At a time when drama slump had become my personality, this drama approached me and reminded me why I used to love them in the first place. Is it because of Lee Jae-wook? A big FAT YES.
Or maybe also Go Youn-jung? Oh well, as a Law School defender, yes!
Or is it Hong Sisters that I liked? Not gonna lie, I like most of their works, but they’re still a hit-or-miss even to me. Their endings are always in the gray area.
Or do I like fantasy genres in general? Trying to remember the fantasy dramas that I actually really liked, and safe to say, they are also a considerable amount.
So is this why I loved (yes, strong operative word right here) Alchemy of Souls: Light and Shadow? Well, adding these reasons and a lot more, no shame! The Hong Sizzies are so good at world-building that we get sucked into a wonderland full of nonsense that we tolerate. They can entice us to enter an enchanted storyline when they don’t even know yet if it’s tragedy or euphoria at the finish line. We are still grieving along with Son Oh-gong in 2023, but we carry on. We are still wounded by Jang Man-wol’s first love that never died up to this day, but we forgive them. We did, right?? Taking that into consideration, I fully prepared my heart for whatever ending this drama would have. Suspension of disbelief activated.
Am I making sense? I don’t know. But I just hope you’re still with me. Can I write a cohesive series review? I’m not sure, but let’s start, shall we?
Set three years right after the death of Mu-deok (Jung So-min), we met Jin Bu-yeon (Go Youn-jung) taking the face of Naksu (Go Youn-jung). Thanks to the priestesses of Jinyowon and the powers of Master Lee (Im Chul-soo), Bu-yeon is alive and well, but with no memories of her old life as a soul-shifting mage slayer. I’m impressed with how they justified Naksu’s “rebirth” and her role in the restoration of Bu-yeon’s divine powers. The two souls still shared one body throughout the entire series. It was a bit messy halfway through, though. The plot twists were somewhat pushing it for me. For the sake of my sanity, we will just call her Cho Yeong (Go Youn-jung) from this moment on. It’s not easy to blend four different identities into one body, but kudos to both Go Youn-jung and Jung So-min for nailing the Naksu/Mudeok/Cho Yeong/Jin Bu-yeon four-way character saga. Cho Yeong’s quest to regain her powers and her memories was the backbone of the drama’s second part. And even though there were some loopholes, AOS somehow gave a decent explanation to their main female character.
One thing that got me hooked on the story was how the writers made use of symbolism in the drama. First is that the King’s throne is separated by water. This was already highlighted during the pilot episode of Part 1. A small stream of water surrounds Daeho’s seat of power, reminiscent of how Lake Gyeongcheondaeho acts as the primary source of energy for the mages. And when its main protectors became the masterminds behind the intentional drought, the downfall of the Kingdom was inevitable.
In Part 1, Naksu was the assassin, but in Part 2, it was Wook’s turn to slay those soul-shifters. The biggest change in Part 2 was not the new female lead. It was Wook’s personality. More than the change in actress, it was the male lead character who drastically got a makeover. Wook lost his spark. The young master, who was once so eager to become a mage, was relegated to a mere emotionless killing machine. He couldn’t process his grief properly. He was consistently haunted by spirits, and it got worse every time he used the power of the ice stone. The once-enthusiastic Wook exuded a cold dark aura despite possessing the energy of the sky.
One trait that didn’t change despite all the bad things that happened to him was Wook’s thoughtfulness. I couldn’t help but believe that his love languages are words of affirmation and acts of service!! He is sweet towards Yeong, and always tells her she’s pretty. He protected Yeong in his own way and even summoned some fireflies to guide her in the dangerous forest.
Just sharing some of my favorite moments of our UkYeong couple with no context 😉
- “Let’s go home, my husband.”
- “My wife couldn’t sleep.”
- The fireflies!!
- Wook appeared with Yeong in Jinyowon.
- “This time I recognized you first.”
- When Cho Yeong and Jang Wook tied the knot in the middle of the flower field.
Cho Yeong provided the warmth badly needed by Wook. That’s why he fell for her without knowing she was Naksu. I love that they delayed the Naksu reveal to Wook in the later part of the story because it established Wook’s love for her. He loved her again, no matter how she looked like. They would always find each other and protect their love like the first time.
Their love goes beyond sorcery and death. Lee Jae-wook and Go Youn-jung have incredible chemistry. They deliver powerful performances as Wook and Yeong, respectively. But it’s not just the lead actors who shined. The supporting cast was outstanding, and they all brought something unique and special to the show. However, as with any drama, there were some flaws. Some of the plot twists felt a bit contrived and forced. Additionally, some of the characters felt underdeveloped, particularly Jin Mu (Jo Jae-yeon), Crown Prince Go Won (Shin Seung-ho), and the other members of the Four Seasons squad. While the actors did a great job, the characters themselves were not given enough depth or motivation to truly make them compelling.
Despite its flaws, Alchemy of Souls: Light and Shadow gave us a rich and immersive fictional world that I will cherish for a long time.
⚔️ Still could not forgive the writers for the mini heart attack that this entire sequence gave me! I even considered dropping the drama entirely. IYKYK
⚔️ When we all thought Seo Yul’s life would end there, but Jang Wook had other plans. Winter soldier whomst’ve!!!
⚔️ If there’s a pairing that could beat the main couple, it would be Go Won and his turtle 🐢
3 thoughts on “Alchemy of Souls: Light and Shadow | Series Review”
Ah yes, the ending of ‘A Korean Odyssey’… Yes, I think they just about managed to explain the confusing situation with Naksu’s soul and Buyeon’s body, although a little bit forced. I also thought it was interesting how Cho Yeon and Jang Uk’s roles swapped in the two seasons, but I was thinking more about their personalities. I actually wanted Cho Yeon’s true identity to be revealed earlier, and I feel like the reveal should have been more dramatic. I love the out of context quotes you give haha. As for the crown prince’s character being underdeveloped, I saw it more that his character needed to be vague so we wouldn’t be sure whose side he would pick at the end. Great review 🙂
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Oh wow yes, you’re right about CP Go Won and I was so happy with his move toward the end. But honestly, I felt like he will always pick the good side. Shin Seung-ho did a great job portraying the conflicted CP. His funny banters with Lee Jae-wook and Go Youn-jung were some of my favorite moments in the drama.
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Yes, I didn’t like the prince as much in Season 1 but in Season 2 he was a lot more likeable and I liked his scenes with the leads too. What does CP mean? haha