Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 11
Our sheltered and isolated hero Saya, finally makes the bold checkmate move on his father, and it completely changes the game. Saya challenges the fate of Arthdal with a gamble that he’s been waiting his whole life for, and it’s simultaneously brave, empowering, and ominous. Our Wahan heroine Tanya, is at the center of this gamble, and she slowly comes to realize the ancestral power she holds.
EPISODE 11 RECAP
Tagon finds a message from the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts, the rebel Asa group, that summons him as the Igutu Aramun Haesulla that will save them. He quickly pulls down the plastered message and anxiously wonders how the rebels found out about that he was an Igutu. Little does he know, that message was written and planted by Saya, who’s disguised as a woman.
At the medicine storage in the woods, Moobaek pulls his sword to defend Nunbyeol and Harim against the two Neanthal visitors, Yiseuroob and Rottib. Yiseuroob says that he recognizes Moobaek, and Moobaek asks in their tongue if they killed the Daekan warrior. Yiseuroob responds that the Daekan warrior killed someone and attacked them first, but Moobaek doesn’t believe them.
Yiseuroob further vows that since the day in Atturad to the day in Manteiv, they’ve never attacked the humans first. Rottib shares that Asa Hon refused to believe that Moobaek was at the front lines of the Neanthal genocide, and Moobaek flinches ever so slightly at the mention of Asa Hon.
Moobaek asks why the Neanthals entered Arthdal, and they explain that they were looking for someone. They haven’t found them yet, but they seem determined to find them soon. Moobaek warns them not to return Arthdal, and with one final glance at Nunbyeol, the Neanthals depart.
As Moobaek approaches Harim and Nunbyeol, he notices a blue mark on Nunbyeol’s neck. He rips the back of her garment to reveal the blue scales of a Neanthal. Moobaek draws his sword, but Harim pleads for mercy and explains the story.
Harim had been a doctor during the Manteiv War and found Nunbyeol while wandering in the woods. Young Nunbyeol had been tightly holding a rabbit and was coughing up blue blood, so Harim brought her home. His wife had prohibited them from keeping this Neanthal child, but Chaeeun adored this young girl, naming her Nunbyeol because of her twinkling eyes.
Moobaek remembers Nunbyeol practicing her swordsmanship and asks Harim how she was able to mimic human movements. He knows that Neanthals are unable to blend in with humans because of their unique movements and strength. Knowing this, Harim had cut off all eight of her blood lineages to eliminate her Neanthal powers.
To test this, Moobaek attacks Nunbyeol, who swiftly avoids his swing and grabs her own weapon. But when Moobaek knocks her down, she falls down weakly and can’t get back up. Harim runs to her side, and Moobaek asks why the Neanthals visited. Nunbyeol reveals that they asked her to consider joining them, but she doesn’t want to be separated from her family.
Embracing his daughter, Harim begs Moobaek to keep this a secret and trusts that he understands because he saved an Igutu. Moobaek resigns to this agreement, though he looks reluctant.
After cooling down, Harim notes that Asa Hon’s death has motivated their actions — Harim raising a Neanthal and Moobaek saving an Igutu. Harim asks why Moobaek saved the Igutu, and Moobaek responds that he wants to set things right in the world. He wants to dethrone the fake high priest and punish the union leader who murdered his father.
Harim asks if Moobaek is behind the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts murder of the Asa priest, and Moobaek denies this. The real culprit, Saya, admits to Momyungjin (the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts’ spiritual leader) that he committed that murder. He explains that it was time for the Arthdal people to overthrow the fake rulers and follow the real teachings of Asa Sin.
Shaken by Saya’s confession, Momyungjin grabs his collar and angrily reminds him of the Olmadae incident that was sparked by a mere drawing and resulted in slaughter. Saya calmly lists his first of three reasons: The Great Mother, the descendant of Asa Sin, has returned.
Tanya demands to know how Chaeeun knows Eunseom, and Chaeeun explains that she helped Eunseom when he first arrived in Arthdal. Then, Tanya asks if Chaeeun saw Eunseom die, and Chaeeun thinks to herself that Tanya has the wrong information. Tanya hears this thought and wonders what she just heard, since Chaeeun wasn’t speaking.
Chaeeun clears up the misunderstanding by explaining that Eunseom didn’t die that day. Although she doesn’t know where he is now, she knows that while the fake Eunseom died, the real Eunseom was recovering in their medicine storage hideout. Tanya falls to her knees in tears and thanks Chaeeun, and Chaeeun comforts her.
Saya urges Momyungjin to share the truth about Wahan’s Great Mother being the direct descendant of Asa Sin. Momyungjin asks if this Great Mother knows where Asa Sin’s star bell is, but Saya says that it doesn’t matter because they will gather power, as Aramun had when he became a god. He identifies that as his second of three reasons: Arthdal’s strongest and most realistic power, Tagon. She doubts that Tagon knows Saya, but Saya promises to let her meet him.
Tagon tries to track down the person who posted the divulging message, but he’s confused by the soldier’s report that an unknown woman (Saya in disguise) entered the space. His thoughts are interrupted by Gilseon, who arrives to escort him to the Great Shrine.
At the Great Shrine prison, Mihol visits Taealha, who looks furious upon realizing that her father trapped her in this prison. It’s a tortuous place with shallow water, so prisoners are forced to stay awake and standing until they succumb to lying in the cold dirty water. In response, Taealha immediately sits in the water (and bugs scatter across the cave wall ewww), saying that she’s used to enduring dirty things, as it’s the way that her father raised her.
Mihol tries to persuade Taealha to admit that the vengeful spirit killings were actually ordered by Tagon, saying that he couldn’t bear to lose his precious daughter. Taealha refuses to betray Tagon and clarifies that she’s not Mihol’s precious daughter. Mihol says that Tagon and Taealha will tragically never overcome the Asa clan’s sanctity.
Tagon meets with Asa Ron and assures himself that Asa Ron doesn’t know that he’s an Igutu because Asa Ron wouldn’t bother to meet with Tagon if he knew the truth. Tagon requests that Asa Ron release Taealha and offers to return all power to their original place, but Asa Ron refuses. He still intends to convict Taealha according to law.
Tagon threatens to ruin the union and Arthdal if Asa Ron punishes Taealha, but Asa Ron isn’t convinced. Asa Ron is satisfied with either outcome — Taealha betraying Tagon, or Taealha being punished. He’s relying on Mihol’s assessment of his daughter as someone who wouldn’t sacrifice herself for Tagon.
In the prison, Mihol tries to manipulate Taealha by questioning her trust in Tagon. He doubts that Tagon would start a war over Taealha and reminds her that Tagon did everything for Sanung’s approval. Now that Sanung is dead, Mihol identifies Tagon’s new target for approval as the Arthdal people, not Taealha.
Taealha stands up and desperately asks why Mihol is torturing his daughter, not allowing her to be with the person she loves. She believes that Tagon can win, but Mihol disagrees. He knows that Tagon can never win.
As Tagon leaves his meeting with Asa Ron, he convinces himself that Taealha would never die for him. He wouldn’t have loved her if she could die for him and believes that Taealha can betray him. In the prison, Taealha thinks the same thing. She knows that Tagon can betray her and seems certain that Tagon knows that she can betray him.
In their youth, Tagon and Taealha had pitied themselves for being pawns of their fathers, and they promised each other that they would never die for each other. Taealha remembers this agreement and knows that they can betray each other, but in order for them to win, they must not betray each other. If Tagon is able to appoint Tanya as the true high priest of the Asa clan, then they have hope.
Tagon is in a time crunch before the sacred court hearing, and he asks Gilseon how long they must wait for Olmadae (the rebellion leader from 12 years ago) of the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts to arrive from Doldambul. It’s too far and will take too long, so Tagon needs to make a decision.
At Doldambul, Eunseom continues to work tirelessly in the mines and thinks about his dream of Tanya. She had told Saya that she shouldn’t have met him, and Eunseom thinks that she’s talking to him. He agrees that they shouldn’t have met.
From behind, Ipsaeng joins Eunseom and calls him Purple. Eunseom accepts that he’s no longer Eunseom, Wahan’s dream, and smirks that he’s just Purple. Ipsaeng sees him smile and considers it a hopeful sign for their partnership in escaping the mines.
Sateunik approaches them and says that he saw Eunseom cry last night, as if he had committed a great sin. He tries to comfort Eunseom by saying that there is only one sin in the world. As he walks away, Ipsaeng reveals to Eunseom that Tagon is his older brother.
That makes Eunseom pause, and Ipsaeng blabbers on that he used to wipe Tagon’s red blood whenever he got beat up. Huh, curious. Is this guy a fraud? Then, Sateunik collapses behind them. He starts to cough up blood, and Olmadae assesses that Sateunik has blood disease.
While Dalsae takes a dump outside, Seuchun (Moobaek’s friend) whispers to him from behind the shrubbery to ask if Eunseom is alive. Dalsae nods in confirmation and tries to wave him away, since Syoreujagin is in earshot. Instead of fleeing, Seuchun makes himself known and greets Syoreujagin as a fellow servant.
Syoreujagin insists that he’s only a servant in Arthdal and claims to be a leader in the mines. Seuchun continues to disparage him and offers money to buy back all the Wahan people, including the Igutu, under Moobaek’s orders. But when Syoreujagin looks at the money, he demands more.
In the mines, the slaves seem irritated that Satenik will only be dead weight as he wastes away with blood disease. Olmadae assures them that it isn’t contagious, but another slave, Badoru, wishes that it were contagious. Others discuss how Syoruejagin is so committed to mining for jewels that he wouldn’t let any slave die and spread infectious disease. He even came down to the mines to salvage the rest of the slaves from the disease.
Ipsaeng pulls Eunseom aside and shows him a larger collection of jewels. He offers to share the jewels if Eunseom shares the rest of his food, and Eunseom hands over his food, his mind clearly elsewhere. As the wheels turn in his head, Eunseom thinks, “Tanya, something must be wrong with me. This is fun.”
The Daekan warriors bust into Momyungjin’s dye shop with a tip that Momyungjin is an elder of the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts. She vehemently denies this, but the Daekan warriors discover her secret prayer room with evidence of the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts’ symbol.
Momyungjin is dragged into a dungeon, where she meets with Tagon. He asks if she knows who he is, and she lists of all his titles — Union Leader, son of Sanung, conqueror of Iark — but that’s not what he’s asking for. Momyungjin remembers that Saya promised her facetime with Tagon and wonders if this is what he meant.
Realizing this, Momyungjin reveals that a new person joined the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts a year ago and was extremely faithful, especially to the idea that Asa Sin sent an Igutu in her stead. She shares that this new member set up this meeting and asked her to share with Tagon that Asa Ron’s power is fake while Tagon’s power is real. And this mysterious lad wants Tagon to share his real power with the rightful leader of the Asa clan, the true descendant of Asa Sin, whom Tagon knows.
Tagon storms out of the dungeon and immediately searches Saya’s room. He finds women’s garments hidden away, and he realizes that Saya must have disguised himself to enter the fortress to plant the incriminating message. Then, Saya enters the room and confronts Tagon. He tries to calm his racing heart, but he continues to shake because he knows that Tagon could kill him for this.
Saya tells Tagon that he committed this deed because this was the time. He knows that Tagon needs Tanya, but he’s hidden her away in the treehouse. Tagon puts a knife at Saya’s throat, but he can’t kill him because he would never find Tanya.
Saya predicts that the most that Tagon can do is negotiate with Asa Ron after stopping the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts, and he criticizes Tagon’s weak plan. He instructs Tagon to support the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts to defeat Asa Ron and collapse the fake leaders of the Great Shrine. They will bring down the fake leaders and bring in the real descendant of Asa Sin to rebuild the Great Shrine. Tagon will receive blessing as the king, and Saya will be the heir to the throne. And then, they will reveal their purple blood.
Tagon calls Saya crazy, but Saya demands to know why Tagon saved him after slaughtering all the Igutu, why he saved him despite being so ashamed of being an Igutu. Saya says that he suffered in isolation, agonizing over the reason for his existence.
Tagon scolds Saya for his pride in being an Igutu, and Saya shares his initial rationalization that Tagon, an Igutu who is Arthdal’s hero, saved him so that he could one day emerge out of the shadows. But he soon realized that he was foolish for believing this.
Tagon argues that Saya grew up too sheltered as an Igutu and shares that his father had tried to choke him to death at just 7 years old. He says that this is the reality of living as an Igutu, but Saya argues that they can just kill their enemies to instill fear. Tagon says that he could instill fear but would have to kill all of his people: the Daekan warriors, his tribe, and all the citizens under the union. He’s certain that the Arthdal people do not want their leader to be an Igutu.
Saya says that they don’t know what the people want, and Tagon asks if Saya does. Saya shows Tagon the coin of Aramun — one side symbolizing peace, the other symbolizing punishment. He says that they won’t know what side will face up once they flip the coin, but he’s willing to gamble. He tells Tagon to make a choice between the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts and his beloved Arthdal people.
Tagon refuses to take his chances and draws his sword to stop Saya, but Saya is prepared with poison. He threatens to kill himself if Tagon makes any moves against him, and then, he flees.
Meanwhile, Chaeeun’s mother finds out she has been a part of the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts, but they’re interrupted by more important news about the Neanthals trying to take Nunbyeol. Harim tells Chaeeun to take Nunbyeol into hiding.
Tagon returns to the dungeon and tells Momyungjin that he’s ready to join the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts, and she looks surprised at his offer. That night, Saya enters Magpie Cave, where the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts conduct their ceremonies. He addresses the members and confirms that their elder Momyungjin has been captured. In the back, he spots a familiar face — it’s Tagon.
Saya takes Tagon outside the cave and asks how he learned about the cave. Tagon reveals that he’s decided to join the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts and says that the Igutu reveal must come later. Saya agrees to Tagon’s terms. Saya thanks his father, and Tagon apologizes for the suffering. From afar, Daekan warrior Mookwang overhears this conversation and watches this interaction curiously.
As Saya walks to the treehouse, Mookwang follows closely behind. Tagon returns to Momyungjin’s dye shop, and he’s met with his Daekan troops, including Moobaek.
In the treehouse, Tanya questions if she actually has psychic abilities, since she’s sure that she heard Chaeeun’s thoughts. As she takes a closer look at the candles, the light refracts and smoke begins to accumulate. But when she shakes her head, her vision returns to normal.
When Saya returns to the treehouse, he finds it empty. No Tanya. He immediately begins to search the surrounding forest, and the Daekan warriors keep watch. Back at the dye shop, Tagon orders the Daekan warriors to be fully armed and ready to mobilize in their attack of the Great Shrine. He orders everyone in the huts to be killed, and he also orders someone, preferably someone with musical abilities, to go to prison.
Then, Mookwang arrives and reports that Saya may have lost Tanya. Tagon orders a picture to be drawn so that the rest of the Daekan warriors can search for her. Moobaek then realizes that Tagon wasn’t keeping Tanya afterall. When Tagon orders the Daekan warriors to kill anyone in their way of finding Tanya, Mookwang seems alarmed that Tagon would even kill his own son.
When Saya returns to the treehouse, he finds Tanya silently hiding. He sighs in relief, but Tanya insists that she can sense someone outside watching them. Saya assures her that there’s nobody outside and tells her the good news of Tagon’s alliance with them. He says that Tanya will soon become the High Priest of the Great Shrine, but Tanya seems doubtful.
Tanya is still skeptical that Asa Sin was the Great White Wolf of the Wahan people, and Saya asks if she knows where the star bell is hidden in the Great Shrine. If Tanya found the star bell, that would prove that she’s the descendant of Asa Sin. Tanya has no idea what this is, but Saya remains hopeful and assure her that she’ll gain immense power.
Before Saya leaves the treehouse, Tanya asks if this power will allow her to liberate the Wahan people, even those who have been dragged away far from Arthdal. Saya confirms this, and Tanya looks intrigued by the possibility of saving Eunseom.
At Doldambul, the slaves hand a knife to Eunseom to kill Sateunik. They’ve all done this once before and claim that it’s to everyone’s benefit to kill the weak dying link. Eunseom slowly approaches Sateunik with the knife, and images of Teodae flash through his mind. He’s overwhelmed and haunted by the voices telling him what to do, telling him who he is.
Then, Sateunik takes Eunseom’s hand and tells him that it’s not his fault. Sateunik says that killing him is not Eunseom’s fault, and neither is everything he’s suffered. Eunseom asks why this savagery isn’t a sin and argues that Sateunik knows nothing about the sins he’s committed. But Sateunik stays resolute and says that there’s only one sin that deserves punishment. Then, he whispers this in Eunseom’s ear, and no one else is privy to this secret.
Sateunik encourages Eunseom to commit the deed and claims that he deserves punishment, but Eunseom can’t do it. He breaks the wooden knife and says that he can’t act like an animal. Badoru angrily reminds him that he entered these mines announcing that he was more lowly than an animal, and Eunseom confirms that he acted like an animal, mindlessly living because he could breath.
Eunseom likens his animal-like behavior to the rest of the slaves, and Badoru angrily attacks him. But Eunseom strikes back and knocks down a couple other slaves. His strength is back! Badoru asks if they should die of hunger with Sateunik so that they can live like humans, and he argues that Eunseom isn’t even human. Eunseom doesn’t care if he’s called an animal and proposes that they escape.
When Eunseom looks to Ipsaeng, the blabbermouth suddenly takes back his word about knowing an escape route and blames another slave for not sharing this knowledge. The other slaves laught at Eunseom’s naïve trust in a notorious liar, but Eunseom then suggests that they escape using his idea. He scopes the tunnel and asks the slaves how many days they can last without food.
The Daekan warriors search the streets for Tanya, showing a drawing of their wanted subject. When Chaeeun sees this, she denies recognition but immediately runs off. Yeobi observes the Daekan warriors and senses something unusual about this search.
Taealha meets with Mihol and asks if she will lose her title as tribe leader when she betrays Tagon. Mihol looks satisfied and assures her that she will keep her position. Then, a loud prisoner hums a familiar tune, and Taealha recognizes this as Tagon’s humming tune, whenever he gets excited.
Yeobi interrupts them and reports to Mihol on the Daekan search for this Wahan person. She starts to put together the pieces: Moobaek recently sought out Yeolson looking for someone, and the Daekan warriors are now looking for Tanya, who’s Yeolson’s daughter. There’s even suspicion that the Wahan people are humans, descended from Arthdal ancestors.
Mihol heads to the Fortress of Fire and grabs Yeolson for questioning. He threatens to boil his daughter to death if he doesn’t answer the questions, and Yeolson begs Mihol for mercy. Mihol asks about the information that Moobaek requested, and he shares the origin story of the Wahan people. He explains that the Great White Wolf started Wahan 200 years ago and that Tanya was her direct descendant. With this information, Mihol realizes Tagon’s plan.
Taealha meets with Asa Ron and shares that she’s made up her mind. Asa Ron look assured that her decision will be in his favor, but Taealha requests a sacred court hearing for her sins. He grabs her neck in fury, but Taealha calmly offers herself as a sacrifice for Tagon, as she’s been reassured by Tagon’s tune.
Moobaek asks Tagon about Tanya’s whereabouts, and Tagon says that she may have run away or been kidnapped. Moobaek offers to search for Tanya as well, though he seems to have different intentions.
Yeobi forces truth serum into Hae Tuak’s mouth, and Mihol asks for Tanya’s whereabouts. Drugged Hae Tuak reveals that Tanya is likely in the treehouse. At the treehouse, the Daekan warrior keeps guard but hears rustling around him. When he turns to attack, he’s immediately killed by Yeobi, who slices his throat in one go. Damn.
Sensing something ominous, Yeolson runs through the streets to find Chaeeun, as Moobaek referred Yeolson to her if anything bad happened.
Chaeeun prepares to hide away with Nunbyeol and asks little Doti to relay the message of Tanya’s whereabouts to Moobaek. Then, Yeolseon bursts into the medicine shop and asks for Chaeeun. He desperately asks her to help save his daughter, Tanya, as she seems to be in danger. Little Doti recognizes Yeolson, and they embrace in reunion.
Yeobi holds Tanya hostage and escorts her with Mihol behind them, marveling at Tagon’s plan. They’re intercepted by Mookwang, who’s determined to follow Tagon’s orders to kill anyone who tries to take Tanya. He battles Yeobi in a sword fight, and when they stand at an impasse, Tanya makes a run for it.
Tanya runs through a tall hayfield, and she’s stopped by Chaeeun, who unties her roped wrists. As they start to run, Nunbyeol directs them away from Yeobi, but when they exit the hayfield, they’re met with Mookwang. Both Chaeeun and Nunbyeol try to protect Tanya, but Mookwang easily knocks them down.
Holding his sword to Tanya’s throat, Mookwang goads that he’s survived Tanya’s curse. As Tanya looks afar, the smoke from the treehouse begins to blur her vision, and she firmly tells Mookwang the last words he will hear, “It’s too late.”
Mookwang tries to hurt Tanya for her ominous prophecy, but Nunbyeol attacks with a sword. She manages to hit Mookwang, but that only provokes him further. She’s knocked down, and just as he approaches her for a fatal attack, someone grabs his hand. It’s a Yiseuroob.
On his way back to the treehouse, Saya discovers the dead warrior. He runs to the treehouse looking for Tanya, but she’s gone. He checks the dead warrior and unveils the Daekan symbol on his wrist. He angrily blames Tagon.
Yes! A Neanthal appearance! I’m a fan of the Neanthals and really hope they’ll have a greater presence in this story moving forward. They’ve got a vigilante superhero quality to them, and that’s always a draw for me. I do hope that a community of Neanthals exists, and I think there were some implicit clues that these two Neanthals are not the only two alive. It seems like they’re actively recruiting, hopefully to make some major moves. I knew something was different with Nunbyeol, but I was not expecting THAT. I kind of wish that she still had Neanthal powers because Nunbyeol could have been one badass Neanthal. I hope that there’s some way for her to restore her Neanthal powers or feel more connected with the Neanthal community. Her family definitely takes top priority, but there’s an interesting story to be told in that in between of humans and Neanthals.
There was a lot of build-up for the season finale in this episode, and while the major events have yet to happen, there were some highlights in this episode. Most of the politics involving Asa Ron and Mihol bore me to tears, but I loved the Tagon/Saya argument sequence. The thick tension and intensity of their acting was incredible. I could feel their passion through the screen, and both actors executed that scene with charisma bursting at the seams and powerful chemistry. The topic of their argument was also more universally relevant than I had initially thought. Taking out all the Arthdal jargon and unnecessary politics, the argument drew on themes of marginalization, self-hatred, and a desperation for acceptance. It was so clear that the characters’ backgrounds had framed their understanding of the world, and even though they were both Igutus, their different exposures to the world had diverged their perceptions of themselves.
I’m amazed at the pool of talent in this show, and I don’t know how they got all these actors to sign on and align their schedules for these shoots. They seemed to have casted every popular rising star, a solid group of recognizable veterans, and our internationally renowned leads. I would think that their budget would run dry from just paying these folks and the staff a decent wage, but I guess that’s the power of Netflix? Maybe they’ll use this break between season 2 and 3 to ring in the streaming bucks and replenish their budget. It was an interesting choice to divide up the seasons this way, and I’m not sure if this will help or hurt the show. While I’m not thrilled about this season break, I’m going to be optimistic and say that we’re in a good place to come back rejuvenated and ready to experience the final piece of this Arthdal epic.
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