Review: Alchemy Of Souls: Light And Shadow

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Show continues our magicky narrative from Season 1 (review here!), and manages to serve up a solid story, while sticking to its own mythology and internal rules.

On top of that, I found Show nicely engaging on the emotional front, once I got my bearings in Season 2.

To address the elephant in the room, yes, I thought Go Yoon Jung was very good as our female lead, and I thought the change of female lead between Season 1 and 2, was nicely managed.

Importantly, even though I did feel like Show wobbled a little bit at the end, it does, in fact, give us a solid ending, while working within the mythological framework it’s set up for itself.

Not bad at all, I say.

THE LONG VERDICT:

I think that this is one of those dramas where audience reactions are mixed enough, that the only way to find out whether this one’s for you, is to try it out for yourself.

I’ve seen folks who loved Season 1, but felt underwhelmed by Season 2.

I’ve also seen folks who were just ok with Season 1, but loved Season 2.

I’ve seen folks who were meh about both seasons, and I’ve also seen folks who loved both seasons.

See what I mean, about it being hard to predict where you’ll land with this one? 😅

For the record, I really enjoyed both seasons, for, I realize, slightly different reasons. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that I might have enjoyed certain aspects of Season 2, more than Season 1.

I’ll talk more about all of that shortly.

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.

As with Season 1, I enjoyed the OST nicely, even though I can’t say that any single track became an actual earworm, for me.

That said, I do feel that the OST amplified my watch experience, and made the feels more acute. If I had to pick a favorite, I do think that Track 1, Blue Flower, is nicely poignant and melodious – especially the chorus.

Here it is as well, in case you prefer to listen to it on repeat. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS

Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:

1. Yes, you do need to watch Season 1 first.

In case you’re reading this and wondering whether you can just start watching with Season 2, while skipping Season 1, I’d say that that wouldn’t work very well, with this show.

To get a full idea of this drama world and all of its workings, and to get a better appreciation for what’s actually going on, in Season 2, it’s best that you watch Season 1, before checking out Season 2.

2. There is a time skip between Season 1 and Season 2.

What this means is, Show doesn’t pick up right where Season 1 ends, and in the time skip  between the two seasons, things have changed for our various characters and relationships.

Knowing to expect it, helps, and understanding that it might take you a while to get your bearings in Season 2, also helps.

3. Yes, there is a change in female lead.

I’d had my concerns about this, going in, because I’d already grown fond of Season 1’s female lead Jung So Min.

Keep an open mind on this, is my advice.

1, it makes story sense, and 2, I found that I ended up liking Go Yoon Jung a great deal, in this, as well.

STUFF I LIKED

I’ll be doing a macro look at the various things I liked and liked less about this show, before delving into characters and relationships.

For a blow-by-blow look at how I felt about Show from episode to episode, you might like to check out my Patreon episode notes here.

Show is still stylish

Yes, this is a bit on the superficial side, but I liked the fact that Show is pretty much as stylish as it was, in Season 1.

Even though circumstances have changed for many of our characters, this similar treatment of everything helped to maintain the feeling that we were in the same drama world.

I found some of the touches extra thoughtfully conceived, and in particular, I appreciate the way we transition from one scene to the next.

[MINOR SPOILER]

E1. For example, I really like the way Show uses the wine bottle as a focal point, to switch from a scene of Uk (Lee Jae Wook) drinking, to a scene of Bu Yeon (Go Yoon Jung) drinking.

It’s not only a neat transition, it also gives us the feeling that Uk and Bu Yeon are drinking together, even though they are physically in different places. I thought that was very nicely done.

[END SPOILER]

Show’s pace

I like how Show moves along at a pretty brisk pace, ie, we’re not fudging with anything for too long.

Which is great, coz we really only have 10 episodes to wrap up this story, and Show demonstrates that it is fully aware of it.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. For example, in most dramas, there’d typically be more back-and-forth and delay, with the whole situation around Bu Yeon not remembering anything about being Naksu.

Instead, as soon as she and Uk establish publicly that they are married, Bu Yeon gets a memory flash, when she touches Uk’s sword – which is Naksu’s sword.

This gives us the sense that things are moving along quite briskly, and I like that.

[END SPOILER]

Show’s handling of the switch in female lead

Y’know, when I’d realized that Show was switching actresses for our female lead for Season 2, I honestly hadn’t been sure how to feel about it.

On the one hand, I understood that it was necessitated by the story, because Mu Deok was always a borrowed body, for Naksu. It made sense, that we would somehow finish our story with Naksu finally wearing her own face, instead of someone else’s.

On the other hand, I had personally grown so fond of Jung So Min as Mu Deok, that I wasn’t sure that I would be able to take to someone else as our female lead, particularly since Season 2 is so much shorter – which meant that I would have less time to warm up to her, than if Season 2 had been 16 episodes, like Season 1.

However, as early as 3 episodes into my watch, I found myself taking to Go Yoon Jung as Bu Yeon, and very well indeed.

Which is why I wanted to give Show credit where it’s due; I do think Show handled the change in female lead very well, and managed to incorporate it into our story in a way that felt organic.

[SPOILER ALERT]

First of all, I think it’s pretty brilliant of Show to give us the explanation, that because Naksu is in Bu Yeon’s body, her build is different than her original body.

She’s supposed to be smaller and more delicate, and in terms of story logic, I can see why this would contribute to people like Park Jin and Master Heo not being able to recognize Bu Yeon as Naksu.

Plus, there’s the thing where Go Yoon Jung appears to have put on some weight for the role.

With her resulting softer, fuller features, it also contributes to why people who had seen Naksu’s body, would be unable to place her in her new body, despite her having the same face.

Also, the different hairstyle, clothes and makeup add to it as well.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in several years, couldn’t recognize me because I’d cut off my long hair since I last saw her.

With just that making someone unable to recognize me in real life, I can more than buy the idea that with all these factors at play, folks like Park Jin and Master Heo (Yu Jun Sang and Lee Do Kyung) would be unable to place Naksu as Bu Yeon, even though they find her familiar looking.

And of course, there’s the thing where the Naksu that they’d seen, had been, well, dead.

I put Jin Mu’s (Jo Jae Yun) ability to place her, down to how he’d spent years looking at her face, as he’d brainwashed her to be his assassin tool.

I don’t know if it had been on purpose, but I do find that Go Yoon Jung’s softer features in Season 2, make it easier for me to connect her with Jung So Min’s Mu Deok, since Jung So Min also has rather soft, rounded features.

Additionally, I do feel like Go Yoon Jung’s giving us a similar energy to what we’d seen in Mu Deok.

I also like the consistency employed in the writing, where our female protagonist has the same effect on the people around her, whether she’s Naksu, or Mu Deok, or Bu Yeon.

Altogether, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really liked Go Yoon Jung as our female lead, despite my affection for Jung So Min in the same role, in Season 1.

[END SPOILER]

Show’s handling of the OTP loveline

I found myself really liking the idea that Season 2 is basically our OTP love story, redux.

As some viewers have pointed out, there are some similarities between this love story and the first love story, like in the way Uk forms an alliance with our female lead, only because of the power he believes she has, which he thinks will help him achieve his goals.

There’s also the thing, where, as Uk roots for his ally to regain her powers, they start to grow closer, thanks to sharing these moments.

And, from pretty early on, I found myself thinking that the things that Bu Yeon says and does, aren’t too different from the things that I can believe Mu Deok would do.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. For example, I can totally believe that if Mu Deok had been in the same situation as Bu Yeon, that she would have faked a pregnancy too, in order to get them through the moment – never mind the implications and consequences. 😁

[END SPOILER]

I will talk more about this in the OTP section later, but for now, I just wanted to say that I do like this same-same-but-different treatment of the love story, because it reinforces that Uk has history with Bu Yeon, even as Show builds a new love story between them.

Show remains consistent

As far as I’m concerned, Show stays within the framework of its mythology, even when it introduces new elements that viewers may not be familiar with.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E7. For example, I love how Show manages to save Yul, while keeping everything within the believable confines of our story world.

It’s like Show was giving us a tour of its house, and talked itself into a corner, and then turned around and revealed a hidden door, behind which there’s a whole other section of the house that we just didn’t realize was there. 😁

That’s what it feels like to me, as we explore this arc of how Yul gets saved, when there had appeared to be no way to save him.

Sure, some of it is because Madam Jin had lied, and said that there was no way for someone with the blood parasite settled in their energy torrent, to survive.

But there are other parts too, where Show reveals possibilities that we just didn’t know existed, in this drama world.

[END SPOILER]

Maybe not all viewers like that sort of thing, but I find myself perfectly happy to roll with the stuff that Show is serving up.

Rather than think of Show as trying to deceive me, or keeping things from me, to manipulate my perspective, I’m happy to just think of it as Show and I.. never having had any reason to talk about these details, in the past. 😁

I just love that instead of waving a magic wand and making all our troubles disappear (hello, deus ex machina), Show takes the time to demonstrate why its solution works organically within the world it’s created.

The new things that are revealed to us (the magic orb that can carry Yul’s energy, for example) feel absolutely believable as things that would exist in this drama world.

And on top of that, our characters stay in character, and don’t suddenly start acting like completely different people.

Brownie points for all of that, seriously.

The detailed plotting

Like in Season 1, I felt that the Hong sisters were in top form in this season as well.

This season, I loved that they showed what a tight grasp they have, of the various soundbites between our OTP in particular, and they use it to great effect, in support of our narrative.

I liked that a whole lot.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E8. For example, I do love how our writers have such a good grasp of all the various soundbites between our OTP, and plant them so judiciously, in Bu Yeon’s words.

Like the way she artlessly tells him, that she knew that he was her husband, at first sight, echoing what Uk had once told Naksu / Mu Deok, that he’d known that she was his master, at first sight.

I imagine that that must take a good amount of careful narrative plotting, and yet, the Hong sisters makes it feel so natural, like it’s part of the conversation in the present. Very nicely done.

E8. I also love how the Hong sisters lay foundations for even the smaller things in our story.

Like this episode, where, in the beginning, when things hadn’t become so angsty just yet, Bu Yeon had told Uk to climb the walls of Jinyowon to visit her – and that’s exactly what he does, later in the episode, because she wouldn’t see him when he came to the door.

This attention to little details gives me a bit of a thrill, and I clearly can’t stop talking about it. 😅

For the record, I’m glad that the old trope, of the OTP not meeting because one party refuses to see the other, is nicely turned on its head here, because Uk breaks into Jinyowon, just like Bu Yeon had asked him to.

E8. We also see Uk actually living up to something else that he says, earlier this episode, that there is not a single place where he cannot go.

That proves to be literally true, coz he’s found his way to Gwido, which feels like an entire dimension away from Daeho, all because he felt Bu Yeon’s stone egg calling him.

I love that. Very nicely done.

[END SPOILER]

STUFF THAT WAS OK

The time skip

I have to admit that I felt a measure of disorientation and confusion, at the beginning of this second season.

I figure that the reason for that is twofold.

1, It had been a few months since I’d watched Season 1, and in the meantime, I’d watched a whole bunch of other dramas as well.

Naturally, a lot of the details around how this drama world works, had faded from my mind.

It was a little challenging, to get back into the swing of things, particularly in a drama world as magicky, and with as many of its own specific ways of being, as this one.

It was honestly not very helpful that my brain wasn’t in the same space anymore, and I found myself madly trying to fish for information in my head, while watching, and I wasn’t always  able to come up with an answer. 😅

2, Between Season 1 and Season 2, 3 years have passed.

On the upside, the gap between seasons does mimic this time skip, because it feels like the 3 months or so that we wait between seasons, is about equivalent to the 3 years that have passed, in drama time.

On the downside, with stuff in my memory being somewhat hazy, AND, with many of our characters in different places (both literally and figuratively) compared to when we last saw them, I find myself struggling to figure out whether I have any knowledge to explain the reasons for these characters’ different situations.

Like, I found myself asking, do I know why these characters are in these positions, based on how Season 1 ended, or is it something that I will find out in due course, in Season 2? 😅

This felt pretty disorientating, to be honest.

And of course, this could have been avoided, if Season 2 had aired right after Season 1, kinda like how Part 1 and Part 2 of Love Like The Galaxy flowed one into the other without missing a beat.

In that way, my mental grasp of what’s what and why, in our drama world, wouldn’t have gotten compromised by my filling my drama plate with other shows and other characters, in the 3 months that it took Season 2 to air. 😅

This is one of the reasons that we drama fans have traditionally always preferred the single season approach to kdramas.

ANYWAY.

This disorientation didn’t last long, and wasn’t a deal-breaker, which is why it’s in this section.

The touches of humor

There were times when Show’s sense of humor didn’t work for me, but there were also other times when I found myself genuinely amused by Show’s antics, which is why Show’s sense of humor is in this section.

Here’s a quick sampling of the times when the humor didn’t work for me, as well as the spotlight on when I was quite thrilled by Show’s brand of funny.

[SPOILER ALERT]

When it didn’t work for me

E1. I wanted to say, I felt that it took me a while to get back into the story, also because I wasn’t jiving with the tone that Show has, for the first half of the episode.

I’m referring specifically to the more comic touches, like Lee Joon Hyuk’s cameo, and the scenes of him and his buddies gawking at Uk fighting the soul shifter, and all the more comedic-leaning reactions that come with that.

I dunno. Maybe it’s just me, but I had it in my head that we were in a pretty intense, dramatic section of our story, where Uk’s back from the dead, but scarred and broken from having lost the love of his life, and also, tortured (let’s not forget tortured!) from this, and from having the ice stone inside of him.

After Season 1’s epic ending, I’d kinda anticipated that we’d start off on an intense note as well, so I was rather thrown by the attempts at levity.

For example, I wasn’t really into the whole thing, where we see Park Jin forcing his terrible cooking on everyone else as a matter of routine, and cluelessly thinking that everyone thinks it’s delicious.

I didn’t find it funny, honestly. And in fact, I thought that Show was making Park Jin look kind of pathetic, whether accidentally or on purpose, and I didn’t like that much. 😬

When it worked for me

E7. One of my favorite highlights, this episode, is the whole thing where Bu Yeon has to carry the orb in her mouth and therefore can’t talk, and this is when Show decides that it’s time for Bu Yeon and the Crown Prince to meet each other properly, as themselves, and not as a shaman woman and a eunuch. 😁

I love how Show manages to keep the circumstances of this meeting organic to what we’ve been told about the situation, and the antics around it, relevant to our developing story, WHILE teasing out the funny, from this whole scenario.

This, to my eyes, is the Hong sisters at their best.

This all still drives our story forward, but the hilarity is organic, and not for a minute forsaken, despite the gravity of the situation at hand. Really, really well done. 🤩

Similarly, I love the detail, that the reason Uk has all that gold handy – which is exactly what our rescue team needs right now – is because he’s stashed all his rewards from the Crown Prince, in that random room in Jeongjingak, due to the fact that he just.. can’t be bothered.

This makes the convenient appearance of that large amount of gold feel organic to our story, instead of a stroke of narrative magic. I like it, anyway. 😁

E7. Also, isn’t that flickering lantern like a tongue-in-cheek take on the trope of how a mopey main character tends to flick the light in their bedrooms on and off? 😁

[END SPOILER]

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

That one time when I thought Show was a bit off [SPOILERS]

E7. The only thing that feels a touch off, to me, is that no one seems to take issue with the fact that Uk is using the power of the ice stone for his own personal agenda.

I mean, his sword is drawn, and he’s injuring and killing people, and this has nothing to do with catching soul shifters, and yet, no one says anything about it.

On this point, perhaps Uk is just that powerful, that everyone knows it’s futile to point it out? Because he could just annihilate them if he wanted to?

That’s the explanation that I’m settling on, in my head, but I do wish that Show had addressed this issue, since this had been a rule that had been overtly spelled out, that if Uk were to use the power of the ice stone for his own purposes, then Park Jin would pay with his life.

SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS

Lee Jae Wook as Uk

While it did take me a little bit of adjustment to get used to this new version of Uk, after the bright, irrepressible sort of personality I’d gotten used to from him, in Season 1, I realize that I kinda prefer this angsty, tortured version of Uk.

Maybe I just have a soft spot for tortured, angsty male leads..? 🤭

I found Uk appealing in a very cool and badass way, but with lashings of pain and vulnerability threaded through.

The fact that I found Uk appealing, also helped me to quite easily accept the idea that Bu Yeon would fall for him so easily as well. 😁

Here are just a few Uk highlights, from my watch.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I do like how we are given a fairly good glimpse at how tortured Uk is, this first episode.

He’s quite different from the irrepressible Uk whom we’d first gotten to know in Season 1, but given all that he’s been through, it’s not surprising in the least, he’s become a lot more jaded and world-weary.

Maybe I’m sadistic or something; I find that I actually like this version of Uk, all badass and formidable in battle, yet broody, angsty and tortured in private.

It makes him feel layered and intriguing, and, not gonna lie; I find him most interesting, out of all our characters, at the moment.

E3. As much as I’m enjoying the idea of Uk falling for Bu Yeon, it makes me sad to realize that he still thinks that he’s going to use Bu Yeon’s power to remove the ice stone from within him, and die.

That scene where he tells Maidservant Kim (Oh Na Ra) to have the peace of mind to marry Park Jin, because he’s now married and both he and Bu Yeon will be free, is such a suckerpunch to the heart.

I mean, that freedom that he’s referring to, for himself, is death, ok? 😭

That is NOT ok, and I can only hope that Show will allow Uk to learn the truth about Bu Yeon sooner rather than later, so that he won’t be so tortured. 😭

And Show’s doing a great job of letting us get a sense of just how tortured Uk is.

That forest, where he builds all those stone towers, in memory of each soul shifter that he’s killed, feels filled with sadness.

And the fact that Uk spends so much time dwelling among the stone towers, lost in his thoughts, already makes my heart go out to him – and that’s not even counting the way those wraiths, on a daily basis.

E7. I would absolutely believe that Uk would storm any place, in order to save Yul, never mind what place that might be, and whether there are a ton of mages poised to fight against him.

In fact, I found myself feeling quite mesmerized by the sight of Uk methodically advancing through the armies of mages set up against him.

There’s something both intent yet kinda languid about it, which makes it all the more badass – because he knows – and we know, too – that he doesn’t need to unleash his full power, in order to overcome anyone and everyone who places themselves in his way.

Such offhanded badassery. 🤩

[END SPOILER]

Go Yoon Jung as Bu Yeon

Like I mentioned earlier in this review, I’m in the camp that really, really enjoyed Go Yoon Jung as our female lead Bu Yeon.

Even though I had genuinely enjoyed Jung So Min as our female lead in Season 1, Go Yoon Jung just worked really well in this role, as far as I was concerned.

And so, props to Show for doing such a daring thing, as to switch out actresses for the female lead character, more than halfway through its story.

Here’s the spotlight on my various observations about Bu Yeon, over the course of my watch.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. This episode, as we learn more about Bu Yeon (we’ll call her Bu Yeon for now, until and unless this changes, and she stops identifying as Bu Yeon), I really feel sorry for her.

She tries so hard to please her mother (Park Eun Hye), but gets treated as an object, and is locked up, and slapped with a tracking bracelet, and it feels like there’s nothing she can do, to change that.

I generally find Bu Yeon likable, in that, there’s something warm and sincere about her.

Although she’s entering this spontaneous contract marriage with Uk, she shows that she  is curious about him as a person, and genuinely would like to get to know him better. I find that sweet and comforting, particularly since the world at large seems to be avoiding Uk.

I also like that she doesn’t lie to Uk for very long, and that, when pressed by Uk, she does admit the truth, even as she tries to find other grounds on which they can build their marriage. Plus, she does also tell him more about herself and her background, as she reveals the truth.

This desire of hers, to make their marriage real, even though it’s basically a business arrangement of sorts, gives me the impression that she’s all heart, and that endears her to me.

Then, when she leaves, because Uk realizes that she doesn’t have her powers, and tells her that he has no use for her, she still turns back to check on the people in Uk’s household, when she senses a weird energy from that water ghost (soul shifter?) dude.

And, she even puts herself in danger, in trying to get the water ghost dude to leave. That’s a great deal of sincerity and selflessness, given her short period of interaction with Uk and his household.

I can believe that Uk would be a little touched by her actions, even though his heart is still pining for Naksu / Mu Deok.

ALSO. Isn’t Bu Yeon just so refreshingly frank, for a noble lady?

I mean, the way she cheerfully tells Yul (Minhyun) that he’s handsome, and that’s why she might have wavered in her decision, if he’d been her betrothed, is just quite charming to my eyes. 😁

Last but not least, on top of all that, Bu Yeon does feel sympathy and compassion for Madam Jin, even though Madam Jin’s done nothing but keep her confined for the last 3 years of her life.

Yet, even so, she feels sorry at the thought of really running away, because that would mean that Madam Jin’s lost her daughter, all over again.

That really is quite kind and sweet, isn’t it?

E3. There’s a guileless, earnest vibe about Bu Yeon, that I enjoy very much.

She may not remember her past; she may not be strong, or have any other power than to see energy; she may not consider herself very smart. But, she doesn’t let that get her down, and she’s just so honest, wide-eyed and earnest in how she approaches the world, that I can’t help but love her.

So THIS is what Naksu is like, when she hasn’t been brainwashed for years, to be an assassin.

Why, I rather do think that I might be somewhat smitten with her, honestly. 😍

Which is a great thing, because then I can fully and easily root for Uk to become smitten with her too, heh.

I can only imagine bad things happening to Bu Yeon if she falls into Jin Mu’s hands, so I’m hugely relieved that she’s smart enough to keep herself safe, until she runs into Yul, who then takes it upon himself to keep her safe.

E5. One of the things that really lingers in my mind a lot, while watching this episode, is the idea of nature vs. nurture.

Specifically, I’m thinking about Bu Yeon, and how different she is, from the Naksu whom we met briefly, in Part 1 of our story.

I’ve seen folks facepalm at how “dumb” they feel she is now, compared to who she had been before, and I feel sorry for her, that that’s how some viewers are thinking about her.

So far, I don’t find Bu Yeon’s actions dumb – well, except for that one part in this episode, where she yelps at a non-existent bee, in order to leave Uk with Madam Jin, like he’d requested.

Aside from that, I’ve found Bu Yeon’s actions to be understandable, for a normal person.

Meaning, yes, sometimes she does come to the wrong conclusions, when thinking about things, and but I can see myself – or someone else – coming to similarly wrong conclusions, given the same information and constraints that Bu Yeon’s working with.

I prefer to think of this as a nature vs. nurture sort of thing.

When Bu Yeon had been Naksu, she’d been trained to within an inch of her life, to be sharp in her analysis and movements, and above all, to be ruthless and merciless.

I can totally buy that that kind of training, over someone’s formative years, would have a huge impact on one’s personality and sensibilities.

But now that Bu Yeon’s just Bu Yeon, with no Naksu training, and also, no memories of her formative years, she’s in her natural state, and with very little nurture in the equation to have shaped her personality, other than what she’s been told about herself, and how she’d been locked up in that room, for the period of time that she does remember.

In that sense, I can believe that Bu Yeon would be underdeveloped compared to someone else her age, who might have had a lot of training and instruction, and exposure to the ways of the world.

Because of this, I can buy the more childlike nuances of Bu Yeon’s personality, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Bu Yeon continues to change and evolve, as she gets familiar with and situated in the world outside of that room that had been her entire world for so long.

On that note, I have also seen people say that Bu Yeon’s conveniently in love with Uk, even though this is essentially a marriage of convenience, and she’s just met him.

I agree with that to some extent, in that I do think that the writers basically wanted her to be in love with Uk, for the purpose of our story.

However, if I’m thinking about Bu Yeon as a fairly childlike person at this point in her life, I can actually buy the idea that she would fall in love with Uk quite easily.

I mean, Uk’s an attractive person, being tall and handsome and all, plus, his badassery with the powers of the ice stone absolutely ups his allure to new heights.

I can buy the idea that a rather innocent and childlike Bu Yeon could fall in love with him, practically on first sight.

Add on the melty things that he ends up doing for her, like showing up when she least expects him to, and then convincingly acting the part of a sweet and loving husband, and I can believe that her initial attraction to him would deepen, and that she would end up quite smitten with him.

All that to say, yes, I can see where other viewers are coming from, but at the same time, I do find that with a little thought and lens adjustment, I’m perfectly fine with what Show is serving up, particularly around Bu Yeon as a character.

E8. I feel bad for Bu Yeon, this episode, because she regains all these painful memories that she then has to deal with.

I do appreciate though, that before this context is drawn in, thus crippling her in her ability to embrace Uk, her empathy for Uk is so warm and strong, like when she spots the scar on his torso, where Naksu / Mu Deok had stabbed him before.

While Uk’s first reaction to her staring at his bare torso, is to think that she’s keen to continue exploring the kissy-touchy side of their relationship, she’s transfixed, more than anything, because she’s so consumed by how painful and terrible this scar, and therefore, this memory, is for Uk.

Augh. I really do like her a lot. 😍

E8. I would also like to say that I find myself really enjoying Go Yoon Jung’s portrayal of Naksu, as she regains her memories, and the context of her existence.

While we do get a bit of hard edges with her now, like when she thinks about Jin Mu, and resolves to face him, I actually really like that, by and large, what we get from this current version of Naksu, is a great deal of softness and overt emotion.

I’d like to think that this is the person that Naksu would have grown into, if Jin Mu hadn’t ever taken her, and groomed her to be an assassin.

And this context, makes for a great explanation for why Go Yoon Jung’s portrayal of Naksu, is so different from Jung So Min’s portrayal of Naksu. I love how organically that all comes together! 🤩

[END SPOILER]

Uk and Bu Yeon

I’ve heard it said that there are two main camps when it comes to the OTP loveline between Uk and Bu Yeon.

Apparently, there is one camp that feels that Uk falling for Bu Yeon negates the love that he’d declared for Mu Deok / Naksu, since he’s falling for Bu Yeon while thinking that she’s a legitimately different person.

And then there’s apparently the other camp, who doesn’t care too much about the logic of it, and is just in it for the skinship and feels.

I don’t see myself in either of those camps, though if I had to pick a side, I’d probably land more in the second camp than the first.

The thing is, why can’t we have a third camp?

I’m actually quite happy to think of it as Uk being drawn to Naksu, regardless of what body she inhabits, and regardless of whether he’s cognizant that it’s her.

He’s just drawn to her regardless, and I’d like to think that that’s what’s happening here, with him falling for Bu Yeon like this.

Isn’t this a very romantic, Fated Love sort of kdrama notion?

And so, for the record, this is the lens that I’m wearing, while watching the romance unfold between Uk and Bu Yeon, and it’s working very well for me. 😁

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I do find it an interesting set-up, this season, where it looks like Uk and Bu Yeon (Naksu?) don’t recognize each other, but are on a path to finding each other.

The fact that this path involves a contract marriage of sorts, where Uk appears to agree to marry Bu Yeon, because she needs his help, in exchange for her help, is bonus, because I do tend to gravitate towards the contract marriage trope.

I do also really like the poignance of the fact that Uk identifies with Bu Yeon on how she isn’t supposed to be alive. That sense of alienation, while different in its manifestation, is something that I can see being common ground for the both of them.

Grounding this whole thing, and lending it more than a little pathos, is the fact that we know that the help that Uk hopes to get from Bu Yeon, involves removing the ice stone from him, which would result in his death.

It really tugs at my heartstrings, to think that Uk is so tormented, that he would rather knowingly choose death, than live while tapping on the power of the ice stone. 💔

As we close out the episode, Uk’s just magicked Bu Yeon away from her wedding, to a deserted lake, and I’m as surprised as Uk, really, that Bu Yeon seems so delighted to be marrying him.

I mean, the way she throws her arms around him is cute, and it does lend a touch of whimsy to an otherwise sobering contract marriage (because Uk’s looking to die and all), so it’s not at all unwelcome, from where I’m sitting.

E2. I’m so glad that Uk shows up at the Unanimous Council in such a coolly badass and dramatic fashion, blowing out all the torches with his magic, and then facing Bu Yeon like she’s the only person present, asks her to put out the magical lantern from Jinyowon.

He literally doesn’t care that everyone who’s anyone is present and watching, and I hafta say, that “I don’t give a da*n” attitude is, not gonna lie, very alluring. 🤩

ALSO. How intriguing, that it’s when Bu Yeon puts her hand on Uk’s, that the magical lantern goes out.

Ooh. How does that work??

E3. I find myself nicely amused by how Bu Yeon is showing signs of sincerely liking Uk, and wanting to make that baby with him, hee.

Of course, Uk’s keeping Bu Yeon at arm’s length – for now! Because he has no idea who she is! – but it’s still nice to see him softening towards Bu Yeon, in small degrees.

Like when she’s in deep pain because of the tracking thread that Madam Jin’s sewn into her shoulder, I love how Uk basically storms Jinyowon like the badass that he is, and destroys the tracking thread – while casually explaining to Madam Jin that it’s preventing his wife from sleeping well, which is not cool, especially when they’re newlyweds and all. Tee hee!

I very much relished that look of consternation and shock on Madam Jin’s face. 😁

E3. Finally, at the close of the episode, it feels like a pretty organic moment in coming, with Bu Yeon finally putting the blue egg to the test.

All episode long, she’s had people say things to the effect of being shocked that Uk would think about marriage again, and how she must not know anything about him at all.

And, she’d overheard Uk talking about the eggs with Maidservant Kim as well, which would definitely add to the mystery.

I can see why she would take Yun Ok’s suggestion, and put energy into the egg, to see what would happen.

When Uk comes running into the forest, in response, I could barely breathe, I was so curious to see how he would react to the fact that it had been Bu Yeon calling him through the egg.

As one might expect, Uk does start to get upset – but then, Bu Yeon drops that bombshell, that she’s regained another memory fragment, and in that memory fragment, she and Uk had liked each other, and for a long time at that.

Ooohhh. Is this the beginning of Uk finding out the truth about Bu Yeon??? I actually hope so! 🤩🥹

E4. Well. I guess this being the moment Uk finds out the truth about Bu Yeon would be just too easy; I should’ve known. 😅

It’s quite clever, actually, the way Show makes it such that Uk and Bu Yeon come to the conclusion that those memory flashes aren’t of Bu Yeon’s memories, but Naksu’s memories, triggered by the fact that Bu Yeon has the blue egg in her possession.

I mean, it really does make some kind of sense, put that way, so I can’t blame Bu Yeon for believing that, even though it does perplex me a little, that she’s remembering stuff about her own life, and doesn’t even realize it. 😩

It bums me out that Uk gets all upset with Bu Yeon, and it also bums me out that when the tower collapses, almost like in response to Bu Yeon’s presence, Uk doesn’t actually believe Bu Yeon, when she says that she didn’t touch it.

Aw. The way this turns into a thing that drives a wedge between Uk and Bu Yeon, instead of drawing them together, does bum me out.

BUT. There’s the thing, where Uk comes back and watches over Bu Yeon, and sends fireflies to light her path (which look positively magical, really 🤩), when he sees that she’s frightened, being alone in the dark forest at night.

Aw. Uk isn’t as hardhearted as he’d like Bu Yeon to believe.

I don’t think Uk likes Bu Yeon per se, at this time, because his devotion is to Naksu, but I do think that this is him softening towards Bu Yeon a bit, and showing some care and compassion.

I’m glad that Bu Yeon at least manages to catch a glimpse of his shadow, so that she has an inkling that he’d been the one to light her path. 🥹

E4. I’m glad that Uk manages to figure out Jin Mu’s scheme, and get the right people on board to help him not only save Bu Yeon, but also, kill the soul-shifter, so that the rumor gets put to rest.

And, in the process, we do get a few small moments between Uk and Bu Yeon, where he appears softer, and less distant.

Like when he walks in to see Bu Yeon trying on a new outfit, and tells her that she looks pretty, before telling her that she must ask Maidservant Kim to trim her nails for her.

Also, the way he says yes to Bu Yeon’s various questions – about whether she can wear the family crest, whether she can tell people that they’re getting along well, and whether she can boast about him lighting up the dark path for her – is gentle and accommodating, which I find vicariously comforting, from Bu Yeon’s point of view.

I mean, Uk’s been so absent and distant, and she’s been missing him so much, that this must be such a refreshing, comforting change for her.

Later, when she’s talking with Maidservant Kim, and thinks about Uk pretty much admitting to sending her the fireflies that night, she positively glows, and y’know, seeing her so happy makes me happy. 🥰

Also, even though it comes as a shock to Bu Yeon, when Uk shows up at the banquet and tells her that Naksu’s coming back and therefore she’ll have to die that night, I’m glad that Uk is, in fact, explaining the situation to her, and asking for her cooperation, so that he can put Naksu to rest.

That feels like an important and significant step in the right direction, and also, I just like the idea that Uk is taking Bu Yeon into his confidence, in a manner of speaking.

Later that night, as Uk drinks to ward off the cold from the wraiths as he always does, there seems to be an extra heaviness about him, as he tries to lay down Naksu’s memory.

I can’t help but feel a bit of the heart flutters, when he holds Bu Yeon’s hand as she touches his cheek, but I also can’t help but register that he’s seeing her as Naksu /  Mu Deok, in this moment.

I don’t know if it’s the alcohol allowing him to see her in her true energy form, or if he’s just being plain tipsy and seeing things, but it’s a raw, emotional moment where he’s being vulnerable, and therefore, it feels precious, even though I don’t fully understand what this means, to Uk.

And what is this, that when he wakes up from his slumber, he reaches out to kiss Bu Yeon???

I mean, it’s a pretty melty, swoony sort of kiss, because he’s kissing her with feeling, like he really means it (and I can’t help but feel the feels 🥰🫠), but.. I need to know: Does he still think that he’s with Naksu / Mu Deok, right now??? 😱😅

E5. We finally get to where we ended the previous episode, which is Uk waking up and kissing Bu Yeon.

This scene doesn’t go in the direction that I’d thought, in that, with Uk kissing Bu Yeon with such feeling, I’m surprised that Bu Yeon doesn’t just kiss him right back, especially when he admits that he is very much awake and therefore not dreaming.

Which means that Uk had meant to kiss Bu Yeon. Ahhhh!

What does this meannnn???

For now, I’m thinking that Uk’s been slowly softening towards Bu Yeon, and so, in his just-awake, sleepy, unguarded state, feeling all warm and cozy, particularly after finally having had a good sleep, he just flowed with his feelings in the moment and kissed her.

But then, as alertness sinks in, along with all the (mis)assumptions and awkwardness between them, Uk is fast to backpedal, just as Bu Yeon is fast to feel self-conscious and embarrassed, and also fast to backpedal.

I suppose, if you haven’t thought things through and aren’t exactly sure that you’re really ready to commit to having feelings for the other person, it would feel safer to retreat to familiar territory. 😅

At least, that’s how I’m rationalizing the flow of this scene. If you have a different interpretation of the scene, I’d be curious to hear it!

I do like the detail, that it’s because of Bu Yeon’s presence, that the wraiths and the coldness leave Uk, and that’s why he’s able to sleep well.

Heh. This definitely gives Uk a reason to want to share his bed with Bu Yeon, yes? 😁

I do like that Bu Yeon’s led by heart, more than Uk’s words, because even after Uk tells her to stick to her side of the bed and not to pat him to sleep, she reaches out and pats him anyway.

And, you can just see from Uk’s expression, that he’s surprised, but that he doesn’t hate it.

I like that, that Bu Yeon’s affecting Uk, in spite of himself.

Like, I do think that there are times that he’s charmed by her, in spite of himself.

Like when she goes missing, and he goes to the town square to look for her, and then watches her interact with shopkeepers and other townsfolk.

He doesn’t exactly let on that he’s charmed by her – and ok, maybe it’s just all in my head – but he does walk with her, and show concern that she’d been feeling sick.

Also, I’m charmed by her, so maybe that’s why I find it hard to think that someone might not be charmed by her. 😅

Plus, Uk does warm the turtle’s water, for Bu Yeon’s sake, and I feel like that says something?

E5. On second look, I’m getting the idea that Uk getting upset with Bu Yeon mimicking some of the memories that she’s getting, like threading her fingers through his, because in his eyes, it looks like Bu Yeon’s trying to be Naksu’s substitute.

Like, instead of making new memories with him (which he seems somewhat open to, if that kiss is anything to go by), she’s trying to insert herself into memories that he has of Naksu.

I would upset by that thought, too, honestly.

But of course, from Bu Yeon’s point of view, it’s all very confusing, because really, those memories ARE hers; she just doesn’t realize it yet.

And so, naturally, it must feel very disorientating and perplexing to her, because these memories, which she believes to be someone else’s, feel so real and personal to her.

I can see why she might want to try on the memories for size, and how that would result in her re-enacting bits of those memories, with Uk.

It’s not helpful to him, certainly, because that would totally feel like an invasion of privacy, even if he does find himself softening towards her for herself (since he doesn’t yet know she’s the same person), so I can see why Uk would get upset.

With that as context, it’s unfortunate but understandable, that the distance and awkwardness between them just continues to grow, as communication between them falls to new depths of misunderstanding.

Like when Bu Yeon attempts to ask Uk to go with her to Jinyowon, but doesn’t manage to make herself clear on why, and Uk, assuming that it has to do with Master Lee’s request, rejects it outright.

I have no idea what Madam Jin has in mind, asking Bu Yeon to bring Uk to Jinyowon, but it can’t be anything good, judging from Madam Jin’s track record.

And yet, I can’t help but feel a thrill, when Uk shows up behind Bu Yeon, after having managed to catch up with her, once he’d gotten a better understanding of the situation, from Maidservant Kim.

Of course, like I mentioned earlier, Uk does such a convincing job of acting like the sweet, perfect, newlywed husband, that I can’t blame Bu Yeon for basking in the feels. I mean, just watching him, I’m feeling the feels, y’know? 🥰😁

E5. Uk and Bu Yeon take a walk, and Bu Yeon basically retells Mu Deok’s story of being a lonely egg atop a tree, waiting for someone to save her – except this time, she doesn’t have the stone egg on her, and is dead sure that this is her own memory, from when she’d been imprisoned in her room at Jinyowon.

Oohh. How very significant, yes?

As Uk then threads his fingers through hers, and declares that he must be going crazy because of her, while he gazes at her searchingly, I can’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of Uk realizing that Bu Yeon really is Naksu, after all..

E6. With Bu Yeon’s uncertain future (because, even if Yul doesn’t manage to kill her, there’s still that thing about her body expelling her, in the future), all the little glimmers of progress in her loveline with Uk take on this burgeoning poignant quality.

And yet, I can’t help but squee a little, at each moment, despite the doom that threatens to descend, at some point in the future.

I did love that scene where Bu Yeon tells Uk that she’s going to stay at Jeongjingak (thinking that he’s going to stay as well), and then he says he’s going home, and then, he takes her hand, and asks her to just go home with him.

All this, while Yun Ok is watching, too.

I’m sure part of this is for Yun Ok’s benefit, so that she’ll stop pining for him, but surely some of it is just Uk wanting Bu Yeon to go home with him?

I just think it’s so cute, that even when no one’s looking, they continue to hold hands, while they low-key bicker about random things, like whether Bu Yeon’s spent a lot of time with Yul, and whether it’s easy to summon fireflies, or fireworks. It’s cute. 😁

And then later in the episode, I love how, when Uk mentions that he’d thought of giving up everything, Bu Yeon expresses concern that things have been hard for him, then tells him that she will regain her power and take care of him.

And then she hugs him! And he hugs her back!

Ahhh. This is very nice indeed, I have to say.

Not only that, by the tail end of the episode, Uk even seems to start coming around to Bu Yeon owning her memories, since she shows him that the stone egg really is in her drawer, and not on her person.

He even seems ready to take her to Danhyanggok himself, and then gets all viscerally jealous, when Bu Yeon mentions that Yul has offered to take her.

And I just love how, when Bu Yeon protests when Uk says that he can’t be friends with her, he blurts out, “How can someone who hugs me and puts me to bed be just a friend?”

Aw, YESS. He doesn’t just see her as a friend, then. He’s just.. in denial, mostly. 😁

E7. I love that Uk comes to realize that he misses Bu Yeon, and doesn’t want to be apart from her, and goes to Jeongjingak to see her.

I really felt a good amount of satisfaction, to see Uk waiting there for Bu Yeon, when she goes to retrieve Songrim’s Spirit Plaque.

I do love how the way Uk explains his feelings to Bu Yeon uses the flickering of the lantern; the lantern is used to such great effect, in this scene! 🤩

“When it is on, I am sane. It is clear to me that I must send you back as I promised. But I go insane when it turns off. I just pine for you. That is why I came to see you.”

That’s such a great laying of the foundation of the scene, so that when Bu Yeon responds by blowing at his face, and saying that she wants to turn it off, Uk (and us too!) immediately understands what she’s saying.

She wants Uk to miss her; she wants Uk to pine for her; she wants Uk to go crazy for her.

And the kisses that come afterwards, completely bring forth that intensity and longing; of “I need you,” “I can’t do without you,” “I’m crazy for you.” 🔥🫠

So much believable sizzle and crackle, in all of the skinship touches. 🔥

The unhurried, sensual nature of the kiss; the way Uk holds her face; the way she grabs the back of Uk’s robe, as if she’d like to be even closer to him still.

Faint. Puddle. Swoon. 🫠🫠

E8. I had absolutely no problem at all, with Show indulging a little more kissy-touchy between Uk and Bu Yeon, now that he’s cognizant of his feelings for her, and has embraced them.

I also do love how the prospect of Bu Yeon having to return to Jinyowon creates this extra layer of tension, longing and angst that gets poured into their skinship.

Every kiss feels extra hungry, and every touch feels extra precious, because of their awareness of their situation and probable impending separation, and that just amps up the feels and the sexy, not gonna lie.

Daze. Swoon. 🔥🫠

Also, the way Show shifts from Uk and Bu Yeon being in the thick of swoony, electrifying kisses, to them gently pausing, because Bu Yeon feels the energy of the ice stone within him, and Uk apologizes (for wanting to die), and thanks Bu Yeon (for getting him to a place where he no longer wants to die).

And then, there’s how the tone shifts so deftly, to something lighter and more comical, with Bu Yeon trying to get them back in the kissy space, by blowing on Uk’s face, telling him to switch off (the lantern).

Hee. I was quite amused by this, and also, impressed at how deftly Show is navigating such significant tonal shifts. Quite masterful, I thought.

I love the cuteness of Uk and Bu Yeon blithely walking hand in hand afterwards, where she kind of natters at him, and he just kind of agrees to everything she says, like when she tells him to sleep at home every night from now on, he just amiably agrees.

I love that dynamic.

My favorite bit of this conversation, is when Bu Yeon tells him that she’s stored up a whole bunch of honey biscuits in her room, because she’d always buy some (because he likes them), and asks him to go eat them.

Aw. That’s such a practical, everyday indication that she’s been thinking about him, a lot, and I like it. 🥰

E8. Although I don’t actually want Bu Yeon to cut herself off from Uk, I can understand why she would do so, now that she’s regained her memories.

I mean, if she remembers killing him, how could she act like everything’s ok and normal with him, right? I can see why she would feel like she needs to distance herself from him, and punish herself, in a way.

And there’s also that layer, which she indirectly admits everything to him, except he thinks that she’s talking about another man.

Oof. The irony. 😭

I appreciate that Uk’s instinct is to tell Bu Yeon that it all doesn’t matter to him, and I also appreciate that Bu Yeon emphasizes, that it matters to her. So it’s not just a matter of Uk accepting her as she is, it’s really also about Bu Yeon accepting herself, as she is.

[END SPOILER]

Shin Seung Ho as the Crown Prince

I wanted to give Shin Seung Ho a shout-out because, as with Season 1, he makes his Crown Prince conflicted and dorky at the same time, pretty much making it impossible to dislike him – at least from where I’m sitting. 😁

[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]

This season, I am suitably amused at the Crown Prince and his decided affection towards the turtle that Bu Yeon had asked him to take home with him.

He honestly looks so pleased with himself, when he decides that the turtle listens to him, and is a very clever turtle indeed, hee. 😁

[END SPOILER]

I just love this dorky side of the Crown Prince so much. 🤩

Bu Yeon and the Crown Prince

This season, I very much enjoyed Bu Yeon’s interactions with the Crown Prince, much like I’d enjoyed Mu Deok’s interactions with the Crown Prince, in Season 1.

And, again, much like Season 1, I do love that they end up sharing nuggets of wisdom with each other, often without realizing the impact or implication of what they’re saying.

I was amused by this. 😁

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. I actually relish the idea that Bu Yeon’s consistent in the way she interacts with the Crown Prince, when she eventually runs into him at the marketplace.

The way she talks to him, assuming he’s a eunuch, is so much like the way Mu Deok had used to talk to the Crown Prince. I like that.

E4. I’m glad that the Crown Prince runs into Bu Yeon a second time this episode, at Chwiseonru.

The misunderstanding around each other’s identities continues, but what I like about this scene, is that the Crown Prince inadvertently gives Bu Yeon food for thought, when he talks about being reluctant to take the turtle home, because he already has other pets that he likes.

It”s a slightly bizarre comparison, but it does allow Bu Yeon to see that it must be hard for Uk to accept her as a wife, when he’d already given his heart to someone else, and feel a sense of understanding, for Uk.

[END SPOILER]

Uk and the Crown Prince

I’m really pleased that Season 2 carries on the reluctant bromance between Uk and the Crown Prince, despite the evolved circumstances between them.

I would have been disappointed if Show hadn’t given time to this bromance, in all of its dorky glory. 😁

And, like I mentioned in my remarks on the penultimate episode, I love that little tidbit of contextual information that we get, that Shin Seung Ho had ad-libbed a lot of his scenes with Lee Jae Wook.

Somehow, it tickles me extra, that so many of these dorky moments were created by the actors themselves. 🤩

[SPOILER ALERT]

E5. I am ridiculously amused by how the Crown Prince ends up obsessing over why Uk would warm his turtle’s water, knowing full well that the turtle belongs to him.

The way the Crown Prince says that he doesn’t want to get his hopes up, is also cute.

It’s almost like he’s been pining for Uk, and doesn’t dare to hope now, that Uk will forgive him and like him again. 😁

[END SPOILER]

Dang Gu and Cho Yeon

Besides the OTP arc, I was also interested in the arc between Dang Gu and Cho Yeon, because their loveline had been a light and cute distraction in Season 1.

[SPOILER ALERT]

I was rather bummed to see, from the get-go, that this season, their relationship’s become this sad forced separation, where it feels like they will never be able to be together again, because Dang Gu had failed to save Cho Yeon’s father, when Mu Deok had attacked him while in zombie mode.

It’s obvious that they still both harbor feelings for each other (the wistful looks that Dang Gu wears in relation to Cho Yeon really get to me), and I’m glad that Show makes it such that they eventually overcome the past and find happiness with each other again.

I feel like Show spends even less time on their loveline this season than last season, but I’m not too fussed about it.

I’m just pleased that they get a happy ending together, is all. 😁

[END SPOILER]

Minhyun as Yul [SPOILERS]

Show really had me going with Yul, this season, starting with his perpetually slightly wan and worn-out countenance, which I’d noticed right away, when Yul returns to Daeho.

I was pretty stressed out with the way Show was teasing Yul’s impending death, due to the blood parasite in his body, and I was perplexed as to why Yul refused to do anything to help himself, well, not die.

Ultimately, I concluded that this had to do with his sense of duty around his failure to kill Naksu, when she’d rampaged at the end of Season 1.

Consoling myself that this just isn’t the kind of drama to kill off a character like Yul helped, because, even though he’s not my favorite character or anything, I’ve always seen him as a benevolent character; someone who is good to his core, and is righteous and kind and compassionate and helpful towards others.

Like how, when he realizes that the thing that’s inside him and is slowly killing him, is the blood parasite that So-I (Seo Hye Won) had transferred to him, in an attempt to save him, he doesn’t even get upset at her.

She’s the one who asks him why he isn’t taking revenge on her, and killing her, and he’s all, “You meant to help me,” simple and straightforward.

Even though he’s literally almost guaranteed going to die because of the blood parasite, he doesn’t think to take vengeance against So-I for it.

He’s really such a good, righteous person to die, isn’t he?

Yul and Uk

Even though this brotherhood doesn’t come to the forefront a great deal, this season, I wanted to give it a quick shout-out, because when it did get a moment in the spotlight, I found it quite touching.

[SPOILER ALERT]

That scene in episode 4, where Yul goes to see Uk at Jeongjingak, and shows concern that Uk must feel so cold all the time, when Uk reveals that the cold energy in Jeongjingak is because of the wraiths that follow him each time he uses the power of the ice stone, lands as unexpectedly poignant and heartfelt, to me.

The genuine concern in Yul’s eyes, and the slight discombobulation in Uk’s expression, as he reacts to someone actually empathizing with him and showing care for his wellbeing, are what make this scene as heartfelt as it is, for me.

And then of course, there’s also the scene where Uk thinks Yul is dying, and basically goes all-in, all-kill, on the people who had brought this misfortune on Yul, with no regard for the consequences, because Yul just means that much to him.

I found that quite moving as well.

[END SPOILER]

Park Jin and Maidservant Kim [SPOILERS]

I just wanted to give this couple a shout-out because, after all those crossed signals in Season 1, they finally get engaged this season – YESS.

We finally have an overt commitment, huzzah!

It’s way past high time that these two actually decided to commit themselves to each other, so I welcome the engagement, despite the suspension of disbelief required, that Dang Gu and his entourage would even be able to hear them get engaged, through closed doors, while standing in the yard. Pfft.

I was slightly miffed at Show for pulling a fakeout on their deaths, in our finale, but the emotion of the moment was real, and the love between them that powered the emotion was real, and that was altogether very moving indeed.

Uk and Maidservant Kim

I just wanted to give this relationship a shout-out, because I do love the care and love that flows between Uk and Maidservant Kim.

They may not show it so overtly on the daily, but we do get several moments this season, where they share some sweet, poignant moments, [SPOILER] like in episode 6, when when she tells him that she’s betrothed to Park Jin. [END SPOILER]

That hug is so heartfelt, and I can really feel Uk’s deep desire to honor Maidservant Kim and all that she means to him. 🥲

Park Eun Hye as Madam Jin

I mostly did not like Madam Jin very much at all, honestly.

Show does attempt to give us an understanding of her thinking and motivations, but I just found her behavior, particularly towards Bu Yeon, very hard to stomach.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. I mean, I can imagine Madam Jin having a strong love-hate relationship with Bu Yeon, because Naksu, whom she hates, is inhabiting Bu Yeon’s body.

Like, how does she love her daughter, when the person in front of her doesn’t even bear Bu Yeon’s likeness, anymore?

But, the way she literally sews that tracking thread into Bu Yeon’s shoulder, is just crazy and cruel to me.

And, the way she can earnestly ask Bu Yeon to agree to appear once before the Unanimous Council as Jinyowon’s heir, and then never step outside Jinyowon again, for the rest of her life, is just insane.

How could she do that, while claiming to love her daughter? How could she do that to anyone, really?

Basically, the more I watched this show, the more I found myself disliking Madam Jin, even though I sympathize with her over the loss of her daughter.

[END SPOILER]

Seo Hye Won as So-I

I wanted to give Seo Hye Won a shout-out, because I thought her portrayal of So-I was impressively nuanced, despite the relatively small amount of screen time that she gets.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E5. I have to give props to Seo Hye Won, because her delivery of So-I’s very complicated feelings as she realizes that Yul is dying, is so nuanced and believable.

There’s shock, horror, concern, self-blame, and desperation all mixed up in her expression, and layered on top of that, is a sheen of surreality, like she can’t believe that this is happening for real.

Really excellently done, I thought.

[END SPOILER]

Hong Seo Hui as Yun Ok

Your mileage may vary, but personally, I preferred Yun Ok in Season 1, when she wasn’t being interfering and meddlesome, like she is in Season 2.

[SPOILER ALERT]

In episode 8, Show wants to reveal the truth to Bu Yeon, and soon, because we are running out of screen time – which is how Yun Ok goes from sweet benign character in Part 1 of our story, to a more dissatisfied, meddling sort of character, in Part 2.

I don’t love what Show’s doing with Yun Ok as a character, because I’d believed that Yun Ok would have stayed kind, despite being heartbroken over Uk, but.. I can rationalize that given when she’s seen and been through, that she might act out like this.

I also don’t like how Yun Ok’s inserting herself into the situation, and getting involved in testing Bu Yeon, but, I geddit, we’re almost out of screen time, and Yun Ok’s meddling is a good way of speeding up Bu Yeon’s recovery of her memories.

[END SPOILER]

I understand that at this point, Show is using her more as a plot device than an actual character, but, for the record, I still didn’t really like its treatment of Yun Ok.

THEMES / IDEAS

Aside from the nature vs. nurture theme which I talked about earlier in this review, the other key theme that sticks with me, this season, is the idea that Park Jin brings up in episode 4, via the rice cakes.

Like Park Jin teaches, you won’t know what’s inside the rice cake unless you bite into it. 😁

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

I really liked this penultimate episode, you guys.

I found it engaging and immersive, both on the emotional front, and on the macro, pulling-all-the-narrative-threads-together sort of front.

In that sense, it feels like Show is very balanced, at least at the moment.

On the emotional front, I love the built-in angst of Uk and Bu Yeon choosing to pretend, with that whole, “I know that you know that I know – but let’s pretend that I don’t know that you know that I know,” and every other available permutation of these words.

Show’s done a very solid job (at least for me), of building the emotional connection between Uk and Bu Yeon, this season, and I feel invested in what happens to their relationship.

And, Show’s done a good job of creating a situation where Uk’s technically obligated to kill Bu Yeon, once he becomes aware that she is a soul-shifter. AND, there’s also the thing, where Bu Yeon’s soul is supposed to leave her host body.

I want these two to have a happy ending, but can’t figure out how Show will give it to them (and us!), and right now, that’s a pretty good place to be, coz that’s definitely some important dramatic and emotional tension, right there. 😅

And, I still kinda swoon at the, “Only I am allowed to come this close.” 🫠

On another note, I am extremely tickled by the scenes of Uk and the Crown Prince, this episode.

Before watching this episode, someone shared an article on Patreon, where Lee Jae Wook talked about how his scenes with Shin Seung Ho had been heavily ad-libbed, with most of the ad-libs coming from Shin Seung Ho.

And now, watching their scenes together, which they have a lot of, this episode, I find myself supremely tickled by the idea that Shin Seung Ho’s just coming up with these lines, on the fly. 😁

My favorite Uk-Crown Prince moments this episode, are when Uk pats Crown Prince on the shoulder, to console him over the loss of his turtle, and also, when Crown Prince offers to analyze Uk’s situation with Bu Yeon, and Uk actually reluctantly opens up.

Also, this: “Despite owning an ice stone and reaching Hwansu, you have failed to win your wife’s heart. That power of yours is useless.”

Crown Prince’s furrowed brow, combined with his gossipy ahjumma sort of expression, just makes it really funny to me. 😁

This reluctant bromantic connection is absolutely becoming a highlight of my watch, and now I’m sad that I only have one more episode of this show to enjoy this.

In terms of our main narrative, I have to admit, I was really pleased to have Crown Prince confirm that he’s not actually in cahoots with Jin Mu, and is just playing along with Jin Mu, in order to learn his secrets and take him and his secret organization down.

YESS. My gut had insisted that Crown Prince wasn’t a bad dude, but the satisfaction of having it confirmed was still very excellent. 😁

I also really like the scene where Naksu / Bu Yeon talks with the Crown Prince, and they indirectly settle the grudge and angst between them.

I like how their conversation is gentle, and full of poignance, wistfulness and compassion. It feels right to me, that Naksu tells Crown Prince to be in pain, but only for a season, after which she’d like him to forget.

It just feels.. right, to me.

Also, I’m glad that Yul learns about the bell potion, and that Naksu / Mu Deok had been given the potion, thus explaining how and why she’d gone berserk the way she’d had, at the end of Season 1.

This feels like an important thread, because without it, Yul would continue to think of Naksu as a violent murderer, and that just doesn’t sit right, since she’d been under the influence of Jin Mu’s bell potion.

Show introduces an intriguing idea, this episode, that the soul that Madam Jin believes to be her daughter Bu Yeon, could actually be Jin Seol Ran herself, since Jin Seol Ran has also been blind from birth.

Intriguing.

Again, it’s that thing where a new piece of information fits so well into Show’s story world, that it just feels like another hidden door has been revealed, in this house with many rooms.

I’m not sure what to make of this, but I’m pretty certain that this will come into play, in the way Show wraps things up for the finale.

ALSO, while it would have been poetic justice for Jin Mu to waste away after having the energy sucked out of him by that ice stone, it makes more story sense, for him to find a new body in Yoon Oh, and come back stronger than ever, for a final showdown.

As we close out this episode, I’m on tenterhooks over Uk’s and Bu Yeon’s future together, even as they share those beautifully tender moments together.

I can’t help swooning though, even as I bite my nails over their future. 🫠🫠🫣🫣🫠🫠😅

I’m not super hot on the reveal that the King is actually a Jin Mu supporter, along with the rest of the Unanimous Assembly, coz this, while technically possible, doesn’t feel very organic, given all that we’ve been shown.

But ok, I get that this is probably in service of our Final Showdown, so bring it on, and bring it home, Show!

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

Hm. I’m gonna hafta say that I somehow feel a touch underwhelmed by this finale, even though Show wraps up everything and gives us a happy ending.

Overall, I feel like Show’s like a gymnast who delivered a very solid routine in the midst of a competition, and then, in the final somersault, wobbled a bit, in sticking the landing.

I’m trying to figure out what it is that’s underwhelming me, and I’m thinking that it’s definitely got something to do with Show leaning into the Drama of the overarching story, and pulling out all the stops there.

The whole apocalypse type of scenario was very dramatic, and us almost losing Park Jin and Maidservant Kim had me in disbelief for a bit (though I was admittedly less sad about Madam Jin, oops 😅).

But through a good chunk of this finale, I found myself feeling emotionally disconnected, somewhat, with our characters.

The balance that I’d found to be “just so,” in our penultimate episode, felt a bit off to my eyes, this finale, and as a result, the watch experience felt rather uneven, for me.

I think one reason for that, is, we open and close the episode with our OTP, but for a good stretch in the middle, the OTP takes a backseat, while Show goes all near-apocalypse on us.

And while I understand that it’s important that Jin Mu gets eradicated (I must say, Do Sang Woo does a good job channeling Jin Mu, so much so that I could believe that it was Jo Jae Yun on the inside, working his face and voice), I still felt the absence of our OTP quite keenly.

I mean, don’t get me wrong; I liked the scenes of the OTP at the beginning of the episode.

The scenes of them just doing couple things, were sweet and dreamy, and the wedding was also quite lovely. And, I also liked that Master Lee talks about how their names mean “light” and “shadow,” coz, Ohhhh, finally the title of this season makes sense to me.

At the same time, it felt to me, like Show was being withholding, on the OTP front, after this point.

We only find out in flashback, about Naksu / Yeong’s final moments, before her dissipation, and I didn’t like that.

I’d have wanted to know, right when it happened, not after the fact, in flashback. It kinda feels like Show went and let it happen without me, in a weird way?

And, with Show emphasizing all the other dramatic face-offs in our story, it also felt like this important OTP moment (and really, the OTP is the heart of this season, for me), got relegated to the sidelines, which I didn’t prefer.

Show does give our OTP a happy ending, but I have to confess that I kind of had to remind myself about Master Lee’s theory about Jin Seol Ran’s soul inhabiting Bu Yeon’s body, in order for it to sit better.

Because, otherwise, it just felt rather strange and overly easy, to just have Original Bu Yeon back away and give her body to Naksu / Yeong, just like that.

This might have more to do with my being slow to embrace the theory that Show introduces, than Show not doing a good job providing an explanation for Bu Yeon giving her body to Naksu / Yeong.

After this point, though, I felt, AGAIN, that Show was being withholding, on the OTP front, because, time-skip later, we visit all our characters, at length, except for our OTP.

I know that Show’s saving them for last, but still, I couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that Show was withholding their happy ending from me, and therefore denying me the gratification that I wanted. 😅

Can you tell that I was somewhat disgruntled, by this point of my watch? 😅

All that said, though, I’m glad that everyone who means anything to us, is alive and doing well.

I’m especially glad that Show didn’t kill off Park Jin and Maidservant Kim, and we even get an indication that Maidservant Kim is likely to be pregnant, which is great, because I know she’d be an awesome mom.

I’m also somewhat tickled to see that our Crown Prince is now the King, and that, even as King, he’s still got that befuddled, slightly grumpy way of talking, which has really grown on me, by now.

While I would have liked to have seen our OTP living an idyllic sort of life, after all that they’ve been through, it is fittingly badass, that beyond the casual couple bickery, they work together and combine their powers, to hunt down all the escaped relics, in order to protect the world at large.

With great power comes great responsibility, after all. 😉

And I’m glad to know that underneath that great power, is a great love, which they have chosen to give each other.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Solidly worthwhile, with some streaks of brilliance.

FINAL GRADE: B++

TRAILER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Alchemy Of Souls: Light And Shadow, is Crash Course In Romance. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I like it very well, and right away! 🤩 My E1 & E2 notes on Crash Course In Romance can be found here.

Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!

Foundation Tier (US$1): Entertainment tidbits + the first set of notes of all shows covered on Patreon (2 eps for kdramas, 4 eps for cdramas)

Early Access (US$5): Recipe For Farewell [Korea]

Early Access Plus (US$10): +The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House [Japan]

VIP (US$15): +Unchained Love [China]

VVIP (US$20): +New Life Begins [China]

Ultimate (US$25): +Crash Course In Romance [Korea]

If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️

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Geo
Geo
13 days ago

Hi KFG:

I’m in the camp that really liked Season 1 and felt Season 2 was a notch below. I was put off in the very beginning because I just can’t see how Naksu’s body would appear as Bu-Yeon. Naksu’s body was cremated, if i recall correctly, and I don’t see any other soul shifters returning to their original body when they die (Master Lee is stuck in a young man’s body because his old, true body was cremated). It would fit the rules of the fantasy world that Bu-Yeon’s body should be Mu-Deok’s as it’s rescued from the lake. This strikes me as simply a plot device to get the writers out of an unsolvable situation where a commitment was made to Go Yoon-Jung or maybe Jung So-Min’s unavailability. Perhaps I missed something?

I have no problem with Uk falling for Bu-Yeon, she has the same soul, more or less, as Mu-Deok so it makes sense that if he gets beyond the physical appearance, the soul is the same. And continued interaction would bring his feelings to the surface.

Go Yoon-Jung’s physical transformation surprised me and I could see why most wouldn’t recognize her. As you note, she is fuller and softer, more round like a priestess than the sharp edges of the assassin in Season 1. Certainly, I don’t remember Uk ever seeing her physical form in Season 1 except when her body was shown in Songrim. And I think her fuller frame makes sense, she’s been locked up for three years in a room with limited physical activity.

Having said this, it took me quite a while to get into Go Yoon-Jung, only felt her in the last few episodes, when she became more decisive, I guess.

I more or less buy the reincarnation of Jin Seol-Ran in Bu-Yeon’s body and her deciding it’s time to go, freeing up Naksu to inhabit her body and to allow for a happy ending for Uk and Naksu. I was really wondering how the writers would swing a happy ending for the OTP. But really….a secret door to Jinyowon to rescue Maidservant Kim, Lady Jin and Park Jin? A door that was never revealed or hinted at before? I guess, the happy ending was mandated.

Still, a worthwhile watch, “B” for me compared to “A-” for season 1.

uyen
16 days ago

I felt that I enjoyed the plot less and didn’t care much about the final conflict, but the condensed length and the chemistry of the leads really helped in this part 2. I really liked Go Yoon Jung. It would have been nice to see badass Naksu again, but I understand how that was a traumatic part of her past and it was nice seeing who Cho Yeong would have been.

Actually one of the things I wished for was seeing Bu Yeon being more sharp/cunning like Naksu, but KFG, your review and the point of how in the beginning

mild spoiler
she lied about the pregnancy
helped me think, oh yeah, Mu Deok would’ve done that.

I do wish we had cut down the amnesia arc a bit and had seen more of Cho Yeong understanding who she was instead of trying to live as Bu Yeon for so long and being confused. I also would’ve been interested to see Jang Uk have to make a hard decision between love and the “right” thing to do, like you said, KFG, on how his powers were technically being used for selfish gain at times, but we never got a high stakes situation that focused on this.

But overall I was eagerly looking forward to each week’s eps, and I will never forget the feeling of watching the first ep of part 2 and having so many emotions seeing all the characters again!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
16 days ago

Fangurl – Thanks for this wonderful write up!

I liked S2 a little better, but that is not saying much as I did not pay enough attention to S1. I was late to the game on S1 and I think I went too fast. I fully intend to re-watch both seasons slowly, as I think they deserve it.

My delay was due to the fact that I was not a big Lee Jae Wook fan. I kept putting it off. I will say that this is no longer the case. He really did a fabulous job with this role.

One thing I would like to comment on is the costume and set design. The clothing design was quite original – whoever designed this was thinking outside the box. I appreciated that. It looked like all (both men and women) the costumes had the pockets sewn outside versus inside which, while it does nothing for one’s hips, it is most certainly original. This is because there were multiple gathers/pleats sewn in on either side of the hips. Then there were some dresses that were a fusion of Chinese and Korean. Then the set design would confuse the heck out of me. Am I in China or Korea? Well the obvious answer is neither, but I really noticed it and at times it confused me.

The OST was really well done! This is an OST that is worthy of a purchase.

I think the Hong Sisters hit this one out of the park. While it is not my favorite Hong Sisters’ drama it is right up there with the Top Three.

Last edited 16 days ago by phl1rxd
uyen
16 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

@phl1rxd, I haven’t seen Lee Jae Wook’s other lead roles but am so curious to check them out now

Trent
16 days ago
Reply to  uyen

@uyen — in the spirit of looking out for a fellow drama buddy, I believe Lee Jae-wook’s first lead role was in DoDoSolSolLaLaSol, which was a fairly light, delightful noona romance, right up until it wasn’t. If you give it a try, I’d watch up through episode 13, maybe the middle of episode 14, then stop. With no regrets. Do not look back and meet the fate of Lot’s wife, is what I’m saying…

uyen
15 days ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent, ooh thank you for the heads up. Noted, I will NOT look back, will run straight into another show (or back to rewatch previous scenes) 😂

Eric Lancaster
Eric Lancaster
16 days ago

Excellent review. First – I enjoyed the show, so please take any critique in that light.

  1. Naksu seemed to me to behave very differently season 1 and season 2. I expected our new FL to mimic Jung So Min’s mannerisms. But if she did I totally missed it. Naksu1 and Naksu2 were different people. Naksu1 was expressive, bold, guarded, energetic. Naksu2 was much more restrained, calm, friendly. I expected some mimicry of body language or behavior and not just the subtle dialog clues. Did I read this wrong or mis-remember? This isn’t necessarily bad, just surprising.
  2. I thought after episodes 1 and 2 – wow, they’re really moving the plot along. But after then nth episode about whether Bu Yeon could leave her mother’s house or be forced to return, the show was stuck in a rut to some degree.
  3. Loved Jang Uk and the Crown Prince as bickering brothers. They couldn’t have done this better. Plus, who isn’t team magic good energy turtle?
  4. Dang Gu and Cho Yeon could have been better. Cho Yeon was a whinny brat – the part where she drives Dang Gu away and then is mad that he didn’t try to disrupt her wedding/kidnap her. What? Were they trying to write an unsympathetic heroine here? This arc could have been much better. I even enjoyed Yul’s (tragic) arc more than these two.
  5. I was disappointed in season 1 ending – if you have to go watch videos on youtube to figure it out, it wasn’t a good ending. But this was fixed well and good for season 2.
  6. A general observation about fantasy. If you have going to have the action resolve with magic (spells, magic items, persons, spirits, abilities, curses, whatever), you must explain clearly how the magic works before. And set enough parameters on it so the audience will understand clearly what is happening. So that when it happens the ending doesn’t seem contrived like a deus ex machina. It is a downfall of bad fantasy (esp bad asian serial drama fantasy) when someone has to explain (to the audience, during the action) that the hero/heroine is using the special whatsit/power/technique, isn’t that amazing? On this count, I’d give season 1 a B- and season 2 and A- for making things a bit clearer.

Overall, the show was a blast, actors were great, sets/props/effects were solid.

anonymous
anonymous
17 days ago

Really don’t get the hype…

Ele Nash
17 days ago

What an excellent review, kfangurl!!! I LOVED reading it as much as I enjoyed watching the show! Oftentimes, you voice exactly what I was thinking, “Maybe I just have a soft spot for tortured, angsty male leads..? 🤭” Me! Me too!! 🤣 I was all over Jang Uk this season – he looked better (I think because of the tortured scowl 😊) and he and Bu-yeon were gorgeous together. I thought their chemistry was super-sizzling and this made me very happy indeed 😅

And, yes, I am in your third camp! It made total sense to me that – despite not literally recognising each other – Bu-yeon’s soul recognised Uk’s as her husband straight away, and his soul in return, was drawn once more to his true master! Of course that’s true!! Who doesn’t believe in fated love?! Are you mad? We all are fated 😄

Finale
I also felt the same about the finale. I cried a lot over the “deaths” then actually felt kind of cheated by those tears. I mean, I wasn’t wanting our lovely Maidservant Kim to die (hell, no!!) but the fact she kind of did then didn’t made a mockery of my angst 😳 And really, Park Jin, ring on his little finger, being all heroic, gave him purpose for season 2 which was sorely lacking the rest of the series. So for him especially not to die was actually, um, pointless. Sure, cute he gets to be a dad, but… I am clearly cruel 🤭

Aside from that, ah, I really thoroughly enjoyed both seasons. For me (bar the finale) season 2 had the edge. Or, at least, it had the tortured, angsty male lead 😍😍

Last edited 17 days ago by Ele Nash
Snow Flower
Snow Flower
16 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

@ele, the angsty and tortured male lead is the bread and butter of Kdramas! I also liked Part 2 a little more. The pacing was fast and the love story absorbing.

Ele Nash
16 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Yes, @SnowFlower! No one, and I mean no one, does angsty tortured ML quite like Asian drama 😊 Ah, I LOVE it!!

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
17 days ago

KFG – your review highlights just how much was packed into Season 2. For me, I enjoyed Season 1 – in fact some episodes were superb. However, the gong goes to Season 2 as I enjoyed so much more overall what the Hong Sisters brought to this story.

Already AoS is being referenced in other dramas – so it has had that immediate impact within its own industry. I like a good comeback, and this show has definitely been it for such a wonderful production team.

JJ
JJ
17 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

– Ohhhhhh, you cant compare the two seasons. I mean you can and you did, but really you cant!!! 😂😂😂

I loved both Seasons equally for different reasons as they were two different tales even if they had the same characters and had a thread tying them together. So says the Fantasy Sci Fi Guru, ME 😂 🦄

Oh thats exciting! What other dramas have been referencing AoS?!!? Thats bold well for the future new Fantasy Shows in KDramaland!

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
17 days ago
Reply to  JJ

Hello, ME 😊😊😊 Within seconds of Season 2 of AoS starting, I was entranced by what unfolded.

In episode 5 of Behind Every Star, Oh Na Ra (Maidservant Kim) plays herself and is a major star. She is at odds with her co-star. The whole episode is dedicated to the talent agents getting their relationship of these two actors back on track. At one point she basically says to her co-star I have prime say or position re this drama we are filming because I was in Alchemy of Souls you know and you have only done X. It was a funny and delightful episode of the actors sending themselves up.

JJ
JJ
15 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

– 🦄

I applaud the writers for what they did with Part 1 and Part 2 in switching up, but not really the FLs. Definitely, a bold choice. And kudos to the actors who were brave enough to sign up to play the same role. Both their performances were magnificent and deserve a place in the Hall of Sci Fi Fantasy Hall of Fame, I think. 🦄 So since I am the self appointed Sci Fantasy Guru around these parts, its canon 😂🦄

Oh yay! I am watching Behind Every Star (very slowly though) so I cant wait to get to Episode 5!!!

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
14 days ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ – or dare we say “headcanon.” 🤣😉

JJ
JJ
11 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

– 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

No.

🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
11 days ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ – 😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
14 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Sean – watching Behind Every Star and you really need a reference guide while you are watching, as there are so many actors in this . It is like a revolving door. Director Ma’s secretary is a trip.

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
13 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

@Phl – I just loved how the actors enjoyed sending themselves up in this show – and they are ones we all know and enjoy (although I appreciate that may not be the case with certain leads). Director Ma’s secretary is an absolute delight – I just liked her character full stop.

JJ
JJ
11 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– I agree with you about needing the reference guide!!! I just finished it and excited there will be a Season 2. However, wish I knew that sooner so I didnt finish this one quickly.

Trent
17 days ago

Another nuanced, well-thought-out review. I’m glad you were able to enjoy this installment, in tandem with the first season.

I understand this season no doubt has its naysayers, who have various reasons for finding fault, and that’s fine. Me, I loved this season and I’m happy where it ended up. I guess it’s true that I also would have enjoyed more OTP in the final episode, but I also understand that we can’t very well do without our apocalyptic climactic ending. Which, for a TV drama not enjoying James Cameron levels of budget and CGI access, was suitably cool and impressive.

But yes, the love story between Jang Uk and Jin Bu-yeon/Cho Yeong was the core of the show, and I thought it was completely engaging. I loved it from the start to the finish. As a rule, being old and hardened in my world-weary cynicism, I generally discount “fated love” as being a Thing.

BUT! A fantasy world like this, where the shifting of souls and past lives/experiences is explicitly part of the landscape, is a clear exception, one where we can actually believe in the concept of fated love and unseen but real connections that are pulling these characters to each other, even when they don’t consciously recognize each other yet. This is a narrative where I’m willing to fall into a paradigm that I would otherwise reject as being, well, fantasy, in other words. I loved it, and loved show for letting me enjoy this type of narrative.

Anyway, I think these two seasons stand as a very impressive bit of fantasy story-telling, and although this is only the 3rd Hong sisters production I’ve seen (taking the two seasons together), it is hands-down my favorite.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
17 days ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent, I had seen only 2 other Hong Sister dramas before AoS: My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho (loved it) and The Master’s Sun (too episodic for my taste). I did not watch Hotel Del Luna because of the episodic structure and also because Kfangurl was not too impressed with it.

I was not too impressed with the premise of AoS when I first read about it, but decided to give it a chance mostly for LJW. I think of it as 30-episode drama rather than 2-season drama. I found the world-building consistent, the characters memorable, and the story engaging.

Trent
17 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snow Flower — My two other Hong sisters shows are Gumiho Girlfriend (which I enjoyed mostly for Shin Min-ah’s ingenuous fox fairy) and Hotel del Luna (I am, in general, a big IU fan, and she was fine in what I felt was a somewhat limited role, but the overarching story didn’t really grab me and the episodic nature was mostly just okay. I have mildly positive feelings about it overall).

I would kind of like to see The Master’s Sun, mostly because, somewhat amazingly, I have never seen a show with either So Ji-sub or Gong Hyo-jin (although I expect that to change later this year, whenever Netflix releases Ask the Stars…)

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
17 days ago
Reply to  Trent

The ultimate So Ji Sub drama for me is I’m Sorry, I Love You from 2004. I don’t know if it legally available now. This is the show that taught me not to fear the melodrama, but to embrace it wholeheartedly.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
17 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Snow Flower – I remember actually sobbing through parts of that drama. It has one of the best OST songs ever – Park Hyo Shin – Snow Flower. He has the voice of an angel.

Last edited 17 days ago by phl1rxd
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
17 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snow Flower – grab a tissue – this is for you – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh2IOHGz7Gs

Trent
16 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Snow Flower — It looks like it’s actually still available on Viki, on their “Standard” tier, no less.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
16 days ago
Reply to  Trent

I saw that! If you are ever in a mood for an autumnal tearjerker, this is it!

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
17 days ago
Reply to  Trent

As for Gong Hyo Jin, I remember her from Thank You. The real show stealers though are Jang Hyuk and the little child actress who plays GHJ’s daughter.

JJ
JJ
11 days ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – Another Hong Sister Fantasy Show is A Korean Odyssey. Great ensemble and then you will learn all about the Zombie Girl references 🙂 I think its a must see 🙂

https://mydramalist.com/24049-hwayuki

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
17 days ago

I loved Part 2 of AoS! I agree that the finale was a bit underwhelming, but I am very pleased with the show overall. I liked the new actress as well. I liked that Part 2 was more focused on the love story, while being consistent with the world building from Part 1.
One of my dream dramas was about dark and brooding Lee Jae Wook wielding a sword, so AoS made my dream come true. For this, I am willing to forget and forgive the occasional plot holes.

uyen
16 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Aww I love that your dream came true re: brooding Lee Jae Wook, Snow Flower! He did indeed pull it off well