Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 3
With the Wahan tribe held captive by an unknown enemy, our hero Eunseom sets forth to find out who he’s fighting and journeys toward the land of Arthdal to save his people. Eunseom isn’t the only person headed to Arthdal with big ambitions — antihero Tagon prepares to make a big homecoming entrance and starts making some bold moves to instigate power struggles amongst the Arthdal union leaders. We learn more about a certain mysterious woman’s role in between Tagon and his father and how she may wield significant influence on the power shifts within Arthdal.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
As Eunseom speeds ahead on his horse, Helper, Moobaek wonders if this horse could be the legendary Kanmoreu, which would make the rider Aramun Haesulla, the god of union. Moobaek orders his men to return to the captives while he continues to chase after the runaway.
While riding Helper, Eunseom’s eyes flash purple as he thinks back to Tanya being dragged away. He rolls off Helper and dunks his head in the water, remembering Tanya’s plea for him to save himself so that he can one day save the Wahan tribe. His purple eyes fade, and he cries in despair: How will he overcome the stronger enemies?
Then, Eunseom hears a rustling behind him and quickly scans his surroundings. Moobaek emerges from the forest, so Eunseom hops back onto Helper. In pursuit of the potential legendary horse, Moobaek realizes that he may never be able to catch up, so he begins to shoot arrows at Eunseom.
Just as Moobaek draws his bow for another shot, Helper stops and turns around, and Eunseom panics. As Helper runs toward Moobaek, Eunseom remembers Dalsae (the Wahan tribe member with a particular distaste for Eunseom) accusing Eunseom of not being human because of his too fast vision. He trusts his fast instincts and avoids the oncoming arrows as he rides straight at Moobaek.
Moobaek draws his sword to attack Eunseom as he passes, but his horse suddenly stops. Moobaek falls off his horse, and his horse runs after Eunseom. As Moobaek chases after his horse and Eunseom, he remembers Saenyeok Tribe leader Sanung anointing him as a Kanmoreu-like warrior — a strong and fast leader. Sanung retold the legend that even enemy horses followed Kanmoreu.
Recalling this tale, Moobaek slows down and watches his horse run off. He wonders if this could really be Kanmoreu.
Meanwhile, the Wahan tribe captives walk through the Sea of Tears on the enemy-built bridges. Wahan’s current great mother, Mother Choseol, collapses, and Tanya worries that she’s overheating. But Mother Choseol stands back up and continues to walk. Tanya asks who these people are and where they’re taking them, and Mother Choseol seems to have her suspicions.
Eunseom returns to the pillaged Wahan village and grieves the loss of children, fathers, and mothers. He finds Tanya’s flower crown and holds it tightly as he proceeds to scavenge for any weapons. Then, he hears a whimpering voice call him name, “Uncle Euseom!”
Eunseom turns around to find little Doti, who runs into his arms. Doti cries that the strange men killed everyone, and Eunseom tightly hugs Doti, trying to comfort her. Eunseom tells Doti that they’ll save everyone, but Doti doesn’t want to meet the scary men again.
Putting on a brave face, Eunseom reminds Doti of the great mother’s advice during difficult times: Listen to the song of the spirit. Eunseom claims that he heard the voice of the horse’s spirit saying, “Turn around and run head on.”
Doti is still scared by the prospect of being outnumbered by the scary men, so Eunseom then reminds her of Uncle Dalsae’s strategy to capture the enemy’s tribe leader. They may not be able to defeat all their enemies, but they could trade the enemy’s tribe leader for the Wahan people. Doti finally smiles hopefully.
Then, they hear the enemy horse approach, and Eunseom lifts his weapon defensively. He slowly walks toward the horse with Doti and sighs in relief when he sees that it’s only the horse. Confused by the extra horse companion, Eunseom tells Helper to ask why the enemy horse is joining them. Helper continues to munch on grass, and Doti notes that the spirit only eats.
Eunseom begins to walk away, but the saddle on the enemy horse catches his eye. He examines the saddle and asks Helper, “Do you want to try on some clothes?”
As the Wahan tribe continue to cross the Sea of Tears, tribe leader Yeolson informs the captors that there is no path through the Great Black Wall. The captors respond that they’re going up the wall, and the Wahan tribe gasp when they finally see the lift on the side of the wall.
Mother Choseol trembles at the sight of this unnatural machine and says, “All the spirits have stopped, and all living things will lose vitality.” Tanya listens to the great mother’s words with concern.
The Wahan tribe tries to resist, but they’re forced onto the lift by their captors. They yell in fear as the lift ascends, and they’re instilled with even more fear when they reach the top of the first lift. The Wahan tribe witness the cruel treatment of slaves, who are whipped to turn the wheel for the lift.
The Wahan tribe are pushed through a cave to the next lift to reach the top of the Great Black Wall. On their way up, Tanya and Mother Choseol look out at the beautiful view of Iark with a sense of wonder and doom.
At the top of the wall, Mookwang (one of the Arth warriors) advises his fellow warrior not to tell Tagon about Kanmoreu, since they can’t confirm if it was truly the legendary horse. When they greet Tagon, they boast about their successful capture of 2,000 slaves and celebrate the official order to return to Arthdal.
The warriors point out that one of the tribes speaks their language, and Tagon looks at the Wahan tribe curiously. The warriors seem delighted that these slaves will sell for a higher price in Arthdal. Speaking of Arthdal, they wonder about Gilseon (the smug White Mountain warrior), who stayed in Arthdal instead of joining their conquest.
In Arthdal, Gilseon mercilessly sentences the farmer clan leaders to death for stealing crops. As the clan leader is dragged to his beheading, he yells about the Asa tribe’s unfair treatment of the farmers, who cultivated the soil of the former Neanthal lands.
Gilseon reminds the people that the crops are not for the Asa tribe but for the gods. The farmer argues that the god of the White Mountain did not help cultivate the lands, and the current Asa tribe are not direct descendants of the Asa god.
At this accusation, Gilseon questions if the farmer is part of the White Mountain Hearts, a rebel group that was annihilated eight years ago. The White Mountain Hearts used to claim that the god of union, Aramun Haesulla, is an Igt and that the Asa tribe are not direct descendants of the Asa god.
The farmer makes another bold claim that the Asa tribe has done nothing for the people. It was Tagon who conquered the Neanthal lands and Hae Mihol of the pirates who brought irrigation to these lands. The surrounding crowd murmur in agreement, and the farmer quotes Aramun Haesulla’s terms of the tribal union — that no tribe would be superior or inferior in Arth.
Gilseon angrily pulls out his sword and prepares to behead this criminal, but he’s ordered to stop by Sanung, the Arthdal Union Leader. The farmer acknowledges his crimes but continues to argue that the Asa tribe has done nothing to deserve the crops from the Moon lands. Sanung says that theft is a crime and that he cannot forgive the farmer for cursing the Asa tribe, but he will postpone the punishment until he can discuss with White Mountain tribe leader Asa Ron.
The farmer and the punishable people thank Sanung for his mercy, but he has something up his sleeve. He orders his son, DANBYEOK (Park Byung-eun), to kill all the people except for the farmer. Danbyeok looks confused and tells his father that this will only worsen the animosity for the Asa tribe, but that’s exactly what Sanung wants. The deaths will be blamed on the Asa tribe, and the surviving loudmouth farmer will spread this false news.
When Sanung enters his room, he’s held from behind with a knife at his throat. The woman asks if he likes her or not. It’s Taealha, and when Sanung recognizes her voice, he scolds her for this dangerous prank. She puts on her robe and asks again if he likes her or not. He pulls her into an embrace and says that he more than just likes her. Then, he asks about Hae Tuak and Tagon’s whereabouts.
Taealha walks away and accuses him for only being interested in Tagon. She asks why he hates his son so much, and Sanung denies this. He remembers a shaman’s warning that Tagon will kill many, including Sanung, and destroy the Arthdal Union. The shaman advised Sanung to kill Tagon before the White Mountain tribe discovered this weakness to ruin the Saenyeok tribe and their followers.
Sanung tells Taealha that he doesn’t despise his son; rather, he’s afraid that he will kill his son. Taealha assures Sanung that his son isn’t as great as he seems. She says that while Tagon is popular and widely admired, he’s still a naïve child following orders from the Arthdal Union.
Sanung looks intently at Taealha and proposes that they get married. Taealha looks back at him stoically, and he asks if she doesn’t want to. She walks away and says that her father would be happy with this arrangement, but their marriage will pose more complications with power shifts. The union of the Saenyeok and Hae tribes will not sit well with Asa Ron.
White Mountain leader Asa Ron observes a spiritual ritual while a woman dances in shallow water — a dance reminiscent of the Wahan tribe great mother’s spirit dance. He’s interrupted by his advisor, Asa Mot, who informs him that Taealha met with Sanung privately in his room. Asa Ron simply responds that the bright light will soon go dark.
Asa Mot says that they should have denied Mihol when he first reached out with his pirates. She identifies Hae tribe’s farming and bronze metalworking skills as threats, and she fears that Mihol has gained too much power since settling in Arth. She worries that the Hae tribe and Saenyeok tribe will join forces against them, but Asa Ron simply smiles.
Mihol commends his daughter for securing a marriage proposal from Sanung, and Taealha admits that it hurt her pride that it took months for Sanung to come around when it took Tagon only four days to propose. Mihol says that Sanung is a more difficult opponent, since he’s a leader within the union, and he’s satisfied with the implications of this proposal.
Mihol interprets the proposal as an indication that 1) Sanung is siding with the Hae tribe; and 2) Sanung plans to eliminate Tagon. Mihol presumes that Sanung must have known about Tagon and Taealha’s relationship, but Sanung proposed anyway. Taealha’s spying groundwork has finally come to fruition.
Taealha immediately pours herself a drink when she gets to her room, and she tells herself that Sanung and her father have made up their minds to kill Tagon. Her servant enters the room and tells Taealha not to waver — that Taealha isn’t abandoning Tagon but rather Tagon is getting disqualified.
Taealha looks at her servant incredulously and assures her that she isn’t wavering one bit. She’s spying on Tagon and Sanung because she intends to rule Arthdal, not out of obedience to her father. Her only concern is with Tagon, who won’t be eliminated so easily.
Tagon orders his companion, Hae Tuak, to deliver a wooden scroll to Taealha, and Tuak looks alarmed at the contents of the message. Tuak warns Tagon that he may be banished from Arthdal if the message is discovered, but he doesn’t seem concerned. He hums a familiar tune as he prepares to leave for Arthdal.
Tagon exits his hut and orders his warriors to start their journey back to Arthdal. As the captives are ordered to march onward, Tanya worriedly looks at Mother Choseol, who seems to be growing weaker. Tagon’s companion warriors note that Moobaek hasn’t returned yet, but they’re confident that Daekan’s (the allied Arthdal tribes) greatest warrior can fend for himself.
In the woods, Moobaek notices the curious animal skulls hanging on the trees and finds the shrine of the Wahan tribe. He wades through the shallow lake and approaches the sacred tree, but he doesn’t find anything. Then, he notices a bundle hanging above and shoots it down.
A woman frantically runs out to protect this bundle, and Moobaek deduces that this bundle holds the tribe’s sacred relic. As Moobaek goes through the bundle, he recognizes a carved round object as a byeoldaya. He asks the woman where this is from, and the woman answers that it was from the Great White Wolf, the first great mother of Wahan. He can’t believe that this relic would be found here.
Two Daekan warriors remain at the lift waiting for Moobaek to return, and Eunseom spots these two warriors. Doti tells Eunseom that she’s scared, and that noise alerts the warriors that they’re not alone. As they slowly approach the source of the sound, Eunseom worries about what to do. Eunseom remembers Tanya claiming that he can memorize anything he’s seen once, so he takes a leap of faith and tries to mimic the Daekan warriors attacking on horseback.
On Helper, Eunseom rides at the two Daekan warriors and successfully knocks down one of the warriors. He’s surprised at himself and turns around to attack the other warriors. He lassoes the other warrior and demands to know where they took the Wahan tribe.
The warrior points to the lift, and Eunseom looks awestruck by the sky-high column bolstered by strong rope. This was what his mother had longed for when they were searching the caves for a passageway. He asks the warrior who made this lift, and the warrior responds that it was the order of Arthdal union leader, Sanung.
Eunseom asks how tall Sanung is and wonders if this leader is as tall as the Great Black Wall (lol). He demands to know where Sanung is, and the warrior responds that he’s obviously in Arthdal.
The next morning, the Daekan warriors whip the slaves to raise the lift, assuming that it’s Moobaek riding up. But it’s the hostage Daekan warrior with Eunseom and Doti covered on Helper. Eunseom holds a weapon to the warrior’s back, and as soon as the lift arrives at the top, they ride away. (Is that another enemy horse following Helper aka Kanmoreu? Ha!)
The messengers from Iark arrive in Arthdal, and the Arthdal citizens cheer for Tagon’s successful conquest. The warrior reports to Sanung that Tagon will arrive in a few days with thousands of Iark slaves, and Sanung awards the warriors with food and drinks. Sanung asks if the warrior came alone, and the warrior responds that he was accompanied by Hae Tuak.
Tuak delivers Tagon’s message to Taealha, who’s astonished by Tagon’s suicidal imperative to reveal a secret. Tuak shares the same bewilderment and asks what Taealha plans to do. Taealha asks Tuak if Tagon sang something when he gave her this message, and Tuak confirms that Tagon did hum a tune. Huh, curious.
Taealha meets with Sanung, who greets her as if she’d just arrived in Arthdal. He dismisses his son and their entourage so that they can speak privately, and once they’re alone, Taealha calls out his fake formal greeting. She ponders how she’ll package this message — whether she’ll deliver the truth as is or say that Tagon told her to deliver the message — and decides to reveal that Tagon has officiated the delivery of final consciousness to the gods, which shocks Sanung.
Sanung tells his son Danbyeok that his older brother Tagon performed the final consciousness conjuring not just once but multiple times. The Asa tribe is fiercely protectively of their exclusive mystic abilities to officiate the final consciousness conjuring to the gods, and this could land Tagon in the Sacred Court.
Danbyeok knows that this will mean death or the slicing of Tagon’s feet that would leave him crawling. Sanung knows that Asa Ron wouldn’t kill him, so Tagon would likely be banished. Danbyeok notes that the Arthdal union will be outraged by this, but Sanung sees an opportunity for this anger to be directed at Asa Ron.
Since Asa Ron decides the outcome of the Sacred Court, he will also face the consequences of the outraged people. Sanung smiles that Tagon dug his grave along with Asa Ron’s grave, and Sanung will stay out of this hearing because he has a conflict of interest as Tagon’s father. This is the perfect situation for Sanung.
Asa Mot reports to Asa Ron on a young untrained mystic, who was banished because he tried to prematurely inhale the sacred smoke. They’re interrupted by an urgent message, and the surrounding servants are ordered to leave the room.
The messenger reveals that Tagon summoned the gods to deliver the final consciousness of his men, and Asa Mot immediately offers to prepare the Sacred Court for Tagon. Asa Ron knows this is a trap — that he’ll be the target of outrage if he punishes Tagon. Even with the crop thief, the Arthdal people side with the farmer and curse the Asa tribe, so he can imagine the consequences of slicing Tagon’s feet.
Asa Mot insists that there must be some punishment for dishonoring the Asa tribe, but Asa Ron orders that they cover up this crime. He asks the messenger who else saw this message, and he assures Asa Ron that he brought it to him as soon as he discovered it. Asa Ron nods and then proceeds to slit the messenger’s throat.
Asa Ron orders Asa Mot to find the person who wrote this message, and he throws the wooden scroll into the fire. As he wipes the blood off his hands, Asa Ron wonders if he was framed or if this was just a coincidence.
Tuak catches up to Taealha and asks what she decided to do with Tagon’s message. Taealha says that she did as Tagon asked, and Tuak wonders if Taealha has chosen to take Tagon’s side. Taealha clarifies that she’s not necessarily taking sides, but Tagon humming indicates that he’s excited. She knows to trust Tagon’s excitement.
Tagon continues to hum as he overlooks the hills on his way back to Arth, and he thinks back to a vague memory of a child being choked. He’s interrupted by a Daekan warrior, who says that Tagon’s arrival in Arth is sure to cause an exciting commotion. Tagon says the real commotion has yet to begin.
As the captors allows the Iark slaves to wash up in the river and eat food, the Wahan people wonder why their enemies are keeping them well and alive. Tanya tries to comfort Doti’s mother, who cries for her lost child, and urges Mother Choseol to eat something.
Eunseom and Doti watch their tribe cry in their misery, and Doti cries at the sight of her crying mother. Eunseom assures Doti that they will capture the union leader and save her mother. Through her tears, Doti tries to correct Eunseom’s incorrect word for “union leader,” but he insists that he’s right, ha.
As Tanya holds back her tears, she recognizes the horse across the river. It’s Helper, and she looks around for any sight of Eunseom. She pleads for Wahan’s dream, Eunseom, to help them, and Eunseom watches Tanya, promising to save her.
Asa Ron rushes into his quarters with the discovery that the initial messenger was a Saenyeok tribesman, the leather merchant. Before figuring out who’s behind this scheme, he orders Asa Mot to contain the rumor about Tagon’s mystical conjuring by whatever means.
As Asa Ron walks towards Sanung, he wonders if his fellow union leader is behind this scheme. When he meets Sanung, people rush to his feet and beg for Tagon’s forgiveness, and Sanung does the same. Sanung dramatically begs for forgiveness and accepts the punishment for his dishonorable son. Asa Ron is trapped.
Eunseom and Doti fall off Helper, who stops to eat once again. Eunseom suggests a name change to Devourer, if all Helper wants to do is devour food and not help. Ha! Doti notices how the crops are strangely growing in a straight line, and Eunseom wonders how this could have happened.
Then, a farmer yells at them for stealing and tries to attack Eunseom, who quickly avoids the swing. The farmer claims that these are his crops on his land, and Eunseom thinks back to the dying tribesman who warned of the men who take land. He wonders how people can own and steal land, and he’s further intrigued when the farmer claims that he planted and cultivated these crops.
The farmer grabs Eunseom but suddenly loosens his grip when he notices Eunseom’s necklace. He apologizes for disrespecting an Asa tribesman, but then he notices Eunseom’s purple lips. The farmer recognizes the characteristic of an Igutu and runs away, yelling that there’s an Igutu.
Eunseom remembers being called an Igutu by an enemy warrior and stops the farmer to ask what an Igutu. Trembling in fear, the farmer defines an Igutu as a child of a human and Neanthal. Then, Eunseom asks what a Neanthal is, and the farmer says that Neanthals are monsters.
Eunseom stands up numbly at the realization that he’s the son of a monster. From behind, the farmer gets back up to attack Eunseom, and Doti screams in warning. Eunseom dodges the strike and instinctively retaliates, killing the farmer. Doti looks shocked, as does Eunseom, who looks at the purple blood on his cut hand.
A woman approaches Eunseom and assures him that she’s not trying to attack him. She denies the claim that he’s the son of a monster and says it’s a fabricated rumor spread by the current Asa tribe. Seemingly part of the Asa tribe herself, the woman delivers the final consciousness of the dead farmer and gently approaches Eunseom. She observes the purple blood and confirms that Eunseom is an Igutu.
She tells Eunseom that he can’t reveal himself to others, as he’ll either die or kill more people. As she begins to cover up the dead farmer, Eunseom grabs her and asks what a Neanthal really is. She says that Neanthals are different from humans and bit more beautiful. I think I’m going to like her.
Asa Ron’s advisors argue about what should be done: Punishing Tagon will cause a riot, but showing mercy will also reduce the Asa authority. The argument is interrupted by the mother of the White Mountain, ASA SAKAN (Son Sook), who agrees with Asa Mot that showing mercy will disgrace the Asa tribe.
Asa Sakan cannot accept the implications that any person can communicate with the gods, and she reminds them that through the rare and selected mystics, people establish tribes and unions. If this selective power is destroyed, how will people come together? She warns that if humans are unable to unite, then they will devolve into their animalistic states.
Asa Sakan adds that if everyone has been selected, then no one has been selected. She warns Asa Ron that this equality will destroy the union.
Eunseom walks out dressed in more commonplace clothing, and Doti comments that he looks weird. Then, the helpful woman, CHAEEUN, approaches Eunseom and pats on some pigment to cover up his purple lips. She advises him to cover up any indication that he’s an Igutu.
Eunseom asks why Chaeeun isn’t afraid of Igutu and why she’s helping him. She warns him that this is the last of her help and that she could kill him in their next encounter. As she walks away, Eunseom asks where he can meet the Neanthals, and she responds that he can’t because the Arth tribes killed them all.
As Eunseom and Doti wait to cross the gate into Arthdal, they notice the strange rock structure. Eunseom wonders why people built such a useless structure on land. When they get closer to the gate, Doti recognizes the weapon that the warriors are using to inspect goods, and she trembles in fear.
When they get to the gate, Doti bursts into tears, and the warrior lets the two pass through without further inspection. As they walk through the gate, Doti accuses Eunseom of pinching her. Haaa, so Doti wasn’t crying out of fear but because Eunseom pinched her to make her cry.
As Eunseom and Doti walk through Arthdal, they look around in awe. The foreign merchants and bustling streets seem to amaze them, and Eunseom protectively holds onto Doti as they walk in wonder. “This place is Arthdal.”
I’m enjoying the juxtaposition of Eunseom’s journey to Arthdal with Tagon’s homecoming to Arthdal, and I’m interested to see how their paths will align. Eunseom is clearly still figuring out what the world outside of Iark looks like and how he’s perceived by this larger world. Up to now, he’s simply accepted how others have negatively defined him, but he’s slowly discovering more about his identity. Eunseom’s curious encounter with the supposed Asa tribe Chaeeun seemed to mark the beginnings in redefining his identity, which has always been suppressed due to the unacceptance of his idiosyncrasies.
In contrast, Tagon seems to know exactly who he is, and he shows no restraint in capitalizing on his identity. He knows that he’s the son of the almighty Arthdal union leader, and he audaciously navigates that identity. Though Tagon is still hard to read, I can sense that we’ve only gotten a taste of his intelligence and strategic mind. Even while physically removed from the politics of Arthdal, he seems to be in touch with the power dynamics and his ability to manipulate those dynamics. My thoughts are also affirmed by Taealha’s trust in Tagon’s instincts. If I’ve learned anything in this episode, it’s that Taealha knows all. She’s fierce, deliberate, and has a steady read on the powerful leaders of Arthdal, so her trust in Tagon’s humming excitement also has me on board with Tagon’s slowly unfolding plans.
Every hero needs a sidekick, and I’m happy that Eunseom has both Helper and Doti along with him on his journey. I’m amused by Eunseom growing into his own abilities — super-fast vision, an incredible memory — without judgement, and I’m sure he’s not used to exerting these abilities, since he probably kept them hidden to blend in with his surrounding humans. It’s funny to watch Eunseom be surprised with himself — oh wow, I just did that! — and I love that he’s kind of winging it the whole time. Eunseom’s naïve and endearing commitment to his people are at the heart of his journey, and his little hiccups and timely pinches make it all the more endearing. Now that he’s made it to Arthdal in once piece, I’m looking forward to seeing how he clumsily navigates the novelty of this fated destination and his mission to save his people.
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