Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 20 recap – the finale and ending explained

By Nathan Sartain
Published: August 29, 2022 (Last updated: last month)
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Alchemy of Souls concludes its first season with real style, with a nail-biting finish topping off an extremely engaging episode.

We recap the Netflix K-Drama Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 20, the finale and ending explained, which contains spoilers. 

Recaps, news, and reviews for Alchemy of Souls.

Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 20 (the finale) starts with a light scene showing Park Jin looking at houses alongside Maidservant Kim, who is happy at the idea of the children of the soon-to-be newlyweds leading Songrim and Jinyowon. There is a humorous moment of ham-fisted confession here too, which comes after Songrim’s leader tries to thoughtfully offer to gift a house on Kim’s wedding day, still believing that she harbours feelings for Master Lee. Of course, she doesn’t, but once the moment of proper revelation comes, which is surprisingly emotional, Park Jin is left stood up, unable to express his reciprocation.

Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 20 recap – the finale and ending explained

Later on, Jang Uk consoles the upset Maidservant Kim. She claims that she is jealous that Dang-gu is marrying before the young master, though the maid is swiftly informed that Uk too will marry soon. However, the disclosure that the woman Jang Uk will wed is Mu-deok shocks the person he has been so close to all these years, as she believed Lady Heo was primed to be his romantic partner. Elsewhere, the former assassin shares the happy news of her engagement with Ju-wol, accepting her changed fate that now means she will be protecting those close to her, not cutting ties with them.

Next, Jin Mu informs the Crown Prince that he will find the sword that can help destroy Jang Uk, believing that he is the only person who can protect the royal. However, the heir rebuffs the assistant Gwanju’s words, replying that the young master’s energy has already disappeared, he is no longer eligible to be the next Gwanju, and that people believe that it’s himself who the King’s Star has risen for. Acknowledging Jang Gang’s sacrifice, in addition to Jin Mu’s guilt, the Crown Prince wants his former master to come clean himself.

With that in mind, the Cheonbugwan leader still has more information up his sleeve. Detailing that the ice stone gets its power from the sky, which is then awarded to the person born with the energy of the King’s Star, the apparently loyal Jin Mu plants the idea of Jang Uk hiding his energy in the head of the Crown Prince. Concurrently, Ho-gyeong attempts to get Woo-tak to speak now that he has regained consciousness, stating that she only saved him so that he can atone for his sins. Hoping that the criminal feels agony for what he did to their daughter, Jinyowon’s leader leaves the man she once loved in tears.

When Jin Mu becomes aware of Woo-tak’s consciousness, he informs his colleagues that they must get rid of their former partner, knowing that he could be exposed should they keep him alive. Here, the assistant Gwanju also receives the Queen’s soul potions and divination bells, with the latter item capable of making any soul shifter “go on a rampage.” Cynically, the wanted Cheonbugwan mage could seek to exploit this in a bid to get Jang Uk to reveal whether he has the ice stone’s power or not. Meanwhile, the young master commissions the crafting of wedding rings but finds himself needing to comfort Mu-deok over his commitment thanks to his alarmingly vast experience in jewellery purchasing for women. In the background, Lady Heo is disappointed over how her fate played out, somewhat deflated by the recollection of her near confession.

Surprisingly, Seo Yul is still feeling pain despite his wound healing, so he consults Lady Heo over whether something else happened while he was unconscious in the barrier. Finding out that he was given the missing So-i’s blood, the genius mage trusts that he will get better soon and asks that his condition is kept a secret. Then, we cut to see the escapee swindler bandage the wound spawned from the worm’s disappearance again, clearly in a state of distress over her own pain, as well as the fact she knows just how uncomfortable Seo Yul must be without taking the medication from Jinyowon.

As Maidservant Kim accepts Mu-deok into the household, relieving her of the need to partake in household chores, the former assassin upsets the person who refuses to call Jang Uk’s wife-to-be “my lady” when bringing up Kim’s relationship with Park Jin. Together, they call Songrim’s leader a fool for being so slow on the romantic uptake, while we see that the recipient of the harsh words is moping around in his own space. Fortunately, Jang Uk is on hand to subtly convince Park Jin to hold onto Maidservant Kim and stop her from following the young master away from the capital, something he duly does with a sweet admission of his slow-wittedness. As a result, Kim agrees to walk at the same pace as Songrim’s leader, finally marking the beginning of their relationship.

After being shown Master Lee’s disappointment in missing out on a chance to court Maidservant Kim, we return to Woo-tak’s treatment. Outside, Mu-deok says that she needs to check with Jin Mu as to whether there is a story about her father becoming a soul shifter. As we see, there is, one which paints Daeho’s figureheads in a negative light considering they killed an innocent man whose only crime was being aware of Jang Gang’s use of sorcery, even if that awareness effectively forced the assistant Gwanju to turn the constellation mage into a soul shifter that ran wild. In the present, Maidservant Kim relays Jang Gang’s wishes to have Lord Cho’s name cleared from the rumours that he killed his own family, which is to be discussed at the next Unanimous Assembly. Later on, Park Jin discusses Jin Mu’s knowledge of Jang Uk’s reality with his partner, informing her that the Cheonbugwan leader turned Cho Chung into a monster solely to torture the Gwanju. Acknowledging Maidservant Kim’s point that the assistant Gwanju could expose the young master’s secret, Songrim’s leader bluntly states that Jin Mu must be killed.

Recalling the information that a divination curse on the Soul Ejector can control the soul that uses it, Jin Mu picks up his newly acquired bells, ready to make any given soul shifter run wild. However, the assistant Gwanju runs into a problem when hearing that Jang Uk will be leaving the capital, knowing that defeating the special mage is the only way of retaining influence on the Crown Prince. Frustrated, he starts wracking is brain on who could have changed the young master, before realising that Mu-deok may be the key to all his queries. As such, Jin Mu heads out to confirm that the maid is in fact Naksu, manipulating her with the divination bells. “You have given me hope,” the Cheonbugwan mage says to himself, clearly confident that he can exploit this situation.

In a scene where Master Lee has a heart-to-heart with Jang Uk, we get a couple of nuggets. Firstly, Jang Uk seems to house the power of the ice stone within him, yet only wants to use it if it is to stop Mu-deok from running wild. As well as this, Master Lee trusts that the former assassin’s soul is in the body of someone with divine powers (hence why she has not turned into a monster). Elsewhere, a panicked So-i returns to collect the pain relief medication but is stopped in her tracks by Ho-gyeong. At first, Jinyowon’s leader seems ready to kill the swindler, though she swiftly changes in her demeanour when presented with what appears to be definitive proof that her daughter is still alive. Still, So-i refuses to point her former faux mother in the right direction, for now, wanting her safety confirmed first.

When Park Jin notifies the Crown Prince of the ice stone’s disappearance, in addition to Songrim and Jinyowon’s desire to rid Daeho of the remaining soul shifters created by the Choi siblings, the royal takes the subsequent request for his help as a way of implying that Jin Mu should not be protected. Feeling trusted by the point made that he is not blinded by his former master, the Crown Prince uses this opportunity to ask Songrim’s leader on his belief over who the King’s Star who did away with the ice stone is. Unfortunately for the royal, he does not get Park Jin to crack, meaning that Jang Uk’s identity is still not properly admitted to.

Succeeding the official ending of her job in Songrim, Mu-deok is graced with the presence of an annoyed Crown Prince. Feeling emasculated because of the flattery coming his way based on a lie, the heir to the throne wants to stop Jang Uk from leaving the capital, given the fact the young master is aware of the royal’s weakness. Unable to be calmed down by the former assassin’s rationale that he will only feel worse should Uk stick around, the Crown Prince vocalises his displeasure in Mu-deok being with her partner, requesting that they go far away so that they can stay safe from his potential “violent, wicked” feelings that would see an end to the pairing’s relationship.

Ahead of his marriage, Dang-gu spends a night with his friends discussing everything from love to Jang Uk’s impending move to Sari Village, to Seo Yul’s continued pain. Later on, the genius mage receives the required medication but wishes to find the person aware enough of his condition to gift him the item. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince tells Jin Mu that he will cast Jang Uk, who is believed to be without the ice stone, far away, and orders the assistant Gwanju to admit to his crimes by the end of the day. Should he fail to do so, he will be captured by the royal. Yet Jin Mu soon manoeuvres the heir to the throne into believing that he has been deceived by Daeho’s figureheads so Jang Uk can be protected. Ergo, the focus seems to shift again, with the Crown Prince tempted by the idea of his rival being exposed enough to hit rock bottom.

Following on from some light-hearted moments involving the drunken pairing of Mu-deok and Maidservant Kim, Jang Uk reflects on his need to inform his lover of what Master Lee said regarding her body, believing that he may find out more information once he is at Sari Village. That night, the divination bells return, however, causing Naksu to seemingly enter a controlled state courtesy of the Gwanju.

Next, we watch the wedding between Dang-gu and Cho-yeon, one that looks set to be a celebratory occasion despite some petty squabbles between the leaders of Songrim and Jinyowon. With that being said, it’s not all happiness, as the next scene shows the level of control Jin Mu now has on Naksu, with the assistant Gwanju referring to the assassin as his “last weapon.” Swearing to use all of his power to bring out hers, then make her run wild, it’s obvious that this is how the Cheonbugwan villain will seek to finish Jang Uk off.

As Ho-gyeong tries to decipher the likelihood of Mu-deok being Bu-yeon, Cho-yeon gets ready to visit her recovering father alongside Dang-gu. However, this meeting is unable to properly take place, as the now powerful Naksu kills the Choi family descendant in front of the newlyweds, who themselves are unable to stop the assassin. Rather interestingly, the controlled soul shifter recalls her own father when hearing the cries of Cho-yeon, ready to head the order of Jin Mu to murder those responsible for his death.

At the wedding location, Jin Mu causes a scene, claiming that he has arrived to catch a soul shifter, the assassin Naksu, who is currently in Songrim. With the revelation that Mu-deok is this sought-after assassin, pursuers soon converge on Sejukwon, kickstarting an aggressive cat-and-mouse chase for the pseudo-maid. Yet when she finally appears outnumbered, Jang Uk enters the immediate vicinity, protecting his lover before being viciously stabbed by her. Accepting the sacrifice, the young master falls to his knees, calling out the name of Mu-deok until she comes to her senses. But the damage has been done, shattering the soul shifter’s heart as she weeps over what happened because of her return as Naksu. Then, Jang Uk drops to the floor, unconscious, flanked only by his distraught lover.

When the bells are used again by Jin Mu to control his weapon, Naksu flees the area, leaving Jang Uk with a devastated Park Jin. With Daeho grief-stricken by the various acts of violence inflicted by the soul-shifting assassin, things seem hopeless. Dang-gu informs his uncle that he believes his friend was already aware of Mu-deok’s real identity, as well as the fact that Jin Mu is raiding Jeongjingak to find proof of said claim. Seo Yul tries to confess to his involvement, too, only to be told by Heo Yeom that he knows nothing and that he cannot leave the premises. Elsewhere, Cho-yeon swears to kill Naksu, though her mother instructs that the assassin should be brought to Jinyowon alive, as the body of the villain belongs to someone else.

In front of the King, Jin Mu says that he found Naksu to clear his name and reveals his hopes for Songrim to be strongly punished for what happened. The Crown Prince asks where the assassin is, seemingly concerned, hearing back that Cheonbugwan’s men will find the soul shifter, who will soon become petrified.

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The ending

After Maidservant Kim vehemently cries over how Jang Uk’s death is being treated “as if he is a criminal,” unable to have his cremation altered to something more respectful, we cut to the proceeding. There, everyone in attendance is emotional, while concurrently, a confused Naksu finds herself at the soul shifters’ grave. Though a glimmer of hope emerges as Master Lee vocalises the fact that this is not the King’s Star’s end, something proven by his emergence from the rising ashes that turn blue prior to ceasing entirely. Then, we see that a sinking Mu-deok is saved by two figures before the season ends, focused on Jang Uk’s determined demeanour upon his shock return.

What did you think of the Netflix K-Drama Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 20 (finale), and the ending? Comment below.

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