This episode is thoroughly bogged down in the "Jang-seon is in jail" storyline. While this doesn't go on forever, Jang-seon is so heavily restricted here it's a little difficult to ignore the extent to which her character is basically a damsel in distress. About the only saving grace is that this isn't her fault. If Jo-saeng hadn't been acting in such a boneheaded way this whole time they'd already all be out by now, and the general gruesomeness of the cliffhanger could have been avoided.
I'm not satisfied with this particular plot point because...well...it's hard to say to be honest. The torture yard is hardly an unprecedented trope in Joseon dramas, even in fusion ones. And the dramatic stakes are certainly high enough to justify the actions of the characters in charge. The bigger issue is that the whole crisis just doesn't feel real. To me, this storyline felt like an effort to get the characters involved in trying to solve problems, and fell flat becuase the solutions aren't all that convincing.
They are logical conclusions. Once again, even absent the flashbacks, it's pretty clear that Seong-yeol has tricked Gwi in this specific way before. The discussion is deliberate and well-considered. I like Seong-yeol's allies. Even though they're not super important in the grand scheme of things, the way they act on their own initiative is a startling contrast to Gwi's allies in the royal family. The latter group never acts directly in Gwi's best interest unless he's specifically watching.
The classic drawings of Seong-yeol are another point that's putting me a tad at unease. The way Yang-seon's fantasy vampire story ties into all this is relevant, but the tone is just a tad weird considering what's going on at the prison, and the other very serious stuff that's unfolding in the endless battle to try and defeat Gwi. I find myself wondering exactly what "Scholar Who Walks the Night" is actually try to be right now, because for the first time the disparate genre elements really aren't meshing all that well.
It's a bit of an awkward criticism to make, given how much of the appeal in "Scholar Who Walks the Night" in the first place is just straight up camp. I mean, look at the design of Gwi's secret vampire lair. Did he actually decorate it himself? It's hard to come up with any other explanation for that comically menacing throne and thoroughly mysterious candlelight setup. This is where the ultimate fight is happening right? I'll be very disappointed if it happens somewhere else.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Scholar Who Walks the Night" Episode 9"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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