First, Bulgasal: Immortal Souls’ strength lies in the story itself. It managed to sew intricate folklore into one solid plot that grips its audience from start to end. Just when you thought you have guessed it right, the next episodes divulge another layer in the story. From 1,000 years to 600 years to 50 years ago – and come present time, Bulgasal: Immortal Souls dared to inject major hints about the real history of characters without losing the interest of its fickle viewers.
The intentional start of the story with Hwal (Lee Jin-wook) as a young boy is a clever technique to confuse the viewers about the hero’s real background. There were hints – he was cursed since birth. His birth mom died, and his real father abandoned him. He got adopted by a random general who was fond of him at first sight. All these coincidences were not mere chance encounters – they’re part of his fate. He became family to the very people who killed him in his past life as an original Bulgasal. And now, he lived for 600 years avenging their deaths, not knowing he was the reason for their suffering.
I loved the never-ending soul-swapping twist of this drama. We were made to believe that Hwal was the original owner of his soul and the female Bulgasal (Kwon Nara) stole it from him to be reincarnated as a human. She only did what Hwal did 1,000 years ago. The original owner of this human soul was Ok Eul-tae (Lee Joon), the neglected son of a village leader (Jeong Jin-yeong), who had to resort to evil because of his resentment.
And because of the tragedy of Eul-tae’s stolen soul, here came the web of reincarnated lives gone wrong. For centuries, the people who surrounded Eul-tae, Hwal, and Min Sang-woon (present Kwon Nara) died of unfortunate causes. They are living in Hwal’s unending curse. It’s world-without-end unless the two Bulgasals died.
Speaking of the Bulgasals’ death, it’s one of my favorite revelations in the drama. There are two Bulgasals and they can only perish if both their hearts die. This explains their “immortality” and ability to heal from injuries. They are a two-in-one package deal.
The story’s monster-hero also had his fair share of grief and agony through the years (or centuries?). He started his journey as a mortal with an inborn curse – a malediction that he is haunted by the Bulgasal and all the people surrounding him will die. Living in ancient Goryeo also meant monsters roam the earth freely, which complicated the storyline. Hwal’s borrowed soul became wanted by the monsters he killed while working with his adoptive father General Dan (Goryeo-era Jeong Jin-yeong). These layers of complex backstories were the very reason why I chose to stick to the drama until the end.
Hwal’s character development was explored a bit later into the drama and peaked only when the found family’s mother figure Hye-seok (Park Myung-shin) died. I just hoped we had more scenes depicting Hwal’s transformation from being aloof and vindictive to being protective and caring because it’s such an endearing sight.
The rally towards the final face-off between Hwal and Eul-tae, and the ultimate death scenes of the love birds was underwhelming for me, sad to say. Also, I tried to understand Eul-tae’s obsession with Hwal but I don’t see his point. His extreme need for Hwal’s validation destroyed him in the end. I had so much hope for Hwal, Sang-woon, and Detective Kwon (present Jeong Jin-yeong) that it is hard to accept they all had to die at the expense of ending the curse. The drama gave a compelling reason for this development, though, but still, it’s hard to watch as an avid believer of Hwal and Sang-woon’s love story. The end still does not justify the means for the ultimate bad guy Eul-tae, but I pity him for making the wrong choices when he should have just waited for the prophecy to unfold on its own.
👹 One of the best confession scenes in recent years courtesy of Dan Hwal
“Now that I know the truth, I could have moved on with my life. But I lived with only thoughts of you. So I can’t let you go. I can’t let you die with Ok Eul-tae. You told me that you didn’t want me to die because it would feel like losing half of yourself. But it’s different for me. It’s not just half, but all of me that will feel lost. Because my whole life was about finding you.“
👹 The characters of Do-yoon (Kim Woo-seok) and Si-ho (Gong Seung-yeon) will warm my heart always – their reincarnations prove that they will always be with each other no matter what
👹 Eul-tae, hottest villain of the year