The Scholar Who Walks the Night: Eps 5 - 8; Followed by a note on Taekkyon
March 2, 2021 9:02 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

I mean it's really hard to chase a coherent narrative thread through these chunks of episodes. Plans are made, fail, and are repeated to fail again. The complicated momentum of the story stutters; the visuals remain fabulous. Kim Seong Yeol and Yang Seon begin a dance of fascination round each other.

The existence of Gwi is not generally known outside of inner court circles. The King, Lee Yoon's grandfather, is a puppet and must appear obedient to Gwi even to extent of having earlier given up his own son, former Crown Prince Sadong, to be murdered for insurrection. The Prime Minister supports Gwi with enthusiastic self-interest, the King has his own plans which depend on the Prince's survival and which the latter's covert rebellion threaten. As the series advances Lee Yoon's position becomes trickier and his actions and subterfuges more desperate and compromised. Meanwhile Gwi becomes aware through the various appearances + rescues + mysterious background etc of cross-dressing-young-bookseller Yang Seon, that Kim Seong Yeol is back in the game. Gwi is provoked into throwing his weight around and murdering entire classes of people he suspects of plotting against him, beginning with the booksellers.

KSY is no match for Gwi partly because he is younger (Gwi is ancient) and mostly because he is reluctant to feed on humans and isn't ever operating at full strength. But Gwi has Yang Seon's scent and there's another chase through the woods ending with Gwi immobilised by sunlight - KSY tried to hold him in it to destroy him but wasn't strong enough - and a desperately wounded KSY holed up in a hut with Yang Seon. His people come and get him and take him home to the restorative he needs, a presumably villainous bloke tied up in study. Cue much agonising later.

By the next day he decides to throw in with Lee Yoon and proceeds to rescue the bunch of scholars arrested for the next massacre, telling them he himself is Lustful Scholar. After the scholars have been sent to safety he supports their families with food money and land, again under the name of Lustful Scholar. Public sentiment turns towards Lustful Scholar and against what is understood to be the government but is actually the caprice of a blood-sucking monster. Oh yeah in this bunch of episodes Yang Seon turns out to have magical vampire-healing delicious blood, leading to KSY repeatedly trying to send her away, since he craves it.

In eps 5 – 8 Kim Seong Yeol wears
* Same smoky grey/blue over white with the same hat beads as before.
* Purple surcoat over heavy turquoise silk damask hanbok, red cord belt. Same hat beads. Turquoise has a purple bloom.
* Ecru silk surcoat with painted rose, purple, yellow and grey flowers all colours muted/dusky; asymmetric on both shoulders continuing down to mostly the right side front skirt panel; over black and dark grey heavy damask hanbok with plum coloured double cord beaded belt. Hat beads are gold and cream small round beads interspersing variegated tan and faun long beads, could be made of horn? This outfit is stunning.

Kim Seong Yeol is seen putting this on – it's heavy and he needs help with it from Ho Jin – the morning after his sanguinary lapse so I guess he has had a long bath and made himself feel better with some self care, self talk and hardcore meticulous grooming.
posted by glasseyes (2 comments total)
 
Taekkyeon, the first martial art to be designated as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

It's impossible not to notice how graceful and spare Kim Seong Yeol's fighting style is and I think it is based on taekkyeon. Ok so as a supernatural being he's supposed to be able to defeat a human with his bare fingernail but the aesthetics of taekkyeon looks very suited to portraying this. Me in my deep ignorance of martial arts will try and explain what I found on the internet as follows.

Going by TSWWTN itself and youtube, if an opponent dances up to you, slides between all your moves and delicately tips you over while you're in the fullest stretch of an attack, that'll be taekkyeon. They may also have kicked you in the head before you've seen them coming. Or, as shown a few seconds later in that last clip, if an opponent leaps lightly onto your shoulders and again gives you a sound kicking, leaping down while you yourself fall not so gently to the ground, that's also likely to be taekkyeon. Done in costume and including a lot of wire work, the Night Scholar's fights tend to be gorgeous, and the climactic fights between the vampires resemble the courtship dance of cranes (@19 secs). It would be a terrific spoiler to link the fight that most resembles that here, so I won't.

Taekkyeon is a recovered national cultural treasure that nearly died out during the Japanese Occupation of 1910-45. Three masters were mainly responsible for it's revival, Song Duk Ki (1893 – 1987) who taught Shin Han Seung (1928 - 1987) and their successor Jung Kyong Hwa. Gleaning from the questions put by various Korean interviewers online it actually seems not as widely known in South Korea as you might expect.

An intro, 세계 무술[Martial Arts]- 한국 전통무술 택견 (Korean Martial Arts Taekkyeon)

Some of the more elaborate swordsmanship (@25secs) in the series is also based on formal traditional excercises.

As a lively child, the actor Lee Joon Gi was signed up to taekkyeon class to keep him out of trouble, so it is the first martial arts speciality of a person who also has training in taekwondo and ju jitsu and famously performs most of his own stunts.
posted by glasseyes at 9:54 AM on March 2


Sorry for the long delay; it has been a month.

The story continues to deepen. I am a little concerned that they can keep up this pace until the end. We are only 40% of the way through.

Stuff I like:

1. The clothes. They are very gorgeous. As are pretty much all the leads.

2. However, the show is OK with showing the vampires as terrible corpse-people, which is... nice? The point is that they aren't afraid to lean into the horror and make their attractive leads monstrous.

3. Things get increasingly tough for Jo Yang-sun. IT looks like the creators are willing to let her suffer pretty badly, which.... might be terrible but raises the stakes a lot, and they kind of avoid making it look pretty. There is a real sense of jeopardy.

4. What is it with Gwi's clothes choices? Especially his hats? Partly, I think it's to play up how attractive Lee Soo-hyuk is, but there is a sense that Gwi can't care less about appropriate dress or behavior. He is the ultimate outsider/low class gut who can force himself into the refined Joseon setting as a disruptive, contemptuous interloper. I hope we get more backstory on him, and he isn't just am awful jerk. Well, I mean, he clearly is, but I hope there is a little more than that.

5. Yang-sun's foster mother finally gets humanized! She was so terrible, and we get to see that she is driven (at least in part) by fears about her family. And herself, I suppose. I don't want to rehabilitate villains, but I like it when they have coherent reasons for tehir behavior.

6. (I very much enjoyed the scene with Crown Prince Lee Yoon and Kim Sung Yeol separated by a dais. It was a very tense and tender scene. These two should be close allies, but they find themselves opponents or at least rivals, and I'm sure that will cause trouble.

stuff I didn't like:

1. They are long episodes -- about 62 minutes each, which is kind of wearing with the month I have had.

2. The plot is so extravagant and complicated that it is sometimes hard to follow. I am losing track of how many people have confessed to being the Lustful Student by now.

Still, if you aren't watching this, you should be. It's a lot of fun.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:13 PM on April 11


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