Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 17
While a tyrant fights for his position as king, he’s rapidly losing control, and his attempts to wrest power from his opponents is earning him more enemies than friends. Meanwhile our humble hero finds himself gaining power he never expected, and he decides to use that power to further his cause. They’re drawing ever closer to a showdown, and it’s anyone’s guess who will win and who will lose when the victory lies with the hearts of the people.
EPISODE 17 RECAP
Eunseom is saved from dying during the Judgment of the Waterfall by Karika and her Momo warriors, who are inhumanly agile in the water. They get him to the shallows, where Dalsae tackle-hugs Eunseom and nearly drowns him in a few inches of water, lol. Eunseom blinks up at everyone, wondering if this is a dream, and then Badoru leaps on him and almost drowns him a third time. So cute.
Once everything is explained, Eunseom thanks Karika and her men for saving his life. Karika says they’re now “untwined” now that her debt to him for saving her baby’s life has been paid. She asks what he’ll do now, and Eunseom says he has to go back and save Ipsaeng.
Karika laughs and says that if he returns to the Myo clan, he’ll no longer live as himself. She offers Eunseom the chance to go with her, but he insists on saving Ipsaeng, so Karika extends the invitation to join the Momo tribe any time he wishes.
The Myo clan pray fervently for Inaishingi (in the form of Eunseom, for surviving the Judgment) to return to them, but the chief’s daughter’s intended, Tachoogan, sneers that they’re all crazy. He argues to the chief that Eunseom was obviously lying about dreaming of Inaishingi, but the female warrior, Miroosol, can’t believe that Ipsaeng, an Ago tribe member, would lie about such a thing.
Tachoogan decides to prove that Ipsaeng is lying, so he goes to the cages, ostensibly to bring Ipsaeng his last meal. He casually cuts the vines holding the cage together, which Ipsaeng immediately notices. He tries to run, but Tachoogan is lying in wait, and he lassos Ipsaeng before he gets more than a few steps away.
He yells to the chief that Ipsaeng wouldn’t be trying to escape if the Igutu had been telling the truth. Ipsaeng calls Tachoogan a fool for believing Eunseom’s claim of have received a dream vision from Inaishingi, and he growls for them to kill him now because they’ll all end up dead at the hands of the other Ago clans anyway.
Tachoogan notices that the others are listening to Ipsaeng’s warnings and tells them not to be tricked. Miroosol says that they believed Eunseom because they desperately wanted his words to be true, that they could help the other clans instead of selling them into slavery.
Tachoogan screams that that’s why they can’t afford hope, and that it’s ridiculous to wait for Inaishingi to return and save them. At that exact moment, Eunseom returns and pulls the sickle from the stump, the last act of his Judgment. The entire clan stare at him, dumbfounded, and Eunseom just gasps, “We’re good now, right?” HA.
He helps Ipsaeng to his feet and says that regardless of whether the message comes from Inaishingi or not, it’s still stupid to war with their own tribe. He’s ready to take Ipsaeng and leave, but Ipsaeng stammers, “I… In.. Inaishingi?” The rest of the clan take up the cry, “Inaishingi has returned!” as they hoist Eunseom into the air.
Eunseom is taken to the council lodge and told that he and Inaishingi are the only people who have ever survived the Judgment of the Waterfall. The chief believes that Eunseom is the second coming of Inaishingi, but Eunseom confesses that someone saved him. The Myo grandmother says that doesn’t matter — for all they know, Inaishingi also had help a thousand years ago.
Eunseom starts to say that he made up the dream, but Tachoogan grabs him and drags him out to stand in front of the other warriors. They vow to do as Inaishingi says and start saving the other tribes from slavery, and they even swear to die for him. Tachoogan whispers to Eunseom that whether or not he truly had that dream, he is Inaishingi now.
Pulling Ipsaeng into a storeroom for privacy, Eunseom asks what they’re supposed to do now. Ipsaeng says Eunseom can’t leave now, but Eunseom replies that he still has to save Tanya and the Wahans. Ipsaeng reminds Eunseom that he needs subordinates, and that if he accepts the role of Inaishingi, he’ll have all thirty thousand Ago tribe members following his orders.
Eunseom says it’s scary to take responsibility for that many lives. Ipsaeng counters that what’s really scary is failing to live up to the expectations of thirty thousand people. Good point.
Later, with Dalsae, Eunseom says that this is what Karika meant by saying he’d no longer be able to live as himself. Dalsae tells Eunseom that the Wahan tribe no longer exists, because they’ve all gotten selfish and only look out for themselves, even him. He admits that he felt like dying after he betrayed his friends, but now he knows that that’s just how Arthdal works.
He mentions the first time they went hunting at age twelve, and Eunseom recalls that Mother Choseol said, “If everyone is scared, there are no cowards. It’s just that your opponent is too strong,” and that the solution is to fight together, or run away together. Dalsae says that Eunseom will do a good job uniting the Ago tribe.
A little girl offers Eunseom her father’s clothes and says tearfully that her father was a great warrior. She asks Eunseom to wear his clothes and rescue their people, and Eunseom reverently accepts her gift. He thinks, “Tanya, my plan for saving you has changed a little.”
Back in Arthdal, Tagon enforces a new rule that when he’s carried through the streets, the people are to bow with their foreheads on the ground. Moobaek is disturbed by Tagon’s new ruthless demeanor, especially the way he killed Asa Ron without a trial, and Harim, who saved his life. Saya watches Moobaek, wondering what he meant by calling him “the mirror,” and who the bell and the sword might be.
A woman (cameo by Lee Mi-do) stands in the path of the procession and announces that she’s the shaman of the Bato tribe. She snarls, “I curse you in the name of our great hunting god, Mihaje! You killed the head of my tribe and our elders. Mihaje’s arrow will blind and deafen you. Your tongue will get stuck, so you won’t even be able to scream as you’re dying!”
Kitoha is prepared to kill the shaman, but Tagon tells her that her god can’t curse Aramun Haesulla. She screams that the thing he tries to destroy will instead destroy him, then she brandishes a knife and plunges it into her own heart.
Tagon continues to his destination, the library at Pilgyeonggwan, where he’s met by Taealha and Mihol. Mihol conducts a tour, stating ceremonially that everything under the sky now belongs to Tagon, which Moobaek finds odd. Tagon asks if Mihol truly believes that, and when Mihol says he does (after a marked hesitation), Tagon growls that it’s a good thing for both of them, and for Arthdal.
Later, Tagon asks Saya what he needs to do first to become king. Saya tells him to abolish tribalism, repeating Tanya’s words: “Your name ties you down.” He says that if they stop acknowledging the separate tribes by name, they will no longer exist, and they can encompass all the people under the nation of Arthdal.
Taealha points out that the people of the Union will also need a new name. Tagon tells Saya to ask Tanya to come up with a name, believing that a name she creates will have spiritual powers. Saya has also created an emblem to represent all the people, but when he stands to get it, Taealha stops him.
She strokes his head, proudly telling Tagon not to forget that Saya is the result of her years of hard work. She leaves, saying that she’s got a lot to do as the Hae tribe leader, but she thinks to herself, “No, that can’t be.”
Before Tagon leaves, Saya asks Tagon if he plans to let Mihol keep the secret of bronzeworking, when even Mihol said the king owns everything. Moobaek tries to excuse himself, but Tagon and Saya both say that he needs to hear this since his forces will be at the forefront of the uprising.
Taealha goes to Mihol and tries to reassure him that as Tagon’s queen, she’ll guard his secret, but Mihol doesn’t trust Tagon. He says that Taealha has changed more than Tagon, allying herself with whoever seems strongest instead of trusting her father. He asks angrily if Tagon would risk his life for her as she’s done for him, but Taealha snaps back that the world is changing, and Tagon will be its king.
Mihol says that she’s only heard of kings while he served one personally. He warns Taealha that Tagon won’t share his power with her or anyone else.
Meanwhile, Saya is telling Tagon how difficult it is to be a king when Tagon suddenly drops to his knees. He explains that his injuries from the night of the coup are still healing, but Saya seems very concerned.
Moobaek wonders if Saya is truly the mirror, fated to go against Tagon. He’s joined by Yeonbal, who tells him about the revolt at the mines, and Moobaek ponders Eunseom’s fate. Yeonbal offers his condolences on Moogwang’s death, but Moobaek just tells him to report to Tagon.
Yeonbal is awed and confused by the changes when he enters the “throne room” and MT blocks him from getting to close to Tagon. He gets a shock at the sight of Saya, who looks so much like the Igutu who escaped from the mines. Tagon tells Yeonbal that it doesn’t matter that he couldn’t catch Olmadae and rewards him anyway.
Tagon notices how Yeonbal is staring at Saya and introduces him as his son. Saya also finds Yeonbal familiar, although he’s not sure why.
Kitoha talks to Yeonbal afterward, assuming that he’s acting strange because of the Doldambul mine revolt. Yeonbal starts to mention Saya, but Kitoha just squishes him in a big hug, wailing that everyone else but them knew about him, ha. When Yeonbal gets free, he tells Kitoha that Saya looks exactly like the Igutu who instigated the mine riot. Kitoha warns Yeonbal that saying that could get him killed.
Tagon has been looking increasingly unwell, and he stumbles again in his throne room. Kitoha worries that he’s suffering from the Bato shaman’s curse, but Yeonbal calls him stupid. Kitoha barks that at least he’s not going on about an Igutu who looks like Saya — who is, of course, listening nearby.
Tagon suffers convulsions, and when the news reaches the people, they say it’s the Bato god’s punishment for Tagon’s brutality. He’s taken to bed and Saya hovers over him, searching through a book on Igutu anatomy for a way to cure his father.
At the Doldambul mines, a new batch of slaves is being broken in when there’s a loud drumming at the gate. The guards yell for the drummer to knock it off, and he turns around. It’s Eunseom, who counts the number of guards then bids them farewell.
At a whistle from Eunseom, Myo warriors rain arrows down on the guards, then swarm through the gates. Eunseom himself attacks the leader of the guards, growling, “I told you that the day I return to Doldambul, you will be buried underground. Or whatever,” as he skewers him through the heart.
As the Myo warriors lead the slaves to freedom, Eunseom watches from a platform high above. He looks awed as he thinks, “It has started.”
Now that Yeonbal has returned, Tanya is notified that there was a riot at Doldambul and that so many slaves died or escaped, they weren’t able to bring back the Wahans as she asked. She tells herself that there’s no way Eunseom can be dead, and that he’ll definitely return to her.
Taealha considers what Mihol said about the way she risked her own life when she heard that Tagon was facing a coup. She admits to herself that she didn’t consider her own well-being that night, but when Tanya comes to the ceremony chamber at the Great Shrine, Taealha denies being worried.
She changes the subject to ask Tanya why she wants to gain power, when she’d have a better life than she did in Iark if she simply follows orders. Tanya says she’s aware that she’ll be discarded once she’s no longer useful, and Taealha marvels that Tanya’s already learned not to trust people.
Taealha comes running when she hears that Tagon’s fever is increasing. Nothing Saya does helps, so he rips open Tagon’s clothes to check the wound where Black Tongue stabbed him. It’s black and his skin is rotting away, and Saya realizes that it needs to be cut away and the wound cauterized.
Tagon hides his wound when Taealha arrives and says it’s nothing. But Taealha tells him that the people are already gathering at the statue of Mihaje, begging the god to forgive him because they believe he’s being punished.
Tagon insists on going out, against both Taealha and Saya’s warnings that it could kill him. Taealha tries to block him, saying that it’s too soon, but Tagon spits that Taealha is the one who never cared about being loved by the people.
The people praying at the statue assume that Tagon came seeking forgiveness from Mihaje. Instead, he attacks the statue, viciously striking it with his sword until it crumbles at his feet. He challenges the god: “Do your worst, Mihaje. Try to kill Aramun Haesulla if you can. We’ll see who’s the true god and who’s the first to be removed from the Great Shrine.”
With a roar, he cuts the head from the statue. He bellows to his Daekan warriors to burn every shrine to Mihaje and torch his sacred Nandal Mountain. Even the warriors look alarmed, but they obey.
Taealha stares in shock as the people wail for their destroyed god, alarmed at the drastic changes in him. She asks Hae Tuak who can make a hallucinogen, and Hae Tuak names Hae Yangu, so Taealha asks for her to be brought to her tomorrow.
Back in his chamber, Tagon denies Saya’s request to bring in a doctor, refusing to put his fate in the hands of a stranger. He tells Saya to perform the surgery himself, and when Saya says he’s never done it before, Tagon reminds him of his promise to make Tagon a king.
With no other choice, Saya tells Tagon to choose a Daekan warrior strong enough to hold him down. Tagon scoffs that Igutus can withstand tremendous pain, so Saya nervously brings out the tools. Tagon bites on a scrap of fabric while Saya cuts out the infection, and after a few minutes, he mercifully passes out.
Saya cauterizes the wound, thinking to himself, “It’s all clear now. This Igutu is my father, and Mihaje or any other god won’t be able to defeat him.”
When Tagon wakes, Saya is asleep next to his bed. He covers Saya with a fur, but Saya wakes up, and he sighs when Tagon says he’s feeling better. Tagon tells Saya that if he becomes a king who has everything, Saya will be his heir and successor, and that he’s decided to own it all, even Mihol’s secret.
Mihol is at the Fortress of Fire, where all the workers are made to turn their backs when he executes the secret steps of the bronzeworking process. Mihol is summoned to Tagon’s presence, but Yeonbal leads him to where Saya is very obviously preparing for his torture.
Now that Saya saved Tagon’s life, Taealha thinks, Tagon will be considered more powerful than Mihaje, and she knows that his next move will be to take everything from everyone. The second gift she commissioned for Tagon is finished, so Taealha wants to invite her father to see it, but she’s told that he went to see Tagon early this morning.
Just then, Tae Huak brings Tae Yangu to see Taealha, and Taealha hears everything everyone has said about how Tagon has changed ringing in her head. She leaves without a word and goes to Tagon, who says that Saya is getting the secret of bronzeworking from Mihol. He apologizes for not telling her, but he asserts that a king must have everything.
He asks how they’re supposed to make bronze if Mihol leaves Arthdal or dies. Taealha asks if that justifies torture, but Tagon just asks her to be reasonable. She reins in her fury and agrees that a king must have everything, but she says that torture won’t work on Mihol and asks Tagon to let her talk to him, showing him a vial of hallucinogen.
Kitoha is administering Mihol’s torture while Saya periodically asks for the secret of bronzeworking. Mihol merely gasps that they should have killed Tagon when they had the chance and that nothing will make him give up the secret. But Saya says that they’ll let him heal between torture sessions and won’t allow him to die.
Taealha arrives and insults Kitoha’s torture skills, and says that her hallucinogen will do the job quickly. She orders everyone but Tae Yangu out of the room. Mihol screams that he should have killed her when he realized she was in love with Tagon, but Taealha ignores him.
Once they’re alone, she asks what Mihol would do in her place. He begs her to kill him before he gives in, and Taealha lets him smell the vial, which he realizes actually contains the odorless bichwisan poison. He sobs gratefully, and Taealha apologizes to him for the first time in her life, admitting that everything he said about Tagon was right.
She promises him that she’ll get revenge, and she asks him to tell her the secret of the bronze before he dies. Mihol nods, and tells her to go to the Great Gochiju Rock where the symbols of those who caused the collapse of the Hae tribe are carved, and to take up the mission of the Hae tribe.
Tagon finds Saya and Kitoha outside the torture room and bursts in, but it’s too late — Mihol is dead. Taealha grabs one of the bone skewers from Mihol’s hand and stabs Hae Yangu in the neck, killing her. She tells Tagon that she gave Mihol bichwisan, and that she just killed the only person who knew how to make hallucinogens, so they will no longer exist in Arthdal.
She says that she’s now the only person alive who knows how to work bronze. She spits that she’s doing this because Tagon went behind her back and conspired with Saya after she helped him become a king, so it’s his fault if she’s changed. Tagon threatens to have Taealha tortured, but she just laughs and says she’d gladly accept death.
Leaning in close, Taealha whispers, “Be happy. I’m pregnant with your baby. I’m pregnant with Aramun’s baby. There’s a god growing inside me. What will you do, will you torture me? Kill me? If you don’t kill me now I can’t guarantee that I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
She says that Tagon doesn’t have the guts to kill her because he’s been lonely all his life, and he still suffers from loneliness. She smiles triumphantly, while Tagon turns red with fury.
First things first, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. At the time that I’m writing this, Episode 18 has aired, and while I won’t talk about how it ends — I can’t, because I haven’t watched the full episode — you’ve probably heard by now that it is not the ending to Eunseom and Tagon’s story. I find this both frustrating and disappointing, because so many moments I’ve been anticipating may never happen, such as Eunseom and Saya finally meeting and learning that they’re twins and have been dreaming each other’s lives, and whether or not Eunseom and Tanya ever reunite and rekindle their childhood love. But there’s still one more episode leading us to the conclusion of this chapter in the story, so I’ll just try to enjoy it as much as I can.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system (okay there’s more, but I’m saving it for the Episode 18 recap), I can talk about this episode. I haven’t ever cared for Taealha, finding her pretty flat unlike almost every other character except Tanya and Eunseom, who are meant to be entirely good. Taealha is pretty unambiguously greedy, sneaky, and untrustworthy, and I’d have liked her to be more like Tagon, whom I never know whether to trust or not. That said, I’m super impressed with how Taealha turned her father’s torture into a way of keeping herself alive by making herself the only holder of the bronzeworking secret. And whether or not she’s actually pregnant, it was a stroke of brilliance to claim to be. It buys her at least a few months of safety until she either begins showing or not, and by then she’ll have had plenty of time to come up with several more plans for saving her skin.
I love how Eunseom is growing and evolving from a timid though principled young man into a warrior and a strong leader, who still holds his principles while working within the “rules” of Arthdal. He’s building an army of faithful followers, and though he feels some discomfort for lying to the Ago tribesmen, he can’t argue that he passed their test and earned their loyalty. I’m proud that Eunseom’s first act as “Inaishingi” was to storm the mines and free the slaves — it felt like a small prelude to his (hopefully) eventual takeover of Arthdal itself.
Tagon, on the other hand, is losing it big-time. Between the stress of leadership, the disappointment at losing the love of the people, and his poisoned wound, he’s swiftly descending into true madness. Everyone around him can see it, but for now, they can’t do anything about it. It’s one thing to realize that he may not be able to secure the people’s love, but quite another to burn to the ground everything having to do with a certain god, including an entire mountain, just because you’re angry that some people think you did something needing forgiveness (especially after you slaughtered all their leaders). Part of me dreads watching Tagon become the tyrant-king he seems hell-bent on becoming, but the other part of me relishes the idea of watching him rise to the top, then be brought down by Eunseom and Tanya.
And guys, I’m ready for Moobaek to step up and do something. He’s been suspicious and discontented for a long time, and he’s deeply disturbed by Tagon’s newfound power and attitude, so I’m sure he’s going to defect to the other side at some point. Okay okay, so there’s not really an “other side” at this point, at least not openly, so I should probably cut him some slack. He’s spent his entire adult life in service to Tagon, whom he must have once felt was a leader worth following. It can’t be easy to realize that the man you’ve followed, trusted, and obeyed has become someone whose actions you can no longer support. I just hope that Moobaek gets an opportunity soon to do something about everything he’s seeing that’s going wrong, because I have a feeling that he could turn out to be the linchpin on which Eunseom will eventually be able to turn Arthdal around.
- Premiere Watch: The Wind Blows, Arthdal Chronicles
- Kim Ok-bin dreams of bringing a city to its knees in tvN’s Arthdal Chronicles
- Two great warriors fight for an ancient city in tvN’s Arthdal Chronicles
- Warriors assemble for Song Joong-ki, Jang Dong-gun in tvN’s Arthdal Chronicles
- Reimagining the birth of an ancient empire in tvN’s Asadal Chronicles
- Blockbuster drama Asadal Chronicle lines up Song Joong-ki, Kim Ji-won, Jang Dong-gun, Kim Ok-bin