Moving Pieces Across The Chessboard
Episode 16 of Alchemy of Souls starts with Jang-Uk and Mu-Deok making their pact, as we saw at the end of yesterday’s chapter. After the pair dance around their true feelings, Jang-Uk suddenly snaps out of this as he mentions how Master Lee’s dog happens to be Gwigu and that, in turn, could mean that Lee knows Mu-Deok is actually Naksu.
Meanwhile, Songrim asks for Jinyowon’s help in standing together as an alliance to weed out the Soul Shifters. Jin Ho-Gyeong is not happy abut this and calls out Lee as a thief. Gwigu stirs and begins growling, presenting himself and pouncing toward Cho-Yeon.
Ho-Gyeong jumps in and blasts the mutt down, killing it instantly. Now, the dog can actually sense sorcery used against Cho-Yeon, which is of course, linking back to the needle prick from Woo-Tak several episodes back. Cho-Yeon throws a curveball and claims that she actually practiced sorcery a while back – a Lover’s Charm to be precise. This is what Gwigu is sensing.
Wuth Gwigu dead, Mu-Deok wonders just why the dog didn’t bark and jump at her while they were out of the city.
The rest of the group – Jinyowon and Songrim – join together and discuss what’s happening here. Park Jin implores Ho-Gyeong not to trust Jin Mu, pointing out that Bu-Yeon is not coming back. Not only that, but Cho-Yeon is told to wed the Crown Prince. She refuses though, clinging to Dang-Gu and defiantly telling them all that she’s going to marry “the one she loves”. The meeting ends.
Elsewhere, the Queen works to spin her venomous web of deceit, telling the King that the only reason the King’s Star was mentioned is so Songrim can work to dethrone the King. The Crown Prince doesn’t agree but this is quickly drowned out by the King’s paranoia that Jang Gang’s prophecy, which looks like it could come true. Jin Mu is determined to use this to his advantage, wanting to make Jang-Uk an enemy to the state.
Lee indirectly hands over Naksu’s sword to Jang-Uk, telling him to look after it. He also brings along the message that if anyone tries to use the sword they must be killed. If Jang-Uk fails then he could die too. After handing it over, Jang-Uk tells Mu-Deok that if she is to brandish that sword, that she do so against him first.
Maidservant Kim takes in Dang-Gu and Cho-Yeon and looks after them. Park Jin does not like the idea of the pair marrying but Kim is far more open about this.
With the conversation steering into the realm of love, Park Jin tries to broach the subject of just what Kim looks for in a prospective partner. Park Jin hangs on her every word, but is crushed when she mentions he has to be handsome. She thinks he’s referencing Lee. In reality, Kim is actually talking about Park Jin, so it’s a classic case of misunderstandings!
Yul looks over the dead bodies and listens silently as Sang-Ho decides to get Mu-Deok involved in the investigation. Of course, Yul knows that this isn’t the same Mu-Deok. It also doesn’t help that the situation involving the Soul Shifters is still prevalent across Songrim too.
This is causing Yul to lose sleep, something Jang-Uk realizes is connected to Mu-Deok. That night, he questions a drunk Yul about how he’s feigning ignorance but the guy is too drunk and half-asleep and doesn’t reply.
In the morning, Mu-Deok and Jang-Uk realize that there’s someone higher than Jin Mu pulling the strings. Given what Eunuch Kim said to them in the observation room, it would seem that this person is Shaman Choi. Could this be who the queen has currently Soul Shifted to? And if so, is the real Queen dead? Well, not exactly.
Now, each member of the Seo family has a Lantern of Life that’s lit up at Seoho Fortress. This is powered by the energy of their soul. This way, those up at the fortress can instantly see who is alive and who’s dead. So if the queen did die, they would know because of that lantern. If Park Jin and the others can figure this out for certain, this could be just what they need to get the upper-hand over Jin Mu and Cheonbugwan.
The thing is, the Queen is alive – but barely. The Soul she’s shifted into is ravaged and badly burned. Her breathing is laboured and she could pass at any time. But then, that’s still enough for the lantern to burn.
In order to try and learn the truth, Jang-Uk heads off to Gaeman Village. There are all sorts of shamans and mages living there, and Jang-Uk is looking for the oldest. Shaman Bong.
When he arrives, Jang-Uk runs into the Crown Prince of all people! Both of them have been led to this village from scraps of clues involving Eunuch Kim. With all roads leading here, the pair struggle to share information with one another.
Speaking of struggling, Dang-Gu struggles to sign a document from Cho-Yeon’s family, telling him never to see his lover again. Cho-Yeon admits she was annoyed at first and wants to see him too, eventually resulting in the pair screwing up the letter and deciding to defy their elders. Maidservant Kim sees this from afar and grins.
As for Mu-Deok, some intriguing details are revealed about her through So- I. A similar cut on her forearm and a blindfold with the Jinyowon crest on seem to imply that she may actually be the long lost daughter of their family – the real Bu-Yeon. We shall see but it certainly seems that way.
Meanwhile, the Crown Prince and Jang-Uk question Shaman Bong about the infamous Choi. Apparently she was well versed in her sorcery specializing in hexes.
One day, she jumped into a fire and seemingly died, coming right off the back of mages from Cheonbugwan cracking down on sorcery. Some say she died but others believe she survived with bad burns on her. Now, the burn theory makes sense given we’ve seen a burned woman earlier on in the episode. So in reality, all of this points toward the Queen being Shaman Choi.
That night, Jin Mu shows up with So-I, now ready to infiltrate Jinyowon and fulfil her task. When Ho-Gyeong notices the girl, she checks all the marks and believes this is Bu-Yeon.
As she has the blood of Jinyowon flowing through her, she can also move the doors. As Bu-Yeon reaches out, the doors open… but Mu-Deok ends up suffering from a big headache as a result. It happens every time she shows up at Jinyowon and isn’t quite sure why.
As the episode closes out, we cut back to Jang-Uk one more time as he’s followed by a cloaked figure walking through the streets. Sensing him there, he draws his sword and demands to know who he is. It’s Jang Gang! Father and son are reunited! But all of this leaves things hanging precariously on a knife-edge for the next chapter.
The Episode Review
Alchemy of Souls returns with another banger of an episode, mixing in some big reveals with more romance, humour and drama. The return of Fluffy (aka. Gwigu) is certainly welcome, even if it does end in disaster through seeing this poor dog meet an untimely end. You will be missed!
The classic case of misunderstandings pops up again, both in sinister terms (So-I infiltrating Jonyowon at the end) and romantically (Park Jin and Maidservant Kim). There’s certainly a good balance to all of this and it’s helped considerably by the lore and unique narrative with this magic-wielding series.
And unique is probably the best word to describe this show. There are definite similarities to other Korean period dramas but this one leans much closer to Avatar and Arthdal Chronicles, like some sort of shiny hybrid of the two, picking the best elements of both series.
All roads seem to lead toward Mu-Deok being Bu-Yeon as the big reveal and it would seem that her family reunion could take place soon while Jang Gang and Jang-Uk both together again sets up a very intriguing meet between the pair.
Either way though, Alchemy of Souls has been a great watch and the next episode is looking like a must-watch!