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Hwayugi: Episode 17

I can feel the story ramping up for the final showdown, which is something I’m very much looking forward to. In fact, I’m getting pretty impatient for people to stop sitting around opining about the imminent end of the world and actually face the thing already; there’s been a lot of talk and not a lot of ruination, which is making me somewhat bloodthirsty. Chop chop, plot monkeys! Let’s get this doomsday on the road!

 
EPISODE 17 RECAP

After learning that he will have to kill Sun-mi to complete her so-called destiny as Sam-jang, Oh-gong drives the heavenly sword into a rock in his garden and hides it among the foliage.

Sun-mi drinks alone in a pojangmacha, and when another customer gets up to leave, she sees a malicious ghost hanging around. Muttering that she has enough power now to get rid of him, she flings a cup of water and vanquishes the ghost, then sighs that these little things probably don’t count as “saving the world.”

Patriarch informs Mawang of how Oh-gong stole the sword, and Mawang supposes that means Oh-gong has accepted his duty to sacrifice Sun-mi. Patriarch remarks that the bracelet has a much stronger hold on Oh-gong than the General Store owner said it would.

Mawang comments that Patriarch, who had recommended that Mawang use the bracelet, had been manipulating him from that point on. Patriarch also lied about how Sun-mi had come to have Sam-jang’s fate, since we now know she was born as Sam-jang. Patriarch doesn’t deny it, merely pointing out that Mawang was rewarded with many points toward his immortality goal.

“I am no longer interested in that,” Mawang says. “I wasted my power all this while. I will search for a path to return to how things used to be.” He dismisses Patriarch icily.

Arriving home, Mawang’s nose twitches, catching Sun-mi’s scent. She’s here to consult with him about her vision of the world’s end, and how it depicted a human kind of destruction (explosions, warfare) rather than a demonic one.

Mawang figures it makes sense that a human (Sun-mi) is destined to stop a ruination wrought by humans. But he declares that such things are not his business, intending to wash his hands of it. Sun-mi protests that he must continue to help because everything started with him.

Mawang makes the excuse that he doesn’t have the power to help, since his body has weakened. Sun-mi asks if there’s a way to help, and he gets a mean glint in his eye and asks if she means to help him. Oh no, he’s thinking of eating her, isn’t he?

He mentions what happened to Iron Fan, who took a human child’s life to save her own monster child. Monsters gain strength when they consume the energy of humans—more so when consumed in living form, and especially so when the human is special.

Mawang starts to advance menacingly, just as Sun-mi has a vision of Mawang sobbing before the prone body of a woman whose face is covered. She tells him of her premonition that he will cry piteously when someone dies.

That’s when Secretary Ma steps in (ah, she’s wearing the coat that the dead woman wore in the vision). Moreover, she notices that Oh-gong is in the room, on the staircase behind them. How long has he been there?

Oh-gong doesn’t let on whether he overheard their conversation, but asks Sun-mi about her vision just now. She doesn’t know anything other than what she saw, but Mawang says he’ll take that as advice to be careful.

Oh-gong says meaningfully, “Yes, Mawang. You should make sure not to cause a sad incident.” Mawang replies that Oh-gong should focus on his own concerns. There’s definitely a silent battle going on between the two men, though Sun-mi doesn’t understand why.

She senses his tense air, though, and asks if Oh-gong fought with Patriarch. He replies vaguely that he merely got mad and caused a bit of a ruckus. Sun-mi wishes she’d gone with him, since she now has the ability to kick up a bit of fuss herself.

She reminds him that he can call her name anytime, although she’s disappointed she can’t appear out of thin air like he can. At that, he disappears—and after she hears his voice calling her name, he materializes, demonstrating how she managed to appear suddenly to him.

Sun-mi appreciates the gesture and tells him to call her anytime, which puts a suggestive glint in his eye as he confirms that he can really call anytime, for any reason. She hastily adds that he should call or text first, lol.

Sun-mi asks if he’s truly fine not to take off the bracelet, because if removed it, he wouldn’t have to face danger because of her. Oh-gong wonders if his feelings really would disappear: “You believe that, and I believed it too. But I must be crazy. I keep liking you more. Looking at you in this moment, you seem increasingly beautiful to me. Will this all truly disappear in one moment? Can you believe that?”

She says she used to find it sad, but now considers it fortunate, because it’s a way to let go of his feelings easily. He agrees, saying, “If you call my name and I don’t appear, it will be because my feelings have disappeared.” He adds that he’ll be busy for a while, and for her not to be alarmed. With that, he poofs away.

Mawang wonders when Priestess will reappear, hoping that it’s sooner than later, and instructs Secretary Ma to find out whatever she can.

Political hopeful Kang Dae-sung selects a dead body from the morgue, a runaway youth with no friends or family. He takes it back to Priestess, who plans to feed a soul to the body. Kang asks if he’s supposed to collect souls, but she says there’s no need—there are already souls here.

In the room are the ghosts of all the people Kang killed, which she can see but he cannot. He asks if he is to kill Sam-jang next, since Priestess said that he would need her.

Sun-mi reads up on Kang Dae-sung, recalling the time she passed by him, and how it had given her a strange feeling.

Over breakfast, Mawang goes over the details with Oh-gong: Sun-mi will become a sacrifice that will hold the evil force, at which point the bracelet will disappear and Oh-gong will be able to kill her. Oh-gong asks what happens if his feelings don’t disappear with the bracelet, because he isn’t convinced they will.

Mawang offers to “help” by ripping off Oh-gong’s arm that wears the bracelet, and Oh-gong laughs that Mawang wouldn’t be able to, given his weakened powers. They glare at each other with smiles on their faces, and Mawang says there might be a way to revive his powers. Oh-gong ask if he means to eat Sun-mi, and Mawang agrees that it’s a good idea.

After Mawang steps away, Oh-gong warns Secretary Ma, “Watch after Mawang well. If he raises a hand to Sam-jang, I’ll go insane.” She replies that the realization that he was tricked is driving Mawang’s behavior, and that he wants to believe what Priestess insinuated about his child being alive. Which is why Patriarch must give Mawang a clear answer regarding the matter.

Oh-gong says as much to Patriarch later, warning that Mawang isn’t likely to take the truth as politely as Oh-gong. Patriarch scoffs at the idea of Oh-gong being anything resembling polite, but Oh-gong calls him out for lying about Sam-jang’s fate originating as punishment for helping him. Patriarch stammers that he only fed him that story because he wanted to instill some responsibility in Oh-gong.

Oh-gong says he understands—but that Mawang will likely not be so understanding. He advises that Patriarch tell him the truth of his child asap.

Patriarch goes to the General Store looking for the grandma owner, but only finds her grandson as usual. The grandson guesses that Grandma outranks Patriarch, given how he’s always coming to her and she’s always keeping him waiting. Patriarch flushes and insists that he’s totally going to get a promotion soon, ha.

On Priestess’s instructions, animal blood is poured into her coffin, where the dead body has been buried under a layer of dirt. She tells Kang Dae-sung cryptically that she’s “growing” something here—and when she touches the body’s hand, it moves. The only thing left to add is the energy of “the person who will become this kid’s father.”

Mawang sits before the portrait of his wife, wondering if his son grew up to resemble her. Secretary Ma urges him not to count on the Priestess to return with evidence that his son is alive, but Mawang says if she doesn’t provide any, he can deal with her then.

Oh-gong asks CEO Sa for help: He has to capture a big demon, who will be hanging around an important human. Oh-gong has made it a rule not to involve himself with human matters, but decides that this time he has no choice but to step in.

To that end, CEO Sa steps up at a fancy banquet of business executives and announces a special guest: Oh-gong, who is introduced as the “actual owner” of the company. News spreads like wildfire through the media, aided by Oh-gong’s very conspicuous purchases of fancy cars, buildings, and sports teams. Which, naturally, makes him the target of curious eyes and interest.

Kang Dae-sung hears about this and wants to meet the mysterious newcomer. He’s shrewd enough to guess that Oh-gong is planning something, given how he made such a public splash.

Kang is approached by a reporter, who asks him about the missing museum director (whom Priestess killed for him). Kang feigns ignorance, but when the reporter mentions the rumors of Kang’s foundation having Japanese sympathizer ties, Kang suggests that they talk quietly over tea.

What he really means is to sic Priestess on the reporter, but she’s not home when he arrives. He wonders what she intends to do with the coffin, and just misses seeing the corpse’s arm move.

Priestess drops in on Buja’s mother in the hospital, and when PK finds her there, he thanks her for reuniting Buja with her mother. Priestess asks if he would like Buja back, and when he asks excitedly whether that’s possible, she asks him for a favor in return.

Oh-gong surprises Sun-mi in her office with cotton candy, though she’s more interested in knowing his motives for suddenly going public. He says it’s necessary to draw the attention of a big bad villain, because he’s intent on finding the human who will draw out the demon that will challenge Sun-mi.

Sun-mi brings up the niggling feeling she has about encountering Kang Dae-sung at the broadcast station, which triggered her vision of the world ending. When Oh-gong hears that she’d been called to the station by PK, a dark look crosses his face.

Oh-gong confronts PK about it, and PK admits that Priestess asked him to call Sun-mi there, but insists that nothing happened.

Oh-gong tries to puzzle out how everything is related. Priestess isn’t strong enough to bring about the destruction of the world, and moreover, even if she called forth a dragon, a dragon isn’t a demon. So how does this fit into the grand plan?

Priestess informs Kang Dae-sung of the location where she will be able to call the dragon, a valley near the tree where she was awakened, and suggests that they go together.

PK goes to Mawang’s inner room and swaps an energy ball with one that Priestess had given him that would enable her to take a bit of Mawang’s energy. PK looks conflicted, but he had been swayed when she promised to use that energy to move to a new body, thus returning Buja to him.

Dragon Prince Alice catches PK as he’s leaving and guesses that he’s doing something dangerous because of Priestess. She warns that he could get himself killed, but he says firmly that he won’t.

While stopped at a red light, Han-joo and Sun-mi get rear-ended by the driver behind them—who turns out to be Kang Dae-sung. He doesn’t betray knowing who she is, but Sun-mi eyes him with distrust, then has another premonition of him with Priestess, looking out at a large valley together.

Sun-mi catches him off-guard by asking point-blank, “Why are you with that woman? Are you a good person?” The question rattles him, and she leaves saying merely that she’ll give him a call.

Han-joo wonders why Sun-mi dislikes Kang Dae-sung. She asks what Han-joo would do if he found out that a powerful person were evil, and things were on the verge of ruin. Han-joo says he’s merely an employee who can’t do anything about anything, and finds her speculation unnerving.

The corpse is finally revived, and stands before Priestess and Kang Dae-sung holding an energy ball. Priestess declares that this corpse will clear away Kang’s obstacles for him, and that it’s time to throw “him” into some confusion.

She means Mawang, of course, who sits in his room, not suspecting that the swapped energy ball has started to suck out his life energy. As it does, corpse boy’s eyes flash red.

Priestess takes Corpse Boy to hunt down pesky Reporter Kim in a parking lot later that night. In the moment that Corpse Boy strangles the reporter to death, Mawang feels it and stares at his hand in confusion. Secretary Ma asks if he had a dream, but he replies, “No, it was like I traveled somewhere.”

Sun-mi discusses Priestess’s connection to Kang Dae-sung with Frosty. He tells her that Priestess was awakened on Kang family land, and Sun-mi wonders if that valley she saw in her vision is near that land, which she describes as “extremely strange and frightening.”

Frosty takes that tidbit to Oh-gong, thinking it a significant detail; perhaps it’s where Priestess means to summon a dragon. Oh-gong instructs CEO Sa to locate that land, deciding that he’ll have to see it for himself, as well as the landowner.

Kang Dae-sung gets himself invited to the exclusive club Oh-gong has set up, which is a magnet for people who want to meet him. Oh-gong has really been cultivating the eccentric billionaire image, being extremely choosy about the people admitted and spending fortunes on Warhols only to hang the paintings in the bathroom. Ha.

Oh-gong makes a point to pass right by Kang Dae-sung without any acknowledgement, leaving Kang fuming in his wake.

Afterward, Kang Dae-sung meets privately with a senior politician, who offers a handsome payment if Kang “catches” someone for him. The politician says that it’s Kang’s turn to stand behind him in support, but Kang replies that he’s not much for waiting in line. He declines the invitation for drinks, and tells the older man goodbye in wording that makes “Please make a nice return” sound an awful lot like “Please nicely die.”

A bit later, the older politician is much drunker and doesn’t see that Mawang is following him, a red gleam in his possessed eyes. Mawang goes full-on vampire as he fangs out and strangles the man until his spirit seems to drain out of his face.

Once the kill is complete, the real Mawang jerks awake in his own bedroom. He stares at his hand in shock, the vision so vivid that he can’t shake the feeling that he killed the man himself.

Kang Dae-sung is extremely pleased with Corpse Boy killing off all his problems, but Priestess warns him not to let Mawang realize what’s going on.

Patriarch drops by to inform the team of a new demon on the prowl, which is feeding on human souls, in much the same way as Iron Fan did back in the day. Mawang freezes, staring at his hand with growing dread, though he doesn’t let on what he’s thinking.

He does ask Patriarch if this is what happened to his child. If this soul-feeding demon is roaming free in the world, Mawang’s child could also be out there somewhere. Patriarch insists that’s not true, but isn’t that convincing.

In private, Mawang orders Secretary Ma to get Sun-mi so he can confirm something. A short while later, Sun-mi and Secretary Ma wait in a parking lot, and Secretary Ma cuts Sun-mi’s palm to release the scent of her blood.

Mawang catches the scent, and a dark look settles on his face.

Oh-gong surprises Priestess by showing up at the valley where she intends on summoning the dragon. Reminding her that she’d said she would find Mawang’s son, he asks sarcastically if she went ahead and “made” that son. At her reaction, he realizes she did in fact conjure up somebody, and she asks defensively what he’ll do to her.

To her shock, Oh-gong replies, ” I’m going to protect you.” He instructs her to continue with her Kang Dae-sung plans; he intends to get chummy with Kang and be a part of this dragon-summoning.

Sun-mi holds her bloody palm and waits, and finally Corpse Boy emerges and lunges for Sun-mi. At the last second, he is flung aside by Mawang, who steps in to defeat the demon. But as he raises his hand to strike, he freezes, recognizing that his own energy emanates from the corpse.

Oh-gong materializes and grabs Corpse Boy by the throat, but Mawang asks him to stop so he can confirm something. Oh-gong ignores him and defeats the demon, then yells at Mawang to come to his senses: “There’s no way that thing is your son!”

He adds that the corpse was just a trick by Priestess. Mawang looks equal parts furious and devastated as he realizes that she made a fool of him.

Fired up anew, Mawang storms in on Patriarch and demands the truth of his son. Patriarch doesn’t talk, so Mawang vows to kill him and raises his bull-tipped umbrella—and as he swings, Secretary Ma yells for him to stop and jumps in front of Patriarch.

The umbrella strikes her instead, sending her falling to the ground. With her dying breath, she gasps, “I’m sorry.”

Mawang stares in horror, and when he registers what he’s done, he wails in anguish. He asks Patriarch why he did this to him, growing increasingly frenzied as he screams that he’ll kill him. Patriarch first insists he had no choice, then blurts, “Your son is alive!”

Mawang continues roaring and wailing, “And so… finally…” Then his face stills and he finishes calmly, “…you tell the truth.” HAHA, this was all an act? Mawang wipes his eyes, Secretary Ma gets up, and Patriarch gapes looking like his soul has left the building.

Sun-mi is relieved that her vision of Mawang’s grief turned out to be an act, and Oh-gong says that Mawang held it in too long and should have caused a fuss sooner. Sun-mi wonders what Priestess is planning, but Oh-gong is more concerned with why Sun-mi didn’t call him when she was in danger, and why she told Frosty about meeting Kang but not him.

They figure that they’re both still trying to protect the other: Sun-mi’s afraid he’ll get hurt because of her, while Oh-gong is engaging in the human world so he can do something in her place. She asks him to tell her what she doesn’t know.

So Oh-gong admits that he discovered something new—but lies that he confirmed that his feelings with definitely vanish with the bracelet, which means that they have been fooling themselves about being in love. Argh, why do you think this painful story is a better one than the truth?

He says they were always a life-and-death fate to each other, but that the bracelet had been blocking it. If she wants to avoid their deathly fate, he advises her to avoid him once the bracelet is gone, so that he can’t eat her.

“Then we can’t see each other again,” she says sadly. He agrees, and tells her not to worry about causing his death anymore.

Priestess comes to see Mawang, not too fazed that her Corpse Boy maneuver didn’t last, saying that at least Mawang used it to get something he wanted. He notes that she’s seeming rather confident and wonders what she’s trusting in to keep her safe, and she informs him that Oh-gong promised to protect her.

But Priestess looks worried when Mawang says that he ought to kill the person who helped her. PK steps in to take responsibility for messing with Mawang’s energy, and says he can’t help but be taken in when seeing Priestess’s face. She looks affected by those words, though she maintains her cold façade.

PK asks what Mawang means to do with him, willing to accept the punishment. Mawang grabs his wrist in a death grip and does something to bind his powers, saying that he won’t be able to use them for the time being. PK contritely apologizes and heads off with head hanging.

Secretary Ma asks if Mawang will search for his son. Flashing back, we see his conversation with Patriarch, who had advised him not to go looking, because the son had survived through the committing of a great sin. Uncovering his identity could turn him into a target of the heavens, who would try to kill him. So for now, Mawang says that it’s enough to know his son is alive.

That night, Kang Dae-sung is in great spirits as he schmoozes at Oh-gong’s exclusive club, only to reel in horror when he sees Reporter Kim in front of him—the same Reporter Kim he’d had killed. Looking around the room, he also spots the museum director he’d offed, and the senior politician.

Deeply shaken, Kang tries to contain his panic, while Oh-gong watches his reaction nearby. When Kang looks up and meets his gaze, Oh-gong beckons him over, and Kang makes his formal introduction.

Kang is put out to have Oh-gong talking down to him in banmal right off the bat. But then Oh-gong proposes, “I’ll give you what I have, so do what you want.” Kang’s eyes light up even though he doesn’t understand why Oh-gong would make this offer out of the blue, and Oh-gong says that he chose him as the worst of the humans in this bunch. “You want to climb to the top of the bad guys, don’t you?” he asks. “Become king. I’ll turn you into a king.”

 
COMMENTS

Aha, so Oh-gong teams up with the Big Bad to take it down from the inside, is that it? I can get onboard with that, because that’s a heck of a lot more exciting than sitting around waiting for the Big Bad to come to them. And while Kang Dae-sung seems like an evil mastermind when he’s in the human realm, when you put Oh-gong next to him he seems woefully naïve, doesn’t he? In a delicious way, because I’m looking forward to his downfall. (Come on, his kill list is just comical at this point.)

On paper, I do like where we are with the characters and their feelings, and the flashes of conflict I see in many of them, whether it’s Mawang fighting his rage, Oh-gong and Sun-mi fighting their fears, or even Priestess still seeming to have traces of Buja’s kindness in her, recognizing the people she cared about.

It’s just that, in action, it feels like we’ve had… well, not a lot of action. Haven’t we been talking about the same doomsday for ages now? It’s one thing for the stakes to change along the way (say, by growing) or for the story to escalate, but I don’t think our threat has changed all that much. Our characters’ feelings are what keeps the conflict alive, but by this point I feel like it’s a lot of rehash. There’s just so much I can take of the drama yelling, “Doom is coming!” and then following that up with “Doom… is still coming! Wait for it… Any day now!”

It seems fairly obvious that Mawang’s son is alive and well, and I think there’s only one possibility for who it could be, so mostly the suspense for me is in seeing how Oh-gong and Sun-mi thwart heaven’s decreed fate. Or rather, how Oh-gong thwarts fate, because while I have no problems with Sun-mi as a character, lord knows she hasn’t been the most proactive about driving her own fate. Her rationale has been reasoned well within the confines of the plot so I do think her logic has made sense, but that doesn’t mean her logic is my favorite tactic. It would have been nice to see her plotting with Oh-gong—or, for pete’s sake, for them to share the truth with each other—but at least I have faith that Oh-gong will find something to stop doom from arriving. Because if ever anybody could find a loophole in heaven, it would be him and his sinisterly clever mind.

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