Oh man, oh man! I’m so glad this drama got so much better with episodes 3 and 4. After a mild and lukewarm response to episodes 1 and 2, I found myself quickly enjoying episodes 3 and 4 now that the drama has settled in a bit. Episodes 1 and 2 felt a bit overwhelming with all the realm information and rules, but thankfully focused more on the characters with the two latest episodes. We’re finally getting to know our characters a bit more as well as hashing out the details with Mu-deok and Jang Wook’s master-pupil dynamic. Things are getting interesting!
As much as the story is about Mu-deok and Jang Wook’s relationship and their use of each other in order to achieve their own individual goals, I enjoy that the story is just as much about Jang Wook’s life. Episodes 3 and 4 did a wonderful enjoy letting us into his world and giving us insight on the conflicts and challenges he struggles with on a daily basis. He has low self-esteem issues because he feels the need to prove himself. To prove himself as worthy, as powerful, as someone just as gifted and skilled as his dad. All his life he’s been trying to find the right master to help him hone in on this journey and goal and then he encounters Mu-deok who is just that person for him. However, as much as he wants to get it done and rushes through it, things aren’t easy as it seems. A part of it is learning, a part of it is timing. One has to be patient. Things will slowly happen in time and Jang Wook is learning that for himself through his experiences with Mu-deok.
It’s sort of rewarding to watch Jang Wook unknowingly take baby steps into slowly unveiling his powers and I think the pacing of episodes 3 and 4 was one of its biggest strengths. I think it would have been so baffling if Jang Wook somehow managed to unsheathe his father’s sword and somehow be able to control his surge of energy and so forth. However, the drama said not so quick, buddy. We witnessed Jang Wook learn to open his father’s sword with his energy, but he’s still got some learning to do in terms of learning to control that energy and his power. Again, it’s the little steps and progress that counts.
I think I like what the drama is sort of attempting to do with Jang Wook’s character so far. He’s such an interesting male lead/protagonist because he has daddy issues that has contributed to his personal demons and he just wants to find a way to get rid of that evil. He wants to be like the others; he wants to be as powerful and magical because that’s what he assumes he has to do. And it’s this journey to self-love and self-realization with the assistance and support of Mu-deok that I think will highlight how complex and strong of a character he is. Jang Wook is immature, childish, sort of lazy. He’s not perfect from the start, he’s not the greatest and smartest and brightest guy in the realm, he’s sort of looked down upon and underestimated. He has a chip on his shoulder and has every reason to want to be better. Jang Wook is a flawed character and there’s nothing wrong with that. He’s only going to grow and develop and become a better version of himself than he is at the moment.
I think one of my other favorite aspects about the drama definitely has to be Mu-deok and Jang Wook’s relationship. They are truly such a great pair not just because they’re super funny together or because they learn so much from each other. Or because they’re sort of destined to be in that they need each other for their own individual purposes. No, it’s not only that. Their relationship at this point in the drama seems more platonic than romantic and I like that. I don’t think they’re at a point yet where they have romantic feelings for each other and I hope it stays this way for a little bit longer. I sort of like just seeing the two spend time together and get to know each other better in their master-pupil dynamic. I also like that there’s not this weird power control in their relationship. Jang Wook is Mu-deok’s master social status wise so she’s his servant, but in terms of their personal relationship, she is his master so it sort of offsets or balances each other out? Jang Wook needs Mu-deok as much as she needs him so it feels as if things are equal between them.
It’s obvious that the two also feel comfortable around each other and yes, maybe they care for each other and protect each other because there’s an underlying reason to it, but a part of it also just seems genuine. The way Mu-deok joined Jang Wook in his bed and told him a lullaby so he wouldn’t worry so much about freezing. Or the way he hugged her by the river in happiness and joy as he discovered that he could open his father’s sword and wanted to celebrate the moment with her. Or the way they express their gratitude and appreciation to each other when things are a little bit more still and calm in between all the chaos. Things aren’t easy and it’s not always rainbows and unicorns with these two, but they’re there for each other every step of the way. A part of it is because they have to be, but maybe it’s because they also want to be. There’s so much good in their relationship as there is ugly and they’re going to stick through it all together regardless.
And of course, things aren’t going to be easy. Sometimes life comes at you the way it did when Jang Wook learned from Master Park that the person who Jang Wook thought was his father all along was actually not his father. Mu-deok wasn’t aware about this and she attempted to force him back to his ways of learning and productivity which caused a rift in their relationship. So she pulled her own little antic off so that she could get her way with their plan as well as Jang Wook. Jang Wook and Mu-deok’s relationship is not always going to be pretty and easy, but it’s real. It’s also flawed. It’s realistic. The teaching will continue and the learning will happen and both Jang Wook and Mu-deok will come out of this stronger and better. Nothing comes easy; the master and pupil might continue to butt heads and get into fights and engage in petty arguments, but this entire journey will be a learning process for the both of them.
Other components I’m really enjoying about the drama is all the humor and comedic highlights. Whether that’s with Master Park and Maidservant Kim or the scene with the chamber pot water, there were so many hilarious parts with the latest two episodes. I also wasn’t aware about this initially going into the drama, but one of my favorite up-and-coming actors, Shin Seung-ho, is in this drama as the Crown Prince. I didn’t want to admit it at first, but I eventually accepted my residual love for Shin Seung-ho who I first saw in ‘At Eighteen’ (which was a drama that I really adored). Ever since then, it’s just been history and I’m glad that he’s in this drama. He’s quite a talented actor and it’s nice to see him build his resume.
The other sub-plot that I find a bit interesting but I’m not as invested in is Mu-deok (or should I say Naksu) and Seo Yul’s relationship. They were childhood friends, but eventually separated for unknown reasons and reunite again but with Naksu in Mu-deok’s body. There’s not much there between them at this point in the drama (thankfully), but I do have to admit that I really did enjoy the scene in episode 3 when the two shared a moment over the little instrument. Just the way that the music was playing in the background and Mu-deok playing the instrument and Seo Yul watching from afar. It was quite a beautiful and touching scene.
All in all, episodes 3 and 4 of ‘Alchemy of Souls’ gave us so much more good content and substance and it seems like we’re onto something here. Mu-deok and Jang Wook continue on their journey and realize that desperate calls sometimes calls for desperate measures. As we have seen, it doesn’t seem like much will stop the two from doing what they need to do to achieve their goals. There’s always just seems to be so much chaos when these two are together, but it’s also true that they seem to win every time. How much longer will it take for Jang Wook to unlock and unleash the rest of his powers and energy? Will Mu-deok succeed in helping Jang Wook unlock his own energy for her own personal need? Where do they go from here? There’s still so much to do. It’s only going to get funner (and funnier) from here on out. Let the battles and adventures begin.