I got flashbacks to one aspect of Dr. Stranger with today’s episode of Scholar Who Walks the Night, with the arrival of Myung Hee’s doppleganger turning this into another potential girl 1 or girl 2 camp fight. I pray to the drama gods that the love lines solidify and shake out as quickly as possible because the preferences of who should end up with Sung Yul doesn’t really interest me as much as the whole process of politics and power colliding with a side of romantic entanglements. The exact romance outcome feels almost like its preordained, both how Sung Yul lost Myung Hee in the past and now his rather inexplicable interest in Yang Sun above and beyond needing her help to locate Prince Jonghyun’s memoir.
At this point every single character onscreen has diverged so far from the characterizations in the original manhwa, along with the narrative which was headed a different direction from the very beginning, it’s time I just watch the drama as a standalone deal. From that perspective it remains interesting albeit needing a bump up in pace and less choppy scene cuts. The blaring music has stopped and a better background score softens the mood nicely, taking me incrementally into Sung Yul and Yang Sun’s odd interactions in the search for the missing memoir. Better motivations and emotional groundwork would be nice, but aside from the romance all the other plot points nicely took a big step forward with the reveal of the current Lecherous Scholar and the outing of Gwi’s existence to the world.
Episode 4 recap:
Sung Yul freaks out in the marketplace when he spots a girl who looks just like his dead first love Myung Hee. He immediately grabs her for a tight hug while sobbing his guts out, calling her Myung Hee and being so happy she’s alive. Yang Sun takes in this reunion scene and remembers the gisaengs talking about handsome scholar Kim Sung Yul being uninterested in women because he can’t get over a first love.
The girl Sung Yul is hugging coldly demands that he release her while declaring that he’s mistaken her for someone else. Sung Yul is certain she’s Myung Hee and that gets him a harsh slap across the face. The girl’s maid arrives and calls her Lady Hye Ryung, asking if she’s fine and threatening to call the soldiers here.
Hye Ryung continues to coldly glare at Sung Yul, who remains unable to accept that she’s not Myung Hee. She moves to leave and he grabs her arm so that he can look at her neck, seeing that she doesn’t have a bite mark on her neck. Hye Ryung’s servants arrive and hit him repeatedly over the head to release her arm. Sung Yul asks again if she’s really not Myung Hee before he collapses on the ground. He thinks to himself that he wants so desperately for Myung Hee to be alive, to call her name, even if he gives up his life for that chance. Sung Yul passes out while Yang Sun calls for help.
Flashback to after Sung Yul drank Myung Hee’s blood in Gwi’s lair so that he can survive. Sung Yul is nearly catatonic staring at Myung Hee’s dead body before him. Gwi saunters over with a gleeful smirk, asking how Sung Yul’s beloved’s blood tasted? Sung Yul can’t even talk so Gwi just pats him on the head and welcomes him to the world of being a monster.
Sung Yul remembers how he wasn’t able to protect Prince Jonghyun and his family, wanting to tend to Myung Hee but finding his fingernails have grown long as a vampire. He freaks out over his vampire transformation and runs out of the lair. Sung Yun finally collapses in the forest and notices that he’s completely covered in Myung Hee’s blood. That reminds him that he left Myung Hee back in the lair so he quickly hides from the burning sun to run back to the lair while remembering the Master’s reminder to never take off the sun protecting black robe.
Sung Yul returns to Gwi’s lair and finds him carrying Myung Hee’s body out to a pyre to be burned. Gwi can sense Sung Yul is around and calls him to come out and send his beloved’s body to rest. Sung Yul can only watch as Gwi lights the pyre and Myung Hee’s body is engulfed in flames.
Sung Yul repeatedly calls out to Myung Hee in his nightmare dreams, blaming himself for what happened to her. Yang Sun tends to him, crying as she watches Sung Yul struggle even in sleep. She leans over Sung Yul and her tears falls on his face, waking him up but he’s still not quite alert so he flips Yang Sun around and holds her underneath him.
Sung Yul sees Yang Sun’s exposed neck and leans in with his fangs exposed to bite down when he’s jostled alert by Yang Sun reminding him that she’s not the woman he’s been calling for. Sung Yul climbs off Yang Sun and puts the Hawthorn wood amulet around her neck again. Yang Sun awkwardly says it’s good Sung Yul’s injury isn’t more severe but he just storms out of the room.
A hunter in the forest comes across Sung Yul drinking the blood from an animal and finds himself cornered by him. The hunter sees Sung Yul and faints dead away.
Yang Sun remembers asking a hyung to look for Prince Jonghyun’s memoirs in Kang Hwa island, a place where many scholars are exiled and one could have the book. She runs into the one-armed merchant whose reaction upon hearing of the search for Prince Jonghyun’s memoirs indicates he’s heard of it, but the merchant claims he’s never heard of it before quickly taking his leave.
Soo Hyang and Ho Jin are discussing how Yang Sun is searching for Prince Jonghyun’s memoir for Sung Yul when no one has been able to find it all these years. Ho Jin wonders if the memoir even has the secret manual on how to destroy Gwi? Soo Hyang is certain the memoir contains it otherwise why would Sung Yul keep looking for it.
Yang Sun sees the merchant walking through the marketplace and follows him to overhear a conversation with her adopted father. The merchant is so scared when he heard Yang Sun is looking for Prince Jonhyun’s memoir and will follow the dad’s instruction to keep pretending he’s never heard of such a book. Both also vow to keep secret how they used to distribute books for Crown Prince Sado.
When Yang Sun confronts her dad about this, Yang Sun’s dad slaps her hard across the face, ordering her never to speak of Prince Jonghyun’s memoir or let it be known that he once distributed books for Crown Prince Sado. It word gets out the entire family will face a fate worse than death.
When Yang Sun arrives at the merchant’s shop, she sees Sung Yul there and the bookstop ransacked already. Sung Yul asks if the merchant has really heard of Prince Jonghyun’s memoir? Yang Sun remembers what her dad just warned her, to not get involved in this dangerous situation. Sung Yul hands over a bag of money to hire Yang Sun as his personal bookseller to look for Prince Jonghyun’s memoir. She wants to decline but he sincerely asks for her help since she’s the best bookseller out there.
Yang Sun asks about what Ho Jin said to her, that the current Lecherous Scholar is using the same pen name as Prince Jonghyun used in the past. She asks if Prince Jonghyun was a real person but Sung Yul claims Ho Jin misspoke. Yang Sun asks Sung Yul to keep secret that the merchant has heard of Prince Jonghyun’s memoir.
Yoon sits with the King to ask that the new palace construction be halted since there is a famine in the country the past few years. The King refuses to listen to Yoon’s suggestion and tells him to do his job which is to arrest the Lecherous Scholar. Only by doing so can Yoon erase the stain of being the son of a traitor. The King wants Yoon to prepare a banquet for the upcoming memorial for Crown Prince Sado.
The merchant is knocked unconscious by a man in black before being taken to see a powerful man. The man knows the merchant used to be a bookseller for Crown Prince Sado and reveals himself to be the author of the father-son desire book released by the current Lecherous Scholar. He also knows that before Crown Prince Sado died, he had Prince Jonghyun’s memoir. The merchant continues to play dumb.
Preparations are underway for the memorial banquet for Crown Prince Sado to be held at his former residence. Yoon is inspecting the preparations when a man in black shoots an arrow towards him. Attached to the arrow is a note from the Lecherous Scholar saying that this is against the Heaven’s will.
Gwi hears about the banquet and says of course this is against the Heaven’s will, for the King and Yoon to hold a celebration of Crown Prince Sado’s death at his old residence. He hears from the Minister that the King has been shaken enough to cancel the banquet. Gwi wishes the King was as malleable as the Minister in doing the right things. Gwi is more and more intrigued by the Lecherous Scholar, may have Prince Jonghyun’s memoir, and if so will clearly be gunning for Gwi at some point.
Sung Yul discusses his plan to release a fake sequel to the father-son desire novel by the Lecherous Scholar, and doing it on the day of Crown Prince Sado’s death when the public holds a memorial. Soo Hyang and Ho Jin are worried the officials will get involved and also the public mourners will get in trouble.
Sung Yul figures the current Lecherous Scholar is a supporter of Crown Prince Sado so will show up for the memorial and this is a good way to sniff him out of hiding. He sends Ho Jin to spread the work and hears from Soo Hyang that the merchant hasn’t been back to the bookstore and Yang Sun has also been not around. Sung Yul can tell Yang Sun is keeping something from him but dismisses Soo Hyang’s worry that Yang Sun is a liability or danger to him.
Yang Sun stares at her amulet and thinks back to Sung Yul mistaking Hye Ryung for Myung Hee in the marketplace. She wonders if true love is like that, unable to forget even in death and so distraught even upon seeing a similar looking person. Yang Sun writes down Myung Hee’s name in a book and also Sung Yul’s name, before adding her own name and then crossing all the names out.
Gwi hunts a scholar walking through the forest alone and asks if he left the bag behind. He’s holding Yang Sun’s bag and says the smell is different. The scholar tries to run away but is attacked by Gwi. The officials take the dead scholar’s body the next day but the towns people notice the bite marks on the neck. The head officials reports on this killing and how they spread word that the scholar was attacked by a wild animal. The King figures the public will catch on soon and the problem is getting worse now that Gwi is attacking citizens.
The hunter who saw Sung Yul drinking blood from the forest animal is spreading this encounter through town, describing it in fantastical terms as a run in with the Scholar Who Walks the Night. He describes the Scholar as being able to fly, super tall, as red eyes, and wears an all black Taoist robe. Another citizen says there was a dead scholar today with the same bite mark as this dead animal. The hunter has seen dead corpses before, ten years ago he saw it piled high in a cave but afterwards all the corpses vanished. The townspeople start to call the Scholar Who Walks the Night a blood sucking demon.
Yang Sun hears from another scholar that the sequel to the Lecherous Scholar’s father-son desire will be published soon. Ho Jin spreads word through town about the public mourning event for Crown Prince Sado and the release of the sequel will take place there. Yoon’s friend overhears and tells Yoon about it. Yoon wants to go to the service but the King forbids him to go because all the people there are supporting Crown Prince Sado. The King has already sent soldiers to break up the event. Gwi talks to the corpse of Crown prince Sado, laughing that today is a memorial for him so he should be happy. It’s also an interesting day because the Lecherous Scholar may appear.
Sung Yul secretly watches the memorial service from afar and is shocked to see Yang Sun in the crowd. Yang Sun tries to scan the crowd and recognizes Sung Yul from the healing cut on his palm. Sung Yul locks eyes with Yang Sun and turns to walk away. Ho Jin rejoins the group to report that soldiers are coming. Sung Yul orders the fake sequels to be released now.
The crowd at the memorial is reading the sequel and gets riled up since the sequel described Crown Prince Sado as insane. The crowd demands the Lecherous Scholar show himself now. Yang Sun reads the novel and informs the crowd that this sequel isn’t written by the Lecherous Scholar. The arriving officers sends the crowd dispersing while Sung Yul keeps an eye on the group to look for someone who could the Lecherous Scholar.
Yang Sun grabs Sung Yul and urges him to go with her because she knows a quick escape route. Sung Yul shakes Yang Sun’s arm off and she’s dragged away by soldiers, dropping her amulet behind. The King and Yoon get a report from a contrite officer that his soldiers didn’t arrest the memorial crowd, when his team got there it was already empty of people. They mourners were taken away by a group pretending to be soldiers.
The fake soldiers were arranged by Sung Yul and take the entire memorial crowd to a town where the surviving son of the paper maker can take a look at everyone’s face to see if the Lecherous Scholar is one of them. Sung Yul orders the people to be released afterwards. The little boy walks through the crowd of mourners but doesn’t recognize anyone. The fake soldiers get the nod and release the entire crowd. Yang Sun runs off in the opposite direction to go back and look for Sung Yul.
Yang Sun’s search for Sung Yul goes deep into the night and she ends up injuring her ankle after tripping on a rock. She’s relieved when she sees Sung Yul, explaining that she was so worried about him. Sung Yul curtly demands to know why she was looking for him and why she has a right to be worried about him? He leans down to tend to her injured ankle, calling her out for being a busy body who can’t even take care of herself much less be worried about others.
Sung Yul contains his blood lust upon seeing her bloody ankle, taking off her sock to bandage the cut. Yang Sun holds back her tears at this intimacy and then starts to yell at Sung Yul when he picks her up to carry her back home. She demands to be put down and asks what right he has to care whether she makes it home or not, throwing his words back at him.
Sung Yul informs Yang Sun that he would have helped anyone injured like this in the forest. Yang Sun reveals her concern for Sung Yul was personal whereas he just wants to help her like any other, but she doesn’t need to accept his help. Sung Yul points out that if she won’t accept his help and he has to give it, then the only other option is to spend the night in the forest together. He asks if that’s what Yang Sun wants and warns that if she says another word he’ll take it as that.
Yang Sun pipes down and wraps her arms around Sung Yul’s neck as he carries her through the forest with petals falling around them. Yang Sun wonders why he’s always helping her yet refuses to accept her worry for him.
The merchant has been held by the powerful man this while time but still refuses to tell the truth. Lee Yoon arrives with his friend and reveals that he is the son of the deceased Crown Prince Sado, and also the real author of the father-son desire novel by the Lecherous Scholar. Flashbacks show Yoon writing the novel and the note that he had shot at himself.
Sung Yul deposits Yang Sun back in town and returns her dropped amulet to her. He asks about the merchant and Yang Sun promises to check on his whereabouts. Sung Yul orders her to not come personally to see him anymore but pass word through his retainer. Suddenly the sky rains down with flyers from the Lecherous Scholar revealing that there is a blood sucking vampire in the Palace more powerful than the King. He killed Crown Prince Sado ten years ago, and over a hundred years ago killed Prince Jonghyun. Yang Sun reads the same note and asks if Prince Jonghyun really existed. Sung Yul orders her to go home and storms off.
Lee Yoon keeps interrogating the merchant who refuses to admit he was bookseller Choi from ten years ago. Turns out the bookseller was once an official who stole books to pay for his sick child’s medical costs. He was caught and had an arm cut off but it was Crown Prince Sado that begged for his family’s life to be spared. Later the Crown Prince and his loyal followers were branded traitors and all killed. The merchant tries to bite off his own tongue but is stopped in time.
The new flyers revealing Gwi’s existence reaches the King who demands every single piece be confiscated, especially before Gwi hears of it and starts a blood bath.
Sung Yul walks through town as people are reading the flyer and shocked by the allegations contained therein. Sung Yul sees the men in black on the roof distributing the flyers and manages to corner one using his super strength. He notices the man’s sword and technique makes him one of the Palace guards. He subdues the man and wants him to pass word to his master but the man slices his own throat.
Gwi is impressed with Sung Yul, pretending to be the Lecherous Scholar to protect the current real Lecherous Scholar. He orders Hye Ryung to show herself now as the time has come. Gwi has a man strung upside down while Hye Ryung holds a bowl underneath to collect the blood. She offers it to Gwi who stares at Hye Ryung, marveling at how identical she looks to that woman. Hye Ryung asks if the woman is Myung Hee? Gwi asks if she met a man who called her than name? Hye Ryung lies that she hasn’t.
Gwi figured as much since Hye Ryung just arrived in town a few days ago. Turns out she’s been in the countryside recovering from an illness for the last four years. Hye Ryung thanks Gwi for his care and says she’s all recovered now. Gwi pulls her close and notes that she’s all grown up into a woman now. He then pulls her even closer and Hye Ryung nervously grips her skirt until Gwi releases her. He orders Hye Ryung to bring to him the man who will call her Myung Hee, and warns her to never forget that it was Gwi who kept her alive.
Sung Yul finds Yang Sun asleep in the bookstore and notices her bloody ankle. He picks up a note she was writing on how Sung Yul told her not to come look for him anymore in person. She then calls him a bad guy, a bad scholar. When Yang Sun wakes up, she’s alone and notices that her ankle is all healed.
Sung Yul sits in his room and we see a second wound on his palm. He puts medicine on to heal it, clearly having just injured himself to use his blood to heal Yang Sun’s ankle injury. Sung Yul picks up the note Yang Sun wrote and reads it again before looking torn.
Thoughts of Mine:
The reveal of the Lecherous Scholar as grandson Prince Lee Yoon is expected and a nice narrative parallel to his ancestor Prince Jonghyun being the original Lecherous Scholar. It’s even nicer to anticipate that this time around his battle with Gwi will end differently than for his dad and Prince Jonghyun, i.e. somewhere dead in a well or head mounted on a pike. I wish his character had more oomph right off the bat, but the construct of him working behind the scenes to pieces in motion while maintaining a womanizer façade is a smart move. Let the officials and Gwi think he’s useless while he’s preparing an attack from behind. Too bad I don’t think he has enough ammunition yet so he needs to pair up with Sung Yul to form the new dynamic duo. Too bad they haven’t even met yet and it’s already episode 4. I’m wanting a bromance 2.0, this time with a heros victorious happy ending so that Prince Jonghyun and Crown Prince Sado’s brave stand isn’t for naught.
I’m also curious about how Crown Prince Sado found Prince Jonghyun’s memoir, and how Yoon found out all the secrets of the Palace while growing up marginalized by the powers that be. The biggest tease so far has to be learning that the secret manual to get rid of Gwi is actually a person. Since Sung Yul knew this tidbit of pertinent information since ten years ago, why has he been looking for Prince Jonghyun’s memoir still? I suppose the memoir may contain a hidden clue leading to the person, like a treasure map of sorts, and one that Gwi wouldn’t be able to suss out the secrets to. I find Gwi’s powerful control a bit of a downer now, he’s not as fun when all he does is order people around and easily plot from his darkened lair. It would also be cooler if he didn’t live in a dank lair with dead corpses strung around him but in the luxury of the Palace like the real power behind the power that he is. I also want him to start getting emotionally involved, much like Sung Yul’s love for Myung Hee still haunts him, and whatever he’s feeling for Yang Sun is going to become a liability, there needs to be a weakness around Gwi to make him more relatable. Hye Ryung may be that person, but so far she’s dull as beans without any context and the drama hasn’t provided any context for her yet. If she’s just Myung Hee’s doppleganger by happenstance then she better be given a solid background and a personality beyond stone faced bitchy.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Yang Sun, who has putty for a face and a thousand emotions inside of her. I haven’t seen such an effusive female lead in a sageuk before, and thankfully she’s not crossed the line to being annoying. It works well for the story to get her involved in all the action but sometimes I feel like she’s stuck in a scene just because. The whole search of the real Lecherous Scholar has become ponderous so hopefully that narrative ends in the next episode now that the audience knows its Yoon. I totally get the feedback that watching each episode feels long, I get that sense too but not sure where the disconnect is coming from. Are scenes too long? Too many scenes that are filler? Or the pacing and editing is just off to the point where things are not flowing effortlessly? Sung Yul is back to being interesting now that he’s encountered Myung Hee’s lookalike and finds himself taking care of Yang Sun way beyond the call of any duty. No wonder Soo Hyang is going to lose her marbles soon, if Sung Yul falls for a human then it’s going to negate the self-sacrificial no time for romance spiel he placates Soo Hyang with. I wish the drama would tone down the overly romantic/sexy scenes with Sung Yul and Yang Sun, which feels a bit too early and without the proper context yet to fully enjoy at this point. Save the hubba hubba feels for later when it’s nicely bottled up, yeah?
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