Jang Uk’s (Lee Jae-wook) death and revival was the shocking ending of the first season of Alchemy of Souls. Now in the second season, which takes place three years later, we find a lonely Jang Uk who is not happy about his second chance at life. Much to the audience’s surprise, and unbeknownst to Jang-Uk, Naksu (Ko Yoon-Jung) is alive. However, she is unrecognizable because her soul has completely taken over Jin Bu-Yeon’s body. She has also lost her memory and has been locked up for three years by Jin Ho-Gyeong (Park Eun-Hye).
The first part of Alchemy of Souls ended in tragedy for the main protagonists with both their deaths. However, with the second part, both characters are not just given a second chance at life but a clean slate to fall in love with each other again. In essence, the second part of Alchemy of Souls exists to give Jang Uk and Naksu their happy ending, but then fails to fully flesh out the rest of the plot. In particular, the lack of elaboration on other characters gave this story an unsatisfactory climax, despite having a happy conclusion for the main couple.
Jang Uk’s and Naksu’s opportunity to renew their love story, as different people, is to be able to not just have a happy ending but to find their new roles in society. In the beginning of the series, Jang Uk was frustrated with the fact that his power was closed off, but now he is the most powerful mage. However, despite finally reaching his goals, he is now mourning his relationship with Naksu who he believes to be dead. Naksu, on her end, was an orphan who was trained to be an assassin by Jin Mu, and now she has the chance to be part of a family with a different set of powers. Together, they are able to heal from the past, and come into each other’s destiny not just as lovers but as a balanced pair of powers. Master Lee (Lim Chul-Soo) summarizes their new roles in the last episode:
He is a bright light that protects the world, and she is a shadow that protects him by embracing the darkness surrounding him.
Since the story of the second series was so focused on Jang Uk and Naku’s relationship, we only get a quick glimpse of the real soul of Jin Bu-Yeon. Throughout the series, the true owner of the body is a mystery with only hints at who she could be. In the end, we discover that Seol-ran’s soul, a powerful priestess, had shifted into Jin Bu-Yeon who died as a baby. So all along, Jin Bu-Yeon was a soul-shifter even before Naksu arrived. However, her main purpose was to save the world and not necessarily to live another life. It is clear the audience is not meant to feel sympathy for Jin Bu-Yeon, who gives up her body, since it was never hers to begin with. In addition, Jin Bu-Yeon is able to leave her body behind because she has trusted Naksu with her powers. In doing so, she allows Naksu to have a different chance at life, one where Naksu is not an assassin.
Unfortunately, another part that suffers in the plot is the main conflict with Jin Mu. At first, it seemed like the queen, who was stuck in Shaman Choi’s body, would be the antagonist as she sought out a way to soul shift. However, she proved to be a red herring. It was actually the king (Choi Kwang-Il) who is secretly working with Jin Mu in order to create another ice stone. This revelation comes out of nowhere as the king showed no inkling of villainy prior to the last episode. In fact, in previous episodes, he would not even let his wife, the queen, shift to a different body. He specifically states that it would not be right to allow her to break the rules of socery even if she is queen. Suddenly, the king along with the majority of the Unanimous Assembly are all backing Jin Mu in their quest to gain the ice stone. Their reasoning for doing so was to share the power. However, they did not give any explanation as to what use that power would have been if the whole world turned to ash which is required to create an ice stone.
As an audience, we are not given too much time to process the sudden revelation that so many were working with Jin-Mu in the background. If anything it was more like a cheap plot twist in the writers’ attempt to make the conflict in the story more shocking. However, even with this twist, the ultimate battle is a fairly anti-climatic scene. Jang Uk, with no fight or struggle, sets all the villains on fire, and kills them all. The villain’s storyline in the second season definitely took a back seat to Jang-Uk and Naksu’s love story. They were probably a million other ways they could have written Jin-Mu’s ending, but they chose the most boring outcome. If anything, the main problem was created just so Jang Uk and Jin Buyeon could show how they can now work together as a team with their balancing powers.
Thankfully, not just for our main couple, but for all the good people who were left behind, it is a happy ending. If you are here only for their love story, Jang-Uk and Naksu (who is now living as Jin Bu-Yeon) are out on adventures as the perfect pair of relic chasers. Ultimately, the big build-up to Jin Mu’s evil plan was not properly constructed and was a bit rushed compared to everything else that was so thoughtfully elaborated. All in all, if you were a fan of a romance in the first season, expect it to be the center of the story for the second part.
(Youtube. Images via Stone Music Entertainment and The Swoon.)