Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 18 (Final)
All of Arthdal is in turmoil – with its leadership up in the air, the people desperate to cling to any available glimmer of hope. Some will put their faith in a false god, while others see the future in a man who isn’t sure of his own place in the world. Yet others know the truth behind the lies, and use that knowledge to feed their own greed.
EPISODE 18 RECAP
After learning the secret of bronzeworking from Mihol, Taealha gives him poison to put him out of his misery. Tagon walks in just as Mihol is gasping his last breath. Taealha informs Tagon that not only is she now the only living person who knows how to work bronze, she’s also pregnant with his child.
She sails regally from the room, head high, but as soon as she’s alone she slumps against the wall, fighting back tears. Once she collects herself, she informs Hae Tuak and Yeobi that Mihol died at her hands.
Seeing Tagon’s shock, Saya asks Tagon what Taealha said to him, and why he let her go without argument. Tagon just says they’ll talk later and goes into a meeting, but Saya senses something is terribly wrong.
Tagon hears a report that the people are too scared to go into the market after he destroyed the statue of Mihaje, the Bato tribe’s god, and that some are even leaving Arthdal for their home villages. Moobaek says that there was no opposition when they torched the Batu’s sacred mountain, though a few Bato tribespeople jumped into the fire.
Tagon’s only comment on that is that they were foolish. He’s equally unconcerned that the Myo clan from the Ago tribe raided Doldambul and freed the slaves. He’s told that the Bato and Ggachinol tribes have been conducting suspicious activities, but he says that it’s all unfolding as he expected.
He leaves, and the others worry that the Bato tribe may be planning something and that other tribes might join them. Moobaek thinks that Tagon seem to already have a solution, and wonders what it could be.
Tagon’s scribe, Dae-dae, warns Tagon that Arthdal could fall apart if he doesn’t take action soon. Tagon reminds him about Red Claw, a spy Tagon planted in the Ago tribe, and he says that the storm sweeping across Arthdal will be consumed by a greater storm.
Only once he’s alone does Tagon finally let himself think about Taealha’s claim to be pregnant with his child. He thinks that the child will continue his bloodline, a god’s bloodline. Saya is also worried about Taealha — he doesn’t know what she said but he saw how Tagon changed.
Chaeeun and Nunbyeol are still hiding in a cave after their parents’ murders, and Nunbyeol resists Chaeeun’s urging to sever her lineages again. In fact she asks Chaeeun to reconnect them so she can be a full Neanthal, but Chaeeun has never done it and she’s scared it will kill Nunbyeol. Nunbyeol says she wants to get revenge, and her eyes glow blue as she growls, “Tagon, Taealha — I will destroy them.”
Seuchun takes Doti to Tanya to tell her about Harim and his wife’s deaths. Tanya is concerned, but she forgets everything else when Seuchun tells her that he’s seen Eunseom.
Eunseom tells the freed slaves that they can return to their tribes, and they ask him what he wants in return. He says that those who aren’t Ago don’t owe them anything, but he wants two things from the freed Ago tribe members, the first being to go home and free other Ago slaves.
They ask what happens after they send them home, and Eunseom says sheepishly, “That’s all. Just free them and send them home.” One man, TAE DACHI, gets angry, believing this is some kind of trick. He says he ended up in Doldambul because he was captured and sold there by the Myo clan, so he can’t believe that same clan would now free him and want nothing in return.
He asks what Eunseom’s second condition is, so Eunseom says he wants them to spread the word. He and the Myo warriors take turns reciting:
He who lowers himself despite knowing his sublimity,
He who protects darkness despite knowing his brilliance,
He who endures indignity despite knowing his dignity,
Tell everyone about the second coming of Inaishingi, the one spat out by the God of the Waterfall.
Pasa the Myo chief, swears by the Ago guardian spirits that Eunseom is Inaishingi, who survived the waterfall. He announces a tribal meeting to be held on Myo land, asking the chief of each clan to come before Inaishingi, and the Myo warriors take up the chant, “Come before Inaishingi!”
As they walk home, Tae Dachi and his friend, Tae Nima, wonder if Eunseom really is Inaishingi and if they’re truly bound to spread his message. Tae Dachi tells Tae Nima that he’s convinced — they’re going home, so it must be Inaishingi’s magic.
At the Tae clan’s village, the chief, TAE APDOK (Go Chang-seok), argues with SOOHANA (Kim Jung-young), one of the elders, over whether to ally with the Byeok clan. They’re interrupted by a loud outcry caused by Tae Dachi and Tae Nima’s return, and Tae Apdok greets them with tears and bear hugs, then awe when they pass on Inaishingi’s message.
At Mihol’s funeral, Taealha catches and holds Tagon’s gaze, and he looks down first. She looks back at an older man — Hae Alyeong, whom Mihol told Taealha to ask about the “Fruit of Hae Detu,” which had turned out to be a sword of pure steel, made with something found by chance in a kiln. Hae Alyeong had promised Taealha to find out who made it and how.
After the funeral Tagon apologizes to Taealha that she couldn’t tell him of her pregnancy with joy. She says he should be apologizing for torturing her father without telling her, but he counters that a king needn’t apologize for his authority.
Taealha asks why she felt so much pity, seeing Tagon standing alone in front of Asa Ron. Tagon says that what bothered him most while standing alone was that Asa Ron showed up just when he was venting to his father and filled with self-pity. He says that was when he decided to stop feeling sorry for himself and begging for acknowledgment, and to just start doing what he wanted.
Taealha says that was the moment Tagon became a king, and she sarcastically apologizes for not reading his mind and getting pregnant. Tagon says he wants her and their baby, and proposes marriage. He accepts her refusal to tell him the secret of bronzeworking, and her demand that he share his power with her, but she insists on getting it all in writing before marrying him.
She says wryly that it’s just like them to get engaged on the day of her father’s funeral, since their hatred for their fathers drew them together, and because they both killed their fathers. She sneers, “We’re probably meant to be together, right?”
Tagon informs Saya that he and Taealha will marry on the day of his coronation, and that no one is to speak of the secret of the bronze from now on. Saya asks if he’s giving up on becoming a king, since Taealha’s whisper was enough to change his mind about owning everything.
Tagon says he wants Saya to find out the secret of the bronze, and to take care not to let Taealha find out. Saya asks again what Taealha said to Tagon, but Tagon refuses to share that information. On the subject of the bronzeworking secret, Saya says he needs someone smart but not crafty to help him, so Tagon suggests Yeonbal for the job.
Meanwhile, Taealha goes to the Great Shrine’s dungeon to ask Asa Sakan for a favor. Asa Sakan grabs her and croons, “The gods’ will is truly…”
Saya is growing obsessed with whatever Tagon and Taealha are hiding from him. Tanya’s attendant reports that Tanya cried for a long time after speaking to Doti and Seuchun, who used to work for Harim and came to tell her about Chaeeun being missing.
She finds it strange that Tanya would cry so much over Chaeeun, and she’s right — Seuchun also told Tanya that Moongtae betrayed the Wahan slaves, Teodae killed himself, and later Eunseom led a successful revolt at Doldambul.
Tanya sits in the ceremonial chamber, and she tells Yangcha that she feels like she’s crying from determination. She’s summoned to see Saya, and on the way she asks her attendant to find a place where there are a lot of people who are suffering.
Saya tells Tanya about Tagon’s request that she come up with the name for his new kingdom. She says that what Tagon wants is a name that will make the tribes succumb to him, and Saya objects to her phrasing, saying that the people of the Union have agreed to this because they need protection in case the Ago or another tribe attacks. Tanya argues that it just proves that a kingdom is a bad thing.
Reining in his temper, Saya asks what Tanya was talking about with Moobaek. She says they only discussed the ollimsani for Moogwang. He asks why she met with Seuchun, and she says she wants to find Chaeeun. When he sees that she’s wearing her stone necklace, Saya assumes it’s the one he gave her and backs off.
The “place where people are suffering” that Tanya visits turns out to be the building where children are forced to make the smooth stones for decorating Arthdal’s monuments. Taking in the children’s shackles and bleeding feet, Tanya instructs Yangcha to give each child a pair of straw shoes.
The man who runs the factory says that they don’t need shoes because they never walk or run, but Tanya says that they will soon, because she forbids him to shackle them any longer. She also commands him to feed them three times a day with food provided by the Great Shrine, then begins removing one child’s shackles herself.
The child thanks her tearfully for giving them hope. Tanya says that she should be thanking them, and even Yangcha looks moved as all the children start crying for their mothers.
As she leaves, Tanya worries that her kind actions could put the slaves in danger. Yangcha wonders why she would do something so unnecessary, and Tanya replies out loud that it’s not unnecessary, startling him again by hearing his thoughts. She says that the children will wear those shoes to run around the marketplace and tell everyone how kind she is.
Saya shows up at Harim’s apothecary to speak to Seuchun, who thinks he’s Eunseom until he remembers Doti telling him that there’s someone who looks exactly like Eunseom. Moongtae is with Saya, and he spots Seuchun’s expression and quickly introduces Saya.
Saya asks Seuchun why he met with Tanya, and Seuchun says the same thing Tanya did — that they’re hoping to find Chaeeun. Saya asks how Seuchun knew that Chaeeun and Tanya know each other, pinning him to the wall by the throat, and Seuchun gasps that Doti told him. Saya snarls that that’s not the answer he’s looking for, and Moongtae slams Seuchun to the ground and orders him to tell the truth.
Seuchun stammers that they talked about the Wahan people who escaped Doldambul. He says he was at Doldambul on Chaeeun’s orders, but he doesn’t know why she sent him, all he knows is that there was a riot and Tanya was worried her people may have died. He says he told Tanya they ran away, so Saya assumes that’s why she cried.
Saya puts the clues together, that Chaeeun sent Seuchun way before Tanya became High Priestess, and he recalls hearing Kitoha saying something about an Igutu from Doldambul who looks like him. He slams angrily into his chambers, where Yeonbal is waiting for him.
This time when Yeonbal is caught staring, Saya asks if he was thinking he looks like the Igutu. Yeonbal quickly says he was mistaken, but Saya says it’s the same Igutu who killed Sanung and names Eunseom. He orders Yeonbal to tell him everything he knows.
Yeonbal confesses that the man they threw in the boiling water wasn’t Eunseom, but adds that he’s sure Eunseom is dead after Moobaek stabbed him and he fell into the river. Saya is skeptical, since there were no witnesses.
Eunseom is worried that the Ago leaders may not attend the meeting. Ipsaeng is also concerned, saying that the Tae chief is particularly uncooperative. Sure enough, Tae Apdok whines that they haven’t had such a meeting since Inaishingi died, and he refuses to obey any orders issued by the Myo clan.
He tells his people that the Myo clan is lying, but Soohana says that’s all the more reason for him to attend the meeting and test their honesty. She flatters Tae Apdok by saying that giving his people what they want will earn even more of their love and trust, so he’s persuaded to go.
Tanya personally feeds the slave children a meal, and when one little girl asks for seconds, Tanya asks how she became a slave as she dishes up the food. The girl says that Arthdal attacked her tribe and killed her parents, and she asks if she’ll be a slave until she dies. Oh, my heart.
Her question reminds Tanya of a night when she was young, and she’d asked Mother Choseol if she had to grow up to the the next Great Mother. Mother Choseol had told her she could be anything she wanted in addition to being the Great Mother.
Tanya tells the little girl that she can be anything she wants, and just as her mother told her, she points to the night sky and tells the slave children that when they complete their life missions, they will each become a star. Looking around at the smiling children, she thinks, “Eunseom-ah, I’ll do everything I can. I won’t give up, just like you.”
Practically the entire Tae clan follows Tae Apdok and Soohana to the meeting, wanting to see Inaishingi for themselves. The Sul clan chief also brings most of his people with him, making Eunseom worry that they may have weapons, but Ipsaeng says they don’t seem armed.
Ipsaeng avoids eye contact and leaves when Tae Apdok enters the council lodge. Tae Apdok laughs at the sight of Eunseom, but Pasa insists that he survived the Judgment of the Waterfall and Tachoogan snaps at him to be respectful. Tae Apdok asks Eunseom with sarcastic formality to tell them what Inaishingi said to him.
Eunseom says, “Be first to show generosity. Save those of other clans who were sold as slaves in Arthdal and return them to their families. Those who have been blessed will repay the favor by saving other clans. Go against my words, and excruciating pain will fall upon you before you perish.”
Tae Apdok bellows that the Sul chief sold off two of his nephews, and the Sul chief spits back that the Tae clan started it. The Sul chief storms out, declaring that this plan will never happen, and Tae Apdok leaves moments later. Ipsaeng comes back in and wilts at the sight of the disappointed faces, but something he says gives Eunseom an idea.
In front of all three clans, Tae Apdok accuses the Myo clan of lying about Eunseom being Inaishingi. Eunseom comes out to say that supposedly the Ago tribe were once all brothers, and that their infighting has only been happening for ten years (since Tagon laid down his rules).
He admits that he doesn’t know if he’s Inaishingi, though it’s true he survived the waterfall. Tae Apdok crows that he was right, but Eunseom declares that if Inaishingi did choose him, then Tae Apdok will die before sunrise, and if he’s not, then he himself will die.
In the council lodge, Tachoogan yells at Eunseom for saying something so stupid and ruining everything. Tae Maja suggests they just kill Tae Apdok, who was getting in the way anyway, but Eunseom tells them to just wait. Later Ipsaeng asks Eunseom what he was thinking, and Eunseom admits that he took a chance on something Ipsaeng said, because the thirty Ago clans need to be reunited.
Tae Maja urges Tae Apdok to rethink his stubborn stance, viewing Eunseom’s claim to be Inaishingi as their clan’s last hope for survival. Offended that his warriors don’t see him as a source of hope, Tae Apdok orders Tae Dachi whipped. But Tae Nima stands and says that he also saw Inaishingi in Eunseom, who saved him from the mines.
Tae Apdok draws his sword and strikes Tae Nima dead on the spot, then stabs his body repeatedly in his fury. He asks if there are any other objections, and his people simply kneel at his feet.
In Arthdal, Saya thinks to himself that whatever Tanya is hiding from him, he’ll discover soon on his own: “Though in a way you’ll hate.” Tanya asks him how to write the word “star,” so Saya draws the symbols and teaches her how to read them.
At the Fortress of Fire, Yeolson gets a visit from Yeonbal. Later, Yeonbal escorts Saya to a room where he’s got Yeolson and the other Wahans tied up. Tagon visits his throne room on the eve of his coronation, and Taealha secretly meets with the few remaining White Peak Mountain elders.
Tae Apdok is alone when Soohana and Tae Maja silently enter the lodge. In the morning, Ipsaeng screams for Eunseom to wake up, and Eunseom says sleepily that he had his first dream in a long time. Ipsaeng tells him that what’s happened is like a dream, and when they step outside the hut, Eunseom’s jaw drops in shock.
Moobaek tries to talk to Tanya about her role in the coronation, but she asks for privacy to study. When Saya shows up, Tanya snaps at him, annoyed. Saya tells Moobaek privately that he’s captured all the Wahans, and that unless Moobaek tells him everything he knows about himself, he’ll kill them all before the coronation.
During the procession to the Great Shrine for Tagon’s coronation ceremony, Tanya notices that Moobaek and Saya’s heads are bowed as if they’re having a discussion. Saya stares up at Moobaek, who looks extremely troubled, having just revealed that Eunseom is alive and is Saya’s twin.
Saya looks back at Tanya, remembering the time she asked if he was curious about his parents and siblings, and how she once said she regrets meeting him every time she sees him. The expression on Saya’s face is one of mixed anger, betrayal, and sorrow.
Eunseom and Ipsaeng, followed by the Myo tribesmen, talk to Soohana and the Tae clan. Tae Maja holds up Tae Apdok’s severed head, and Soohana announces that with his prediction confirmed, the Tae clan acknowledge Eunseom as Inaishingi’s chosen.
Tanya arrives at the Great Shrine, with Saya walking behind her carrying a golden crown. Addressing the crowd, Tanya says, “The Great Mother Asa Sin sent Aramun to this world by the wishes of Airuju, saved many clans from the war, and had them form a Union.
“Today, two hundred years later, Airuju wishes to tear down the Union he once founded and build something new with the newly-born Aramun. In front of the entire Union, I will convey the words of Airuju, the beginning and end of this world, and the one who moves all things.”
She summons Tagon forward and praises him as the new Aramun, then she crowns him king. As he stands before the people, Tagon thinks about his procession to the Great Shrine, when he’d told Taealha that he still wants her with all his heart. She’d returned the sentiment, and now she thinks, “Yes, I want it. Now, I wish to have all of Arthdal.”
Ipsaeng looks at Eunseom, impressed that he killed Tae Apdok with just his words. Eunseom tells the Ago clans that he wasn’t born as Inaishingi, but he’s become Inaishingi now. Soohana and her warriors kneel to him, but Eunseom bids them to stand, then says, “I, Wahan Eunseom, bring back Ago tribe’s glorious Inaishingi. I promise to accept you all.”
Tanya declares that the Union no longer exists, and that all Arthdal tribes will now become one country. She tells the people that this country will have a new name, and the people will be called “subjects.” Recalling Mother Choseol’s words, she thinks, “I Tanya of Arthdal, cast a spell on you all. Subjects. You may begin in this world as those of the lowest social status, but you can become anything. My fate is now entwined with yours. I hope to provide support as long as I protect you. My subjects.”
In their joy, the Ago people lift Eunseom high into the air, and he tells himself, “This passion and longing. Not just the Tae and Myo clan, but all those of Ago tribe, will share this dream and desire. Will it be able to save me, or will it lead to my demise? Will it finally lead me to Tanya, or will it divide us?”
Tagon halts the people’s cheers to issue his first royal command; for the power of Arthdal to spread to all the land of Arth. He announces his plan to conquer the East and bring all those against them to their knees, including the Ago tribe, and Tanya stares at him in shock.
Kitoha starts a chant, “Conquer the Ago tribe!” Moobaek realizes that this was Tagon’s plan — to start a war and conquer the people’s fear and discontent. Taealha smirks, but Tanya looks like she’s struggling to stifle a scream.
Tagon looks down on his people benevolently, while elsewhere, Eunseom is tossed into the air by the jubilant Ago tribe. A voice narrates: “It is unexpected… someone claiming to be Inaishingi, Ago tribe’s hero, has appeared. The return of the dead is the desire of the living. He saw through it and led Tae Apdok to his death. The entire Ago tribe is in turmoil because of him.
“He will be the most powerful enemy of Arthdal. I will wait for further instructions while aiding his quest. Red Claw blesses you, Tagon.” These words are written on a small scroll, which is tied to the leg of a hawk and sent winging to Arthdal. We see the face of Red Claw, Tagon’s spy — Soohana.
So obviously, this is not the ending of Arthdal Chronicles, which came as an unpleasant shock to a lot of viewers, myself included. There are reports saying that there are to be two 18-episode seasons, and even this episode ends with a preview which claims that the story will continue, which I’d be happy for if only because I want to know hwo the story ends. The show’s ratings in Korea were decent, but not as high as expected, though tvN has said that “the possibility is high” that there will be a conclusion. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see if the legend of Arthdal ever reaches its intended conclusion.
Personally, I’m angry about this — it’s bad enough that we had to wait two full months for the last six episodes. But to learn after the fact that this is only half the story and that the other half may never be told… I almost feel like I’ve been tricked. I never saw any indication that these three “seasons” weren’t the full story until after Episode 18 aired. I think it was wrong of Netflix and tvN not to let viewers know what they were in for from the beginning.
But for better or for worse, this is what we have now, and I do want to talk about how I feel about the story so far. I know that not everyone feels that Arthdal Chronicles was well-written or executed, but that’s not my opinion at all. Yes, there was a lot about the storytelling that could have been done better, particularly early on when introducing the overwhelming number of characters and the complicated tribal system in Arthdal, not to mention the lore surrounding Asa Sin and Aramun Haesulla. The show let us learn all this from context as the story progressed, which would have been fine if there wasn’t so much information to try and absorb. And goodness knows, my eyes (and my screencapping) would have been grateful if someone had ever turned on the damn lights on set!
Other than those few complaints, I thoroughly enjoyed the world of Arthdal and its inhabitants. Say what you will about the characters themselves, but the acting throughout Arthdal Chronicles was top-notch in every way. From the main players down to little Wahan Doti, every actor brought their A-game and gave their characters so much life that I was emotionally invested in each and every one of them. The quick cameos were some of my favorites, giving some familiar character actors a chance to surprise us, such as Go Chang-seok’s inspired portrayal of Tae Apdok, showing a side of his acting I’ve never seen before — I’m used to him as an affable, lovable sidekick-type. I also loved Lee Mi-do’s small but pivotal turn as the Bato shaman, again revealing that she’s capable of more than we’ve seen from her. And I appreciated Nichkhyun and Song Jong-ho as the last two remaining Neanthal men, though I have a feeling that they will have a much larger impact if the story is continued.
Song Joong-ki was above it all with his portrayal of separated twins Eunseom and Saya, making each character so distinct that even without the vastly different hair and clothes, I would have known which twin he was just by his expression, speech pattern, and body language. He was so perfect at portraying Eunseom’s simpleminded determination, yet he was equally skilled at showing Saya’s tendency to feel two or three emotions at once. Also of particular note was Kim Ok-bin’s characterization of power-hungry Taealha — she’s the perfect example of a character that could have been annoying and easy to hate, yet Kim Ok-bin somehow made me feel for the woman who was raised as a bargaining chip and who only wanted to win autonomy from her controlling father. The fact that her goal was to team up with Tagon and ruthlessly take over the world never took away from my awareness that Taealha just wanted to make her own choices in a society that viewed women’s worth as nothing more than decoration, or at best a tool for men to gain power.
I also respect how much thought went into the details of the story. There are many examples, such as Tanya’s prediction of Moogwang’s death — she told him the details of how he would die months before the scene where it happened was aired. In addition to that, there were several cases in which we were given details that seemed randomly thrown out or unconnected to anything, only to have them all come together in one AHA moment. We were given information about Nunbyeol in small bursts, sometimes many episodes apart, such as how her Neanthal powers were subdued, seeing her training with a sword, and the information that Neanthals aren’t capable of using weapons. But in the moment when Nunbyeol killed Moogwang, everything came together and it all made sense how she was able to use weapons because she trained without her powers. I appreciate this so much because it allows someone like me, who’s watched way too many movies and TV shows and am rarely surprised anymore, to experience that exciting feeling of not realizing how everything fits together until the perfect moment.
All in all, I felt that Arthdal Chronicles was successful in telling the story it set out to tell. We could pick it apart, as we could with any drama, but as a whole I felt that the show was enjoyable and exciting. I just hope that it doesn’t fall prey to Korea’s reluctance to invest in second seasons, and that they’re able to convince the cast to come back and finish the story, because I very much want to know how it all ends.
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