Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 5
Though he’s worshiped as Arthdal’s hero and greatest warrior, our anti-hero, Tagon, desperately seeks acknowledgement from his father. But his father despises Tagon, and we learn that fear underlies that hatred. Our hero from the faraway southern lands of Iark, Eunseom, finally confronts Tagon in attempts to save his tribe, and he unintentionally learns a lethal secret of Tagon’s. When all hope seems lost, Eunseom realizes that this lethal secret can be his lifeline.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Tagon opens the door to confront his enemy, and Eunseom tightens his grip on his knife. The moment Eunseom sees Tagon’s weapon, Tagon attacks but targets the roped-up hostage — his father. But Tagon sees the face of the victim, and his smile drops when he realizes it’s not Sanung.
Before Tagon arrived, Sanung predicted that Eunseom would gain nothing because Tagon wants his father dead. When Sanung is killed, Eunseom would be framed as the murderer, and he will never save his people. Lo and behold, Sanung was right about Tagon, and he steps out of the room to face his son.
While meeting the gods in the smoke ceremony, Asa Ron receives an update that Tagon went to “save” his father alone. Mihol also receives this information, and he immediately gets moving, knowing that Sanung is in danger.
In the marketplace tower, Eunseom tells Sanung to keep his promise. We see that Sanung had recognized Eunseom’s necklace and identified him as Asa Hon’s son. As the Union leader, Sanung promised to release the Wahan tribe because the Arthdal people are indebted to Eunseom’s mother.
Tagon seethes that his father seems to find a lifeline in any situation, and Sanung tells his son that the damning prophecy has come true. Eunseom demands that the Union leader keep his promise, but Sanung is focused on rebuking his son, who partnered with Asa Ron to plot his demise.
Sanung accuses Tagon of attempting to kill his mother and now his father, but Tagon defends his actions, claiming that he was trying to survive. Sanung shakes his head and says that Tagon should have left Arthdal sooner. In a brief flashback, we see young Tagon begging to stay in Arthdal and pitching an idea to kill them (the Neanthals?) all.
Getting impatient, Eunseom lifts his knife and orders Sanung to announce the release of the Wahan people. Tagon says that Eunseom will not get a response because he knows nothing about Sanung. Instead of keeping his word with Eunseom, Sanung prepares to announce Tagon’s attempted murder of his father and knows that the Arthdal people will not forgive Tagon for these actions.
Just before Sanung opens the windows to make the announcement, Tagon falls to his knees to beg for forgiveness. Outside, the Wahan people wonder if Eunseom has really come to save them. They seem cautiously optimistic, but Dalsae — always the realist — says that if anything goes wrong, Eunseom will be punished.
Sanung looks astonished by Tagon’s acknowledgement of his sins and plea for mercy. Eunseom watches this interaction with zero context and doesn’t quite know what to do (ha). Tagon pleads that his father take his hand and embrace him, as he did with young Tagon years ago.
After failing to choke his young son to death, Sanung had embraced his son and apologized. In the present, Sanung says that his failure to kill Tagon was his biggest mistake and vows not to make that same mistake again. But Tagon argues that the circumstances have changed and tries to convince his father that their partnership will extinguish the Union’s suspicions about their contentious relationship, and the Arthdal will chant for both Sanung and Tagon.
A powerful persuader, Tagon acknowledges that Sanung endured the consequences of saving his son the first time but assures him that this time, he’ll be blessed with the consequences. He adds that his mystical abilities have been confirmed, so Sanung also has an upper hand against Asa Ron.
Eunseom interrupts Tagon’s plea and demands that Sanung keep his promise to free the Wahan people. Gripping his knife, Tagon threatens Sanung not to abandons his son, and Eunseom bluffs that he will defend Sanung. In his head, Eunseom wonders if he could really stand a chance against Tagon, and Tagon also notes that Eunseom is quicker and stronger than most. One misstep, and Tagon’s slaughter of his father will become public.
Sanung suspiciously asks Tagon how he could trust him, and Tagon reminds Sanung that they share their greatest weakness. Tagon leverages this shared weakness as the reason for their partnership and reaches out his hand. Sanung looks tempted but then notices the readied knife in Tagon’s other hand. His eyes dart between Tagon and Eunseom, and then he runs for the window.
Eunseom and Tagon both pounce, stripping Sanung away from the window. In a split second, Tagon pushes Eunseom aside and slices his father’s throat. Sanung grips his neck and leans on Tagon as he relays his final words, “I’m sorry. You were pitiful then and still are now, but I should have killed you initially.”
Tagon agrees that Sanung should have killed him when his was young and powerless, and then he lets his dead father fall to the ground. He thinks to himself, “I did it. I did it, Taealha.” Eunseom looks shocked.
In the sacred cave, Asa Ron sees the blasting fire and sense that something has happened. Mihol rushes to the marketplace and wonders why Sanung hates his son so much.
Tagon laughs at a numb Eunseom and his naïve plan to trade the Union leader for his people. Belitting Eunseom’s efforts, Tagon says that Eunseom will not be able to save his tribe because he knows nothing about nations and power. Eunseom threatens to tell everyone that Tagon killed Sanung, but Tagon doubts that the people will believe him.
Eunseom asks about the fate of his Wahan people, and Tagon smirks as tells Eunseom that the Wahan tribe will be massacred. Triggered, Eunseom attacks Tagon, but he’s easily thrown down by the skilled warrior. Tagon acknowledges that Eunseom is special, that he has exceptionally quick vision, but he also says that there’s more than what you see.
Tagon attacks Eunseom and nearly stabs him, but Eunseom avoids the blade and quickly jumps out of the tower. Before Tagon follows him, he notices something below and stops his pursuit.
Outside, Danbyeok orders the Arthdal soldiers to charge into the tower. With Moobaek still not present, Danbyeok holds the authority to order the army, so the Arthdal soldiers and Tagon’s warriors burst into top of the tower. There, they find Tagon grieving over his dead father, and Danbyeok looks stunned.
Tagon carries his dead father down the tower and convincingly grieves over Sanung’s dead body. Mihol watches Tagon and seems to suspect that Tagon could be behind Sanung’s death. Asa Ron also arrives, and Tagon glances at him. Then, Tagon announces that a lowly dujeumsaeng killed Sanung and ran away.
The Arthdal people yell for the punishment of the Wahan tribe, but Tanya looks more relieved that Eunseom is alive. While Eunseom rides away on Helper, the Arthdal people stone and beat the shackled Wahan tribe. We see a glimpse of Tagon’s smile as the Arthdal people misdirect their anger, and Asa Ron also wonders if Tagon is the real suspect.
Eunseom rolls off Helper, who then proceeds to run off without him. In the dark, Eunseom hears the echoes of the Wahan tribe’s cries as they’re beaten by the Arthdal people. Eunseom curls up against a tree and covers his ears, but the images and the cries continue to flash through his mind. He remembers Mother Choseol’s question about whether he would be auspicious or ominous for the Wahan tribe.
As Eunseom cries in anguish, he also remembers Tagon stating that the Wahan tribe would be massacred. He agonizes over his failure to save the Wahan people and breaks a rock to make a sharp weapon. He holds the weapon at his own throat, but he’s unable to kill himself. Eunseom then notices something on his sleeve and jumps up. He pats all over his body and can’t seem to solve his confusion.
The Daekan warriors drag away the dead Wahan people and complain that the Arthdal people don’t know the value of these slaves. Tanya looks shocked to see another one of her tribe members being brutally beheaded, and she silently thinks, “Mother Choseol, you knew nothing. The Great White Wolf knew what kind of place this was. We shouldn’t have come here. We’re done, everything is done, Wahan is done.”
But Eunseom disagrees. He looks at his sleeve and knows that the marks (presumably blood) don’t belong to him. It must be Tagon, and Eunseom finds a newfound hope to save his people.
Tagon lays down his father to send him off, and he sincerely wishes his father a peaceful departure. When he returns home, he’s met with an unexpected attack from a woman going for his throat. It’s Taealha’s M.O., and Tuak jumps up in alarm when they get wrapped up in each other.
Taealha seems happy to see Tagon intact and teases Tuak for predicting that Tagon would be crawling back with his slit ankles. As she pours herself a drink, Tagon solemnly reports that his father has passed away. She approaches Tagon, and upon seeing his tearful and sad eyes, she realizes that Tagon killed his father.
Taealha holds Tagon as he cries on her shoulder and comforts him. When they pull apart, Taealha kisses Tagon, and he kisses her back. As they make out, Tuak awkwardly flees the room to give them privacy.
Eunseom returns to Chaeeun’s home, where Doti happily greets him. Chaeeun pushes him against a wall and asks if he killed Sanung. Eunseom doesn’t respond and demands to know where Tagon is, and when they start to raise their voices, Doti holds both of their hands to calm them down. Eunseom responds that he didn’t kill Sanung, which implies that Tagon did, and he stresses the importance of finding Tagon because he’s found a way to save the Wahan people.
In bed, Taealha asks Tagon why he let the dujeumsaeng (Eunseom) run away. He says that he couldn’t run after him, and Taealha wonders why. She remembers the purple blood marks on his clothes and uncovers the sheets to reveal the cut on his leg. She asks if this was the dujeumsaeng’s deed.
Chaeeun tells Eunseom that nobody in Arthdal will believe him and doubts that he could save the Wahan tribe now. She tells him that the Arthdal people call his kind “dujeumsaeng,” meaning animals that walk on two feet and can’t fly, like chickens. She disparages his attempts to meet Tagon — let alone keep his life — and insults him, calling him an animal who can’t think.
Eunseom reveals that he discovered Tagon’s secret — something that could destroy him. He responds to her insults by claiming that he can think. While he may know nothing about Arthdal, he’s been going to excruciating lengths to think about how to save his people.
Chaeeun asks to know Tagon’s secret, and Eunseom thinks back to his fight with Tagon. He managed to slice Tagon’s leg with his knife and wiped the knife on his sleeve before jumping back in the fight. The blood on the knife was purple, and Eunseom belatedly noticed this. Now, he knows that Tagon is an Igutu.
Taealha urgently asks Tagon if the dujeumsaeng knows his secret. Tagon isn’t sure, but knowing the gravity of this secret, Taealha implores him to remember whether Eunseom saw his blood. Tagon remembers noticing the cut on his leg right after Eunseom ran away. He scrambled to tie up his injury and collected Eunseom’s weapon just before Danbyeok discovered him mourning Sanung’s death.
Tagon looks concerned and tells Taealha that the fate of his secret depends on whether Eunseom saw the blood in the short period of their scuffle. At Chaeeun’s safehouse, Eunseom tightly grips the sharp rock, cutting his hand and covering the rock with purple blood. He looks at his sleeve cloth and thinks, “This is how we meet — two sons of monsters.”
Moobaek finds his way to the sacred caves of the White Mountains to seek the wisdom of Asa Sakan, the spiritual leader among the mystics. She seemed to expect his arrival and expresses frustration with the god’s desires. Moobaek’s vision blurs as he tries to speak with Asa Sakan, and they sit down to discuss the three heavenly objects that created the world.
Asa Sakan asks if Moobaek knows of these objects, and Moobaek correctly identifies them as the sword, bell, and mirror. Asa Sakan says that these same objects will also end the world: “A sword to cut the world, a bell to ring to the world, and a mirror to reflect the world — these three objects will end the world.”
According to Asa Sakan, these three objects appeared together 20 years ago, and yesterday, five stars aligned and a comet appeared to crash into the biggest star. Moobaek asks what this means, and Asa Sakan interprets these signs to mean that a son murdered his father in Arthdal. The son will face these three heavenly objects as he carries on the world.
Asa Sakan advises Moobaek to help this son; otherwise, the world will end. Moobaek asks what the “end of the world” means, and Asa Sakan says that the human world will end. She explains that the Asa people communicated with the gods to unite humans. If the world ends, these humans will return to living like animals.
Fighting his dizziness, Moobaek stands up and asks if the Asa god and Risan are headed south, and Asa Sakan confirms this. He asks if it’s possible that the gods are headed past the Great Black Wall and into Iark. Asa Sakan says that this is possible and wonders why he’s asking. Moobaek points to the carved relic in the shrine and asks if it belonged to the Great Mother, Asa Sin.
As Moobaek stumbles out of the cave, we hear Asa Sakan’s response: The carved relic in the White Mountains is a replica, as Asa Sin took the original relic and disappeared. She claimed that no one knows where the original is. The replica did not have a backside because that wasn’t known to them, but Moobaek sees that the original that he fetched from Iark does have markings on the back.
Danbyeok rallies forces to hunt down the dujeumsaeng who supposedly killed Sanung and vows to get revenge for his father. Meanwhile, Taealha brings Tagon his outfit for Sanung’s death rites and tries to make light conversation about the beautiful clothing, but Tagon still looks distressed about his secret.
Taealha sits next to Tagon and shares her thoughts about this dujeumsaeng, who may know his secret. She assures him that even if the dujeumsaeng saw Tagon’s purple blood, he would not understand what it means. Plus, the Iark people are from the south, so they would have never even encountered a Neanthal. Tagon smiles and thanks Taealha for easing his concerns.
Continuing her pep talk, Taealha crouches in front of Tagon and says that he’s destined to be a god. That’s the reason why she chose him, and today, he will be taking his first step toward that goal.
As she caresses his face, she rubs her finger along his lips and says, “The purple caterpillar becomes a butterfly, and… ” She urges him to finish their mantra. He runs his finger along her lips as well and says, “Even in wind and rain, it opens its wings.” Then, they slide their hands together and interweave their fingers. Huh, sweet handshake.
Mihol grow suspicious of his daughter’s disappearance and orders Yeobi to find Taealha. He then meets with Danbyeok and shares his suspicions that Tagon may have killed Sanung, as the dujeumsaeng had no compelling reason to kill the Union leader. Mihol warns Danbyeok that Tagon is well-positioned to become the next Union leader, and neither Mihol nor Danbyeok may have a place under Tagon’s rule.
Danbyeok refuses to accuse his brother without evidence, so Mihol urges him to find the dujeumsaeng, who’s their only witness. Reciprocating the suspicion, Danbyeok asks Mihol where Taelaha is, and Mihol lies that Taealha has been sick and getting some rest.
As Danbyeok leaves, he orders his soldiers to interrogate any suspicious person with questions that only Union members would know the answers to. He also orders them to search for Taealha and Tuak.
Mihol’s advisor warns him that they can’t wait for the dujeumsaeng’s capture. Without Sanung, they have no defenses against Tagon’s demands for their bronze technology knowledge. Mihol knows that there’s only one person to help them, so he heads out to meet with Asa Ron. Tagon’s lackey Gilseon orders a soldier to follow Mihol, and he reports Mihol’s movements to Tagon.
While Mihol meets with Asa Ron, Tagon approaches his brother. When Danbyeok sees Tagon, he wonders if his brother really did kill their father. Tagon is stopped by Danbyeok’s guards, but he looks earnestly at his brother and says that he’s there to ask for permission.
Once they’re alone, Mihol asks Asa Ron if he had planned the outcome of the Sacred Trial with Tagon. Asa Ron defends his announcement of Tagon’s spiritual abilities as the will of the eight Arthdal gods, but Mihol stays firm in his accusation of Tagon scheming against them. Mihol shares that he attached Taealha to Tagon as a spy, but even she’s been lost to Tagon’s cause. He implores that they must join forces.
Tagon respectfully asks for Danbyeok’s permission to conduct their father’s death rites. He acknowledges that Danbyeok was their father’s most trusted son, and he humbles himself to a son who never knew his mother. Danbyeok says that the ceremony should be conducted by the High Priest, and Tagon offers to receive permission from the High Priest.
Then, Danbyeok asks Tagon if he killed their father. He remembers that the Daekan warriors targeted Sanung after the Sacred Trial, and Tagon explains that he needed to know if Sanung framed him. Mihol’s suspicions ring through Danbyeok’s mind, and Danbyeok tells his brother that he had always trusted him. He had hoped for Tagon to save their father and for them to make amends.
Danbyeok demands to know if Tagon killed their father, and Tagon reveals that he actually wanted to kill Danbyeok. Tagon says that he wanted to be treated warmly, as Danbyeok always was by Sanung. He endured his brutal assignments away from Arthdal because he wanted Sanung’s approval, and now he will never earn it. Tagon presents his desire for approval as his defense that he didn’t kill Sanung.
Still convinced that Tagon killed Sanung, Danbyeok then shifts his focus on Taealha. He accuses Tagon of lashing out because Sanung stole Taealha from him. Tagon says that he wanted to kill Mihol for that because he had manipulated Tagon’s affection for Taealha, making her a spy for Sanung. He blames Mihol for alienating him from his father.
Mihol tells Asa Ron that Tagon is plotting to become the king, which is a new idea that Mihol learned from the West. To block Tagon from gaining this extensive power, Mihol urges Asa Ron to become the new Union leader and offers to support him. Asa Ron says that a priest is not fit for the role of Union leader, but Mihol assures him that he will lobby the tribe leaders’ support. In turn, he asks Asa Ron to target Tagon as the culprit of Sanung’s murder.
After his conversation with Danbyeok, Tagon walks out weakly with the support of Mugwang and earns Danbyeok’s sympathetic gaze. Mugwang then asks about what to do with the Wahan tribe, and Tagon eases into a smile and stride.
Mugwang tells his Daekwan warrior buddies that Tagon ordered for all the Wahan tribe to be beheaded after observing Sanung’s death rites. While the other warriors worry about getting proper compensation for the slaves, Mugwang worries about who will be sacrificed among them, since the Wahan tribe’s capture led to Eunseom killing Sanung. Someone will be held responsible.
The Arthdal soldiers relay the death sentence to the Wahan tribe, and they begin to weep about their inevitable end. One of the Wahan tribesmen blames Tanya for bringing Eunseom into their tribe and causing this destruction. He says that Tanya should have escaped with Eunseom when he came back for her, instead of coming along with the Wahan people to Arthdal. Dalsae tries to shut down this nonsense, but it does nothing to ease their sadness. They’re all going to die.
Tanya’s father, Yeolson, takes his daughter’s hands and reminds her of the prophecy: “The breaker of shells shall arrive on the day that the Azure Comet appears. And thus, Wahan will no longer be the same.” Yeolson says that he was curious about the meaning of this prophecy for so long, and he tearfully tells Tanya that she will always be his beautiful daughter.
Yeolson tells the tribe that Tanya is a cursed child, as the Azure Comet was a cursed star, and that Eunseom has also been cursed. Defeated, Yeolson says that the cursed child brought in another cursed child. Tanya tearfully accepts this accusation, saying that she failed to learn the spirit dance and to meet dreams. She blames her one successful incantation directed at Eunseom for leading them all to their deaths.
The Wahan people whimper that they do not want to be beheaded, and Yeolson recognizes that they cannot reach the Great White Wolf if they die this way. To avoid this, Yeolson allows for the Wahan people to strangle each other to death so that they can have a chance at reaching their intended afterlife.
When Chaeeun tells Eunseom about the Wahan tribe’s sentence, he immediately grabs for a weapon and heads out to meet Tagon. Chaeeun tells him to think of a plan, but he doesn’t have the time. She asks if wants to save his people or die with them, and Eunseom responds that he wants to do both. If he can’t save them, then he wants to die with them.
As Asa Ron prepares for Sanung’s death rite, his advisor urgently notifies him that Tagon has already initiated the ceremony. When Mihol hears of this, he looks satisfied with this conflict and seems hopeful that Asa Ron will react.
Tagon conducts the death rite on an elevated platform, with the Asa tribe members below playing the eerie music for the ceremony. As the surrounding Union tribes chant, Tagon asks the gods to accept Sanung back in their midst. He summons Daraburu, the god of their lands, and Aramun Haesulla, the god of their union.
Taealha tries to stop Tuak from going out to witness Sanung’s death rite, but Tuak insists on going. She promises not to get caught, and Taealha reluctantly lets her go. Eunseom sees Tuak leaving Tagon’s house, and he catches a glimpse of Taealha.
Asa Ron angrily intervenes at the death rite and questions Tagon’s authority to conduct this ceremony. He asks Tagon if he’s ever dreamt or heard the spirit, and Tagon denies this. Tagon reminds Asa Ron that he confirmed his spiritual abilities, but Asa Ron argues that Tagon’s final consciousness conjuring abilities only extend to those who died in battle.
Asa Ron demands that Tagon descend from the platform, and Tagon starts to obey. Then, Tagon orders Asa Ron to kneel. He turns around and claims that he is borrowing Tagon’s body to communicate with Asa Ron. Playing a god, Tagon reprimands Asa Ron for not recognizing him. From afar, an unknown figure opens a box and lets out fireflies.
Taealha paces and wonders if Tagon is executing his god role play well. A hooded figure suddenly holds a knife to her neck, and we see that it’s Eunseom.
As Tagon continues to role play, Mugwang recognizes that Tagon as Aramun. Tagon claims to have given life to the Asa tribe and continued the bloodline of the Saenyeok tribe. Mugwang declares that this is Aramun Haesulla, and the whole crowd begins to chant for Aramun. Asa Ron and Mihol have no power to intervene, and Tagon embraces the worship, as the fireflies begin to swarm around him, making him look even holier.
Holding a knife to Taealha’s throat, Eunseom hands her the cloth with purple blood and tells her to deliver this to her “master.” Taealha seems to recognize the dujeumsaeng from his strange word choice, but before she can say any more, Eunseom tightens his hold.
Eunseom orders Taealha to relay his message: To meet where they initially met at nightfall. He better not harm any of the Wahan people. With that, Eunseom disappears, and Taealha checks the cloth. When she sees the purple blood stain, her hands begin to shake.
Tagon continues to revel in the worship of the Arthdal people, unaware of his threatened livelihood. As Eunseom looks back at the echoing worship, he sends a warning, “If you hurt any of the Wahan people, then everyone in Arthdal will know that you’re an Igutu.”
I’m cackling at the firefly halo god worship scene with Jang Dong-geun in his Jesus hair and costume. There’s nothing subtle about it, and it just seems way overdone. I get that the show is emphasizing the importance of religion and spiritual worship in this pre-Gojoseon world, but the show has started to cross my threshold at which interesting details seem more like unnecessary embellishments and distractions from the story. I wanted more developments on Eunseom’s journey and learn more about Tanya, but instead, we got Tagon’s mane of glory turning into Jesus locks.
I could sense the reveal about Tagon being an Igutu, and I think the show did a good job of foreshadowing that. Sanung’s hatred and pity for his son makes sense, and it’s tragic that Tagon never really gained his father approval. He’s always known that this was impossible, and while most of the mourning was an act, I wonder how much grief he actually feels. It’s also tragic to put these two Igtutu against each other as enemies, when they should be standing in solidarity with each other. Only a few of them exist now, though we don’t know how many baby Igutus Tagon saved during the Neathal hunt.
Now that we’re starting to get into the thick of this show, I’m feeling a bit disappointed at the heavy emphasis on the politics of Arthdal. This world already has too many unfamiliar elements to adjust to, and the political schemes don’t add much to the excitement of the show. It’s the fantasy epic elements that make the show feel new and otherworldly, but there’s a fine line between fascinating and foreign. The show hasn’t found the right balance of its unfamiliar and captivating elements to continue to enthrall me, and I think most of alluring elements of the show have been buried in the politics. I’m hoping for a shift in the story from Tagon, whose story is embedded with politics and power struggles, to Eunseom, whose journey will surely carry more heart and endearment. And maybe once we shift our focus, the show will also decide to turn on the lights. Hopefully, the show didn’t blow through its budget with all the beautiful CGI in the first couple episodes that it can’t afford to show us what’s happening in the dark.
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