Arthdal Chronicles: Episode 15
No matter how confident you are, it’s never safe to let your guard down when the future of an entire people is at stake. A coup is staged and fought, and the outcome could change the known world forever. But even when he thinks he’s won yet again, a good leader always stays alert, because surprises can come from where he least expects them just when he believes his place is secure.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Asa Ron tricks Tagon into talking about killing his father where all the tribe leaders can hear him. He calls in Black Tongue, an assassin, who stabs Tagon with a poisoned knife while he’s still reeling in shock. But Tagon fights back, knocking out BT, then his eyes glow purple as he hisses with Ugutu fury. He leaps into the air and begins methodically cutting down Asa Ron’s White Peak Mountain warriors.
At the stronghold, Saya stops a young priest who suspiciously insists on serving Tanya himself. He blows a handful of dust into Saya’s face, and Saya collapses, gasping for breath. The priest enters Tanya’s chamber, dagger held ready, and he stops Tanya when she attempts to escape.
At the same time, Taealha’s new maid suddenly wraps a garrotte around Taealha’s throat, intending to throttle Taealha to death. Taealha throws them both to the ground and grabs the bronze sword she had made for Tagon. Despite Hae Tuak’s teasing about Taealha neglected fighting skills, Taealha eventually overpowers the girl and kills her.
Using the confusion at Sanung’s grave to escape, Asa Ron runs through the forest, shocked that Tagon turned out to be an Igutu. He stops at a certain spot to say, “There will be no trial. The body will serve as proof. Go kill Tagon!” As he continues on, three assassins slink out from behind the trees.
Just as the priest is about to murder Tanya, Saya grabs him and breaks his wrist. He turns the dagger in the priest’s hand and forces him to stab himself in the heart, then sinks to the floor writhing in pain. Thinking fast, Tanya yanks the curtains down and starts tying them together.
Asa Ron’s warriors report to Asa Yon that Tagon has killed the Children of Shagati, and that someone called the Blue Spider accompanied Asa Mot to the Union Palace to find out what’s happening there. They promise to catch Tanya, but Asa Yon tells them to kill her on the spot when they find her.
The warriors search Tanya’s chamber, but they find the curtains hanging as if she escaped out the window. After they leave, Saya bursts from the wardrobe and the hooded body on the floor sits up, turning out to be Tanya. Saya is weak, so he tells Tanya to go without him, but instead she gets an idea and takes the priest’s dagger and robe.
Taealha tells Hae Tuak to inform the Daekan warriors that Asa Ron has organized a coup. Twirling the bronze sword, she jumps on a horse and rides towards Sanung’s grave to help Tagon.
The Daekan warriors are prematurely celebrating Tagon’s victory at being named Aramun Haesulla by getting sloppy drunk in an inn. A server brings them a jar of alcohol on the house, and he mentions how they’ll be guarding Tagon tomorrow for the gohamsani ceremony. One warrior grows suspicious of the server’s wording that “Tagon must come to the White Peak Mountain.”
He asks if the server is from the White Peak Mountain tribe, but the boy denies it and pretends he simply used the wrong verb. They make up and shake hands, but again the warrior peers closely at the server, whose hand bears a distinctive scar only gained by training in a certain fighting discipline.
Kitoha smashes the alcohol jar against the wall, and several venomous snakes spill out. The “server” slashes Kitoha’s throat, then turns to face Moogwang. Moogwang is drunk so he’s quickly overpowered, but Kitoha isn’t dead yet — he flings the server across the room, giving the others the opening to kill him. Moogwang leaves the other warrior with the rapidly-fading Kitoha and heads to the Daekan base.
Wahan Moongtae practices his sword skills, but he can’t stop thinking about how he betrayed Eunseom and Dalsae and got them carted off to the Doldambul mines. He tells Gilseon that he wants to become strong so nobody can hurt him, but Gilseon says the Arthdal way to ensure nobody can harm him is to side with the one who holds power.
Hae Tuak runs in yelling that Taealha was nearly killed and Tagon is in danger. Moongtae is concerned about Tanya and hurries to look for her. Meanwhile, Gilseon is confronted by two other guards, who say they’ve been given orders by Asa Ron to kill him, then Tagon. But they all want to live no matter who comes out on top, so despite being wary of each other, they agree to wait out the coup then decide what to do.
While riding to Tagon’s rescue, Taealha encounters Asa Ron’s warriors, who strike down her horse. They surround her as she struggles to her feet, but she’s undaunted and growls, “I’ll kill you all.” Meanwhile Tagon has killed all but one of the tribe leaders, and he’s attacked by Asa Ron’s assassins while going after the last one.
While Kitoha is taken to the doctor, Gilseon and the other guards wait in their base and Moogwang mobilizes the Daekan warriors. When Gilseon hears this, he assumes that Asa Ron’s coup failed, so he and the others leave for the Great Shrine.
Tagon and Taealha both manage to kill their attackers, and soon they’re reunited. They run into each other’s arms, both of them drenched in blood. Taealha gasps that they won’t be well-liked after this and will probably have to do more killing, but they agree that it doesn’t matter.
Moongtae runs into Asa Ron in the forest, who lies that Tagon revolted so he’s headed to the White Peak Mountain to bring back the Warriors of the Gods. He tells Moongtae to guard him, and Moongtae remembers Gilseon’s advice to side with the powerful and agrees.
As Taealha bandages Tagon’s wounds, he says sadly that you can’t learn anything without pain. He muses that they really will become a song, and Taealha quips that it won’t be the kind of song they expected. She asks if he thinks Tanya is dead, and he says he hopes not, since Arthdal will be in ruins soon and will need a god.
They hear voices calling Tagon’s name and meet with the Daekan warriors, led by Moogwang and Yangcha, along with Hae Tuak and many of the fortress guards. Tagon looks for Kitoha and bows his head when he hears that Kitoha may die.
He quickly pulls himself together and says that this night will be remembered for a long time, then lists the tribe leaders he killed for siding with Asa Ron. He says that the fact that everyone here survived means the gods chose them, and they head to the Great Shrine, cheering. As they go, Tagon whispers something to Yangcha.
Asa Yon paces nervously at the Great Shrine, wondering why Asa Ron hasn’t returned. Eventually Asa Mot arrives and tells him that Tagon is alive and gathering his forces in the forest, but she doesn’t know where Asa Ron is. Asa Yon doesn’t know where Tanya is, either, so they conclude that they’ve lost.
Asa Yon vows to kill Tanya, leaving Tagon without a god to help him rule Arthdal. But Asa Mot says he needs to stay alive, so he should return to the White Peak Mountain, and she’ll go with Tagon since she’s his wife.
Whatever Tagon said to him sends Yangcha rappelling up a sheer cliff as Tagon and his followers arrive at the Great Shrine. He orders only the Daekan warriors to enter with him and leaves the guards outside. They kill any priests who try to stop them, and Tagon is distracted for a moment when they’re joined by Kitoha — apparently his neck fat saved him, HA.
A Child of Shahati assassin searches Tanya’s chamber at the Shrine and determines that the curtains couldn’t have held a person’s weight, so she must still be nearby. He’s correct — she runs back into the room and freezes when she sees him.
She’s wearing her would-be killer’s robe and carrying his dagger, so the assassin assumes she’s on his side. He tells her to follow him, and as they enter the ceremony room, he asks if she’s returning to Shahati soon. She says yes, and he abruptly shoves her to the ground, levels his sword at her, and informs her that Shahati is a person, not a land. Uh-oh.
He gloats that he’ll cut off her head and hand it to Tagon, but just as he’s about to strike, Yangcha drops onto him from a hole in the roof. The assassin is a good fighter and manages to slice Yangcha’s leg, but Yangcha pulls out his chains and in seconds, the assassin in dead.
Worried about Saya, Tanya leads Yangcha to her chamber. She finds herself facing two warriors, and one of them lunges at her with his sword. Yangcha puts out a hand quickly kills the warriors (by stopping a sword with his bare hand!) and they find Saya still in the wardrobe.
Yangcha recognizes Saya’s face after having fought Eunseom. He wonders if Saya is Eunseom in disguise, but Tanya says out loud, “He’s not that person. My Eunseom isn’t a cold-blooded killer like you people.”
Yangcha thinks, Then what kind of person is he? Tanya continues, “Someone decent. Eunseom isn’t like you, Saya, or Tagon. You are gosals [vengeful spirits].” Staring at her, Yangcha asks, Can you hear my thoughts? and Tanya says she can.
A warrior reports to Tagon that Tanya and Saya are alive. Moongtae walks in unannounced, carrying a bound and very angry Asa Ron — HA, he outsmarted him! Tagon’s warriors yell at Asa Ron for his betrayal, but Tagon quietly turns to Asa Ron, and without a word, kills him.
His men drag in a screaming Asa Mot, who sees Asa Ron’s body and calls Tagon a monster. He snarls in her face that he didn’t want to become a monster, but the Asa clan made him this way. Asa Mot clasps his arm tightly and says he’s coming with her, and a viper slithers out of her sleeve and bites Tagon’s arm.
Tagon flings off the viper and orders Asa Mot’s feet cut off at the next Sacred Trial. Gilseon urges him to get the viper bite treated, but he says he’ll be fine. His Igutu blood has already neutralized one poison tonight, but the viper venom is too much for his system, and Tagon collapses.
Moongtae seems unnerved after tricking Asa Ron and witnessing Tagon kill him. Asa Ron had babbled that Tagon is an Igutu, so Moongtae asks Gilseon if Igutus are strong. Gilseon says they are, and Moongtae thinks it explains Eunseom’s strength. Gilseon continues that Igutus are weak compared to Neanthals, but Moongtae has never heard of Neanthals.
Harim is summoned and he does what he can for Tagon’s wounds. He tells Taealha that Tagon will survive the viper bite, and Taealha releases the nervous breath she’s been holding. After Harim leaves, she orders Moogwang to follow the doctor, and to kill Harim and his family if he makes any suspicious moves.
When Harim arrives home, he tells Chaeeun and his wife that they’re leaving immediately. Chaeeun asks about Doti, but Harim says that she’ll be fine because she’s a Wahan.
Outside, one of Moogwang’s men says he’s had a bad feeling all day. He points out the crescent moon in the sky, and Moogwang nearly smacks him. He mutters that he should have slit Tanya’s throat when he had the chance, remembering her prediction that his heart would be ripped out under the crescent moon.
They hear a noise and see Harim and his family slipping out of their house. Moogwang and his warriors follow them into the forest, where Harim tells Chaeeun that they’re going to Iark. They make it to the cottage and wake up Nunbyeol, but when they all step outside again, Moogwang and his men are waiting.
Moogwang tells them that he’s been ordered to kill them, and politely asks the family to line up. Naturally they run, so Moogwang shoots Harim’s wife through the throat with an arrow. In his grief, Harim begs Moogwang to kill him and let his daughters go.
As he looks down at Harim, Moogwang thinks about how Moobaek warned him that being so eager to kill will only lead to his own death. He discards the memory and strikes down Harim, then turns to the girls. Chaeeun throws herself protectively on top of Nunbyeol, screaming that they’ve done nothing to deserve death.
Moogwang tells his men to drag them apart so he can kill them, and Nunbyeol watches in horror as a sword is held to Chaeeun’s throat. One of the men holding Nunbyeol suddenly yells that something is wrong with her. Her eyes are glowing blue and dark veins are spreading across her face, and when the men call out to retreat, she whispers, “Retreat? Retreat? It’s too late…”
Moogwang recalls Tanya’s warning that “It’s too late” are the last words he’ll ever hear. He’s frozen in place as Nunbyeol takes the sword from one of his men and cuts him neatly in half, then she turns her glowing eyes on him. Hissing, she crouches, then she leaps.
At the Shrine, Moongtae asks Gilseon what would happen if a Neanthal was trained in swordsmanship. Gilseon says they’re physically incapable of using weapons, but that if one were trained, the resulting fighter would be unstoppable.
Having been trained while her Neanthal strength was subdued, Nunbyeol has become such a creature. She whirls and slices, easily taking down Moogwang’s men. Moogwang tries to run, but Nunbyeol tackles him to the ground, sits on his chest, and just as Tanya predicted, she rips out his heart with her bare hand as he stares up at the crescent moon.
One of Moogwang’s men is left alive, shivering in fear, but Nunbyeol falls unconscious. Chaeeun runs to her adopted sister, and Moogwang’s man also faints.
Far away, Eunseom and Ipsaeng fall asleep on a boat and wake in the middle of Ago territory. They’re captured to be sold as slaves, and when Eunseom says that Ipsaeng is supposed to be Ago, Ipsaeng apologizes for lying yet again.
Eunseom hatches a plan to claim that the blue mark on his back is due to a contagious disease so that the Agos will kick him out and he can come back and rescue Ipsaeng. But Ipsaeng snarls at him to shut up — they’re being watched by an Ago warrior who understands their language, oops.
His name is Tae Maja, of the Tae clan, and he deadpans in perfect Arthdal, “It was a solid plan, too bad it won’t work now,” LOL. Ipsaeng tries to keep his back turned, but Tae Maja keeps staring as if he looks familiar.
Some distance away, Dalsae has recovered from his injuries. He and the other escapees are still waiting for Eunseom and Ipsaeng to return from delivering their message to the Momo tribe, but they’re very late. Dalsae wants to look for them, but Seuchun, Moobaek’s man, wants to return to Arthdal. Badoru says they should go to Jubinol for a doctor because Olmadae is too weak to make it to Arthdal, and Dalsae agrees.
Moobaek leads Asa Sakan and a group of captured priests from White Peak Mountain back to Arthdal, while in the city, Asa Mot and the rest await the Sacred Trial. Kitoha rounds up more Asa priests who swear they had nothing to do with Asa Ron’s attempted coup, but he says he wasn’t able to find Asa Ron, unaware that Tagon already killed him.
Having greatly recovered overnight, Tagon speaks with Moongtae, who’s been beaten and bound. Tagon asks Moongtae why he gagged Asa Ron when he captured him, and Moongtae confesses that Asa Ron told him Tagon is an Igutu and that Tagon would kill him for knowing his secret.
Tagon asks why Moongtae brought Asa Ron to him knowing he would be killed. Moongtae sobs that he’ll be killed anyway if he’s not strong enough, by the people who used to be his friends. Tagon tells him not to wipe the tears or blood from his face, and to follow him.
The formerly Wahan priestess fixes Tanya’s hair and says she feels like something big is going to happen. Saya enters, and Tanya checks that he’s recovered. He likes that she was worried about him, and tells Tanya that nobody’s ever worried about him just for himself.
She asks him what will happen to the priests that had nothing to do with the coup, and the children who were arrested simply for being from tribes that opposed Tagon. Saya says they should die, but at Tanya’s shocked expression, he reassures her that Tagon will probably hesitate again, and try something to make the people love him.
The people of Arthdal are greatly upset by the rounding up of Asa Sakan and the priests, and even Moobaek seems uncomfortable with the job he was given. Kitoha explains to him that they were attacked and almost killed while he was gone. Moobaek asks where Moogwang is, but Kitoha says he hasn’t seen him today.
On their way to the throne room, Taealha says to Tagon, “It wasn’t our fault,” and Tagon replies, “A god never makes a mistake.” The union ministers are already there, but Tagon doesn’t acknowledge their greetings as he takes his seat. He has Asa Ron and the tribe leaders who sided with him named along with their crime of revolt.
One union minister clarifies that their tribe leader only received a message from Asa Ron saying where to be last night, and though he doesn’t challenge his death, he questions why the leader’s family was arrested. Mihol says their guilt or innocence will be determined by the gods at the Sacred Trial, but another minister steps forward to object to Asa Sakan’s arrest.
Two more ministers ask for an explanation, and Saya expects Tagon to forgive them with placating words about strengthening the union. Instead, Tagon silently raises a hand, and when Moobaek belatedly walks into the room, it’s to see Moongtae striking down the discontented ministers.
Moobaek looks shocked, Saya is downright gleeful, and Tanya struggles not to cry at the sight of her formerly gentle tribemate brutally murdering several people. Everyone watches Tagon as he rises to his feet, and Mihol thinks, “He’s a king. He has the eyes of a king.”
Surveying the room, Tagon tells himself, “I’ve been trying so hard to avoid walking this path. I, Tagon, have become the king of disaster.”
This drama just has me so twisted! I never know who to root for and when — in one episode, Tagon is the enemy and Saya is the good guy helping Tanya. Then Saya starts acting secretly devious and Tagon shows his softer side. Then Tagon plans a takeover, but he’s helping Tanya so I can’t hate him too much. But then oops, he’s slaughtered everyone, except that he sends Yangcha to save the day and at least now the even badder guy is dead. Now Tagon is behaving like the tyrant we expect him to be, and Saya is so bloodthirsty that he’s actually enjoying it. And through all this, the one clear hero, Eunseom, is distressingly absent just when it seems like he should be amassing followers and fulfilling his destiny before Tagon conquers the world and the show is over. I just don’t know who I’m supposed to be cheering for.
Having said that, believe it or not, this doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to. Now I don’t think it’s a weakness so much as the writer just trying to show that good and evil aren’t necessarily that easy to see. Good people can do some very bad things with the best of intentions, while even bad people are capable of things like love, loyalty, and compassion. I appreciate that the powers-that-be in Arthdal all believe they’re acting for the greater good, even if the “greater good” just coincidentally earns them power and privilege. It’s just that there are only a few episodes left, yet everyone is still running around trying to get into position for the final showdown, while two of the three who are destined to chance the future of the world still haven’t even met each other.
All ambiguity aside, I can confidently say that I don’t believe Tagon had no choice but to become a monster. He always had a choice — a choice not to kill, a choice not to seek power, a choice not to become a king. He could have gone away quietly and lived a peaceful life, which would have required personal sacrifices but which would have truly avoided becoming a bloody tyrant. But Tagon wanted power, and Taealha, and the adoration of the people, and once he made that choice, his murderous path was set, and I think he finally understands that. I’ll grant that Tagon has only ever seen power granted to those who shed blood, so he wants the people to love him but he has no idea how to make that happen. But he did have the choice not to seek power in the first place.
I’m worried that by seeking power, Eunseom will also find himself on that path, but I have faith that Eunseom will find the way to make the people love and follow him. Unlike Tagon, Eunseom grew up in a place of peace where all humans were considered equal, so equal that they didn’t even have concepts for things like “power” or “followers.” He doesn’t have a preconceived notion of how to gain power nor does it come naturally to him, which is why the one thing he did try — being nice — didn’t work. But that can be an advantage, because without any notions of “This is how it’s done,” Eunseom can come to it in his own way, and in fact has already begun simply by being himself. If he just keeps his integrity, Eunseom can prove that Tagon is wrong… it’s not necessary to become a monster in order to protect those you care about.
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