Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 4
Our half-human hero has always been different than those around him, but now he finds himself in a situation beyond anything he’s ever imagined. But our focus shifts to the antihero Tagon, who’s spent most of his life trying to please his father and be allowed home. Just as it looks like he may get his wish, discontent among the Union leaders comes to a head, and Tagon finds his very life on the line.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Eunseom and Doti make their way into Arthdal, astounded by all the noise and bustle. Doti is mesmerized by a statue in the middle of a square that’s covered in what they call Hard Stones, the same kind of stone that took Eunseom four months to make a necklace out of.
An angry scream alerts Eunseom to the fact that Helper is eating again — this time he’s demolishing a cart full of valuable medicinal herbs, hee. The vendor raises a hand to hit Helper, and suddenly Eunseom’s eyes glow purple. Quick as a flash, he jumps on the vendor and slams him to the ground.
He looks around in surprise at the crowd that’s gathered. Chaeeun shows up and pulls Eunseom away, telling him to leave Arthdal immediately. He says he will when he accomplishes his task, and grumbles that Arthdal is a weird place.
Eunseom is distracted when a man steps out of a nearby building. He follows the strange sounds to a room full of small children working machines, grinding Hard Stones into smooth shapes. The longer Eunseom stares, the worse it gets — the children are filthy and underfed, and every last one of them is in leg shackles.
The man returns and shoves Eunseom out. In a haunted voice, he asks Chaeeun who those children were. She explains that they’re war captives, and that captives were likely used to built the lift at the Great Black Wall as well.
Eunseom is distraught that the huge lift and the Hard Stones in the statue were made by slaves, like the chickens he saw in cages at the market. He says he’d never seen anything so cruel, until he realized that it was slaves like his own people that made all these “great” things.
It renews his determination to save his people, and he tells Chaeeun his plan to take Sanung hostage to exchange for the Wahan captives. She leads him to a spot overlooking Arthdal and says that even if he gets in, he’ll get lost.
Little Doti pipes up that Uncle Eunseom has a good sense of direction (awww, his smile), but Chaeeun says that you can’t navigate inside corridors where you can’t see the sun or stars. Eunseom just says she’ll wait for Sanung to leave the city so Chaeeun argues that he’s always heavily guarded, but Eunseom says he’ll fight, and she gives up.
Back in the city, Chaeeun joins a meeting of the Bachi (merchants’) Guild already in session, where the main topic of discussion is Tagon and his upcoming trial at the Sacred Court (for performing death rites without being a mystic). They think Tagon is a hero for all he’s done for the people.
Asa Ron hears that the Bachi Guild is against Tagon being punished. He tells Asa Mot he can’t figure out if Tagon is communicating with Sanung, or when and how, so he tells Asa Mot to prepare the sacred smoke so that he can ask the gods.
Taealha is also nervous with worry about what Tagon has planned once he returns to Arthdal. Tuak lays out the facts — Asa Ron thinks that Sanung is scheming against him, while Tagon actually plotted the whole thing, and Taealha only did as Tagon asked her. Taealha snaps at Tuak to stop yapping and asks if she’s visited the tower yet, so she goes, complaining that Tagon has a kid when he’s not even married to Taealha yet.
Sanung takes Danbyeok, his younger son, to pretend to pray for Tagon to a statue of Aramun Haesulla. Danbyeok confirms that Sanung has “prayed” enough that the people are talking about his devotion, ha. Sanung figures that Tagon will raise his sword against Asa Ron, which will get rid of both of them without dirtying his hands.
But Danbyeok asks, what if Tagon goes against Sanung? Sanung thinks that Tagon is too smart for that, since he won’t be approved as leader of the Union if he kills his own father. Danbyeok argues Tagon’s side, that he only wants their father’s validation and has made every possible sacrifice. But Sanung argues that those “sacrifices” are just Tagon satiating his own desires to hurt other people.
Danbyeok reveals that before she died, his mother told him about the shaman’s prediction that Tagon would kill Sanung and destroy the Arthdal Union. He also knows that Sanung refused to kill a child that was born of his own mistake… and Sanung cuts him off, saying that that decision was a mistake.
He snarls that Tagon killed his own mother out of greed for power, but Danbyeok doesn’t believe it. Sanung interrupts again to say that if he doesn’t get rid of Tagon and Asa Ron, he’ll never get out from under their thumbs and the Saenyeok people’s position in the Union will be in danger. He tells Danbyeok to get rid of the sympathy he feels, and not to trust anyone, not even his brother.
Tuak runs into a little trouble with the tower guards, but her swift, strong fighting moves prove that she’s not the weak lady she appears. But she runs into Mihol, and soon after, Mihol goes to his daughter Taealha’s room and slaps her to the ground. He has an unconscious Tuak brought in, whom he drugged to talk, and learned that Tagon planned the whole scheme.
Taealha begs forgiveness, but Mihol calls her a fool for falling for Tagon. He tells her to find out Tagon’s plans and correct things, giving her a small bottle of poison to kill Tagon, saying that he doesn’t care why Tagon would devise a plan that ends with his own death.
Mihol says that if asked, he’ll just say his foolish daughter fell in love and made a mistake. Taealha’s attendant, Yeobi, says that they can claim Tagon took his own life after being falsely accused, and Asa Ron will take the blame.
Danbyeok travels to meet Tagon on the road to Arthdal, and they seem to have a very close, loving relationship. Danbyeok came to warn Tagon that he’ll be standing trail for performing the death rites without qualification, but Tagon already knows. Danbyeok wants Tagon to hide, but Tagon says that if he runs now, the past twenty years will have been for nothing.
Where the Wahans are being kept, it’s noticed that one of the villagers, Doldol, has grown very sick. Mugwang has Doldol untied, and the Wahans thank Mugwang, but he pulls his sword and calmly kills Doldol right in front of them.
When Mugwang spots Mother Choseol, who’s been hiding a stab wound, Tanya pleads with him to let them care for their great mother, promising absolute obedience in return. Mugwang enjoys making the Wahan people scream, pretending several times that he’s going to kill Mother Choseol and stopping at the last second.
But Tanya bites her finger then paints her eyes with her blood, and when Mugwang is about to really kill Mother Choseol, she calls out: “I am Tanya of the Wahan tribe! The one who breaks the shell. I am the next great mother of the Wahan tribe. I am connected to all the awoken spirits and the spirits that will wake. I am the shaman of the Wahan tribe.”
She continues, “I, Tanya of the Wahan tribe, put a curse on your people. Your stone walls will crumble and your homes will turn to ruins.” Mugwang stalks towards her, sword raised, but she growls, “The first one to touch me will die the most brutal death. The blue fire will sweep across your land like a deadly storm. Your corpses, and those of your parents and children will form a mountain. Their blood will form a river and coagulate!”
As Tanya continues describing how the living will be forced to eat the dead, Mother Choseol thinks weakly, “Could she be… ” She sees a vision of the Great White Wolf standing beside Tanya as she speaks. Mugwang and the other men begin to look frightened by Tanya’s vehemence as she asks the Great White Wolf not to forgive her for ending the Wahan tribe, or to forgive those who harm them.
Tagon arrives and calmly asks Tanya what they must do to avoid her curse, so she asks him to allow them to give Mother Choseol a proper send-off when she dies. Tagon orders his men to allow it, figuring that it doesn’t hurt to to be cautious with everything they’re facing.
Taealha shows up and teases that Tagon is soft on Tanya because she’s pretty. He goes off with her, leaving Mugwang to untie Tanya and Mother Choseol. Mugwang tells Tanya to make it quick, and when he grabs her by the head, she snarls that a hand will rip his heart out under the crescent moon.
He leaves, and Tanya turns back to Mother Choseol and asks tearfully if she’s dying because Tanya was cursed by being born on the day of the Azure Comet. Mother Choseol gasps that this has been in the stars for a long time, and that it’s all up to Tanya now. Tanya confesses that the dream she told Mother Choseol about when she was young, the dream where something called her to the forest, was a lie — the fact that Eunseom was there was just a coincidence.
But Mother Choseol has a confession of her own… she’s never dreamed, either. She believes it’s possible that no great mothers since the Great White Wolf have ever dreamed, and that the gods have abandoned them. Tanya argues that Mother Choseol can hear her innermost thoughts, but Mother Choseol replies that all mothers can do that for their daughters.
She continues that when she saw the lift at the Great Black Wall, she realized that they were headed to the place the Great White Wolf came from. She tells Tanya to find the Great White Wolf’s byeoldaya (the carved relic that Moobaek found at the sacred tree). She draws a symbol in the dirt and says that this symbol will be carved on the byeoldaya, and that it, and everything she’s ever taught Tanya, will come in handy one day.
Her voice growing weaker, Mother Choseol says that the Great White Wolf appeared beside Tanya when she cursed those men, so she may be the Wolf’s chosen vessel. The Great White Wolf appears to Mother Choseol again, and Mother Choseol tells Tanya not to grieve for her… and then she’s gone.
Tagon takes Taealha to his tent, where she gives him a bottle of his father’s favorite wine. Before he drinks, she asks what he was thinking. But first, he asks Taealha why she told his father he was performing death rites as he asked, knowing it would lead to his death.
He says she should have reported his plans to her father, since she’s a spy. Taealha freezes, then grabs her knife and swings, yelling at Tagon for knowing the truth and deceiving her. Tagon wrestles her to the bed and says that even though he knew, he still asked her to take care of the Igutu baby.
Taealha drops the knife, and Tagon says that hiding the Igutu child is punishable by death, yet he trusted her with his secret. Taealha asks why, and Tagon says it was to stay alive — his father wants him dead and Asa Ron sees him as an enemy. To stay alive, he needs Mihol’s help, so he trusted her.
But Tagon points out that Taealha didn’t tell Mihol about the Igutu child. He asks why she kept a secret that could ruin him, hoping that it’s because she loves him. He starts to drink the wine, but Taealha knocks it from his hand.
He immediately figures out that the wine was poisoned, and he takes Taealha’s actions as proof that she has feelings for him. He says that he wants her, too, but Taealha retorts that if she’d been more mature, she’d have told her father everything years ago. She says she was a foolish girl who developed feelings for him.
She admits to loving him, but says that she can’t commit to him because he’ll never be able to kill his father, because then nobody will acknowledge him. She tells Tagon that her father expects him dead by sunrise, but she saved his life, so whatever he’s planned bad better work. “If you fail,” she croons, “I’ll end up dead, too.”
She leaves Tagon’s tent, ignoring Tuak’s questions and wondering why she’s suddenly gambling her life on ridiculous feelings. She sees Mugwang leading Tanya back to camp, and she seems very interested in the girl, but doesn’t say anything.
Tagon recalls an unwelcome memory of a child being choked, and this time we see that the person looming over the child is Sanung. Tagon calls for Yangcha, his masked warrior, and tells him that he’ll be leaving camp secretly.
In Arthdal, Asa Ron breathes the sacred smoke as an oracle dances. He wonders why the gods never come to him, but then he sees a vision of Tagon. A priest tells him that an urgent message has arrived, and he correctly guesses that it’s from Tagon, wanting to speak to him.
He finds Tagon, who wordlessly bows to him. Asa Ron asks why he’s here when he’s summoned before the Sacred Court tomorrow. Tagon pleads for mercy and forgiveness, saying that he only performed the sacred rites out of pity for his dying warriors. Asa Ron thinks that Tagon just doesn’t want to die… but then, neither does he.
Tagon continues that he’s devoted his life to Arthdal and the glory of Asa Ron and Sanung, and that he doesn’t deserve punishment. Asa Ron says there’s only one way out of it, and he offers Tagon a chest full of gold to leave and never come back.
Tagon sincerely thanks him, but says that there’s a way he can stay and save Asa Ron from the Union’s wrath. Asa Ron must accept his plan, because at sunrise, Tagon rides into Arthdal as the people cheer. The Wahan tribe members look around them in shock and amazement, and Tanya wonders if the Great White Wolf truly came from here.
Tagon is stopped by one of Asa Ron’s priests and officially summoned to trial at the Sacred Court. Tagon removes his weapons and armor and follows the priest obediently (though there’s a flash of defiance in his eyes), and the people yell angrily that he was framed.
In the crowd, Chaeeun also cheers her (fake?) support for Tagon until she spots Eunseom and realizes that he never left the city as she told him. Meanwhile, Eunseom gets a good look at Sanung, and notes that, just as Chaeeun said, he’s always got six guards with him.
Sanung leads his guards, including Danbyeok, out of the city. Danbyeok says he hasn’t heard from Taealha, and that Tagon met with Asa Ron last night. Sanung asks if it’s possible to sneak weapons into the Great Shrine (where Asa Ron and his priests pray, and where Tagon’s trial is being held).
The trial begins, and a priest utters a spooky chant as the oracle dances and Asa Ron spills his own blood into the sacred fire. The chanting turns to maniacal laughter, then screaming, then suddenly the oracle collapses and everything stops.
Isodunyong, the goddess that never sleeps, speaks through the oracle: “When the great spring dries up and the white beast collapses, the scorpion hiding among the flowers shall go to sleep.” The oracle points to Tagon and continues, “When you meet your brother, where there is alcohol, shall be covered in blood.”
Sanung thinks to himself that what matters isn’t the words, but how Asa Ron interprets them, believing that Asa Ron has been fooling the Union for years. Asa Ron shocks everyone by announcing, “Tagon has been gifted with the psychic ability of the gods.” Tagon smirks — this was his plan to save himself and Asa Ron, since a person chosen by the gods can perform the sacred death rites.
Sanung fumes, fully aware that this is a scheme that Tagon and Asa Ron concocted when they met last night. Danbyeok warns his father to remain calm, so Sanung says it’s a great honor to have his son declared chosen of the gods.
But Asa Ron says he’s not finished, and he asks Sanung if he reported his own son to stand trial because he’s jealous of Tagon’s achievements. Sanung barely holds in his temper as he denies it, but one of Sanung’s men blurts out that Sanung ordered him to report Tagon for blasphemy.
Sanung swears before all the gods that he never issued such an order, and Asa Ron wonders which of them is lying in the Great Temple. He says that neither may leave the temple until the truth is determined, but Sanung refuses to be locked up. His guards draw their swords, and Tagon tells Asa Ron that if Sanung leaves the Temple, it will spell war between the tribes. A priest tells the shrine guardians to stop them, and the killing begins.
Outside, Eunseom prepares for his own battle to abduct Sanung. He’s gotten hold of armor and weapons, and he paints his face into a ghastly death mask as inside the temple, priests are being murdered by Sanung’s guards.
Chaeeun has brought the herb vendor to stop Eunseom, but she’s too late. She sees him thundering towards the shrine on Helper, killing guards as he passes them at full speed.
Sanung and his men make it outside the temple, but they’re intercepted by Tagon’s warriors. The two groups fight until a strange voice calls out Sanung’s name. It’s Eunseom, who aims Helper straight at Sanung. Believing that Eunseom is here to save him, Sanung jumps on Helper’s back, and Eunseom rides away with him.
At the temple, Tagon tells Danbyeok to summon the White Mountain warriors to Arthdal, to fight with the Saenyeok warriors. Mihol asks Danbyeok who rescued Sanung, and by Danbyeok’s description, they guess that it was someone from the Asa clan. Suddenly it looks less like a rescue and more like a hostage situation.
Danbyeok says he can’t start a war with his father held captive, but Mihol says he must take control of the Great Shrine before the White Mountain warriors arrive so he’s in a position to negotiate.
All over Arthdal, people hear the sound of a war horn, but only Chaeeun knows that this is the result of Eunseom succeeding in abducting Sanung. Tagon is with his men outside the Great Temple, waiting for the White Mountain warriors to join them, and he wonders who Eunseom is.
Word finally gets to Tagon that his father is being held in the marketplace. Eunseom draws a crowd as he bellows at the top of his lungs, “I am Eunseom, dream and warrior of Wahan. Do you wish to greet the dead body of your father by becoming Wahan’s enemy? Then I will gladly kill this man.”
Eunseom continues to shout his demand to return his people as Danbyeok returns to Arthdal and sizes up the situation. Danbyeok tells his men to bring the Wahan people, planning to negotiate, but Tagon says he’ll go up to the balcony to talk to Eunseom.
He calls to Eunseom, introducing himself and promising to return his people. He drops his sword and armor in a gesture of good faith, and Eunseom agrees to speak to him. Tagon climbs to the balcony, and on the way up, he carefully takes a spear down from the wall.
But Eunseom is listening with his acute Igutu hearing, and he knows the moment Tagon arms himself. He readies his own knife, and when Tagon is finally in front of him, the two men rush at each other and strike.
I can’t believe that Eunseom got his hands on Sanung so easily! Talk about being in the right place at the right time. That last scene was great, full of tension and suspense. We didn’t see much of Eunseom in this episode, so we don’t know what he’s been able to teach himself in regards to his Neanthal skills, but he certainly looks a lot more confident then when he first entered Arthdal’s gates. He’s inexperienced when it comes to battle, but I have no doubt that he’s going to give Tagon a fight to remember.
I find Tagon an intriguing character, primarily because he’s so hard to read. I know he’s Eunseom’s enemy, but whenever Tagon is onscreen I just find him sympathetic and earnest. I was nearly convinced that he’s either not the villain I originally assumed, or he’s just very skilled at hiding his true goals and convincing everyone that his intentions are good. Most of my confusion is surrounding Tagon and his plans and motivations, because he’s very convincing as the well-meaning guy who just wants to win his father’s approval. But then he colluded with Asa Ron to accuse his father and use him as an excuse to begin a war, and it’s clear what a greedy mastermind he is.
Then there’s Eunseom on the other end of the spectrum, who wears his heart on his sleeve and whose innocent experience of the world is being systematically crushed with every moment he spends in Arthdal. His disillusionment and heartbreak over the realities of the world Iark are so hard to watch. If he was crushed to see chickens in cages, how much more must it have hurt to realize that his own loved ones are bound for a much crueller fate? He’s never lived among people — the first ten years of his life were spent in isolation with his mother, and after that he’s lived with people who didn’t like him because of his oddities, but who also gave him a reluctant place among them.
This show is visually lovely and very exciting, but it’s also very intricate, with so many people and so much going on. It’s definitely impressive how much information each episode manages to convey, but on the other hand, I’m definitely confused about some things. I’m sure they’ll be explained in time, though, and my confusion isn’t the bad kind caused by sloppy writing or haphazard editing — it’s just the way the story is being laid out. Otherwise, the show is doing a very good job of doling out information, especially considering how much information there is to impart to the audience and how many characters there are with their own schemes, secrets, and loyalties.
I agree with @dramallama that it’s kind of fun to watch Eunseom discover his true abilities, and the fact that they aren’t just quirks but the result of his mysterious parentage. With the Wahan in Iark, he never had much of a reason to explore his super strength, incredible speed, or even to really think about why he has purple blood — I think that everyone just assumed that he was different because he’s not from Iark. But now he’s learning that he’s not even fully human, and it’s one more thing breaking him down. But a hero has to be broken down so that he can be built back up into a savior, so this is a necessary step for Eunseom, no matter how difficult.
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