Scholar Who Walks the Night continues to be fun and sexy, exactly the way a fantasy sageuk about bloodsucking vampires and political conspiracies ought to be in capitalizing on what works. The narrative is developing nicely even if the present timeline isn’t nearly as compelling as the stuff from a hundred and twenty years ago. I found human Sung Yul charming and relatable, but vampire Sung Yul has turned all business with no time for showcasing his personality after becoming the undead. I think Gwi’s stolen all the vampire thunder with his woe is me victim complex that vampire Sung Yul seems so staid in comparison.
Episode 2 laid out the backdrop of the current royal succession mess, which drops the action with King Yeongjo and his royal grandson Lee Yoon. It looks like history repeated itself already ten years ago, with Crown Prince Sado taking a page from Prince Junghyun’s playbook and got himself killed while trying to get rid of Gwi. Sung Yul keeps biding his time, for what plan exactly it’s not clear, but one wonders if he wouldn’t win a vampire-a-vampire showdown with Gwi just on brute force alone. But then where would be the fun of it if the baddie is offed too fast as Gwi continues to infuse the entire theatrics with just the right amount of dreaded tension.
Episode 2 recap:
Yang Sun runs into the wrong room and finds Prince Lee Yoon sketching a half undressed gisaeng. Yang Sun isn’t missish in the least, instead barging in to take a good look at the sketches before complimenting Yoon’s amazing life like drawings of erotica. She thinks his erotic sketches are even better than the drawings in the popular Lecherous Scholar novels. Yoon keeps staring at Yang Sun before asking her name abruptly and giving his name as Lee Yoon. Yang Sun doesn’t answer his question and is given an excuse to leave when Sung Yul’s retainer comes to get her.
Sung Yul schedules a meeting with bookseller Yang Sun to help him locate Prince Junghyun’s lost memoir. During the meeting, Yang Sun’s little squirrel crawls up Sung Yul’s robe and the ensuing retrieval allows Yang Sun to get a good look at Sung Yul’s face. She’s struck speechless by his beauty while he seems uncomfortable by her scent.
A squirrel prick draws blood from Yang Sun’s finger and gisaeng Soo Hyang takes note of Sung Yul’s alarm to call an end to the meeting. Yang Sun complements Sung Yul’s good looks but he orders her to tend to her wound before coming back. Soo Hyang meets up with Yang Sun outside to hand her the list of books Sung Yul wants her to find. Yang Sun is still confused about the request to find Prince Junghyun’s memoirs because there is no record of such a prince in Joseon history.
Sung Yul sits with Soo Hyang and his retainer Ho Jin to discuss his renewed search for Prince Junghyun’s lost memoir. Ho Jin points out that Gwi likely destroyed it over one hundred and twenty years ago but Soo Hyang interjects that Sung Yul needs to confirm that the memoir was in fact destroyed and if not then learn what was written inside. Soo Hyang worries it’s another pointless endeavor since Sung Yul has seen every book available in Joseon and still hasn’t found it.
Sung Yul points out that it could have been hidden away by someone this entire time. He pulls two new novels that recently came out by the Lecherous Scholar, with the main character in the novel having the same birth name as Prince Junghyun. Ho Jin wonders if another has copied the Prince’s works but Soo Hyang retorts that all existence of Prince Junghyun was erased from historical records. Now only the three of them in Joseon know that Prince Junghyun existed. Sung Yul is back in Hanyang because this is where the new novel originated and there is the possibility the Lecherous Scholar could have the memoir in possession or someone knows of Prince Junghyun.
Yang Sun is reading aloud from the new Lecherous Scholar novel called The Desires of Father and Son, about how a royal father and son fall for the same woman. She dramatically teases the rapt audience with select snippets from the novel before offering to sell the novel so the folks can finish the story. Officials clear the gathering to arrest Yang Sun for selling banned erotic novels so she quickly makes her getaway.
Prince Lee Yoon gets an update from the retainer he sent to investigate bookseller Yang Sun. He learns her full name and that she’s been selling books alongside her father since childhood. Her reputation is high among other booksellers for her glib tongue and talent at selling. The retainer is certain bookseller Yang Sun is not the Seo Jin that the Prince is seeking. Yoon senses she’s so much like Seo Jin, the way she seemed to recognize him and also her very feminine voice.
The retainer points out that it’s been ten years since she disappeared after her family was branded traitors, even if she survived she wouldn’t easily reveal herself. Yoon wonders if she knows how hard he’s been looking for her, or is she refusing to show herself because she doesn’t believe Yoon will help her. The retainer thinks there is a greater chance she didn’t survive but Yoon is certain she is still alive.
It’s late by the time Yang Sun arrives home, with her father warmly greeting her but her mom is very cold towards her. Yang Sun shares the good news that she got an order from the mysterious Yongmyung Valley Scholar to look for books, and if he buys it all then she can afford medicine. Mom cuts her off by saying that the people think they rely on Yang Sun to support the whole family already so she should stop boasting. After sending Yang Sun back to her room, Dad urges his wife to accept Yang Sun now but Mom derides Yang Sun as just an adopted girl and is nothing important.
Yang Sun writes by the candle night while her little sister Tan sketches a picture of Sung Yul based on her description. Yang Sun marvels that her imagination of how handsome the Scholar Who Walks the Night looks turns out to be exactly the way the mysterious Yongmyung Valley Scholar looks. He’s so good looking she had to urge to kiss him, especially seeing how educated and well read he is.
Her sister wonders if the Scholar Who Walks the Night actually exists and Yang Sun assures her that he’s real because she heard from an eyewitness account. Last month some unscrupulous bounty hunters were herding debtors and one tried to rape a young woman but was saved by the arrival of the Scholar Who Walks the Night.
In Yang Sun’s retelling, Sung Yul shows up as the Scholar Who Walks the Night and saves the girl who is about to be raped while subduing the bad guys. Tan is so impressed with the Scholar as Yang Sun describes him, and suggests they draw the Night Scholar to look like Sung Yul. Yang Sun agrees and thinks this will make her novel The Scholar Who Walks the Night sell even better. She wants to take Tan to Jeju Island once she makes money to find a special doctor to heal Tan’s leg wound.
Soo Hyang and Sung Yul stand in front of the coffin of the dead bounty hunter that Sung Yul killed. Soo Hyang assures Sung Yul that the man’s family have moved to the countryside and will be set for life with the land he’s given them. She’s also checked out Yang Sun and there is nothing suspicious about the bookseller, which makes it even more alarming that Sung Yul appeared affected by her? Sung Yul explains that Yang Sun has a scent that is unbearably alluring, and in another second he would have bitten her on the neck. Sung Yul calls himself a beast who would eat a person at any time, that’s who he really is.
Soo Hyang disagrees, Sung Yul is more impressive than any other person she’s known. If he can grant her eternal life, then she would spend her entire existence by his side. Sung Yul explains that in his most uncontrollable moment he may suck the blood of the woman he loves, that is the nature of a vampire. Does Soo Hyang want to become like that? Is that why she keeps enticing him to turn her into the same monster?
Having the heart of a human but the body craves human blood no matter how much he tries to endure, every month he still needs to drink the blood of one human to survive. He’s killed countless people over the years to continue existing, does Soo Hyang want to be the same way? Sung Yul climbs on the dead corpse and stabs it in the heart with the special knife to keep it from being reanimated as a vampire. He then burns the dead body.
Gwi sits in his lair and senses something. He goes up to the Palace rooftops and looks around before taking in a deep breath. He smiles thinking that Sung Yul has hidden himself away like a rat for the last hundred twenty years, much like the Master did. He wonders what Sung Yul has been doing all this time? Gwi flies from rooftop to rooftop as Sung Yul does the same thing steps ahead of him.
Gwi calls out to Sung Yul, wondering how he will get his revenge for the death of his beloved if all he does is hide away killing other vampires. Sung Yul remembers Myung Hee and can’t help but cry thinking that he was the one who killed Myung Hee. He vows to endure no matter how hard it is, only by doing so can he finally end Gwi’s existence and also his own animal like life.
Yang Sun is teaching peasant kids how to read and write, encouraging their hard work by promising to read them new novels and popular folk stories. Two loan sharks drag her off to demand repayment for the money she borrowed from them, increasing the interest 100% in a month and giving her three days to pay all of it back otherwise they will sell the entire family as slaves.
Sung Yul and Ho Jin arrive at a residence in the countryside that reportedly produces the paper used to print the new novels by the Lecherous Scholar. They call around the residence but find it empty, though a warm stove indicates that people were recently there. Ho Jin finds dead corpses in the watering hole, all killed with clean sword wounds to the neck. Sung Yul realizes that he’s not the only one looking for the Lecherous Scholar now.
A man gets the report that everyone is dead except but the child of the paper maker, a child who saw the assailant faces and could recognize them. The mysterious man says time is of an essence and to release the book tonight.
Yang Sun is trying to sell her new novel The Scholar Who Walks the Night to a group of gisaengs. They aren’t interested in stories of the supernatural and want new romance erotic novels instead, stuff by the Lecherous Scholar. The gisaengs shell out for the erotic novels and one gisaeng wishes she could have a real romance with the Scholar like in the novel. Yang Sun hears that all the gisaengs fantasy about the mysterious Yongmyung Valley Scholar, except he has shown no interest in any woman reportedly because he’s nursing a broken heart from a previous love. The gisaengs also tease that the Scholar could actually like men so warns Yang Sun to beware when she goes to meet him.
Lee Yoon arrives and pulls Yang Sun aside to show her his new erotic drawings. Yang Sun hilariously can’t figure out which way to look at the drawing so Yoon correctly positions it for her before declaring that everything he draws is something he’s tested out before. Yang Sun isn’t embarrassed but is instead impressed at the big step forward for Joseon erotica. Yoon keeps staring at Yang Sun so she wonders if she said anything wrong? Yoon explains Yang Sun looks like an old friend he hasn’t seen in 10 years.
Yoon explains that the old friend ran off with something previous of Yoon’s and pulls out a box to explain that it is precious indeed and there is only one pair in the entire world.
Flashback to little Yoon receiving a matched set of writing instruments and requesting to give one set to his good friend Seo Jin. Yang Sun marvels at the set from Yoon but doesn’t show any recognition, encouraging Yoon not to give up his search for the friend.
Yang Sun is called away to meet with the Scholar but runs into an official raid of the gisaeng house. She runs to warn the Scholar of the raid but finds the room empty, except Sung Yul is behind the partition changing and doesn’t make his presence known. Yang Sun hears the officials getting closer so decides to change into girl clothes. Sung Yul watches her changing and notices a scar on her shoulder.
Sung Yul finally makes his presence known, declaring that Yang Sun seems to have forgotten one critical element. Yang Sun looks frightened out of her wits while outside the officials are dragging people away. Sung Yul asks if she’s found all the books on her list and hears she’s found everything except for Prince Junghyun’s memoir. No matter how hard she tries she can’t find it, so Sung Yul wonders if she’s accusing him of telling her to look for something that doesn’t exist?
Yang Sun asks Sung Yul to help her but he wonders why he should, she’s going against nature by cross dressing as a boy and breaking the law by selling banned books. Yang Sun blinks back tears and begs Sung Yul to help her this once, she is doing all this to earn money to support her family. If he saves her then she won’t forget this great gratitude. Sung Yul reaches out and unties her hair as it falls down her back, transforming her into a woman. Yang Sun promises to do whatever he asks to repay this assistance and Sung Yul leans in and asks seductively how she can agree to this without knowing what he wants from her?
Soo Hyang tries to keep the officials from barging into Sung Yul’s room but the officer pushes past her to find Sung Yul laying on top of Yang Sun in bed. Sung Yul asks if the King has sent the officers here to look for him in particular. Clearly they are looking for Prince Lee Yoon and huff off. Soo Hyang explains that Prince Lee Yoon hides out in the gisaeng house. Sung Yul shoots a look at Yang Sun before walking off. Soo Hyang looks Yang Sun up and down to take note of her female self.
Lee Yoon walks off with his retainer who warns him not to go back to the gisaeng house. He returns home to find a retainer announcing that the King is inside waiting for him. Yoon kneels before his grandfather who is not amused in the least, tossing a scroll at Yoon’s head for him to read it aloud.
Yang Sun walks through the marketplace and hears that she’s in deep trouble this time, the novel she was selling from the Lecherous Scholar is reportedly about the mysterious unjust death of Crown Prince Sado.
Yoon reads the same missive aloud which accuses the current King of being power hungry and killing his own son Crown Prince Sado, much like the same thing happened one hundred twenty years ago. The King asks Yoon if he also believes that his dad was killed unjustly? Yoon says nothing and flashes back to staring down a well as his father Crown Prince Sado begs to be saved, with Yoon crying for his grandfather to save his dad.
Yoon declares that Crown Prince Sado was not his father, which is what the King told him ten years ago when his dad was killed. Yoon hasn’t forgotten that order so he has nothing to say no. Yoon asks the King to listen to the scholars demand and strip him of his position, he knows his existence is a burden to the King. But the King refuses to do so as he’s been protecting Yoon this entire time as his successor, except Yoon has wasted his life away playing with women in gisaeng houses. But even then the King refuses to strip him of his position because that would be admitting he was wrong to begin with.
Sung Yul reads the same missive that has been spread throughout the entire city, with how fast it spread a very powerful force must be behind it. Sung Yul tells Soo Hyang that the person who killed Crown Prince Sado was not the King but was instead Gwi, as he was there when Gwi dragged the Prince from the well and sucked his blood dry. Sung Yul is even more certain that he has to find the current Lecherous Scholar before Gwi does, to confirm if he has the missing memoir or what he knows about Prince Junghyun.
Gwi has kidnapped a little girl and is also reading the flyers all over town about how the Lecherous Scholar’s novel is really about Crown Prince Sado. He tells the little girl a funny story about how someone wanted him dead one hundred twenty years ago but he got rid of the person and the method to get rid of him.
Gwi then points to a spot on the wall where the dead Crown Prince Sado is strung up by branches, telling the frightened little girl that ten years ago Crown Prince Sado got a hold of Prince Junghyun’s memoir and wanted to use the information within to destroy Gwi. Except the memoir didn’t contain the secret method so Gwi calls Crown Prince Sado an idiot for trying.
Gwi then carries the little girl and places her in a tub of water, discussing how the Lecherous Scholar seems to know about what happened to Crown Prince Sado. Does he have Prince Junghyun’s memoir in hand? No matter what Gwi will have to destroy the Lecherous Scholar then. He compliments the little girl as being so beautiful and asks if she wants to be this young and beautiful foever because he can do that for her. He then pulls her under and we see blood spreading through the water.
Yang Sun is still affected by her last encounter with Sung Yul in the gisaeng house, with a flashback that shows us what Sung Yul asked of her for saving her life. He wants her to find out who the Lecherous Scholar is and how he lives? Yang Sun hesitates but the officials are right outside the door so Sung Yul takes her silence for a yes answer. He picks up Yang Sun and carries her to the bed, untying his own robe and leaning over her. Yang Sun scoffs at the reputation of the Scholar as a lover of books with a refined personality, the way she sees it he’s just a total lecher. Yang Sun huffs off and we see someone following her.
Sung Yul hears from Ho Jin that the power who spread the flyers is powerful indeed as the flyers have now been spread all over Joseon. Soo Hyang is out looking for who manufactured the paper it was printed on. Ho Jin hands over a package of the books that Yang Sun found per Sung Yul’s request, though he suggests switching to another bookseller for the search because Yang Sun talks too much.
Sung Yul’s eyes widen when he opens the package and sees that it’s the third book Prince Junghyun wrote under the pen name of the Lecherous Scholar, the story of the vampire in the Palace that is talking about Gwi. Sung Yul thought all copies were burned one hundred twenty years ago.
Yang Sun walks through the dark forest, wondering if she’s on the right path to Yongmyung Valley. She pauses as if sensing something around her and we see a little girl materialize before her. It’s the little firl who was with Gwi and she smiles ominously and shows her vampire fangs. Yang Sun senses danger and turns to run away but the little girl grabs her by the neck and tosses her into a tree.
The little girl bends down to bite Yang Sun but Sung Yul arrives just in time and pulls the little vampire girl off Yang Sun. In the Palace, Gwi senses Sung Yul’s use of power and crows that Kim Sung Yul finally took the bait. Yang Sun is injured but manages to ask if Sung Yul is human or not? Gwi runs through the forest headed straight for Sung Yul and Yang Sun.
Thoughts of Mine:
I think I’ve come off the high of the rollicking first episode, and with it comes a settling comfort that this drama is just fine without heaping on too much expectation. Episode 2 nicely brought Sung Yul to the present time line, having lived as a vampire now for one hundred twenty years and doing as good a job as he can given the circumstances. We learn that he has two confidantes in Ho Jin and Soo Hyang, both of whom are human, making me wonder how many people he’s had to watch die of old age around him in the time left him in stasis. Soo Hyang is a very captivating character, kudos to Jang Hee Jin for being so gorgeous as a gisaeng and garnering all my support for being Sung Yul’s right hand woman. Her desire to be turned into a vampire to keep him company is so Bella from Twilight though, LOL, thankfully without being emo about it. I don’t know if Sung Yul hasn’t gotten from Myung Hee or he’s simply shut down his emotional filters so he can endure this beastly existence. I love how he shot down Soo Hyang’s romanticism of asking for eternal life, being a vampire is that AND being a bloodthirsty killer. Even Sung Yul cannot live free of killing as he must drink human blood at least once a month. That’s a whole lotta people he’s feasted on a hundred and twenty years, thankfully the drama posits that he kills only bad people and makes amends for those remaining.
I’m starting to wonder if Gwi isn’t getting bored of his free food lifestyle in the Palace, doesn’t it get monotonous to do the same things even if he’s above the fray of any responsibility? He seems to see Sung Yul as a challenge, or as the nemesis he needs to spice up his existence with no danger or real obstacles. He can kill princes willy nilly and have kings bowing to his every command, so Sung Yul represents a real equal counterpoint to his status as the all powerful. Sung Yul exists to take him down, expect I wonder if that’s really all that necessary. Does Gwi represent the price to pay for the royal family to hold power, and only by their rule will peace and stability be present for Joseon? I understand how certain idealistic princes, like Junghyun and Sado, would chafe at the idea of serving Gwi in metaphorical and literal ways, but then the trade off is being left alone to run the country. Unlike power hungry officials wanting to puppeteer kings, Gwi has zero interest in politics other than having a King in power who remembers to feed him at regular intervals. Of course that shouldn’t be allowed to continue, but Sung Yul is hell bent on revenge while I’m already wondering how the royals will function with Gwi around. So far every King has been lily-livered and callous, sacrificing progeny for the sake of legacy. I sure hope Prince Lee Yoon turns out to be more impressive than a profligate womanizer.
I miss sweet and sassy Myung Hee as Sung Yul’s love interest, but this episode put new option Yang Sun front in center of Sung Yul and I’m not quite feeling the chemistry yet. From her imposing scent that leaves Sung Yul wanting to bite down, to how quickly they’ve pretend rolled in the sack and gotten all up in each other’s faces, there is no emotional build right off the bat that would sell even the hint of how awesome this coupling would be. I’m hopeful but not seeing it just yet. I find Soo Hyang and Sung Yul’s candor much more engaging, and same goes with Lee Yoon’s search for his long lost childhood friend Seo Jin, who clearly has grown up into Yang Sun. I don’t know if she is faking not recognizing him or has lost her memory, either way his feelings for her are clearly quite strong still and pretty cute actually. I’m not advocating switching ships, only that some dramas really sell the OTP right off the bat but so far Night Scholar has done a better job with the revenge stakes and even unrequited crushes and torn asunder romances. With that said, the more Yang Sun spends time with Sung Yul, the sooner she’ll crack the hard barrier shell of the vampire with the heart of gold, and the sooner he’ll start doing more than just investigating and looking for ways to get rid of Gwi. At this point Gwi must be bored waiting in the Palace for Sung Yul to do something, LOL. At least at the end of the episode he’s taking matters into his own hands, and with it ramp up the stakes more and more.
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