Although mildly overlong, the penultimate chapter of Alchemy of Souls had plenty of highlights and heightened drama.
This recap of the Netflix K-Drama Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 19, contains spoilers.
We begin with a flashback to Bu-yeon’s early life, watching as she guides Woo-tak (who is speculating that she is the daughter of Jang Gang based on the gwanju’s use of sorcery to save her), alongside Jin Mu, to the ice stone.
Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 19 recap
The husband of Ho-gyeong is cynically grateful to the blind girl for the life he has been afforded because of her, though it’s clear that he is looking to exploit her powers at sensing things. Later on, we hear that Bu-yeon’s powers came not just from her mother, but from her father too, who was a “descendant of the fallen Choi family.”
Given that the latter family made their living through curses, and were descendants of the first people to perform the alchemy of souls, the blinded girl ended up with skills that would enable to her to “become the best priestess anyone had ever seen.”
Naturally, this means that there’s a bit of jealously, proven by the fact that Jin Mu steals the ice stone from Bu-yeon on the boat, and seemingly makes no attempt to save her once she ends up overboard. In time, the young girl wakes up on an area of sand, looked after by an elderly lady who gives her the new identity of Mu-deok. Then, after a quick succession of scenes demonstrating that the body Naksu inherited is Bu-yeon’s, we return to the present.
Here, the group within the barrier speculate that Jang Uk and Mu-deok must have died, with the Crown Prince worried that everyone else will too. At the same time, So-i appears to wonder whether she can transfer the worm inside of her to an increasingly weakening Seo Yul, while Jin Mu confronts Park Jin over the lack of a noticeable reference to the ice stone in Words of the Heart.
Of course, Songrim’s leader is equipped to hold his own, demonstrating to the King how he too can read the love letter that proves the sought after item was not destroyed so that the author could save his lover. At this point, an argument regarding both sacrifice and power occurs, before we return to the end of the last episode.
After Mu-deok shares a passionate kiss with Jang Uk, neglecting her extreme power for love, we cut to Master Lee’s explanation of the King’s Star. Considered sad because of the responsibility that comes with it, the teacher details that people who are able to use the heaven’s energy sometimes must do things that they do not wish to, “which can be very distressing and lonely.”
Looking up to the sky, the experienced mage reflects that the star will soon appear, meaning that there will be some departures, as well as some returns. Elsewhere, Dang-gu arrives with Cho-yeon at the apothecary Eunuch Kim frequented, only to find themselves stunned at the appearance of Woo-tak.
Next, we see that Ho-gyeong’s husband has came to visit the real Queen, hoping to convince her that she should hold the person responsible for causing him to be this way accountable.
A quick flashback shows Jang Gang’s capture of Shaman Choi, which came along with a burning of the spell books and tools that were used to perform “evil divinations.” Here, we see that the villainous woman jumped into the blaze in an attempt to save the family heirloom, a book titled Cheongang that contained information on the alchemy of souls. Curious by this, Jang Gang keeps hold of the item while Woo-tak rescues his sister.
In the present, the bitter Woo-tak once more rues Jang Gang for what he did, blaming him for everything that happened as he watches the true Queen suffer. Concurrently, Shaman Choi admits to Jin Mu that it affects her whenever the real owner of her body regains consciousness, stating that she would already have killed the royal if it wasn’t for the Lantern of Life.
Unable to be reassured over her health, Choi swiftly begins to think about how the ice stone ended up at Jeongjingak, remaining determined that she will take the power of the item using the alchemy of souls once the timing is right. Showing a bit of humanity, the assistant Gwanju expresses his wish to have the Crown Prince saved before the fake Queen does anything, confident that she can wait given that everyone is too concerned with being on edge.
Alone, Ho-gyeong reflects on Mu-deok’s previous uttering of the word “mother.” Aiming to convince herself that she must have misheard, Jinyowon’s leader calls the situation ridiculous prior to being joined by Park Jin. He’s concerned that people are more bothered by the ice stone than those trapped by it, so suggests a partnership to break the barrier.
However, Songrim’s leader soon becomes frustrated by his former ally’s reluctance to budge from her stance that the item is exclusive to Jinyowon, rendering him unable to have a say, so questions her on whether or not the relic really has been safe in her area for 200 years. Bringing up the visit of Jang Gang that saw him claim the ice stone, Park Jin effectively forces Ho-gyeong into an answer, which comes after a flashback showing how the gwanju used sorcery to protect Bu-yeon is played.
As Ho-gyeong still attempts to blame Songrim for what happened, given that Jang Gang took the stone away from Jinyowon and performed the alchemy of souls,
Park Jin confesses that this was why he wished to hide things, but that now he will do whatever he can to unveil the truth so amends can be made, even if Songrim need to have their wrongdoings aired. Willing to even go as far as to reprimand a person close to him, Park Jin seems extremely determined.
After Woo-tak talks the real Queen through her impending death, one that will come once Shaman Choi has shifted into the body of So-i, he turns around, only to be unexpectedly greeted by his upset daughter, in addition to Dang-gu.
Shocked, Woo-tak cannot defend himself, kickstarting a battle of strength between the three parties. Quelled by a moment of intense regret, we’re not yet able to view the resolution as we cut to Maidservant Kim emotionally welcoming the returning Jang Gang.
Once the Crown Prince establishes that the soul shifter in Jeongjingak was killed, he sends Cha Beom out to look for the two protagonists, curious as to how Jang Uk in particular managed to slay the monster.
Meanwhile, Mu-deok explains her ice stone illusion to the young master, evoking a response which sees the mage suggest he gives his energy to the sky, perhaps so that he can better control the seemingly uncontrollable. Adding that they should potentially try and turn the foggy barrier into rain given the ice stone’s flexibility in form, Jang Uk hears that his plan to use Tansu here might work, but he knows that it will cost him his energy.
As such, Mu-deok is firmly against the idea that would see her pupil lose everything, despite it being a way to counteract the Queen’s haste in taking the relic for herself. With that being said, the former assassin softens when it’s brought up that part of this scheme is to help the ailing Seo Yul.
Following on from So-i’s gifting of her worm laced with the blood of the Jin family to Seo Yul, Jin Mu angrily instructs the desperate Queen to put away the Soul Ejector, perplexed at her willingness to use sorcery to obtain the ice stone in the presence of the Unanimous Assembly. Yet all that occurs is an argument, with Shaman Choi angered by the assistant Gwanju’s explanations on the order of the world, and defamation.
Unable to accept the idea of subtlety in the plan, the soul shifter bemoans the fact that she had to enter the Queen’s body, as well as the fact that Jin Mu only wanted people to worship him for wielding his power. Antagonising the Cheonbugwan mage further over him being the by-product of an affair that disallowed him the chance to be properly acknowledged by the Jin family, Choi soon finds herself stood up to, and her past life mocked.
Next, Park Jin instructs Dang-gu to bring the body of the real Queen to the training centre so the truth can be revealed, but is startled by the information regaled by Songrim’s heir that Jang Gang also had a part to play in this ordeal.
Still, it doesn’t stop him from bringing the royal along to show Cheonbugwan and Jinyowon what has really happened. Outside, other members of the Unanimous Assembly panic over the barrier, while Heo Yeom vocalises the need for someone to undo the power of the ice stone, just like Seo Gyeong did all that time ago.
Succeeding his explanation to the Crown Prince over his risky plan, Jang Uk asks his former foe to take care of what happens next should the ice stone disappear. “Those who coveted its power will become resentful,” the young master says, wanting the royal to clean up any mess from that point, unwilling to accept requests that he should stop the plan in its tracks due to its danger.
Believing he is acting out of vigour, Jang Uk takes the sword from Mu-deok, who herself offers a quote exactly the same as the one the Songrim mage earlier claimed was from his master, piquing the curiosity of the Crown Prince.
Back at the training centre, Park Jin brings Shaman Choi’s body into the room, offering up some context about her history while ensuring he informs the crowd that everyone in the room is somewhat related to the villain.
Alongside Woo-tak, the real Queen is revealed to the onlookers, unable to keep her nerve as she drops to her knees to talk to both the King, and the woman who so brazenly stole her life from her. Bluntly stating the truth about what Shaman Choi did, the ill royal unknowingly jumpstarts some checks of the validity of the person now occupying her seat in life.
Throwing what is said to be the ashes of Gwigu up in the air, Park Jin flusters Shaman Choi, who immediately panics. As it turns out, she didn’t need to, and it was all a ruse planned by Songrim’s leader to expose the soul shifting identity of the villain.
Though the body is left untouched, with the real royal wanting it preserved for a potential return despite Park Jin’s best efforts to air all of the wrongdoings which stretch from Woo-tak’s relation to the Choi family, to the fake Bu-yeon who was set to become the inheritance ground of the faux Queen.
When Woo-tak is put on the line as a way to try and get Shaman Choi to return the Queen’s soul to its rightful body, the antagonist unleashes a tirade on the onlooking crowd, carefully going through all of their mistakes.
Yet a shocking act puts a stop to another clash between the villain and Jin Mu, as we see that Woo-tak decides to kill himself so that his sibling can flee with the remaining Soul Ejector. Demonic in her demeanour, Shaman Choi vows to get rid of the ice stone, but warns that once she does, everyone inside it will die.
Shortly after, Jang Uk has his life spared by the sacrifice of Jang Gang, who stops the energy of the Soul Ejector in its tracks, then confesses his sins in front of the King as per the orders of Lee Cheol. “I am responsible for all the mistakes related to Songrim, Jinyowon, and Cheonbugwan,” the Gwanju admits, explaining that he will become petrified where he is to make up for all that he has done wrong.
Unflinching in his commitment to a swift death, Jang Gang rejects the idea of Jang Uk seeing him first, reaffirming that he did not want him to live as the “son of a sinner.” Ergo, the Gwanju puts an end to his life right after those words, before we cut to the young master, who is without energy, retrieving the ice stone. At that point, the King’s Star appears, shocking the Unanimous Assembly, putting an end to the barrier, and leaving Jang Uk seemingly unscathed.
As the excited onlookers all speculate that there was someone within the barrier born with the same fate as Seo Gyeong, Park Jin enters Jeongjingak to see the praise heaped upon the Crown Prince, though Songrim’s leader knows the truth. Sweetly, Jang Uk and Mu-deok establish here their contentment in being together even without powers, prior to a fast forward in time.
In the new present, Seo Yul pettily rejects the help of the former assassin, only to find himself on the receiving end of genuine sentiments regarding her thankfulness for him keeping her secret all this time despite it being hard.
Then, the two discuss how Naksu only exists in his memory now, meaning that she cannot come with him to Seoho Fortress as was once promised, but that he can keep the bird whistle as a reminder of a warm past. Saying goodbye to each other with gratitude, the pairing go their separate ways while drawing a line under the chapter of their life that had previously been left unresolved.
Elsewhere, Jang Uk receives a portrait of his father from Dang-gu, who explains Jang Gang’s sacrifice that stopped the penalisation of Songrim and Jinyowon, in addition to the fact that he may have denied the young master’s identity as his son to prevent Uk from being blamed. Jang Uk isn’t upset though, stating that he stopped being bothered by that speculation a while ago, yet he does do some reflecting on the one meeting he did have with the Gwanju.
While watching Songrim face the royal family to be told that they can keep Jang Gang’s belongings, we hear that Jin Mu is still being looked for, meaning that he must have gone AWOL after the ordeal with the Gwanju.
The real Queen is worried that the Cheonbugwan mage could have shifted souls to exit the capital, unable to be recognised, but it’s made clear that part of these worries are just a front for her own concerns that she will have to permanently exist in Shaman Choi’s body. Jumping to blame Jang Uk, Park Jin explains that the young master’s rights to become the next Gwanju were taken away, while the King believes it would be unfair to hold the Songrim mage accountable given the fact Jang Gang stated Uk was not his son.
Receiving an item from Maidservant Kim which confirms to him that the old King is the father of Jang Uk, Park Jin discusses the truth with his close friend, leaving the maid worried that Jang Gang ruined his son’s life. Songrim’s leader plans on keeping the news a secret from the young master, and everyone else, however.
At the same time, the Crown Prince is shown to the King’s Star engraving, with the royal hearing that people are excited for someone with the energy of the this star to become King. With that being said, the heir has more important things on his mind, especially when afforded the chance to head to Cheonbugwan’s secret room for a meeting with Jin Mu.
There, the assistant Gwanju wants to begin a partnership of mutual protection, stating that he will get rid of the “ominous light” Jang Uk, the real owner of the King’s Star, in return for his life being spared. Somewhat contemplative given his former rival possesses something the royal “desperately yearned” for, it appears like the offer is under consideration.
WATCH: Lee Jae-wook replaces Jung So-min’s knife with a kiss
Next, Mu-deok tries on a wedding dress on behalf of an unnamed bride, before Jang Uk enters for the two to perform a ritual together. The former assassin knows it is likely a proposal, yet it turns out to firstly be a grateful termination of the master-pupil relationship. Then, with the proper marriage proposal, and the happy couple staring contently into each other’s eyes upon the unspoken acceptance of a future wedding, the episode ends.
What did you think of the Netflix K-Drama Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 19? Comment below.