Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 8
Changes are upon Arthdal as a new union leader ascends to power with great ambitions to rule as king. As the new union leader, antihero Tagon, builds the groundwork to fulfill his ambitions, many others do the same for their own ambitions — of power, revenge, and freedom. Tanya seeks to find meaning in the inexplicable suffering and death that surrounds her, and with a little help from her owner, she begins to define her ambitions and find a new purpose.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Saya breaks into a mischievous smile and admits to Taealha that he poisoned Danbyeok. Taealha looks horrified as Saya explains that he feels avenged now that Tagon needs to marry an Asa woman. He adds that Taealha has it better, since Tagon is still alive while his lover, Saenarae, is now dead.
Crying in rage, Taealha yells that she apologized and regretted what she did to Saenarae. Saya reciprocates the apology, but he smirks that he may or may not regret his actions later. He stands and says that he’s cleared his grudges against Taealha and offers to reestablish their relationship, since Taealha is sure to need Saya now.
Tanya eavesdrops on this conversation, and Taealha shuts the door when she notices their eavesdropper standing by the doorway. Taealha regains her composure and asks Saya if he knows what she wants and fears, enough to help her. Saya nods, so Taealha orders him to call her “mother” going forward.
Saya laughs and says that they don’t have much of an age difference, but Taealha reminds him that she took him in and raised him at her young age. Saya acknowledges this and calls her “mother” with disdain. Taealha lifts her hand to smack him, but he stops her and looks straight into her eyes. He says that she should know more than anyone — the thirst for revenge.
Saya says that Taealha suffered under her father — engaging with a father-like figure (Sanung) and taking orders to kill the person she loves. He says that it’s her turn to get revenge. Taealha takes a swig of her wine when she returns to her room and looks determined to get revenge on her father.
Tagon meets with guild member Harim and Chaeeun to check on the body of Danbyeok. Harim says that he’s unsure whether Danbyeok was poisoned or ill, but the people think that Danbyeok was cursed by the goddess Isodunyong. Chaeeun and Harim offer their prayers to guide Danbyeok in his death.
After Tagon leaves, Moobaek comes out of hiding and asks Harim if Danbyeok has any chance of survival. Harim says that Danbyeok is close to death, and Moobaek responds that they need to get Danbyeok out of Arthdal as soon as possible, since he’ll surely die if he’s left there.
As Tagon leaves, he wrongly deduces that Danbyeok’s death is Asa Ron’s doing, so he orders Mihol’s release. He orders his minion to deliver one scroll to Mihol and another to Taealha. Then, Tagon returns to his soldier base and appoints Gilseon the new head of the forces.
Mihol looks surprised by his release and even more alarmed at the news of Danbyeok’s death. He receives the message from Tagon, and as he returns to the Fortress of Fire, he hears the warning message: “If you climb too high, you will fall. If you do things you aren’t supposed to, you will regret it.”
Mihol enters a room, where his servants and Taealha have been awaiting his arrival. He looks tense with anger as he approaches Taealha, but she gratefully grabs his hands and commends her father’s foresight in protecting the Hae tribe. If Sanung won, Mihol would be the leader, and if Tagon won, then Taealha would be the leader of the tribe. She feigns humility as she takes on this unworthy title.
Hae Tuak rubs this power transition in Yeobi’s face and taunts her for advice. She asks if one should rip someone’s mouth with a spoon or with twigs when administering truth serum. Yeobi spits on Hae Tuak’s face, and that provokes Hae Tuak to attack with her knife. Yeobi does the same, and the two engage in a fierce fight until Mihol’s right hand orders them to stop the commotion.
Inside the room, Mihol justifies making Taealha a spy to uphold the Hae reputation, but Taealha argues that he shouldn’t have upheld the reputation at her expense. With certainty, he accuses Tagon of killing Sanung, and Taealha acknowledges this obvious fact, since she’s the one who encouraged him all these years.
Taealha reminds her father of the time that he ordered Yeobi to make her a beautiful dress. She had stuck by Yeobi’s side, entranced by the whole process, unaware that the person who would dress her and disrobe her would be Sanung.
Mihol asks if that’s the reason that Taealha betrayed her father and joined Tagon. He warns her that Tagon will ruin the union and become king, and Taealha says that she will have this king. She says that the union is doomed anyway, since they’ve become too large to function as a union. She vows to rule from the top with Tagon.
As Taealha turns to leave, Mihol asks about marriage. He knows that Tagon will marry an Asa woman, and Taealha acknowledges this sore spot. She claims that she told Tagon to do so and refuses to be abandoned. Walking toward her father, she asserts that she will decide where she’ll be and go, who she’ll like and abandon, and who will become king. She yells that she will make Tagon the king.
Moobaek and Gilseon retrieve Tagon from his prayer cave to escort him to the preparation for his appointment as Union Leader. Meanwhile, Tagon’s Daekan warriors capture an innocent man, rip out his tongue, and paint his face to replicate Eunseom.
In front of the Arthdal people, Asa Ron conducts the ritual blessing to appoint Tagon as their new Union Leader, and Tagon lifts the sacred sword. The people cheer for Tagon as their new Union Leader. Then, he takes the hand of Asa Mot, and Taealha watches them raise their hands in union.
The gates open, and a Daekan warrior enters with the framed Sanung-killer dragging behind his horse. Chaeeun immediately covers little Doti’s eyes, as the Daekan warriors proceed to hang the innocent man above a cauldron of boiling water. Tagon holds up his hand to momentarily cease the punishment, and then he signals the warriors the kill the innocent man, who falls into the boiling water.
The Arthdal people cheer in celebration of their revenge for Sanung, and Tagon stands up to strike a power pose. The people go wild, and hooded Saya observes the reaction.
Asa Ron meets with Tagon, who proposes a revival of a ruling system that Aramun founded Arthdal with about 200 years ago. Tagon plans on calling all the head of the tribes to Arthdal, and Asa Ron presumes that Tagon intends to have a firmer grip on these leaders.
At the Bandi Forest tribal meeting, Tagon proposes the bang and sol system. The precocious young girl and new leader of the Saenyeok tribe describes the system: the sol leads the followers, bang, in executing a task that they are best at.
Tagon requests that the tribe leaders come to Arthdal and serve as the ministers and vice ministers of the bang and won. The tribe leaders seem excited by this request, and Taealha thinks to herself that Tagon resembles Sanung in his acting abilities.
All the tribe leaders accept this request, including Asa Ron, so they begin to delegate the ministries — the bronze production minister position going to Taealha, and the ceremonial ritual minister role going to Asa Ron. After the meeting, Asa Ron’s right-hand, Asa Yon, angrily disapproves of this appointment, as it puts Asa Ron under Tagon. Asa Ron also expresses rage as he screams in the caves on his way to his quarters.
Tagon leisurely rides through the forest with Taealha, who seems amused by the tribe leaders’ blind faith in Tagon. We learn that the precocious Saenyeok tribe leader is Danbyeok’s daughter, and Tagon seems sympathetic to her young age and misfortune. Taealha then asks what he plans to do with their child, Saya.
Hae Tuak excitedly offers different garments to Saya, as he will soon be announced to Arthdal as Tagon’s son. Saya looks disinterested in the garment choices and watches Tanya’s reflection in the mirror. She looks uncomfortable and scratches her leg with her other foot, and Saya laughs at this sight.
Just as Hae Tuak turns to scold Tanya, Tagon arrives. Hae Tuak and Tanya exit the room, leaving Tagon to address his son. He notes that Saya is now an adult and asks if Saya read all the Hae tribe books. Saya confirms this, explaining that he had nothing else to do.
Saya apologizes for unveiling himself to Tanya and explain that he had never encountered someone who did not know what an Igutu was. Then, Tagon asks Saya to show his back and sees that his scales have shed. He grants permission for Saya to leave the fortress but warns him not to get caught.
Before Tagon leaves, Saya asks why he did not go further as Aramun Haesulla, who was a god that only came into existence after the Asa clan’s recognition. Tagon claims that he could have become Union Leader without his stint as Aramun, but Saya points out that the union leader isn’t a king.
Saya says that the Arthdal people fear the Asa clan but admire Tagon. He says that a king must be catastrophic and terrifying, but Tagon tries to be a good person. Saya asserts that Tagon must be as hallowed as the Asa tribe, whose downfall is thought to cause a disaster.
Tagon asks why he must be honored so deeply, and Saya proceeds to cut his hand to show his purple Igutu blood. Saya says that Igutu are superior to humans, and once Tagon ascends the throne, Saya will inherit the power. They can be honored as gods and confidently show their purple blood.
Tagon yells at Saya for learning nothing about Igutu’s place in Arthdal. He tells the story of his childhood friend, who saw his blood. The friend’s entire family was killed by Sanung. From that day forward, Tagon immediately killed whoever knew his secret because he would have to kill more people otherwise.
Tagon tells Saya that he would meet fearless warriors in war, but he would never get to know them because they would die too soon. He advises Saya to learn fear; otherwise, Tagon will have to teach him, just as Sanung had. As Tagon leaves, Saya begins to ask a pointed question, but he stops himself and heeds his father’s warning.
Tagon completes Saya’s unfinished question: Is he ashamed that he’s an Igutu? He thinks back to his younger self, stuffing his face with red fruit in hopes that his blood would turn red. When he found that his blood remained purple, young Tagon broke down into tears. In the present, Tagon answers that question: He’s not ashamed; He loathes that he’s an Igutu.
Taealha finds Tanya and asks how she’s adjusting. Tanya responds that she can endure any task or suffering because she has a reason to live. Taealha laughs in amusement and orders Tanya to spy on Saya, reporting only to Taealha. If Tanya disobeys, then her father will be punished. Tanya desperately asks where her father is, and Taealha informs her that he will become a slave at the Fortress of Fire.
Yeolson and the remaining Wahan tribe members are gathered at the fortress as prisoners, and they mourn the death of Eunseom, who they think died in the boiling water. Mungtae refuses to pity Eunseom because they’re more pitiful — abandoned by Dalsae and Bulsoe, left to die. He regrets not betraying them first.
The Wahan tribe are separated to be sold off as slaves, but Yeolson remains. Yeolson is brought to the Fortress of Fire to spy and report anything to Mookwang. Yeolson marvels at the novel sights of the record room — the gadgets, garments, the chair — as he’s lead by Hae Gaon.
Mihol’s right-hand Hae Heullib asks for Yeolson to tell him everything about the place he’s from — the plants, animals, the land, the weather. They explain that they will write down everything, and he asks what it means to write.
As Yeolson follows Gaon, he ponders the significance of words, which were explained to him as symbols that could talk even without his existence. He’s fascinated by the idea that these words represent him.
In the kitchen, Tanya also ponders the meaning of new things — for her, spices and condiments. She was told that these items are not food but things that enhance food. She has no idea what that means, so she first tries smelling the vinegar, which alarms her senses. Then, she eats a spoonful of the mustard (ahh nooo, that’s hella spicy!), and her eyes widen.
Outside, Hae Tuak tries to teach Saya some fighting moves, but Saya quickly gives up, saying that he doesn’t have a knack for physical combat. Then, they’re interrupted by Tanya’s screams in the kitchen. Tanya fumbles around for water, knocking over and breaking the ceramic on the counter. She coughs and then takes a swig of the vinegar, which only adds more shock to her system.
Hae Tuak finds Tanya on the ground, and Tanya asks if these condiments are actually poison. Hae Tuak kicks Tanya out of the kitchen to clean up the mess and orders Tanya to keep on eye on Saya. But when Tanya exits the kitchen, Saya has disappeared.
Hae Tuak and Tanya search the streets for Saya, who quickly walks away in a hooded robe. Tanya spots him and follows him into the woods, where Saya stops her from behind. Saya asks why Tanya isn’t running away from Taealha, and Tanya responds that she can’t run away because they’ll kill her father, who’s at the Fortress of Fire.
Tanya turns around and sees a familiar sight in the tree behind them. She slowly approaches it and notices the treehouse’s resemblance to Eunseom’s hut in Iark. She asks what this is, and Saya explains that he dreams. Although he’s been caged up his whole life, this is where he lives in his dreams.
Saya adds that in his dreams, he’s extremely fast and strong, but his dreams become muddled when he wakes up. Tanya wonders if Saya and Eunseom are connected through their dreams. As she looks up at the treehouse, Saya thinks that he vaguely recognizes Tanya from his dreams, but he’s not sure.
Then, Saya leads Tanya though a cave and looks excited to share his secret passageway. Tanya thinks about how Saya must be Eunseom’s twin, so all three of them were born on the same fateful day of the Azure Comet. She wonders if there’s some significance in that. Then, she looks at Saya and realizes that she sorely misses Eunseom.
When they arrive at their destination, they find Hae Tuak waiting. She knew that Saya would come to the record room in the Fortress of Fire, and she warns Saya to leave before Taealha finds out. Saya refuses to leave and says that he wants Tanya to see her father, who’s being held here.
When Hae Tuak disallows it, Saya’s eyes turn cold. He threatens to yell about his Igutu identity and reveal that he’s Tagon’s son. He knows that Hae Tuak could knock him out, so he also threatens to bleed purple. Hae Tuak tries to laugh this off as a joke, but Saya looks offended at her levity. He slowly approaches Hae Tuak and accuses her of killing Saenarae. Hae Tuak looks terrified.
Shaken by her encounter with Saya, Hae Tuak numbly leads Tanya through the record room to meet her father. When Tanya enters the room, she finds her father examining written words on leather. She calls out to him, and they tightly embrace each other. They’re relieved to see each other alive, and Yeolson assures Tanya that rest of the Wahan people are alive and sold to serve, like him.
Then, Tanya asks about Eunseom, and her father goes silent. He wonders if she hasn’t heard yet, and she drops her hands, assuming the worst. Yeolson reveals that Eunseom died, and Tanya looks at him in disbelief.
Injured Eunseom dreams about Tanya working, and he slowly stirs awake. He looks alarmed to be in an unfamiliar place, and he curls in pain when he jerks awake. Nunbyeol warns him not to move to prevent reopening his wound, and she assures him that she’s an ally — Chaeeun’s younger sister. Nunbyeol says that two of his friends are waiting outside, and she ushers them in.
Dalsae and Buksoe greet Eunseom in relief and hug him a little too tightly for his injuries. Eunseom asks about the Wahan people, and Dalsae shares that the Wahan people are alive and that Eunseom is proclaimed as dead. Then, Eunseom asks about Tanya, and his friends go quiet. They haven’t heard about her, so they presume that she may be dead. Eunseom doesn’t accept this because he saw Tanya in his dreams for the first time.
Dalsae and Buksoe share their plans to save Mungtae and Teodae, who will be sent on a long journey to be sold to slavery. They ask if Eunseom would like to join them and seem discouraged by Eunseom’s injuries, but Eunseom won’t let his injuries stop him. Getting ready to leave, he puts on the lip tint and explains that purple lips are an unlucky sign among the Arthdal people. Dalsae agrees with this notion and jokes that humans must be the same everywhere.
As Tanya walks back with Saya and Hae Tuak, she lets out laughs of disbelief. Saya asks if she’s laughing out of joy of seeing her father, and Tanya lets him believe this. Hae Tuak recalls Yeolson begging that she take care of Tanya, especially after he just revealed that Tanya’s best friend who she loved just died. Hae Tuak observes Tanya laughing and wonders if she’s gone mad.
Mungtae and Teodae look frightened by their journey ahead, as they’ve heard that none of them would return alive. As they take a break on their journey, Teodae notices rocks being thrown at him. He turns to find Eunseom with Dalsae and Buksoe, and he silently informs Mungtae.
Just as the slaves are ordered to get back up, Mungtae throws a tantrum and says that he’s in pain. They let him off the rope to allow him to go clear his system, leaving Teodae alone on the march. When Eunseom and Dalsae see the line of prisoners, they’re thrown off that Mungtae is nowhere in sight. But their mission has already begun with Buksoe starting the fire up ahead.
Before Eunseom and Dalsae can make any moves, they’re captured by the Arthdal warriors. Dalsae yells for Buksoe to run away, and luckily Buksoe avoids capture. Eunseom and Dalsae are brought to Gilseon, and they look unsettled when they find out that Mungtae ratted them out.
Indignant at Dalsae for leaving him behind, Mungtae took this chance to get revenge on his friend. Mungtae feels betrayed by Dalsae and angry at Eunseom for only causing them pain. He finds their efforts for freedom futile, since Wahan is over anyway. As he walks away, Mungtae tries to overcome his guilt by convincing himself that he’s not sorry.
Gilseon makes a deal with Syoreujagin to sell one of their prized slaves, and he returns to find Mungtae being beaten by the Arthdal warriors for demanding his freedom. The Arthdal warriors never intended to keep their promise with Mungtae, and Gilseon says that Mungtae shouldn’t feel so entitled after betraying his friends. Mungtae cries that he just wanted to live and takes Gilseon’s offer to do anything to survive.
Dalsae asks Eunseom if he’s able to free himself from the tied rope, but Eunseom can’t seem to find the strength. He thinks back to his fight with the Daekan warriors and wonders how he was able to break out of the chains. Teodae tells Dalsae that he could understand Mungtae because he, too, had yelled for Dalsae’s help.
The cries for help ring in Dalsae’s mind, and he acknowledges that he ignored everyone’s cries because he wasn’t confident that he could save anyone. Teodae tells him to stop making excuses, and they start to fight, holding up everyone in the line. The warriors beat them for causing a disturbance, and Eunseom suffers a cut, revealing his purple blood.
The warriors realize that Eunseom is an Igutu, and Syoreujagin confirms with his own sword that Eunseom bleeds purple. They’re terrified and disgusted by the Igutu, and they continue to beat Eunseom so that he can’t use any of his powers. From afar, Helper notices a weakened Eunseom and makes moves.
Hae Tuak wonders aloud of Tanya has really gone crazy, and Saya asks what she means. After hearing the backstory, Saya immediately confronts Tanya and asks what she’s waiting for. He knows that she’s determined to die, since he acted the same way when Saenarae died. He happily awaited to die in front of Taealha, and he demands to know what Tanya is waiting for.
Saya says that her best friend just died, but Tanya denies this. She’s sure that Eunseom will come to save her because she asked him to. Saya confirms that Eunseom died, and Tanya’s voice shakes as she tries to deny this. He continues with details on how Eunseom died — tongue ripped out and dropped into boiling water as the people cheered for his death.
Tanya screams in denial, but Saya continues to drive the truth home. He recalls how the Arthdal people yelled in celebration of revenge by killing the dirty dujumsaeng. Tanya breaks and attacks Saya, chocking him and hitting him for revealing the hurtful truth. She continues to deny Eunseom’s death, and Hae Tuak runs in to save Saya from Tanya’s mad rage.
As Eunseom gets dragged by a horse, Tanya mourns the loss of her best friend. She thinks back to their childhood, when she had encouraged young Eunseom to join the other children in play. She remembers comforting Eunseom, after finding him in tears in the field where his mother died. Tanya blames herself for Eunseom’s death, for tying down a free spirit with a spell.
As Tanya caves in painful acknowledgement of Eunseom’s death, Saya silently watches her by the door of her cell. The next morning, Saya brings Tanya food and reminds her of her words that it doesn’t matter how one lives if they have a reason to live. He asks Tanya if Eunseom was her reason.
Tanya responds by asking why they’re suffering. She wonders why Wahan people died, why Eunseom was so cruelly killed, and why they were captured in the first place. Saya explains that Arthdal is short-handed, with many seeds to sow, homes to build, and gems to find.
Tanya asks why they need so much. She recalls one boar being enough to share amongst Wahan people, and she asks if the people here have one boar to themselves or eat multiple meals a day. Saya says that people are not eating to fill their stomachs but to fill their hearts. He says that people here have a hunger to fill their hearts.
More confused, Tanya admits that she doesn’t understand any of it. Saya recognizes that Tanya knows nothing about the insatiable nature power, unless she gets a taste of it. Losing any sympathy, he approaches her and says that she’ll never knowwhy her people were captured, why her best friend died, why she’ll die.
Saya leaves the room and immediately worries about his approach. He doesn’t know if it worked and seems anxious that Tanya may actually die. In the room, Tanya thinks about Saya’s words: position, power, reason. Then, she thinks about Eunseom, who continues to get dragged behind a horse while getting beaten to a pulp.
In her cell, Tanya thinks back to her childhood and how she learned to use different stones to take hunt different animals: smaller stones for birds and sharper stones for boars. Then, she was asked which stone to grab if a tiger suddenly showed up in front of them.
Saya paces in his room, worried about Tanya, but he tries to convince himself that he doesn’t care what happens to her. The wheels turn in Tanya’s head, and she vows to stay alive and reach that position of power to understand why everything happened to them. She promises to tell Eunseom everything one day.
Back to the tiger question, young Tanya picks out a sharp stone, but she’s taught that if a tiger suddenly attacks, she should just pick the closest stone. Saya barges into the cell, and Tanya decides that he’s her closest stone, her first weapon. Tanya gets on her knees and begs for forgiveness. She asks him to save her life. “I am yours, owner,” she says.
Saya looks confused at Tanya suddenly addressing him as “owner,” and Tanya says that he will need him. She promises to serve him with all she has. With a determined look, Tanya thinks, “I, Tanya of Wahan, cast a spell on you. Accept my spell and find out who will really become the owner, Saya.”
Yes, Tanya! It’s been a long time coming, and I’m glad that we’re finally seeing Tanya taking action against her oppressors. I enjoyed watching the wheels turning in Tanya’s head, using Saya’s provocative words to spark a plan and conviction to find out the reason for this suffering. Tanya has already proven herself as astute and intuitive, and now she’s using those skills not only to survive but also to plot revenge. I am here for this, and I ready for Tanya to grab those stones.
Damn, I love Saya as a character in this story. He completely changes the game for me and how I feel about this series. The show felt like it was headed into a rut until Saya showed up, and I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) by this upswing. I’m much more intrigued by Saya than Eunseom because the environment he grew up has molded him into such a fascinating person. He’s acutely aware of his vulnerability as an Igutu, but he’s unashamed of it because he’s learned to use it to his advantage. I’m interested to see how the connected twin dreams will influence Saya, and whether he’ll be able to use that ability to his advantage as well. Saya is a frightening character, who seems to have psychopathic tendencies, but it’s incredibly refreshing to see him pose an actual threat to Taealha and Tagon.
Though the focus of this episode shifted to Saya and Tanya, I appreciated the focus on Taealha’s agency in the beginning of this episode. Despite being an antagonist of sorts, I find myself rooting for her to have her way. I love how she’s determined to own her life and break free from the grips of her father. She puts her desires and ambitions first, and I appreciate that she’s not painted as a one-dimensional villain who will do anything to fulfill her desires. The power struggle between Taealha and Saya shows that Taealha wasn’t immune to her own demons, and I loved seeing how that scene played out — emotionally-charged, unpredictable, and gripping. This is the pace that I’ve been waiting for, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this show shows off its stride.
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