While I am not upset over the ending, I am pretty meh about it. [kooriyuki: me too] Cos, like many kdramas recently, Hwayugi ends up overstretching its narrative to fit 20eps, instead of the usual short and sweet 16. I won’t have much qualms about an extension if there are stuff that need tidying up (for example, in a good thriller, where you need extra time to explain the whys and whats). But in Hwayugi‘s case, the end game is pretty much delivered to us from the beginning. Sun-mi in her role as Samzhang has to sacrifice herself or be killed in order to stop an apocalypse. And Oh-gong, being immortal, is unlikely to suffer a similar fate, no matter how powerful that golden bracelet is in reining him in.
I did enjoy all the bantering between Oh-gong and Woo-hwi — I believe the 2 actors are friends in real life, cos there’s an easygoing camaraderie on screen. In contrast, the romance between Oh-gong and Sun-mi appeared somewhat contrived. And that is where the extra 4eps were spent on — building up the does-he-or-does-he-not (love me), to the point of it being…boring.
It was fun to watch and guess whether Oh-gong’s intentions and feelings towards Sun-mi are true in the beginning, but even after Sun-mi threw caution to the wind and decided to trust her own instincts, that OLD issue kept resurfacing…until the point when Oh-gong realised he could have taken out the golden band ages ago, cos the “spell” is no longer “effective” or “too effective” — depending on how you see it. Imo, this “revelation” could have come earlier and narrative can cut out unnecessary second guessing on Sun-mi’s part.
Otherwise, Hwayugi is studded with a stellar cast — even with its supporting roles. As a fan of Lee El, I love her in her doggy secretary role, playing the professional, yet clownish secretary (complete with doggy whimpers at times) to a pat. Jang-gwang, the veteran, also aces his contrasting roles as the imposing Chairman of M Corporation on one hand, and the meek and docile housekeeper/butler/cook/maid/all-in-one in another.
And not to forget the actress who had to switch the most roles — Lee Se-young. She is SCARY as the zombie came to life, and at one point, is threatening Sun-mi and Dae-sung’s lives. Then she becomes the adorable Bu-ja (remember that cute zombie dance? still cracks me up), who is all sugar and spice and everything nice (even if she smells something rotten), then finally as the power hungry and very delusional priestess, Asa-nyeo, who insists she is “good” but does nasty things that only highlights her evilness.
I suppose without the stronger side characters, Hwayugi would have lost its draw on me midway through the show (when it decided to dwell on the OTP’s “huge” dilemma).