Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 2
With the world of Arth established, it’s time to get to know our hero, a young man caught between worlds. Life is beautiful when you’re young and carefree, but soon the outside world encroaches, and the young man has to determine where he belongs. He has a lot to learn about his true nature, which may be much bigger and more dangerous than he ever imagined, but the question is whether he’ll be able to overcome it, or if he’ll succumb in the end.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Eunseom wakes from a dream with a start, screaming for his mother. He startles the men watching him, since as humans, they don’t dream. Yeolson, leader of the Wahan tribe (the people that Eunseom has lived with since his mother died), angrily demands to know if Eunseom had a dream.
There’s a tribal council to discuss the fact that Eunseom can dream without extensive shaman training. Meanwhile TANYA (Kim Ji-won) is a child of the Azure Comet and is to be their next “great mother,” but even she can’t dream, so the tribe suspects that Eunseom is stealing Tanya’s dreams.
Tanya is Yeolson’s daughter, and she’s also the girl who found Eunseom and his mother, back when they first came to Iark. She defends Eunseom, saying that dreams don’t work that way, but Yeolson still asks Eunseom if he’s stealing Tanya’s dreams. Eunseom says that it’s true he dreams, but repeats that dreams can’t be stolen.
He says that the Wahan people don’t know what a dream is, so he tells them: “I lie down at night, and it happens while I sleep. Someone suddenly appears, or I end up going somewhere.” He says that things happen in dreams without his knowledge, so he can’t possibly steal someone else’s dream.
He also tells the people that he’s been having dreams since before he came to Iark, which is proof that he’s not stealing Tanya’s dreams. A tribesman says that Eunseom and Tanya were both born when the Azure Comet appeared, but the current great mother, Mother Choseol, says that’s not completely true.
Eunseom is also accused of dancing one of Mother Choseol’s dances, which can only be done by a great mother. Eunseom looks guilty and says he only saw Mother Choseol dance once, and Tanya tells the people that Eunseom can copy anything he sees, even if he only sees it once. Further, she confesses that he learned it so he could teach it to her, because she’s having difficulty.
The people point out that Eunseom is strange in a lot of ways, such as his purple blood and the scales on his back. Tanya continues to insist that Eunseom isn’t stealing her dreams, but a hunter accuses him of stealing a horse that they hunted, and Eunseom just shoots a guilty look at Tanya and ducks his head. LOL.
He leads the people to the horse, but just as he’s about to incriminate himself, Tanya yelps that Eunseom didn’t steal the horse to eat it himself, he hid it here because… but she can’t think of anything, so she looks at Eunseom and says, “Tell them.” HAHA, his face.
All he can think to say is that he was trying to ride the horse, and now everyone, even Tanya, stares at him like he’s gone nuts. LOL, even as he talks, he’s thinking, “Does this even make sense??”
After laughing their heads off, the tribe present this as more proof that Eunseom is weird and a thief, and propose that he be banished. Tanya says that sometimes Eunseom’s strange ideas are useful, and they have to agree. Yeolson and Mother Choseol decide that Eunseom is to learn to ride the horse before the next full moon, but if he fails, he’ll be banished.
Later, Mother Choseol seems troubled, but all she tells Yeolson is that it’s something the former great mothers said. They go into his invention workshop, which Yeolson says is his favorite place because he doesn’t have to worry about spirits there. They discuss Eunseom, and how Tanya led them to him the day they found him, saying that she sensed someone in the woods.
It was the day Tanya had her first dream, which was also her last dream. Yeolson asks if Tanya can become the great mother if she can’t dream or do the spirit dance, but Mother Choseol tells him to have faith in his daughter, who’s the child of the Azure Comet, and who was foretold by prophecy.
Yeolson seems unsure of the prophecy, which says, “The one who breaks the shell shall appear on the day the Azure Comet appears, along with death. And the Wahan tribe shall no longer be the same.” Mother Choseol says it simply means that something big will happen, but not to be afraid because one among them will be prepared.
Eunseom never planned to ride that horse, and he whispers an apology to Tanya then prepares to end its life. But Tanya is nearby, and she nails him with a stone thrown with her sling and accuses him of planning to leave without telling her -she knows he needs horse leather to make sturdy shoes for crossing the Sea of Tears, and meat for the journey.
She winds up another stone, so Eunseom flees through the forest yelling apologies. He hides in a tree and pounces on Tanya, but she knees him in the butt and shoves him off, then resumes chasing him down.
She finally beans him in the head and he falls. But Tanya sees that the scales on Eunseom’s back have finally fallen off, and she pulls aside his shirt to get a better look. They remember Eunseom’s mother telling him to go back to the field of flowers once his scales fell off.
Eunseom says that they just recently came off, and Tanya realizes that he really did mean to leave. He says he saw his mother in a dream, but that all she did was look at him then disappear, just like she died without an explanation. Tanya says that his mother was sick and called him “Aramun,” as if that excuses him from following her orders.
But Eunseom says she was always sick, and yet she never rested or stopped looking for a way into Iark. But as soon as they arrived, his mother said he manipulated her and to go back, then died. Crying now, he says in a shaky voice that there’s nobody to ask his questions, but he can’t forget what his mother said.
Tanya says that she saved Eunseom’s life and she’s his friend, and that she wishes she could dream so she’d know how he feels. But she also says she knew he’d leave because his mother told him to. She gives him advice on which part of the horsehide makes the best shoe leather (the rump), then walks away.
Tanya’s upset makes Eunseom rethink his plan to leave, but Mother Choseol appears out of nowhere, reminding him that he promised her he would leave. She tells him to go before he’s too attached to this place, and he asks why she hates him so much when Tanya’s dream led him here.
Mother Choseol retorts that they don’t know if his presence is a benefit, or if he’ll bring calamity. She tells him that the Great White Wolf, the first great mother of the tribe, passed down three laws to every generation of great mothers, though Wahans don’t know of them because being told not to do something only makes people want to do it more.
Since he’s leaving, Mother Choseol tells Eunseom the three laws. First is not to cross the Great Black Wall, yet Eunseom already did that. Second is not grow seeds, but Eunseom once tried to grow a tree from an acorn.
The final rule is not to tame animals, but today, Eunseom said he was planning to tame the horse. Mother Choseol says he cannot ever be one of the Wahan tribe, and Eunseom asks what he can be, if his years with his mother are gone and now his years with Tanya are gone.
He tells Mother Choseol that his mother said living among people makes one a person. He asks who he is if not one of them, but Mother Choseol just says that perhaps his fate is to learn the answer to that question.
Eunseom cries as he races through the forest, then flings himself off a cliff into a lake. As he sinks underwater, his eyes glow as he asks be allowed to stay just until Tanya learns the spirit dance. Mother Choseol replies in his mind that he may stay until the Flower Spirit ceremony, but he must leave immediately afterward.
Tanya trains with Mother Choseol, at a sacred tree in the middle of a lake. Standing on the surface of the water, they practice the spirit dance together. Tanya performs the steps perfectly until the very end, when she falls to her hands and knees instead of striking the final pose.
Mother Choseol says that this is why Tanya still can’t dream, and that she can’t learn the spell of the Great White Wolf until she learns the spirit dance and begins dreaming. Watching from a distance, Eunseom hangs his head in disappointment for his friend.
Tagon’s men complain that they spent ten years wiping out the Neanthals, then quelled the Ago tribe rebellion. Now they’re being sent south to bring back Doojeumsaengs (their derogatory term for the people of Iark) as slaves to farm the land they stole from the Neanthals.
One of them asks YANGCHA (Ki Do-hoon), the young man who always wears a mask over his mouth, how much further it is to Iark, but he’s being punished and isn’t allowed to talk. The men joke about him, but it’s clear they’re all scared of Yangcha’s fighting abilities.
They finally arrive at their destination — a large elevator that’s being built to reach from the top of the Great Black Wall down into Iark. They greet Moobaek, but oddly, Tagon isn’t there to meet them. The slaves laboriously raise the elevator platform, and there’s Tagon, gazing over Iark greedily.
Tanya keeps practicing the spirit dance, but she always falls during the complicated final move. Mother Choseol joins her, and Tanya says sadly that she can’t hear the spirits’ voices, or perform the spirit dance, or even dream. She asks why she can’t run away with Eunseom, so Mother Choseol explains, “Because you’re tied to your name. Tanya of the Wahan tribe, Yeolson’s daughter, the next great mother, and the child of the Azure Comet prophecy.”
Tanya asks if Eunseom wants to leave because he’s also tied to a name, and Mother Choseol says that everything has a name, and Eunseom is no different. She says that he needs to go back where he came from, but Tanya points out that the Great White Wolf supposedly also came down from the Great Black Wall, and she never went back.
Mother Choseol reminds Tanya that Eunseom’s mother’s last words were to tell him to go back. But she says he won’t leave right away, because something is holding him back.
Eunseom is having a serious discussion with his horse about its unwillingness to stand up just because he tied a rope around its neck, ha. Tanya finds Eunseom trying to lift the horse to its feet himself, and she asks why he’s still here. Eunseom says he’ll leave once she learns the spirit dance, dreams, and becomes the great mother, lying that it’s too hot to go now, anyway.
Suddenly, Eunseom realizes how he can solve his problem of the tribe’s opinion of him — he could sit on the horse while it’s lying down, with is technically “riding the horse.” But Tanya snaps that he needs to take this seriously, and he adorably admits that yeah, it’s a little fun, hee.
Tanya says that if he fails to ride the horse and gets banished, he won’t be able to reach the Sea of Tears and other tribes will kill him. But Eunseom fires back that he’s been through a lot and he’s still in one piece, so Tanya gives him the carrot she brought and turns to go, annoyed.
But she turns back when she hears a voice in her head say, “Give me a name.” Wondering if she just heard her first spirit, Tanya silently asks the horse if it spoke to her. She recalls Mother Choseol saying that names tie things down, so she gives it a name — Helper, in the hopes that it will help Eunseom.
She cuts the rope, telling Eunseom that she tied the horse with something else. The horse stands, and Tanya tells Eunseom that his name is Helper before sauntering off.
Eventually the day of the Flower Spirit ceremony arrives, and the Wahan tribe is a flurry of celebration as the people all paint their faces and put flowers in their hair. Eunseom is still trying to ride Helper, who dumps him on the ground every time he climbs up.
LOL, at one point Eunseom is hanging upside-down with his arms and legs wrapped around Helper’s neck. Dalsae (Eunseom’s main accuser) and his buddies laugh as they watch, though they do wonder why the horse never runs away. Yeolson passes nearby and Dalsae and the others join him, on their way to trade with the Anja tribe for food.
Back at the village, Tanya follows Mother Choseol around, trying to work up the courage to ask if Eunseom can be allowed to participate in the festival. But before she gets the words out, Eunseom bounds over asking why Mother Choseol called for him, and Mother Choseol tells him to get ready. Awww, she’s a big softie.
Tanya and Eunseom go off together, where Tanya paints Eunseom’s face. He watches her closely as she moves on to paint his chest, and he clumsily tries to get a kiss. Just as his lips are about to touch hers, she growls, “I’ll kill you,” so he backs off pouting, hee.
When she’s finished, they admire themselves in the calm lake water, sharing another charged moment before Eunseom brings up the spirit dance. He makes Tanya practice the part where she always makes a mistake, and she warns him never to do the dance where anyone else can see him.
She insists stubbornly that she can master the steps by the final day of the ceremony, but it reminds them both that Eunseom will have to leave soon. He says there’s still a few scales left on his back, so Tanya makes him show her. She paints the scars left behind as Eunseom tells her that last night, he had a recurring dream of being locked up in a place surrounded by rocks, with walls covered in hides with strange drawings on them.
He changes the subject and ties a jade amulet that he made around Tanya’s neck, telling her to wear it every day once she becomes the great mother. Tanya scoffs that it won’t win her over, but she mutters that it’s pretty.
When Yeolson and the men arrive at the meeting place, they find the Anja tribesmen dead.
Eunseom goes back to Helper, who still won’t let him ride, so Eunseom petulantly threatens to rename him, ha. He chases Helper through the forest until they run into a badly injured Anja tribesman, but Eunseom only knows enough of the Anja language to understand that someone came to steal the land.
An arrow strikes the tree over Eunseom’s head, the first arrow he’s ever seen, then a Saenyeok warrior shows up and grazes Eunseom with another arrow. Eunseom runs, losing the warrior but running smack into another one. As they grapple, the warrior sees Eunseom’s purple blood, and gasps in surprise that he’s an Igutu (a cross between a human and a Neanthal).
Eunseom throws him into the first warrior, whose sword goes right through him. He tosses the first warrior into a boulder, smashing his skull and killing him instantly. Eunseom picks up the sword, wondering what it’s made of.
Yeolson leads his men back to the village, where they tell their tale of the dead Anja men. They believe the Wabi tribe broke their treaty, and while they’re arguing, Eunseom staggers into the village and says it wasn’t the Wabis.
Meanwhile, Moobaek finds the two warriors that Eunseom killed, and wondered who did this. Not far away, Helper watches the men.
Eunseom reports what happened, and that the Anja man said that someone came to steal the land. Yeolson and Mother Choseol say that nobody can own the land, and Dalsae accuses Eunseom of lying again, but this time Eunseom snaps back that he’s not lying.
He shows them the sword, and says that he even heard the warriors speaking their language. He runs off to bring back the Anja warrior so they can hear the story from him, and Helper follows right on his heels. While he’s gone, Dalsae continues to claim that Eunseom is lying, and he demands that Eunseom be banished, or he’ll leave himself.
His temper tantrum ends abruptly when the Wahan spot the Saenyeok warriors riding into their village. One little boy calls out that Eunseom was right, you can ride horses, and the warriors are surprised to hear these people speaking their language. The boy approaches Mugwang (one of the more hardened warriors) and reaches up curiously, and Mugwang cruelly kills him without a thought.
Moobaek orders his men to fire flaming missile into the Wahan huts. Finally understanding the danger, the Wahan try to escape or fight, but they’re overmatched, and before long most of them are dead or captured. Mother Choseol hides the children but is captured moments later.
Tanya struggles, but she’s quickly captured. She watches with horror as Mugwang draws another burning arrow and fires it into the hut where the children are hiding, which explodes in a ball of flames.
Tagon is at the Saenyeok base camp studying a map intently. One of his men tells him that he was excited when they first traveled down the Great Black Wall, because the legend of Aramun Haesulla says that Aramun might be in Iark, and the man was hoping to see Kanmoreu, Aramun’s otherworldly horse.
The Wahan people are bound, and we see that Tanya, Yeolson, and Mother Choseol, are all still alive, though Mother Choseol is badly wounded. Tanya looks around, but she doesn’t see Eunseom among the living or the dead. The Saenyeok warriors lead the captured people away from their home, leaving the village to burn.
A short distance from the village, Tanya spots Eunseom heading their way on Helper’s back, looking like an avenging spirit. Another villager sees him and they all start calling to Eunseom, and as he leaps off Helper’s back and fights the Saenyeoks, the villagers fight back against their captors.
Eunseom wordlessly frees Tanya and hands her a knife, then helps release more villagers. They scatter and run, and Eunseom pulls Tanya along as he joins the fleeing Wahans. A warrior nearly kills Eunseom, but Dalsae, who somehow escaped the initial attack, runs the warrior through with his spear.
Eunseom jumps onto Helper’s back and pulls Tanya up behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist tightly. He aims Helper directly at Yangcha, and the horse leaps impossibly high over Yangcha’s head. They nearly make it, but Yangcha yanks Tanya off Helper’s back with his chain whip, so Eunseom goes back for her.
He tries to free Tanya’s ankle, but she tells him to leave her. She says she’s the child of the Azure Comet and must stay with her people, and Eunseom looks around and sees that the Wahans are losing badly — even Dalsae has been captured. Tanya begs him to save himself, so that he can come back and save them one day.
Eunseom hesitates, then tells Tanya, “Give me a name. Give me something so I can keep going, so I won’t give up!” Yangcha pulls Tanya away and a volley of arrows stops Eunseom from going after her, and she screams to him, “Dream! That’s your name. Because you’re my dream as well as Wahan’s!”
She passes out, and Eunseom runs back to Helper and they flee, with Moobaek, Mugwang, and Kitoha, another warrior, close behind. Mugwang closes in and tries to impale Eunseom, but Eunseom grabs his spear and shoves him away.
Moobaek comes up on Eunseom’s other side, but Helper’s eyes gleam, and the Saenyeok’s horses suddenly slow down, allowing Helper to carry Eunseom safely out of reach. Moobaek realizes what’s happened and thinks to himself, “It can’t be… could that horse be Kanmoreu?”
Back at camp, the warrior tells Tagon that Kanmoreu is not just any fast horse — he’s the direct descendant of firstborns leading all the way back to the first horse. He says that no horse in the world can outrun Kanmoreu, but Tagon murmurs that it’s only a legend.
But as Moobaek watches Eunseom ride away on Helper, he thinks, “If that horse is Kanmoreu, then he is Aramun Haesulla.”
A voice narrates, “In ancient times, mankind came down from the trees, learned to use fire and began making sharp blades, invented wheels and started paving trails, and finally learned to plant seeds and settled in one place. But they did not have a nation or a king. People didn’t dream and had not yet reached the top of the great pyramid of nature. The glorious land of our ancient mothers. This place, Arth.”
Interesting! The first episode ended with Eunseom’s mother realizing that the boy in her dream was Aramun, and that his face was her son’s. She accused Eunseom of being Aramun and tricking her into bringing him to Iark, then later, Aramun’s legendary horse finds Eunseom. I still don’t quite understand the lore of Arth’s gods yet, but it seems clear that the show at least wants us to think that Eunseom is the earthly incarnation of a god, come to destroy the world. Given that he seems such a sweet, innocent young boy so far, it raises a lot of questions about Eunseom’s true nature, and if he is Aramun, why he’s come back and for what purpose.
I love the concept introduced in this episode of names being a calling and a tether, something that directs a person’s life. Tanya’s name tied her to her people and her destiny, reminding her of why she was born and what she’s meant to accomplish. She named the horse Helper, and he lived up to his name, helping Eunseom when he needed it most. Then she gave Eunseom a name, Dream, that defines him as her dream and the dream of the Wahan people’s freedom. I’m sure the name Dream will come to carry more significance as Eunseom seeks out his own destiny and place where he belongs. I wonder if Tanya giving Eunseom a new name full of hopeful meaning is enough to counter the possibility of his being a malevolent god — I guess we’ll find out.
I was very impressed with the first episodes of Arthdal Chronicles, pretty much for all the reasons dramallama mentioned — clear, concise storytelling, rich world-building, and fantastic casting. But I loved the second episode for a whole different set of reasons. Much of it was less intense, more light-hearted, giving us a chance to learn about Eunseom and his struggle to fit in somewhere. That’s such a universally human desire, to want to belong, and yet Eunseom is a melding of two worlds but part of neither. He doesn’t know who he is, and his mother’s words just before her death confused him so much, and the only person who makes him feel understood and accepted is someone he’s not supposed to be around.
Which is heartbreaking, because I pretty much fell for Eunseom and Tanya right away, and their friendship is the cutest thing ever. I found myself laughing out loud several times during their bickering exchanges, and I loved the way Tanya threw Eunseom under the bus with the horse situation. You can tell they’ve been buddies for years, but there’s something deeper evident in the way Eunseom is reluctant to leave Tanya, and I can already sense the chemistry they’ll have later as their friendship grows into more. I suspect that Tanya’s inability to perform her great mother duties had a lot to do with knowing that once she becomes great mother, Eunseom would leave. But now they have a much bigger problem, with the Wahans’ being dragged off to slavery and their only hope being Eunseom, the boy they ostracized.
I really appreciate how richly built the world of Arth is, with its lore and cultures. The different tribes and their customs feel fully-realized, with deep histories and customs, and there seem to be secrets that could come into play later. For example, there are interesting clues that the Wahan tribe may actually be descended from the Saenyeok or another allied tribe — they are the only tribe in Iark that speaks the same language as their captors, and their founder, the Great White Wolf, is said to have come down from the Great Black Wall. I’m also interested to learn more about the Igutu child that Tagon saved, and to know why Tagon saved him and if he and Eunseom are truly the last remnants of the Neanthal left in the world. I also like that the show doesn’t back down from showing the cruelty of the world, which worries me for Eunseom and Tanya’s future, but also promises that this story will be raw and unpredictable.
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