Oh holy moly, my heart might not be cut out for this. Episode 5 of Arang and the Magistrate went from a sedate and rather boring first half to hells-on-wheels crazy “I can’t believe I’m seeing this” second half. This drama continues to pluck me right out of my mundane everyday life and deposit me squarely in its fantasy mystical realm, which frankly is so out there that it has little resemblance to Joseon era Korea other than the use of all the historical and cultural motifs. The supernatural element ratcheted up a notch in this episode, all thanks to stone-faced Joo Wal’s revelation of his back story and shifty ways. It wasn’t too far removed from what I had already suspected, but what Arang does so well is take what could be easy-to-guess plot developments but make watching it feel exciting and fresh.
I’m loving Arang and Eun Oh’s continued interactions, which have taken on the feeling of a sitcom long time married couple. Except Arang is a dead person just resurrected and Eun Oh is a nobleman playacting as a magistrate to find his AWOL mother. One thing that sorta nags at me is how the Heaven scenes really aren’t very engaging, probably because the writer is being coy with the Jade Emperor and the King of Hell withholding critical pieces of information from the audience about their true intentions, and because Yoo Seung Ho is turning out to be woefully miscast as the affable chillaxing Jade Emperor. Sigh, I can’t win ‘em all, so I’m still happy as a clam with the rest of this drama which continues to keep me riveted to the screen.
Episode 5 recap:
Eun Oh walks through town muttering about how Joo Wal didn’t recognize his own fiancee’s face. Dol Swe finds his master and asks why Eun Oh didn’t finish the burial properly since Eun Oh was the one who wanted to do it right. Eun Oh sends Dol Swe back to finish it, claiming he’s got other things to take care of. Dol Swe asks if it’s the girl, and starts pouting and whining about how Eun Oh is keeping secrets from him. Eun Oh hasn’t the time to sooth Dol Swe’s hurt feelings and sends him along.
Joo Wal walks through town and thinks back to his encounter with seemingly male magisterial officer Arang which caused his black ring to glow red.
Eun Oh runs back to the magistrate residence and barges into the room where he left Arang. She’s docilely sitting on the ground all ladylike (I LOVE how she has one pinky daintily outstretched) and welcomes him back. Eun Oh starts to yell at her for coming to the burial and Arang acts like she has no idea what he’s talking about. Eun Oh starts trying to look for the officer uniform she was wearing and when he can’t find it, he lifts her skirt to see if she’s still wearing it.
Arang shrieks and slaps him for the affront to her maidenly sensibilities. Eun Oh freezes and a red palm print appears on his cheek. Arang stammers out an apology and Eun Oh also apologizes. Arang is impressed with Eun Oh’s audacity. Eun Oh asks for the hair pin but Arang came back buck naked and brought nothing with her. Arang wants to know what’s so important about it?
Eun Oh says the hair pin is more important than her amnesiac ghost, to which Arang takes offense since she’s human again. Arang insults Eun Oh’s mom as having disappeared because he was so annoying and she wanted to get away from him. Eun Oh is furious to hear this and their mutual frustration with each other’s situation boils over.
Eun Oh runs to the mountain side and he flashes back to a young Eun Oh toddler being torn away from his mother to go live with his father. He takes out his frustrations on a tree and bloodies his hand. Eun Oh ends up sitting there, going from nighttime all the way until dawn. We see Arang also sitting alone in the room all night.
Joo Wal sits in his room and stares at a box. What? Does it contain hearts of little girls? He opens the box and pulls out a black slip of cloth. Ahhhh, it’s his nighttime ninja clothes.
Eun Oh returns to the magistrate’s residence and finds Arang having spent a sleepless night waiting for him. I love the dark circles under her eyes, and she rolls her eyes to see Eun Oh seemingly having not suffered after their fight. They sass back and forth a bit and make up like old married couples do. Eun Oh reveals that the hair pin she has belonged to his mother. Arang is stunned and wonders how she ended up with it. She really doesn’t know since she has no memory. Arang thinks she might’ve found the hair pin, so Eun Oh retorts that his mom could’ve given it to her.
They both agree that she holds the clue, especially since Eun Oh’s mom’s trail disappeared three years ago after she arrived at Miryang, which was the same time Arang died. Arang concurs and knows now why finding out who she is may be tied with Eun Oh finding clues about his mom’s whereabouts. Eun Oh tells Arang that he’s not some generous noble guy like she thought he was, so she should stop thinking she knows how to judge a person (a pointed dig at her thinking Joo Wal is all sorts of decent).
Arang walks out to think about this plan to partner with Eun Oh when she’s confronted by the three magisterial officials who demands to know who she is and why she’s at the magistrate’s residence? Arang gives her name and says she can come and go as she pleases since the magistrate gave her permission. She’s still got her feisty ghost-self personality and she threatens to beat the three of them up and its hilarious how the three of them shrink back from a tiny slip of a girl.
Eun Oh meets with the three magisterial officials and informs them he is staying. Dol Swe just wants to go home and afterwards asks Eun Oh what is going on? Eun Oh asks him to endure for a bit longer. Dol Swe blames “that woman” for Eun Oh’s change of heart, asking if that woman is more important than him. Ahahaha, he’s like a scorned lover.
Eun Oh just asks Dol Swe to accept it but Dol Swe reminds Eun Oh that they stayed over a year in a place once to beg for information from someone. Dol Swe was on his knees for so long it was bleeding. Eun Oh knows how much Dol Swe has endured for him, but this time Dol Swe has had enough and huffs off.
Lord Choi is furious that the new magistrate is thwarting him (over who gets the corpse of the former magistrate’s daughter), so he sends a minion back to Eun Oh’s hometown to gather information about his background.
Bang Wool is trying to find a gig so she doesn’t starve to death before she meets her dream man, a general who will sweep her off her feet. Dol Swe is wandering around town still sad that his master chose a girl over him. Bang Wool sees Dol Swe and picks him as her next mark, a girl’s gotta eat while waiting for her general.
Bang Wool introduces herself as a shaman and divines that Dol Swe was abandoned by someone he served for a long time, and it was because of a woman. Dol Swe is amazed at how accurate she is. Bang Wool asks for Dol Swe’s birth information in order to help him out. Bang Wool divines that the person will leave soon and never return. The person will depart to another world. Dol Swe is incensed that this witch is cursing his young master and chases after her.
Arang returns to her old home and wonders where her nanny is. She looks around her old room. Arang to confirm that the magic which resurrected her also prevents people from recognizing her as the dead magistrate’s daughter. Arang mutters to herself about Eun Oh, this doronim who is brave and fearless but cold-hearted. She has to find out how she died, and she is a clue for him same as he’s a clue for her. The sun sets and she heads back.
Arang walks into the magistrate’s residence to find Eun Oh waiting for her, holding two peaches. Arang agrees to work together with him, which Eun Oh expected. He hands her a peach and says they should seal their partnership with a peach since there aren’t any peach trees around. Since she’s a human again, Eun Oh encourages her to take a bite of the delicious peach.
Arang bites down on the peach and is amazed and how delicious it is and that she can taste it. She’s amazed that she’s human again. Eun Oh points that that if she can’t believe she’s a human, how can she make others believe it? Arang happily munches away at her peach. Eun Oh smiles to see Arang enjoy the peach with such relish.
Arang asks whether Eun Oh has always been a momma’s boy? Did he call for his mom all the time after she disappeared?
Joo Wal stands in the mystery courtyard and the door opens. The same mystery woman sits with her back to him and asks if the preparations are done. Joo Wal says its ready, and the woman replies that she’s excited to see who the person will be this time. What is she? A vampire?
Eun Oh thinks back to what Arang said about how he longs for his mother. A flashback reveals Eun Oh running home to his mom, asking to stay with her because he gets beaten at his father’s house. His mom asks little Eun Oh if he knows what today is? Today is the anniversary of the death of Eun Oh’s maternal grandparents, uncles and cousins. Everyone all died on the same day.
His mother vows to punish “that man” who was the cause of all those deaths. She will never forgive that man or let him get away with it. She vows revenge, she will gnaw him into pieces. What is she? A werewolf? Adult Eun Oh cries thinking about this painful memory. So it isn’t just about his mother disappearing, but worry that she might’ve sought revenge and been hurt in the process.
Joo Wal, dressed in all black like a ninja assassin, climbs over the walls of the magistrate residence and sneaks into Arang’s room. She’s dreaming about sweet delicious peaches. Joo Wal looms over Arang, before pulling out a knife and stabbing her on the left side of her chest. Arang awakens with a gasp and glimpses Joo Wal’s masked face, before passing out.
Joo Wal pulls Arang’s limp body up and presses a talisman paper to her neck, with the same symbol of the tattoo she sported when she was dead. The talisman symbol glows red and disappears into her neck.
The Jade Emperor, sporting an even more horrific hairstyle (that of a Han dynasty concubine if you ask me), is playing the gayageum in Heaven when suddenly the sound changes. He notes that “its finally started.” The King of Hell opens a book and peers at it, musing that he’s not sure whether this start is a good or bad thing.
Eun Oh rushes to Arang’s room after hearing a bit of noise and enters to find it empty. He sees blood stained on her bedspread and he rushes out calling for Amnesia.
Joo Wal takes Arang’s body through the woods and enters a dark building where there is an altar with symbols on the wall. He places her body on the altar and stares at it. He reaches out to touch her cheek but pulls away before he makes contact. He turns and walks out.
It’s time for Joo Wal to flashback, and he’s a young boy wearing an expensive outfit of a young lord. A woman approaches him and tells him that his name will be Joo Wal from now on. All he needs to do is on every full moon on the 15th of a leap month, bring her a young woman with a pure soul. Joo Wal wonders how he will know whether she has a pure soul? The woman slips the black ring on his finger and says the ring will tell him.
We see young Joo Wal meeting with a slightly older girl in the woods at night and his ring glows red. They hold hands and walk deeper into the woods. So Joo Wal has been absconding with young girls for quite some time now.
Joo Wal meets with the mystery woman, who asks if he has brought her? Joo Wal answers yes. The woman, named Lady Seo, reveals her face at last and is anyone surprise that she’s Eun Oh’s mother, and she doesn’t look to have aged a day since we saw her in Eun Oh’s childhood flashbacks. Lady Seo asks if this girl is pure and Joo Wal confirms she is.
Joo Wal and Lady Seo walk to the little hut and enter to find the altar empty and Arang has disappeared. Joo Wal is shock and frantic, explaining that he left her corpse there. He has no idea how she could have disappeared? We see Arang clutching her injured chest and running through the woods. Flashback shows that Arang woke up in severe pain on the altar, but not dead, and then ran away. I wonder if resurrected Arang can’t be killed by normal means? Interesting.
Arang is trying to run back to town when she’s grabbed from behind. She struggles until she realizes its Eun Oh. He asks what happened but see’s that she’s in severe pain so quickly takes her back to the residence. Arang reveals she was stabbed by a masked man and taken to the woods. Eun Oh carries Arang inside.
Lady Seo asks what happened and Joo Wal has no answer for her. She turns her own ring around so the sharp side is inside her palm before turning around to slap Joo Wal, leaving a red gash on his cheek. She calls him useless and to cease with the excuses. She doesn’t care where Joo Wal left the corpse, where did the girl go that she needs today?
Joo Wal promises that next time it won’t be like this. Lady Seo’s eyes narrow and she repeats next? Does he mean next full moon of a leap month? He got to live like a human being because of her. Does he think he can keep wearing the ring after this? She continues to call him useless. Btw, if that is not some complete off-her-rocker crazy-eyed acting, I don’t want what is. And its perfect for this character and sends shivers down my spine.
Joo Wal flashback numero dos involves him being so poor that he’s resorted to eating slop from a cow feed trough while other children laugh at him and the owner of the cows shoos him away for daring to take food from the cows. You know, I would feel terrible for Joo Wal if he didn’t trade an impoverished childhood for becoming a serial killer for some soul-sucking she-demon.
Back at the magistrate’s residence, Eun Oh has watched over sleeping Arang through the night and he opens her hanbok a bit to check on her wound only to discover that Arang’s stab wound has healed. Oooh, she’s like Wolverine. It’ll be nice if she can be fitted with adamantium claws.
Bang Wool vows that today will be a better day since she woke up refreshed, unlike yesterday she was feeling not so energetic and she ended up running into that guy. Too bad Dol Swe comes looking for her, having slept the night drunk at the restaurant. Dol Swe asks Bang Wool if what she said yesterday was true, that soon the person will be departing to another world?
Bang Wool tries to run away and Dol Swe chases her, only to be splashed with water by an ahjumma. Dol Swe opens his shirt to dry off and Bang Wool swallows hard to see a naked bare chest. Bang Wool starts feeling Dol Swe up.
The magisterial offices hand Eun Oh the outfit worn by the Damo, which is the only female outfit they have around. Eun Oh asks about the nearby mountains and is told that everyone avoids it because its rumored to be haunted and this rumor has been around for a long time.
Eun Oh is startled by Dol Swe returning from a drunken bender, and Dol Swe sees Eun Oh coming out from Arang’s room. He runs inside and stares in wide-eyed open-mouth shock at Arang sleeping on the bed with clothes left for her near the door. He incredulously whether his master has slept with the girl already? Eun Oh drags Dol Swe outside. Dol Swe wonders just how much further Eun Oh plans to demean himself with this nothing girl. Eun Oh ignores Dol Swe’s nattering and asks him to come along.
Dol Swe wonders what they are looking for and Eun Oh says to look out for anything suspicious. Dol Swe still wants to talk about Arang and what Eun Oh plans to do with her. Eun Oh plans to walk to the end with Arang (finding out circumstances of her death), which Dol Swe takes to mean Eun Oh plans to marry the girl. He tries to reason with Eun Oh that with his position he cannot marry someone like this girl.
Eun Oh and Dol Swe arrive at the same hut where the altar was erected. They look around, with Dol Swe wondering fearfully whether humans or ghosts reside at this godforsaken place. Eun Oh tells Dol Swe to stop nattering and goes inside despite Dol Swe wanting to leave immediately. Eun Oh feels the dark aura in the hut but doesn’t find any ghosts there.
Eun Oh asks Dol Swe to look around for anything suspicious but this is too much for Dol Swe to handle and he heads outside to wait for his master. Once outside, Dol Swe wonders if Eun Oh has forgotten that his primary goal is to look for his mother? Eun Oh can’t make sense of what happened – the intruder sneaked into the magistrate’s residence and stabbed Arang, so why her? He figures that its also nonsensical that she resurrected and her body can heal itself, so why are all the crazy things happened around him? I dunno, maybe because crazy is attracted to pretty, and Eun Oh is so very damn pretty.
After examining the altar and the room, Eun Oh turns to leave when he eye notices something in the corner on the wall. He walks over and reaches out to grab what turns out to be the hair pin he gave his mom, and this time the hair pin has dried blood on it. Eun Oh asks in alarm how this came to be here?
Thoughts of Mine:
While I really like Arang (I mean REALLY like it), I wish I could love it. At this point in my last few drama obsessions this year, such as The King 2 Hearts and Big, by the time episode 5 rolled around, I was so obsessed that I could recite dialogue and went to sleep dreaming of exciting plot developments further down the line. Conversely, Arang leaves me rather detached, almost like admiring and enjoying a painting at the gallery and happily leaving, as opposed to wanting to take it home so I can cuddle with it all day long. It’s the difference between personal attachment version appreciation, and one beyond my control. This drama toggles between good and damn-good, but I have yet to feel the light flip on in my heart. Which is odd, since Lee Jun Ki and Shin Mina combust together in ways that can’t be bottled up, but perhaps its their characters that are not really grabbing me.
I see Eun Oh as an interesting and cool character, but so far we’ve not delved much deeper than what we learned about him in episode 1 – he’s an unflappable cat (except when it comes to Arang who can push his buttons like no other), confident and rather fearless, and he is a momma’s boy through and through. I want to dig deeper into Eun Oh, and the drama isn’t doing it since it’s got secrets to slowly dole out and mysteries to solve. Same thing goes for Arang, who as a human girl is the same as when she was dead. All I see is feisty and gutsy girl tries to find out her identity and history, but I don’t have any additional knowledge about her likes and dislikes. So while the acting is exquisite from both leads, their characters remain shells that need the inside to be filled out.
I wasn’t surprised by the revelation in episode 5 that Joo Wol (1) is a stabbity serial killer, and (2) does the dirty work for the mystery lady every full moon. Even the reveal of the mystery lady as Eun Oh’s mom wasn’t shocking, but I think its too early to tell whether it’s the same woman on the inside, or whether an evil spirit is possessing the body of Eun Oh’s mom. I’m pretty sure whatever plan the Heavenly bros have hatched up that involve piggybacking on Arang solving her own death mystery involves this woman and what she’s been doing for years using Joo Wal to find pure female souls for her to do whatever it is she needs with them. Right now Joo Wal has gone from uninteresting plot driver to loathsome pond scum. I don’t care about his sad sob story past, he sold his soul to the proverbial devil and he’s dead to me. I hope the drama doesn’t try to redeem him, because that’ll just make me barf. I like the pace in which all the little nuggets of information is being doled out, so all I need now is for the writer to find a way to put in more character development and we’re good to go.