Scholar Who Walks the Night continues everything that worked for me in the first two episodes, as well as the stuff that didn’t quite hit the spot. At least the drama is nothing if not consistent, and quite persistent as well when it comes to all the leads setting their minds (and fangs) on a set goal. Sung Yul’s entire MO is “find Prince Jonghyun’s memoir” and it’s such an overarching and sole focus his character is unable to stretch his wings beyond anything related to this search. If this was a modern revenge thriller then his character would be the grown up son who spends 24/7 plotting revenge on the man who killed his father.
The only added gravitas is Sung Yul’s pain from living as a vampire, but even that pain is starting to not feel all that burdensome. He walks in the sun, seems to control his blood lust just fine, and gets his month meal in the form of one less villain in the world. Yang Sun is falling into the damsel in distress role in the same way manhwa Yang Sun was left needing to be saved by Sung Yul all the time, and I remain conflicted on how to give her more agency when she’s up against vampires and baddies with swords when all she has are books. Gwi remains entertaining to watch albeit losing a bit of his bite sauntering around growling his frustration and not making much progress. I hope the arrival of a new character in a familiar face shakes up the joint a lot more.
Episode 3 recap:
After being attacked by the little girl who was turned into a vampire by Gwi, Yang Sun is saved by the arrival of Sung Yul. She wonders if he’s human and then faints dead away. Sung Yul eyes the little girl vampire who moves to attack him but is no match. Sung Yul subdues and stabs her with the special Hawthorn wood knife, turning her into ashes.
Sung Yul rushes through the forest carrying a fainted Yang Sun in his arms, all the while Gwi arrives at the clearing and finds the clothing left behind by the little girl vampire after she turned to ashes. Gwi sees blood on the tree from where the little vampire tossed Yang Sun so he samples the blood so he can follow her scent.
Yang Sun continues to bleed in Sung Yul’s arms and her blood causes him to nearly lose himself to the urge to bite her but he controls his vampire urge and keeps on running from Gwi. He pauses to think of how to shake Gwi off their trail, setting Yang Sun down against a tree and pulling out the special dagger. He stabs Yang Sun in the shoulder with the dagger and she gasps in pain before fainting again.
Gwi continues being right on Sung Yul’s tail and uses his acute sense of smell to track down a rabbit. Turns out Sung Yul rubbed Yang Sun’s fresh blood all over the rabbit and successfully misdirects Gwi in another direction. Gwi is not amused and angrily howls Sung Yul’s name in rage.
Sung Yul arrives at a cliff and majestically leaps into the water below with Yang Sun in his arms. Yang Sun’s can’t breath underwater and mentally calls out to her dad and younger adopted sister Tan, not wanting to die like this and leave them behind. When Gwi arrives at the same cliff he’s lost the trail and isn’t surprised since he’s been chasing after Sung Yul for nearly two hundred years so where’s the fun if it’s so easy. Sung Yul pulls Yang Sun in for an underwater air passing kiss to keep her alive. Yang Sun opens her eyes briefly before passing out again. Sung Yul holds Yang Sun in his arms and swims out of the water after Gwi has left.
Sung Yul sets Yang Sun on the ground and is alarmed to find her not breathing. He leans down for a CPR kiss that is way too slow and sexy for such a clinical lifesaving move but I’m not complaining. Sung Yul alternates his CPR with chest compressions while begging Yang Sun not to die because he needs her alive to find out how she got a hold of Prince Junghyun’s books. Yang Sun spits up water and Sung Yul lets out a sigh of relief.
Sung Yul takes Yang Sun back to his place and starts to remove her top to tend to her wound. He notices the same old wound on her shoulder that he saw when she undressed in the gisaeng house. Sung Yul cuts his own palm with the special knife and drips his blood on Yang Sun’s shoulder wound that he inflicted earlier. The wound magically closes using Sung Yul’s blood.
Soo Hyang enters the room and is told to tend to Yang Sun. She’s unhappy that Sung Yul cut himself with the special knife since it takes longer for the wound to heal but Sung Yul pays her no heed and just walks out. Soo Hyang stares intently at Yang Sun as she stays to tend to her.
Sung Yul goes back to the same clearing where he stopped with Yang Sun to divert Gwi and finds Yang Sun’s items are missing.
Gwi has the bag and opens it to find the latest novel written by the Lecherous Scholar, the one about the father-son falling for the same woman. He wonders if Sung Yul has emerged now because of the Lecherous Scholar, and whether it is possible for Prince Jonghyun’s memoir to be hidden somewhere. Gwi stares at the wall where he has kept the corpse of Crown Prince Sado who he killed 10 years ago.
Flashback to ten years ago as the Prince is calling for water as he’s dying at the bottom of the well. Gwi lowers a bucket to the Prince as his final chance to live but the Prince pointedly dumps the water on the ground rather than accept it from Gwi. He’s dragged up by Gwi who demands to know where the Prince stashed Prince Jonghyun’s memoir. The Prince refuses to beg for life from a monster and laughs that the memoir does exist and he found it and has it hidden where Gwi will never find it. Gwi sucks the Prince’s blood in rage while Sung Yul watches this scene from where he’s hidden away.
Soo Hyang is worried that Gwi knows Yang Sun’s scent so can follow it to find Sung Yul. She wants Sung Yul to kill Yang Sun but Sung Yul needs Yang Sun alive and well so he can find Prince Jonghyun’s memoir and she’s the only link. He orders Soo Hyang not to harm Yang Sun.
Lee Yoon is waiting for Yang Sun at their scheduled rendezvous but two hours has passed and his friend suggests Yoon leave since Yang Sun is not coming. Yoon is holding the book of erotic drawings and wants to keep waiting, even if Yang Sun is likely not Seo Jin. Of all the possible ones he’s found over the years, no one more than Yang Sun has made him more certain it could be Jin. Yoon notices someone spying on him.
Yang Sun wakes up with nightmares of the attack by the little vampire girl before taking in her strange surroundings. She hears Sung Yul’s voice telling her to get dressed and come outside. Yang Sun hears that she’s been resting for an entire day now and assures Sung Yul she’s feeling better. She hesitantly asks if Sung Yul saw the strange little girl from last night? Sung Yul lies with a smile that all he saw was a passed out Yang Sun in the forest and brought her back lest she got eaten by wild beasts.
Sung Yul asks why Yang Sun was in the forest at night and learns that she was coming to see him about the Lecherous Scholar. The flyers spread around town accuse the Lecherous Scholar of writing about Crown Prince Sado and now everyone is looking for him. Yang Sun won’t join in the search for the Lecherous Scholar because she is supporting her family by selling his books and won’t do anything to harm him.
Sung Yul wonders why Yang Sun gave him the vampire book written by the Lecherous Scholar if she’s not planning on helping him look for him any further? Yang Sun explains the two are different writers, the one who wrote the father-son desire is not the one who wrote the vampire story. The vampire story was written over a hundred years ago but the new Lecherous Scholar novel is recent. Yang Sun found the old vampire novel for Sung Yul to thank him for saving her life back at the gisaeng house since it’s the only copy left.
Sung Yul explains that he’s not with the officials and isn’t interested in politics so his search for the Lecherous Scholar is purely to look for traces of an old friend. With that in kind, can Yang Sun tell him where she got the vampire novel? Yang Sun is happy to help again and explains she happened to buy the novel a few years ago because she was interested in vampire stories. Sung Yun asks her to leave the name of the bookstore where she bought it and then go home. Yang Sun already asked that bookseller friend to look for Prince Jonghyun’s memoir and offers to go with Sung Yul the next day since the bookseller won’t talk unless it’s with someone familiar. Sung Yul makes plans to go the next day with Yang Sun.
The officials are in court the next morning upset about the flyers all around town discussing how the Lecherous Scholar’s new book is about the unjust death of Crown Prince Sado. The King can tell this is an attempt to get him to agree to strip royal grandson Prince Lee Yoon of his position since Yoon is the son of Crown Prince Sado. One official boldly declares that the son of a traitor cannot be the next King.
The King refuses to agree and points out the officials are using this topic to divert his attention from their incompetence in building a new palace that isn’t even done after 5 years. The Left Minister explains that the cost is too great so the King tells him to take the money from the coffers of all his corrupt officials then. He orders the new palace to be completed by year end otherwise they are all to pay the price. He also declares that Yoon’s training for the throne will now take place in the Palace and the King will be overseeing it personally.
Gwi gets a report from one of the Ministers about today’s court convo with the King, with the Minister insinuating that the King is getting out of line. The King should know the search for the Lecherous Scholar comes from Gwi but is instead focused on finishing the new palace and installing the royal grandson on the throne. Gwi snidely wonders how the King lauded as a great ruler ten years ago became like this? He shoots at glance at the dead Prince strung up on the wall and wonders if the King is still suffering from the pain of losing his son.
The Minister says the Crown Prince deserved to die for stealing Prince Jonghyun’s memoir. Even if Gwi already destroyed the secret manual, the Crown Prince taking the memoir remains a concern. Gwi sets down the new Lecherous Scholar novel and then sniffs Yang Sun’s item, wondering if he can find Kim Sung Yul if he finds this person. The Minister offers to post wanted flyers of Kim Sung Yul up but Gwi sees no need as he expects to see Sung Yul soon.
Sung Yul gets a report that the missing son of the killed paper maker may have met the current Lecherous Scholar before. Sung Yul moves to go to town with Yang Sun but his retainer worries about the long walk in direct sunlight. Sung Yul is fine going and wants the other two to stay behind and prepare to acquire the items to print books.
Yang Sun is perched outside Sung Yul’s locked library, happily sniffing the scent of all those books inside. Sung Yul comes out to get Yang Sun and she can’t help but admire how handsome he looks dressed in a simple black robe, comparing him a hero from a novel. The two head out while Soo Hyang worriedly looks on.
Sung Yul takes Yang Sun on a path that winds through a tree-filled forest which keeps out most of the sunlight. Yang Sun is a chatterbox while Sung Yul listens to her but says nothing. Yang Sun takes the chance to thank him for saving her life again the other night even as she’s not quite sure what really happened in the forest.
Sung Yul wonders when Yang Sun started dressing like a man and hears she’s always done it. Yang Sun explains that she lost all her memories before she was ten years old during an incident, and then fell deathly ill. A traveling monk said that being raised as a boy could save her life and allow her to live long. After Yang Sun was dressed as a boy, she miraculously got better and is living well to this day.
Sung Yul asks if she finds it hard but Yang Sun feels the opposite, living as a boy is good because she can sell books out in the market. Her books give people happiness and hope so she feels like she’s doing a good thing and it gives her life a good purpose. Sung Yul stares at Yang Sun and she wonders why he’s looking at her like that? Sung Yul smiles and says “pretty” before explaining that he was describing her heart as being beautiful for having such thoughts.
Yoon is out hunting with his friend who doesn’t know why Yoon suddenly wants to go hunting. Yoon pauses when he sees a deer and readies to shoot it, explaining that he wants to bring in a prize to apologize to the King. Yoon suddenly turns and fires his arrow and shoots one of the masked men following him.
Sung Yul trails behind Yang Sun and can sense that he’s being followed. They arrive at the shop of a Chinese merchant who is very happy to see Yang Sun. He takes Yang Sun and Sung Yul upstairs to his book store room and explains that everything he has is here and if it’s not here then it doesn’t exist. When asked about Prince Jonghyun’s memoir, the merchant also claims to have never heard of any Prince Jonghyun or his memoir.
As he leaves the two to look around, the merchant wonders who Sung Yul could be? Sung Yul sends Yang Sun off as he wants to look for the memoir alone. After Yang Sun leaves, the man who was following them follows her off. Without Yang Sun around, Sung Yul can move at super speed to look through all the books for the memoir and still doesn’t find it.
Yang Sun walks through the forest on her way home and is still feeling miffed that Sung Yul sent her away so curtly. She can sense it’s about to rain and also this weird feeling that makes her flashback to the little vampire girl from the other night, which she keeps telling herself is just a nightmare. Yang Sun starts running and the man following her pulls a sword and starts chasing her through the forest.
Yang Sun nearly trips but is rescued by Sung Yul again. His presence sends the assailant scurrying away and Sung Yul tells a frightened Yang Sun that he’s here and she’s safe. Yang Sun grabs his sleeve tightly and explains someone was following her. Sung Yul hesitates to comfort her until he allows himself to pat her on the arm a few times. Sung Yul tells Yang Sun to stay put and runs after the assailant.
Sung Yul waylays the human assailant and tosses him against a tree while demanding to know who sent him. The assailant explains that he was following Soo Hyang’s orders is all.
Yang Sun runs after Sung Yul all worried about him and finds him walking calmly back to her. Sung Yul laughs at her fantasy about vampires in the forest but then gives Yang Sun a wooden amulet necklace made from the Hawthorn tree explaining the beasts and even vampires don’t like this scent. Sung Yul puts the necklace around Yang Sun while she nervously stares wide-eyed as he leans close to her. Sung Yul pulls back with a smile and tells her to wear this and beasts, and even her feared vampires, will stay away from her.
Yang Sun wonders how Sung Yul finished looking through all those books so fast and rejoined her? He doesn’t answer her question and is about to leave when it starts to rain. Sung Yul grabs Yang Sun’s hand and the two run through the forest to find some shelter. Yang Sun shakes his hand off to stop and happily frolic in the rain. Sung Yul stares at Yang Sun happily playing in the rain and flashes back to escaping the rain with Myung Hee.
It’s stopped raining and the two walk to a creek to wash up. Yang Sun grabs her achy shoulder so Sung Yul asks how she got the old scar there. Yang Sun explains she was bitten as a child by dogs and her dad used an iron rod to scald the wound close. Sung Yul teases Yang Sun for having close run-ins with wild animals and she sasses back that it won’t happen anymore now that she has the amulet from him.
Yang Sun runs down to the creek to get a drink of water and invites Sung Yul to join her. He follows and keeps staring at her. Yang Sun puts her entire face in the water to drink when it jostles her memory of getting kissed in the water by Sung Yul as he passed air to her. She turns to stare wide-eyed at Sung Yul and can’t believe she would be having such a crazy dream involving kissing in the water. Yang Sun laughs that she’s 21 years old and her fist kiss is a dream kiss in the water, signaling that her racy lecherous heart has finally awakened.
Prince Lee Yoon has the man the shot in the forest tied up against a target and is firing arrows at him. An official urges Yoon to stop this, it’s not seemly for a prince to be using citizens for target practice. Yoon points out the Crown Prince Sado had such a preference which is when the King arrives with the ministers in tow. He chews out Yoon for doing the same thing and Yoon points out that Crown Prince Sado ended up starving to death at the bottom of a well.
Yoon signals for the tied up man to be brought over and his face mask pulled off. The Ministers clearly recognize him as Yoon announces that this man has been following him for the last three months and writing down his every move. The person who is receiving the report would be the one who directed him to follow the prince. Yoon declares that the mastermind is standing here now and orders the man to confess the truth because he’s dead either way. Yoon takes out a doll and tells the man that if he says the truth then the prince will protect the man’s family.
The man identifies Minister Lee as the mastermind and even saved the secret missive that authorized this task. Yoon demands the King strips Minister Lee of his position for this affront. The King wants to personally interrogate Minister Lee and has his dragged off to prison.
Sung Yul demands to know why Soo Hyang sent an assassin to kill Yang Sun, especially after he ordered her that no harm was to come to Yang Sun. Soo Hyang is worried that Gwi could use Yang Sun’s scent to track Sung Yul. She finds out that Sung Yul gave Yang Sun a Hawthorn amulet to mask her scent and he reiterates that Yang Sun is the best bookseller he’s found and he needs her around to find the missing memoir.
Soo Hyang cuts to the chase and demands to know if Sung Yul has fallen for Yang Sun? Otherwise why is he acting so different because of her? Sung Yul yells at her to stop it, does she think he acts because of things like petty emotions? He doesn’t have such luxury in his life and reminds Soo Hyang to stop viewing him with her own personal emotions. Soo Hyang cries and can’t believe he would attribute her actions to petty jealousy. She is willing to die for Sung Yul and would do anything to keep him safe.
Sung Yul yells that finding Prince Jonghyun’s memoir is more important than his life, only then can he destroy Gwi and also finally end his own existence living as a vampire. Sung Yul reminds Soo Hyang and he’s only keeping her, and retainer Ho Jin and now Yang Sun, around him for that sole purpose. If Soo Hyang wants something else from him then she needs to leave now.
Yang Sun confronts the loan shark for beating up her dad and frightening her little sister. The loan shark slaps her hard and orders her to repay the loan then. Lee Yoon finds Yang Sun being terrorized by the loan shark who has a new idea to sell Yang Sun as a boy prostitute. Yoon interjects to protect Yang Sun, explaining that he can’t leave a friend in need. Yoon pays the owed amount and warns him not to bother this family again. He warns the loan shark that he will soon be arrested for breaking usury laws and points to his friend as the grandson of the current Left Minister and good friends with the royal grandson.
Yoon and his friend help bring Yang Sun’s injured adopted father and crippled little sister back to their home. He thinks to himself that Yang Sun can’t possibly be Seo Jin. Yang Sun doesn’t know how to thank Lee Yoon so he tells her to make him famous with his erotic drawings and that is friend enough.
The King meets with Gwi and isn’t afraid of his death threats, pointing out that if he killed the King the entire world will know there is a vampire in the palace. Gwi wants him to find the Lecherous Scholar but the King refuses to spend time on this pointless endeavor. He heard from Crown prince Sado before he died that he found Prince Jonghyun’s memoir containing a secret manual on how to get rid of Gwi. But Gwi declares that he destroyed the manual long ago.
Flashback to when Gwi sucked the blood from Crown Prince Sado and then tossed him aside. Gwi declares that he will find the missing manual and destroy it. Sung Yul purposely makes himself heard so that Gwi will leave the scene and look for him. That allows Sung Yul to tend to the dying Crown Prince and reveal himself to be Kim Sung Yul, best friends with Prince Jonghyun. He wants to know where the secret manual is? Crown Prince Sado manages to tell Sung Yul that the secret manual is actually a person before he dies.
Yang Sun runs to tell Sung Yul in the morning that she found someone who has heard of Prince Jonghyun’s memoir. Ho Jin gets so excited and asks if she’s found the Lecherous Scholar, which confuses Yang Sun because she doesn’t know the former Lecherous Scholar was Prince Jonghyun. The two head back to town to wait for the merchant for this new information when Sung Yul suddenly sees a lady walking through the marketplace and he stares in shock and walks towards her.
Sung Yul rushes through the crowd and pulls her covering off and sees that the lady looks exactly like Myung Hee. Sung Yul tearfully grabs her for a tight embrace while calling her Myung Hee as Yang Sun stares on in shock.
Thoughts of Mine:
I can’t say episode 3 of Scholar got better but it really needed to be. It’s sorta spinning in circles when it should be swimming at strong strokes forward. I loved Sung Yul’s leap into the water, why can’t the narrative be as badass all the time? Right now the story keeps treading around the search for Prince Jonghyun’s memoir and whatever secret Gwi-destroying manual may be stashed inside. It would be great if there was never any such manual and Prince Jonghyun made it up to give Gwi nightmares forever that something is out there that can destroy him. Even better if the secret weapon turns out to be Sung Yul, another vampire was ultimately the only thing capable of going up against Gwi and destroying him. I wished I cared about the secret manual but right now destroying Gwi isn’t all that important. Yes he’s a super baddie and has killed a wide swath of people, but that’s at the allowance and even behest of the Joseon Kings and official court. It’s like blaming the rabid dog for biting anything in sight when said rabid dog is being kept as a pet by an owner allowing it off the leash. Even worse is seeing two Kings sacrifice their sons to keep Gwi appeased, I almost want to see the Joseon royal family topple because they brought it on themselves.
With that said, I still feel for Sung Yul and support his quest to get revenge for his beloved and best friend while protecting the innocent people of Joseon. He’s a noble hero, and with that nobility is a one-track mind that isn’t making his character pop lately. All that staring at Yang Sun isn’t working for me either because she’s not all that interesting enough to warrant the amount of interest she elicits from him. I get Soo Hyang’s worry and jealously, I only wish there was more underlying emotional resonance in the budding OTP connection to warrant it. Right now Yang Sun comes across as a cute little puppy and that’s not the recipe for heart tugging and stomach tickling romance. I actually like her when she’s around Lee Yoon because their banter is cute and they seem more in sync. When she’s around Sung Yul it’s all wide-eyed hero worship while he looks at her like she’s a species he hasn’t seen before. His relationship with Soo Hyang is actually quite touching, the way she would die for him and how expressive she is in showing it. Too bad he claims to have zero time for romance, an assertion that is clearly on its way out the door much to Soo Hyang’s everlasting frustration.
The return of Myung Hee in the form of doppleganger Hye Ryung is a development audiences were expecting and arrived with a nice bang. The way Sung Yul lost control when he saw her through the market crowd brought back all the Sung Yul-Myung Hee romance feels, it really was wonderfully rendered in such a short span of time in episode 1. Aside from not feeling Yang Sun’s connection with Sung Yul even after all the time they spent together in episode 3, it continues to be an uphill climb for that romance to rival what won the audience hearts right off the bat with Sung Yul and Myung Hee’s thwarted happy ending. Even harder is thinking that Sung Yul has been living in stasis since losing Prince Jonghyun and Myung Hee, he’s never moved on properly by grieving and finding positive outlets for his emotions. He’s just bottled it up and turned himself into finding a way to destroy Gwi. If Gwi sent Hye Ryung and she’s working for him, it’s going to be such a bummer for Sung Yul to look at the same face as his first love now out to harm him. I’m also wondering how Hye Ryung’s connection to Lee Yoon will come about, and how he’s going to find out that Yang Sun is Seo Jin and a girl. Yoon strikes me as smart and patient, I hope he learns quickly about Gwi’s existence which will lead him to join forces with Sung Yul so they can finish what Crown Prince Sado and Prince Jonghyun could never do – slay the monster in the palace.
Click here to watch Scholar Who Walks the Night.