Sit tight. Because what you’re about to read is a tale so fantastical it’ll leave you alternately reeling and hooting. If owls (and diaper-clad chickens) are your thing, and if you enjoy intrigue and romance (and also a spot of comedy, intentioned or not), you’ve come to the right place.
But first, a disclaimer. Any resemblance in this story to old or current TV fare is purely coincidental and should not be misconstrued as mischief (punishable by hard labor on a treeless and TV-less island). If there’s any mischief at all, you’ll find it in this extremely tall tale, all eighty-two episodes of it. And now we begin with Episode 1.
Some TP readers think I have a hair fixation since I tend to harp on the subject in my recaps or reviews. But the truth is I don’t notice hairdos unless they are weird or downright awful.
Take Emperor of the Sea which I’ve been watching spellbound the last two days. Nine episodes in (and forty-two to go), I’m in love with the story and soundtrack, and awed by the production values. But then Choi Su-jong appears (and the guy has a lot of screen time since he’s the lead) and I’m once again distracted by that THING which is supposedly hair but looks more like shredded rags hastily stitched together.
You’ll hear this statement a lot in the first episode so I might as well hit you on the head with it right off the bat:
I am a gumiho.
That’s right. I’m a bona fide liver-eating fox spirit with nine tails, all of which I’ve cleverly tucked out of sight until a full moon uncoils them, very much like how a snake charmer’s pungi coaxes forth a basketful of gyrating snakes. Gaze and be amazed!
Writing this recap (after a break of two months) feels like coming home.
Before I started, I randomly picked a few of the previous recaps and read them in their entirety. As I did, all the old feelings came rushing back. Hwan making me giggle, he an open book of conflicting emotions. Jun-se making me swoon, again and again, his eyes these crystalline pools. Sweet and spunky Eun-sung, caught between the two men who loved her (thus turning me green with envy!) and between her own dreams and fears. Grandma — the heart of the drama — confounding me with her abstrusity and, lately, frightening me with her vulnerability. The witch and her witchling, their sheer desperation holding me transfixed.
Each one I have missed. Watching them again in Episode 24, I am reminded afresh of all the reasons why Brilliant Legacy is one of my favorite dramas this year.
The episode opens with a flashback to how Episode 23 ended: It is morning and Hwan and Eun-sung awake next to each other in Grandma’s hospital room, the first thing they see being each other.
In a children’s story beloved for nearly a hundred years, a little railroad engine takes over a task rejected by much larger engines and successfully pulls a long line of freight cars over a hill, puffing as it goes: I think I can, I think I can.
The name of the story? The Little Engine That Could.
More recently, a friend has coined a similar name for Brilliant Legacy: The Little Drama That Could.
I love this pet name and have been using it as a nutshell answer when people ask me what is so special about this drama that I’ve been recapping from the first episode. But why ‘little’ drama?
An old couple, unrelated to any of our characters, appears in this episode for the first time.
She’s ill and craving the Jin Sung beef soup. He, who is tending to her and can’t leave her side, calls to place an order. The manager (and increasingly I believe he was sent to the second branch by a power higher and wiser than Grandma) asks Hwan to deliver the soup. He does it a tad reluctantly at first, because the minimum order for home delivery should be two bowls but this customer orders just one.
Inside the couple’s dim and decrepit room, we see the old lady on the floor, her husband sitting next to her. He is delighted to see the soup. Apologizing to Hwan for his single order, he looks for the money to pay (and we see that he has just small change left after paying). Before Hwan leaves, the old man presses two mint candy into his palm. For all your trouble, he says.
I know. I know what you are saying as you shake your head in disbelief.
This is Episode 21. TWENTY-ONE! For your main image, how can you NOT be using a certain screencap which elicited a collective “Aww, finally!” across the globe? Instead it is this comical one of Hwan eating dukbokki? THUNDIEEEEEE!
But wait. Hear me out.
You have no idea how this scene of Eun-sung feeding Hwan made me giggle like a loony. He was so naughty when he asked, and so gleeful when he received. He was just so cute! I wanted to reach into the screen and squeeze his cheeks, except that would make him choke on that spicy rice cake. In an episode packed with memorable scenes, this one was hands down my favorite. But fret not. “Aww, finally!” images aplenty coming up in the later part of this recap.
Okay, let’s get started on this fantabulous episode.