This might be my last recap for Arang and the Magistrate, depending on how next week’s episodes go and whether Nice Guy completely owns me from the get go. I hate dropping recapping projects, but sometimes it has to be done if my heart isn’t in it anymore. I still enjoy watching Arang, but my enthusiasm doesn’t rise to the need to recap it nor do I find myself with lots to say. I’m coming away with the feeling that I would have probably liked this particular drama a whole lot more had it been a completed drama that I could marathon. The mood is wonderfully built up, but with the story progressing at a generally plodding pace, the week-to-week wait causes the heady atmosphere to dissipate and leaves me rather unengaged from the narrative during the interim.
While the story is primarily a supernatural detective mystery with the two leads each having their own mystery to unravel which appears more and more like it dovetails at the same point, I feel like the story spends way too much time with Arang looking for Eun Oh, or Eun Oh looking for Arang, rinse and repeat. It would be great if all the time looking for each other led to more character development, but sadly I see none of it. It’s almost like the writer is prolonging scenes to that it can pepper little clues along the way, as opposed to dropping chunks of new reveals and then having more substantive character interactions in between. Eight episodes in, I’m ready for Eun Oh and Arang to stop their passive-aggressive bickering and backhanded convos and start communicating more directly. Then maybe the story will rev into drive gear.
Episode 8 recap:
Dol Swe frets over Eun Oh, but the first thing Eun Oh asks about is Arang when he regains consciousness. Dol Swe points out that she couldn’t possibly be alive after that fall and he’s sent magisterial guards to search for her body already.
Eun Oh ignores Dol Swe’s pleads for him to rest and changes his clothes before getting on a horse to find Arang. Poor Dol Swe runs after Eun Oh as he rides off. Either Eun Oh has magical regenerative abilities, or else this drama is really stretching the credulity by the boatload here.
Bang Wool sits in town and eats pickled vegetables and wonders when her life might get better. Dol Swe runs past and Bang Wool holds her vegetable over her face and pauses because she’s so distracted. Dol Swe stops running and heads back to talk with this female charlatan, but then he gets distracted by the pickled vegetable juice on the side of her lips and reaches over to wipe it. Both of them snap out of it and Dol Swe takes off, later trying to pull his own thumb off because it has a mind of its own.
Eun Oh rides to the river bank where Arang’s body could have washed up. Magisterial officers are combing the area for Arang but no one finds anything there, because we all know Arang has been carted off by Joo Wal. We see Joo Wal riding back to the Choi residence with Arang still asleep in his arms. Ugh, he skeeves me out so big time.
Eun Oh stands by the banks of the river and wonders if Arang resurrected herself and then went somewhere? Dol Swe finds Eun Oh and brings him back to the magistrate’s residence.
Eun Oh meets up with the Three Bangs and he notices that all the effects that were unearthed from the mass grave remain sitting in the courtyard and no one from the town has come to claim it. The Three Bangs claim the effects do not belong to anyone in this own but Eun Oh scoffs at that excuse. He tells them to pack it away for now.
After Eun Oh leaves, the Three Bangs breathe a sign of relief and wonder how to make this go away. They know that the townspeople are frightened of incurring the wrath of Lord Choi hence no one has come to claim the effects or identify the remains.
Dol Swe helps Eun On back to his room and the two of them sit on the stoop outside to talk. He assures Eun Oh that when Arang’s body is found, they can have a proper burial for her. Eun Oh mentions how the townspeople won’t come to identify or collect the effects due to fearing Lord Choi.
It’s nighttime already and Eun Oh paces around the courtyard. Eun Oh thinks back to his conversation with Arang about how she can resurrect herself so there is nothing to fear in dying, but Arang tells him that dying is a frightening and painful experience nevertheless. Eun Oh wonders about the circumstances of her death and how it is compelling her to seek out the truth despite enduring such a painful ordeal. Elsewhere, Joo Wal sits besides a sleeping Arang, staring at her and wondering who/what she is and how come she can’t die?
Lady Seo is down in her dungeon of evil and performing a spell. She cuts her palm and squeezes out blood onto a black cloth with the talisman symbol on it. She then takes out two swords and places the talisman clothes on the sword handles. She smiles and hands the two swords to her two Soul Reaper minions.
Its nighttime and a man with a knife is pursuing a woman and her daughter. The woman tries to fight back and both the man and woman end up dead. A Soul Reaper arrives to take the two souls away, when suddenly Lady Seo’s two Soul Reaper minions show up. One of them slashes the Soul Reaper and he disappears in a puff.
Lady Seo’s two evil minions are powerful and about to take the two souls away when more legit Soul Reapers arrive and the two sides battle. The good Soul Reapers are about to be overwhelmed when kick ass Moo Young arrives and strikes one evil minion down. The other evil minion manages to grab the male soul and run off with him.
The Soul Reaper minion who got away with the male ghost returns to Lady Seo’s lair. The male ghost pleads for leniency but Lady Seo just smiles her creepy smile and puts her hand on the ghost’s face. The ghost is then sucked into one of ceramic urns.
Moo Young reports back to Heaven and the King of Hell is furious that his Soul Reapers have been killed. Moo Young reports that the sword used to strike down the Soul Reapers had a spell cast on it. The Jade Emperor realizes that the person now possessed such powers, and must be truly anxious in order to resort to such tactics.
The King of Hell is so angry that he storms off. He returns to his own hellish domain and screams loudly in rage. The Jade Emperor is amused to see how angry the King of Hell is since it’s been a long time since he’s lost his temper like this. Moo Young asks the Jade Emperor if he knows the identity of the person wreaking havoc on earth, but the Jade Emperor brushes his question aside and says the identity of the person isn’t important. Moo Young wonders if Arang is involved in what is happening?
Dol Swe finds a crowd of townspeople outside the magistrate’s residence, all asking to speak personally with the new magistrate. Eun Oh goes looking for Arang again, riding his horse back to the river banks.
Arang wakes up and walks out of the room to look around for Joo Wal. She wonders where she is but wants to find Joo Wal to thank him before leaving. Arang looks around and finds no one around, which seems strange to her, especially since there are also no ghosts around. She sees an area off to the side and heads in that direction which is filled with bamboo trees.
Lord Choi goes to see Lady Seo and confirms that he’s gotten all better. He assures her that he will handle the situation with the mass grave, and asks if she still wants the new magistrate offed? Lady Seo is annoyed by his prattling and tells him to be quiet.
Lord Choi leaves his meeting with Lady Seo upset, calling her an evil witch. If he wasn’t afflicted by a mystical disease, he would never bow his head to her. Dude, you can’t sell your soul to the devil and then expect the devil to dance to your tune. Doesn’t work that way.
Arang walks through the bamboo forest still looking for someone. She spots a talisman symbol carved into a tree. When she touches it, the talisman glows red. Lord Choi sees her and demands to know who she is and why she’s here? Joo Wal arrives and claims that Arang is his guest. Lord Choi says that it doesn’t matter who she is, if she’s been here then she can’t leave. Joo Wal reminds Lord Choi that now is not the time to discuss this. Doesn’t he remember what happened the last time the person came here?
Lady Seo walks out from her residence which is at the end of the bamboo forest. She touches the talisman tree that Arang touched earlier. Whatever she senses makes her eyes widen.
After Arang and Joo Wal walk away, she apologizes for causing trouble, explaining she was looking for him to thank him. Joo Wal lies that his dad is in a bad mood because he’s not feeling well. Lord Choi is pissed as Joo Wal, but he also has this weird feeling that Arang looks familiar somehow.
Joo Wal introduces himself as Choi Joo Wal and Arang reveals that her name is Arang. She asks if he’s seen her before, and Joo Wal says of course he has since he lent her his back to escape once. Arang is disappointed hoping he would remember her as Lee Seo Rim. They discuss their meeting at Lee Seo Rim’s funeral. Arang feels her heart beat faster around Joo Wal. Arang wonders why he doesn’t remember her and she runs off.
Eun Oh returns to the forest with the mass grave and sees that all the evidence has been covered up and traces removed. He can tell its fresh dirt used to fill in the hole. Lord Choi gets a report that everything pertaining to the mass grave has been disposed off and the townspeople will not breathe a word of it.
Joo Wal finds Arang at the bank of the river and Arang starts to cry, asking how he knew to find her here. Joo Wal said he tracked her here from earlier after helping her escape since he was worried about her.
Joo Wal thinks to himself that he needs to stay near Arang until he finds out what her goal is? Arang tells Joo Wal that she’s almost home and he can leave but he insists on walking her back. Conversation moves to the new magistrate and Joo Wal says he met Eun Oh when Lee Seo Rim’s body was discovered. Arang is shocked that Eun Oh knew Joo Wal’s identity from before.
Eun Oh spots Arang and Joo Wal outside the magistrate’s residence and the three of them have a round of stare downs. Joo Wal apologizes for bringing Arang back so late and leaves. Arang glares at Eun Oh before going inside without speaking a word to him. Lady, I don’t think you have time to waste on hissy fits.
The Three Bangs want to blame the disappearance of all the evidence from the mass graves on a burglar. They spot Arang coming back and freak out, wondering if she’s a human or a ghost?
Arang storms off and Eun Oh calls out for her to stop. They start arguing, with Eun Oh asking if she knew how long he’s been searching for her, while Arang demands to know why he didn’t tell her that he met Joo Wal already and he didn’t remember Lee Seo Rim. Was Eun Oh waiting to see her make a fool of herself? Arang is pissed and asks if he’s just waiting for her to regain her memory to find his mother? She calls him fake and says her memory will never return for a fake guy like him to use.
Eun Oh confronts the Three Bangs on how the mass grave evidence has been disposed of. The Three Bangs claim they are acting on order of Lord Choi, and Lord Choi is the final authority in Miryang. Eun Oh demands that Lord Choi come to the magistrate’s residence to meet with him.
Eun Oh thinks to himself that no matter how much he can endure things that are unjust, this is too much. Lord Choi has awakened a sleeping tiger now.
Dol Swe has seen a hale and hearty Arang return and he wonders what the hell creature she is? He asks himself if she’s maybe a gumiho (Ahahahahaha, this is so funny!). If not a gumiho then she’s a ghost?
Moo Young thinks to himself about what the Jade Emperor said, that the identity of that person is not important. He hopes that its not Moo Yeon. The Jade Emperor wonders if the King of Hell is still in a snit, and hopes he won’t take out his frustrations on innocent people. The Jade Emperor is confident he won’t, since the King of Hell will never do anything to break protocol. The Jade Emperor offers Moo Young a tea and explains he’s trying to brew a tea that will allow a person to drink what they are feelings. But sadly he hasn’t succeeded yet.
Arang sees Eun Oh pacing the courtyard at night but she’s not in the mood to talk with him. Eun Oh looks at his mother’s hair pin and sighs.
Joo Wal returns to Lady Seo who asks what took so long. She wonders if he doesn’t trust her yet, otherwise why not bring her Arang. Joo Wal apologizes and explains he hasn’t discovered her motive yet. Lady Seo decides to come clean and tells Joo Wal that she wants Arang because Arang’s physical form cannot ever die. Arang will be able to resurrect herself each time she dies. If Lady Seo had Arang’s body, then she can live forever. That is why she wants Arang. Lady Seo needs Joo Wal to bring her Arang, and if he does so, he will no longer need to find her innocent girls every 15th of a Leap Month.
Lady Seo tells Joo Wal that he is her most precious son and she will never abandon him even if he doesn’t need to bring her victims anymore. He asks if he needs to physically abduct Arang and bring her here, but Lady Seo says that Arang will come by herself. She wants Joo Wal to win her heart, but he needs to leave his heart to her.
Lord Choi’s minion urges him not to go meet with Eun Oh just because he was summoned but Lord Choi doesn’t mind. Joo Wal also arrives at the magistrate’s residence just as Eun Oh, wearing his magistrate’s office, is getting ready to meet with Lord Choi. Eun Oh wonders what the heck Joo Wal is going here? Joo Wal gives him a curt nod head before walking inside.
Arang wonders why she doesn’t even have a change of clothes around here. He asks Arang if she has time to talk with him. There is a place he wants to take her and would she be willing to do him a favor like she said she would repay him for helping her before. Arang agrees and goes to get ready.
Eun Oh watches and mutters that living so long one can see something as insane as a ghost in love with a human, and happening on his magisterial territory no less.
Lord Choi arrives and the Three Bangs go to slavishly welcome him. Eun Oh walks out to welcome him and the two men sit down for a chat. Lord Choi asks the new magistrate Eun Oh to tell him if he needs anything, clearing indicating that he runs the joint around here. Eun Oh says this is his magistrate’s office and he can take care of matters.
Lord Choi asks what favor Eun Oh wants from him in asking for this meeting? Eun Oh pointedly says he’s not asking for a favor.
Thoughts of Mine:
I’m getting slightly annoyed with Arang’s attitude. She’s always been impetuous and prone to jump to conclusions, but she fully got on my nerve in this episode with her attitude towards Eun Oh when she learned that he kept his earlier encounter with Joo Wal from her. So what? Isn’t this the guy who has demonstrated by action that he cares about her, and repeatedly saved her hide time and again, whether from ghosts or other dangers? I would like to see some character maturity from her but so far I see none. She’s just a corporeal form of the same ghostly brat from episode 1. Whereas Eun Oh has been maturing through his encounter with Arang, and his decision to investigate the mass grave deaths because of the injustice and cover up was really a great moment for us to see that he’s gone from dispassionate emo young man to someone willing to do something for a greater cause.
Arang is scheduled to be a 20-episode drama and I appreciate that the story has time to present its narrative. But part of what I’m seeing feels like there might not be enough material for the length and the writer is thus forced to drag things out to fill the time. It would be fine if the ancillary details are interesting, but so far I’m neither engaged or amused by most of the side stories. Bang Wool and Dol Swe have the potential to be cute but so far it feels random and forced. The Three Bangs annoy me with their craven and selfish nefariousness. And Lord Choi and Joo Wal are great as plot devices but mindbogglingly paper thin as villains. Finally, I’m ready for the Heavenly trio to start talking in ways that involve more than hints at what is happening down on earth.
I think what I’m wanting from Arang is more pathos. The story has so much angst to mine, and for whatever reason I feel like so far it merely glosses over it. Arang’s death, Eun Oh’s mommy issues, Joo Wal’s turn to the dark side, all of that just simmers right before the surface and never fully gets fleshed out onscreen. I’m told about it, but it doesn’t resonate with me, probably because the drama spends most of its time doling out mysterious tidbits of information like cookie crumbs. I think the acting of the cast is solid and the leads are more than capable of bringing more out of their characters, but that hasn’t happened yet. Right now Arang’s bratty side makes me care more about Eun Oh’s struggles to balance his desire to find his mom, his growing concern for Arang, and his decision to assume the mantle of magistrate in earnest. I hope he lays a smackdown on Lord Choi and the Three Bangs soon, and then move his target to Lady Seo aka Bad mommy.
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