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Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 1-2

Beanies, we are BACK in Daeho — and I, for one, could not be more delighted! It’s been three years since our heroine delivered a fatal stab to the heart of our hero, and, by extension, every single viewer. (He got better.) (We didn’t.) Now, our resurrected protagonist is shunned by society, still despairing over his lost love. However, a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger might just reignite the embers of old feelings…

 

EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 1-2

It’s been a long time since the assassin Naksu murdered the husband of the Jin matriarch. However, Jinyowon has not recovered, instead remaining sealed for three whole years. A huddle of ill-fated alcohol merchants are lectured by Cho-yeon, whose longstanding familial trauma has — understandably — done nothing for her patience. When one seller is brought inside the grounds, he encounters a strange figure amid the flowers. It’s an eerily beautiful woman (Go Yoon-jung), who approaches with wide eyes… and demands the alcohol flask at his belt. Pressing a finger to her lips, this odd, liquor-swigging fairy darts away.

The merchants’ luck fails again when they enter a street positively brimming with fresh corpses. And, emerging from the mists… Jang Wook. The merchants cower as he draws Naksu’s sword, and — launches into battle with the soul-shifter lurking behind them. Fueled by terrifying magic, Wook’s leveled up tremendously: his swordplay renders the merchants dizzy, and the soul-shifter very, very dead. Still, beneath our hero’s formidable exterior beats a heart that split long ago. Alone by the funeral stones memorializing the forest massacre, all he can do is sit, drink, and think of Naksu.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 1-2

Daeho’s peace is soon rudely shattered by another soul-shifter. She’s pursued by Dang-gu, whose nifty new haircut is complimented by a nifty new title: Leader of Songrim. When the soul-shifter flees to Jinyowon, we learn that it’s been years since Dang-gu’s traded two words with Cho-yeon. Of course, of all the reasons to end an engagement, “you failed to save my father from a brutal assassin” is fairly… irresolvable. While Cho-yeon struggles to stay icy before Dang-gu’s puppydog eyes, Wook deploys his new ability: light speed dash! In an instant, he enters the forbidden Jinyowon.

Here, Wook is drawn to a hidden chamber. He encounters the woman from before — in attack mode! Resolute, she brandishes a fire poker at Wook, the same way someone once brandished a crab stick… Wook, unimpressed by the parallel, flings the poker into the wall. Cue the woman’s delight. He can throw more stuff, if he likes! She can use them as a stepladder — make her escape! Wook, convinced he’s met a sub-par priestess, is resolutely un-charmed by this tomfoolery. Still, he’s struck to the quick when she spies that his powers are fueled by the ice stone. Not so sub-par after all…

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Why has she been shut up? For the crime, she claims, of being alive. This strikes a chord with Wook. His crime is identical, after all. And that’s the story of how our hero spends the rest of his evening chucking random household items at a wall, making one not-especially-tall priestess deliriously happy.

If there’s one thing we learned from last season, it’s that the ice stone’s powers come at a cost. Wook spends most nights downing endless cups of liquor to drown out the wraiths who plague him. Others too paid the price of his resurrection. Do-joo and Jin’s courtship, already glacial at best, has frozen almost to a halt: with Wook to care for, Do-joo won’t marry. Jin, meanwhile, was forced to step down as Head of Songrim, in exchange for Wook’s freedom. He now staves off the boredom of retirement by making horrible homemade kimchi with which he torments his loved ones. Wook, now an ominous figure in Daeho society, lurks like a shade in the empty Jeongjingak, emerging only to a) kill soul-shifters, and b) poke fun at the crown prince who rewards him for killing soul-shifters. Neither Won nor his ever-animated eyebrows are amused. Falsely hailed as the King’s Star, he got everything he wanted from Wook — and damned if Won will ever forgive him.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 1-2

We return to our priestess. For argument’s sake, let’s call her Jin Bu-yeon; it’s certainly what Cho-yeon and Ho-gyeong have been calling her. Ho-gyeong has plans for the captive she hails as daughter. Bu-yeon is to be married! Her husband-to-be is of the Seo family, newly arrived from Seoho Fortress. (Yul fans, I can almost hear your squeals!) But Ho-gyeong is clear about one thing: this is no ticket out of Jinyowon. No — whatever made Bu-yeon think that? Instead, her husband will come here. Bu-yeon will live a long, productive life in this very room, popping out heirs to Jinyowon.

Unreconciled to this grisly fate, Bu-yeon seeks a solution in Wook’s makeshift staircase. If she can just find her fiancé and persuade him to free her…! Time’s running short; the tracking bracelet bound to her wrist will soon broadcast her whereabouts. From what she can glean from gossip, her fiancé is likely to be Seo Yul, one of Daeho’s most eligible bachelors. But, oh, how I have missed being trolled by the Hong sisters! At the docks, she walks smack past a returning Yul, taking refuge in a random boat. She’s not the only one seeking Yul, though — also lurking at the docks is So-yi! I’m delighted that endearing little scoundrel smuggled her way into this season.

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Bu-yeon is carried down a canal… where she spots Eligible Bachelor #4, the ice-cold Jang Wook, standing atop the same bridge where someone once threw him a love letter. Bu-yeon’s expression is beautifully familiar. It’s the look of our heroine hatching a scheme. Wook and Bu-yeon settle at a cafe, where Bu-yeon gets temporarily derailed by an enticing smell. Some things, according to the Hong sisters, transcend death: true love, the ice stone’s power… and the assassin Naksu’s love of chicken. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Our heroine has a pitch to make. She is Bu-yeon, heir to Jinyowon, whose beauty is unparalleled… and she wants Wook to be her husband.

To Bu-yeon’s chagrin, Wook proves unsympathetic to her logic — plus, annoyingly unmoved by her beauty. It’s only later, over dinner with his friends, that he reconsiders. Dang-gu, having heard that a daughter of Jinyowon is to be wed, embarks on the important business of getting drunk and weepy over Cho-yeon. Yul refuses to eat a single mouthful of Jin’s latest crime against home cooking, whilst serenely suggesting that his friends eat up. Meanwhile, Wook has a quiet word with Jin. Could a sufficiently powerful priestess extract the ice stone from within him? Despite what his latest take on homemade deodeok would suggest, Jin’s no fool. Removing the ice stone would mean Wook’s death — a prospect that seems not to faze Wook one whit.

On the day of Bu-yeon’s wedding, she is primped, powdered, bound up in silks, and — despairing — is steered by boat to her fate. However, halfway through her journey, the water rises up in torrents. Both she and the boat disappear. Bu-yeon emerges on a different shore, sailing towards a stone-faced Wook — who grudgingly admits she may have some use after all. Beaming at this pronouncement, she throws herself into his arms.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 1-2

She pulls back and grins. Then, hugs him again. Despite these hints, he unhelpfully refuses to carry her. Rude! Has he seen how many layers she’s wearing? Wook suggests she remove some. Patiently, she informs him that a wedding night in the woods seems inappropriate. There’s a resoundingly awkward pause. All of a sudden, Wook finds himself wrongfooted in a way he presumably hasn’t felt in approximately… oh, three years?

The two return to the Jang household, although not without a dazzlingly nostalgic moment in which they stare into one another’s eyes — okay, okay, for purely practical purposes. Bu-yeon is an amnesiac; Wook was just checking to see if she’s a soul-shifter! (She isn’t.) (Apparently.) Do-joo is greeted by the second-weirdest engagement announcement she’s ever had from her master — which, considering his eight ex-fiancees (at least one of whom stabbed him), is truly saying something. Still, after a moment’s shock, she responds with the sangfroid of a woman who’s suffered Wook’s shenanigans for years, ensuring his new bride is fed, bathed, and clothed.

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True to form, it’s not long before Bu-yeon’s found liquor to steal. When Wook levels her with a look that spells hands off my booze (tough talk from a man who’ll merrily down poison if left unsupervised), she offers it back to him, unrepentant. Consider it a wedding drink! Here, their (very) nascent courtship hits a snag. Wook hesitates: why rush their wedding night? Because, sputters Bu-yeon, summer nights are short! And — day-drinking is unhealthy! (Good lord, I have missed this nonsense. Judging by Wook’s surprise, so has he.)

With a flourish, Wook extinguishes the lights. Placing the last lantern before Bu-yeon, he challenges her to snuff it out using her much-vaunted divine powers. It’s a relic; it won’t go easily. Bu-yeon crumples. She cannot. She lost them years ago, alongside her memory. Remorseless, Wook tells her to get out. Bu-yeon’s anguished eyes would fell a lesser man, but all Wook does is take her hand — snapping the tracking bracelet.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 1-2

Elsewhere, Ho-gyeong is on the warpath. She publicly confronts Songrim, accusing its new leader of abducting the woman he took for Cho-yeon… Jin Bu-yeon. Shock ripples through the crowd. Bu-yeon is alive? … For real, this time? Still, as Yul confirms, Dang-gu has done nothing other than drunkenly sob all night. This, Yul judges, came as a disappointment to Cho-yeon. Privately, he gives Dang-gu some highly dubious advice: next time, abduct her! After all, Yul’s own romantic woes have taught him never to walk away.

Ho-gyeong, meanwhile, confronts the only person capable of giving her answers… Master Lee. Three years ago, Ho-gyeong recovered her daughter’s petrified body. Master Lee judged that Bu-yeon’s soul was irretrievable; it was too bound up in Naksu’s. A heartbroken Ho-gyeong, faced with no other option, chose to preserve her daughter’s body — even at the expense of saving the soul of her murderer. The body’s features steadily grew to match Naksu’s. Now, Naksu retains none of her memories, believing she is Bu-yeon. However, by Master Lee’s reckoning, if Bu-yeon’s divine powers ever return, Naksu’s memory will likely follow.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 1-2

As for Wook? He never saw Naksu’s original face. Now, he lets her leave without a word. However, there’s one power Bu-yeon still possesses: the ability to see energy. There’s a fisherman possessed by something from a lake — something moving inexorably towards the Jang residence. Fearless as ever, Bu-yeon follows it into the house, reaching the bathtub for which she once drew water for Wook. Now, she sees the monster hiding within its depths. It yanks her under. Like so many times before, she breathes in water — only for Wook to catch her before she drowns.

Strange monsters are a semi-regular occurrence in the Jang household. The survivors must be kept warm. And so, just as Bu-yeon once held a freezing Wook close, Wook stays by her bedside all night. Turns out, there’s one more thing that transcends death. The love between Wook and Naksu? Absolutely! But also, Wook’s instinct to drink whatever beverage is put in front of him. Absentmindedly, he downs the “wedding drink” Bu-yeon offered him earlier.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 1-2

The next day, Bu-yeon is informed that Wook ordered three days’ worth of medicine for her. It’s practically an invitation to move in! However, there’s more important news: posters of Bu-yeon’s face are plastered over Daeho. Bu-yeon is thrilled — it must be her fiancé’s doing. Why bet on Wook’s wavering feelings when there’s a man out there who clearly loves her? Scorning the medicine, she waltzes out in search of Yul. But, she’s stopped short by a flashback to the night before, of Wook drinking from the wedding cup.

As such, when she meets Yul, it is to convey her deepest regrets. Yul is very handsome — it’s only natural to waver when meeting a handsome man. (And ding goes the callback-o-meter!) However, her heart belongs elsewhere. Yul nods. This makes sense. Sort of. Actually, he’s a little unclear on… why she’s telling him this? Bu-yeon was betrothed to his uncle. Bu-yeon laughs in relief. Now she has no regrets! Alas, no sooner than she announces this, she walks right into the Jin security guards.

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Bu-yeon’s recapture sets several events into motion. SEO YOON-OH (Do Sang-woo), Yul’s uncle, ends the betrothal on the basis of the queen’s disapproval. There’s a more urgent reason behind their return to Daeho: Yul requires treatment for the side effects of the blood worm squatting in his veins.

Meanwhile, Ho-gyeong folds Bu-yeon into her loving, maternal arms… then, lovingly and maternally, installs a new tracking device under her skin. With a needle. Following the advice of Mu — who’s stuck to Prince Won like political Teflon — she has a plan to bolster the Jin family’s flagging reputation. Namely: to announce the stunningly powerful Jin Bu-yeon as official heir. The ceremony will be a thing of grandeur, and Won is determined to miss it. Last time he saw Bu-yeon, he got trapped in a barrier, don’t you know? It was foggy! There was rain! Eunuch Oh, with the air of a man who has heard this story countless times, shudders sympathetically.

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Wook, meanwhile, is disdainful. Jin’s latest innovation in cooking has been to make meju with red beans — an impossible task. It seems Ho-gyeong is doing the same with her daughter. But then, he happens to glance at the lantern by his window. It’s dark.

As the Unanimous Assembly gather, Bu-yeon steps before them. All of a sudden, the lights flicker out. Wook comes striding into the room, newly-lit lantern burning. The mages murmur; he ignores them, eyes fixed on Bu-yeon. She left, he says, without taking her medicine. Now, he’s here to check something. If she can extinguish the lantern, he’ll take her with him. At Bu-yeon’s hesitation, he turns to leave. She catches him by the hand — and the lantern falls dark. Wook turns to the Unanimous Assembly. Jin Bu-yeon cannot become heir of Jinyowon, he announces. She is already married to Wook.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 1-2

Chills. Absolute chills. They’ve done it again — and I am a sucker for this love story no matter what form it takes. I was apprehensive when I learned about the amnesia plotline, because those so often feel pointless. This one has been done so deftly that I’m in awe. Go Yoon-jung accomplished the impossible; down to every last cadence and narrowing of the eyes, she feels so authentically Naksu it leaves me breathless. It’s a recognizably new take on an existing character: an exploration of who our heroine could have become if she didn’t have an assassin’s training — or an assassin’s trauma. We saw flickers of it in Jung So-min’s character when she considered becoming someone different. Now, we’re seeing the possibilities play out beautifully.

And the role reversal of it all! Instead of an untrained Wook determined to reach his potential to help Naksu, we see an untrained Naksu obliged to do the same for Wook. And as for Wook — wow! He’s become a different kind of romantic hero — the brooding, dangerous, seemingly indifferent one that Naksu embodied previously — and I adore it, because we know exactly where it comes from. This season is gorgeously colored by a kind of Beauty and the Beast aesthetic: even the Jang household, which we know of old, has the misty, shadowed feel of an enchanted palace. And speaking of reversals, it’s no coincidence that while the byword of last season was poison, this season’s overriding metaphor is medicine. I can’t wait to see our protagonists learn to help each other heal.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 1-2
 
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So glad to see that Jang Uk has not lost his unquenchable desire for grand dramatic entrances. What a shame that would have been. I’m loving his new look too, and the way he lets the top layer of his robes hang open as if he cannot possibly be bothered to tie it. Obviously I was expecting his skill to be unmatched at this point, but he looked so so cool fighting the soul-shifters, and almost bored. I guess that has been his only purpose for a while. I’m just grateful he seems so relatively well adjusted. With the level of trauma he went through, I half expected to meet the photo negative version of Jang Uk who doesn’t care about anything or anyone and might just kill everyone around him at any moment.

I made an embarrassingly delighted sound when Joo-wol went into her introduction of the most eligible bachelors in Daeho and called back so strongly to her introduction of the Four Seasons. She also wins the award for the best advice anyone’s ever given in this show, “You should never date a man with a past as painful as a stab to the heart.” Wise words, Joo-wol, wise words.

I wish I was surprised by Mama Jin’s disgusting behavior, but I’m honestly not. Her decision to keep her daughter’s body alive even though it now has a different soul in it (and doesn’t even look like Bu-yeon anymore) is right in line with all the other decisions she’s made regarding this issue. I don’t think she’ll ever be able to let her go. It’s so gross that she was legitimately trying to breed this prisoner that she’s psychologically manipulated. On the other hand, I was excited to get confirmation that the alchemy of souls that led to Bu-yeon and Naksu’s union was not a normal one, and that Bu-yeon was in control of it. I think now we might finally get what a bunch of Beanies thought we were getting in Part 1: a single body with the powers of Naksu and Bu-yeon combined.

They’re really setting up the parallels to the events of 200 years ago hard at this point. We have the drought, we have the man born under the King’s Star, and soon we’ll have the high priestess back. It makes me feel pretty confident that the ending will be bittersweet at best; I can’t see our all-powerful couple just allowed to exist happily ever after. They’ve been very clear that this amount of power is not normal, and that a single person isn’t meant to have it.

Honestly one of my favorite things while watching these episodes was hearing the theme songs that go with various people and various places pop back up. Watching Part 2 with the benefit of the Part 1 soundtrack already out is proving to be rewarding on its own.

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Yes, to all!
And I am actually more creeped out by Mama Jin this season. Last part, she was so desperately searching for her daughter and so twisted by grief. But now that she has Bu-yeon's body with the hated Naksu inside it's like she both hates and loves this daughter. She needs the blood/power in it to preserve her own power and the whole purpose of the Jin family in keeping all those intimidating and powerful relics but her methods for doing that are warping her further and further.... creepy

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Agreed! I actually think this makes her character really interesting, but no less despicable. I really love how consistently she's written too. If you explained the situation to me and asked what I thought she would do given the choices she has, I feel like I would be able to predict them based on her past actions, and I really appreciate that.

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YOU GUYS. Something I did not see until I was watching a clip on youtube (the one where Uk and Bu-yeon/Cho Yeong are in a cafe and he orders chicken for her but turns down her proposal) is that when Uk uses energy, it stays concentrated on Bu-yeon/Cho Yeong's hand for a moment. He gets up to leave, slams his (hmm, actually Naksu's...) sword onto the table in a burst of blue energy, and the blue wisps linger on her right hand briefly. I have to think either the sword knows her and recognizes her, or she is starting to be able to control energy again, or both. So exciting!

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I saw that! But I didn’t know what to make of it. At first I thought the energy was attracted to her bracelet, but that’s on her other wrist - although both hands are on the table. I like your idea!

There are so many moments in these episodes. I’ll probably have to rewatch before Saturday - but FFing through all the kimchi nonsense.

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Yeah, the bracelet was on the left, and it definitely looked like the energy lingered on the right. I could be totally wrong, but those are my best guesses so far!

I know I'm probably the only person alive who felt this way, but I didn't mind the kimchi nonsense. It's Park Jin, did we expect him not to be clueless about some things now that he and Do-joo have a better understanding of each other? It's not like his entire personality changed because he figured out that she liked him. Also, it's such a classic depiction of a person in an intense leadership role who was forced to give it up before they were ready and now doesn't really know what to do with their time. I'm cutting him some slack.

Totally agree about he moments! I'm not ready to rewatch yet (the drama pace has been so fast lately, I don't know where I'd find time), so I'm very thankful to have youtube clips to relive some of the moments at least. And I am excited to rewatch the whole thing at some point!

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I think the sword recognizes its owner. That rule is already established in S1.

This would also explain the baffling reason for why JU chose to wield the sword of Naksu when killing soul shifters.

Like a Grim Reaper, he is hoping against despairing hope that perhaps, just perhaps, he may look up and meet her blooming eyes one day -- before the point of her sword pierces her heart.

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I was also happy hearing all over again the familiar songs and bgm's especially that one used for Wook or Naksu(when they showed her actually put out the candle) that they obviously didn't bother to include in the official OST album...

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Quick thoughts:

1) First off - I think the 3-year narrative jump works well. It short-fused the plot progression and allows us to dive in media-res when everyone has settled into the emotional tonality and relational dynamics that would largely rule and direct their actions for the remaining 10 eps.

Also, practically speaking we need that hiatus for
(a) the petrified Naksu to be reconstituted from dried powder back to a 3yo fresh dewy-eyed maiden
(b)  Uk to achieve uber-power Hwansu becoming the strongest man in Daeho and just felling soul shifters like a walk in the park.    

2) Loved all the mirrored parallels, nostalgic callbacks, inversions and even theme variations! (very nice shorthand to ease us back into the themes & dynamics of S1) I think many have been noted - just wanna add a couple more to the list:
(a) Inversion: JU stand-offishly telling Naksu to kindly back OFF (he is not used to people standing so close to him) contrast with S1 when he territorially insists he is the only one allowed to stand so close to Naksu cos no one else can see her eyes
(b) Variation: Naksu now associates JU with blossoming roses (esp scent); in S1 JU gazes into her eyes and tells her meaningfully: Your eyes are blooming (a floral reference).

and of course, not to forget the wild card allusion to her possible ancestor/reincarnation Jin Seol-ran (whose name literally is blooming orchid in white snow). We must also note that Jang Uk represents WINTER (c.f. S1E1 intro of the 4 great mage houses of Daeho)  

3) Light/Darkness: Love all the nuances and layers that the writers/directors are playing wrt this metaphor. Their clothes, their personality contrast and flip, their relational dynamics, and even the callback to S1:
(a) she follows him like a shadow (or hustler LOL) wearing him down for a marriage proposal
(b) in S1E11: when Kim Doo Ju prepares a memorial service for Cho Yeong and father, she asks: is there an evil spirit lingering around my young master in this household? (Naksu has returned as a wraith, but a different kind)
(c) Emotionally, her death & his grief lingers and follows JU like a shadow too (and visually symbolized by her sword he chooses to wield instead of his father's)  

4) So many unresolved narrative threads we need to tie up in S2! (the suitors! the blood worm! the ice stone! the drought! the bells! climbing the tall tree! and of course the villains)

5) totally looking forward to how they will use my favourite jade eggs as GPS trackers and Naksu's sword too. (no more impersonators pls) With the alluded return of her memories/powers, I can't wait for our OTP to join forces and kick ass. 

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Going back to old episodes and recaps while waiting for the last 2 episodes, this comment is a gem - I love it!

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Your comment has aged so well now that we've seen the finale. Haha

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This recap got me excited to watch the new season! Can't wait to read the rest of your recaps @Alathe, your enthusiasm is contagious.

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The chemistry between LJW and GYJ holy hell! I am so mesmerized when they share a scene, this is what season 1 missed.

Uk slowly falling in love with the same person is so romantic to me. LJW is such a great actor, you can see Bu Yeon is getting to him. There are these little moments when Bu Yeon says something that touches his heart, and the subtle facial expression changes are just.. I love love love to see talented actors performing.

GYJ is amazing too. So many go over the top with the innocent/cute acting but she can balance the cuteness and helplesness so well, I want to protect her too. No wonder no matter how hard Uk is trying to keep her out of his life, she is still getting under his skin. I would watch this kind of dynamic a little bit more, I wouldn't mind if he only found out the truth about her around the half mark of the season.

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It's so interesting how things hit people differently - I whole-heartedly agree about Lee Jae Wook's acting ability and how he can project so much with the slightest expression, but I feel like he's doing all the work of trying to create chemistry here and I'm getting very little actual connection or emotion from her. GYJ is doing a great job of trying to replicate MuDeok's cadence and speaking pattern but I'm getting very little spark from her. Maybe that's intentional, like she's just a blank vessel? At any rate, I feel like there's way more chemistry between Jang Uk and Prince Won than between BuYeon and Uk.

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I agree... I find Go Yoon Jung's expressions a bit bland. I can't help but compare with Jung So-Min, I just came off of a marathon rewatch of season 1. I don't expect her to be a copycat of S1's Mu-deok/Naksu, but it would be great to get the same intensity. Fingers crossed she'll get more comfortable with her character as the episodes go on.

Lee Jae Wook is flawless, as usual. He's perfectly able to maintain a picture of the old Jang Wook, but making him much darker and intensifying the bad traits that used to be only slightly amusing -- him carelessly trading marriage with getting what he wants, his haughty snobbishness, his blunt honesty, his dismissive irritability. Where there used to be a twinkling of mischief, now there's just weariness and resignation.

I feel like the only reason for the actress switch is because the show needed an excuse for Jang Wook to not recognize Mu-deok/Naksu without giving HIM amnesia. Haha... I'm not against the story, though. The logic checks out, and I have high hopes season 2 will be another magical ride.

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Same! Like I said somewhere below, I find GYJ verryyy bland. She was compelling as assassin naksu but not here. I can see her trying her best to "act" the role but there is no emotional connection or depth here. He's so intense so he kinda overpowers her i feel, and yes the chemistry creation all comes from him. I didnt feel that LJW and JSM had alot of chemistry either in S1 (it also felt like he was generating more than his share of the chemistry), but she at least was intense as mudeok and had leading lady gravitas. Like I can watch her for hours, but GYJ doesnt capture my interest at all when she comes on screen. Even in bts stuff, she doesnt seem emotionally into the character, it's all abit weird.

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LJW and JSM not having much chemistry as a romantic pair is something I never dared to admit, but I actually agree *sad*

The master-servant/teacher-student dynamic was too strong for me to see them as equals. I just couldn't feel any romantic tension from JSM, perhaps it was intentional because Naksu didn't really want to give in to her feelings? Oh well.

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Yup it is difficult to admit - and you get shot down when you do, personal experience - because everywhere everyone seemed to be sooo into their chemistry and interaction/relationship. I just didn't feel it at all from her and felt like she was holding back quite alot. Maybe her character was written to be that way - intentional like you said - as chemistry is v heavily dependent on writing and directing as well. Tbh, I'm not overly fond of the execution of the drama across the 2 seasons, but that's a story for another day! haha. And yes it was the same for me, because it was set up to be a master/servant and mentor/mentee sorta rlshp, it was so front and centre that any sort of romantic chemistry also felt odd, like it felt wrong lol. And I thought that the series was better off without the romantic tension angle, because it was kinda half-arsed and so one-sided anyway. The series is actually all abt Jang Uk and his story/journey/growth, so perhaps the authors focused on fleshing that out the most also, and that's where the chemistry was also created. I felt the FL in particular (Mudeok and now it seems this new FL) just exists to propel his growth/story forward, like they exist only because of him/their story revolves ard him. Hence we don't really get to see much of their growth/emotions from them (I also get a sense they are not very well-developed and it seems to be a pattern of Hong Sis to completely flesh out 1 main character, like Jang Manwol in Hotel Del Luna and neglect the other lead (Yeo Jin Goo's character). And it's one of my biggest criticisms of this show in general, as I strongly dislike female characters being used as plot devices to propel a male character's growth. But well, Ig it's just a personal peeve.

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@Evelyn agree that the writing and direction have a lot to do with bringing out chemistry. Oh well, the lack of romantic spark doesn't take away my love for the show. I'm here for the story, the world of Daeho, and Wookie's journey anyway ♥️

Perhaps Naksu could get a spinoff?? There's a lot to her story as well

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I would love a Naksu spinoff. Her backstory is actually really interesting. She's also more compelling as a character than Jang Uk for me.

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Beanies, I totally agree with you all in this corner of the room LOL!

actually it was a bit befuddling to me cos she made such a strong impression as the beautiful and badass Naksu in just the first 10 minutes of S1E1. Then here, she is anemic.

LJW & JSM have great chemistry and camaraderie as Master-Servant, as Soul Mates, as Partners in Crime, as Master-Pupil. And that is truckloads more than many other screen couples can ever hope to muster up to burn our screens & brand our drama memories.

Tbh, I can see the logic of why their romantic chemistry score pales in comparison to the above -- it makes perfect narrative & evolutionary sense (like Maslow's hierarchy of needs).

The personal stakes are so high for them respectively and collectively that the romance (deep and true though it may be) is muted. BUT it is not lesser. It is just like deep waters running quietly underneath the rocks, and not a flashy noisome waterfall.

But once we see S1 & S2 as one continuous story, we will stop making that comparison. Instead we can perhaps interpret ( JSM & GYJ) as a bundle package; an emotional continuum of that one complex universe we call Naksu.

That once we have fulfilled the most basic & urgent needs of survival we can level up to explore and develop the other hitherto suppressed parts of us that had to go into hiding because of draconian or traumatic circumstances. So in S2 we may get the full-blast romance lol.

Whether in Joseon times or AD 2022, a man of independent financial means is always sexy and a great marriage prospect. And we do know (thanks to Master Lee) that JU has the monopoly on the soul-shifter slaying biz and is now the most powerful man in Daeho as well as fast becoming the richest one too. Hmmmm

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To be honest, because of the back story and the expectations built up, for me part 2 is a bit bland. There are snippets that are fun but that is it. Even UK’s grief is left for us to interpret as we like and it is implied. It is not shown. I am like poor him he faced so much and then when the new lady comes near him, he is not as rude or brusque as he should be. He is actually kinder and cares more than I would have thought. There is no inner dialogue to say that something about her makes me do it. Maybe I should just shut up and not be too disappointed with the director/creators.

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Gosh, anemic is just the word I couldn’t think of to describe the new Naksu. She’s so pale, so filtered, wearing such bland clothing and with such draggy hair. There’s no energy there, even with the quick quips and conniving actions. Is she styled to convey the blank slate-ness of her being, will we get a makeover? I for one hope so.

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OmG you have said it. hong Sisters bug me for the same reason. They concentrate on one and the other becomes a tool for the development of another. I felt MD was that for UK’s/King’s star arch.
On another note, I don’t know what but something is missing. Part 2 is fun and lighter than I expected. I just don’t understand UK’s reactions now and I wish they would have shown his process.
At this point I don’t feel a lot. Uk is very well adjusted except for she who must not be named.

I expected more out of Part 2 and I am disappointed. This feels like a simple fairy tale of a naive and cute heroine falling in love with a dark hero who has a sad back story. The hero moves on after meeting the new heroine. And the new innocent lass feels too new.

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It's all making so much more sense now, Beanies. It must be the time skip :(

I, for one, want to see the direct fallout of the leads' deaths -- I want to be right there with Ukie when the world as he knew it ended, and to see how he learned to control his new powers without Naksu guiding him. Also see how the other characters changed, and how the world of Daeho fell into the darkness that permeates it now.

Uhhh... Is this what amnesia feels like? Did the writers intentionally plop us into the story 3 years later to give us this experience, or am I putting too much faith in them?! Lol

But really, for all my complaints about what could've been, I'm still immensely enjoying the show and looking forward to it weekly.

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Hey sorry I'm seeing your comment late. Yes, Hong sis havent written anything good to me since master's sun - and that was also another weird plot that worked because GHJ and SJS are seasoned actors who can generate chemistry. I've dropped all their other works since. Yes I also dropped AOS S1 at some point cos I got frustrated at how Uk was made to be some star of the show and MD was treated second class and used as a plot device to further his development.
I've since dropped S2 (at ep 4?) because it feels like I'm watching a totally new show. Yes! I don't understand Uk's reactions here and Buyeon/whatever her name is annoy me - both the character and the actress. It turned out exactly as how I predicted - that it will feel like Uk is falling with another girl altogether and that's exactly how it is playing out. This buyeon/whatever has zero continuation from Naksu/MD of S1 it's like watching a newly created character.
And yes to ur last para! I feel like im watching some middle school romance between a tsundere character and a naive annoying maiden. Where's the alchemy in all this? Also the villians are still ard and nobody is doing anything to them except flinging random insults, treating them like annoying colleagues/neighbours. It's all kinda silly tbh

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@noone - hey! i replied to your other comment earlier and yes I no longer understand Uk's reactions. He is this brooding grieving person yet there has not been a single mention from him as to what he is grieving about. I may not have been watching closely, but they completely eliminated mudeok from the show, it's like she didnt exist and he can't speak of her in the dialogues hence we are left to infer that he could be upset that she's no longer in his life. Yet for someone so upset that the love of his life is gone, he goes ahead and lets this weird new woman jump on him, kiss him (kisses her back) etc. Yes there's no dialogue and nothing to show that he's interested in her that he'd forget mudeok except, guess what? Her beauty and "cuteness". puh-lease. They could have gone any route but chose the most superficial one and expect the audience to just be okay with it. I'm not gonna be watching anymore of hong sis dramas from now on. Ppl are very hyped up by it now but a few mths down the road will realise what a silly waste of time this whole thing was.

@bbstl - yes! over-filtered. made to look very pale, styled a certain way to convince the audience/Uk that shes this drop-dead gorgeous creature. I for one am not buying it. Low energy, bland, one-note. It's like I'm watching a middle school romance - something I didn't sign up for. I'm not holding my breath for the makeover - it's already almost at the end and we still aren't getting any "upgrade". They literally created this new FL with no continuation from S1. like wad is the point even of S2?

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Amnesia. Of course. Because kdrama.

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I can't help wondering if the Hong sisters are sending a subtle request to someone to stop making food for them.

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New FL isn't bad by any means, but I liked her more in badass warrior mode and I hope we get that back before long.

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So I was very curious: why CAN'T you make meju with red beans? I understood that meju was fermented soybeans, but wouldn't red beans also ferment? I'm thinking you could very well make a perfectly good meju with red beans, but the Hong sisters have a thing against modernist cuisine, having one too many meals with of individual grains of rice with kimchi foam or freeze-dried tteokbokki crumbles on ice cream. (Both of which sound pretty good to me, now that I made them up!)

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Um, @hacja, you're in the wrong drama. Business Proposal is two doors down the hall. Ask for Shin Ha-ri.

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I'm just a little sensitive to the ridicule that an older man exploring creative cooking techniques is receiving in this drama. The fact that the world building here is hostile to culinary experimentation is major flaw in this fantasy, in my opinion.

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when I saw that bathing vat of radish kimchi, I was inspired to hit pause and go straight to the kitchen to eat a bowlful! Yum!

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@bbstl In all seriousness, I am excited to learn that you, like me, are making kimchi. Over the last year, in what I know indicates my very strange kdrama obsessions, I've been trying to make any dish I can identify on various shows, plus in general I've been trying to make a lot of korean foods. In fact, tonight we had as a side dish to grilled pork, pickled radish (the recipe I used called it danmuji, I AM NOT claiming that what I made is danmuji) that I made a week ago. Its very simple, of course, but overall making and eating fermented and pickled foods (and unfortunately, drinking a lot of fermented beverages, and I'm not talking kombucha) is something I'm very comfortable with! On another thread, I'd be delighted to learn your radish kimchi tips.

Red Bean meju, though is not something I'm going to try. Even soybean meju seems like a lot of fermenting. I love this video, though--drying and fermenting blocks of soybeans as Christmas ornaments! Next year, these will be festively strung around my house! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ8xHD-vyeA

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Oh dear, @hacja, I am caught out. My kimchis (regular cabbage, cubed radish and others) are commercially made in Chicago and come to me in labeled jars via my local Korean grocer. I commend you on your determination and success in Korean cooking!👏🏽

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@bbstl I'm sure, in fact I know, your commercial kimchi is far better than what I laboriously make by hand. Of course, it sure is handy when we need to slap some sense into my daughter!

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I think they just like making fun of themselves. They said MD was short but lady with no memory isn’t tall either.
park Jin’s cooking is supposed to be symbolic. It sometimes feels slow but more of less it is hinting at the status of the situation or the characters.

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So a year or two ago a company in Korea started making red bean meju, I think they had to add a bunch of ingredients and use different bacteria.

I think the reason you couldn't do it using the traditional methods is that most things you want to ferment you're looking for sugars , soybean has solid sugar content, adzuki beans have essentially no sugar in them so nothing for the bacteria that are used to ferment soybean to eat.

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@firestar Thanks for reply. I thought maybe it was the low oil content in red beans, but of course, that wouldn't affect fermentation, just how well they'd stick together in blocks.

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That could definitely be it too, soybeans are high in oil/fat, adzuki have very little. Honestly they're both beans, but they're very different in structure/content so you'd expect very different results from the same process.

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Fascinating! Honestly, the things you learn on DB! 👏🏽

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I’m so impressed at GYJ’s delivery of lines - she sounds so much like Jung So Min!!! This will be such an interesting experiment if the audience will be able to accept the switch of main actress, but to me, GYJ is doing amazing (and I say this as a huge JSM fan). So glad everyone else is back and better than ever - love the delicious angst between all our couples and I am so eager for a satisfying conclusion to the story. Please please please be satisfying! You can’t separate Jang Uk and Naksu again!!! Please!!!!!!!

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Can't go I to details 'cos I'm meant to be asleep. @alathe, I've been checking for the review. It was so wonderfully done that I read each paragraph more than once.

As for the drama, I kinda wished Naksu wasn't clueless, but no problem. I can deal. I really kinda enjoyed the two episodes but I don't know what to say about it yet. It felt feeling like something was missing and when the fake Bu-yeon mentioned Mu-Deok's name, I lighted up. I guess I really miss that energy.

This isn't bad but I still feel lost in it.

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agree! it’s “not bad” so far, but “something feels missing”.. keeping fingers n toes crossed

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W and N sure have chemistry but it is not easy to paper over the absence of a heroine such as Mudeok so easily. I hate that no one is mentioning her. I haven’t yet watched Ep2 but Ep 1 had a Mudeok shaped hole which no one filled.

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I agree with you, but I think after the horrible bells incident everyone knows Mu-deok as Naksu, and It’s a painful memory to bring up especially in front of Jang uk. I do like Go Yoon-jung as Naksu and I do think she has chemistry with Jang uk. But at the same time I wish the clueless amnesia plot will be done away with quickly, we’ve dealt with the whole naive heroine in many a Kdrama already.

What I like about Naksu is that she is sarcastic and ruthless. Go Yoon-jung also displayed those traits in the first episode last season. The something feeling off in my opinion is the complete absence of Jung So-min. That’s why I’m theorising and hoping that Jung So-min will make a cameo at the end as the real Bu-yeon. The absolute non-appearance of an actress who was pivotal for two thirds of the drama feels a little tasteless to me.

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I don't think a cameo is likely to happen anymore, now that the explanation for her appearance is that the original body is Bu-yeon's, but she's morphed to resemble the original body of the soul inside, Cho Yeong.

I understand the things that attracted you to the character originally, but I think that Alathe is right that what we're seeing here is a version of Naksu that doesn't have the trauma of her past driving everything she does. I really love seeing that she still has qualities that make Uk stop short, or throw him off balance just like she did before.

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@linarrick: You said it. A little tasteless and then some. I understand actors have jobs, they treat them as such and move on but as viewers - without descending into unhinged fandom behaviour - we are encouraged to like, love or despise those characters for artistic and commercial imperatives. And, then move on. I’ve always been bad at moving on.

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@jls943 @dncingemma For what it's worth (probably not much), Jung So-min has been added to the MDL cast page for part 2 in a guest role. My bet is that at most there will be a flashback to something we've already seen in part 1.

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I miss something too.
Nothing is bad but no big emotion stands out either.

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I feel the same way about something being missing.

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Thanks @alathe! The set up for part two is promising, and I enjoyed Jang Uk's dramatic entrance at the end of episode two and relived all those in part 1.
The Jin family as a whole are starting to grate on me and make me want a drink that sounds similar. What's with CY just looking on while her mother is doing all this?
Go Yoon Jung is nailing it as Naksu so far and holding on to some Mu Deok charactistics too.
I enjoyed Yul also, will he be the person to recognise Naksu first this time?
Absolutely loving the call back to similar scenes in part 1 but flipped. Last 20 minutes set things up well. Bring on the next four weeks, I know it's optimistic, but I want a happy ending!!!

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"I enjoyed Yul also, will he be the person to recognise Naksu first this time?"
One of my questions at the end of these was - why didn't he? Or if he did, why not ask her about it? He had no trouble talking to Mu Deok about it before when she didn't look anything like the girl he once loved, so why wouldn't he talk to the person who does look like her about... well, herself in prior form?

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I was surprised Yul didn't seem to recognize beyond wondering briefly if they'd met before. In fact, when he walked by her on the docks and they both missed seeing each other, I thought we were in store for Yul never seeing her until it was time for her identity to be revealed. I didn't expect a scene where he had time to see and talk with her at length and didn't make the connection. Certainly she's older, but I definitely would have thought that he'd see the resemblance fairly quickly, especially considering the fact that the way Bu-yeon was presumed dead for years and is now alive is highly strange.

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The reason will have something to do with his blood worm inducing partial-amnesia-just-about-women-he’s-loved.

That’s a joke. I hope.

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@bbstl: Don’t write it off as a joke!:). That creepy blood worm is likely to paper over all sorts of narrative holes including Yul not recognising his adolescent love interest. Aigoo.

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Let me just mention here my perspective that neither Yul or Uk are the sharpest tools in the shed when it comes to romantic connections. Yul is one of those "always mooning about the past, can't see the present" guys, and Uk managed to live, loving her, for months, or years (how long--I don't know?) with Mu-Deok almost in the same room and and he managed only one passionate kiss, and that was in front of a petrified corpse.

So I don't expect either of them to make any strong moves until episode 10, when at least one of them might die, and likely neither of them get Nabby. Too pessimistic? Maybe so, but whenever there's a lot of chemistry in promo posters and intense gazing in the eyes in the first two episodes, we can be sure its a misdirection!

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These are fair points, but because Naksu (I can't warm up to "Nabby," lol) and Uk found their way back into each other's sphere very quickly, and are now married, I don't think the reveal will be dragged out that long. By no later than the end of ep. 4, I'm fairly confident Naksu will know who she is, who she loved, and what she did to him. I would agree, however, that Uk might wait to make a definitive romantic reconciliatory move while Naksu revels in her guilt and shame for stabbing him. Not because he's mad, but just because, as you said, he's not the most demonstrative and urgent suitor.

As for Yul, ITA that he is firmly stuck in the past when it comes to romance, but it's such a waste of what could be a fabulous secondary pairing (with either the doctor or the faux Bu-yeon) that I live in hope he'll have his head turned by another in the next two episodes.

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@hacja: I laughed reading this bit: “neither Yul or Uk are the sharpest tools in the shed”. It stopped me short as I didn’t want to read the rest because it seemed perfect on its own for all kinds of narrative reasons.

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It turns out the chastity tea is in the water supply? But Naksu’s prison has its own freshwater spring so she is still lusty.

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I also expected that missed connection to mean that when he saw her, the whole thing would be revealed. The best explanation I can think of is that they were both quite young the last time they saw each other (at least, young enough to be played by other people), so it's possible she just doesn't look that much like her younger self.

Now I sort of hope that Uk will be the first one to figure it out, so it nicely mirrors the first part, when Yul didn't figure it out until second and missed his opportunity. (No disrespect to Yul, he's the sweetest, but someone should tell him he's not the lead - that would be kinder.)

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I assume the lack of recognition on Yul's part is that we are not yet done with the whole So Yi situation. She's lurking around town, he's back in town, it's just a matter of time before the two cross paths...

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I also presumed he would actually recognize her or think she looks really close to her as he indeed didn't see her as an adult but he did see her corpse and saw her face quite well...Curious if it's that why they omited Park Jin of this whole picture because he was the other person aside from Jin Mu who saw Naksu's real face...

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And Park Jin doesn’t recognize her either. Only bad guys can recognise her. Hong Sisters stretching the suspense and the identity problems some more.

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The second most burning question (with the first being: what's the deal with Bu Yeon-Naksu energy-body-face rule of alchemy?)

Q: Why didn't Seo Yul recognize Naksu? Why didn't anyone else, for that matter (besides Jin Mu)

Plausible Theories:
(a) Master Lee said as her energy returns, her face will follow her soul and assumes the features of Naksu more and more. (I am assuming she has a semblance to Naksu, BUT not yet the full embodiment of Naksu).

(b) Reason why this theory works for me: I personally have difficulty visually connecting the kickass shadow assassin Naksu of S1E1 to this tabula rasa blank slate of a cheerfully insouciant 3-year-old Naksu in S2E1. (I am now beginning to think it is a deliberate choice by director through art direction, makeup, acting etc)

(c) That would also explain why Seo Yul did feel that vague familiar pull ("Have I met you before?") without being able to put a finger on it.

(d) Jin Mu on the other hand, had the benefit of rearing her from childhood upwards to adulthood and have probably seen her through the years. Thus making it plausible that he is the first to recognize her (she probably looks like a teenage version of herself now).

(e) I was quite anticipating the "first to see/first to recognize" motif/trope in S1 being played here with variations or a different outcome for the characters.

In S1, JU was the first to recognize Naksu (thus sealing their fate as soulmates/lovers); Yul was the first to see her yet he did not recognize her.

(f) I love how the Series corral and corner everyone to a head: with the intercutting of Jin Mu recognizing BY as Naksu, and So-Yi recognizing Mu-deok as the real BY from the poster. We now already have 2 witnesses who can call bluff from different angles. Let the shit hit the ceiling fan, Show.

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I enjoyed these episodes as I did the first 20, but I will say the rules governing soul shifting seem to change constantly, especially now that blood is involved. I am going to have to start calling the new FL "Naksu-Blood-of-Bu-Yeon," or "Nabby" for short.

Also, are we sure that these 10 more episodes won't mirror the first 20 in more ways than one, but with a different relationship end game--Nabby falling for Yul, then the pesky bells make their reappearance, and they have to pop an ice stone into Yul's chest? 10 more episodes after that, the prince could get one too, and that would lead to a final 20 episode blockbuster answering the question whose love can melt the ice stones of our heroic trios hearts?

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Agree about the shifting rules of soul-shifting, when Master Lee said that Naksu didn't actually shift souls with Bu Yeon but rather was absorbed, I just had to pause and yell a bit. I mean, if that wasn't soul shifting, then why did the cursed bells work on Mudeok? And why didn't Mudeok start to look like Naksu (or any other soul shifter out there start to look like the swapped soul for that matter) if the body and soul have to be in alignment? Wasn't the shaman/queen in a shifted body for years and years before anyone found out and yet she still looked like the OG queen and not the burned shaman (also, foreshadowing for the queen bringing back soul shifting with help from Jin Mu). They would have been better off just brushing it off as an ice stone miracle that Naksu was brought back to life rather than trying to re-write the rules.

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Yes, you are exactly right. But soul-shifting, while a neat conceit, and an excellent vehicle for this fantasy, is kind of like time travel. If you think too hard about it, you are going to be trapped in an ice-stone generated conceptual vortex!

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This is my exact thought in relation to soul swapping. It all falls apart if we think about it too much...

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I was happy to have an explanation for the body-shape change.
Does it follow the logic ... but it's magic in a drama, so the logic is already stretched.

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I actually thought the explanation for the original soul-shift was hugely validating! A lot of Beanies had been speculating that Bu-yeon was too powerful to just let herself be taken over, and she also wasn't the person Naksu was trying to shift with. That and the fact that she showed herself to be still present whenever Naksu was unconscious showed that the situation was different, so a lot of us thought that the alchemy of souls there had not been a normal one.

The cursed bells do give me pause a little, but maybe they work based on the fact that there is a body/soul mismatch, and not based on the fact that a true alchemy of souls happened. We know that Mu-deok didn't have a normal mark on her shoulder, but she did have a gap between her body and soul that the dog could sense. Bu-yeon mediating it also explains why she never ran wild until then.

I think Bu-yeon's body started changing to look like Naksu/Cho Yeong after Bu-yeon's soul was dead. So it didn't before because she was still alive and latently inside Mu-deok. But when she intentionally bound her soul to Naksu's, she started to make the question of who's body it was get pretty murky. That doesn't happen in normal soul shifting because the body never changes ownership, there is always that gap.

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This is what I was thinking of. Uks soul ends up in Yuls body and Naksu gets a two for one deal. 😄

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Bloody hell! (this is not always a swear word so please don’t be offended). Might just happen in this universe. Poor Yura. As much as I’ve come to care for him, he only has one facial expression with slight permutations, and Ookie’s tumultuous soul would not be contained in that serene body!

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same. I liked the whole thing - even though I found some CGI super cheap while other looked really cool lol - but it felt like watching the same story again, just changing some characters. the whole "I need you, you need me" is exactly the same thing with mudeok and uk. I could get behind a "story repeats itself"if it was not the same people involved (like.. maybe a reincarnation of these two doing the same things again wouldnt bother me so much LOL)

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@hacja: You evil genius! If, even a portion of this comes into fruition, I’m holding you responsible on the interwebs.

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I did not expect a pouty and numb Uk or a meek and weak Naksu. The three year gap was handled very poorly. Daeho is unhappy and bleak; we get that. We don’t get any emotional mourning on how Uk turned into a cold monster killer in a full-on Potter universe. Tormented by hallows, really? He has the superstar spell casting powers but they are repressed because he is depressed because of the KIng's Star deal with the CP? The first two episodes had an explanation but we still do not have rules about how souls work in this fantasy world. These opening episodes were more “tell” than show. Season 1 ended in chaos with needed answers to burning questions.

The Hong Sisters making Naksu into a rebellious but meek schoolgirl is not what I had hoped for even if her memory was lost. We finally get an explanation from Master Lee on her revival: it was Bu-Yeon’s body with her soul and Naksu’s sharing it. The only reason the petrified body is still “alive” was Naksu’s energy. Naksu was not in the body by alchemy but “imprisoned” into it (by BY, which I thought was true during season 1). BY’s body was (blind) but could see because of Naksu’s soul. The dominate soul begins to transform the human appearance, but in season 1 that meant that BY’s soul was still dominate and not Naksu’s. Lady Jin’s choice was to keep the Jin bloodline (body) with Naksu’s soul at the cost of BY’s soul was to allegedly maintain balance/no conflict. (But Master Lee’s logic is off; it begs the question since both souls lived inside “Mu-deok” because of divine powers of BY. Jin Mu’s bells triggered Naksu’s shifted soul to run wild not BY’s soul.). In the end, the bargain is to keep BY’s body which slowly turns into Naksu’s image while having no divine power or memories; a shell of a person. But it is also stated if powers return (which makes no sense if BY’s soul is gone) so does Naksu’s memories? (Mu-deok 2.0?) We have seen that the it is the soul that contains the powers when shifted into other bodies, including non-mages. This is probably more assumption than fact to misdirect the viewer. How does one “kill” a soul? If this was a highly valued priestess soul, why could it not been saved or transmuted into a powerful relic? I would bet the long odds right now that BY’s soul was never destroyed.

Uk still not over his soulmate (which one? Naksu or BY since both were together to create Mu-deok). Is this the worst love contract or marriage of convenience? It seems the only happiness for these two is a death pact. The assembly lantern trick was Uk’s triple cross: 1) saves BY from a life in prison by Lady Jin; 2) thwarts Jin Mu’s plan to take Jinyowon’s power and relics to further control the CP; and 3) keeps a path to have BY regain her powers to rid himself of the ice stone. In that scene, I believe it was Uk that used the Jin power in the tracking bracelet to control the lantern flame when she touched him as a trick to deceive everyone that BY is the powerful heir...

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After all, he is shown as master of all the elements, including fire. His trick claims the residual Jin power in BY’s body as his own by the public marriage declaration which BY confirmed; it buys him time and privacy to keep Naksu by his side and to find a way to get rid of his burdensome ice stone existence.

I agree that the theme of part two is role reversal between Uk and Naksu. But the story mythology is still a mess. And speaking of messes, all the secondary character's relationships are smokey dumpster fires especially Lord Park turning into a farmer-bad cook for a totally frustrated Maid Kim.

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I'm pretty much on the same page with you here.

Having watched (and very occasionally finished) several of their dramas now, the Hong Sisters to me have a similar world-building style to JK Rowling (hopefully that's ALL they have in common, but I digress).

That is, they have a lot of ideas that are really cool on their own, but look at their created worlds too closely and everything falls apart. They've made an awesome house, but the foundation is rickety as all get out.

Which is a shame, because, again, when they have a cool idea, they have a reeeeaaaalllly cool idea.

To be honest though, I can forgive messy world-building, if the rest of the writing is good enough. But alas, my biggest issue with AoS's first season was that it reminded me a lot of the fantasy manwhas and webtoons I read when I was a teenager. Specifically in that would present a new issue each episode, and then invent a new rule the next to solve it.

For example, the way just about every beat-down Wook got was followed with the remarkable revelation that, "Actually, you getting beaten up was GOOD actually, because magic and pathways and all that good stuff."

That, and the 'chosen one' path they ended up taking, which is always a lil bit boring.

This all to say that I both miss Jung So-Min, and find Go Yoon-jung to be an absolute delight.

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Hahaaa @rubytuesday so basically that it all to say, shabby writing and all, it is all together a too charming package not to delight in? That I can agree with.

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All that to say that the cast is largely carrying this drama, and although the burden may be heavy, I'll be damned if they don't look great doing it

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Yeah, ep. 1 spends a lot of time telling instead of showing, just as the latter episodes of part 1 did, but they might as well get that out of the way early. The stage-setting and plot initiation are skimpy and feel like the PowerPoint version instead of the full show (I would have said Cliff Notes, but that may be too obscure) but the parallels to Part 1 are laid on extra-thick. The scenes with comical delivery men (why aren't they more scared?) and Park Jin Dumbass Mode (which is my least favorite Park Jin) drag on too long. And what happened to him and Kim Do-joo finally being honest with each other? She needs to shut down the delusional cookery pronto. I want to see more of what Spooky Wook has been doing for three years.

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the two moments when park jin was being the leader he will always and being the #1 to read uk were so good. a shame that it was way less than the terrible chef version.

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@jsourgod: And, let’s not forget, his pickles are an abomination too which offends my sensibilities as I make great pickles (conceited but true:)) and love references to picklemaking!

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that it was uk using his power to trik everyone into thinking it was BY was my first though watching that sequence too. not when the lantern went off in his house - there I think it was related to her, just a small spark of her power - but definitely in that assembly. that touch was too convenient lol

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Welh, I am extremely impressed by the amount of thought you put into this. (I mean that sincerely.) But I wonder if you might be trying to put rational order into the chaos of the soul shifting universe--I think for this show, we all have to learn the lesson of tansu. Just go with the flow, and let the droplets of magic chemistry guide the energy.

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LOLLL @hacja I’m stealing that and quoting you on it

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If a storyteller spent a great deal of time creating an unknown, unified universe to tell a story, then adds layers of mystery to it, in my opinion as a viewer I should be entitled to clues and answers that make sense. Yes, I could suspend all belief and let it ride but the writers want us to believe in their story elements.

We were left last season with the Daeho Wedding of two powerful mage families (and we know Koreans love their celebrity Weddings of the Century) which I thought would have been a great starting point for part two: all of the families blaming each other for the wedding day bloodshed; brawling with each other; and new alliances being formed in the aftermath of the called-off wedding. I think it was a missed opportunity.

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A long long time ago (season 1) I decided to suspend my logic brain and just let the show flow over me (like modern art). Dang if today I didn't decide to re-watch S1Ep1 to see what actually happened when Naksu was looking for a bolt hole body to shift into. Nope, rookie move - we never SEE anything. We just get reaction.
So I'm back to enjoying the banter and the fully realized characters. Plot wise, like Hotel del Luna, what will be will be.

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@welh super impressive explanation of the Naksu/Bu-yeon dynamic. I think u answered some of my questions. I hope you are right about Bu-yeon still existing because that sure aint no way for a most powerful priestess to die. Also, I’d be interested to see if your lantern theory is right!

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I'm also not feeling the broodiness that most of the characters have after the timejump. There is no context or much explanation offered for it and I agree it wasn't written and executed well - just jarring. I also didn't sign up for meek, amnesiac Naksu. I only liked her and want the assassin version of her back. The whole Uk's soulmate thing is also confusing to me cos which one is he in love with then - Naksu, buyeon or both? And which one is end-game with him? Cause no matter who he ends up with, it's always gonna feel quite wrong, like he betrayed someone. As usual, the hong sisters' world building just doesnt stand up to closer scrutiny and the drama feels very fanservicey at this point.

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@evelyn1: Agreed to a large extent. I like Jung Somin and took to Mudeok almost instantly. I loved that M became a mentor and a friend but was indifferent to the romantic or lack thereof chemistry as for me that wasn’t the payoff. I have seen Jung Somin’s sizzling romantic chemistry with SIG so I know she can pull it off but it didn’t work with Lee Jaewook, and so much the better as to me, it was a distraction. Part 1 was an epic struggle for reclaiming lost identities, memories and connections while forging new ones. Mudeok became a delightful amalgam of the souls within that fragile body and surely, the sum of all those magical possibilities should be greater than its parts. Pity that she didn’t survive into Part 2. I would have loved seeing M’s unravelling and her struggle to reclaim who she had become from the clutches of powerful forces.

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JSM is one of my fav actresses, and I esp loved her in Because This is My First Life. Her chemistry with Lee Min Ki was on point, and she can generate chemistry with almost all her partners and just seems like such a nice person off-cam. S1 also focused more on the teacher-student relationship and their chemistry was probably also written to fit that - like a mentor/mentee relationship with a slight underlying frisson of romantic tension. Tbh the romantic stuff didn't work for me at all, so I thought the drama was best just not going into that at all, instead of doing so and kinda being half-arsed about it. Seeing S2 now, I actually find myself appreciating S1 more and Mudeok as a character and would have loved to see her comeback this season. But alas, it is what it is. :)

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@evelyn1: I am with you.

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@welh. Yup. Yup. Yup. Btw, you are slowly destroying my dwindling eyesight with these compelling comments that I have to read. Please register so the dark font kicks in. Pretty please?

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Thank you so much for articulating everything that I have been feeling off about since part 2 started. I am missing an emotional connect. Everything feels a bit superficial with very pretty visuals.
I am ambivalent towards JBY so I don’t care but I do agree with the lantern part. It is him.

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Great recap as always... even if I did get caught giggling out loud in the office while reading it.

I have been waiting for this release with impatience, and a little bit of concern that the show was going to make meju out of red beans on me... or radish kimchi with extra, extra garlic. But they didn't.

I know I was wearing rose-colored glasses when thinking back on season one, but I had forgotten how funny and crazy these people are. The "inside jokes" that have been woven in to reward those of us who remember the first season are an art form unto themselves. I was a little worried that, given the way things wrapped up last season, we'd be subjected to a lot more serious, angry energy this time around. But happily everyone's bemused smirks have survived, and are being used liberally. The sarcasm runs deep. I love it.

And the visuals, as always, do not disappoint. Where else are you going to get to see a lovely girl in a beautiful, gauzy dress stand and stare joyfully at a bunch of random metal household goods impaled into the wall, as rose petals flutter down from above amid random rays of sunlight?

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Yul fans, I can almost hear your squeals!...and sighs as they dropped another bait at the SLS. Well it's done and dusted. Just less bait, please🥺.

Wow! It was like watching another Mudeok in Naksu clothing. The comedic timing was on point, enough to send Wook into how many stunned speechless moments. How the hell do you so that Jin Bu-yeon? I'll be your student. I'll pay. What kind of innocent tease is that😅. Whatever brain block Wook must be passing through with each line is just for him as I'm dealing with it myself.

I didn't expect Jin Ho-gyeong to descend into this pity frenzy but I'm not surprised. It's just sad that Cho-yeon is once again on the blunt end of it all. She can only stand on the sidelines and watch the acts her mother perpetrates. I hope she stands up to her mother in no time.

That aside, the audacity and effontry Jinyowon wields in Daeho keeps my interests piqued in their affairs. It's like this mysterious fellow I want to uncover layer by layer. Songrim or Jeongingak cannot close their doors to Daeho for 1 year but Jinyowon does for 3 and Daeho's Unanimous Assembly and the Royal Family can only accept the decision and grumble underneath. Whatever gave them that leverage is...I don't know, kdrama-thesis worthy.

I do not like what they're doing with Park Jin. If this is what his retirement entails I need him doing something more productive...like making 👶ies with Kim Do-joo. Their bants this season feels so distant from last season's. Feels like the flair is missing. They have to find it though cause it's one of the major things I was looking forward to this last weekend.
Same with Park Jin's haircut. Bring back his long hair.

But placing his life on the line should another Wook incident occur in Daeho...Isn't the Assembly and the Royal Family biting more than necessary. The guy freaking saved the lives of their children, successors of their respective clans.

More Bu-yeon teasing Wook scenes please, especially now that they're married by the powers vested on and by the marriage wine.

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the jins hold so much power because they're the guardians of those relics and artifacts. I bet they're as magical savy as any other family - BY seems to be more of a one of kind person - but they were picked to keep this stuff and therefore have a lot of leverage over anyone else, including the royal family. that's why jinmu pushed so hard the whole BY reveal and why it was so important for mother jin to keep the lie that BY is alive, powerful and will be the heir so jin family can keep the status they have.

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First thing's first, I was right. (lol) The whole time Naksu's soul was in control and Buyeon was just kind of along for the ride. Do I buy Master Lee saying Naksu looks like herself now because he used her energy to bring her back? Not really, but they can't just say well the other actress was booked. And it was smart of them to give this all to Master Lee because he's the only character wise and old enough to know all this.

Now, as for the rest of the show, I was actually expecting it to be darker considering how last season ended. Everyone seems super chill with Uk basically being Jesus and living with wraithes 24/7. Uk as a character kind of sticks out like a sore thumb on his own show. Now it has been three years so in-universe they've all had more time to adjust than we the viewers have.

I liked the first two episodes with all the callbacks and I love that the bickering is back. I just hope that considering there are only 8 episodes left, we don't get too bogged down in fanservice as time goes on.

Also, I miss Somin. The end.

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My problem was never with Naksu being a warrior, she killed and assassinated people who she thought wronged her because she was manipulated by Jin Mu. But in the first episode she was willing to sacrifice someone innocent so she could switch souls and escape. So yeah that’s murder in my book but of course we learn it was Bu-yeon’s body and therefore two souls were essentially trapped in one body.

Now after the cliffhanger of part one, I’m unclear about the whole Bu-yeon & Naksu body thing, so essentially Bu-yeon’s soul is dead but her blood still runs through Naksu therefore giving Naksu Bu-yeon’s powers?

I’m not sure I like this. Bu-yeon was always innocent, and if her soul is essentially dead then Naksu murdered her (and also gained her powers). I hoping that’s not going to be the case since the Hong Sisters made such a big deal about Bu-yeon’s storyline.

So I’m thinking Bu-yeon’s soul is still trapped within Naku’s body and just like the weird magic explanation about how Naksu regained her original body back, I’m hoping the same for Bu-yeon’s soul to also regain her original body at the end. In this case my theory is that Jung So-min will cameo in the last episode as the real Bu-yeon.

And I’m sorry, a lot of people saw Naku’s original body before, especially when her body was in Songrim. I’m pretty sure Yul saw her there too and for some reason after only three years he can’t recognise her?! Pffft

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@Timelate " I’m pretty sure Yul saw her there too and for some reason after only three years he can’t recognise her?!"

I had forgotten that Yul had seen Naksu's body! I guess his current ailment has made him forgetful.

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Maybe but wasn’t Dang-Gu and Heo Yeom there also? So wouldn’t they recognise her by the picture? And Heo Yeom was at the assembly so even if he didn’t recognise her in the picture he definitely saw in person and couldn’t tell it was Naksu?

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I agree it's stretching credibility that Yul wouldn't recognize her, but the others only saw a cold, expressionless dead face on a body dressed in assassin's rags, not an animated, well-groomed noblewoman. Even Yul might need an episode or two to put together memories of live teenage Naksu, dead adult Naksu, live Mu-deok, and lively, 3-years-older-than-dead Jin Bu-yeon and realize they're all the same person.

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Also I know Park Jin is retired and all, but he was obsessed with finding Naksu in the beginning, and I’m pretty sure he’d be curious about Bu-yeon so I figured he’d might have seen the picture. I just can’t believe it’s only Jin Mu who can recognise her.

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To be fair even Jin Mu had that is she really Naksu expression for a bit. I think he’s also still trying to make sure it’s actually her and not a look alike.

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I’m missing why Naksu murdered Buyeon

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Look maybe murder is stretching it, and I do sympathise with Naksu since she was groomed to be an assassin at such a young age, but let’s not forget that she performed alchemy of souls on an innocent person without their consent.

It’s seen as a villainess act from other characters who do this in the show. From the old mentor taking over the body of his young mentee and from a father taking over his son’s body.

If I remember correctly, Naksu was injured and to escape she performed alchemy of souls. Initially she was meant to take over some other woman’s body but it ended up being Bu-Yeon’s instead.

Now I’m iffy on the details, I don’t quite remember if she wanted to go to Songrim to retrieve her body back or her sword. But in the end she did see her body burn. From her knowledge at that time Naksu probably thought the soul she swapped with would have also burned with her body.

So yeah Naksu might not of murdered Bu-Yeon, but she did use Bu-Yeon’s body without her consent.

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"but let’s not forget that she performed alchemy of souls on an innocent person without their consent."

I thought I heard Master Lee say that the Alchemy of Souls was not used in this case.

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I dunno man, even if it wasn’t, Naksu took over someone else’s body without their consent and was in predominantly control of it. So yeah while two souls were trapped inside one body it’s still not very ethical in my book.

Look I don’t hate Naksu or anything, (I like her as a character, she’s complex and smart), but this is why I don’t want Bu-Yeon dead since most of Naksu’s kills were manipulated by Jin Mu. If they fridge By-Yeon, that just doesn’t sit right me with me is all I’m saying

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Bu-Yeon "trapped" Naksu's soul in her body. Naksu's attempt to soul shift was hijacked by BY for some unknown reason. Since BY is a divine priestess (and we do not know the extent of her powers) she could keep two souls in her body.

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@welh could Naksu’s attempt to soul shift and be hijacked by Bu-Yeon be because Bu-Yeon wanted to save that other woman Naksu originally wanted to soul shift with?
There could be more reasons too, maybe she wanted to use Naksu for sight and spy on Jinyowon.

But killing off Bu-Yeon at this stage just doesn’t sit will with me and I want those unknown reasons and answers

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I went back to the start of Season 1 to see what happened. Naksu tried to use the Alchemy of Souls to transfer to a different body. However, when we see the "metaphysical interior" of the process, it is not the woman in front of Naksu but Mu Deok/Bu-Yeon. How and why this happened is the mystery that hopefully will be explained later in Season 2.

Wishful thinking but we have Jang Uk (with the Ice Stone), Naksu (powerful mage) and Bu-Yeon (divine priestess) moving towards some sort of connection/relationship?

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Naksu also killed people without their consent as an assassin. She disposed of the innocent souls that had been switched out by the villains.

People fixate on justice for BY, but there are a lot of other victims, that makes it hard for redemption.

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And that is exactly why it is more convenient to delete that person and have a woman who is a clean slate for the characters to have a happy ending?
I don’t know. I stopped making sense of the alchemy long time back. But I think they have tried to justify Naksu’s actions and UK’s love for her multiple times by making her into a tool/child soldier in Jin MY’s hands with no agency.

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I watched both episodes and I wasn't too impressed. I truly hope that the show will change course (for the better) and I'll become more invested. Here are some minor (maybe?) issues that I have thus far: 1. Jin and Maidservant Kim still unmarried. Was I the only one who believed that Jin had finally grown some common sense and married her? What changed in the three years? 2. And this is a BIG one: Why is Jin Mu still in the service of the royal family?! Did they all forget that he was responsible for allowing a soul shifter to take control of the Queen's body? That he kept her locked in a dank cell? Jin Mu admitted his treachery and yet he is allowed to walk free. Sigh....

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I had the same questions about Jin Mu. I know he had Naksu kill Choyeon's dad so he couldn't testify against him, but so many people know what he did. At the very least he needs to be in a dungeon somewhere.

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No one knows that Jin Mu was the one who made MD run wild.

He blamed Songrim for harboring a soul-shifter and losing control of MD. He claimed he had been looking for proof to “clear” his name. Uk was punished with a unmarked funeral for knowing about and unleashing Naksu. That’s how he got Park Jin to step down, and Uk to be the outcast when he was resurrected.

That’s the tragedy still haunting them 3 years later. MD freely decided to live a quiet life with Uk. Uk worried that even though he had the ice stone, he no longer had the energy to use it to help her. Master Lee assured him MD would not go wild since both of them had no energy left. Jin Mu made her go wild by infusing her with all his energy, which is why she petrified.

Uks dads sword was returned to Cheonbugwan. His right to Gwanji was revoked and all his descendants denied becoming mages.

CP Carrie’s guilt for greenlighting the scheme, because Jin Mu asked him if he wanted Uk taken out. CP did not realize MD would be used as the tool and stab Uk to boot.

When they have their drink in Episode 1, that’s why Uk has him pay personally. CP still does not admit his part, and grumbles that Uk is like a splinter. Uk reminds him that now he is too powerful and significant to be a splinter, and that the pain of a splinter is not comparable to a stab in the heart. Uk saved the mages from the ice stone with an act of vigor, sacrificing the energy he fought so hard to acquire, letting CP take the credit. CP still looks on it as an act of stupidity, refusing to accept UK had no dream of power. He only wanted to live with MD.

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I was referring to all this other evildoings that other characters do know about. Like that he and the fake queen were working together for all that time. I wonder why that's not being addressed.

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They said that Maidservant didn't marry him because she felt bad for Uk, and wanted to stay with him to take care of him--because of how hurt he is by what happened 3 years ago, and how he's constantly haunted and can't sleep.

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@velvetstuff Thank you for clarifying this.

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I wasn't impressed either with the first 2 eps like the majority here are. But given that this hong sisters, this is the best that you will get. Happy to be proven wrong, but they have never had a good track record of tying up their stories. In fact, I dropped S1 at the halfway mark cos of how ridiculous it was becoming and don't regret it. The first 6 eps of so were the best of the season imo.

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I loved every single second of these episodes! For me, the best part of this show has always been the epic romance at its center, but during the first season, there were some episodes where that was pushed aside in favor of complicated and unsatisfying subplots. But this time around, that romance remained the main focus, and we weren't cheated out of any screen-time between the leads, which is what I assumed would happen at the start of this second part, thanks to the amnesic FL. Instead, they're already married, lol! Well played, Hong sisters, well played.

As much as I enjoyed JSM as Mu-Deok/Naksu, I never had any problem with the idea that another actress would play the lead in the second season. The writing explained the change in a plausible way and it's a rich premise. Most importantly, there's no loss of chemistry or momentum in the relationship.

I love all the role reversals, and Dark Wook is hot, but I also recognize Naksu even with a new person playing her. She's as clever and scheming as before, and yet (as alathe pointed out) without the weight of memory, more idealistic, playful, and kind. I love them together, and can't wait to see where this goes.

Minor frustrations: Cho-yeon was so mean to Dang-gu! And on top of that, she had the gall to be angry at him for NOT attempting to wreck her wedding, even though, again, she was so, so cold and angry towards him just a few days before. And Yul sympathizing with her because he regrets letting Naksu was a bit too much. First, as I said above, Cho-yeon's the one who shunned Dang-gu for three years and made a reunion sound utterly impossible--Dang-gu choosing not to abduct her under those circumstances is not only wise but respectful. As far as Yul's past with Naksu, I feel that he, and others, tend to forget that in the end, the problem wasn't that Yul refused to fight for her, but that she preferred Jang Uk. I'm ready for Yul to stop pining already for someone in love with someone else and let me enjoy him being smitten with someone else--like the former (fake) Bu-yeon.

Finally, Ho-gyeong just sucks. I don't even buy her apparent pain and grief at losing her husband (who she completely ignored in favor of her power-hungry, sadistic brother) or oldest daughter, who is and always was just a pawn to her, as is Cho-yeon.

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Bro I feel youu I am so done with the Jinyowon family at this point. They are obnoxious. Cho yeon is annoying as heck but since she has a heart, she could be redeemable. Ho gyeong is mother gothel at this point and needs a rude rude rude slap in the face. I needed to pause the show for a bit at the idea of Bu-yeon being stuck in a castle and being forced to pop out babies; the disgust.

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Ho-gyeong just sucks.

Ugh, doesn't she? The tracking thread sewn right into BY/Cho Yeong's neck as a magical dog collar - shudder! I suppose she's just lucky Lady Jin didn't decide to embroider the whole Jin family crest. But now BY has something foreign within her body that will cause trouble and pain, just as Wook and Yul do.

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That sewing scene was just disgusting! I was gasping and appalled by her nonchalant cruelty.

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Hard agree to all the questions/issues.
Dang-gu did the right thing by keeping his distance. It's called listening to the words coming out of your love's mouth. If Cho-yeon wants him to do something different she is going to have to communicate that or suck it up.
I am not sure if Yul is talking about fighting for Naksu/Mudeok though... I think he is referring to not following through with his plan to take her away as his maid to his family's fortress and get her out. Perhaps he was thinking that if only he had made her leave all the killing would not have happened at her hands and she would still be alive. I think he understands that their relationship is in the past. But that is just a theory.
Ho-gyeong was already doing quite dubious things to get her daughter back (or at least get an imagined daughter back) including strangling Mudeok in front of an audience. I think her grief about losing her husband is non-existant. I think she hates Naksu because she got mixed up with her daughter and her actions resulted in her daughter's death/soul disappearing. So she both hates and needs this new "daughter". And it's pretty twisted...

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Thanks for the clarification on what Yul was saying there! That makes complete sense. I admit that my anti-Yul-continuing-to-long-for-Naksu bias probably got in the way there.

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I get that Cho-yeon is grieving her father and everything, but blaming that on Dang-gu made me so indignant. Didn't she also fail to protect her father? As I recall, she was also there and also fought possessed Mu-deok and also straight up lost. I'm trying to excuse this in light of the fact that it was an undoubtedly traumatic experience that she can't help but associate with Dang-gu, but still. He is the sweetest. She better shape up.

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Yes, thank you! It's not like Cho-yeon is a helpless person or that Dang-gu didn't try.
I mean, it's very human to throw blame when you are hurt and angry, even especially when you were also part of what happened. It's quite easy to take your own self-blame and direct it outward. But just because it's what humans do doesn't mean Cho-yeon is being fair...
And how much is not so much blame but just her cutting off a relationship that she knows/believes can never happen now after all that has gone on between their families?

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Yeah, I also suspect that she probably blamed him for a while because she was angry and grieving and hasn't seen him in three years to talk about any of it. But now it's probably an excuse that she uses to make herself feel a little better about the fact that their chances are not looking good.

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I agree with this - it was definitely not his fault that her dad ended up dead. It was her uncle's fault, from beginning to end. I just cannot stand watching the Jin family (or anyone else, really) talking to Jin Mu like he is not the most twisted, evil character in the whole thing. He is the monster that needs killing. In my house, his name is Rat Face.

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