Alchemy of Souls season 2, episode 4 recap – how does Bu-yeon survive?

By Nathan Sartain
Published: December 18, 2022 (Last updated: March 13, 2024)
View all


An excitingly layered chapter that amplifies the drama around Daeho.

We recap the Netflix K-Drama series Alchemy of Souls season 2, episode 4, which contains spoilers.

Thanks to season two’s brisker pace, Alchemy of Souls has a nearly relentless excitement to it. Dynamics are continuously changing, storylines are progressing quickly, and there’s a real sense of urgency to proceedings, resulting in a truly engrossing watch. Episode four’s climax seems to see Jang Uk (Lee Jae-wook) embracing his grief for Naksu and acknowledging his need for new beginnings, so it’ll be intriguing to see how that will come to impact his almost tactical battle with Jin Mu (Jo Jae-yoon).

Alchemy of Souls season 2, episode 4 recap

We begin with Bu-yeon – who is trying to prove she and her partner have “liked” each other for a while – flawlessly retelling Naksu’s first memory of receiving the blue yin-yang jade, an act which stuns Jang Uk into angered shock. The reaction is so emotionally charged the Jinyowon priestess chooses to somewhat retreat in what she said, and she now labels herself as someone able to see other people’s recollections “that remain in objects,” no longer believing she was the original owner of the precious item. Deflated further upon hearing Jang Uk is disappointed, he ran to the Dark Forest to find only her, Bu-yeon goes to return the jade to Naksu’s grave, but it collapses once more.

After Bu-yeon expresses her own disappointment in the situation, Jang Uk instructs her to keep hold of the blue jade in the hope she will recover more of Naksu’s memories as her power returns. “I buried questions in that stone tower, thinking I would never hear answers to them. I might be able to hear them through you,” the monster hunter states, clinging to the belief he may discover how his love felt before her death. Still, Bu-yeon isn’t necessarily thrilled by this request, fixating on how she is now aware of the reasons why nobody believed she was married to Jang Uk.

Once Bu-yeon is sternly told by Jang Uk that she got what she wanted from their marriage, given she was taken from Jinyowon and given freedom, the priestess claims she is “at ease” now she has nothing to look forward to. Following that, we cut to the night, where Bu-yeon is determinedly rebuilding the grave of Naksu as she vowed to. The priestess is using her task as a form of therapy too, however, bemoaning her “jerk” partner and his attitude in between rearranging the stone tower.

As Bu-yeon traverses through the eery Dark Forest with the help of fireflies, she almost notices the lingering figure of Jang Uk in the background before being helped back to her house by Servant Lee and co. Elsewhere, the Crown Prince asks Eunuch Oh to keep him in the loop with any rumours involving the Queen’s use of sorcery. That, and we see the royal did end up purchasing the turtle from the market he visited the other day.

On a bloodied ship hosting numerous dead or wounded bodies, a glowing figure stands, proclaiming herself Naksu, who makes “heads fall to the ground” wherever she goes. An escapee shares this news and causes chaos, exclaiming to the panicked onlookers that the monster has returned as a “grotesque” and killed everyone at Lake Gyeongcheondaeho, vowing to “shift souls and return.” Yet as we see, this occurrence has something to do with So-i.

Although both Jang Uk and Seo Yul awkwardly skim over discussions on the legitimacy of the former’s wedding to Bu-yeon, and the latter’s ill health, things quickly turn sweet. The genius mage offers his monster-hunting friend an embrace to provide comfort over the coldness which surrounds him and expresses his happiness at being reunited with those close to him before his death (this is in reference to him saying he will pass away through apparently having changed suddenly).

After Park Jin’s practical joke involving a fish sauce-infused rice cake appears to teach a lesson on how people choose their own destiny despite life’s unpredictability, in addition to how things need to be experienced “no matter how bitter or sweet they may be,” Sang-ho interrupts the gathering. He informs Jang Uk and co. of the “ridiculous rumour” regarding the Lake Gyeongcheondaeho massacre being Naksu’s doing, and we see in a cutaway how the capital has become swept up in fear, with people purchasing any charm they can get their hands on in a bid to protect themselves from the monster’s ghost.

Later, Sang-ho tells Dang-gu and Seo Yul that no boats “suffered a mass murder recently,” sparking a realisation that someone is lying about Naksu’s apparent return. This is put down to the fact the third anniversary of her death is coming up, but Seo Yul isn’t content with such a justification, so sets out to find who triggered the fresh rumours. Meanwhile, the Queen herself becomes enamoured with the hearsay on Naksu’s re-emergence.

As Bu-yeon hears from Ju-wol that she would be wise to purchase a charm considering Naksu may resent the priestess for “stealing her lover,” the Crown Prince appears. Here, the royal reveals to Ho-gyeong’s daughter that he bought the turtle possessing “good energy,” and offers his encouragement in the face of her fear she has been abandoned by her husband.

At the palace, the King explains the transportation issues being caused by the grotesque at Lake Gyeongcheondaeho, and orders Jang Uk to take care of things. The monster hunter doesn’t wish to get involved initially, believing it will only heighten the seemingly outlandish rumours of Naksu’s return, yet his hand gets forced when Jin Mu cynically theorises his adversary only doesn’t want to help out because he “still cares” for the soul shifter. Thus, to allay any potential doubts people could have about whether he can keep them safe from sorcery, Jang Uk agrees he will catch Naksu the grotesque.

Sitting down with the Crown Prince, Jin Mu explains the situation. He wants Jang Uk to continue to be “haunted” by Naksu, stating that every soul shifter appearing before him will be considered his deceased love, which will allow for a portion of the blame to be put on the monster hunter should any deaths occur. “Jang Uk will constantly chase after Naksu although she does not exist, and it will never end,” Jin Mu smugly says, explaining the “vicious cycle” of people’s doubts and fears Uk will now be trapped by.

The Crown Prince isn’t overly happy with this, looking downcast over the idea Jang Uk will be bound by such scheming, but Jin Mu insists he is doing it to help the royal, disclosing that his plan will mean Jinyowon can be brought to the palace. “I cannot let Jang Uk marry Jin Bu-yeon, the heir to Jinyowon. Naksu will help us separate the two,” Cheonbugwan’s leader adds with a villainous smile. Concurrently, Sang-ho tells Seo Yul that Byeong-gu, the boat escapee, likely started the rumour of Naksu’s re-emergence when paid off by charm-selling shamans, though the genius mage considers context, and still wishes to find the apparent gambler. As we soon see, Byeong-gu was in fact actually mobilised by So-i.

While Bu-yeon is frustrated by the details she’s made privy to regarding Jang Uk’s intimate relationship with Naksu (which later causes the priestess to regain more of the late shadow assassin’s memories), Yun-o is bragging to friends about his increased status, as well as his ambitious plans to restore Jeongjingak “as a member of the Seo family” instead of heading back to Seoho Fortress. Fortunately, the egomaniac’s other idea of showing Bu-yeon off to his friends isn’t allowed to come to fruition, thanks to the firm intervention of Seo Yul.

Next, Bu-yeon walks with Seo Yul for a bit, and then asks him if he is unwell. The priestess brings up that it’d be “foolish” of the genius mage to let his condition go untreated (like he is doing), knowing the harm what’s inside of him could do, but she is asked to let it slide because the two previously agreed to be “foolish friends.” Following that, Seo Yul sees the similarity between Bu-yeon and Naksu when she brands his sweet preferences “expensive.” Elsewhere, Jang Uk talks with Park Jin, who informs the monster hunter of his wife’s vow of protection.

As the Queen tells the King of her interesting plans to hold an “extravagant” banquet with young women fearful of Naksu on the anniversary of the soul shifter’s death, we see Bu-yeon has received an invite. Maidservant Kim is overjoyed at this news, so she channels her excitement into finding the Jinyowon priestess a dress befitting the fancy occasion. There is a slight underlying reason for Do-joo’s altruism, however, as she wants to keep Bu-yeon distracted from rumours for the time being.

When Jang Uk sees Bu-yeon in one of her prospective banquet dresses, he finds himself complimenting her (albeit awkwardly) and even acts attentive enough to suggest she trims her growing nails. “When you go to the banquet, sit where everyone can see you. I want everyone there to see you that day,” the monster hunter smilingly instructs, wanting people to be made aware the Jinyowon priestess is his wife. Bu-yeon then gets her own requests granted (she wants to wear an ornament with Uk’s family crest on it, tell people the couple get along well, and boast that he “lit up a dark path” for her at night), making her visibly touched.

After Maidservant Kim transports Bu-yeon’s trimmed nails to Park Jin (for a currently unknown reason), the two flirt about what they will wear for that night’s banquet and how attractive the other will look. Following that, Dang-gu asks Do-joo to gift diamonds to Cho-yeon if she is seen at the Queen’s event, putting aside his fears of rejection. Concurrently, the Crown Prince ponders what would happen if a soul shifter appeared at the banquet to kill Bu-yeon, acknowledging that it would likely result in Jang Uk being blamed as per the plan of Jin Mu.

On a visit to Ho-gyeong, Park Jin straightforwardly asks for Jinyowon’s help in preventing the rumour of Naksu’s return from killing Bu-yeon. Meanwhile, the banquet gets underway, with the Queen greeting various women from the palace and making a tense compromise in allowing two members of the Jin family to attend. Overall, it’s a typically grand occasion, one punctuated with a fireworks display planned by Jang Uk, who apparently wishes to “light up the night sky” for his betrothed. However, his real aim is to use the colourful scenery to summon Naksu. “I’m sorry, but you will have to die now,” Jang Uk says to a stunned Bu-yeon.

As So-i tries to escape from her gambling den alongside Byeong-gu when Sang-ho comes looking, she finds herself stunted by a hiding Seo Yul. Elsewhere, when the banquet firework display is in full swing, a musician turns into a soul shifter and strikes Bu-yeon before fleeing, triggering mass hysteria. The Queen instantly alleges it was Naksu who killed the Jinyowon priestess, only to find her scheming scuppered by Maidservant Kim. “Young Lady Bu-yeon is safe,” Do-joo states, revealing that a white mouse relic named Gwiseo was sent by Ho-gyeong to pose as Bu-yeon so she could be protected from this attack.

Continuing, Jang Uk tracks and kills the soul shifter that targeted the relic, putting an end to the rumours of Naksu’s re-emergence in dramatic fashion. “Today, I got rid of Naksu, the soul shifter that appeared at the Queen’s banquet,” the monster hunter later feeds back to the King, hoping it can allow for peace in the capital. Concurrently, Seo Yul reveals to So-i that he does not take the medicine she gives him, and wants answers as to what lies in his body that will result in his death. Additionally, Master Lee returns to Songrim.

Ending Explained

At the cliff where Naksu died, Jang Uk stands in mourning before he drinks alone, recalling his days alongside his true love. Then, he seems to mistake the figure of Bu-yeon for that of the one he yearns for, though this actually allows him to properly cry over the death of Naksu, which he has avoided truly believing for three years. Later, Jang Uk wakes up in the middle of his sleep and kisses Bu-yeon, who has stayed beside him the entire night, bringing the episode to an end.

What did you think of Alchemy of Souls season 2, episode 4? Comment below.

More Stories on Alchemy of Souls

Netflix, Streaming Service, Weekly TV
View all