K-Drama: Alchemy of Souls Ep 17-18 Review

Towards the end of ep 18 was the first episode of this entire drama where I had to pause to take a breather because I was so frustrated with the events and didn’t want to watch what happened next. I went and sought out spoilers to see if I’d get angry at the plot, then came back and finished watching it later.

I explain in more detail below, I don’t want to be giving spoilers in this intro. But ultimately, after reading the spoilers and actually watching the next part, it turned out to not be bad at all, and in a way I’m a little disappointed with what I spoiled for myself because it was an excellent part of the story.

These couple of episodes felt a little slow but necessarily so. I loved the deeper exploration into Jin Bu-yeon, the character development of Nak-su and the surprise tying in of something that we saw in earlier episodes that I thought was a temporary plot device that I thought we were done with.

I also realised after I’d written my ep 15-16 review that the show was skipping a week to work on special effects. Waiting two full weeks was… hm. Actually, worth it. I can totally see why they needed the extra time and I think what they came up with was fantastic.

Jung So-min absolutely stole the show this week. I’d been disappointed in her performance before, but for these two episodes I was in awe. And I was actually, for once, finally sold on their romance. With only 2 episodes left, I’m not sure how they’re going to tie everything together neatly, and I can definitely see why they need a part 2.

I am a bit disappointed that when I finally get on board with JSM’s acting, she’s going to leave the show. Unless their previous confirmation that she won’t be in part 2 was a red herring/jk type of thing.

Anyways, spoilers below!

I watched the two episodes on Saturday and Sunday respectively when they first came out, and then re-watched them on Monday. It’s now Wednesday so it’s taken me a bit of time to finish writing this up, so my memory isn’t the best, but here are the parts that really stood out to me:

Episode 17 I found to be absolutely stellar and action packed, and again so clever. But episode 18 dragged a bit for me. It was necessary to show Nak-su’s progression and character development; how being Mu-deok became second nature to her, culminating in her love for Jang Wook being the final straw that broke her resolve against returning to her ruthless assassin roots.

It was a slow watch for me, but I see why it was necessary. JSM was excellent in her portray of the subtle ways in which Nak-su was being shaken during her one-sided mental goodbyes, and her acting during the final scenes where she finally lowered her sword were *chefs kiss*.

This is probably the slowest burn romance ever lol. I guess Nak-su had been holding back all this time because, in the back of her mind, she’d always thought that she could leave when she needed to and kill whomever it took for her to get her power back. When push came to shove, however, she finally realised she couldn’t do it.

She’s changed so much, and I’m hella proud of her.

18 eps to get our first kiss though lolol. That said, I’m glad that romance never really took centre stage for this show. There’s just so much more to enjoy than the Jang Wook/Nak-su romance:

Who Knows What

Our protagonists know the fake Jin Bu-yeon is So-yi and are onto Jin Mu’s scheme without Jin Mu realising, and So-yi has come to the full realisation that Mu-deok is the real Jin Bu-yeon. I guess I’m not surprised that she chooses the path of self-preservation, but it was a little disappointing nonetheless.

She was supposed to be her hometown friend and even stole the most precious item belonging to Bu-yeon. I have no doubt Bu-yeon knew, but out of kindness did not call her out on it. She has been introduced as the Danju of their secret organisation but hasn’t yet realised what Jin Mu is up to.

Jin Ho-gyeong is already suspecting the daughter presented to her by Jin Mu is a fake. She commented on the ears, and I read some comments of eagle-eyed fans who pointed out that Master Lee had mentioned Mu-doek’s ears looked familiar in one of the earlier episodes. The drama had been dropping hints all along!

Ho-gyeong’s look of disgust when So-yi happily accepted her offer to get rid of Mu-deok was such a winning moment for me. Ho-gyeong was blinded by her desire to find her blind daughter… but now that she has her ‘blind daughter’ beside her, her eyes are finally opening to how blind she’s been. And I wonder how the drama will use the fact that Mu-deok can tell that Ho-gyeong doesn’t trust So-yi anymore.

Jin Mu, for all he doesn’t know, is starting to see a resemblance between Mu-deok and the Bu-yeon that he pushed out of the boat all those years ago.

Words of the Heart

The “Words of the Heart” coming back was just… wow. I did not see that one coming at all. The way they just brought that back in with its deeper explanation was genius. I literally thought it was a temporary plot device – or at least, it appeared so back then – but, in reality, the Hong Sisters had been planning for it to have a deeper significance that is even helping to save Songrim’s reputation.

An old book that everyone considered simply a throwaway test turned out to be invaluable. “Songrim has hidden nothing from you all.” – well played, Hong Sisters, well played.


Man, the end of episode 17/start of episode 18 left me breathless. What did it mean?? Is Bu-yeon back? Did Nak-su lose consciousness and so Bu-yeon took back her own body for a second? Did they both actually die or did they just faint? I guess it’s possible that Bu-yeon/Nak-su did die but were brought back to life with the power of the ice stone, since the ice stone is no longer in its stone form, and the stone itself flew before Bu-yeon.

Did Bu-yeon ‘regain’ her memories? But I feel like she never lost her memories in the first place since she was always supposedly looking for her family. That said, I don’t quite buy that this powerful priestess couldn’t find her family for 10yrs when she was wearing the Jinyowon crest on her blindfold, and she knew that it would help her find home.

Why did younger Bu-yeon speak to Nak-su? That was a bit random. Then modern-day Bu-yeon comes in with “how dare the one borrowing my body to stay alive call me a relic” lol. The fact that Nak-su still doesn’t realise her host body’s soul is still there at this point is kind of entertaining.

I’ve seen some people get frustrated at this, but given what they know about soul shifting (both souls shift bodies), it’s probably a never-before-seen scenario that there are two souls inhabiting one body, so Nak-su really doesn’t have a reason to suspect that her host soul is a) still alive and b) chilling in the same body.

As such, it makes sense that she never really tried to figure out who her host body was and was also confused at why her eyes hurt whenever she went to Jinyowon.

Other Revelations & My Theories

Jin Mu was the one who helped Nak-su’s father, Cho Chung, to soul shift, and the soul that inhabited her father was Jang Gang’s best friend. I wonder what happened to the best friend’s original body.

Jang Gang threw the ice stone into the lake all those years ago. He’s wondering how it got out of the lake. Now, we as the audience members seem to have the full story:

Jang Gang taught Jin Mu the alchemy of souls, presumably to help Jang Gang get back into his original body after he soul shifted with the king. Jin Mu then went a bit rogue and helped Cho Chung soul shift with Jang Gang’s best friend. He claims that the original Cho Chung threatened to expose Jang Wook as the guy with the king’s star.

I’m assuming that Jang Gang’s best friend soul shifted with Cho Chung, so that the best friend took over Cho Chung’s body and would never expose the secret of the king’s star. His original body may have died or something. However, Cho Chung’s body was not strong enough to contain the best friend’s soul and thus he ran wild and needed to be killed.

I suspect the best friend was actually a powerful mage and perhaps Bu-yeon’s real dad, hence Cho Chung’s weak astronomer body would never be able to contain such a strong soul.

Jin Ho-gyeong unsealed the ice stone from Jinyowon and begged Jang Gang to save her unborn child. Her unborn child was born with the power of the ice stone. After Cho Chung’s death, Jang Gang threw the ice stone into the lake and stopped performing the alchemy of souls then ran away, but not before stamping out all alchemy, including out of Gaema Village, where Shaman Choi barely escapes with her life. Her brother marries Jin Ho-gyeong.

10 years later, Jin Mu is sent on an expedition to find the ice stone in the lake with Jin Bu-yeon. Bu-yeon finds it, Jin Mu grabs it and shoves her overboard. He returns with the ice stone and presumes her to be dead. She actually ends up in Sa-ri village where she meets So-yi.

I wonder how Jin Mu ended up working under Shaman Choi, given he was Assistant Gwanju and thus, for all intents and purposes, in a position of power when she was… well, a refugee. I also wonder what other clever revelations the show has up its sleeve for the last two episodes lol.

The Frustrating Part

Now onto the few parts that I didn’t like. Aside from episode 18 feeling a bit slow (although I get why they did that), So-yi trying to get Mu-deok killed again but Seo Yul taking the hit for it really, really frustrated me. When Seo Yul said that he’d go get the bedding instead of Mu-deok, I was livid.

I could see it coming, but it didn’t make me any less angry when it happened. Seo Yul has been nothing but a huge sweetheart, and the fact that he selflessly offered to get the bedding while swallowing his feelings for Mu-deok to tell her that Jang Wook’s been looking for her was the last straw for me.

I was so angry at So-yi this episode. I guess her only redeeming quality is that she seems to genuinely care for Seo Yul, running to try to rescue him when she realised what happened at the expense of blowing her blind cover. Otherwise, ugh.

She stole Mu-deok’s most precious item and then tried to get her killed while taking her place beside her mum. What’s worse, she seemed to derive some sadistic pleasure in seeing Jin Ho-gyeong kill Jin Bu-yeon? Yeah, okay. Girl, bye.

Please, show, So-yi and Seo Yul cannot be end game. She almost got him killed, and did get him seriously wounded. He deserves so much better and she deserves to be put in jail – not least for all the murders that were committed on her behalf.

Thankfully, the actual sequence of events thereafter weren’t as bad as I feared they would be and Seo Yul seems to be fine for the most part. But I really had to pause the show and go and do some angry pacing when Mu-deok showed up to serve snacks downstairs with the assumption that Seo Yul had gone to the mage’s quarters.

I also had to massively suspend my disbelief that Mu-deok somehow got downstairs, made snacks, came in to serve them, and told So-yi that Seo Yul had gone to get the bedding and then So-yi ran upstairs to the mages quarters all in the time it took Seo Yul to walk from the library to the mage’s quarters. Lol, what? Shall we assume Seo Yul took a detour and went to take a dump during that time? I don’t see how the timing could make sense otherwise.

The actress has been doing an excellent job though. I’m quite impressed with her range – she was hilarious in Business Proposal (“You know I have no ching-gu!!” will forever be iconic) and now she’s killing it as the selfish swindler caught between a body eating blood-worm and a soul-shifting Shaman.

Final Thoughts

We’re heading into our final week and there’s so much more story to tell I… think? I’m excited to see how the show will wrap everything up. They’ve been teasing some major plot points in the past couple of weeks but I’m sure there’s still plenty more story to tell.

I hope we’ll see Jang Gang doing something meaningful. I hope we’ll see Go Won take the throne that is so deservedly his. I hope Jang Wook and Nak-su can have their happy ending, but also I hope Jin Bu-yeon will be able to regain her position as the Jin family heir. I imagine Jin Bu-yeon, who was able to lock Nak-su inside her body, will be able to eject Nak-su and put her in any other body as well, especially with the power of the ice stone that will probably just take on the form of… air?

Seo Yul said he needed to return home and wanted to take someone with him… I wonder if that’s still going to happen. I feel like they’re going to rescue the actual queen and are going to deal with Shaman Choi and Jin Mu. I wonder what they’re going to do after that.

Will father and son be able to reconcile? Maybe. Will Maidservant Kim and Park Jin finally confess their feelings for one another? Hopefully. Will Master Lee show up to kill Nak-su since she unsheathed her sword? I imagine they’ll give her a pass since all she did was kill a soul shifter that was running wild and saved all the mages and Crown Prince.

Overall I’m still very much enjoying the show. I’m surprised the ratings aren’t higher since the writing is so clever. I’m consistently pleasantly surprised at how many previous plot points have been brought back as something more significant. I also saw someone’s comment that apparently the soul shifter that ran wild that Jang Gang had to kill in first scene of episode 1 was actually Shaman Choi’s son.

If that’s the case, then WOW. There’s a hatred that’ll run deep and oh my goodness it really is all coming full circle.

Others have speculated that the yin/yang jade eggs will come back into play somehow to help them get out of the ice stone barrier without Nak-su killing everyone, or somehow allow Nak-su to retain her power without the ice stone killing everyone, but we’ll see.

I hope they’ll actually wrap up Season 1 properly because I don’t think I’ll be able to wait until the end of the year for Season 2 to come out. I’ve seen reports that Season 2 will be more like a prequel but dang I’d much prefer a sequel. I also don’t think a prequel makes sense because there’s nothing particularly interesting in watching Jang Wook get kicked out and not taught by teacher after teacher. He’s still supposed to be main cast I think.

It’s ending this week! Ahhh! What a ride so far.

Muchos love,


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