I’ve finally finished this drama and—… I have very mixed feelings about it. In a nutshell it suffered choppy editing, poor transitions, muddled writing and jarring use of music, but the cast make it worth the watch.
[Be Forewarned: Spoilers Below]
Writing Inconsistencies and Scattered Plot: To start, I think it’s quite obvious that the drama had MAJOR plot issues. This is partially due to the fact that they welcomed the addition of a new writer circa episode eleven and it wasn’t difficult to note the massive changes that resulted. Basically, the plot started advancing at a rather quick pace compared to previous episodes. I mean…. seriously… it took us eight episodes just to find the memorandum and then when the new writer joined we witnessed sudden deaths, discussions of having to sacrifice main characters, and a few jarring plot twists.
Repeated Brooding over Problems = Lack of Progress: A massive issue I had with this drama was the repetition of scenes surrounding “main issues.” I can only handle so much brooding over Yang Sung needing to be saved, sacrificed, etc. I could do without the excessive use of dramatic irony this show utilized. It worked against the drama in many cases, and I found it rather difficult having to watch such intelligent characters working hard toward a cause when the audience already knew that it wasn’t going to work out. Or watching them make great efforts, but somehow accidentally working against each other in the process all because one character didn’t communicate what they just learned to another character until it was too late. This sort of scene played out numerous times and became tiring and not to mention boring—especially in later episodes.
I think the plot surrounding Yang Sung needing to be sacrificed was overdone in the sense that the characters spend at least five episodes arguing and ruminating about how to handle the situation. Instead of focusing solely on that concept, I think they should have spent more time either:
A. developing Soohyang and Hyereong— two very strong female characters whom I believe lost the opportunity to show their full potential.
B. coming up with a better final plan.
Because let’s be honest… the plan they ended up going with was beyond shabby. I blame the writers for this one. It boggles my mind that we spent so much time suffering from the desperation of having to possibly sacrifice Yang Sung and this whole concept of needing her blood was pushed and hoisted about…but in the end… they just decide to….blow shit up? Are you kidding? That’s what I sat through 20 episodes for? Honestly it’s so disappointing because the drama had a lot of potential and I feel that had the writers put their talents to good use, they could have devised something much better than the skimpy cop out of a last resort plan they ultimately presented us with.
Romantic Focus Leaves Many Unanswered Questions : I think it could also be said that the drama spent a lot more time focusing on the romance aspect than it did on the other plot points. There were so many questions that remain ambiguous, for example:
Why is Sungyeol able to control himself after having Yang Sung’s blood in earlier episodes but not later on?
I suppose the argument could be made that he only swallowed a meager amount but … it’s not like he drank a heaping helping of it when she kissed him.
How did Yang Sung survive (not become a vampire) after Sungyeol bites her in the final episode?
Isn’t it sort of peculiar that they completely ignore providing an explanation to such a possible and expected outcome? I guess since he didn’t drink all of her blood they assumed it didn’t need an explanation?
And my personal favorite: …
Was Sungyeol honestly alive at the end or was it actually a cruel mirage that Yang Sung was imagining?
Ambiguous Ending?: Maybe I’m just not intelligent enough to pick up on what was going on, but I couldn’t tell whether he was there in reality or whether it was just a figment of her imagination. I know that Prince Yoon miraculously has his sword back, which first caused me to lean towards Sungyeol being alive, but the voiceovers at the end between Sungyeol and Yang Sung confused me. Especially since they sort of just disappear into thin air. I think the fact that they used voiceovers rather then having the two talk directly to each other is what makes me question whether it was just a dream or not. It really left me hanging and I wasn’t a fan of that. Of course, you could probably interpret it either way. Some might conclude that he was truly there and that we got the happy ending we surely deserved and others (who are skeptics like me) might believe in the possibility of it being Yang Sung meeting him in spirit. I can’t complain too much. Even though I’m not a fan of the obscure ending, it’s better then a stone cold sorrowful end. I’d rather it be up to my own interpretation than know for sure that Sungyeol died a horrible death— because seriously…I didn’t commit to this drama only to be subjected to the unjust death of Sungyeol.
On the positive side, this is actually one of my favorite dramas to date, which is especially shocking after the browbeating I just gave it. Despite all its plot flaws, the drama was overall pretty enjoyable considering its genre and story. Let’s be real… a historical drama involving vampires— no … anything involving vampires… runs the risk of crossing the line to campiness. Not everyone shares my opinion, but I think the angst added to the drama and made it more serious and believable. I wouldn’t have wanted a lighthearted comedy about vampires. If that’s what it had turned out to be, I would have tuned out before the show even started.
The Power of Lee Jun Ki and an Outstanding Cast: Thankfully, this drama was able to escape such a horrid fate. This is undoubtably due to Lee Jun ki’s stellar acting. Seriously…he outdid himself. And before you point fingers, that’s not just my inner fangirl talking, it’s simply the damn facts. Jun Ki definitely handled his character with care and showed his capacity as a well rounded and deeply expressive actor. It was simply awe inspiring to watch his performance as Sungyeol.
But it doesn’t stop there. One of the main reasons I came to love this drama was due to the mesmerizing cast. It’s rare that I come across a drama so brilliantly and perfectly casted as Scholar Who Walks the Night. Not only did the main characters shine, but every single person from the second, third, fourth and fifth tier actors committed to their character. Characters like Soohyang (Jang Hee-Jin), Hojin (Choi Tae-Hwan), Hunter Baek (Han Jung-soo), and Hakyoung (Yeo Ui-Joo) were amazingly portrayed.
I must give Shim Changmin the credit that is due. For anyone who hasn’t followed his acting career, let me tell you— the man has improved greatly and this has by far been his best performance. (It’s so hard to believe this is the same man from Paradise Ranch.) Lee Soon-Jae also had a very outstanding performance as King (as expected). This was Lee Yoo-Bi’s first time taking on a lead role and I must say she did a decent job of portraying the sweet girl, gushing over the scholar. She definitely made Yang Sung light, innocent, and most importantly: likable. However, she seemed to fall flat in the more emotional scenes. She was the only one that I felt struggled a bit with her role, which is likely do to her lack of experience in lead roles. I like her in general though, so that probably softened the blow for me. Kim So-Eun held her own as well, starting out as the sweet and devoted Myunghee and transitioning to the cold and calculating Hyereong. I felt her portrayal of Hyereong was done very well and you could see the significant change between her portrayals of the two different characters.
Lastly, this was my first time encountering Soo-hyuk in a drama (aside from a Tree With Deep Roots…but sadly I faintly remember him in that.) Soo-hyuk deserves praise for his acting as Gwi because, similar with Jun Ki, he had the difficult task of portraying a vampire— and that’s not an easy thing to do. I think he succeeded in maintaining the serious atmosphere of the drama because he was proficient at simulating anger and disgust through his features. We were able to get caught up in the emotion and feel it rather than focus on the fact that he was drooling blood half the time and somehow always managing to miss the mark when attempting to wipe it from his chin. The only complaint I have is the constant sniffing. Look, I get that vampires use their abilities to pick up on the scent of their prey but the man was constantly snorting up a storm and if I didn’t know any better I would have mistaken that powder white BB cream for some crack cocaine.
Character Growths: As for character development, I appreciated how Yang Sung grew over the episodes from a sort of weak and dependent figure, toward a more independent and noble figure. This was exemplified in her writing of the Night Scholar in an effort to aid Sungyeol and her willingness to sacrifice herself for the sake of the people. Hakyoung is another character that I loved in this drama. The bromance between him and Yoon was a beautiful thing. Damn. I wish they would have let Hakyoung live, but of course that would have caused all kinds of plot problems …and we have enough of those already…. Soohyang slowly became one of my favorite characters in the drama, especially toward the later episodes in her encounters with Gwi, because she got to show her great wit. In the case of both her and Hyereong, I wish we could have gotten more scenes of girl power like this! Last, but certainly not least, I have to give Hojin credit where it’s due. He was an outstanding use of comedic relief, not to mention a super endearing character.
The drama mostly catered to those seeking a romantic fix with some added angst. As a whole, it was certainly entertaining despite its faults. If anything, the superior acting was the glue that held this drama together. I’m not afraid to say that it’s a decent drama that holds its own, even if just for the acting alone. If you’re looking for a drama revolving around romance, it definitely gets the job done, so the acting is just an added bonus to your cause. I definitely don’t regret the twenty episodes I spent watching this drama and coincidentally, this is the first time I watched a drama weekly while it aired. Usually I wait for a drama to complete itself, so I can watch it at my own pace. Whether that was the power of my love for Lee Jun Ki or the drama itself… we may never know… However, I do recommend watching this drama. If you’re a fan of fantasy, historical dramas, vampires, suspense, or romance, I think you would find it enjoyable. Most of all, if you’re a fan of Lee Jun Ki— it’s a must watch. It’s been a wild and emotional ride, but Scholar Who Walks the Night has been a memorable experience. I’m going to miss seeing Vampire Jun Ki, but I’m grateful for the efforts he invested into this drama and I’m eagerly awaiting his next project.