The finale of the first part of the series Alchemy of Souls placed it at the top of South Korean ratings for cable channels, proving that it has captivated its audience. There are several key factors that have hooked audiences. The drama itself is primarily about the blooming relationship between an assassin and an aspiring mage. At the same time, there are many other characters and storylines that weave into the main narrative, creating a more intricate plot. Within this plot, there is also a deep critique of the consequences of the ostracisation of individuals.
With so much happening, some moments can come off as anti-climatic or rushed. However, the main characters carry the show well with their back-and-forth dynamic as they struggle with going from teacher and pupil to lovers. Overall, Alchemy of Souls has a unique plot with well developed two main protagonists. The first part’s suspenseful finale also tied together all the elements of the original story while giving viewers hints at possible plot points for the next season, coming this December.
Throughout the story, we are introduced to both heroes and villains who share similarities. Even though she is the protagonist, Naksu’s (Jung So-min) story begins as a highly skilled assassin. However, as her tragic backstory is revealed, viewers can understand why she lacks compassion. Despite her upbringing, being in a new environment and gaining Jang Uk’s (Lee Jae-wook) friendship helps Naksu learn to appreciate the worth of human life. Whereas before she had no concern for any life she took, she now thinks about the consequences of her actions and goes out of her way to save her friends.
The back stories of other antagonists in the show share similarities with Naksu’s past, tying into the running theme of outcasts. Jin Mu (Jo Jae-yun) has grown up ostracized by his family for being born from his father’s affair. As such, he was not allowed to carry his family name or contribute to Jinyowon family. Shaman Choi (Shim So-young) was punished for practicing sorcery, and she was accidentally burned alive during the process. She also calls out the hypocrisy of being punished for a type of magic that is otherwise acceptable when it comes to the power of the ice stone. Ultimately, it is fair to say they both experienced discrimination, and this is their motivation for seeking vengeance.
Interestingly enough, Jang Uk, our hero, has a similar past to Jin Mu. He carries the stigma of rumors regarding his real father and the implication of his mother’s infidelity. Due to this, he faces barriers to becoming a mage, as well as being fully accepted into the mage society. However, unlike Jin Mu, Jang Uk is supported by his father figure, Park Jin (Yu Jun-sang), his maidservant (Kim Do-joo), and his friends. Instead of punishing him for the circumstances of his birth, his friends and family feel sympathy for his situation and try to come up with ways to help him. Due to this support network, it is clear why Jang Uk does not go down a dark path like the other characters.
Alchemy of Souls still has many unfinished storylines that are expected to be resolved in the second season. For instance, the crown prince’s (Shin Seung-ho) role seems at first limited to just another admirer of Naksu. However, the crown prince is obviously unhappy with Naksu’s engagement and vaguely threatens her before her departure. Additionally, Jin Mu is clearly working to manipulate the crowned prince into seeing Jang Uk as an enemy. So far in the series, the crowned prince has been an ally to Jang Uk, but this situation may change to create more conflict in the second season.
Lastly, the rest of the story will continue to unravel more information about Mu-deok, the true owner of the body Naksu took over, who is suspected of being the eldest daughter of Jin Ho-Gyeong (Park Eun-hye). As such, Ho-Gyeong will be both Naksu’s greatest ally as well as her enemy. As the finale showed the audience, Ho-Gyeong is working to save her daughter’s body, but not necessarily Naksu’s soul.
Alchemy of Souls has woven an intricate web of stories that link into the main plot of our leading characters. With such a large cast, it can be hard to keep track of all the narrative lines, but ultimately, this gives the drama a well-rounded story. Alchemy of Souls has also cleverly shown us the varying paths of individuals who are shamed by society, and how these differences can radically change their trajectories. Jang Uk and Naksu’s fates are left unclear at the end of the finale, likely creating enough suspense to bring viewers back come December to see if this unlikely couple will get their happy ending.