Scholar Who Walks the Night (밤을 걷는 선비)
Synopsis: To make ends meet, Yang Sun begins cross-dressing as a male bookseller, and meets the handsome and mysterious scholar Kim Sung Yeol, who works at the Hongmungwan. Sung Yeol is a vampire, and he continues to be haunted by the long-ago death of his first love Lee Myung Hee. Meanwhile, the evil vampire Gwi resides in the royal palace and uses his powers and political machinations to prevent the Crown Prince from ascending the throne. ~~ Based on a hit manhwa by Jo Joo Hee and Han Seung Hee.
Country: South Korea
Genre: Historical, supernatural, romance
Casting: Lee Jun Ki, Lee Yoo Bi, Lee Soo Hyuk, Shim Changmin, Kim So Eun, Jang Hee Jin etc….
I don’t know why these days, dramas rarely manage to make a striking impression with their firsts episodes (at least for me). I guess that’s still better than the other way around though (a good beginning and a boring development) but still. Scholar Who Walks The Night didn’t escape that new trend (of mine). It was impossible for me to fully get into the story as I found everything ridiculous. I had the impression to be stuck in a Walt Disney’s film because of the setting (mainly the villain’s cave), the villain himself, the costumes, the weird special effects and the music. Everything was overly cliché and I couldn’t help laughing everytime Lee Soo Hyuk appeared on my screen (his play wasn’t actually of a great help either -at least at first). All that put aside I wasn’t always happy with the writing of the story either- especially the romance. It all went too quickly and we were constantly bombarded by romantic -to not say cheesy- scenes. I was barely at the 3rd episode that the two main leads seemed to have known and loved each other for years. All that said, I actually don’t know what broke me. I quickly -I mean rather quickly- overcame all those defaults and finally dived into the story (that doesn’t mean I forgave all those flaws).
Scholar Who Walks The Night ‘s plot was overall original. Apart from Gu Family Book, I’ve never seen another drama mixing both fantasy and sageuk. I think that was its main strength. The second “original” point I liked, was the way vampires were depicted. Sure they were pretty cliché in appearance (awfully hot, mysterious, dark) and their writing seemed rather shallow on the surface (a bloody vampire who kills everyone and enjoys himself VS the nice and tortured vampire who refuses to drink blood) but I liked how they chose to fully focus on the beast side of the creature (even though that was rather laughable -despite the actors’ talent- to see them growl etc…). It was my first time seeing vampires truly depicted as what they really are and not just as civilised creatures in hot meat suits. Thumbs up.
Sung Yeol (Lee Jun Ki) seemed to be the modern version of Edward Cullen at times; but in a better way (or maybe it was just the Lee Jun Ki’s effect). That’s simple! Sung Yeol embodied the nice tortured vampire I told you about previously. He refused to drink any drop of blood and therefore fought everyday against his thirst. He constantly ran to save people (just like all good vampire do) but above all to save the girl he loved :Jo Yang Sun -that new book-seller who was a pro at putting herself in danger. His character was in other words not extraordinary. The only things that made me like him were: Lee Jun Ki, Lee Jun Ki, and…Lee Jun Ki! No, more seriously I think he eventually managed to gain my heart because of his wide range of emotions: sufferance, sadness, guiltiness, duality (that split personality in the last episodes was a really nice idea) but also playfulness at time. That last point was my favourite. I liked how bold he could be sometimes or smiled up his sleeves in front of Jo Yang Sun. But also how quickly he could regain his seriousness and separate private matter with his main goal (at least at first. I was actually a bit annoyed -even if it was a logical outcome- to see him become all lovey-dovey with Jo Yang Sun to the risk of endangering his mission later on). All those aspect made of him a believable vampire: the scriptwriter really tried to play with Sung Yeol’s mysteriousness and Lee Jun Ki’s appearance so as to make him a character less shallow than what he might have been otherwise (even though I maintain he was full of cliché).
Jo Yang Sun (Lee Yoo Bi) was the most annoying character in my opinion. She expressed too easily her feeling for Sung Yeol and therefore did not let any place for him to actually run after her. She was completely under his spell making me pity her more than once. Despite Sung Yeol’s feeling for her, he still denied and rejected her for quite a long time. I, therefore, spent half of the drama finding her pathetic and weak. Weak cause she always hurt or put herself in danger in a silly way, forcing Sung Yeol to go save her. Pathetic cause she didn’t seem to have any pride concerning Sung Yeol. In other word she had all the quality I don’t like in a heroine (and I’m not even mentioning the fact that she was dressed as a man- that seems to be a given in sageuk unfortunately. On the other hand that point wasn’t that annoying here since all the characters discovered her true nature in the firsts episodes. But still.). Those kind of character tend to only make the romance stodgy, that’s all. I can’t deny that she still had some ups (>>>SPOILER- I really liked the episode where she was tortured for example or when we learnt that she was part of the plan to destroy Gwi: she was finally becoming useful -SPOILER<<<) but it was always counter-balanced by her downs. In other words she was a plain character I would rather prefer to forget -despite my love for Lee Yoo Bi sweety.
The Crown Prince (Changmin) was the biggest surprise of the drama! First: because I had low expectation about Changmin’s talent as an actor. Secondly because I thought he would just be a third wheel and therefore be a drag to the drama (well he wasn’t totally insensitive to Yang Sul at first but that feeling quickly faded, fortunately). But both the “actor” and the character exceeded my expectations/prejudices. I even came to prefer Lee Yoon to Sung Yeol overall. He appeared in the first episodes as a shallow character, making me fear for the following episodes. He embodied the classic crown prince who played “dumb” and dressed like a simple lord while wandering in the street unknown…in short the same old trick used in most dramas. But he gained in depth along the episodes and Changmin managed to move me more than once. I loved his relation with his grand-father or again with Yang Sun. Their relation turned exactly like I wanted. I also liked his determination and way of thinking. He was ready to do anything to beat Gwi, even if that meant sacrificing his friend (that sounds cruel but he expressed so well his inner-turmoil about that matter that it made it almost like the right decision) or his own life. The only point where I was let down by the scriptwriter was his sudden romance with Choi Hye Ryung. It came completely out of nowhere and I think it would have been cleverer to develop a bit more their relation, instead of just throwing it at our face.
Choi Hye Ryung (Kim So Eun) gained in strength along the drama. At first, she gave me the feeling to be useless: the scriptwriter had made a mountain out of a molehill of her character but weirdly didn’t exploit that point as much as one could have wished. Because of that she came out as a plain character who only wanted to take revenge against her father. She finally managed to grab my attention when she entered the palace as the Crown Princess. She became more active and stabbed in the back her former ally. She was a bit more ‘unpredictable’ and her love for the Crown Prince (though it came out of nowhere) was pretty nice. It’s just a shame that she wasn’t of more use in the drama, whereas she was supposed to be one of the main character (for me her role was at the same level as Soo Hyang (Jang Hee Jin) who was only a secondary character…just saying)
Gwi (Lee Soo Hyuk) was most of the time boring. He was only the big bad wolf of the drama who ate everyone. He appeared as the most powerful and cruel being on earth, but paradoxically kept a lot of people alive (even when they seemed to not be of any use for him). That point made him not as exciting or fearful as he should/could have been (>>>SPOILER- though I really loved the reason why he had kept the Crown Princess alive that whole time -SPOILER<<<). I still liked his boldness (how he crowned himself king right after the contract between him and the Crown Prince was broken out, for example) and his nonchalance though. Lee Soo Hyuk came out pretty well as a crazy, bloody vampire and I think he was the main reason why I didn’t entirely dislike Gwi (kind of became addict to his voice actually- the perfect incarnation of both royalty and sexiness).
To conclude Scholar Who Walks the Night was a pleasant drama (with a nice ost! who could have thought I would grow fond of it eventually?). It wasn’t the story of the century and the character -when looked from too close- where not extraordinary either, but I spent a rather good time in front of it.
Note de Dushbadou: 7.5/10
Note finale: 7.5/10