While nothing majorly important took place, the advancements in the story were enough to keep this chapter largely engaging.
This recap of the Netflix K-Drama Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 4, contains spoilers.
Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 4 recap
Beginning with a flashback that centres around Jang Uk’s birth, as well as the idea that the child must have the energy of the King’s star and be intrinsically linked to royalty, we see just how torn Jang Gang was by the situation with his kid. We then see a brief explanation that the young master was born when the star at the centre of ‘the Big Dipper’, which “contains nature’s secrets,” and reveals itself when the sky is filled with energy from the Daeho waters, appeared before we return to the present. There, a beaten-down Jang Uk wakes from an unhappy dream while bathing, remembering his banishment as he does so.
Afterwards, we find out through Maidservant Kim that Jang Uk is uncharacteristically not talking after the floggings, with the experienced maid believing that this all comes from being shunned by the person the young master believed to be a father figure. Hearing this, Naksu heads to her pupil to discuss the fact that the incident will allow him more time to train with the torrent of energy he was afforded. Here, we find out that Jang Uk has indeed been trying to perfect the steps, but is making little progress. Though interestingly, he does harbour high ambitions of being begged to come back to Songrim, much to the smug amusement of his master.
Soon, Naksu finds herself even more content after realising that the floggings actually caused the torrent to surge sooner and that the fever her pupil is suffering from is just a result of the transformation of the energy into heat. “That energy will be yours only if you can bear that,” she says when describing that soon he will switch from burning up into feeling chilly, before adding that he must continue to breathe slowly. In subsequent scenes, Naksu looks after Jang Uk, taking care of his fever to maintain a condition suitable enough to retain the energy. Her efforts are stunted by a curious Maidservant Kim, who quickly deduces that the young master could be running a fever.
As the illness becomes harder to deal with, Jang Uk’s friends attempt to convince Park Jin to take the young master back into Songrim to no avail, as the two men are required to focus on soul shifter cases instead. So the group inspect a body together, while the alchemy of souls is properly explained as being possible once a person has mastered Jipsu, Ryusu, Chisu, and Hwansu. The latter of which is the “godlike power” of changing water to fire, and vice versa, something seldom unattainable by humans. While looking into the tragedy, suspicions are raised about the fact that the man was meant to work at Cheonbugwan, the place the assassins rest. Ergo, Seo Yul and Dang-gu are tasked with observing the place for strange activities.
Next, a calm-minded magician, Teacher Lee, summons Sapsali to come with him in his quest to find soul shifters, with the spirit taking the form of a real-life dog to do so. Elsewhere, Naksu fights to stay awake so she can observe Jang Uk, while the pupil suggests that if he dies, she should take the torrent of energy within him. Ever the straightforward person, the shadow assassin goes on to explain that if she could do that, she would have killed him already, a statement that makes the young master wish to hear something more heartwarming. As such, a story is shared, one which pins Naksu’s entire safety onto Jang Uk while the two subtly embrace each other.
The following morning, the resilience inside of Jang Uk returns, although he remains unable to unsheathe his father’s sword, which is his ticket back into Songrim. He’s disheartened for a short while, but the encouragement from Naksu, who informs him that his rushing into trying to do what he is doing is an act of vigour, rather than stupidity, allows for some confidence to be felt. That is until the Crown Prince makes a surprise visit, ready to provoke the young master into giving up his swords now that he has hatched a scheme to crush him. Meanwhile, the other three of the four seasons of Daeho join together in a boat trip to see Jang Uk, armed with differing, humorous reasons for the trip.
Unable to agree to part with the swords, Jang Uk is challenged to an emasculating battle by the Crown Prince, who wishes to expose his weaknesses. With confidence though, the young master accepts the proposal, and the two end up contesting a heated fight which, although obviously uneven, allows for the resilience of Jang Uk to be shown on a deeper level. Ultimately, the battle is dubiously won by the young master, after Naksu helps distract the Crown Prince enough for him to step over the agreed line. But what happens after, when his friends arrive on the scene and his master is set to be punished, is most interesting, as Jang Uk bullishly intervenes enough to break the sword of his foe, and unsheathe what he was previously unable to. And, although he is unable to control his powers, it’s clear that the energy inside of him is slowly being worked on.
Wanting to prove a point, the Crown Prince insists on staying around to pick a fight, wanting any, or all, of the four seasons to challenge him. Yet it’s Mu-deok who manages to quell proceedings, begging the royal prior to offering to drink the dirty water she used as a distraction. What subsequently unfolds is a shared guilt trip of everyone wanting to consume the liquid together, which is enough to rid the house of Go Won. On his way out though, he is given Naksu’s sword in a strange token gesture from the shadow assassin. However, we soon discover the reasoning, with Naksu not wanting her pupil to get on the bad side of a royal before he is strong enough to fight him.
As Mu-deok goes to return to the group, Seo Yul confronts the maid about her manipulative personality until a swift escape can be made from the conversation. When the assassin washes up later on, she softens up though, touched by the appreciation shown by her pupil. Meanwhile, Park Jin talks with some of his acquaintances about the disappearance of Gwigu, yet finds himself interrupted by the appearance of Jang Uk. The young master is here to show the unsheathed sword, looking for acceptance into Songrim, and to be taken under the wing of the leader.
However, it’s a fruitless endeavour, as Jang Uk’s inability to control his energy causes genuine pain to his father figure, and the later revelation of the controversial altercation with the Crown Prince leads to arrest as opposed to acceptance. “He is uncontrollable and dangerous,” Park Jin says before he is warned by Jin Mu over the incident involving the swords. Later on, the animosity gives way to a genuine level of respect towards Jan Uk, as the leader of Songrim discusses his sudden success at learning abilities. But it turns out this is one final attempt to sway the young master away from the life he looks set to live, and when he initially fails to convince Jang Uk to avoid becoming a mage, Park Jin immediately discusses the fact that the man he took care of is not the son of Jang Gang, but rather the product of an affair.
While both parties simmer on the revelation of Jang Uk’s identity, equally upset by what has happened, Park Jin wonders whether he should just lie and state that he is the father of the young master. Of course, he won’t, and what follows is a humorous scene regarding looks before we see the assassin receive intel regarding the potential ownership of the missing spirit plaque, in addition to who Naksu may be nowadays. There’s an intriguing incident involving a soul shifter too, conducted as Teacher Lee watches on curiously.
Showing trust in Mu-deok, Seo Yul acknowledges that although the pseudo-maid always puts Jang Uk in danger, she always gives him what he wants, and protects him, so can be allowed to keep hold of the sword belonging to the young master. Then, the shadow assassin seeks to break the moping around, antagonising her pupil to the point he wants to quit his training and change the master-pupil relationship that is being forged. Afterwards, Jin Mu talks about the punishment of cutting the arm of Jang Uk off, much to the disappointment of Heo Yum. That is until Naksu suggests that the two fight again to prove the fairness of proceedings, something the evil leader wishes to head the request of.
In due time, the official request for a duel is put forward, so that the Crown Prince and Jang Uk can properly face off. It’s something that needs to be accepted for his own safety, but it appears that the young master decided to flee instead, along with Mu-deok. Here, it’s clear that Seo Yul trusts his former acquaintance, while Park Jin is told the blunt truth about the potential fate of Jang Uk should he not turn up for the duel by the middle of next month. However, Jang Uk is not exiting responsibility, but rather training at Sari village ahead of the important clash. With Naksu looking ready for the challenge, the episode ends.
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