Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 12
Events are coming to a dangerous head as our players all try to maneuver themselves into the most advantageous positions before the Sacred Trial. Loyalties constantly shift, and every act of trust is a deadly risk when the power to control the known world is the prize. Our heroes will need to look within themselves for the correct path, as the fate of Arthdal depends on their survival.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
While escaping Mihol, Tanya is caught by Moogwang, who sneers that he’s still alive despite her curse. Her vision blurs for a moment, and she tells him, “‘You’re too late.’ Those are the last words you’ll ever hear.” Nunbyeol attacks Moogwang but he soon shoves her to the ground, and he raises his sword… only for the Neanthal, Yiseuroob, to stop his hand.
Yiseuroob casually flings Moogwang into a tree then turns to Tanya, as Nunbyeol’s eyes flash Neanthal blue. Chaeeun tells Tanya that her father is at the apothecary, assuring her that they’ll be fine. Tanya runs, but someone trips her and she looks up at the point of a sword.
Nunbyeol tells Yiseuroob that she doesn’t want to leave her family and go with him, and his expression is kind as he says he understands. Nunbyeol asks him what happened to the Neanthal people, and he tells her that they’ve all died but five, including himself.
He says that he asked her to join them because he hoped she’d find a good man among them, and Nunbyeol understands that she’s the only female Neanthal left. Yiseuroob tells her that unlike humans, he respects the choice she makes for herself.
She asks what if she wants to see them again, and Yiseuroob tells her “Manteiv…” He turns to go, followed by Rottib. Rottib says that he knew Nunbyeol wouldn’t come with them, and Yiseuroob gently chastises him for smiling when this is the end of their pure blue blood. Rottib says that’s not necessarily true as long as they’re still alive.
Moogwang wakes with a start to find Moobaek and Chaeeun standing over him. He lunges at Chaeeun, demanding to know where Tanya is, but Moobaek stops him and tells him that Chaeeun was saving Tanya from Yeobi. Chaeeun says worriedly that she sent Tanya ahead but thinks she was caught.
Meanwhile Saya finds the dead Daekan soldier while looking for Tanya, and he heads back to the city. When Tagon’s guards try to refuse him entry, he bellows, “Tell Tagon Niruha his son is here! My name is Saya!” The guards think he’s crazy, but Tagon comes at the sound of the commotion.
He drags Saya inside and slams him to the floor. He pins Saya to the wall by the throat and asks for one reason not to kill him now that he doesn’t know where Tanya is. He locks Saya in the room, walking away as Saya yells that he won’t forgive Tagon if anything happens to Tanya.
The guards tell Kitoha and Yangcha that Tagon apparently has a son nobody knows about. When Yangcha doesn’t seem surprised, Kitoha accuses him of knowing already. A frantic Moogwang joins them, and when Kitoha says Tagon is with his son, Moogwang is all “Oh, he’s here?!” and runs off. HAHA, Kitoha is so hurt that everyone knew but him, and I swear Yangcha is laughing behind his mask.
Yeobi brings Tanya to Nihol, and Mihol visits Taealha’s prison to ask if she knows Tanya. Taealha says that he’ll never be able to find Tanya, and she laughs when he says he already has her, reluctant to believe anything he says. Mihol takes Taealha to see Tanya, who’s confused by the complicated web of allies and enemies in Arthdal and prays to the Great White Wolf to give her the wisdom of the star.
Tagon goes back to Saya, who apologizes — he saw the dead Daekan warrior and assumed Tagon took Tanya, but now he realizes that a dead warrior means it was Asa Ron. He says frantically that they need to attack the Great Shrine before Asa Ron kills Tanya, and Tagon wonders if Saya’s behavior is because he tricked him, or because he likes Tanya.
Saya starts to threaten not to forgive Tagon if Tanya is harmed, but Tagon interrupts and says that without power, you’re forced to forgive everything, as he himself was forced to do. Gritting his teeth, Saya begs forgiveness, and Tagon asks why he should forgive him.
Saya says that he’s trained himself for this and it would be a waste not to use his skills, and he even gets on his knees, vowing that both he and Tanya will be useful to Tagon. Tagon decides to use Saya, but he warns that if Saya ruins his plans, “I’ll show you what it really means to be unforgiving.”
Mihol calls Taealha mad for believing that Tanya is the descendant of Asa Sin and says it’s fortunate that Asa Ron doesn’t know about Tanya yet. Taealha reminds Mihol that their clan are a huge threat to Asa Ron because the Hae clan’s ability to smelt bronze is believed to be holy, and that the only reason Asa Ron sides with him now is because Tagon is a bigger threat.
Mihol states that they have a larger mission to take revenge on those that destroyed Remus, and that Tagon can’t win this fight anyway. Taealha mentions the star bell that Asa Sin hid in the Great Shrine, making sure that Tanya (who’s been listening intently) hears her say that whoever finds it automatically becomes the High Priest. Mihol asks Tanya if she knows where the star bell is hidden.
Tanya says she doesn’t, but if she had the byeoldaya, it might tell her. She suddenly realizes that she’s talked herself into a corner, believing that the byeoldaya is still in Iark, but Taealha announces triumphantly that Tagon has it.
Mihol agrees to side with Tagon if Tanya can find the star bell, but if she can’t, he expects Taealha to abandon Tagon. Tagon is surprised to receive a visit from Mihol, and he’s reluctant to join forces with a man who locks up his own daughter (says the man who locked up his son…?).
Mihol tells Tagon that he knows of Asa Sin’s descendant, and that she needs the byeoldaya to find the star bell. He says he’s willing to side with Tagon if Tagon agrees to set aside Asa Mot and marry Taealha, and promises that the secret to smelting bronze stays with the Hae tribe.
He tells Tagon that without Taealha or Tanya, Tagon doesn’t have much of a choice. Tagon agrees to hand over the byeoldaya on the condition that Taealha writes him a letter, and that Hae Tuak acts as a witness.
Everyone waits nervously to see what will happen next, and deep in the mines, Eunseom tells himself that he must succeed at escaping: “I don’t want to regret anymore. I don’t want to hate myself. I don’t want to be amused. I miss you. I want to live. I want to live and go to you.”
The following morning, the tray comes out of the mine with no soil/jewels in it. Eunseom and the other slaves listen to Syoreujagin call to them worriedly, chuckling that the only time he’s nice is when the slaves are sick (and his jewel supply is threatened). Sateunik is still sick, but he says he’ll escape and see the ocean again before he dies. Awww, Badoru even apologizes for how he’s treated Sateunik.
Ipsaeng asks Sateunik if it’s true that his people (the Momo tribe) have fins and paws at him. Sateunik snarls at him to back off, which makes Eunseom grin that he’s got a temper. Sateunik snaps at them not to mess with a Momo on the brink of death, and when everyone laughs, he says sadly that they’re all like brothers down here.
He tells the others that if he dies they should place him at the front. Badoru says he’s not going to die and makes him drink some water, but Sateunik says he wants to see the sea once more just in case. AUGH, stop saying that!
Back in Arthdal, Asa Mot advises Tagon to testify that Taealha is a White Peak Mountain’s Heart at the Sacred Trial, since Taealha is sure to make the same accusation against him. She promises that Asa Ron will ask the gods, and will claim that Taealha is lying.
In return, all Asa Mot wants is for Tagon to consult the gods (ie, Asa Ron) regarding all Union business. What Tagon hears is that Asa Ron doesn’t know about Tanya.
Mihol returns to the Great Shrine with Hae Tuak, then takes Taealha’s letter back to Tagon. Hae Tuak confirms that Taealha wrote it, adding that she tells Tagon to trust her. Tagon hands over the byeoldaya and asks what happens if Tanya fails to find the star bell. Mihol says that their alliance would no longer be necessary.
After they leave, Saya comes out of hiding and confirms that he heard everything. Tagon gives him permission to make his move.
At the temple, Taealha asks Tanya if she’s sure she can find the star bell, but between audible sentences she mouths something about fighting with a pointed look. It looks to Yeobi like Taealha is just fussing at Tanya, who picks up what she’s putting down and argues back.
They trade barbs until Taealha grabs Tanya by the throat, and Tanya head-butts Taealha hard enough to knock her down. Taealha throws water at Tanya and it puts out the brazier, so Yeobi leaves them to get a torch. When she returns, Tanya and Taealha are still glaring at each other.
Hae Tuak is giddy that Mihol and Taealha are working together again, but her grin fades when Mihol goes right to Asa Ron and gives him the byeoldaya. She sobs that he’s betraying Taealha, but Mihol says that Taealha betrayed him first.
Saya goes to the Magpie Cave to relay a message to the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts from Momyungjin, their leader. He thinks, “It’s time to test our luck, Tanya,” then tells them that Asa Sin’s direct descendant has come to Arthdal.
Mihol tells Asa Ron that he’s siding with him because he can give him something Tagon can’t — the position of Union leader. He tells Asa Ron to let Tanya find the star bell then kill her and take it, ensuring that his bloodline is never questioned and allowing him to banish Tagon.
He says that if Tanya can’t find the star bell, then they hold the Sacred Trial and Taealha will testify against Tagon, and he can still be banished. Either way, Mihol and Asa Ron both win. Asa Ron agrees to the plan and to Mihol’s appointment as Union leader, and gives him back the byeoldaya.
Chaeeun is worried about Tanya and Moobaek, who have both gone missing. She and Nunbyeol are stunned to see the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts parading through the market, carrying banners with their symbol proudly announcing their identity and yelling that Asa Sin’s direct descendant is being held at the Great Shrine.
Mihol looks smug as he hands the byeoldaya over to Tanya, who looks it over reverently as she prays for help to save Eunseom. But as hard as she studies it, she’s forced to admit that she can’t figure it out. Mihol orders her drugged, suspecting that this is a trick to get back at Tagon for what he did to the Wahans.
Tanya drinks the truth serum and quickly falls into a trance. Mihol asks where the star bell is and she mumbles that she doesn’t know. Mihol tells Taealha that he kept his end of the bargain, and now it’s time for Taealha to uphold hers.
Taealha sobs that it’s all over and agrees to testify against Tagon at the Sacred Trial. Mihol dictates a letter for Taealha to write to Tagon: “Tanya will find Asa Sin’s star bell, so be sure to attend the Sacred Trial. It’s our chance to end Asa Ron.”
The White Peak Mountain’s Hearts march all the way to the Great Shrine, gathering a crowd as they go. Chaeeun and Nunbyeol are with them, as well as Saya, who prays to Asa Sin to protect Tanya.
The resurgence of the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts gets in the way of Asa Ron’s plan to kill Tanya, but Mihol says he can still banish Tagon and win over the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts. He gives Asa Ron the byeoldaya, and Asa Ron recognizes the same sun, moon, and star symbols that were carved on the ceiling of the Great Shrine a hundred years ago. He says they were recently carved over, so of course the byeoldaya is useless as a map.
On Asa Ron’s orders, Asa Yon announces to the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts that Taealha’s Sacred Trial will begin tomorrow, but they want to know if Asa Sin’s descendant is really in the shrine. Asa Yon confirms that Wahan Tanya claims that distinction, and that if she finds the star bell during the Sacred Trial, the old prophecy will come true. The crowd celebrates, and Saya spots Moobaek among them in disguise.
Tagon has a spy in the Great Shrine, who reports that Tanya doesn’t know how to find the star bell. Saya is in Tagon’s room eavesdropping again and Moogwang runs in to announce Mihol’s arrival. He says that the entire Daekan force is waiting to attack if necessary, and Tagon thinks with dismay of how hard he’s tried to prevent bloodshed.
He pours tea into a cup and tells Moogwang to kill Mihol’s guard when he spills his drink. Mihol is led in and he tells Tagon that Asa Ron is finished, because Tanya knows where to find the star bell. He gives Tagon the letter he dictated to Taealha, which she signed off, “Tagon, I miss you, I’d be elated if I could see you again.” Tagon thinks that this is the Taealha he knows.
Mihol says he’ll see Tagon tomorrow at the Sacred Trial, and Moogwang readies himself to strike. But Tagon doesn’t spill his drink and lets Mihol leave. Tagon tells Moogwang to have the Daekan warriors wait.
Asa Ron and Mihol watch as the White Peak Mountain’s Hearts pray outside the Great Shrine throughout the night, as inside, Yeobi keeps watch over Taealha and Tanya. In the mines, Eunseom hovers over a weakening Sateunik, begging him to hang in there until tomorrow. Sateunik apologizes, sighing that he wanted to show them the ocean.
He has just enough energy to object to his nickname of Dung Beetle and tell the others his real name. He cuts a lock of his hair and gives it to Eunseom, and asks him to go to his home of Jubinol and give the lock of hair to his wife. He whispers that his wife will return the favor, then he gently slips away.
In their grief, the men all place a hand on Sateunik’s body and state their name and tribe. They swear to Sateunik never to let go of each other’s hands, and to take the news of his death to his wife and see the ocean.
When another day passes, Syoreujagin reluctantly goes into the mine to see what’s wrong for himself. He finds the slaves all lying unconscious, and he stabs the closest one with his sword to see if he’s really dead. Thankfully Sateunik predicted this, and his friends did as he asked and placed his body closest to the entrance.
Syoreujagin looks frantically for Eunseom, whom he’s already been paid by Moobaek to send back to Arthdal, and finds him at the end of the corridor. When Syoreujagin reaches him, Eunseom kicks him into Badoru, who holds a makeshift blade to Syoreujagin’s throat as the others jump up and surround him.
Syoreujagin sneers that they won’t escape the mine this way, but he shuts up when Eunseom offers him Ipsaeng’s stash of jewels to help them. Their original plan was to hold Syoreujagin hostage, but now Eunseom says that nobody on the surface cares about Syoreujagin, so he suggests they escape by playing dead with Syoreujagin’s help. With Eunseom waving the jewels under his nose, Syoreujagin says with a grin that he’s always liked Eunseom, and that he’s in.
They’re hesitant to trust Syoreujagin, but Eunseom is confident in his greed for the jewels. Syoreujagin wraps the men in straw mats and lays them on the tray to be pulled to the surface. Eunseom and Ipsaeng go up last, after Ipsaeng cuts a hole into their straw mats so they can see.
When it’s time for the Sacred Trial, Taealha and Tanya are led into the sanctuary where they kneel in front of the shallow pool. The crowd is notified that the Sacred Trial is beginning, and they roar in excitement.
Asa Mot recites the accusations against Taealha of spreading blasphemous rumors and instigating the people to question the sacred lineage of the Asa clan. Taealha confesses that she thoughtlessly spread the rumors, though she says she’s not responsible for starting them. She accuses Tagon of being the source of the rumors, and Asa Ron calls Tagon forward to answer to the allegation.
He explains that between the Wahans speaking their language, Moobaek seeing Kanmoreu in the flesh, and Asa Sin’s byeoldaya, nothing he said was a false rumor, and that he was delivering the gods’ will to protect and worship the true descendant of Asa Sin.
Tagon continues that the gods will recognize the one who finds Asa Sin’s star bell. Asa Ron recites the next part of the prophecy, which states that those who insult the gods will have their feet cut off and be banished on all fours. He announces grandly that he will now determine whether Tanya is truly of Asa Sin’s sacred bloodline — but if she can’t find the star bell, she’ll be banished with Tagon.
Tagon watches, thinking about yesterday when Saya asked him why he let Mihol go, and he’d said that Taealha’s letter says Tanya knows where the star bell is. Another flashback shows that in the few seconds that Taealha and Tanya were alone after their fight, Taealha instructed Tanya to tell Mihol she doesn’t know how to find the star bell, but to bite her lips as a sign if she actually does know.
But even Taealha had been confused when Tanya had done exactly that while drugged — claimed not to know where the star bell is, but bitten her lip to signal that she knows. Now Tanya thinks to herself that in fact, she has no idea where the star bell is, but she does know about the sacred flame.
With all eyes on her, Tanya stands and approaches the sacred flame. She shakes the instrument she was given by Asa Ron as she stares into the flame and recalls the carvings on the byeoldaya. She’d seen the symbols for fire, and three feet, so she takes three steps back from the flame then begins the movements of the Wahans’ spirit dance.
She whistles as she dances, and a blue-tailed paradise flycatcher bird flies down to swoop around Tanya, enthralling everyone in the sanctuary. Recalling Mother Choseol’s teachings that the dance must be perfect every time, Tanya wonders if the Great White Wolf predicted this moment, and if all of the intervening years were leading up to this.
Trusting to faith, she finishes the dance perfectly for the first time, one hand raised to the sky, then slowly opens her eyes. The bird slams into the roof of the sanctuary in the exact spot where Tanya is pointing, then falls dead. Tanya looks up at the exposed opening in the ceiling and realizes that this is what the prophecy of her birth meant by “the one who breaks the shell,” and the dead blue-tailed paradise flycatcher is the Azure Comet.
She wonders how to get the star bell down, then she recalls Mother Choseul teaching her to sling while telling her that she didn’t know why, but the sling is something all Great Mothers must learn. She rips the hem of her dress and fashions it into a loop, then picks up a stone and takes aim.
Her shot flies true, and a palm-sized golden star falls at her feet. She picks it up, and when she shakes it, it rings in a high, clear tone – the star bell, the proof of her lineage. The people in the sanctuary fall to their knees, acknowledging Tanya as Asa Sin’s true descendant.
Elsewhere, Eunseom is still wrapped in a straw mat, and he reverently breathes Tanya’s name as he’s pulled up to the surface. Tanya is also thinking of Eunseom, and they simultaneously vow, “I’m coming for you.”
Okay, that? Was AMAZING. I love nothing more than a well-crafted story, and the way all the clues came together for this one final scene was absolutely incredible. There can be no doubt now that Tanya is the heir of Asa Sin, and I love how everything she trained for her entire life were all to make it possible for her true identity to be proven in a way that nobody can possibly dispute. Although I’m sure he’ll try, even Asa Ron will find it difficult to negate the very bedrock of his own power and overturn centuries of beliefs to discredit Tanya’s claim to the position of High Priest. But even if Tanya does succeed in being named High Priest, she’s still going to have a struggle to keep her power for herself among all the people who want to manipulate her for their own gain.
It’s also a testament to how well Arthdal Chronicles is written that a character can make an incredible impact on the story — and our hearts — in a relatively short period of time. Nunbyeol is a great example of this, because she’s only been in a few scenes and rarely speaks, yet she’s firmly established her importance in the future of Arthdal as the only living Neanthal woman, and therefore the potential mother of the race’s resurgence, if she so chooses. Yiseuroob and Rottib have also made a big impression as representatives of the surviving Neanthals, showing that they are not monsters at all but kind and respectful of Nunbyeol’s choice even if it means the end of their people (and did anyone else notice that look between Nunbyeol and Rottib? Veeery interesting). But the character that packed the most emotional punch, for me, was Sateunik, who was just a simple young man who wanted to see his beloved ocean again before he died. His loss was so tragic, but his death served the important purpose of bringing the mine slaves together in an unbreakable brotherhood. I have a feeling that these men will be the family that Eunseom’s never had, and the brothers he’s always needed, and that they’ll all play a pivotal role in the final third of Eunseom’s story.
I’m so happy that Eunseom finally found his resolve again, because regardless of what the Wahans say, it’s not his fault they were killed and enslaved. It’s true that some of them died when he tried to save them, but at least he was trying to save them, even after the way they treated him like an outsider for ten years. I do think that Dalsae, formerly Eunseom’s loudest enemy, sees that Eunseom’s intentions are good and will eventually become a loyal friend, along with the guys from the mine. On the other hand, I don’t think that Eunseom and Saya will have an easy time of it when they finally meet — they think so differently, with Eunseom always trying to do the right thing and Saya doing whatever serves himself best in the moment. I believe that Saya will eventually come around (he has to for the sword, the mirror, and the bell to “destroy” the world), but it’s only going to come after a lot of conflict.
One of the geniuses of this show is how very few characters (except maybe Tanya and Eunseom) are all good or all bad. Someone will do something completely corrupt or sadistic, but somehow still manage to show compassion or regret and keep me from hating them entirely. Tagon’s thirst for power comes with a deep wish not to spill any more blood than necessary, Saya is capable of both cold-blooded murder and heartbreaking vulnerability, and even Taealha will earnestly help her enemy if it serves a greater purpose. I’m not saying that it’s okay to commit horrific acts as long as you’re sorry about it later, but it makes things more interesting when you never know if someone’s better nature will assert itself at just the right moment.
The true tragedy is that just as Arthdal Chronicles has hit its storytelling stride and worked up some fantastically exciting momentum, it will be taking a hiatus before airing the final six episodes. I think this is a huge mistake, and I hope that viewers don’t lose interest during the almost two-month wait, because if things continues as they’ve been going, the conclusion of Eunseom, Tanya, and Saya’s tale is going to blow the first two parts right out of the water. But it is what it is, so we’ll just have to be patient. The final episodes will begin airing on September 7th, so we’ll see you then for the conclusion of the story!
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