The Ultimate Sacrifice
Episode 19 of Alchemy of Souls starts this extended episode out on the lake in the past, with Bu-Yeon trying to find the ice stone. Jin-Mu is there too and watches alongside Woo-Tak as the girl uses her senses to find it.
Now, Bu-Yeon is actually a descendant of both the Jin family but also of the fallen Choi family (which is her father’s side). These combinations essentially made her one of the best priestesses anyone had ever seen. This power to find the ice stone eventually led to Jin-Mu snatching the stone for himself and knocking Bu-Yeon into the water.
However, the girl was not lost. She washed up by the side of the river and cared for by a kindly elderly lady, who called her Mu-Deok after her late granddaughter. And of course this coincides nicely with our journey thus far, with most of our characters stuck inside the forcefield and the confirmation properly that Mu-Deok is actually Bu-Yeon.
Yul’s life also hangs in the balance, and he needs a blood transfusion. The thing is, the worm inside So-I’s blood could well be the key to salvation here. As we see later in the episode, So-i slices her wrist open and lets her blood drip into Yul’s wound, which seems to save his life.
However, we also have the drama involving the Words of the Heart. As the King reads the book, Songrim recites the words of Master Seo and the love letter within.
Down in the secret room, Jang-Uk and Mu-Deok share their kiss while Woo-Tak sneaks away to find the Queen, who’s currently residing in his sister’s burnt body, Shaman Choi.
The Queen pleads with Woo-Tak to let her die but he refuses, pointing out that the Queen’s Lantern of Life needs to remain glowing while the Queen is still active. “Stay alive just for a little bit.” He says, while also swearing revenge on Jang Gang for what’s befallen him in the past.
Interestingly, in the past Ho-Gyeong actually asked Jang Gang for help, opening the gates of Jinyowon for him to bring out the ice stone. She knows it has the power to bring back the souls of the dead, so she pleaded with him to use it and bring back her daughter. As a consequence, Jinyowon lost the ice stone.
Elsewhere, Jang Gang returns to Songrim and greets Maidservant Kim warmly. While they have their reunion, Jang Uk contemplates what form the ice stone has taken. He’s thinking about turning the fog into rain. He will need to use Tansu to make that happen but there’s a very real possibility he’d lose all of his energy in the process.
Mu-Deok is completely against this, and orders him as his master not to. Given they risked their lives to reach this point, she’s not happy at how he’s going to sacrifice himself. The thing is, if he does nothing then that doesn’t help Yyl, who’s bleeding out and could lose his life. But for So-I though, who’s the key to saving Yul’s life.
Speaking of keys, Cho-yeon and Dang-Gu both track down Woo-Tak and confront him in the dungeons. After besting him, they contemplate what to do with him.
Dang-Gu feeds back to Park-Jin that they’ve found the queen’s soul and they contemplate what to do with her. Park-Jin wants her brought to the Training Center but Dang-Gu is not so sure. He doesn’t want to disgrace the Jinyowon name, given that will in turn hurt Cho-Yeon too.
Instead, they head to the center while all the mages are told to leave. With the king and the royal family in attendance (minus the Crown Prince but we’ll get to that) they bring forward Shaman Choi… who is of course the queen. The Shaman (inside the Queen’s body) squeezes the throne tightly and grits her teeth. When the Shaman’s burnt face is revealed, she drops to her knees and pleads with the king to see sense – that she’s the real queen.
The only way to settle this is with Gwigu but with the dog cremated, there seems to be no hope… or is there? Park Jin reveals the cremated ashes of the dog and throws it straight at the queen. She’s flustered and immediately lets her guard down. The thing is, they’re actually just ordinary ashes and as such, she ousts herself.
With the jig up, she takes out a sword and looks set to kill herself. The only solution is to eject her soul but in the wake of this, Woo-Tak’s stake in this – being Shaman Choi’s brother – is also revealed and it shatters Ho-Gyeong’s world. In exchange for keeping Woo-Tak alive, Park Jin wants her to give the queen’s body back.
Jin-mu turns against her too, leaving Woo-Tak to sacrifice himself, telling his sister to use the remaining Soul Ejector to run away.
Outside, Jang-Uk decides to go through with his sacrifice, despite the Crown Prince and Mu-Deok’s objections. Brandishing the sword, the blade lights up blue. He strikes the raindrop at the barrier while Shaman Choi uses the Soul Ejector.
Jang Gang uses his body to stop the power, projecting it into his own body. Unfortunately, he’s now running wild as a consequence.
Kneeling before the King, Jang Gang claims he’s there to confess his sins in front of the Unanimous Assembly. Yeom pleads with the others to let Jang-Uk say goodbye to his father. Jang Gang refuses and unfortunately he turns to dust before father and son can reunite.
Jang-Uk finds himself whisked away to a strange ethereal plane where he finds the ice stone. Holding it, the power conjures around him, creating the King’s Star. And with that, Jang-Uk is back in his body again, with rain hammering down around him. The barrier around Jeongninjak is gone, while the mages all believe the Crown Prince is the one who’s the new King’s Star.
In the wake of this, both Mu-Deok and Jang-Uk have lost their power but neither seem to mind. They hold one another’s hand as it seems the threat of the ice stone and Jin-Mu and the Queen’s plan has faded…at least for now.
Some time passes and Yul is back on the mend, having regained his energy. He’s still in pain during the night but Mu-Deok goes some way to try and help. handing over that old whistle from their past. It’s a really nice moment and the pair eventually say goodbye to one another.
Meanwhile, Dang-Gu hands over a sketch of Jang Gang to Jang-Uk and admits that he sacrificed his own life to save both Songrim and Jinyowon. It’s at this moment that Jang-Uk sees his picture and realizes he did actually meet his father after all. It’ a bittersweet reveal, and all that’s left of Jang Gang are his belongings, which are returned to the King.
The Queen, unfortunately, has not returned to her own body and is forced to dwell within the burnt body of Shaman Choi for now. As for Park Jin, he dwells over the dark history involving Jang Gang, including the flashback we saw earlier in the season involving the King switching and sleeping with Do-Hwa.
Park Jin has decided to keep this quiet and make sure Jang-Uk’s memory of Jang Gang is not tarnished.
The Crown Prince heads to Cheonbugwan where Jin-Mu pleads to help save him. He also offers to protect the Prince from the true King’s Star. Jin-Mu knows how to push buttons and he brings up how Jang-Uk will eventually outshine him and offers a chance to make sure that doesn’t happen. It remains to be seen if the Crown Prince is actually swayed.
On the eve of Dang-Gu and Cho-Yeon’s wedding celebrations, Jang-Uk also asks Mu-Deok to marry him. She smiles in reply as the episode ends.
The Episode Review
An unusually upbeat and joyous ending seems to hint that we’re gearing up for a very dramatic and potentially heartbreakingly conclusion to this first part. Given we know this show is returning in December for another season, it’s fair to say that this story is not going to completely wrap up and close all the plot points.
Seeing Jang Gang make his sacrifice without being able to have a proper reunion with his son is a bittersweet moment, while So-i is still hanging about like a bad smell. I mean by this point her plot is basically done so we’ll have to wait and see what the scriptwriters do with her going forward.
There’s a really nice ebb and flow to this extended episode though, with a blend of action, drama and fantasy to boot. Seeing Jang-Uk ready to sacrifice everything is a nice touch, as are the growing ties between Mu-Deok and Jang-Uk who actually look set to get married!
But is this going to be a happily ever after or are we in store for a red wedding-esque shocker, given Jin-Mu is still lurking about? We’ll have to wait and see!