’t even deign to dive into the water after her. Why? He’s irrationally convinced that she’s Jang Gang’s child. Mu determines that’s ridiculous: Bu-yeon’s immense spiritual powers derive from her blended Jin and Choi heritage, brought to the fore by the ice stone that saved her in utero.

Resurfacing on Sari Village’s shore, Bu-yeon was taken in by a kindly old lady who named her after her late granddaughter: Mu-deok. Finally, we have all the pieces.

Back at the Unanimous Assembly, the King is fast tiring of literary analysis: Words of the Heart resembles sentimental poetry more than it does an arcane treatise on the ice stone. But Jin, instructed by Wook, provides context: Seo Gyeong preserved the ice stone for his dying lover, Jin Seol-ran. Compounding the tragedy is the fact that Seol-ran’s conscience forbade her from using it.

After all, as Mu-deok learned during her mystical airborne tete-a-tete with Bu-yeon, the only way to win is not to play. The ice stone is uncontrollable — unless you choose to let it go.

Elsewhere, Dang-gu and Cho-yeon (the latter looking cute as a button in her traveling hat) have elected to do some sleuthing in Gaema Village. However, the newly-formed Two Seasons Detective Agency uncover more than they bargain for when Cho-yeon spots her father doing business at an apothecary.

He’s here to check on Shaman Choi’s original body: the one currently housing the Queen. And by “check on,” I mean “taunt and sedate.” Ha-sun, bloodied and despairing, listens as her captor — seconds prior to forcing a potion down her throat — insists that really it’s Jang Gang she ought to blame for her current treatment.

He’s not completely off the mark. Back when Shaman Choi was arrested for sorcery, her possessions were incinerated before her eyes. She suffered it all with laughing disdain — until it came to one particular book. That, she was willing to cast herself into the fire to save. Jang Gang, thumbing through the discarded volume, discovered instructions on an intriguing magical practice… the alchemy of souls. You can safely bet that one never made it into the evidence pile.

Back in the present, Woo-tak turns from his captive — coming face to face with his heartbroken daughter. (Also, Dang-gu is there.) Shock quickly modulates to violence: Woo-tak draws on Dang-gu, forcing him back at sword point. It’s only when Cho-yeon boldly intercepts with her dagger that he realizes the jig is up: for all the lines he’s crossed, he could never harm her.

Meanwhile, Do-joo, unsuspecting of the total emotional devastation that awaits her inside, enters the room with Do-hwa’s portrait. She is faced with the man whom she loved for years from afar. The man for whom she has a message. Jang Gang.

For now, though, we return to our heroes, who have hit upon a nuclear option for escaping the ice stone’s power-leeching embrace. If it truly is untameable, then why not give it back to the sky? The stone isn’t limited by a single form. Impenetrable fog could theoretically become rain. If Wook uses Tansu to distill his power into individual raindrops, he could free them — at the cost of his hard-won energy.

Mu-deok is resistant. With knee-jerk vehemence, she orders him to reconsider — then, touchingly, remembers that she can trust him with her feelings. So, she’s frank: they’ve worked so hard to glean every scrap of that power. She’s made her peace with an ordinary life, but she won’t condemn him to the same.

Still, facts are facts: they’re on a fatal time limit. Any time now, Shaman Choi could absorb the ice stone. Moreover, indoors, Yul lies dying. And, as Wook reveals, she owes him; Yul’s been protecting Mu-deok all along.

Luckily — or not — Wook’s not the only one bent on saving Yul. Armed with a worm, a plan, and a perilously fragile grasp on how blood transfusions work, So-yi’s taking matters into her own hands. Slicing her arm open, she frees the worm containing Jin blood. It squirms its merry way into Yul’s chest wound. He stirs.

Outside the ice stone’s circle of doom, things are getting dicey for Team Evil. Shaman Choi is itching to soul-switch; turns out, there are long-term health ramifications to leaving someone else in your living body. With the Unanimous Assembly ongoing — and the Crown Prince, whom Mu’s put so much effort into brainwashing, at risk — repossessing the ice stone would be unwise.

Nonetheless, Shaman Choi is feeling mutinous: why is sorcery reviled when the ice stone is venerated? Why did they decide she must hide her family’s legacy behind the acceptable face of royalty? Why, in short, is Mu such a toadying little coward? They seize upon each other’s sore spots with glee: she gloats over his illegitimate status; he mocks her crude beginnings as shaman-for-hire.

Meanwhile, Wook and Won have an uncomfortable discussion. Wook needs help to enact his plan. If the ice stone disappears, will Won claim it was him and deal with the fallout? Think of it, not as taking the credit, but as cleaning up Wook’s mess. Won, like Mu-deok, dislikes this immensely, but Wook must abide by the precepts of his master. No, not “live fast, gorge chicken, graphically envision murdering whoever annoys you.” Rather, “it is better to die than do nothing.” This isn’t stupidity — it’s vigor. It’s also the perfect callback!

At the Assembly, Cho-yeon and Dang-gu return with Woo-tak — and a burn-strewn individual in the body of Shaman Choi, who throws herself at the feet of the king. From there, the lies speedily unravel. Jin enacts a clever piece of trickery to prove that Shaman Choi and Ha-sun swapped bodies, releasing what he claims to be the cremains of Gwigu. It’s only when Shaman Choi recoils from the dust in horror that he reveals them to be common ashes from a brazier.

Thoroughly rumbled, Shaman Choi gets desperate, brandishing a knife to her own throat and making a hostage of the Queen’s body. Now, she finally gets her moment in the spotlight, and boy does she not waste it.

She reminds her captive audience of their own culpability. Sure, she swapped a few souls, slew a few bystanders, but what about Ha-sun, who approached her willingly for soul-swapping? Face-lifts not being a Daeho innovation, she wanted a new, designer body. And what about Ho-gyeong, who brought the ice stone out into the world? What about Jin, who risked everything to hush up Jang Gang’s forays into sorcery? Mu shuts her down with a deeply prescient comment: those with power determine what’s good and what’s evil. Shaman Choi has lost her power. He demands she hand over the final Soul Ejector — perhaps then, her brother can live.

Not on Woo-tak’s watch. Rather than let them manipulate his sister, he drives his own sword into his stomach, bidding Shaman Choi to escape. Grief-stricken, she complies, smashing her Soul-Ejector.

As she marshals her power to gather the ice stone, Wook prepares to use Tansu one last time. Outside, pillars of smoke surge into the sky, whilst another figure arrives on the scene: Jang Gang.

Wook gathers his energy, slicing it with a swipe of his sword. Simultaneously, Jang Gang uses his remaining strength to absorb the full blow of the Soul Ejector, nullifying it. Limping into the Assembly hall, he collapses before the King — steadily petrifying.

Here, as implored by Master Lee’s message, he confesses to having practiced sorcery — to being the root of all of the evil that followed. He means to die in order to absolve Songrim and Jinyowon of blame.

The king accepts this sacrifice — and, though Ho-gyeong and Jin look uneasy at the prospect of such scapegoating, they allow it. Jang Gang’s last act before voluntarily consigning himself to dust is to disavow Wook, declaring he is not his son.

Wook’s eyes snap open. He finds himself standing in a pool of water, surrounded by sky. At his feet lies the ice stone. As he bends to collect it, knowing he has lost all power to wield it, the King’s Star illuminates the night. Moments later, he is facing Mu-deok in the rain.

Mages flock to Jeongjinggak. They arrive to find a man standing tall beneath the King’s Star… Prince Won. Falling to their knees, they hail him as savior, which he tolerates as best he can, eyebrows twitching with vague unease.

Wook turns to Mu-deok. Both of them are powerless. But Mu-deok smiles, and Wook takes her hand. As long as they’re together, it doesn’t matter. It’s a moment of hopeless sentimentality — but, as ever, by gosh is it hard-won.

A few days later, Daeho is alive with gossip about an unexpected marriage. It’s the first hint of what will prove to be a delightful, eighteen-minute-long trolling campaign. But, for now, we open with Mu-deok and Yul. As is customary for lovers and exes alike, they intend to find closure on a bridge.

Typically, Yul is hiding how much his injuries pain him, but, by now, Mu-deok is wise to his ways. If he takes his bitter medicine, perhaps this time it will heal… in body and in metaphor. She thanks him for keeping her secret. Then, she returns the bird whistle. It belonged to the girl Yul wanted to take to Seoho Fortress — but, as Mu-deok says, that girl no longer exists. She can’t be Naksu for him. Still, she’ll press a hand to his chest and feel him breathe thrice. Between those breaths, they say goodbye.

At Chwiseonru, a beautiful woman stands before a mirror in bridal attire. It’s Mu-deok. And… okay, she’s trying it on for Cho-yeon. Nonetheless, she’s deeply pleased with herself, preening in front of the mirror. Ju-wol — as ever, committing to the path of greatest drama with glee — ushers Wook in. He catches her mid-twirl.

Approaching with the softest, most enamored look I’ve ever seen in his eyes — and that’s saying something — Wook informs her that here, in the room where they met, they’ve a very important ritual to complete.

Mu-deok fidgets, straightens, and peers through her eyelashes. Look, she’s embarrassed, okay! Wook points out wryly that it gets less embarrassing after the thirteenth time. As Mu-deok recovers from that, he goes on to say that he wishes to protect and cherish her forever. He doesn’t want to be discarded. He doesn’t want this to end. Therefore, will Mu-deok… allow him to quit?

Mu-deok gets it. Yes, she’ll let him quit as her pupil. With that out of the way, hardly missing a beat, Wook asks her to marry him.

There’s more cheerful trollery to come: next episode opens with Jin and Do-joo house-shopping together. However, they’re doing so on behalf of Cho-yeon and Dang-gu, who, as it turns out, will need a whole lot of living space: they’re expected to provide a male heir for Songrim, a female heir for Jinyowon, and presumably just keep at it if they don’t hit on the winning gender combination the first time. (My heart goes out to Cho-yeon and her mandatory pregnancies, but then, her mother did carry Bu-yeon for thirteen months. Hopefully, she inherited that spine of steel.)

Do-joo shares her very specific domestic fantasies as they tour the garden: a cottage, where she and her husband can plant balsam flowers to paint each other’s nails. To Do-joo’s shock — and hope — Jin promises to buy her such a house. This newfound smoothness proves far too good to be true: he bungles it royally by saying he’ll gift it to her when she marries Master Lee. Do-joo is forced to listen in disbelief as he proceeds to crow that he isn’t that dense — he notices these things!

Do-joo, in the grand tradition of many an affronted heroine before her, yells out her feelings in frustration: it’s Jin she loves! She had hoped he’d do her the courtesy of noticing! Then, in another great romantic tradition, she flees.

If only Jin’s romantic ineptitude was the last remaining problem facing Daeho. Alas, there’s the matter of Mu. He’s camping out in Cheonbugwan’s Murder Room, trying to hit on the winning combination of words with which to convince Won to embrace villainy. His first pitch is simple: he’s the only one who can help rid the world of Wook, the King’s Star. Well aware that Wook sacrificed his power to save them all, Won is disdainful. Still, just enough questions linger that he won’t arrest his former master yet.

For once, blissfully unconcerned by any political maneuvering, Wook and Mu-deok go ring shopping. This is not without its own hazards. Maybe it’s divine retribution for using the yin-and-yang jade initially meant for Wook and Cho-yeon’s engagement, but Wook finds himself haunted by the ghost of relationships past. Every single ring he picks out is a style he’s chosen before… for his seven different ex-fiancees.

Quite reasonably, Mu-deok storms off, but happily only makes it halfway across the Bridge of Romantic Longing. Here, Wook catches her and — in a foot-in-mouth moment almost worthy of Jin — declares that, if anything, his prolific collection of exes ought to make her proud; she’s the only one to win his heart! Mu-deok threatens scour his room for more rings, but Wook soon reels her into a hug. He laces their fingers together: he’ll hold her hand as if it’s a ring. That’ll be one-of-a-kind. (Oh, my heart — he’s definitely suaver than Jin!) Peaceably continuing to tease each other, they cross the bridge together.

Later, some first-rate meddling on Wook’s part convinces Jin to get his act together. Wook plans on leaving Daeho with Mu-deok for good — and he hammers home the message that, if no one convinces Do-joo to stay, she’ll be departing with them.

For what is likely the first time in his life, Jin enacts a successful romantic gesture. He approaches Do-joo in the garden. He opens his palm to reveal — balsam seeds. If she plants them now, they’ll bloom in a few months. He could use magic to bring them to blossom immediately, but… well. He tends to be slow. He’d like to see them grow of their own accord. Will she wait with him?

I do hope, for Do-joo’s sake, that by “slow” he doesn’t mean another twenty years — but, either way, when the two hold hands, I’m delighted for her. It’s enough.

It’s also torture for poor Master Lee, who happens upon the happy couple in the hopes of bringing fish for Do-joo. As the man who once used magic to freshen up flowers long past their bloom, he’s found himself at the short end of the metaphorical stick. He retreats with dignity so as not to disturb them. However, later, the two ridiculously adorably toddlers he’s befriended catch him ugly-crying by the sea.

Meanwhile, Mu has hit upon the perfect scheme with which to crawl back to political relevance. Shaman Choi once introduced him to a set of bells powerful enough to hypnotize any soul-shifter made using her custom Soul Ejectors. It’s implied that they were once used to make Cho Chung run wild. Now, he has his sights set on the daughter. Remembering Shaman Choi’s observation that someone must have made Wook change, the penny that is Mu-deok’s true identity has finally dropped.

Catching up to Mu-deok in the marketplace, he experiments once, to check. Sure enough, the sound of the bells sends her into an obedient trance.

Wook joins Master Lee for a spot of seaside fishing. However, for once, Master Lee’s heart isn’t in it; he keeps letting the fish swim away whilst making cryptic allusions to not being possessive. Talk, however, turns from his current heartbreak to Wook’s upcoming nuptials. Master Lee acknowledges that Mu-deok runs no risk of running wild — that is, as long as she does not reclaim her power. From the very first, he sensed that she inhabited the body of a powerful priestess: one sturdy enough to contain an assassin’s soul.

He also makes a worrying point: what if the ice stone is still inside Wook? Wook has no intention of finding out. He’s done with seeking power for its own sake. Now, he seeks only to protect his beloved.

He’s not the only one with that in mind. So-yi knows from brutal experience that the blood worm is sure to be causing Yul tremendous pain. Woo-tak gave her pills to lessen the impact. She’s determined to ransack Jinyowon and bring them to him. However, her sneak-thievery skills are rusty; she’s caught in the act by Ho-gyeong, who’s disinclined to spare the criminal who made a mockery of her daughter.

Luckily, she still has an ace up her sleeve — or rather, a blindfold. The embroidered silk proves that So-yi knew its owner before the deception. There’s nothing Ho-gyeong can do to her… not if she wants that information. Still, remembering Mu-deok calling her mother seconds prior to asphyxiating by her hand — she has a horrible suspicion.

Mu-deok returns to Songrim to resign her post, whereupon Eunuch Oh, sweetheart that he is, congratulates her on her engagement. Less inclined to offer his congratulations is his master, Won. Mu-deok defaults to her usual tongue-in-cheek blend of reverent-irreverence, bowing before him and hailing him as the King’s Star. But, Won’s not playing. He hates being flattered by strangers. Being flattered by Mu-deok, who knows better, feels even more like mockery.

Mu-deok nods. She understands — on every front. She’ll be out of his sight soon enough. Wook too. Won remarks, bitterly, that he could stop them both from leaving. And how, asks Mu-deok, would that make him feel? Small, replies Won, knowing that around Filthy Mu-deok, he is permitted to be petty. Resentful, seeing the two of them together. She should go far away from him — lest resentment turns into violence. As ever, between the two of them, there’s no sugar-coating each other’s sharp edges. But, honesty — however sour — is all he can stand to give her.

Events have conspired to eat away at Won’s defenses against Mu’s manipulation. Still, he does his best to issue an ultimatum: confess to his crimes, or Won will do it for him. Mu, however, has the upper hand, armed with the knowledge that Jin and Master Lee have been keeping the truth about Wook from Won. The power of the King’s Star is still in Wook. To the Prince’s ear, it has the ring of conspiracy. Mu promises to expose and destroy Wook — to which Won… has no ready response.

Amid all the ominousness, we have time for some truly ridiculous hijinks. Despite an ambivalent start, Mu-deok and Do-joo have speed-run their relationship upgrade from servant and employer to social equals — namely, by getting absolutely plastered together.

Mu-deok greets Wook with uninhibited delight, rising unsteadily to her feet and — to the strains of Do-joo’s drunken heckling — announcing her intention to fly. She rises expectantly to her tiptoes. Once. Then, twice, tottering alarmingly. The third time, Wook seizes and hoists her over his shoulder, to Mu-deok’s triumph, and Do-joo’s bleary amazement.

As Wook lowers Mu-deok into bed, she insists she has something to tell him. After all, if she waits until morning — she might die tomorrow! It has to be now. Regarding him seriously, she pauses, before informing him… that she likes him a lot. Seizing both the moment and the sides of Wook’s face, she smushes him into a kiss. This done, she collapses asleep. Wook fondly tucks her under the covers. However, that night, Mu-deok wakes to the sound of bells…

The next day, Cho-yeon travels by barge to her wedding, blushing as she dodges petal confetti. Ho-gyeong and Jin grouse in the background over precisely which of their heirs is marrying into whose family. Yul and Wook chuckle about how the newlyweds intend to sneak out and visit Cho-yeon’s imprisoned father. As for Mu-deok? She’s nowhere to be seen. Wook figures she’s too bashful to face him after last night.

The truth is, of course, far more upsetting. Mu-deok, entranced by the sound of the bells, was drawn to Cheonbugwan. Here, dead-eyed, she stood before Mu as he used his magic to awaken her powers: Naksu once more, reforged into his weapon. Her first, hypnosis-mandated target? Woo-tak.

As Mu-deok draws her sword, the petrification creeps across her hand. Blankly undeterred, she sets out to face the guards at Woo-tak’s residence. It’s ten against one, and it’s carnage. Mu-deok leaves them bleeding out in a matter of seconds.

Cho-yeon and Dang-gu, sweetly intent on sneaking away to see Woo-tak, arrive just in time to witness him cowering before their bloodstained friend. Aghast, they struggle to defend him — and it’s mark of their strength that they last minutes into the fight without dying.

The same can’t be said for Woo-tak. Amid sudden, headache-ey flashbacks to her own father’s death, Mu-deok sends her sword careening into his chest. This time, there’s no second chance for Woo-tak. Nor is there any breaking free for Mu-deok: Mu harnesses her grief, compelling her to target those responsible for Cho Chung’s demise.

Flanked by his supporters, Mu crashes the wedding, proclaiming Naksu’s return — and the fact that Mu-deok and Naksu are one and the same. The mages converge on the area.

Just like the very start, Mu-deok is surrounded by enemies on all sides. Cheonbugwan’s mages are dispatched with a few wild leaps and slashes. Then, it’s Songrim’s turn, with Jin at the head, aiming the very bow that that once dealt her a fatal injury. But this time, she’s not alone. Before the arrow can hit, someone dives in to cover her back. It’s Wook.

Before he can say a word, Mu-deok swings her sword. It plunges into the center of his chest.

Without hesitation, Wook grabs her arm, tugging her closer even as her sword goes straight through him. He hugs her close, defending her even as he chokes blood. As they sink to the floor, he says nothing but her name — until, for an instant, she comes back to herself. Stricken, she recoils to see him covered in blood. With the last of his strength, Wook takes her hand: his bloodstained fingers interlaced with her stone ones. Then, he drops.

Mu-deok is permitted half a minute’s grief. Then, the bells sound once more. As the mages rush towards her, she kicks up into the air, soaring above them to escape. Stone creeps across her face.

In the aftermath, Yul begs to be able to search for Mu-deok, but is confined to the premises at Sejukwon. Cho-yeon, shaking in vengeful grief, declares she will kill Naksu — but her mother insists she be brought back alive. Meanwhile, Mu curries favor with the royal family, scraping his way back into the king’s good graces whilst advocating for sanctions against Songrim. Wook’s body, meanwhile, is to be publicly cremated, like Naksu. For aiding the assassin, he is declared a criminal — even Do-joo and Jin are forbidden from wearing mourning clothes.

Mu-deok, stirred again by the bells, approaches the cliff above the grave of soul-shifters, where she once asked Wook to leave her when she died.

Meanwhile, as Wook’s friends weep by the pyre, Master Lee approaches to watch. He doesn’t cry. He knows that this isn’t the end. The flames leap, exploding higher until they burst into flurry of ice. Mu-deok jumps. As she sinks, she is caught by two figures. And Wook strides out of the fire. Blood on his robes. Unburned.

So… wow, huh? Folks, you know me; I weep at the drop of a hat. This time round, though? I can hardly look at the screenshots without sobbing. What absolutely kills me is that Wook and Mu-deok had finally wrested agency from their situation, against all odds — only for it to be dragged away again.

Mu-deok had decided she no longer wanted to be Naksu: instead, she chose friends, and love, and happiness. She could discuss her feelings without fearing the repercussions. She could get drunk, and wear makeup, and flirt shamelessly with Wook in public. Wook had finally gained independence: he was able to work towards the life he truly wanted, rather than the life he felt he ought to have — and, at the end, was strong enough to try and forge something new outside the hot mess that is Daeho.

Now, Mu-deok has once again been forcibly made into a weapon. Wielding a sword and being an assassin didn’t signify agency — rather, someone else pulling her strings. Meanwhile, just as Wook took a firm moral stance and actively chose to let go of power… power has come knocking on his door without permission.

It was such a well-crafted end to part 1 — gut-wrenching to the point of mastery. I dare you all to rewatch Episode 20 with the ending in mind: have fun listening to Mu-deok drunkenly worry that she might die tomorrow, and wincing so hard it hurts! But, the Hong sisters know how to make it hurt in all the right ways. Beanies, it has been one heck of a journey, and I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have. December cannot come soon enough!

As for the final image? Have one more round of heartbreak on me!

 
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*sips stolen cocktail in the corner 👀👀👀*

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I was fully prepared, I made a pitcher.

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I rarely eat sugar. I ate 3/4 of a chocolate bar just during Woo Tak being killed 😲

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Pasta Pomodoro for me. Fresh home-grown tomatoes. Made it up and sat down to watch with lunch. I blame my mood on "post-pasta-depression".

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I made it a point not to eat while watching the finale after your comment. 😂

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OMG, I hadn't realized until I read your comment, but I had a sudden (and unusual for me) craving for chocolate and ate an entire Hershey's bar Sunday night. And had yet another bar per day for the next two days. 🍫

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Hahaha The Alchemy of Chocolate!

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Crypto-PPL.

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Whose cocktail did you steal and why?😂 Did it have diamond powder and gold leafs in it?

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It was mine. I’m still mad but have much better defenses now. She just did it because she could - it had no special ingredients, just lots of fruit and guile with a swirl of malevolence, a dusting of schadenfreude, and a bendy straw.

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*grins satisfactorily, like a cat* *finger hearts*

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My concoction was water from the mystical lake mixed with gwigu's ashes. 25% sugar level 🤣

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Jang Uk has really perfected his dramatic/determined walk, and no where was it more on display than as his long legs took him right out of his own funeral pyre. I know that Uk loves dramatic things, but I think they might also love him.

So glad that Kim Dojoo and Park Jin were finally able to communicate. They are so adorable – she is so patient with him, and he does everything he can to be sweet to her, even when he has the completely wrong idea. It broke me to watch them both at Uk’s pyre. They’ve both been parents to him (albeit imperfect ones) his whole life, and I can’t imagine their pain at not being able to mourn him properly.

I’m a little worried for CP Won. I really hope his bitterness passes and he doesn’t fall for Jin Mu’s lies about power. He is a very proud person, and I can see how people venerating him for something that wasn’t his doing would be incredibly grating, and kind of embarrassing. Add to that the fact that Mudeok is clearly into Jang Uk and not him, and he must be feeling all kinds of jealousy right now. His facial expressions are always on point, but I want specifically to acknowledge the one where he looked from MD to Uk and back again when they each said identical things about taking action vs. doing nothing. I feel like I could hear the gears turning in his mind and it was beautiful.

I am so so so glad that it feels like we’ve entered a new chapter. I was a bit afraid that everything about these episodes would be a cliffhanger, but we actually got the chance to wrap up a couple of threads before launching a bunch of new problems, so I’m grateful. I mean, I know a lot was cliffhanger-y, but they were always going to do that, and at least it’s not everything. Also grateful that they gave us a timeline for when we can expect Part 2 to air, I was a little concerned that we wouldn’t know for a while.

They also dropped the full soundtrack already! I have to say, the first three songs that came out for it are nearly perfect. I love how much they get stuck in my head, I love how well the lyrics (as far as I can tell) are perfect representations of our major characters thoughts/feelings/motivations, and I love the show’s absolute commitment to playing them whenever we’re focused on those characters. Uk’s is determined and tender, Naksu’s is pained but strong, and Yul’s is wistful and sweet.

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Oh, thank you for mentioning the soundtrack! It would not have occurred to me to go looking for new tracks if you hadn't mentioned it.

Just listened to all 24 new tracks on Disc 2 and was surprised that I could recognize so many of them despite not paying particular attention to the music while watching.

Some parts of Disc 2's second track, Naksu feels like what you'd hear out of a videogame, and I'm all for it. And Jinyowon's opening measures still make me shiver.

My favorites are probably The Energy of Water for how triumphant it feels, and Forbidden Spell because you really get that sense of foreboding. That said, the opening title theme is definitely special.

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Kdrama soundtracks are often what I listen to while I'm working, so I obsessively look for the whole thing when a drama finishes. I have multiple playlists of my favorite tracks from almost every drama I've ever watched! Totally agree about the Jinyowon opening. I'm such a sucker for a dramatic choral moment.

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Also, Two Seasons Detective Agency? I would 100% watch that spinoff.

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Same!

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Wow! It really wasn’t what I expected / hoped…. I’ll reserve judgement until the second season is over, but that was a painful cliffhanger!
It felt really rushed from the end of ep 19 - when both Uk and Naksu gave up the power they had been amassing / scheming for FOR 20 EPISODES, you’d expect more emotion and drama but each of them made their selfless decisions in a few seconds. It didn’t sit right with me - UK’s little tansu rain thing was confusing and underwhelming. How did that take all his power? Why didn’t he die at that point? What did he do?
Also, don’t get me started on the bells of doom. I was desperately hoping that Bu-yeon would wake up, recognise her father and stop Naksu. Then I wanted an epic showdown between Bu-yeon and Jin-su!!! Ending with Bu-yeon expelling Naksu from her body and happily ever after.
I’m confused about what happens next, if Naksu is redeemable after what she’s done, what UK’s going to do no, but the biggest worry is: will the CP stay good? (Massively protective here) Don’t let UK’s resurrection lead to won’s revenge……..
#rambling

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*jin-mu

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I was really curious and pretty miffed that Bu-yeon didn't come out and do something to prevent Jin Mu from controlling Naksu. I guess the answer will be in part 2. Buyeon, you're not going to even try to prevent your body from being petrified? Were you planning on never coming back after pulling Naksu into your body?

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This whole time, it's been really unclear how much control Bu-yeon has over Mudeok's actions. I was also hoping that in this extreme situation, and especially with Mudeok/Naksu in the trance-like state, Bu-yeon would be able to come to the surface and change things up. But the truth is we really don't know how that whole thing works. Jin Mu is also not stronger than Bu-yeon in pretty much any situation, but he was still able to release Naksu's power even though it was Bu-yeon holding them in check this whole time. We've only ever seen Bu-yeon be able to take control when Mu-deok is unconscious, though she sometimes also appears when soul-shifting is taking place (I'm pretty sure? Help me remember if I'm wrong about this.) so I was bummed but not surprised she wasn't there to save the day in the finale.

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I think it was Shaman Choi's spell that undid Buyeon's hold of Naksu. That, coupled with Jin Mu's power surge, probably made it impossible for Buyeon to still be in control.

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I wish they'd made that clearer - or introduced the idea of Shaman Choi's spell earlier so we were prepared for it to happen. It came out of the blue and somehow was stronger than everything / everyone else...

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this is a big problem for this drama world building. they can create as many magical solutions to keep the story moving, but they need to introduce/tease them before, almost like an easter egg so it won't feel like so much a convenient plot device. the bells are an interesting idea and make sense, but they could have mentioned a bit of that before.

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Technically, Buyeon's power related to the ice-stone, where soul-shifting originates as denotes in shaman choi's textbook but the bell is probably another branch of black magic. Though the ice stone can control the 'energy from sky', probably doesn't work that way according to drama logic.

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Kun kun kun. Aikun deikun. You have my heart Kim Do-joo. Let him know Kim Do-joo.

So Park Jin practically had to be wrapped and bundled on the path to confess his feelings properly to Kim Do-joo. ‘If not for Jang Uk, you’d have lost the battle forever Park Jin’. I thought he had finally became a man when they were conversing about houses. 🤦🏽 was my reaction when he actually proved that 4 episodes later, he never matured. Do better in Part 2 Park Jin. That haircut change must not be for nothing. Shed your innocence with the long hair that’s gone (I’ll miss the long hair, that’s for sure). I will gladly watch a special episode dedicated to Park Jin and Kim Do-joo in all their back and forth banters.

Hemp Master Lee of the chaste herbs really put up a very fight. Blame Jang Uk for your losing this battle to the Dolt Park Jin. A 140-year-old man in tears after losing the battle of the heart, Hemp Master is surely on his way to resuming his tea regimen.

I began Alchemy of Souls mainly because it had a swordswoman. So imagine my delight when I got not one but two swordswomen in the finale. I guess Cho-yeon will have sharpened her blades in time for season two. Not even a combo of she and Dang-gu could hold the fort. A bride dressed in full wedding gear in battle…I’ll save this memory.

Sorry Cho-yeon and Dang-gu. I really wanted their wedding to hold without drama. At least they have each other.

I believe most wanted bachelor goes to Jang Uk. I wonder why the numbers didn't increase exponentially when he achieved mage-ic potential.

Did I feel sorry for Jin U-tak, yes. Am I sad for his death? Yes. I really wanted him alive so he can see and confront for himself what he did to Bu-yeon. He could pass on to the world beyond after Bu-yeon confronts him. Here I was thinking Jin Ho-gyeong was the reason for his coldness meanwhile his coldness stemmed from his inferiority complex due to events surrounding Bu-yeon’s birth all because of Jang Gang’s involvement. At least he was completely ashamed in front of Cho-yeon, and maybe a little less in front of Ho-gyeong. I give him due credit for that.

Looks like we will have CP Won as one of our villains for season 2. It hurts more because his justification is right. But I hate it that Jin Mu seems to be breeding another power trip through him. I want it to be that he’s both angry at Park Jin and he’s equally playing Jin Mu at his own game. He’s playing the player.

I guess it was best that Yul was not around during the sparring session going on between Mudeok and Cho-yeon x Dang-gu. In retrospect I don’t think I am in any way prepared for a showdown where Yul had to draw a blade against his first love. Yes it would be epic if he was there but AoS wouldn’t be the same by the time the fight is over. Someone might die and I don’t want it to be Yul.

That Alchemy of Soul resurrection is the ending that blew me away and set things in motion for season 2 for me.

Was I left satisfied?...

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...Yes. Thanks to a few things.
1. The return of Kim Do-joo and Park Jin romance.
2. Cho-yeon engaging in sword fights.
3. Uk's resurrection.
4. No more Yul SLS. It was well resolved.
5. The epic sword battle I signed up for.
All is partially forgiven and forgotten AoS. See you December.

I really thought they'd complete the story surrounding Jin Ho-gyeong and Jin Bu-yeon in the first season. Well it gives me additional reasons to tune in for season 2 in addition to the juicy sneak peek.

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@jerrykuvira The thing is, I'm not sure that they will have each other's support. I think Cho Yeon will blame Dang Gu for her father's death because he hesitated in killing Mu Deok. My prediction is that she'll have resentment for him over this, hence their super-serious faces in the promo for season 2, both appearing distraught.

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I agree. There was that scene that didn't make it into this excellent recap: the bachelor party with Yul and Wook on one side of the table and Dang-gu on the other. DG's symbolically being separated from the boys as he starts his adult life with Cho-yeon (Wook's statement that he will soon marry, too, is just meant to twist the knife and to emphasize Yul's loneliness). But I wouldn't be surprised if DG suffers divided loyalties between his lifelong friends and his furious, vengeful fiancee. He was the one of the three who was fond of MD as a friend, without romantic interest, and who didn't know she was Naksu, so it's not surprising he'd have a hard time accepting in a moment of crisis that she's really an assassin with his friend's face. He could mourn MD without guilt based only on his own relationship with her, but the divisions her (really Jin Mu's) actions will cause will be part of the tragedy and conflict to resolve in Season 2.

These episodes were the first time we saw DG having to express anything other than delight, mischievousness, or surprise, and Yoo In-soo really delivered the grief and shock, as well as indecision, mixed with desperate will to keep fighting.

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@elinor It was heartbreaking seeing him mourn the loss of his would-be father-in-law simultaneously with what should have been his wedding day. I was surprised at the emotion I felt at watching him grieve. Regardless, the color change in hair signals no more Mr. Nice Dang Gu. You're right about him being one of the few people who invested in Mu Deok without romantic interest, seeing her turn to the dark side would have been devastating.

Yul seems like a pool with hidden depth, I hope we get to learn more about him and what lies beneath his calm facade.

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Cho-yeon herself hesitated since she couldn't fathom how in the world Mudeok is a mage, and I guess it's the same for Dang-gu who couldn't due to thier friendship.
I am thinking that she realized that they didn't stand a chance as the fight continued but they still gave it their best anyway till Dang-gu blew away their one opening. Well I thought that with Dang-gu in the mix playing field would change. I guess Cho-yeon guessed same too. However, I think their super serious faces will be directed at other people - Mu-deok, then Uk and Yul who knew but didn't tell them. And they were the ones who'll be hurt the most due to the nature if thier relationship. You've given salient reasons for Dang-gu's. For Cho-yeon's, it could be that she was just starting to warm up to Mu-deok. They were becoming good friends. These two are the ones that shouldn't have the first contact with Naksu in season 2 because their eyes are red completely.

It really hurts that Naksu warmed her way into the hearts of Daeho's seasons who in turn reciprocated it, and rat faced Jin Mu crushed everything within minutes.

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I really don't feel Cho Yeon should be casting blame to anyone for her father's death. After all, he did just kill himself recently and was only revived by his wife so that he could atone for his sins. The circumstances seem like they should mellow out some of the revenge that Cho Yeon seems to be having, or at least cause some confusion about blame for his death.

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In addition there’s that whole Songrim thing he’s carrying, Jin Mu has done a good job of setting the two houses up for war.

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I did like that we got to see Cho-Yeon in battle, however short, since she seemed to be forgotten throughout the series as it focused on Uk's training at the male-dominant Songrin. She's just as powerful as the guys, and I hope she gets to shine in part two.

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I practically squeed with delight when I saw her engage Naksu in battle before Dang-gu joined her. I thought she was just a channeller. Never knew there was more to being Jinyowon's heir.
It's a sad moment but I re-watched it several times. She's one of the things I'm looking forward to in 2. I hope the writers do not forget that she fought bravely in season 1.

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She and Mudeok deserves more fight scenes imo. Lucky that we got to see Mudeok in a real fight scene before she left because she will not be in season 2. As for Choyeon I hope and honestly I feel like she will have more fight scenes in Season 2 as she was now out for revenge for her father :(

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Me too! Her trailer had her with a sword. Glad she had action, though not the battle I was expecting.

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Though wedding dress is not appropriate for a sword fight, I loved the aesthetics of Cho Yeon's fight. She really was pretty and elegant.

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If they were going for dramatic effects that convey badass and grace at the same, they got it 100%.

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I wonder if the JIn women practice sword fighting in the big dresses that they wear so that they could be ready anytime anywhere!

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First of all, millions thanks to dearest @alathe for making AOS recap a great Monday reading section for me. Without your brilliance and wittiness, there wouldn't be more than 200 comments for each week. Highly applause to your achievement! The last time I was so invested in joining our Beanies comment here was IONTBO drama. Totally looking forward to your next drama weecap.

Secondly, nice open ending for Season 1. That trailer is good enough for me to wait until December. Like a pheonix rising from the ashes, Wookie does possess a different aura after accepting the Ice Stone power 😍. Each of them seems to have their own motive now (revenge, redemption, reconciliation for closure), I will wait Season 2 AoS: Light and Shadow for sure, solely due to LJW (sorry JSM' fans 🙏).

Highlight in episode 19: that was the best and sweetest marriage proposal for Wookie and Mudeok 😍😍😍. So swoony with both of them. That scene deserves its own free clip forever in YT 😁.
For episode 20: Naksu really stabbing her protector and he died- BUT I did not shedding a single tears at all 😬 (blame steel-heart of mine!)

Suprise a bit that Naksu can be easily manipulated with simple, but yet a potent divination curse and BuYeon still be dormant in controlling her outer appearance 😴😌. I read rave review about BY not been able to counterattack the bell-ringing curse and quite a letdown as a "powerful priestess" status. But, in my opinion... Mudeok never know about BuYeon being the 'true' owner of her body, thus BuYeon couldn't do any damage control unless Mudeok is in unconcious state. Huge debates will come from this point.

What a "red marriage" for our Danggu-ChoYeon. I am positive they will change in terms of their relationship course and will not be as sweet as before (that would align with the snippet of their S2' new look). Sadly they couldn't utter the marriage vow and yes, current state might severing their feeling to each other.

The production does seems struggle in getting a proper consistency and how to navigate the storywise. There are still more unfold stories and explanations to be answered. Pacing are super slow after 2/3 of the drama. Perhaps there are too many fillers in order to make this a real fantasy rom-com instead of pure fantasy thriller. At least, this drama fares me better compared to HDL and Odyssey. Still, I have a mixed review (and getting confused on myself whether I love-or-hate in overall of AOS 😅). But, their full OST are totally rocks!

Reminiscing whole Season 1, my favourite episodes for this drama would be ep 3&4. The fighting, romantic nuance, desperation, comedy, frustration, OTPs' micro-expression acting and all of AOS magic are well bottled that makes me stay until its finale (although it was starting shaky towards the ending- a typical for HS drama). I can firmly say AOS could be one of my top 20 (if not 10) kdrama of all time in my list.

I am glad that I found a gem in kdrama world with new fav...

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Bu-yeon not countering seemed like the greatest and weakest plot device. The one time a deux ex machina fails to act. Sometimes the guardian angel just sits and do nothing as chaos unfolds. That's how I took it without any form of finding reasons why. Besides, it set the perfect premise for season 2.

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I just think we still know so little about how the interactions between Bu-yeon and Naksu work. Has Bu-yeon ever been able to come to the surface without Mudeok being unconscious? She sort of appears in the context of a relic or during the actual process of soul-shifting, but I don't think we've ever just seen her be able to take control of Mudeok/Naksu when the latter is fully conscious. I was hoping Bu-yeon would be able to do something too, since Naksu was at least in a trance, but I wasn't surprised that she didn't show up to save the day.

I was honestly a lot more surprised that Jin Mu was able to counter Bu-yeon's control/suppression of Naksu's energy/power, but again, we don't know how that works. Is it a control that Bu-yeon put in place once at the outset of them sharing a body, or is it a constant suppressive force that needs to be maintained? I think the first is more likely, since there is no way Jin Mu could pit himself against Bu-yeon's power and come out on top.

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It's more of the first, which is why I'm wondering why Bu-yeon didn't surfaced. She surfaced when Master Lee first approached them in Danhyakguk, she surfaced in the Alchemy realm in episode 8, she surfaced in the Eunuch Kim situation. So why, why didn't she surface here. Are they saying the bell is stronger than the ice stone and Bu-yeon combined.
Had it been that almighty bell device surfaced after Bu-yeon had been separated from Naksu then fine, I'd accept it. But they were still cohabiting together and the bell suddenly took over Naksu's consciousness and rendered Bu-yeon inactive, as if in an abyss. It's laughable.

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True. From my POV, JinMu firing up the magic power that has been put down/controlled by BuYeon. Plus with a dust potion and Choi's divination curse, Jin Mu definitely have a better chances rather than dormant BuYeon. But then again, we still didn't know much the extension of BY power yet.

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I wonder if Jang Uk now having the ice stone also means that Buyeon no longer has it. Maybe relinquishing the ice stone meant she lost the ability to override Jin Mu's bells and shaman powder.

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Bu-yeon never had the ice stone. But she has an everlasting connection to the ice stone since it's a part of her life force which is likely why Jinyowon's relics called her the ice stone. I don't think she needs the ice stone physically to draw powers from it.

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I am glad that I found a gem in kdrama world with new fav actor: Lee Jae Wook 😍. Brilliant acting spectrum and makes me digging more on his previous work (done watching Search: WWW, Battle of Jangsari, DDSSLLS). Surely will put him under my radar of Kdrama's bias: Lee Jung Jae, JiSung, Ji Jin Hee.

Till next drama, Beanies ❤️. Will keep reading your heart pour, rambling, anything here and blast off DB webpage until 500 comments 😬. Wake me up when November ends ✌️

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"Mudeok never know about BuYeon being the 'true' owner of her body, thus BuYeon couldn't do any damage control unless Mudeok is in unconcious state"

I think you've hit the nail on the head here because during that drunk kiss scene Uk kinda debated should he tell her about finding out her body belonged to a powerful priestess or not, and then he decided to leave it for later - boy what a mistake, lol.

I think if he had told her, Naksu would have connected all her weird fainting spells and eyes and head hurting in Jinwon and that all her conversations had in fact not been with a relic but a priestess, and then she'd have connected it to Buyeon. Maybe then Buyeon would have woken up for real, and Jin Mu's spell wouldn't have worked.
But alas....

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Yeah, for someone that is tenacious like Naksu, I felt salty when she is too slow to connect the dots from all of events that happened to her 😏.

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@fydea You're so sweet -- thank you so much! Writing these recaps has been ludicrous amounts of fun, and it's been so wonderful seeing the response. :D

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This was not the AoS finale that I needed. It was infuriating seeing everything crumble around our leads when they already had so little happiness throughout the series. Uk’s father died the episode before and Mu Deok was used her whole life by Jin Mu, only to be manipulated by him again; this was like a sucker-punch to the gut. I am SICK of this man and want him, along with his frosty tips, gone ASAP. There were few answers to questions, save how many engagements Uk had prior to Mu Deok, the true parentage of Bu Yeon, and how Cho Young’s father was made to run wild, but all in all this was so frustrating to watch. The Crown Prince was also a let-down, but not unsurprising since his pettiness had been established, I had just hoped that his rational thinking might outweigh his inferiority complex. In the end, he fell for Jin Mu’s tricks and it sucked to watch the bad guys seemingly get away with evil.

Speaking of ne'er-do-well's, why didn’t So-I just tell Yul about the blood parasite or take it out earlier if it was that easy to remove? Judging by how the wound failed to heal, I think she’ll die without it in her system. Still, she should let Yul know so that Master Yeom or the healers can treat him accordingly. I’m really not looking forward to her appearance in season 2. At least Bu Yeon will seemingly return, since her body was saved from the lake.

Honestly, I am at a loss for words. I hope this shock-value ending to season one ends up being worth it, for now I’m just disappointed. I foresee them extending part 2 to 12-14 episodes, but we’ll see.

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Right about the blood worm. Not sure how it worked lol. The writers better give an explanation on season 2

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Yeah, if it was that easy for her to get rid of the blood worm, why was she so scared of it? Was it actually necessary to save Yul? It didn't look like it...
And didn't Jin Mu say it needs constant spells to keep it under control? So isn't it destroying Yul from the inside at the moment? It starts to look like a really heartless thing to do - move the parasite from your body into the body of your first love. Not cool.

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I never understood people who wanted So-I for Yul... She's not a good person and clearly not very smart... He deserves so much better.

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@jance I know, right? It definitely strikes me as a not-well-thought-out plan, especially since the worm was likely killing her without the medicine and she knew that it didn't give her special powers and Mu Deok opened the gate. The cynic in me believes that it was a ploy to keep herself in his life since clearly, the blood worm did no good for Yul. If anything, it was Uk breaking the barrier (somehow) that allowed him to get treatment while the worm is stalling his recovery.

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@jance It's not clear that So-yi knows the blood worm is dangerous and needs constant control by Jin Mu. While it enters her body, he says that in a voiceover and not directly to her. She only knows with certainty that it contains powerful Jin blood. She also really doesn't know what a transfusion is. So her thinking might be "he needs blood and I have this thing that contains both blood and power." Her intentions are to help in the moment; only later does she realize it's a parasite that is hurting instead of helping him.

Not making excuses for So-yi - she's an opportunistic, amoral con artist and I can't fathom why anyone would ship her with Yul - but she's also ignorant about magic.

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I personally enjoyed the episodes but also found it infuriating that Jin Mu once again manipulated and used Naksu to try to clear his own name. I hope she turns the tables on him in Season 2 and reveals to the world how awful he has been to her (seems like he was also responsible for her father being killed)

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It was so good!! However, with only 16 minutes left, I knew they were not going to tie any loose ends at all....and of course, we ended up with a giant cliffhanger.

I really hope Jung Somin will at least cameo...it's too sad to end the Jin Buyeon story without wrapping it up...esp for the Jin mom.

OH! and who could those 2 figures be??? All our main characters are at the funeral pyre so it can't be any of them. So...new characters?

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Jung So-min will definitely cameo. If not, they've shot her scenes already. Besides with the clear warning instructions Jin Ho-gyeong left Cho-yeon we haven't seen the last of Mu-deok. I won't be surprised if JSM returns in full capacity because the ending seems like she will. And if she doesn't, I think they can resolve her arc properly with the cameo appearance you mentioned.

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saw her name added as support role on MyDramaList
MDL wont add her name if they dont have legit source
and yeah i believe she already shot all her scenes for part 2.

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The 2 saviour would be someone from Ho Gyeong's underling / Jinwoyon's warrior. Based on her conversation with Cho Yeon, my guess they will snatch Mudeok first.
My concern is that, the title for S2 would be AoS: Light and Shadow (based upon Wook and Cho Yeong's name). Will there unfold story about BuYeon and her redemption in Season 3? 🤭🤷🏻‍♀️ (if they are waiting for JSM to repraise her role).

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I think those were two sevants/trainees/guards from the Jin family. It looked like they were wearing the same outfits as the women who were on the boats during Cho-Yeon's bridal convoy.

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Yeah, JSM should be at least on one episod. If no, it would be pointless for Ho-gyeong waiting for her for the entire season 1

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Ugh.
I like that Naksu was brought back into the story - although I still hate Jin Mu, that little ratface... - and I understand that whole "she was being controlled like a puppet" thing. But yikes, that was brutal. Now, I get how it plays out in terms of storyline... but I don't get how Uk can handle the mind**** of having his beloved kill him in cold blood. Even if he halfway expected it based on her nature and her past - that is still some serious stuff to deal with on an emotional level. He's going to have to be one angry dude in the next season - I guess we'll all get to see "serious face" Uk more often. Although, I prefer "goofy smile" Uk myself.
As for the spirit-beings that carried Naksu/Mu Deok out of the depths... I guess we'll get some 'splaining for that next season too. I mean, Naksu's soul obviously survives somehow.

I really wasn't expecting happy endings (I would've liked to have had the wedding completed, though, just because)... but this one was painful. I have many, many questions...

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I'll watch Part 2 but I wasn't exactly happy with Part 1. This story could have easily been completed in 20 episodes, but it is clear the Hong Sisters fell in love with the world they created and lost sight of the story they were telling, hence all of the detours and filler.

I’m so sick of Jin Mu. He really should have met his demise in Part 1 or at least suffered a little. He is not an interesting villain.

The Crown Prince has been the highlight for me this season, so of course they had to take what I appreciated about him, his rationality, and replace it with jealousy.

Jang Gang’s end was anticlimactic to say the least.

Papa Jin seemed most decidedly dead in Episode 19, so I was annoyed he showed up alive in Episode 20 and not even in custody.

All season Bu-yeon has acted as plot armor but suddenly in the finale, the bells were able to beat the most powerful priestess?

I really dislike the Chosen One trope so of course they had to kick it up a notch and have Jang Uk rise from the dead.

I really liked Master Lee earlier in the season, so it is annoying that they just have him walking around prophetizing.

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couldn't agree more with a comment. you pointed out every single thing that annoyed with this finale. the bells of doom, jang gang anti-climatic return, buyeon' soul lost somewhere when her body needed her the most... the cherry on top was uk, the immortal. if the chosen one trope wasn't annoying enough, they really killed him only to make him a phoenix. like...... stop lol

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I enjoyed these 20 episodes for the most part and would give the part 1 finale a B, but I'm with you on being sick of Jin Mu. Like do we really need another 10 episodes to take down this guy? Please let there be a bigger bad out there. The real Queen should have thrown him in jail. He's not even the legitimate son of a prominent family and people aren't aware that he has some secret army, so why this delicacy?

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Jang Gang's return fell flat. I preferred his sacrifice being talked about by the audience in the Unanimous Assembly more than his return. So much for waiting 14 episodes for him to show up.

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I so agree with everything you're frustrated with. I'll be watching Part 2 as well (between my fingers), but there was so much potential that it hurts. The characters of CP, Bu-yeon and Jin Mu were handled so badly... but could have been so good!
And why oh why did Master Lee just become some fisherman plot device talking to himself to explain what's going on. That was seriously bad writing.

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Thanks @alathe for the recaps. It's always lovely to see a recapper having as much fun with the show as we are!

I was pretty satisfied with the ending. Maybe it was because I watched episodes 17-20 at one go, but I thought thematically the last 4 episodes flowed very well together. There were some hiccups such as Jang Gang's disappointing entry-and-exit-all-in-one-go. Also Won letting Mu persist in surviving for several days seemed just a tad out of character.

But overall I think the show has set itself up pretty well for a Season 2. The preview hints at a darker tone overall for the second season especially with our 4 Seasons and I'm intrigues. December can't come soon enough!

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I would love if the production team going into darker tone for S2. 10 more episode shouldn't have no more filler but rather a strong plotwise. Am I in wrong place for put my hope up-high (knowing the track record of HS 😓)?

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@miso2019 Thank you -- I'm really glad you've been enjoying these recaps! I've certainly adored writing them: this show was such a gift. :D

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I like fantasy and scifi but especially shows with strong woman characters. When I saw this on Netflix I decided to give a shot and at first got sucked in by the story, but as I watched this show and thought about it I got madder and madder and now this last episode almost sent me over the edge so I had to post somewhere. Maybe you guys can talk me off the cliff, LOL

The attitude this show had toward women and its treatment of women characters was TERRIBLE. In fact, I’d almost call it misogynistic, except I read it was written by women!

The show starts with what is, essentially, a rape, as a guy masquerading as the woman’s lover sleeps with her. But that’s supposed to be okay, because it gives birth to the hero.

We were then introduced to the community, where the only other active place besides the palace is the brothel. The woman who runs it is shrewd and seems nice, but given that she also sells other women for sex I don’t know whether that’s good or not.

The only woman mage in the show is JUST A HOUSEKEEPER of magical artifacts. And she isn’t very good at her job, because she lets out the ice stone. Why? Because she’s also a Mom. And we all know mom’s are weak and foolish. Right.

The main woman character is a once ruthless warrior. But conveniently for the male characters, she’s lost all her power and has become a servant. She’s cute and occasionally talks back, but in the end she’s totally submissive. Fortunately, the guys help her out, and the show takes great pains to say that none of them use her sexually. But that’s because the show is very clear they could if they wanted to. The guys even helped her pass a difficult servant test, by giving her the answers to the Math. Because Math is hard for women. Right.

Despite helping her, they still treat her as a sexual prize in a contest, and even the innocent boyish mage, who wins her, plans on taking her alone to his “fortress,” to “protect” her. Right.

Still, in the second to last episode she romantically thanks him for his protection. Because all women really need protection provided by swooning young men. But even though she loves her protector, she won’t marry him. Instead she’ll marry the guy who treats her as a Mom substitute.

I stuck with it for the last episode hoping that the woman warrior would regain her powers and kill the bad guy at the end. That at least would redeem the overall treatment of women somewhat. BUT NO, instead she is controlled by the bad guy using a bell, JUST LIKE A DOG, to kill people, even nearly murdering her fiancé. Because after all, she was just a pet of men, as most women are. Because women are weak, and easily manipulated by men to do evil things. There isn’t even an independent minded evil woman in the show!

I KNOW this is just a fantasy. I’ve read that Korean political culture is really anti-feminist right now, and the writers were probably catering to that and not thinking of the U.S...

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and there was one powerful woman. she was not a respected mage but a shaman/witch. it couldn't be more stereotypical than this. not to mention how they treat choyeon. the dynamic of this drama, especially the main girl and the 3 guys gave me old korean dramas like boys over flower vibes, but with a fantasy costume.

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'Women are weak and easily manipulated by men'. You're forgetting the likes of Shaman Choi and Kim Do-joo who were nothing of the sort.
And Yul is most honorable so never will he descend to the level of the other Songrim mages.

Read up on the stories surrounding Jung So-min's casting you'll see reasons why Mu-deok wasn't in long action action sequences until the last minutes save for the short snippets in ep 8 and 18. I wasn't even expecting Jung So-min to fight at all so I really appreciated them giving us a proper Naksu in Jung So-min. I didn't like her almost no show as Naksu but the casting stories will help you see why.

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Hey--My comment got cut off so the part where I said I was probably over reacting didn't come through. But still--Shamon Choi--she was controlled by the evil guy. Kim Do-Joo--she was a maid servant who had no power. And Yul loved the sweet innocent virgin he remembered in his dreams, but you don't think that scene where he said he was going to take Mu-deok away showed some lust? He did have to explain it how he was actually being noble at the end.

Anyway, reading over the comments, no one saw it the way I did,so I guess I was overreacting. But in my opinion, many people here are overreacting in the opposite way-it really wasn't that great a fantasy. There was a lot that was inconsistent and confusing. This was true even if you love to see weak women, or once strong women made weak and vulnerable--except when a bell rings, then they'll do literally anything.

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I sort of reacted the same way as you though I was focused mostly on the Naksu/Mudeok character. I also started this with the hope to see a strong female character - sure she is an assassin but I expected her redemption later, first by experiencing how to be humane because she experienced friendship and had seen good in people. However, she got reduced to , yes, a trophy, and most disappointing of all, she only changed because of a man. As if women only had to meet a man and she will be content. Right. What about seeking justice for her and her father, what about fighting evil because it will put Daeho in danger , which includes not just friends but the other ordinary humans who are innocent bystanders? Nope! None of that.

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Thanks for your comment! I was way over the top I know in my initial post (although I did get mad a lot during the show especially the end when I was hoping for a return of the superpowers, if only because Bu Yeon was presumably still there.
When there wasn't any sign of anybody good, and instead Mu-Doek and her various souls were just easily controlled by the simple ringing of a bell, I thought this was just typical of the whole show when it comes to women. (My poor tv watching friend can attest to the number of What the...?!? I she heard as I was watching that last episode. She was mainly disappointed, though that the romance didn't work out!)

Anyway, I'm going to stop posting now, because I got my rant out. It is reassuring to hear that my reaction wasn't totally crazy. I guess I am pretty crazy though! Who cares about whether there are strong women depicted in this dumb fantasy show-no one but me!

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I will never stop complaining about how bad AoS cheated me in with the plot description they gave out - female assassin. Even though there came to be some cool things that got me to stay and watch, it is still cheating.
Changing for a man 😅. I just close my mind so I wouldn't be royally pissed at the whole thingy.
The fact that this turned out to be a romance story was not bad, but using romance as a clutch is disservice to a badass character, the very first and the height of it all being when she wasn't allowed to be with Jang Gang when he entered Songrim and she threw an unpleasant whining tantrum. 'She's Naksu for crying out loud'. Selling a love story between those two after that became a complete no-no.
In writing strong capable women who shake things from the top down, the Hong sisters should take lessons from the writers of Iron Empress and how they wrote out the pivotal ladies. Romance doesn't have to tame people into docile beings. Crazy Love did this to perfection even though I positively hated it.

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@jerrykuvira ... someone was looking for female assassins? oh, I know one, I know one! :P

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So others were grumbling along with me, "Gee, sure is great to be a man in this fantasy world."
Guess I've grown numb to the depiction of women in Kdramas. Every time there's a female character with any agency, she must be humbled somehow. Rant heard.

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While I winced a bit at how much Mudeok changed from a bad-ass assassin to a woman who is girlishly preoccupied with makeup and fashion, I didn't find it hard to accept that she changed so much due to Jang Uk because the show made such a point of highlighting just how much Jang Uk changed because of her. (Cue that scene where the Shaman tells Jin Mu to figure out who appeared in Uk's life at right around the time he stopped being an aimless and useless noble.)

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I do agree with some of your point but I think you're being unfair. How could you overlook Naksu's amazing character. A lonely kid growing up with bare minimals in secluded cave rising up to be better than other same-age jeonjinggak mages who lives in noble luxuries. The discipline she enforced on Wook to drive him to be better to the expense of his life... Seems like a gamble, yet also calculative. How in certain part, she's brave enough to interfere to dissolve the situations, whilst fooling the renowned mages around her (except yul). And how she let go of her power knowing she would have place in that kind of society. This is not modern America, miss... The story's about fictional sageuk Daeho, though fictional still bound by the socioeconomic during that period. Not to mention Buyeon, how she defied Mu regarding the ice stone to the expense of her short life. Well, if you want to pinpoint loopholes, there's a lot but how could you look past these characters and being judgemental on how they made certain decisions based on their situations... I think I've watched too much drama to accept how kdrama logic works 😅

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I agree with a lot of your points. I never expected this drama to be a female centric fantasy because I always knew the main lead is uk, but it was still ridiculous how they decided to write the female characters, especially in comparison with the men. and the world-building too. I know this is a historical setting and it has some of the social values of that time, but it's also a fantasy. they could have done better.

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Hello—could someone please elaborate on these casting news surrounding Jung So Min?

I too find the portrayal of women in Kdramas problematic (most of the time tbh). But in the context of this series, the way I see it is that the women are strong and have existed independently from their male counterparts, it was just in this glimpse of time that their worlds collided with men who needed their help. I do think the women could’ve played a more centre-stage. I was hoping for more glimpses of Naksu’s strength but this is kdrama land.

I am hoping that S2 goes by faster exposition wise (although I didn’t have a problem with the pacing of this particular drama). More badass moves less tilted slow-mo shots!

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She joined AoS when it was already in production stages so she wasn't able to prepare her body to take on Naksu properly. I guess there are some things you'd have to do to be in shape for characters, especially ones that involves action sequences. I was equally unhappy with Jung So-min not in action as Naksu so when I got more info about her joining them mid production, I kind of understood why she was limited and likewise was delighted that the last 20mins had her in action since I've already resigned to fate that I'll see whatever action I was shortchanged here in season 2.

Jung So-min joining mid-production aside does not justify them making her more of a candy and a love sick character and less of a master. Perhaps the writers forgot that she was a strong woman in a weak body, not a Candy in a weak body. I kind of feel like after she joined the Jang household, she was written in a similarity to what Dragon Lady Kwon is to Chairman Kwon. Dragon Lady Kwon is even
a better force to reckon with compared to what the writers turned Naksu out to be.

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Ahhh I see. Thanks for taking time to explain it! It definitely explains why she wasn’t as agile as the original Naksu. I love So Min as an actress (and in Little Forest) so I’d rather have someone like her that’s expressive than someone who can do stunt scenes but unable to portray Mu-Deok/Naksu/Bu-Yeon the same way as her.

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What does being a "candy" mean?

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@britney
A candy is in almost all cases referring to a female character who is characterized as a damsel in distress who can seem to get herself out of the simplest situation so the male lead basically almost saves the day for her. She's written as superficially desirable, attractive, and exciting but can't seem to get things done herself. As such, male lead comes to her rescue every time.

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Candy @britney :
I think it originally comes from the Japanese series Candy Candy. Look up the plot 😁
It is now usually used for this typical poor heroine doing various jobs, being treated poorly by her (step) family... and being pure and full of sacrifice (with a bright smile)... and of course charming the (rich) hero 😁

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I don't think you ever watched this particular Kdrama with the right frame of mind, judging by your self-confessed rant. You definitely are on the minority on this one. It's as if you watched the entire series with the goal of being the feminist police. Calling somebody else's masterpiece as dumb is rude and ignorant.

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I know you felt hurt reading through her comments, I did too. But don't go that harsh on her. I get the reason why critics exist but we are all imperfect and will create only imperfect memories too. That Hong sisters created an imperfect fantasy is incredible, they did well to hold my attention for this long.

If she feel they did women wrong, please let her be. You and I can see the clearer picture so let's hope she do the same too one day.

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LOL, your comment is like reading a feminist article from my literary class.
I'm not dissing you, truly, but I do think you are reading into the show a bit too much. They haven't designed it with a specifically anti-feminist agenda, otherwise you'd have seen a lot worse things happening to the women.

And to play devil's advocate, actually this show is historical fantasy, and in reality, life for women in Joseon was as bad as you described it in your comment. In fact, it was worse, because women in the past had no magic or sword fighting abilities (nor would they be able to defeat a skilled male sword fighter anyway), so yeah it sucked hard balls being a woman before. You really were just male property, to be disposed of as men pleased.

In fact, noble women in the past were not even allowed to leave their house without the permission of a male. Their rooms were separated from the male part of the house and hidden, and visitors couldn't even see them. Women were kept inside, not educated, and solely expected to marry and have kids. The highest thing a woman could achieve was to be praised as a good mother.
So you know what, this show actually elevates Korean women in historical terms, as sad as this sounds.

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Wow.

The hatred is strong with this one.

I wonder how one survives seeing the world through hatred-colored glasses.

The show has been pretty clear that everyone has a different “reality” than what everyone else sees as reality. It is a thread that runs through the stories of the main characters.

Naksu’s version of how her father died differs from the versions of Park-jin, Jang-gang, and even Jin-mu.

Uk’s reality about his parentage, Jin Ho-gyeong’s reality versus her husband’s on Bu-yeon’s parentage - all the realities chosen by the characters are a reflection of their choices.

Your version of reality is filled with hatred - just like Choi and Jin-mu.

That is sadder than the look on Uk’s face as he hugs Mu-deok closer with her sword through his body.

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I see your points... but I am ignoring them.
I am a woman, and I do care about the rights of women in modern society and in general... but I do not care about the rights of fictional women in a fantasy tv program. Because it is not meant to be real.

I don't condemn the writers for the way they managed these female characters - some of whom, let's be honest, were only meant to embody beauty and sex appeal in the first place, and flirt with the guys in the story. Because that is fun to watch. And the quasi-historical setting makes certain social behaviors more fitting and believable. Because, as someone already mentioned, life for women in historical times - not just in Korea, but basically all over the globe - was complete b.s. by today's standards of feminism.

So no, I don't care about the portrayal of women's rights in this show. I don't care about the lack of woman power - although I would argue that there wasn't a complete void in that regard, anyway... It was a pretty period piece filled with pretty people and CGI graphics, and it was fun while it lasted.

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Really liked it. The recap pretty well covers why

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While many of you like to dump on the Hong sisters and (especially) their endings, I have a very different take on them. Yes, I've watched Big & Warm & Cozy, but Master's Sun is one of my favorites, and I quite enjoyed Hotel del Luna, Alchemy, and parts of Hwayugi. The latter was dragged down my the FL but I'm not sure if she was the writers' fault.

Some people complain about the ending of Master's Sun because they introduced a rather pointless new character and stretched things out for 2 episodes after the climax instead of the more normal one hour that other shows spend explaining how everyone goes on with their lives after the action is over. But that was because they got a last-minute one-episode extension and had to slap something together in a rush. The actual climax came late in ep 15 and was one of the best ever. If you haven't seen it you won't know what I'm talking about, so good news! You have to watch the first 15 episodes to understand how well they wrapped everything up, and then you can skip the final 2 days :)

The ending of Hwayugi also seemed fitting. Some people complain about the fate of the FL and don't like how it ended with Monkey just driving off, but that part was great! In the original book, early on before Monkey was tamed, whenever he was upset he just went up to heaven and smashed things until he got what he wanted. So of course he's off to do that again and force the powers to restore the FL (so she can ruin Minamdang, but whatever). Korean & Chinese audiences would largely understand this. It's mostly just other viewers who needed it spelled out for them in exactly the way the show didn't.

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I actually like the idea that Son O Gong will be wreaking havoc some where especially given how he and Jin Seon Mi were used during the series. That is a satisfying idea to me.

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I love the Hong sisters! And I don't think they are better or worse than any writer in writing endings. Endings are hard and rare is the ending that will satisfy most people.

I didn't like Hwayugi's ending because I felt so bad for the FL, and was disappointed. But I'm glad there are some who weren't disappointed. There are few, if any, writers who write as captivatingly as the Hong sisters when creating stories - especially fantastical ones- that can also make you laugh, cry, and feel absorbed in the love languages of their characters' relationships. Even if what they write includes some glaring flaws. I hope they keep on writing as regularly as they do now.

I feel like their work really embodies Mu-deok and now, Uk's, philosophy. Sometimes, there are moments that feel stupid, but rather than look at it that way, I can look at it as an act of vigor.

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Speaking about hwayugi and knowing there are 2 season for aos from the get go, but if drama plans to switch out the FL, at least give us the separation of buyeon/cho yeong at end of s1. Let viewers make their peace that JSM will not be appearing in s2 and make cho yeong's return more credible. They didn't even explain why naksu didn't get to soul shift with her first choice or why mudeok's eyes flash blue. If they can give focus on kim do joo/ park jin he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not circuitous story, why can't they give at least 1 resolution for mudeok/naksu? At least hwayugi is resolved despite an end where the OTP doesn't get together. That said, i have a feeling that this might be that one hong sisters drama where the OTP will have a happy end with uk/cho yeong at end of S2.

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I don't think the Hong sisters are perfect, but they do what they intend to do very well: create rich, creative, and fun worlds and incorporate romance and humour into their stories with witty and clever scenarios. I don't think a lot of their plots are meant to be hardcore or serious like other dramas. What separates them is that the Hong sisters focus on humour and romance as the primary elements to carry their stories, and there is nothing wrong with that! Dramas like Six Flying Dragons (probably not a fair comparison) on the other hand value majestically portrayed and tightly-scripted storytelling to portray a viable version of real historical events. If you think about it, all of the Hong Sister's drama premises on paper sound like a writer's cocaine trip. Coherency in storytelling and plotline is valued but like a secondary purpose to the Hong Sisters. But secondary or not, I personally think they managed to tie their loose ends quite satisfactorily (though never anything mind-blowing) by the end of the dramas I have watched written by them.

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That’s exactly it. I felt bad for all the people who were so intense about Strong women being bad a$$. This is not the Marvel Universe. This is their world. The Hong Sisters made that clear at the very beginning with that explicit intro.

And there was a rich variety of characters to enjoy.

To be honest I expected more ranting and a trashed rating here, and was pleasantly surprised.

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1. So Episode 19 was the finale to Season 1 and Episode 20 was the opener to Season 2? Because that's the only way it makes sense.
2. That's all we get for Jang Gang? Anticlimactic.
3. So Bu-Yeon is just gone now? I guess changing the rules at the last moment is on par with the drama.
4. I'm supposed to believe that Mu really just gave up all his energy so easily?
5. I could go on, but at this point, why? To torture myself with Season 2 or not to torture myself with Season 2? That is the question.

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its imposibble if JBY is just gone GONE
and idk why JBY character is so so popular on tiktok
or maybe because shes so OP and people want to know about her story

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I meant "gone" as in she no longer had control of her body in these types of situations, contrary to what the drama has been showing us all along.

I have no idea what's going on with Tiktok, but she's popular because it's her body that's being used by Naksu, she's also supposedly a very powerful priestess, and her birth secret hasn't been revealed to most of the other characters yet. People want to see her be a more active part of the story because she's the reason Naksu and Uk were even able to meet since Bu-Yeon interrupted Naksu's Alchemy of Souls spell. She obviously did it for a reason that has yet to be explained.

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The finale had me like "WHAT EVEN?!"
I really didn't know how to feel. I still don't know how to feel.
How could they literally just talk about how Jin Mu used Naksu & her father only for the same exact thing to play out again. And now he's going to body swap her and control her some more?!

How could any one trust him?! Even the shaman had said "[you] never fails to disappoint" and whatever else she said. How could people (particularly the royals) NOT realise they were in cahoots? Why give him the chance to turn himself in? If only he was taken in from the start.
The shaman's brother was a player in his own demise. He could have just confirmed everything before he was killed and he didn't. That annoyed me. He KNEW it was Jin Mu's playbook to kill witnesses or loose ends and now Naksu/Mudeok is on everyone's hate list because he didn't divulge about the sorcery cult.

I'm so confused about about his relationship with Buyeon. He wasn't her father but she was somehow the reason he was able to marry into the family? I don't think Jang Gang was her father. I'm confused about that whole situation.

Jang Gang... I don't even know what to say about him. All the talk about his return only for him to disintegrate in front of everyone. I'm probably minimizing his importance; he did absorb what ever the shaman did (even though I don't particularly get how he did it). And I guess he really did just want to share a drink with his son?

Oh poor Jang Uk. ( he looks like he's gonna be so badass in S2/part 2 though haha) but he seems like he's going to be a bit of a darker character and it's understandable given what happened. If only he could've been allowed to leave and be happy with Mudeok.

It's not funny but it's funny how the Songrim leader was like "Jin Mu needs to die because he knows about the king's star" and then Jang Uk just revives while being burned in front of everyone with that mystical, magical, elemental theatrical touch.

Sigh, everyone looked so betrayed with the Naksu reveal especially the blond guy. That hurt to see.

I don't even know what to say about Sol-I because a part of me wants to call her stupid but then she was genuinely trying to help him but seriously! You put the parasite that was going to kill *you* without intervention into the guy without telling ANYONE about it? So now he's just in pain with no real ideas why and unable to treat it. Seriously?!

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Papa Jin was Bu-yeon's father. That's what his wife was telling him at the beginning of Episode 20: He jumped to conclusions and ended up causing the disappearance of his daughter and would have to suffer with the knowledge.

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and the drama also explained that she was out of this world powerful because she was half jin magic and the other from choi the shaman family, which is papa jin's family. or did I misunderstand?

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Nope. It is true. She is half Jin and half Choi, that makes her one of most powerful priestess.

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A mage from the Choi Family was the first one to pick out the ice stone from the hail and perform the alchemy of souls and make soul ejectors from the ice stones. Somehow over the years, the Chois ended up as lower class shamans.

I feel like Jin husbands should be more properly vetted. Makes me wonder if young Ho-gyeong was as headstrong about love as Cho-yeon and the parents just gave in.

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part of me would love a prequel showing a bit of the older gen's youth to see how some relationship/dynamics were formed. the romance, the training. that would be a nice spin-off.

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And just to be shallow, the women got short changed on looks in the Choi family. The original mage and Papa Jin were gorgeous.

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And this is why I need this comment section for when I understand nothing haha

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Yes. It was sad that he thought that Buyeon was not his daughter all along. He even used her to get the ice stone. Although he looked guilty when Jin Mu pushed her on the boat. But that's it.

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Bruh, I too am so confused about the shaman's brother's relationship to Bu-Yeon. How did she "allow him to marry into the family?" Was Bu-yeon a child from a previous marriage? I have so many damn questions.

Hahaaa Sol-i is nuanced but grates on my nerves too; I guess she's a good character because she is hella annoying.

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Bu-yeon is his flesh and blood. There's bad blood between him and Jang Gang so in his defense, I see why he would doubt her paternity the moment he learnt of Jang Gang's involvement in bringing Buyeon's soul back from the dead. Even if he didn't exactly know what Jang Gang did, just hearing 'Jang Gang did this or that...' will set him off.

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Also there's the weird guy hang-up where they think guys who do something super-nice for a girl is either wanting to get with her or is already with her

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I don't understand Korean, so is the translation correct? I hope so, but then it makes me confused as to why Woo-tak said him when it's him fathering Bu-yeon...

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I kind of think Bu-yeon "allowing him to marry into the family" might mean that he and Ho-gyeong were very much together in every sense of the word before they got married, and then her parents had to give in to their marriage because she was pregnant. But he must have always doubted whether Ho-gyeong was with someone else during that time. Talk about insecure.

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@jls943 & @jerrykuvira okay these explanations make a lot of sense. what would i do without dramabeans beanies?

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Yeah, I also feel like it must have been a pregnancy or the family would have chosen a better family to bring in as husband. Like the Seo family must have some guys Ho-gyeong's age. With all those lanterns, the Seo family seems pretty big.

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it's funny how the Songrim leader was like "Jin Mu needs to die because he knows about the king's star" and then Jang Uk just revives
HAHAHAHAHAHA so true. Not very subtle.

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LOL right? 20 episodes and Yuk's entire life spent hiding this secret, and then this guy just casually walks away from his cremation in front of everyone 😳😂

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Underwhelming. That's my verdict for the entire S1.

S1 ended without any closure. Of course, we knew there would be some cliffhanger to warrant a season 2. But not for the story to be left right in the middle.

Jin Bu Yeon - the twist that audience knew about from ep10 or thereabouts - was left unexplored.

Jang Gang - who mysteriously disappeared after creating such havoc - had such underwhelming entrance and exit.

In a fantasy, we accept fantastical elements but there needs to be some logic, some rules so we can get invested in the world building. But AOS creates rules and arbitrarily breaks them.

-The most powerful priestess that can suppress Naksu cannot resist the bell.
-Jang-uk burns only to emerge scot free. Unlike Alathe, since I knew about S2, I felt zero tension during the burning scene. Just annoyance on this mock tension to pull the audience leg.

In fairness, the plot finally moved during ep19/20, after dragging most of the series. But not nearly enough.

The stars acted decently. Lee Jae Wook's acting ability outclasses other idols/actors his age. Crown Prince had a breakout role. Jung So Min's provincial accent Mudeok version was not my favorite, but I saw potential as Jin Bun Yeon and Naksu.

Overall - average, could've been better.

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Like alathe, I too weep at a drop of a hat, but unlike her, nary a tear. I was dry-eyed and was alternating between annoyance and sarcastic laughter. But first the good scenes - the Yul and CP farewell with Naksu/Mudeok were beautifully done (though I felt as annoyed as the CP by her mockery, once again). The Park Jin - Kim Do Joo scenes were entertaining , though it went for too long.

Ep 20 had redeeming parts, but Ep 19 - that entire hour left me feeling dumb. Do the Hong Sisters expect me to believe that that all of a sudden - without any reason - Danggu and Cho Yeon decided to go to Gaema village, and just so happens to see her father and then discover the queen's soul? And that dagger against his father's sword (I was laughing sarcastically at this point) And then that confrontation supposedly to resolve the Queen's story - I mean, why does Park Jin have to explain everything first before letting the shaman/queen in (which I assume is for our sake)? And with all the powerful mages in that room, no one thought of getting that puny dagger from the fake queen and don't tell me they can't do it, because in Ep 20, Ho-Gyeong did exactly that to get the blindfold away from Sol-i. Why did they not arrest Jin-mu during that scene already? And Jang Gang a.k.a deux-ex-machina - he was missing all those years supposedly to look for Cho-Yeong/Naksu , then he came back just at the right moment for his sacrifice ( I was almost in tears at this point, because I was already laughing so hard). When were we told that absorbing the soul ejector gets someone instantly petrified? I thought the soul can be ejected , yes, and the body will die if no soul occupied it. And the King Star - is the ice stone? that got me confused? then what about Jin Bu Yeon?

Ep 20 - mostly fillers then we get the last 20 minutes. There were a lot of soul shifters already in Dae Ho, why is Naksu the only one that gets controlled by the bell? and where was the powerful priestess? I was fully expecting that Jin Bu-yeon who in various other times had actually been powerful enough to save Naksu and Uk. We had already been shown that when Naksu is in danger, or unconscious, Bu-yeon takes over, isn't being a trance equivalent to becoming unconscious? I really thought her becoming possessed was a fake-out and that she would eventually confront Jin-Mu instead (and die in the process - as I was not expecting a happy ending) , but alas, they just made Naksu irredeemable to me.

I am also out for Season 2. I just feel sorry for Go Yoon Jung.. she is a rookie and a promising one at that, I am sure people will blame her for Season 2 not becoming as popular as Season 1. But it is not her fault - it is the writers' fault.

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I think a scene or maybe more was likely cut since the Dang-gu and Cho-yeon trip was completely out of left field. Last I remembered, those two were going to kill time to delay dropping off the Words of the Heart. Then at some point, Songrim did get the Words of the Heart. I wonder if there was a scene of them overhearing something about the village and going there to check it out.

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I think it was shown that they come back with the book? They even asked the guard where everyone is.

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You're right! That must have been in ep 18. Then in ep 19, suddenly they were on a mission.

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I think Naksu was the only one given that powder substance thing that Jin-Mu sprinkled on her, thus allowing Jin-Mu to control only her and not all other soul-shifters. I think it's tragic and entirely plausible that a main character, the same one who died in the beginning and only survived due to a particular form of sorcery, can be susceptible to manipulation to enact evil under a spell. This was, after all, how her father did it.

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The bells came with potions. Makes sense to make a target with the potions/powder or else it would be hard to target commands.

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u cant judge season 2 popularity yet, because what i saw on twitter is everyone are excited for her
every posts about her as og naksu in part 2 always went viral, more than 2k likes

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Yes, you are right, that is in the future. I am glad to know that there are more people excited for her turn, as that is not what I see in the posts and tweets that I do see, people were protesting and saying they wont watch because JSM is not there.

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yes i saw that too
but i believe majority of those tweets are from shippers

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I'm going to miss JSM but GYJ did a very charismatic job in the first episode so it relieves some of the longing for JSM.

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i think jsm will be back for JBY closure?
just like jang gang in part 1, a minor role but very important

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Yup, I'm sure she'll be back too. I'm just going to miss seeing her in the lead role.

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Wow, that’s a great rundown of super-annoying things in ep 19. That whole Queen part was a mess and there was an overwhelming LACK of “mage-ic” going on when it so clearly could have fixed a number of situations 🤦🏼‍♀️

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Ep. 19 was almost entirely my least favorite kind of storytelling, with over half of it devoted to static scenes with characters explaining things to each other out loud. Almost all of those reveals should have happened bit by bit over the last several episodes to allow both the characters and us the satisfaction of putting the pieces together. (Ep. 18 had featured some great moments of that puzzle-solving, especially as Wook, MD/Naksu, the CP, and Yul did some fine non-verbal acting to convey how they were figuring things out based on partial information.) Too much of ep. 19 also showcased characters we haven't been given a reason to give a damn about, like Jin Wu-tak, the Queen, and Shaman Choi. Jang Gang was just a plot device in the end. That was a breakdown in series pacing by the writers, who had too much information to convey and left themselves no option but to tell instead of showing.

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That's a heartbreaker of a screenshot @alathe! 😪 brilliant weecap, as always.
For me episode 19 was the end if season 1, with 20 setting up season 2 and taking things in a different direction. In some ways, I would have liked the happy ending of episode 19 to be it, but I'm already impatient for December!
Highlights: Yul and MuDeok on the bridge, very sweet and poignant. All the scenes with MD and Uk. The scene between Crown Prince and Mu Deok, one could see his fatal flaw of pride and jealousy coming to the fore again. Very toxic if it takes over. I hope he doesn't go to the dark side in season 2.
Finally, the funeral pyre scene. OMG, a dramatic entrance to end them all. Outstanding.
Yes, the machinations with Assistant Gwangu left me cold, but I loved these episodes and drama from beginning to end.
And I loved reviewing all the beanie comments and predictions too! Thanks everyone!❤

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