Our last check-in with Arang and the Magistrate left us with several questions as Arang (Shin Min-ah) was delivered back to Earth to investigate her own death. This coming set of six episodes brought more magic, questions, and smatterings of romance, all of which helped drive the plot along.
Warning: spoilers for episodes 1 through 10 follow.
Among the highlights of these episodes was the realization that Arang, in her current somewhat human state, is immortal. Well, at least for the three full moon cycles she’s on Earth to investigate. Also, Lee Eun-oh‘s (Lee Jun-ki) mother is some demon devouring the souls of young woman; newborns are preferred. Late in Episode 10 also told viewers that this woman was none other than the Jade Emperor‘s (Yoo Seung-ho) sister, a previous fairy. Given the task of wooing the young Arang is the mother’s “son,” or lackey, Choi Joo-wal (Yeon Woo-jin), “son” of Lord Choi (Kim Yong-geon), a rather pompous ego-head, though Joo-wal is getting second thoughts after meeting the breath of fresh air that is Arang. Continuing throughout the six episodes is the ongoing power battle between Eun-oh, the Magistrate, and Lord Choi, who has a pretty firm grip on the town. It seems that through Eun-oh’s actions, like sharing food with the town, that grip might be loosening. And of course, the main antagonist, the mother (Kang Mun-yeong), is seriously feeling the heat as Eun-oh (her own, oh the irony) is getting closer to figuring out the peculiarities. She needs her some Arang to stay immortal, unaware that Arang is only to stay for another two months max. She’s employing demon reapers, much to the discontent of the real death angels, including the head one, Moo-young (Han Jung-soo). And of course, to any story, there’s the side romance that brews. Here we have Eun-oh’s faithful servant, Dol-swe (Kwon Oh-jung), and the wayward shaman Bang-wool (Hwang Bo-ra) having over-dramatized romantic feelings for each other, just the way I like it.
This drama has a good balance between the laughs and the serious, though these last six episodes seemed more focused the human aspect that Arang has obtained rather than the actual severity of the situation at hand. That’s understandable: this is only the midway point. Had the drama been actively investigating the situation at hand, and they still hadn’t made any headway, I’d seriously be doubting their skills that had seemed so promising beforehand. This time was instead taken to deepen the story on the antagonist’s end as well as a bit on Eun-oh’s side. The relationship between Lord Choi, Joo-wal, and the mother seems rather complex. In one of the episodes, Lord Choi seemed inclined to the call the mother “wife,” only to be met with a cold reaction. In another (or potentially the same one), the mother is encouraging a mother-son relationship with Joo-wal, in exchange for his help. While that is most likely a hollow offer, it’s one that tugs at Joo-wal’s heartstrings nonetheless.
On Eun-oh’s side, we learn the severity of being the son of a traitorous slave and how much that can truly affect an individual. Like most heroes, Eun-oh has flaws, but his major one is one out of his control: his birth. It provides obstacles in how others perceive him. Hopefully, as he showed in episode 10, he might be finding ways to work around that description and still assert his power as Magistrate, one who was appointed by Lord Choi’s men no less.
And as for Lord Choi and the mother, it has been a while since two faces have aroused such loathing within me; those actors are certainly playing their part well. Lord Choi seems set on maintaining his power, his anger reaching its highest point when he hears that Eun-oh has opened his precious tax storage of food up to the public. He’s also wary of what Joo-wal and the mother are doing, unaware that his tirade against the Magistrate and Arang will interfere in the others’ plans. A highlight of the past episodes was definitely when Arang questioned his opinion of illegitimate sons, provoking him to attack her. I don’t think my opinion of Arang could go any higher.
The mother, on the other hand, I’m not sure about. She clearly intends to stay alive, but to what end is unclear. A couple episodes mentioned revenge, but against who and how isn’t apparent. Is she just biding her time? She seems to be very capable of magic considering what she has already done. And she seems to know Moo-young while in reverse, Moo-young suspects her activity. Is there something between the two of them? A previous encounter, or something deeper? This is curious especially since the King of the Underworld (Park Joon-gyu) is encouraging the Jade Emperor to divulge more of the situation to Moo-young.
To keep the drama lighter, Dol-swe and Bang-wool have quite the funny moments. I mentioned earlier that their romance is over-dramatized, and oh it is. Close ups, swiping of lips, dramatic movement, all in slow motion. It’s all overdone, but it’s done that way to match the two characters. Both are perceived as being subservient to others and a bit slow, so their romance is similar in that aspect, at least to the viewers.
Speaking of the romance, Eun-oh and Arang are still in that stage of young love where they can’t identify the flutters that are about or why they’re so concerned for the other. It manifests itself in Eun-oh’s jealousy of where Joo-wal is taking Arang every so often and Arang’s defense of Eun-oh’s social status. In Episode 10, when Arang finally tells Eun-oh of the two full moons remaining in her time on Earth, Eun-oh seems to take a more serious stance: it’s not just limited time to find his mother. He’s also going to be sending Arang to Hell if he doesn’t help her out. At this point, considering that Arang’s time is limited, it’ll be worth it to see if the romance will flare at an exponential rate or fight to be kept hidden because of the small amount of time.
The acting, as expected, was still top notch. I still haven’t run into a moment where what was happening wasn’t believable, despite the magic afoot. I was also impressed to learn Lee Jun-ki does his own stunts. After that fan battle in Episode 9, he has definitely risen to be a part of my favorite actor list. Yoo Seung-ho continues to rock the glorious locks better than your favorites. Kan Mun-yeong continues to have the creepy eyes that make me want to run in the opposite direction while Yeon Woo-jin is as stone-faced as ever, except when he’s scared out of his mind in front of the mother or relishing in Arang’s company. Shin Min-ah portrays a sort-of-human that doesn’t know the basic aspects that we all know about humanity so well, despite her fervid desire to be a human. Her curiosity gets her into quite the amount of trouble, but it’s welcome, especially since it drives the plot forward.
In the second half the drama, there’s much to look forward to. I hope it picks up a bit on the side of the investigation and of the mother’s past. That woman still has so many secret wrapped tightly around her, and I want to know more, especially after the tidbits revealed in Episode 10. In addition, the numerous conflicts–Eun-oh vs. Lord Choi, Joo-wal, his mother and Arang vs. Lord Choi, the mother, Dol-swe, etc–make for good watching, especially when there are mini conflicts in between all of that. I’m looking forward to a greater role from Moo-young, especially since one that seems like an obedient grim reaper has taken to playing a little outside the rules.
How has Arang and the Magistrate been for you thus far? Any favorite scenes? Speculations about how the drama is going to go? Leave us comments with your opinion!