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Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

Marriage is a tricky business when you’re living in the shadow of your husband’s ex-fiancee who stabbed him. Our heroine is beginning to learn the true meaning of emotional unavailability — but soon, our hero will be forced to face up to the trauma he’s buried deep.

 

EPISODES 3-4 WEECAP

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

Outrage at the Unanimous Assembly! Things very nearly get violent: as the leaders object to the marriage, Wook — with a glare that proclaims, I object to your face — lashes out with magical force. Mu, whose goal in life is to make every situation worse, demands the couple produce a witness to their vows. Here, Bu-yeon, with a flicker of the old Naksu guile, touches her stomach. Isn’t their unborn child witness enough? Wook, rather resembling a man whacked over the head with a mallet, escorts his new wife home.

When Bu-yeon touches Naksu’s sword, she gets the flash of an old memory — and a corresponding flash from the magic lantern. Wook is elated, but also has a bone to pick. What’s with this witness business? Bu-yeon clutches her stomach, with eyes so profoundly sad that it takes them both a minute to remember the baby is purely hypothetical. However, our heroine’s wicked grin suggests they can easily make fiction reality. Turns out, Wook is as swiftly reduced to a sputtering mess by this iteration of Naksu as he was by the last. Advancing, she reels him into an impulsive kiss. Eyes open, Wook accepts this without a flicker of reciprocation.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

A moment later, Bu-yeon’s keeled over on the floor: Ho-gyeong has invoked the summoning thread. Bu-yeon sweats out the night in magical agony, determined not to return home to a cage. More painful still is seeing Wook hover outside her door — then turn away. Little does she know, he’s about to be awesome. Marching straight into Jinyowon, he stops Ho-gyeong mid-ritual, crushing the magical thread beneath his sword’s heel. My wife can’t sleep, he tells his mother-in-law, deadpan. Stop calling.

Later, Bu-yeon seeks him out at another of Daeho’s great date destinations, a.k.a. That Forest Where Your Husband Built a Shrine to His Murderous Ex-Wife Who Is Also You. But in all seriousness, it’s beyond moving when she approaches her own memorial — pulling out the blue egg charm that’s been lovingly placed there. Memories flash unbidden. You take the blue one, Wook once said, a lifetime ago. I’ll take the red.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4 Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

Meanwhile, So-yi is out living her best life: presiding over a Gaema Village gambling den, drowning her debtors… just regular #girlboss things! But the party ends when Mu’s lackey-of-all-trades, Yeom-su, pays a visit. So-yi’s still reliant on him for the medicine she’s been posting to Yul. As such, when he orders her to kidnap Bu-yeon, she’s bound to comply.

Bu-yeon proves less kidnappable than predicted. In fact, she’s endearingly proud of stalking So-yi back to her lair. So-yi, who’s majored in supervillainy since last we saw her, pumps the room full of sedative — but, Bu-yeon, whose first instinct is generally to fling herself into a nearby body of water, leaps into the drowning tub.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

Meanwhile, Yul is scouring Gaema Village for So-yi, whom he’s identified as his anonymous medicine supplier. He arrives to find his best friend’s wife triumphantly spitting out water, soaked to the bone. Such is the strength of his embarrassment-induced directional blindness that they sort of just wander in circles for a bit. Bu-yeon is gleeful. She loves a brainless beauty! Yul, most frequent possessor of probably the only brain cell among the Four Seasons, sputters that she doesn’t understand — he’s read so many books, okay. Cue Bu-yeon’s absolutely iconic reply: As you can see, my beauty is unmatched… but I’m not very bright. Yul does what any reasonable person would do under the circumstances — consigning his Possessor of the One Brain Cell badge to the fires of oblivion, he agrees to be foolish in exchange for the privilege of hanging out with her.

Meanwhile, our heroine’s other erstwhile suitor is on the move. Prince Won has heard some worrying things about his mother: granted, the years she spent in captivity would have turned anyone a little funny, but her coping mechanism appears to be terrorizing the palace maids. Her latest trick has been to hand out foundation powder that dries up the skin. The only solution, decides Won, is to flee the palace dressed as a eunuch and investigate Daeho’s makeup stalls!

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4 Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

Here, he encounters a dispirited Bu-yeon, who is pondering how much rouge it would take to make Wook love her. (Little does she know, the last time she wore rouge, he was head over heels.) She’s soon distracted by a turtle the merchant intends to kill for cosmetics. She demands that Won buy it at once. Look — it’s watching him! It already loves him! Besides, as a eunuch, he can’t have children, so he might as well have a turtle. Won, imperiously lifting his chin, announces himself as Go from the royal palace… to Bu-yeon’s blank incomprehension. Royal genealogy wasn’t exactly on the curriculum in the family prison cell.

Elsewhere, Wook is subjected to more of Jin’s cooking — with a side dish of loving emotional intervention. It’s time to talk about Mu-deok. Jin has tried to let Wook grieve in peace, but he hasn’t so much as allowed himself to visit where she died. Before he decides to join her in death, he must face up to what happened. Afterwards, Wook seals himself up in Jeongjingak — waiting, remembering, and steadfastly refusing to cry. His wife waits at home, anxiously anticipating his return.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

Eventually, Bu-yeon puts her foot down: on Do-joo’s advice, she decides to find him. However, a visiting Yun-ok has other ideas. She’s bitterly insistent that Wook won’t appreciate guests. Cruelly, she adds that if Bu-yeon wants to understand why no one believed she was Wook’s bride, she ought to channel energy into the jade egg she carries. Then, she’ll see.

The look on Wook’s face when his egg begins to glow splits my heart in two. Breathless and disbelieving, he sprints towards the forest. When Bu-yeon turns to face him, he is crestfallen. She looks at him with anguish. You and I, she says, have liked each other for a long time.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4 Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

Wook’s reaction is fierce — he seizes her by the wrist and demands she explain. Bu-yeon falters. Her powers must be allowing her to access someone else’s memories through the jade. However, when she moves to replace it, the memorial stones topple, seemingly of their own accord. Humiliated, she scrabbles to stack them back up. Wook tells her to keep the jade. After all, he’s desperate to find out what Naksu was thinking before she died — and callous enough in his grief that he doesn’t care if she knows it. Later, though, after Bu-yeon spends hours hefting rocks and ineffectually kicking her new romantic rival, the stone tower, he recalls himself. Watching from the shadows, he sends fireflies to guide Bu-yeon home.

Elsewhere, Won welcomes the new responsibility of turtle parenthood. (It’s very advanced for its species, he assures Eunuch Oh.) He also plans to sneak out to Chwiseonru and drink cinnamon wine — though, if this has anything to do with the anniversary of a certain assassin’s death, that’s between him and his jaunty new eunuch’s hat. Soon, he encounters Bu-yeon again, teasing her about the turtle’s fate. He has better pets, you know. A peacock! And a white horse! Bu-yeon nods, dejected. She can’t blame someone for rejecting a — a turtle. Not if there’s someone — erm, some other animal in the picture. Won, taking pity, assures her that his new charge, the turtle, is clever and cute. Boy, is the poor guy in for a shock when he learns whose wife he’s been flirting with.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4 Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

There’s more heartbreak in store for Bu-yeon, who has a masochistic lunch date with Ju-wol in which she learns the gory details of Wook and Naksu’s grand romance. As Ju-wol reminisces about how Naksu always brought Wook honey biscuits, Bu-yeon grabs a handful. Without breaking eye contact, she crams them into her mouth. Later, she runs into Yul, who steers her away from the sleezy attentions of his uncle, Yoon-oh. As they chat about pine pollen snacks, Yul experiences a very pressing sense of deja vu.

Meanwhile, Daeho is ablaze with panic: the anniversary of Naksu’s death fast approaches, and witnesses have reported seeing her return to slaughter a boat of civilians. Gaema Village’s economy is presumably thriving; protective charms are selling like hotcakes amid the furore. The king summons Wook, demanding that he hunt and kill his former lover. Of course, as Mu gloats privately to an uncomfortable Won, it’s all an illusion he orchestrated. Just the prospect of Naksu’s return is enough to put Wook in an agonizing position.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

The queen has her own scheme — she’s organizing a banquet for the ladies of Daeho, to distract them from the great Naksu scare. Beforehand, Jin has a stern chat with Wook. Word on the street is that his bride is “Naksu’s” first target. Bu-yeon told Jin she wanted to protect Wook — it’s time for Wook to step up and look after her too. Meanwhile, Do-joo is having an glorious time wrapping Bu-yeon in ribbons and silks. Wook, walking in on his wife in party clothes, seems anything but indifferent. She looks pretty, he says. That is — her outfit does. He examines her hand. She should get Do-joo to trim her nails; Bu-yeon is precious. That is, uh. Her nails are.

Bu-yeon, sensing her advantage, declares her intention to brag about how well they’re getting along. She’ll wear his family crest. She’ll boast — that he lit up a path for her late at night. Wook smiles. Go ahead. Later, Do-joo trims her nails. Wrapping the clippings in cloth, Do-joo hands them over to Jin, who leans in close and tells her she looks beautiful in her party clothes. (Those aren’t actually her party clothes. Points for effort, though.) Afterwards, Jin attends an unlikely meeting with Ho-gyeong. Songrim and Jinyowon have always been at odds. However, right now, their priorities align.

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At the banquet, Do-joo announces that Wook has arranged for fireworks to light up the sky for his wife. Smiling, she nudges Bu-yeon in the direction of the gardens. Sure enough — Wook is waiting. Naksu will show up soon, he tells her. I’m sorry, but now you must die.

Naturally, it’s the prelude to a creative scheme! As Bu-yeon watches the dancing, one of the musicians draws out a sword. Stone spreads across her face; she plunges towards Bu-yeon, piercing her through the heart. Cho-yeon rushes towards her sister, and Bu-yeon — dissolves into shadow and light. Onlookers gasp. The real Bu-yeon walks forth. The Bu-yeon who was stabbed was actually Gwiseo, a body double from Jinyowon, created using her nail clippings. Ho-gyeong came through after all.

The soul-shifter, meanwhile, is quickly dispatched by Wook — on Daeho’s patented Bridge of Heartbreak, no less. Naksu is gone for good, Wook tells the king. Perhaps it will bring him peace. As for Wook? Peace is a distant memory. Still, he’s trying. For the first time, he visits the cliff overlooking the lake, looking at where Naksu fell. He breathes, remembers, and still can’t cry.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

Bu-yeon can’t stop thinking about how Wook wanted Naksu to rest in peace. Then, she remembers that Wook used the power of the ice stone — wraiths will be swarming him tonight. In his room, Wook sits. Drinks. Remembers. He hears a woman call his name. Hazily, he peers at Naksu, or — no. At Bu-yeon. She cups his cheek and asks if he’s all right. I couldn’t cry, says Wook, as tears trickle down his cheek. It felt like I was abandoning you.

Bu-yeon envelopes him in her arms. Taking him to bed, she holds him as he sleeps against her shoulder. Wook stirs to the feeling of her hand against his cheek. He lifts his head — and kisses her.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

Folks. FOLKS. I am breathless with emotion. Every time I think about Wook, I am undone. It hurts because I don’t want him to heal. I want him to be loyal past the brink of death. It hurts because I want him to love Naksu no matter what form she takes. It hurts because I do want him to heal. And he’s beginning to, and that part hurts as well. Lee Jae-wook is doing a stunning job of portraying the kind of grief that eclipses you utterly. Still, he’s beginning to peer into the light. It’s clear when he misses Yul, or when he lets Do-joo take care of him — or when he smiles as he calls Bu-yeon pretty.

As for Bu-yeon — I am in awe. Jung So-min’s sardonic expressions were the stuff of legends, but Go Yoon-jung has introduced pouts to Naksu’s repertoire that could stop your heart. I love her resourcefulness; it’s different to Mu-deok’s, but there’s a gorgeously stubborn streak running through both. I love that she isn’t just a more innocent version of Naksu: she has her own difficult history, and she’s just as unaccustomed as Mu-deok was to being free. She’s learning who she wants to be. And if that person is a woman of unparalleled beauty who happens to be not too bright? I love her all the same. Wook now needs to figure out if he does too — and I’m sure it’ll hurt in all the best ways.

Alchemy of Souls 2: Episodes 3-4

 
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I want to give literally everyone an award for the looks on their faces in the moments after Bu-yeon/Cho Yeong lied about being pregnant. What an absolute triumph of acting. And I love that she went around this week charming all the same men she did three years ago.

Who else is tentatively hopeful that Prince Won seems not to be going over to the dark side? He still could, for sure, but would they do that to the new owner of an adorable turtle? I don’t think you can be a turtle caretaker/trainer and also a terrible person, and Bu-yeon/Cho Yeong would have sensed more negative energy around him. He still has to get rid of Jin Mu hissing in his year, but I’m looking forward to the rest of his story more than I thought I would be.

Cho Yeong’s and Jang Uk’s love story really reminds me of The King’s Affection from last year, in some ways. (No spoilers, don’t worry) In that drama, the FL and ML meet as kids outside the palace and have a childhood love, but later she has to take the place of her twin brother and eventually becomes crown prince. So when the leads meet again as adults, ML has no reason to suspect FL is the crown prince, and little reason to suspect that the crown prince is a woman, but he falls in love with her anyway fully believing she’s a male CP. He’s just so drama-level-destined to love this person that it doesn’t matter to him what her gender or position is.

And that’s how I’m feeling about Jang Uk right now. He is so drama-level-destined to love Cho Yeong that he’s falling for her despite the fact that he’s in mourning (oddly, for her), despite the fact that he’s still in love with the Mu-deok version of her, despite the fact that he has no idea they’re the same person. It’s strange to think that the person finally helping Jang Uk mourn is also the person he’s mourning. It makes me dizzy if I think about it too hard. But it also makes sense that he would need to heal from that chapter of his life even if he knew she was now alive and well, because things aren’t going to be the same as they were, because they aren’t the same as they were.

Y’all. I don’t know if Yul is going to make it out of this drama alive. He’s not taking the medicine that So-i anonymously sends to him (which, fair. Pro-tip: do not take unidentified drugs), he’s got all the marks of a tragic figure, and he’s obviously not going to get the girl again. I hope I’m wrong (because I think we’re already going to be dealing with a lot of death) but I don’t like his chances.

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As much as I have enjoyed the work of the actor playing Won and the role, I will throw him to the wolves to save Yura. I don’t want him to die.

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"Lantern going out" is already a recurrent visual theme in this series.

The blood worm could serve some purpose before that happens though - maybe it will allow Yul to enter Jinyowon at a critical moment to retrieve some crucial relic, knowing it will kill him.

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I hope he doesn’t die. He might have just one expression but I’ve become fond of this character.

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Omg thisss.. 😂 It’s true Yul only has one look but he’s damn endearing even when he’s factually rejecting Park Jin’s food or getting lost. He can’t die, i love him too much already.

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Omg yes. The writers had to write what he's supposed to express into the script -- anyone notice Wook saying something like "please don't give me that ______ look" somewhere?

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@aicaramba Yes! It's when he meets Yul for the first time in 3 years and says that Yul's look of pity almost makes him want to ask for a hug. A HUG.

I do love Yul and will defend to the death his ability to show at least two expressions.

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@elinor i love that pity scene! I think both of them needed the hug really.

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@elinor There! Yes, that offer of a hug was so uncharacteristic of Yul. *Pls don't die pls don't die pls don't die*

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Loving this hypothesis. If he's going to go, it better be off-the-charts heroic, and breaking into Jinyowon for a dangerous relic would fit nicely.

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I would rather that So-yi die to save Yul. #justsaying

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@kdramacurious Oh, FOR SURE. That has been my only acceptable endgame for her almost from the moment she slunk onto the scene. My preference is definitely that Yul lives, it just doesn't really seem like the show is going in that direction.

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On "lanterns going out" motif & Seo Yul's unconscious death wish:

To be fair to So-Yi, I don't think she was stringing him along and withholding precious info about the bloodworm for emotional leverage.

But what saddens me about S2's Seo Yul was his sense of guilt for what happened 3 years ago (when our OTP died in the most horrifically tragic ways). Yul 2.0 version is a dead man walking, bent on giving up the will to live.

He seems to accept it as a form of personal penance, tantamount to a death wish.

In an ironic and very literal way, the bloodworm is like a tangible symbol of the writhing guilt eating him up from the inside out (something that a worried BY alluded to when she saw his energy signature).

I hope our Yul will snap out of it once he realizes Naksu is NOT dead! (and he can choose anew!)

S2 I believe is like a redemption arc for many of our characters who are given another chance to be reconciled to the past, to themselves and to the ones they have loved, abandoned, or betrayed in some ways)

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On "lantern going out" motif:

1) The Seo family all have their lanterns burning in the Fortress at the border posts so that they know if any of their blood kin perishes at battle.

2) I like that they use this motif in a different way for the priestess litmus test ("can you extinguish the lantern?" or light it up, for that matter)

Qn: "Did Jang Uk deliberately extinguish the lantern or did he not?"

(a) I like that the writers are adroitly walking that line of ambiguity when it comes to viewers' interpretation.

(b) A case can be clearly made for both schools of thought, but I would like to contend that it doesn't matter, it's a Schrodinger's Cat scenario.

(c) He has considered all possibilities and can flow with whatever will transpire next in order to "hide the dish and make sure no one gets to taste it." (making meju out of soybean).

3) Lighting up her path in the Dark Forest with fireflies (making magical lanterns is such a romantic "abuse" of his Ice stone powers LOL)

4) and of course = that gesture just got writ large (and in the skies) when he PDA her at the Queen's banquet by lighting up the ENTIRE night skies for her before all and sundry

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"Light and Shadow" indeed!

To add, LJW said in an interview that Uk means light, and Yeong (as in Naksu's Cho Yeong) means shadow.

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@joanna: Very beautifully put. He has indeed become a walking penance who regards his suffering as a just dessert for his failures.

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As you say, I sort of love the blood worm if only for its parallels. I hope he is able to heal from it and heal from his guilt before the end.

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Oh now that you said it, I think I do remember the proof text for that in S1!
Our dear Yul is actually quite consistently written as a character.

Remember the 3 boys were reminiscing about the past as kids when they broke some precious ink-slab, and had to bury the incriminating evidence and LIE about it?

Uk said Yul fell very ill after that, because even as a child he has always been such a morally upright child. It didn't sit well with his conscience and guilt tormented him.

and THAT, was over a mere ink-slab.

Imagine, how much worse his guilt must be over fleeing back to Seolho Fortress when his two best friends were struggling the most in the aftermath of the tragedy, and his first love had died partly because of his complicit cover-up.

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I’m glad we have an (unscientific) consensus about our love for Yul. My eyes can’t take crying for him too but as @elinor and empress girl eloquently pointed out, the lantern is a significant motif in this part and given Yul’s family tradition, I dread what is coming.

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I don't mind them showing us a Seo family lantern getting snuffed out if it's for the queen. We've seen enough to know how her captivity has twisted her. I wouldn't even mind if it was the uncle.

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Oooh...careful there. You are giving us ideas now!

I thought this iteration of the queen is (unexpectedly) nastier than the last queen (Shaman Choi).

In a strange twisted way, Shaman Choi/Queen has arguably more moral high ground than this queen for the fiery path of vengeance that she wrecked (after all, she herself literally survived an immolation by the mage sorcery patrol)

Her last pillory (before her death) when she lashed out at everyone for their hypocrisy was so so good -- it almost assumed the grand scale of Shakespearean tragedy and pathos. I felt pity for her and could understand her rage and bitterness for the double standards of their world (i.e. sorcery is outlawed while magic isn't when you ALL have profited off my family art of the alchemy of souls. How brazen)

whereas this current queen is just vain, spiteful, insecure, and (to quote Mu-deok once upon a long time ago) "obnoxious and despicable". Very undignified.

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@joanna: I completely agree. You broke that down very nicely.
The current iteration of the Q with her original souls is a horrific person. Among her misdeeds, the distribution of toxic face powder so the court servants look worse for wear. That of course is only one of her vicious acts.

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Yul's got so many standout moments in part 2 and totally gives off the vibe of "going to die".... :(

I don't think Won will turn bag. While he's not proactively Good, he's not out there being Evil. I put him somewhat on the same moral wavelength as Cho-yeon at the moment - where they could be doing better and are least not sliding into evil.

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I think he's leaning good, tbh. He seemed VERY uncomfortable when Jin Mu was telling him about the genius evil plan, and though his jealousy is often his weak point, I don't think he'll put up with all the scheming forever.

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I feel like I could watch a series centered around the crown prince. Dude is actually relatable, and I would have really liked it if he met someone else who isn't in love with jang -uk. Everytime he falls in love with someone he cant have, like me lol.

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Bro i’m throwing some devices if Yul kicks the bucket. The boy must live.

I love that you mentioned Yuk must mourn a stage in his life - even if he and Naksu come to the realization that Naksu/Bu-yeon is Naksu. I do believe the road will get pretty rocky and steep up ahead.

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Yes! I wasn't sure how the continuation of Jang Uk and Cho Yeong's story was going to play out (or even how I wanted it to play out) but I'm so glad the show is approaching it like this. Uk's feelings around the events of the part 1 finale are understandably super complicated, and while it makes sense that he's been a bit frozen in time since then, I'm relieved that they're giving him the space to thaw a little. Normal relationships are complicated, this one astronomically more so, so even if she had walked in after three years and he had known her right away, their relationship would have been difficult if he didn't take the time to mourn for what used to be and accept that things are going to be different now. What they had is inescapably over (even though she's back), so it's good that he is starting to acknowledge that and open himself up a little.

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@Kakakash: I will throw my dodgy from day one Ipad too.

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I'm not tentatively hoping, I am completely sure all the way since season 1 that prince is not going anywhere near the dark side. Even if we disregard everything else, his relationship with his eunuch is just to cute for him to take any kind of villainous form. And then now, as you already said, there's the turtle.

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Ummm, "I couldn’t cry", says Wook, as tears trickle down his cheek. "It felt like I was abandoning you."

He knows who she is.

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It seems much more likely that he's saying this to the Mu-deok version of Cho Yeong, rather than the Bu-yeon version, for sure. That could mean that he's figured it out and he's saying it to her because he knows she's the same person as three years ago, but also could totally mean that he's semi-delirious from grief and alcohol especially since we saw their blurry outlines switching back and forth as she came into the room. I just don't think it's clear cut yet.

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I tend to go with my gut, and wrt Korean dramas, my wife will tell you my gut is usually spot on. This show is all about fate, and my gut says he knew what he was saying to whom, despite the initial hazy image of Mu-deok/Naksu then resolving to Bu-yeon/Naksu. He knows her soul...

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Dare I say it... I actually feel more chemistry between Jang-Uk and Naksu this time around. I never thought I would feel that way when I found out that Jung So Min would not be reprising her role as Mu-deok but hats off to the new actor - she seems to fit right in. I like this season so much - something about a smoldering bad-ass hero falling for the same woman all over again ;)

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I'm not sure I find the chemistry better or worse; it's more that this season's love story is more about tragic, poignant longing and last season's was more playful, flirty banter. And the chemistry fits that change in dynamic between them. I'm really, really happy that's the case here.

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I also think they're about equal. I think the chemistry this season has more of a love-hate tension between two people who just met while last season had them feel more like a married couple familiar with each other?

I feel like Yul and So-i's chemistry seemed to tick up a notch in their 30-second reunion.

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@laurensophie I’m going to have to disagree with you slightly, and with@alatheas well, although she gave a wonderful and funny recap that increases everyones appreciation of the show.

What I say might be so controversial that I want to qualify it by saying 1. I am in fact very romantic—in fact I have often walked around the house with a tragic expression on my face clutching my chest as if it had an ice stone embedded in it and and my wife has said “Don’t be so (romantic)—she actually said “dramatic” but I’m sure she was thinking the word with no D.) And 2) I love a tragic male romantic hero as much as the next guy (which is to say, not much. )

So, with that out of the way, let me say I was very annoyed with Jang-Uk these episodes. Who knows, the kiss might change everything, but given there are 6 more episodes I would predict not.

If I was back in at this fantasy time, I would have grabbed him by lapels of his robe and said “Listen, you sullen galoot. I get that you’re in mourning but what has it been, 3 years? You have a beautiful woman that if you were not so absorbed in self-pity you would sense was someone very similar to your former betrothed, and further, she really likes you! Your colleague Yul already knows who it is, but you are are so stupid, self absorbed and arrogant that you can’t see it!”

I think that this intervention would have changed the whole trajectory of the show for the better, and if the Hong Sisters want to hire me for the next sequel as a cameo “friend” I think my acting abilities are up to the role.

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LOL--I absolutely love this idea and undoubtedly, the Hong sisters need to keep you on retainer.

That said, I do think Jang Uk is waking up to the fact that there's a beautiful woman with a strangely familiar and quite lovely personality right next to him who wants to be his partner. This is even, perhaps, worth commending, as he's only known Bu-yeon for, what, maybe a month? So I have to defend him a bit here for his reticence.

During their relationship, Mu-Deok made it clear to Jang Uk that her greatest fear--and part of her reason for her early resistance to allowing herself to love him--was that she would run wild and thus, turn into an amoral killer. Jang Uk pledged himself then to eliminate her worries by declaring that he would never, ever leave her no matter what she did. In fact, if she got to a point where he truly had no choice *but* to leave her, then she should just kill him instead.

So now, I think he has it in his head that in order to honor that promise, he can't "leave" her, even in death. He has to stay faithful to her even if she's not in the world anymore, because he pledged to never leave her no matter what she did.

When I type it out like that, I see how one could see that as rather stupid, lol. What good is being faithful to someone who no longer exists? It's really only romantic because we know that the woman he loves does actually still exist. And since that's the case, I find Jang Uk's angst to be romantic. But I completely get your frustration with him.

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Thank you for your thoughtful reply, which is more than I deserved. In all seriousness, though, I do get a little frustrated with the standard romantic Korean male, who believes that his principles demand that he obnoxiously repudiate a woman who loves him until a last episode. Its a wonder that there are any children in Daeho at all! Of course, now that I think of it, there aren't any, so I think we have an explanation.

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It’s not only romantic but a very normal and realistic portrayal of the grieving process

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I think at this point all Beanies need to address the kimchi vat in the room:

on the issue of death & grief, how will the key theme of "loyalty and duty" that is so central to the relational dynamics of our OTP play out in S2?

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"I couldn’t cry", says Wook, as tears trickle down his cheek. "It felt like I was abandoning you."

He knows who she is. So does she.

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I do wonder some part of Uk is harboring the hope that the ice stone can revive Mudeok if only he can find her. Because if it can revive him, why not her too?

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@kdramacurious: but that might turn out to be a zero-sum game (and a tragedy for us fans)? #GoblinConundrum. Incidentally, her real name Cho Yeong (Yeong literally means: zero in Korean)

IF the ice stone can revive MD (and it sure can) BUT he needs to first extract it from himself (and he is currently sustained only by its power because he was once dead).

So you can only have one of the pair alive at any one point in time (can they time-share the Ice Stone? Or apportion it for use? God knows) But Jang Uk already attained Hwan-su level mastery, which means he can simply soul-shift so maybe yes, they can both be alive at the same time. We just need to issue Jin-Mu a permanent restraining court order.

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@ LaurenSophie: "So now, I think he has it in his head that in order to honor that promise, he can't "leave" her, even in death. He has to stay faithful to her even if she's not in the world anymore, because he pledged to never leave her no matter what she did."

Gosh, it's like this "grief l loyalty l mourning l abandonment" black hole box will never exhaust itself...every time we think we have defined and contained it with our neat paragraphs, it overflows and overwhelms us again in run-on lines.

You made a good point, and here is where I think things start to go horribly wrong for him:

(i) Hypothetically, had they BOTH died (he stabbed to death; she petrified and drowned) he would have been "at peace" with himself.

It would be poetic justice. Because this was the pledge from Day One, reiterated many times over (E 2, 6, 16): --

(a) JU even went as far as to say: "If my life is in danger, then yours must be too!" (basically we live or die together! post-mortem discussion of the Mirror of Longing episode) - Loyalty theme

(b) JU: We are in this together and I said I would risk everything for you, and keep going even unto death. So you keep your side of the confession too, and love me to death!" (after Park Jin's 3rd degree hot seat) -- Fidelity theme

(c) JU: "If you need to draw your sword, then let me be the first person you point at. I will be stabbed and punished as the one who unleashed Naksu on the world." (after Master Lee returned her sword and sent a veiled threat)

UNFORCH, that did NOT happen. He survived her (resurrected by the ice stone against his will).

This is where I got my epiphany (and I am almost in tears typing this). Jang Uk is experiencing survivor's guilt.

He really would have been fine IF they had BOTH died, or they had BOTH lived.

HELL for him is if, one has died and the other lived on, bereft of their soul-mate.

and here we see another parallel & inversion between Jang Uk & Seo Yul -- they both have survivor guilt but

(a) Jang Uk actively seeks death, by trying to extract the Ice Stone OUT OF his body;

(b) Seo Yul passively seeks death, by stubbornly keeping the blood worm INSIDE his body.

I feel sad just writing this *sob*

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I agree, I’m surprised at how little the swap in actresses bothers me. All credit to the new actress, she seems to have nailed down a portrayal that incorporates some of Mu Deok’s essence (bluntness in speech and movement, private delight in small mischiefs, non-verbal communication with Wook) but removes some of the more martial elements.

She’s charming, and not just in the context of relating to Wook. Both actresses have managed to make the character someone you actually believe a flock of princelings would pay attention to - not because she’s pretty, but because she’s got an interesting and unusual personality. And importantly, that interesting personality is just HER, it’s not an effort to appeal to the guys. They’re drawn to her not because she’s luring them, but because she’s just interesting to be around. That’s not an easy thing to convincingly portray, and both actresses achieved that. It’s doing more than anything else, for me, to sell this is the same core character.

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Well,bec.MU DOK WAS ALWAYS WRAPPED UP IN RAGS N UNGLAMOROUS DUE TO HER ROLE…IT WAS D OPPOSITE 4 NAKSU…..

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Yep, I’m on this boat. Colour me very pleasantly surprised!

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Comparing to Go Yoon-jung, the current female lead, @vanityfair, Jung So-min is more kind and affable. Go, on the other hand, has a great range of acting. I didn't watch her in Sweet Home (not very fond of scary bloody monster movie), but her character arc in Law School is shock yet touching (She is a beautiful student being abused by her boyfriend, who is the son of a powerful politician. She later come out trying to get rid of him, and was accidentally "killed" him in the process), worth a watch, too.

(Doesn't mean I don't like Jung ... now my spare time is watching her vlogs on YouTube ...)

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I agree - felt there’s more romantic chemistry between Jang Uk & Naksu. But I felt that the chemistry between Naksu and the CP and Yul was lacking this time round. Esp with the CP, I missed the underlying cheekiness of Mu Deok.

One thing I didn’t quite like about the new Naksu is how she’s….not sure how to put it….frivolous? Like how she’s aware and sort of exploit her looks. It’s just my pet peeve about pple like that LOL. Felt it’s a bit of a disconnect with Mu Deok but I’m accepting it on grounds that she lost her memories and spent the past 3 years locked up 🙂

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Naksu doesn't have that sort of romantic potential chemistry with CP & Yul in S2 cos....she is MARRIED (like, from Ep2?)

That Uk power move has pretty much set up a force field O.B. marker radius around our lady love (which is great).

I think her chemistry with CP & Yul is more of an affable friendship which is no less charming to watch.

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But it is the "same" woman, eh...

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As I mentioned earlier, it's almost always a moral & existential dilemma when a dead love returns (whether by cloning l simulacrum l reincarnation l magic).

We will always be left asking ourselves: who was/is it that we really love(d)? In my part of the world, we have an idiom: "same same, but different." (I guess it applies here?)

Also "還魂" -- the original Korean title -- literally means "the return of the soul / recalling the soul back".

For East Asians like us who can read the Korean Hanja (cos it's Chinese script), it has a very specific meaning and even imagery of the shamanistic rites performed to revive or resurrect a dead person by calling them BACK to their body (and not so much shifting souls, which is the illegal territory or application in this world).

So if the writers decide to faithfully keep to the spirit of the original title -- then the ultimate theme is one of RETURN; a restoration of all things to what they should be.

Master Lee: "When the King's Star rises, those who should return shall return, and those who should depart will depart." I think this cryptic dictum will unfold several more layers by the time we are done in 10 eps. Can't. Wait.

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Interesting! Thank you for sharing. The original meaning makes sense, a restoration.

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The the star will rise,
And the rock will descend.

In Episode 19 of last season, when Master Lee sent Jang Gang a letter asking him to confess his sin as a soul-shifter, he said Gang’s action will result in the star’s rise and the rock’s fall. Turn out “the rock” doesn’t only mean the Ice Stone, but also the petrified Mudeok, who had been out of control because of Mu’s spell and stabbed Wook in the tragic end of Season 1.

Therefore, the monster we called Wook is in fact the making of Master Lee all along: Is he the true antagonist of this story? As well, Mudeok’s resurrection is not in the Master’s plan at all?

With this in mind, I start to think Wook’s petrified reaction toward Boyeon doesn’t mean him can’t let go of Mudeok, but his lightest realization of the possibility that Boyeon is in fact Mudeok* (she is, in fact, according to Master Lee). He cares about her so much, yet never shows his care before her is some of those signs (he did that twice already), because he doesn’t care if he doesn’t think Boyeon is Mudeok at all. This is another issue, however, if Wook can forgive Naksu, or even Wook can, can he restart a relationship, with death, pain and tragedy waiting at the door.

As a result, Jin’s “dark cuisine” has a meaning throughout the drama. If last week’s red bean meju means “impossibles do happen”, this week’s fish sauce rice cake have a profound meaning: “Life is unpredictable, but you choose your own destiny; no matter how sweet or bitter it may be, you must taste it yourself and swallow it.” This may have been encourage Wook to do whatever he wants, and enjoy his life in fullest (Not like him in Season 1, though).

(Also, it is interesting no matter how bad Jin cooks, he can successfully imitate Mudeok’s noodle soup for Wook, which is delicious; so I think Jin’s bad cooking is intentional)

I also don’t think Master Lee’s explanation towards resurrected Mudeok has fully description the whole situation, since Boyeon’s magic (which born with her) is so strong she can trap Naksu’s energy (which she forges as she become a powerful mage) in her soul, Boyeon’s soul can’t simply being got rid by Master Lee’s resurrection process, and she may have been stay inside. Therefore, this is my next question: does Boyeon love Wook, too? What is her role emotionally in Naksu and Wook’s relationship? What will Naksu and Wook’s role in the future of Taeho (The Lake Kingdom, since “Taeho” means “Great Lake”) … And how essential their role is, Master Lee would not even consider letting them be and live their happy married life every after, but create that tragedy so that they can stay to become saviours of the Kingdom?

*To make my thinking process much more clear, I need to define:
Mudeok as the whole person shows up in Season 1, as well when I am talking about the whole package of the body/soul of the female lead in Season 2, which include the body of Boyeon + souls of Boyeon&Naksu...

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(This is the last paragraph I can't put on)

*To make my thinking process much more clear, I need to define:
Mudeok as the whole person shows up in Season 1, as well when I am talking about the whole package of the body/soul of the female lead in Season 2, which include the body of Boyeon + souls of Boyeon&Naksu.
Boyeon as the soul inside, and the body of the person, which trapped Naksu’s soul. Thus, Naksu also means the dominate soul inside Boyeon’s body, and in terms of Wook’s love interest.

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Bu-yeon, whose first instinct is generally to fling herself into a nearby body of water, leaps into the drowning tub.

It looked to me like that room had some breakable windows, but letting the bad air out that way wouldn't have been very thematic.

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Your common-sense solution of ventilation made me LOL

@alathe: good observation about Bu-Yeon's affinity with waters in S2, (the same way it was visually linked to Uk in S1; he is always soaking in his favourite hot baths that visually recalls the Big Dipper).

That is a mirrored parallel as well as an inversion.

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I liked the tub solution because something about it felt knee-jerk assassiny. It’s an utterly weird thing for a well-adjusted young lady to do, but an assassin may have an entirely different set of concerns and she just subconsciously acted on assassin-instinct.

I also loved the honey cookie scene. That fistful of cookies was ENORMOUS and I am very impressed she got them all in her mouth at one go, and that she then managed to keep chewing. The eye contact was great, but that entire thing was also so reminiscent of something Mu Deok would absolutely do (including eye contact) that it really gelled the character switch for me.

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BRO my first thought. WHY not open a damn window and get some drafts in but sure, we want to pretend we are mermaids

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That Forest Where Your Husband Built a Shrine to His Murderous Ex-Wife Who Is Also You.

Possessor of the One Brain Cell badge

Guess the show's style of humor is contagious. Loving it.

----

One thing that may have slipped past Western viewers...

Re Prince Won the "eunuch" and his precious turtle -- turtles have a bit of symbolism in China (turtles head is slang for a guy's p****) and I guess that might have leaked over to Korea. So yes, the eunuch might as well have a turtle.

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Hahahaha, I had no idea this symbolism existed! Now I need to rewatch all these scenes so I can laugh SO MUCH HARDER AT THEM. Thank you for enlightening this Western Viewer.

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@Lord Cobol: Ahah! Thanks for filling us in. Men and their penile fixation know no bounds. Even poor animals are not linguistically left alone!:)

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It’s funny I figured it out from the Swoon games. LJW told SSH to close his legs more and made a reference to showing the turtle, and SSH said his is not that small (comparing into his gold turtle).

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Hahahaaa...that's make total sense there 😆😆😆.
And I thought if he know the small gold turtle that "big", he will ask for something else 🤭

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1) I LURVE the gonadal sly humor - played with such cheerful oblivion by BY (who obviously thought CP really is an eunuch)

2) Theme of pet nicknames continues! Except now, "Filthy Mu-deok" is "Turtle Shaman".

3) Theme of "You ain't ever gonna get the girl" also continues!

S1: right after CP talks about not having the King's Star, the editing cuts straight to next scene of MD trying on the bridal gown (she is the star belonging to the real King (Uk) that CP Won can never have

S2: He tells his eunuch he will not fall for a woman he cannot have, editing cuts to a close up of the turtle (obviously BY lah)

4) They can never be together cos the pet nicknames he bestowed on her are our answers already.

He loved her under an illusion; the personas of an brown-nosing servant girl with a provincial accent, and a shaman selling talismans and turtles are really just one facet of the complex universe we call Naksu.

Poor boy. Poor Eunuch Won

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Oh no🤦🏽🤣.
I'll think no further. What sort of humor symbolism is that? Turtle head? Cojones? How 🤣🤣🤣?

Kindly enlighten whenever new symbolisms come up.

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LOLLL thanks for the insight!

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O.M.G.

Then the line when Bu-Yeon exclaims: "See! The turtle is sticking his head out at you!" is....PRICELESS. I cannot. LOL

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I love how the three guys who originally loved Mu Deok are now charmed by Naksu. I want to see them working together again. I'm hopeful CP won't go to the dark side fully even though he does know Jin Mu is complicit in a lot of nasty stuff. And the turtle! He's falling for Naksu's flattery like he did Mu Deoks. He even has a new nickname for her.
Jang Uk's gruff exterior and heart of gold is sweet to watch, and the scene with the jade eggs was so sad...hang in there Jank Uk! 😍
And Yul...take your medicine.🙄

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@Toodlepip: I read your sentence “He’s falling…” and given how delightfully weird English can be, it is perfectly reasonable grammatically to interpret that ‘He’ is the turtle who has fallen for Naksu!😂 But as we know, context matters and that’s not what you meant.

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Haha! I need to re-read before I post. I couldn't possibly second guess what the turtle was thinking, but I'm sure it was impressed with the Crown Prince too! 🤣

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No. I love that sentence! It made me laugh and cheered me up!

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I found it really emotional to hear Jung Somin’s voice in Ep3 and then see snippets of her in ep 4. These two eps had incredibly poignant and gorgeous moments. Lee Jaewook and Go yoonjung did great work but I have a one track mind and wanted to see Mudeok. All the way through.

My interpretation of the kiss following his hope for hallucination which didn’t come to pass and his utterance of “It felt like I was abandoning you” was that he was kissing Mudeok and grieving her loss, not kissing “Buyeon”. Of course, the irony here is overwhelming.

I liked sending the fireflies to light B’s way but had no idea Wook was capable of performing any other magic beyond killing soul-shifters. That was a gorgeous scene.

And, our sad Yura wishing himself to be accepted as a Daeho himbo so he was distracted from his pain and suffering was sorrowful and affecting despite the inherent joke which did quite a bit of nice work.

The bit of foreshadowing within the scene of Won hoping that his desire and hope for a wife comes into fruition was somewhat out of the blue and jarringly inserted/edited at the end of the convo with his eunuch. It made me think how Won’s moral compromise and enabling of Jinmu hasn’t hit pay dirt as yet since he doesn’t seem to be tortured at all (and his flirting game was not too bad). I wonder if soon enough, there is going to be a steep price for Won to pay for his lack of a moral compass and if they will try to present love/longing as his saviour from the dark side.

Also, is the current queen his mother or step mother? I thought it was his step mother. I must say she seems pretty awful/evil on her own and even now when her soul has been restored, she doesn’t come across as a peach.

Last but not least, Jin Mu is a tedious one dimensional villain. He is written very badly and the actor is just not elevating the material one bit. He is straight out of the worst of Central Casting and it makes no sense that no concrete suspicions have been directed at him. It is just poorly conceived and portrayed.

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Yup whenever Jin Mu is on screen I instantly roll my eyes, I don’t know how this guy managed to get away with all the shit he has done. While I like the actor, Jin Mu is such a boring villain and I’m always tempted to press the FF button whenever he is on screen, but alas he the only one aware about the possible Naksu connection

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@Timelate: I presume you caught up with eps 3 and 4? Did you blubber a bit like me? Feel free to plead the fifth.

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I pretty much cried like a baby, especially in episode four when we see the silhouette/ hallucination of Jung So-min 😢

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@linarrick: Me too. We are big, soft-hearted babies. That’s it.

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Not just the silhouette. There was this point at the stone grave. When Bu-yeon turned to face Uk in slow-mo. Jung So-min's sideview reflected for a moment. I thought it was a cameo but I think somehow, the camera shot Go Yoon-jung's sideface for that scene to resemble Jung So-min's.

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I feel you.

I find myself cussing him under my breath whenever he appears on my screen.
#villainwealllovetohate

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Also he keeps narrating what he’s about to do - because he has all these weird shaman bits and bobs that don’t make sense… “I’ll read her memories with this incense burner mwahahaha!”

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@Jance: I love “bits and bobs” so much. It has always made me laugh, Thanks for making me giggle.

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Hear hear!

In addition, I'm pretty sure the current queen is the Crown Prince's stepmother (or at least, not his birth mother). I remember he had a line saying that she wasn't his mother or something like that. Although I was slightly confused because there were also scenes that he seemed genuinely distressed that the real her was being tortured and kept alive somewhere.

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I don't know much about Korean entertainment but when I notice shoutouts or allusions, I get so giddy! Last time it was the "if you drink this..." and this week was One Night Two Days & the bolbolbuk! I have been binge watching season 1 of Two Day One Night and the fish sauce and the bolbolbuk game is CLASSIC.

The queen really is just rotten on the inside and out. She really didn't learn her lesson about vanity or valuing people. How did Jin Mu align himself with both toxic queens? (Oh as I write this, I'm realizing he was probably the go between in the first place) but again! Jin Mu betrayed her to work with the shaman so why is she trusting him?! Am I missing something? I know they've pinned the blame on the shaman's brother but is there really no one suspicious about him? Is Jin Mu really the only one having secret meetings to plan others' downfall?

I laughed out loud when Bu Yeon annouced that she was pregnant in front of everyone and then the doctor guy asked when they were last intimate haha
I also laughed when Uk was all "you scared? Watch me leave with her" haha

Oh Bu Yeon and her way with words. I'm enjoying her interactions with all of the guys.

I'm confused what Yul's uncle was trying to accomplish. Was the plan to somehow harass her? I was pleased to see Yul put his uncle in his place before running into BuYeon and leading her away.

The way the memories &moments with Mu Deok were shown felt like a nice way of slowing letting go of her and embracing this iteration.

I wonder if there will be more deja vu moments between Yul, Bu Yeon, and Uk. While I would love to see that, I'm more excited for her to get her assassin skills back so she can payback Mu. (Though that would be so bittersweet because then she'll get all those terrible memories back as well.)

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Oh, talking about shoutouts or allusions, this is one of the fun watching Hong Sisters' drama, @britney. In their last drama 3 years ago, in Episode 6 of Hotel del Luna, they even play with the drama The Crowned Clown, which aired several month ahead of HdL, and the male lead is none other but Yeo Jin-gu, who is also the male lead of HdL.

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The drinking scene with Uncle Yoon-o showed that Uncle is a mean-spirited, selfish sycophant and that he's found his people with the three former Jeonjinggak mages, who are still supercilious little snots. He wants payback for having been abandoned at the wedding and they all want to toy with and humiliate BY just as they used to do with Mu-deok. They take pleasure in exercising power over the (seemingly) powerless, but they are eager to suck up to Yoon-o when he airily announces he's thinking of reopening Jeonjinggak, as if he were the rightful heir of Master Seo.

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How did our sweet Hul end up with such nasty relatives? His aunt and his uncle are bottom of the barrel.

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@Elinor: Glad you commented on this. It was a nicely written scene and Yul did a great job of putting the uncle and the 3 entitled morons in their places. It would have been even better if Naksu could waste a minute of her time and these wastes of space a lesson.

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He wants to reopen Jeongingak? Is he a Park? What business do a Seo have with the running of Jeongingak. He is clearly over by is head. He and the Queen will make a very good sycophant pair.

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i started crying when i sensed Bu Yeon starting to see/feel Mu Deok-i's memories... it means to me that Mu Deok-i is really not coming back (physically, as Jung So Min - i know, i know... let it go...). but i cried. i don't want to like Bu Yeon, and i don't want Wook-i to like Bu Yeon - but i can feel it happening (me liking her) and it's painful to watch Wook-i starting to like her... which "her" is she? i'm so confused........

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Me too spazmo. Me too.

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It’s funny to me that I’m watching two currently airing dramas with a similar concept. The Forbidden Marriage has the King pining over his long lost love and uses the FL So-rang to channel her spirit. So you don’t know if he is falling for the real So-rang or he just sees her as his long lost wife.

Similarly with Jang Uk, he has been pining for Naksu for three years and the fact that ‘Bu-yeon’ is remembering Naksu’s memories, does Jang Uk now she her as Naksu? And I really need a more clearer explanation about the Bu-yeon/Naksu connection

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I am curious about Bu Yeon as her own person, poor girl’s been mentioned so much but we know almost nothing about her. I doubt we’ll ever know or get an explanation on the connection though, based on experience with the drama Big..

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WAH-HAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!
(said like Blankie in The Brave Little Toaster)

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If it's any comfort, this is how I see it: They're all her! The sweet and cheerful heir to Jinyowon, the sharp and calculated assassin, the sardonic and sarcastic servant girl. I was always annoyed by how Wook called her Mudeokie even when no-one was around to see it, worried that he was forgetting to look past her skin, and this is basically the ultimate test to see if he is truly in love with her soul.

I think going forward we're going to see more glimpses of the old Naksu as well - after she recovered that memory at the stone tower, she started speaking with the cold and blunt eloquence of her old self! By the end of the season, it won't be so jarring.

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Yeah it’s always been Naksu, the only time we saw Buyeon’s soul come to the surface was when she whispered “Mother” in Season 1 when Mama Jin was about to kill her. Jang Uk has always loved Naksu for her soul the same way Naksu loves Jang Uk’s soul. A really good scene from season 1 that someone pointed out to show that they love each other’s souls is when Naksu thought Jang Uk soul shifted and went to that body crying thinking it was Jang Uk and pointed a sword at Jang Uk’s body thinking his soul wasn’t in that body anymore.

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This really confuses me too - who does he think he is kissing? I’m half thinking we need clearer visual representation and half nodding along with how mixed it all is…

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@alathe said it well: It hurts because I don’t want him to heal. I want him to be loyal past the brink of death. It hurts because I want him to love Naksu no matter what form she takes. It hurts because I do want him to heal. And he’s beginning to, and that part hurts as well.

I can't say it any better myself.

1. Grief and bereavement is a very complex beast. Even Kubler-Ross "5 stages of grief" cannot adequately capture how we grieve the ones we have loved and lost. The stages bleed into each other, they repeat, ebb and flow.

2. and there is perhaps a similarity to the heart of alchemy as (i) one base metal transmute into a precious one: gold.
(ii) Alchemy also has the meaning of finding a means to indefinitely prolong life.

If we can see Bu-Yeon/Mu Deok as different alchemic transmutations on a continuum we call Naksu, we can better hold on & let go of the loves we have lost at the same time.

I think at this point all Beanies need to address the kimchi vat in the room -- on the issue of death & grief, how will the key theme of "loyalty and duty" play out in S2?

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Thoughts on grieving l closure l emotional catharsis:

1) The love that dares not speak its name:
I am so glad that after a three-year hiatus, both our surrogate father & mother figures to Uk ( Park Jin & KDJ) finally broke their silence and uttered Mu-Deok's name as well as his frozen grief / lack of closure.

2) Tis also moving how various minor characters commemorate her death in their unique ways:

(a) A pensive CP wanted to drink ginger & cinnamon wine;

(b) Ju-wol wanted to burn an incense for her (and ended up hilariously drunk-confessing the love story of Naksu-Uk to a mortified BY);

(c) Finally, we stand in the shoes of our grieving hero. For three years, he has held his breath waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for her shadow to darken his doorway again.

We too, have been hoping against hope, JSM will appear again (for to weep would be abandoning her at the edge of that cliff). But now, we finally can weep together with Uk, and move on (and not feel disloyal to her memory!)

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Additional thought on closure & catharsis:
I thought the entire story beat on "Capture Fake Naksu" was masterful on so so so many levels.

But more than anything ( since S2 is really the emotional pay-off for fans who endured through the angst of S1), it set the stage for grief closure and emotional catharsis for our hero.

(i) Grieving is a ritual, and unfortunately that grief process was violently truncated and interrupted in Uk's case.

He never saw her petrify, or die, or plunge into the Lake. They never got to say their tearful goodbyes. He never recovered her corpse or gave her a proper burial or shed a tear for her.

(ii) That entire hunt became a very public performance of exorcism, putting to final rest all the fears haunting Daeho, the vicious rumors surrounding Naksu, the web of illusions built by malefactors to entrap him, and completing the final arc of his personal ritual to grieve for her.

(iii) The aerial shot of the fake Bu-Yeon shot dead on the large raised performance stage not only clued us in to the performative aspect of that scene, it also recalled the scene of Jin Seol-ran performing her shaman ritual twirling on a stage.

(iv) Inversion: Jang Uk enlist the help of the real Naksu to fake-die, in order to get the fake Naksu to die for real.

(v) That he stabbed the fake Naksu soul-shifter dead on the Bridge of Love Confessions was no accident. It was so symbolic. kudos to the writers.

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i'm... i'm..... totally speechless.......

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Wow, @empressgirl, I’m in awe of your insightful analysis!👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

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Excellent!! Thank you

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I'm finding this season to be very emotionally engaging, probably because the love story has an epic feel. As I said above, I don't think the chemistry or the portrayal of the FL is better or worse this season--it's just reflecting a different tone and dynamic between the characters. As a result, I'm totally sucked in and enjoying watching these two find their way (back) to each other.

Some Highlights:

--The metaphors this week (the age-old debate between turtle and peacock for the prize of #1 pet! the rice cakes filled with fish oil or honey!) were delightfully on the nose. And the poor CP; he thinks he's protecting himself from falling in love with someone he can't have . . . by slowly falling for someone he can't have (again). Ouch.

--There's something delicious about Bu-yeon being jealous of herself, especially when she tried to cut off Ju-wol's excited re-telling of all of Mu-Deok and Jang Uk's most romantic moments. And yet even after shoving the honey cookies in her mouth, she still took packed some away for Jang Uk anyway. She reminds me of Naksu in little moments like that, when she's both fiery and sentimental.

--LJW is clearly a very talented actor, and I continue to be impressed with how much emotion he conveys in micro expressions. Jang Uk is desperately lost and heartbroken, but he's also emotionally cut off. In the hands of a lesser actor, that would probably mean a lot of blank, stony faces with a few dry line deliveries thrown in here and there. I so appreciate that I can still see all the aspects of a character I grew to love in the first season--his generosity, his loving nature, his strength--existing under a stubborn layer of emotional pain and stoicism. So, so good.

--I liked both kisses this week, even the first one, which allowed us to see Mu-Deok/Naksu taking the more overtly affectionately role that Jang Uk took in the past. The second one was bittersweet, of course, because Wook is still grieving, even as he's clearly drawn to Bu-yeon. I have no idea who exactly he thought he was kissing in that moment--he had just woken up, presumably now sober, which seemed to indicate that he no longer was confused about who he was with. At the same time, she really *is* the same woman that he loved before, so his mistake--if he made one--isn't really a mistake anyway. But whatever. It was a sweet, sexy kiss.

Some Minor Gripes:

--Cho-yeon is still working my last nerve. I disliked her petulance towards Dong-je after finding out he put up posters of her missing sister all over town. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be getting from her, but if it's just that Dong-je annoys the crap out of her and everything he does is wrong, then he should move on. She doesn't deserve his patient, loyal heart.

--And en route out of town, she can grab that annoying doctor. She served little purpose in season 1, other than to show us how much Jang Uk preferred Mu-Deok. Seeing her mess with Bu-yeon is...

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neither entertaining nor necessary. I'm not sure why she's still in this show.

--I hate to say it, but I kindof feel that way about Yul, too. His character is so flat; he never appears to grow or change or serve any real narrative purpose. Now he's talking about letting the worm eat him alive. Why exactly? Because he can't have Naksu? Can the Hong sisters please do something with this guy already?!

--Finally, Master Lee. What's up with his ambiguous morality? What possible rationalization does he have for keeping the truth about Bu-yeong from Jang Uk at this point? It's just cruel. If the answer is that he's honoring a mother's love for her daughter, uh, this version of Bu-yeong is not her daughter. So what's he doing here? I don't get it.

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I'm disappointed with the direction the show has gone with Heo Yeon-ok. I liked her at first and wanted her to become one of the gang and have her own nice little arc once she got over Wook (and she needs to find someone, since she's clearly a distant ancestress of Ji-yeon the SFL from Love Is for Suckers). I wish the show was not flattening her and her maid into high school mean queens. Yeon-ok’s been a bit too self-impressed and deluded about her chances with Wook from the start, but she also has skills and good qualities and deserves better. I blame Heo Yeom and to a lesser extent Kim Do-joo for starting her off with false hopes and the Hong sisters for having too many balls in the air and subbing in stock characters instead of developing them.

My best guess about Master Lee is that he's supposed to be the return of Master Seo, foreseeing all possible futures and nudging events here and there to save Daeho despite the inevitable personal cost to some of his pawns. That could make him a god or a monster.

As for Cho-yeon, I think Arin just isn't a very good actor. She can't convey emotional conflict and she uses the traffic signal method of alternating expressions: pout - look startled - simper, repeat.

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she's a nice girl, but her maid really something else eversince part 1. so condescending for a maid .
i actually pity Yun Ok. she's been trying for 3 years and suddenly this outsider come out of nowhere become the legal wife of man who still in love with his former betrothed. of course anyone in her place will be bitter. but, she crossed her line at the banquet. i hope she learn her lesson not to cross bu yeon. she might not know everything about JU, but now she's the legal wife. i like how both Kim Dojoo and Bu Yeon put her on her place. have some respect to yourself, Yun Ok.

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@elinor *Rebuking the spirit of Ji Yeon in this one.*

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Stage direction: shakes shaman bells *vigorously* in her general direction

p.s. and THAT, should be the only legitimate use of shaman bells in this series. Show, you have been warned

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@joanna I agree!!

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@laurensophie: All good points. Despite Yul’s lack of evolution, I’ve come to like him. His sweetness and the aura of impending tragedy won me over before I realised what was happening.
And, that doctor is just redundancy personified. And, turned a bit vicious this week.
And Master Lee has become far less sympathetic and I have become very ambivalent towards him. He has an ulterior motive which might not be entirely congruent with Naksu’s wellbeing.

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I like Yul, too, which is why I find the lack of development for him to be so frustrating. I wasn't sure about the actor at first, but he really grew on me by the end of Part I and I was hoping for something more than the re-tread we appear to be getting in Part II.

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I don't mind that he doesn't have much development since the character does contribute positive energy to the ensemble. Heo Yun-ok is a disappointment since I had hopes for her in season 1 and every team needs a healer! Now, season 2 is making her a throwback to the sour-faced 2nd female lead of the old kdrama days.

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Oh no, actually I am pretty sure Master Lee has got our OTP's back.

1) That line in the sneak preview "There is no need to force things."

(I think he just wants their love to be naturally rekindled as their skin and bones remember each other again and cleave -- never to part)

2) The enigmatic line where he says he "erases the unnecessary" -- he is likely alluding to act of erasing Cho Yeong/Naksu's childhood trauma of family massacre, bloody upbringing as ruthless killing tool, and the anguished recognition of stabbing her love in his heart

we know he is deeply sympathetic to her plight (c.f S1 when he was discussing Naksu's backstory with Park Jin and Uk overheard them. He said she is to be pitied because she has been abused by everyone and left to die.

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@LaurenSophie I know, right! I side-eyed Master Lee so hard when he said he erased the memories that weren't necessary. Sir, reveal yourself! Say what you mean, please, otherwise get off because you're weighing this ship down.

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I feel like Master Lee's ultimate aim is to restore balance to Daeho. For as long as the ice stone exists, there is no balance because there's too much power in the world that can be abused.

He had also said in S1 that he would wait and observe to see what choices Jang Uk makes and would only intervene if Uk made the wrong choices.

I think it's important that Uk grieves and lets go of what might have been with Mudeok. Even if she's back as Buyeon, the Mudeok he knew is gone forever. If he were simply told that Buyeon is Mudeok, he would expect her to be like Mudeok and would be repeatedly disappointed when she's not. Better for him to come to care for Buyeon on his own now and then learn later that he hit the jackpot twice.

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I agree with your last comment, but I don't think that's Master Lee's call to make. We'll see in the next episode--and I'm more than happy to be wrong--but I don't get the sense from Master Lee that he has a real plan here. Otherwise, I'm not sure why he would have just allowed things to play out as they did for the past three years with Bu-yeon locked up and hidden from the world. As with keeping the truth from Jang Uk, that seems cruel to me, and as of yet, I don't hear a larger justification from him, so I find his motives suspect.

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Master Lee needs the 3 years to resurrect and heal her. The poor girl has been completely petrified, it's like trying to reconstitute food using the powdered version.

and come to think of it -- food and cooking is a form of alchemy. Simply by applying salt, acid, heat and fat you can completely change the state, texture, taste profile of whatever raw ingredient you started off with.

Something's brewing/cooking with our dear OTP in this simmering cauldron we call AoS.

Patience, Beanies. The 3-year wait (or rather our 2-months wait for S2) will be worth it :)

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@kdramacurious: Better for him to come to care for Buyeon on his own now and then learn later that he hit the jackpot twice.

I agree -- like Master Lee said (next ep): "There is no need to force things." Better for their souls to remember each other and be inexorably drawn back to each other, bone cleaving to flesh, never to part again.

It's almost always a moral & philosophical dilemma when a dead love returns (whether by cloning l simulacrum l reincarnation l magic).

We will always be left asking ourselves: who was/is it that we really love(d)?

Minor rant: I wish they had gone far far away from Daeho and all its political machinations and just live out their lives in obscurity -- growing old together in absolute happiness.

They both gave up so much just to have that, and alas, it was cruelly snatched away from our lovers.

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well, at least this time, Go Won met Bu Yeon when she already mention that she's married. hopefully, its just a nice encounter between two people who bond over a cute little turtle. no more fluttering feeling from CP for this lady.

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I totally second that. First off, I LURVE Episodes 3-4.

S2 is really on a roll, but in terms of the emotional quotient and relational dynamics / chemistry, I thought 3&4 really hit all the right notes.

1) Metaphors: Hong Sisters are lying it on thick, but the magic sauce works great me thinks (as it did with their previous works).

2) Food as Parables: these kitchen vignettes are parables all by themselves and serve as a companion reader guide to how we can decode the theme of the episode (or at least what would happen in the next story beat).

3) "rice cakes with honey/fish sauce" game: the key to decoding this culinary parable is contained in Seo Yul's comment: "If we doubt your rules to begin with, then this world is no longer predictable."

and THIS is the reason why Uk is the rule-maker & rule-breaker, and Seo Yul is NOT. Callback to S1).

The rules of engagement in S2 are no longer predictable and we all each need to choose and eat our cakes and forge our destiny.

Just as Harold Pinter once said of his enigmatic plays: "There are 127 meanings to this. You get the interpretation you deserve, just like you get the wife you deserve."

Bon Appetit, and just desserts.

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Other highlights I love -- character development of Naksu in Eps 3-4:

Love how they short-fuse the relationship progression and our FL is already meeting all the family, extended family, childhood BFFs, elders, love rival, potential suitors, people who could ID her as Naksu, all at one shot. Let the shenanigans begin!

she really started to come into her own now and I am warming up to her.

(a) I like her self-possessed and fearless authority when it comes to reading energies (either of the jade egg, or of people);

(b) her ability to take the lead (i.e. deftly GPS-ing a flustered Yul out of Gaema Village and calling him out;

(c) and doing very dignified smackdowns of Lady Heo & maid (for throwing shade) & fighting for her man

(d) Her trickster-guile to maneuver them out of dicey situations ("I am pregnant" LOL)

(e) That this gutsy Naksu told Park Jin she would protect Uk in front of all the elders is just SO *fist pump*.

Moving reciprocal gesture to S1 when Uk was always the one protecting and embracing his fragile bird egg.

I find S2 is like the real emotional payoff that is long overdue from S1.

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Yesss her character so satisfying to watch

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Thank you for summarizing what I feel and can’t express!

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Totally agree... especially with regard to Cho Yeon and Master Lee.

Cho Yeon annoyed me last season, as a piece of oversweetened fluff with no real emotional depth. In a world (Daeho) where everyone is so crazy-good at subtlety and portrayal of complex emotions, she simply isn't adept at either. To me, the only difference in her this season vs. last season, is that this time around she's an angry, bitter little b**** rather than a lovesick, simpering little kitten. There is no subtlety in her still - we all know that she is mad at San Gu just to be mad, and that if he got in her face and forced her to speak to him, she'd go right back to the version from last season.

Master Lee is another problem this time around. I agree, he was such a close ally of Jang Uk last season, with the teaching and the advice and the behind-the-scenes help... why is he stonewalling the poor guy this season? Without question, Jang Uk needs support and advice right now - and while Jin is trying to fill that role, we all know how amazingly skilled he is in the love department (insert eye roll here). Uk is nursing possibly the world's most staggering heartbreak... and Lee could tell him some information that might help him sort out some of his brain and heart clutter.

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1- Prince Won is just so adorable!
2- Yul and Naksu are so cute together. Let's be dumb friends!
3- The kiss felt so random
4- The 2D1N reference was SO unexpected I couldn't stop laughing. As soon as I saw the ddeok I was like, imagine if one of them have wasabi in it. And then suddenly he mention bokpulbeok. And then suddenly he says he made them for 2 days and 1 night? HAHA

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this girl is so crazy with her escape plans LMFAO. her memories may gone, but her deceit still as delightful as ever. the way Uk lose his words, the way she's pouting was the best scene i've ever seen. i've no idea if their *witness* can be produce in 21 day, at least we know Heo Yeom already knew their little tricks and probably will be on board to tricks those old bats at Unanimous Assembly.

We need to wait another 5 days to know whether Uk actually conscious when kissing his new bride or still hazily thinks that it was his Naksu that he was kissing. i hope its the former since [SPOILER] <3 <3

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And some even complain about the series being too much love stories and not so in action 😌...
Since when AOS was painted as action drama? 😆🤭

Although I didn't shed any tears by the last scene, but I totally get what @alathe wrote about healing and loyalty. They both painful in most best way for Wook.

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@alathe I love the fun vibe of your recap that lovingly captures the energy and feel of the scenes.

My fave moments:
1. My wife can't sleep. Stop calling. *SWOON*
2. The Witness. I'm glad Heo Yeom recognizes that you can't tell if you're pregnant like 24 hours after the deed.
3. Joo-wol planning to light incense on Naksu's death anniversary.
4. The 2D1N reference with a poignant lesson.
5. Yul just firing on all cylinders - his scene with Wook and shutting down his uncle. Please don't die!
6. Kim Do Joo making sure that Dong-gu doesn't end up like his uncle in the romance dept.
7. Prince and Turtle!
8. Flashbacks to Jung So-min.

I like the implication that Buyeon/Naksu 2.0 may have Naksu 1.0's face, but her body may be slighter than Naksu 1.0 due to the complicated process of restoring Buyeon. Like the neck down is Buyeon and neck up is Naksu? Combined with Buyeon/Naksu 2.0 dressed as rich lady priestess and her innocent aura, it makes it a little harder for others to make the connection.

I know Buyeon/Naksu 2.0 is Mudeokie/Naksu 1.0 and Go Yoon-jung is doing a great job trying to replicate JSM's expressions so that it's more believable that Mudeokie is now Buyeon/Naksu 2.0, but I'm not digging too much those moments when she gets too mopey about Wook though it sort of makes sense because her soul remembers him. I just don't like them being at-odds. We need more moments like her angrily crushing those honey biscuits in her mouth. That was a total Mudeokie move. Please get those divine powers quickly and kill off Jin Mu! So tired of that guy.

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Thank you for your awesome weecap @alathe
The episode s getting better and better. The cast is amazing I can't say more.
When they talk about 2D1N and fish sauce challenge, for a moment I thought Nam PD is involved in the Alchemy of Souls 2 production lol

Yul and Prince Won charmed with mudok and bu-yeon again and know they won't have her just breaks my heart.

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Beanies i have to confess i loved this episodes So Much, not only did i replayed scenes on the first watch, i rewatched it a few more times while waiting for @alathe’s fantastic recap.

Oh the grief, the snark, the funny, the wisdom - Show had everything this week and it was all perfectly balanced! Needless to say (but i will anyway) Wook and Mudeok absolutely killed it and my sad boys Yul and Danggu are just determined to stomp on the broken pieces of my heart made by our grieving hero.

Last week i was kinda mad at Park Jin but they redeemed him this week with all the food themed advise (that 2D1N tribute was a pleasant surprise) but the Assembly can just burn in the fiery pit for all I care.

I can’t wait for next week but i’m also worried about the pacing - there’s only 6 episodes left but it feels a long way off from wrapping up everything.

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Damn i wrote Mudeok when it should be Bu Yeon..

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Bu Yeon and Ukkie are so stinking cute! I think Yoon Jung is eating up the role, not only is she stunning, but there is this undeniably endearing quality to her acting. I can only hope that the story moves faster and true identities are revealed so that ne'er-do-wells get their comeuppance before time runs out. (I'm looking at you Frosty Tips and Crowned Crone.

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My goodness yes - you put my entire feelings on this episodes in a nutshell. They’ve got everything going so far and they must start picking up the pace

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@kakakash Thank you! I don't want a rushed finale or some unbelievable save last-minute a la deus ex machina. I'm all for them solving mysteries, but don't want to waste time on characters like the queen, the uncle or So-I if they aren't going to play into the larger narrative. Although, I foresee the show getting a 2-4 episode extension, I just want to make what we have count. 😊

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ooo yes an extension sounds nice. T'wud do us all a service...that is, if they used the time wisely. I want this to be good so bad

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