Episode 2 of Alchemy of Souls begins 20 years ago. After Do-Hwa has given birth, Jang Gang takes the child to the foot of the royal palace. Through his watery powers, he blocks the child’s gate of energy. This will prevent his son from being able to perform any spells for the entirety of his life.
That son, once he comes of age, promises to find someone to open his gate of energy and bring those powers back. And that boy? None other than Jang Uk.
Fast forward to the moments inside the royal palace last episode and Uk offers an allegiance. He recognizes the blue glint in her eyes as that of the soul shifter.
As they talk, Uk instinctively saves Mu-Deok from Seo Yul’s blade. They keep up the pretence of her being his maid, although she’s not exactly thrilled with that accolade.
Interestingly, we do learn that the leader of the shadow assassins that attacked them all is actually called Dangju.
In the ensuing skirmish, he’s taken Naksu’s body too. It’s here Uk learns that Mu-Deok is actually Naksu and that only makes him more determined that before to learn from her. She’s not so sure, but before she can contemplate this, everyone is gathered at the training center for a compulsory meeting.
Whilst there, Park Jin is convinced that there’s a traitor in their midst; someone who helped let the assassins in that previous night. They unveil Gwigu, the Jin family heirloom. This trinket can apparently detect sorcery and, in particular, the soul shifters. They intend to use this to figure out who among them is the soul shifter.
The doors are slammed shut, guards stand on watch, and Park Jin promises that anyone who attempts to escape will be deemed a traitor.
With that, a smoky dog protrudes out from this trinket and in its misty form, immediately pounces at Uk. Only, it jumps over him and Mu-Deok, finding the shadowy soul shifter.
This guy happens to be the mole in their midst, and he manages to fight off a fair amount of soldiers out in the courtyard too.
Sporting that familiar blue-grey skin from before, it takes Seo Yul stepping in with his swords to put an end to this menace. With that, this foe ends up petrified after a swift shot to the belly.
In the commotion, Mu-Deok Attempts to slip away and find Danju but Uk is wise to what she’s doing and corners her before she can do this.
As the two trade banter, that smoke dog from before happens to be stalking from the rooftops. Jang Uk encourages her to run away but just before he attacks and strikes Mu-Deok, Uk manages to destroy the Gwigu.
Uk plays dumb in the wake of all these shattered pieces of potter on the floor, claiming he was just being clumsy. When Park Jin finds out he’s livid.
In fact, he forces Uk into submission, telling him he’s not to speak or move in order for him to repent. Mu-Deok watches from the sidelines, wondering why his friends don’t just open his gate of energy.
Apparently they’re too weak to do that and it’s forbidden. As for Mu-Deok, she takes pity on him, realizing he’s already repenting enough through not being able to cast spells, and takes off with the amulet from before.
Meanwhile, the hierarchy at the palace comes under scrutiny. With Gang Jang off training and Uk physically unable to cast spells, Go Soon decides to shift things up.
The attack from the soul shifter is the last straw and he wants to promote Jin-Mu up to the position of Gwanju in their absence. The thing is, Jin Mu is reckless and he’s not exactly liked among the Seasons.
Instead, Park Jin decides to negotiate a different reward for him. He chooses to burn Naksu’s body and keep hold of Naksu’s sword for the time being too.
However, Uk challenges him, especially after checking out the sword for himself. Jin Mu is confident that Uk won’t be able to unsheathe it, although he does say “for now” which piques Jin-Mu’s interest.
Jin-Mu has Nak-Su’s body outside, which Mu-Deok happens to be watching. Uk is there too and he watches the flames before approaching Mu-Deok after. However, he comes with news that he’s found her sword.
Uk shows it to her and encourages Mu-Deok to pick it up and unsheathe it, which he believes will bring back her powers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work and as she picks it up, she’s unable to unsheathe the blade.
As a result, Uk gives up and decides she should go on living like Mu-Deok and be done with her soul shifting malarky.
Mu-Deok refuses, believing this is hell, and instead takes her sword and jumps into Lake Gyeongcheondaeho. When Uk finds out, he hurries down to find her.
Only, Mu-Deok diving into the water is precisely what she needed to bring back her powers it seems, and under the water she manages to free the blade.
When Mu-Deok returns to the shore, she suddenly collapses just as Uk appears. He takes her to the infirmary and discusses what’s happened. While they do, news of this reaches the other officials who query Uk’s actions in bringing his maid to the infirmary, wanting to know how bad her injuries were.
While they talk, we cut back to Mu-Deok who poisons Uk with a herbal tea. He’s choking and struggling to breathe. When Heo Yeom shows up, alongside Park Jin, Mu-Deok tell them there’s only one solution. They need to open his gate of energy in order to remove the poison and let his powers come back. If not? Well, Uk is going to die.
Mu-Deok is tortured and strung up by Park Jin. It’s a small price to pay though, as Heo Yeom decides to open Uk’s gate of energy. Mu-Deok stays awake long enough to learn this before scoffing… and passing out.
This was all deliberate of course, wanting Uk to have his energy back and be able to conjure spells. When he limps out the room and notices Mu-Deok hanging from a rope, he quickly unbinds her hands and saves her life. In doing so, Mu-Deok calls him her pupil, confirming that she’s going to teach him.
The Episode Review
There is a fair amount of politics in this show now that’s just starting to seep in. It can be a little difficult to work out who everyone is this early in the game, but the drama involving Uk and Mu-Deok is compelling and the pair have a palpable energy together when they share the screen.
The story definitely has that familiar C-drama energy flowing through it and I can’t remember the last time a Korean drama went all-in with its fantasy and magic in the way this one has- and that’s a good thing!
The only other shows that this feels similar to are both Bulgasal and Arthdal Chronicles, which this show feels like a blend of.
The humour this time around definitely bleeds through early on, but luckily it never slips into comedy territory, instead used as a levity against some of the more dramatic elements of this episode.
The fantasy is definitely quite heavy but that only makes this all the more unique. So far so good; the first weekend of episodes bows out with a solid chapter!