So……..episode 2 of Gu Family Book was kinda like waking up from a warm bed by having a bucket of cold water splashed on my face. Oh vey, in the blink of an eye it turned into all sorts of poorly develop romantic drivel and behavioral fail all around. I can’t figure out anyone’s motivations other than the dim lovelorn Gu Wol Ryung and his kind and caring friend the Taoist priest So Jung. If this was a buddy movie with the two of them as OTP then I would ship that, because the love story between Wol Ryung and Seo Hwa fell apart so fast in episode 2 it left skid marks. I spent the latter half of the episode feeling bad this poor innocent mountain spirit fell in love with a hare-brained and emotionally wack girl when he was happy minding his own business up in there forest. The villainy of Kwan Woong reminds me so much of the ridiculous overblown evil of the antagonist in this writer’s last drama the turd Man of Honor, where Son Chang Min chewed up so much scenery he could rival a llama.
The problem in MoH (and in the writer’s previous hit Baker King, Kim Tak Gu) is showing itself here in GFB – create a very evil villain, throw in some horrible things befalling the parental generation, and then have the kids grow up and deal with overcoming the obstacles laid down from prior wrongs. This recipe usually requires characters acting and behaving in ways that increasingly make no sense in order to hew to the narrative ethos of breaking through successive challenges to create the hero’s (or heroine’s) journey to righting the wrongs from the past. This drama is still filmed very prettily, but episode 2 also took everyone’s acting down a notch. Lee Yeon Hee went back to her usual wide-eyed blank acting (with a few scene exceptions) and overall I haven’t found a single character I love yet. Will the arrival of adult Kang Chi resurrect my suddenly flagging interest in this drama? I sure hope so, because it would be a monumental disappointment to not be loving a Lee Seung Gi drama for the next two months.
Episode 2 recap:
Taoist priest So Jung is shocked at Wol Ryung’s request to find a way to become human. He warns Wol Ryung again that famed demon hunter Dam Pyung Joon is leading the hunt for him. He suggests Wol Ryung send Seo Hwa away now but he’s not budging. Kinda think you should listen to your friend’s advice, dude.
Pyung Joon and his soldiers are tracking Wol Ryung through Seo Hwa. I find it amusing there is actually a Joseon official known as the feared monster hunter. And with his last name being Dam, who’s betting that he’s the daddy of Dam Yeol Wool, who is future OTP with Kang Chi. Of course this drama is getting everyone’s relationships as tightly knotted as possible.
After So Jung leaves, Seo Hwa tells Wol Ryung that she ought to leave since she’s the daughter of a traitor and a runaway slave. Wol Ryung could care less and asks her to stay, she will be safe with him.
Wol Ryung is like an eager puppy wanting to please, and he offers Seo Hwa a choice between a rabbit or turtle for dinner. Seo Hwa is like “I’ll take the peach instead!” and grabs one off the table. Wol Ryung is so happy he runs off to grab her an entire tree full of peaches.
Seo Hwa walks out into the Moonlight Garden and admires the flowers growing there, which leads to Wol Ryung bringing her an armful of flowers.
He ups the wooing and brings her a bag full of blue butterflies which he releases into the air. Wol Ryung then takes Seo Hwa to the top of the mountain to enjoy the scenic view. She marvels at the beauty and he marvels at her beautiful smile.
Later that night, Wol Ryung and Seo Hwa sit by the fire and discuss their past. Wol Ryung reveals he’s been living here for so long he lost track of time and doesn’t know about his family. Seo Hwa talks about her family that are left behind, her brother and maid. She is worried about them and Wol Ryung can see her worry. When she asks why he is so nice to her, he explains that making her happy makes him happy.
Wol Ryung goes to town to find out what happened to Seo Hwa’s family, and he’s confronted with the body of her brother still hanging in the town square.
Soo Ryun shows some humanity and asks sleazebag evil villain Kwan Woong to let her cut the body down and bury it. He refuses since the body serves as a warning to traitors. Too bad the body has gone missing now.
Wol Ryung returns to the Moonlight Garden that night after having buried Seo Hwa’s brother in the forest. She can sense something is off but he lies that her family is doing well. He asks her to stay here with him and he can keep protecting her.
Seo Hwa embraces Wol Ryung in joy and then pulls back in shyness. Wol Ryung reaches for her and little fireflies illuminate the space around them. Wol Ryung hesitates but then leans in and kisses Seo Hwa.
Wol Ryung ends the kiss and asks for her hand in marriage. Seo Hwa brings up her status but he brushes it aside and asks her again. Seo Hwa smiles and embraces him, accepting his proposal.
Wol Ryung and So Jung go to a book repository to find the Gu Family Book. So Jung grumbles about Wol Ryung giving it all up to become human and get married. He worries about Wol Ryung keeping his identity a secret from Seo Hwa but Wol Ryung brushes off that concern as moot since he’ll be human soon.
They find the book and Wol Ryung has So Jung read it aloud. The book is an ancient text of the promise demanded by Hwan Woong, the founding deity of Korea, required of all the spirits and gods. To become human, for 100 days a spirit must not kill, must not refuse a human request for help, and must not show his true form to any human.
If the rules are obeyed for 100 days, Hwan Woong will appear to grant the spirit human form, otherwise the spirit will become a demon for 1000 years. Wol Ryung is willing to take this risk and not lose out on the first woman to touch his heart in forever.
Wol Ryung and Seo Hwa have their own wedding in the Moonlight Garden. They consummate the marriage in the cave, with Wol Ryung tenderly kissing Seo Hwa’s slave tattoo on her shoulder. Commence baby Kang Chi making!
Kwan Woong hasn’t given up on finding Seo Hwa and he tracks down the burial site for her brother. He desecrates the grave, because that is just how he rolls. Three months pass and the newlyweds are happy. Seo Hwa cooks for Wol Ryung and then goes out to pick plants.
So Jung comes to check on Wol Ryung and learns he’s kept the oath and has 10 more days left. He has restrained himself from killing animals to eat and instead subsists on Seo Hwa’s terrible cooking. So Jung hands Wol Ryung a wooden knife which will keep his animalistic urges at bay. He tells Wol Ryung to keep it with him always.
Pyung Joon is ready to call it quits and resents Kwan Woong using government forces for his own futile search for a gumiho. Suddenly a solider reports that Seo Hwa has been spotted by a search crew in the forest. Kwan Woong demands she be captured along with whatever being was helping her.
Wol Ryung gets worried when he doesn’t see Seo Hwa back yet. She’s finishing up her gathering when she notices a soldier lurking in the bush behind her. She starts to run while the soldiers signal to the rest of the troops. Wol Ryung sees the signal meant for the soldiers and rushes towards Seo Hwa, using his ability to speed up.
Seo Hwa runs away from the soldiers and Wol Ryung saves her. He uses a canopy of trees to keep them hidden from the soldiers who run past them.
Wol Ryung and Seo Hwa are about to leave when they realize Pyung Joon was present and witnessed Wol Ryung doing the tree magic. He demands to know what sort of creature Wol Ryung is. Because he doesn’t know Seo Hwa’s face, Wol Ryung claims he and his wife did nothing wrong and are not the people he is looking for.
Pyung Joon asks them to go with him to confirm Seo Hwa is not the runaway slave they are looking for. Wol Ryung uses his magic to startle Pyung Joon’s horse which gives him the opportunity to run away with Seo Hwa. Seo Hwa and Wol Ryung run and run. When she wants to give up he asks her to keep running and he will protect her.
Sadly they are no match for the soldiers who corner them. Wol Ryung is trapped in chains and cannot break free. A soldier is able to identify Seo Hwa as the runaway slave and she is about to be dragged away.
Wol Ryung watches in horror and rage as Seo Hwa screams for him. As Wol Ryung is chained up and beaten, he remembers the Gu Family Book oath but he cannot control his anger at Seo Hwa being taken away.
Wol Ryung’s spirit side erupts and he breaks free of the chains and sends all the soldiers flying. He picks up one soldier by the neck with his super strength. Pyung Joon and Seo Hwa watch in shock as Wol Ryung moves the soldier aside and his visage has become animalistic with his hair is streaked with white. If the screenwriter didn’t so blatantly rip off Inuyasha this would be much cooler.
Sadly Seo Hwa is no Kagome and she watches in increasing horror as Wol Ryung singlehandedly takes out all the soldiers with his bare hands and his fangs. Wol Ryung lets out a high pitched roar that pains the soldiers but doesn’t seem to affect Seo Hwa, who merely cries in fear and shock.
After Wol Ryung defeats all the soldiers he walks towards Seo Hwa but she is scared of him and faints. Wol Ryung brings her back to their cave but when she awakens she is frightened of him and asks what kind of creature he is? Wol Ryung apologizes but this is his true form.
Wol Ryung collapses (from exhaustion and his injuries) and Seo hwa runs away. Seriously? He saved you from a murdering rapey villain and his minions and you are scared of him? You just left your INJURED husband behind because somehow you find him freakier than a bunch of soldiers about to drag your ass back to be a slave prostitute. Her thought process eludes me.
It’s now Wol Ryung’s true OTP the Taoist monk So Jung who arrives to tend to his injured friend.
Pyung Joon and his soldiers have set up camp and most are recovering from Wol Ryung’s attack. Seo Hwa arrives at the camp.
Kwan Woong also arrives at the camp after receiving a message and slaps Seo Hwa around. He claims she sacrificed her brother and maid to be with a monster when all she needed was to become his and he would have spared their lives. How this dude can spew such insane logic eludes me.
Seo Hwa is stunned to learn that her brother and maid are dead. Seo Hwa runs off to puke by a tree from the pain. Kwan Woong orders Pyung Joon to use Seo Hwa to track the demon and then kill them both.
Wol Ryung awakens the next morning and goes to the creek to drink some water. He is immediately surrounded by soldiers which shocks him since humans cannot find this place. Seo Hwa walks forth and glares at him.
Wol Ryung asks in despair why she brought them here? Seo Hwa is all pissy that he lied about her brother and maid being fine when they are all dead? Really? You are pissed at that, and not more pissed at the horrible piece of shit that caused their death? Seo Hwa, you are dead to me.
Wol Ryung explains he didn’t want her to be sad but Kwan Woong twists it as Wol Ryung lying so that he could seduce Seo Hwa. Ha, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Seo Hwa actually has the gall to still be upset and claims she trusted Wol Ryung but he betrayed her trust with his lies. *headdesk*
Wol Ryung tears up to be thus betrayed by the woman he loves and remembers So Jung’s admonition that if a human cannot accept him after learning his true identity, he needs to kill that person. Wol Ryung rushes towards Seo Hwa with a wooden sword and uses it to fend off the arrows and swords of the attacking soldiers.
He reaches Seo Hwa and grabs her by the shoulder but is stabbed through the chest by Pyung Joon.
Wol Ryung cries to Seo Hwa, asking why she would do this when he loved her so much. Wol Ryung transforms into his animal form and then finally into a cloud of blue twinkly lights which then flies away. Kwan Woong reminds Pyung Joon to finish off Seo Hwa as well and then huffs off.
Taoist monk So Jung is too late when he arrives and screams for his good friend. He reveals that the Gu Wol Ryung is merely a kind and gentle forest protector spirit. Pyung Joon retorts that the monster attacked his troops but So Jung knows the soldiers must have started the fight first. He reveals that Wol Ryung was 10 days away from becoming fully human. The camera pulls back and shows that Wol Ryung dropped the wooden knife a ways back and he had no intention of harming Seo Hwa.
Seo Hwa stares at where Wol Ryung disappeared and then she starts to retch. Nice. Pyung Joon sees it and both realize that she is pregnant.
Pyung Joon reports to Kwan Woong that he took care of Seo Hwa and as evidence is handed her bloody hair pin. Kwan Woong thinks back to seeing beautiful Seo Hwa in her home and obviously his gross infatuation with her was what led to him destroying her family to obtain her. Ick.
Wol Ryung apparently isn’t dead and we see him laying in a copse of trees which magically pulls a blanket of leaves over him. So I guess he’s healing with the help of the forest he protected.
Pyung Joon has stashed pregnant Seo Hwa in the gisaeng house to await birth. Seo Hwa is still angry and scared and has apparently tried every conceivable method to abort the baby but have all failed.
Seo Hwa wants Soo Ryun to kill her because she doesn’t want to become a gisaeng or the mother of a monster. Soo Ryun refuses since Pyung Joon tasked her with taking care of Seo Hwa.
Somehow Seo Hwa manages to run away and back to the cave. It leads to her remember the happy times she spent there with Wol Ryung. It would have been better if you remembered that 9 months ago, lady. Seo Hwa gives birth alone to her baby, whose birth is accompanied by the same mystical blue lights. The same lights flicker over to Taoist priest So Jung.
Seo Hwa pulls out a hatchet and raises it over the baby. OH NO YOU DON’T! She can’t bear to look at the baby and apologizes to Wol Ryung because she must do this.
As she is about to strike, the floating blue lights illuminate the baby’s face and it’s the face of an angel cherub. This stops murdering Seo Hwa in her tracks and she cries that the baby is not a monster. She sobs over the guilt of considering murdering her baby.
A rich man named Park Moo Sol and his friends are having an outing by the river and his attention is captured by the sound of a crying baby. He wades into the river and retrieves a basket with a baby boy in it.
So Jung randomly shows up and decrees that this rich man finding a baby shall bring good fortune to him if he raises the baby well. Moo Sol’s buddy says he ought to name the baby Kang Chi (from the river) because that is where the baby came from. The decide Kang Chi’s last name shall be Choi which is the name of a family servant.
So Jung narrates that the sad love affair between Seo Hwa and the mountain spirit Wol Ryung ended, but with it comes the birth of a new legend…………..
Thoughts of Mine:
This drama really gives me déjà vu heebie jeebies back to Man of Honor, which I recapped until my brain literally exploded and I had to pick up the pieces and reconstitute it. That drama was surprisingly easy to watch in the same pretty way, had some crazy outlandish characters and narrative stretches, but ultimately I accepted the makjang without asking more of it. But that drama still went to hell in a handbasket because nonsensical writing still taxes my patience and sanity no matter how low my expectations. I was a tad wary when Kwan Woong was introduced as this leering murdering fiend and hoped maybe he was going to be fleshed out a bit. Nope. He apparently is just that evil, and a lust for a friend’s young daughter is enough for him to commit all sorts of atrocities, and in whatever town they live in he clearly has free rein. None of the secondary characters were fleshed out in episode 2 in any way, with the time spent on the maudlin romance between poor clueless Wol Ryung and bipolar Seo Hwa. It boggles the mind that even seeing Wol Ryung gumino-out and attack the soldiers, she would be scared of him and run to the very soldiers there to subjugate her to a life of slavery and prostitution. Like, what? And to be mad at Wol Ryung for lying about her brother’s fate? That was ridiculous and such a small transgression compared to the horrible things done by Kwan Woong such as murdering her dad and brother and attempting to turn her into his personal sex slave. She ought to have applauded Wol Ryung and then sauntered back to the cave happy her personal kickass husband can keep her safe well enough.
I was also very impatient with how the drama proffers up characters like Soo Ryun, So Jung, and Pyung Joon, interesting characters with a lot of potential to be good and bad depending on what the situation calls for. But the writer spends no time on giving them more color other than superficial plot purposes. I also see how the writer purposely makes all the characters intertwined in the fate of the parents and Kang Chi so this world will become one very tiny town where in the future everyone happens in run into each other all the time. GFB feels like a drama written with a chubby fat crayon, when really it needs to be written with a fine tip pen. There is no subtlety anywhere, and without it the viewer will increasingly feel impatient watching because the predictability and obviousness weighs down the experience of seeing something interesting on screen. I felt like the opening sequence was just the opening sequence from MoH and Baker King, but transplanted to a sageuk and with fantasy elements. Of course my love for Lee Seung Gi will keep me watching, but my tentative hopes from episode 1 took a cold shower in episode 2 and now I feel like a miserable drowned rat. While the parents love story went from promising in its epic possibility to utterly appalling in how Seo Hwa turned on her protector husband, I still think the kids section ought to be judged on its own merits. Will it start delivering some delicate nuance? Will the characterizations become compelling? Will the music transform into something actually decent (that English song kills me, it’s like watching Game of Thrones when suddenly a Bollywood number pops up)? Or will I be forced to quit you, GFB? Please don’t make me quit you. I was hoping you would complete me.