Review – Scholar Who Walks the Night
Supernatural historical dramas are some of my favorites. Even though I have yet to see one with a really solid plot, I always enjoy them. You would think that a drama about trying to overthrow an ancient vampire who lives in an underground lair beneath the royal palace and secretly controls the Joseon monarch would be fantastic. Eh.
Okay, maybe the plot was a little boring sometimes. I mean, how many secret diaries does it take to kill a vampire, am I right? But did that spoil my enjoyment of this show? Nope. Still loved it. Why? Cause vampires, that’s why! Who doesn’t love a good vampire story? Throw in a pretty girl disguised as a boy (love that trope!) and some romance and I’m hooked. Add an incredibly sexy evil vampire as the bad guy… and I’ll pop my popcorn and settle in for a long binge watch.
Overall Rating – 8/10. Dark Shadows of the Joseon Era.
My largest quip with this show is also my favorite part of this show. The evil vampire Gwi. Lee Soo-Hyuk is seriously sexy. He was an excellent choice as our nemesis, as he has the alarmingly deep voice of villain and the glorious slinky demeanor of a predator.
He should have been in the show A LOT MORE, in my opinion.
Rather than focus on the royal politics surrounding a secret vampire takeover, they should have focused more on the vampire itself. Namely, Gwi. Give us a long and elaborate backstory. Give us more vampire pulling puppet strings in court. Give us Mr. Sexy Vampire lurking around the concubines all night. Give us more vampire vs vampire action, for that matter. I loved watching these two vamps spar and battle it out – cursing and scratching at each other while simultaneously trying to remain cool.
Gwi was a delicious psychotic who doesn’t mind playing with his food before he eats it. But why does he hang out in a cave all the time? Considering how clearly stylish he is (his wardrobe was to die for!), you’d think he would have decorated his lair with more than the corpses of his enemies. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the creepy lair… I just thought it could have been creepy AND beautiful at the same time.
(love the candelabras, but come on, even the Phantom of the Opera knew how to make the most out of damp basement)
Everytime there was a Gwi-centric moment, it was spellbinding. He really added tension to the show and separated it from the usual historical-battle-for-the-throne dramas we are all used to. Plus, it was cool having a monstrous monster instead of a good-hearted monster.
I just loved watching him sniff around things… inhale! exhale. Inhale! exhale…
I also liked how much he talked to himself. Out loud. It actually worked in magnifying how lonely and solitary he was. He never thought twice before breaking out into full conversation with himself, whether at home or walking down a busy street.
I feel like they dropped the ball with Gwi. Someone handed you a three layer birthday cake and you put it in the corner and passed out raisins. No one wants nature’s candy! We wanted cake. We can see it… sitting over there in the corner… gloriously decadent and sure to rot our teeth… and that’s what we wanted. Gwi Cake. Several slices of it. Hell, we don’t even need a fork, we’ll just eat it with our hands like crazed animals. But nope… denied! DENIED. Oh, Scholar Who Walks the Night, why have your writers forsaken me???
Anyways, lets talk about love and cross dressing.
Unlike most shows who use this trope, our male lead knew very early on that he was dealing with a pretty lady in drag and not actually having confusing feelings for a dude. This time it was the guy who had a secret identity he wanted to keep hidden from the lady. So we have the build up of tension wondering “when she’s gonna figure out her boyfriend has fangs?” That was a nice. I think it would have been harder to believe a man who’s been alive for over a 100 years still can’t distinguish a man from a woman due to a top knot.
But there were problems our lovers had to sort out. I mean… besides the vampire angle. They also had to navigate the hats.
This show once again showed us the problem with gay love in the Joseon era. The hats really get in the way. First base has never required such exact geometry. I swear, half the show I thought our little cross dressing Miss was going to take our pretty vampire’s eyes with her hat rim. That’s some dangerous attire, my friends.
Let’s investigate the evidence…
Steady there… he’s got no protective eyewear on!
Love will surely lead to a crick in the neck. But at least the hats are generally useful… as sunblock, for example.
Not to mention impromptu umbrellas.
Lee Joon-Gi is a pretty man and makes a pretty vampire. There’s something pompous and cute about him, an air of confidence, the lovely curve of his eyes. I won’t say he’s ever lit my panties on fire, but I do like watching him. He’s one of the better kissers in K-world and knows how to make the ladies fall head over heels.
I wasn’t sure he would be that great of a vampire, but I was wrong. He was cool. Even when it looked like he was having a seizure, he was cool. He knew the most important thing… to look constantly horny when staring at a woman’s neck. He nailed it. He brought his A-Game Dracula and gave us prolonged stares at the neck, widened eyes at the slightest drop of blood, barely contained hunger when too too close to our little Miss’s neck. It was awesome.
I read a lot of reviews hating on Lee Yoo-Bi but I thought she was adorable. I liked her pep and silliness. She was a perfect balance to the cool, calm vampire at her side. Not to mention a nice contrast to the vast majority of other females in the show. Plus she’s really cute. She’s cute in drag and she’s cute with her hair down.
Who can resist her? Certainly not the Crown Prince… who also likes to run around in a disguise. It took one tight hug for him to figure out her little secret… and boy was he ever pleased, as he’d already been kinda skirting the gay lines.
The Crown Prince was played by Shim Chang-Min. He was a complicated character and I thought the actor pulled it off well. He liked to paint naughty pictures, he liked to sneak out of the castle, he liked to tie up his enemies and shoot arrows at them, he liked to plot and conspire and hold grudges. And he was genuinely a pretty nice guy.
I wasn’t shipping them at all, but I admit the scenes between these the Prince and the little Miss were really cute.
And he could rock a dragon headband.
The costuming was by far some of the best I have seen in a historical drama. Absolutely stunning clothing – from the poorest slaves to the palace guards. Also the set design and location shots were breathtaking. I completely fell into the past while watching, with the exception of the earring holes of several of our actors.
The special effects were also nicely done. Sure, some of the wire work was a bit so-so… slow-mo-flying from rooftop to rooftop… but overall it was excellent. Because it was minimal. Just the basics, thank you. Some colored contacts, some fangs, some subtle smoke overlays and we’re good to go.
Okay, let’s talk some more side characters.
Among the crew of the good vampire was a very beautiful, very jealous woman who loved to slap the shit out of everyone. I was actually kind of proud of her – cause most women just pine away but she was more aggressive in her approach to securing the love of her vampire boss. Despite his constant cold shoulder, she was smitten and loyal to the bitter the end. And she looked oh so beautiful in all her costumes. She would look beautiful in a potato sack. This woman is simply stunningly gorgeous.
And we have the servant of Gwi, a young lady who seems to have forgotten how to smile. Poor soul. She’s clever and cold and ambitious, and I was interested in her storyline and what would happen to her. There was something eerie about her that went very well with Gwi’s cave decor.
As Gwi whispers in her ear… “You’re black heart matches my robes.”
In a way, you always feel sorry for the women in historical dramas. They are so often caught up in the societal rules and thrown about like meaningless dolls. I mean, just look at all the crazy shit that happened to our main female lead.
Raised as a boy. Forced to be the breadwinner of the family. Tortured for treason. Sold into slavery. Beaten to near death. Thrown into a healing blood bath. Kicked out of her family after finally, finally getting back to them… I mean… geesh! Can the girl get a break? It’s just nonstop emotional and physical trauma. Sure, our dudes are all suffering too… but largely just internally. Brooding and plotting. The women folk get sold to vampires and thrown into the streets to starve. It’s a tough gig.
There weren’t any antidepressants back then, you know.
Ah, the romance. This isn’t 50 Shades of Gray… I’m pretty sure she didn’t sign up for this. But the show managed to make ownership cute, so I won’t bitch and moan over it.
And can we talk about Gwi again, cause really… just… hear me out. I am guessing Gwi is of Chinese origin… due to his awesome Chinese wardrobe and singular name. How fun would his backstory have been? I mean, at one point he says when he “came into the human world” he fell for a woman. What does that mean? Is he a demon? Was he never human? If he was human… where? When? Who turned him? What does he do with his free time? Tell me more about this first love of yours. Gah, the tragedy of the wasted potential for fantasy greatness. Oh well. At least we got to see you looking fantastic in a red dress with blood all over your face…
This guy knows how to crash a wedding party.
I do have one more complaint. And it’s not the cheesy 80’s gothic television show music (seriously, did they just steal tracks from Dark Shadows? And I swear at one point they were playing the introduction to “I Need A Hero”, but some weird instrumental version and I couldn’t stop giggling). My final groan is reserved for the back half of this show.
This show took FOREVER to end. This could have easily been a 16 episode drama instead of 20. Why does this happen so often in K-world?
And worst – towards the end it would cut away from scenes at the worst possible moment. You finally build up to some action and suspense and suddenly they cut away to some other character all together and leave you dangling. It doesn’t work like that, k-drama! You have to stay in your action moments while the action is happening. That’s how you keep up from falling asleep during the last six hours…
It wasn’t that the plot wasn’t interesting. And I did like all the scenes… they just felt long. LONG! Even when Gwi started to be a majority player and dominated large portions of every episode. Even then. LONG.
So, not perfect. And yet… so freakin’ awesome anyways. Extra points to all the references about the power of books. READ, babies, read. Even if it’s just reviews of K-Dramas, it’s good to let your eyes wander over text. And it will double your subtitle reading game.
The Scholar Who Walks the Night is recommended for all the supernatural loving viewers out there. It’s a cool vampire story with two cool vampires. And really… what more do you want?
More Gwi on the throne? Yeah, me too, me too…