Bulgasal: Immortal Souls season 1, episode 1 recap – a welcome change to this year’s K-Drama slate

By Nathan Sartain
Published: December 19, 2021
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Netflix K-Drama series Bulgasal: Immortal Souls season 1, episode 1


A blockbuster opening hopefully sets the tone for a propulsive fantasy thriller. The foundations have been laid for an epic, and it’ll be intriguing to see if the story continues to grow in the coming weeks.

This recap of Netflix K-Drama series Bulgasal: Immortal Souls season 1, episode 1, contains spoilers.

A welcome change from some of this year’s K-Drama slateBulgasal: Immortal Souls is a briskly paced entry into the fantasy genre which utilises sharp, colourful cinematography and an intriguing story to hook viewers in.

Bulgasal: Immortal Souls season 1, episode 1 recap

As proceedings open we’re treated to a sword fight, one which culminates in a mutual fall into a river, and one which quickly segues into narration that 600 years ago, human-eating monsters ravaged the lands before disappearing. That is aside from one last survivor, Bulgasal, who emerges from the water with a gash on his forehead and a message that he had waited for one particular person all this time.

When the episode properly gets underway, we arrive in Goryo, a place that has been taken over by Japanese pirates, and whose villagers are intimidated by the apparent threat of the corpse-eating Jomagu, who resides on an uphill path. The village itself is in the midst of a famine, and the scruffy make-up of its inhabitants seems to match their unflappable trepidation towards life and these aforementioned monsters. To quell such fears, a woman offers up her unborn child as a sacrifice to satisfy Jomagu, but nothing comes of the gesture. As such, the mother believes that her child is cursed, killing herself that same night with shame and worry that Bulgasal will appear, subsequently leaving her partner in disarray.

However, the child is, unfortunately for the village, born before the mother passes away, something a shaman says in disgust shouldn’t have happened. She believes that Bulgasal has cursed the baby due to a past-life vendetta, that it should have died along with the deceased mother, and that the monster will chase its soul “until the end.”

Some 10 years later, the kid has grown up somewhat, scruffy in appearance and living in apparent isolation from the rest of the villagers, who spit at him as they pass. Goryo itself is still in famine, and there is still an apparent level of discomfort to how each inhabitant conducts themselves. After further deaths believed to be caused by Bulgasal, the ostracised, nameless pre-teen quickly becomes the target of persecution instead, pursued by the men, women, and children who believe it is his fault that they are suffering such unenviable fortunes, in part thanks to the shaman who warns them of a potential village-wide massacre.

Such pursuits prove fruitless, though, and the boy, who is actually able to speak, is subsequently named Hwal by the General who prevents the child’s execution and handwaves the talk of a curse. He takes Hwal with him and further shuns the shaman’s attempts of deterring him by riding off in wilful ignorance, or perhaps unwavering confidence. As more time passes, Hwal becomes essential to the general’s military efforts in later life (now the Joseon period), killing monsters single-handedly and changing the narrative to one which sees him dubbed as being “blessed by Bulgasal.” It doesn’t stop some from feeling anxiety though, with some military personnel referring to Hwal as the “real monster” given his generally emotionless persona, something which seemingly disallows room for grief to an almost hyperbolic degree.

Soberingly, when we are introduced to Hwal’s child, he is seen to be blind, his eyes covered by wrapping which exposes the sight of rings of blood where eyes should be, and the ambling walk he is lumbered with a cruel reminder of his fate. This, the protagonist believes, is the culmination of the shaman’s foreboding, and tangible proof to him that the curse of Bulgasal is true, and will affect anyone who he comes into contact with. His own wife resents him as a result, but Hwal believes that she is just as much of a monster as him, leading to a poignant conversation of sorts. When she sees the face of a mysterious woman when quizzed, the same woman who saved the protagonist and seemingly died for him, it becomes apparent that the couple may be cursed as a pairing. Hwal, however, is determined to break his own curse, taking his son, A-chan, as well as some soldiers, along for the ride too.

In the midst of this curse-breaking expedition, Hwal passes through Goryo, and we are shown that the residents now worship and sacrifice people regardless of age, for Bulgasal in a bid to protect themselves. The shaman once again reappears here too, further explaining that the monster will play havoc with the village and kill everyone there. Conflict does ensue with the Goryo inhabitants over such beliefs, but in the midst of the turmoil, Hwal finds himself drawn to the same mysterious woman who not only is alive but leads him on a path to a remote area. Here, her eyes glow solemnly as she is confronted, and said to be Bulgasal. Before she can respond, arrows are driven into her back, and she collapses into the arms of the man seeking answers before finding a way to flee.

The ending

After those entrusted by Hwal end up dying in a battle with a monster, including A-chan and Hwal’s wife, it turns bleak for the protagonist, who is left to come to terms with his own poor decisions, particularly his lack of affection towards his only child. There isn’t much time for contemplation though, as before you know it his eyes begin to glow too following a stab in the back. It’s now evident that he has been possessed by the entity which we assume has cursed him all these years.

What did you think of the Netflix K-Drama series Bulgasal: Immortal Souls season 1, episode 1? Comment below! 

You can watch Bulgasal: Immortal Souls by subscribing to the streaming service. 

Netflix, Streaming Service, Weekly TV
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