Tale of the Nine Tailed 1938: Episodes 9-10
With the end of our drama looming ahead of us, our story enters the (turbulent) calm before the storm. Our three mountain gods get pulled away to their own side adventure and must put aside their disagreements and work together to survive, but they’re practically on vacation compared to our remaining characters, who are left behind to fight off a hoard of gross and terrifying zombies.
In looking back at this week’s episodes, I’m surprised with how little the plot progressed. I mean, this drama has consistently demonstrated that it’s more eye candy than brain fuel (not that I’m complaining), so I really shouldn’t be shocked that Tale of the Nine Tailed 1938 is staying the course. And yet, I was definitely expecting more character development as we entered the final four episodes because the amount of baggage Yeon and Moo-young have left to unpack would cost an absolute fortune in checked luggage fees.
For half a second, I actually thought this drama might have them literally duke it out and then resolve their differences. You know, throw a couple of punches, expel a little testosterone, have a small heart-to-heart while they’re so tired and sweaty they have to listen to each other’s story in order to resolve their misunderstandings, and then — BOOM — bros again, amirite? Instead, their evenly matched round of fisticuffs only resulted in a temporary truce. Props to our drama for not taking the easy way out, but the encounter between Yeon and Moo-young also started a countdown clock. D-day approaches.
For Yeon, D-day is not only the day the portal to the future reopens, but also the impending battle against Kato and the Shinigami Mercenaries, who have been systematically wiping out Joseon’s indigenous gods. Yeon has unilaterally decided he’s going to take care of some Japanese demons while he’s still in 1938, and Taluipa is surprisingly going to let him do it! She’s — quite conveniently, I might add — taken on the mentality of, “Future Yeon is Future Talupia’s problem,” so while Yeon resides in the past, 1938 Talupia has decided to stick her head in the sand and let him do whatever the hell he wants (because she’s 100% Team Joseon).
At the same time, though, our other mountain gods have decided to use the impending battle as an opportunity for their own personal gain. Moo-young, of course, still wants to revive his totally sus dead brother, but now that Hong-joo is aware that Yeon is in possession of the crystal and golden ruler, she’s also keenly interested in obtaining them so she can leap into the future and get the hell out of her current time period. Can’t say that I fault her for this one. She’s a lady ahead of her time and living in a world that sucks not only for Joseon, but women as well.
The only people entirely on Yeon’s side are Shin-joo and Rang (and his gang), but Yeon would rather have Rang stay as far away from the battle as possible. Rang, Yeon confesses, is his only weakness in 1938, and as he hands Rang a pair of couple rings, he explains that he’d much rather see his brother marry his mermaid and live out a happily-ever-after. After all, a nine-tailed fox’s first love is his only love. (Oh, my heart!) But now that Rang has resolved his differences with Yeon, his loyalty to his brother is unbreakable, and his dedicated nine-tailed bottom is following his brother into battle.
Yeon realizes there’s no fighting Rang’s stubbornness, and so he concedes, looping Rang into his plan. In order to control as much of the situation as possible and set the stage for our final battle, he checks into the Bando Hotel — but not without first making it known to Hong-joo (and thus everyone) that he will be the hotel’s newest guest. Sure enough, all of our key players — minus Kato who is busy making sure his arranged marriage to Eun-ho happens — begin checking into their own rooms at the Bando Hotel one by one.
There’s an unspoken agreement among all the hotel’s guests that the battle won’t begin until sundown, giving everyone time to rest, plot, and scope out the competition. Or, in the case of Shin-joo and our other secondary characters, get hypnotized into doing silly things while our cast — and plot — bides their time until they can duke it out under the cover of darkness. Yeon’s plan is simple: cut the hotel’s power after sunset and somehow convince Moo-young and Hong-joo to set aside their personal differences and conflicting objectives to team up and defeat the Shinigami Mercenaries. Once they’ve taken out the Japanese mercenaries, he and his former friends can then fight over possession of the crystal and golden ruler.
Nothing ever goes according to plan, though, and when Yeon enters the Shinigami’s hotel room, he stumbles into the forest illusion one of the Shinigami magically cast over the room. Moo-young and Hong-joo, both wanting to corner Yeon and steal the magical artifacts, follow Yeon into the illusion and get trapped in the forest with him. On the bright side, their forced proximity aligns with Yeon’s objective of getting them to side with him against the bad guys, but convincing the other mountain gods to join hands is not as easy as it sounds. Predictably, Moo-young’s desire for vengeance outweighs the greater good of taking down the Japanese demons, and Hong-joo’s attempt to diffuse the situation is merely a cunning attempt to steal the crystal and ruler.
But, as Yeon had hoped, Moo-young and Hong-joo (mostly) set aside their personal agendas when the first Shinigami, USIUCHIBO (Jung Jae-won), appears. Usiuchibo looks like a mad scientist, and while he rocks a cool pair of shades, Yeon and his fellow mountain gods have a hard time taking him — and his chosen hairstyle — seriously. Unfortunately, both Moo-young and Hong-joo are affected by his poisonous gas (not a fart joke), and a weakened-but-still-super-strong Hong-joo is so frustrated with Usiuchibo that she beats him to death before obtaining the antidote to his deadly poison. (Doh!) One bad guy may have been eliminated, but now Moo-young and Hong-joo are pretty much useless. Their bodies begin to show more of the poison’s effects.
Yeon’s next Shinigami encounter is with YUKI (Kim Seung-hwa), a demon with the power of ice and a raging crush on Yeon. She’s not swayed by Yeon’s looks, though, so Yeon has to offer up the ruler in exchange for the antidote. He then uses the antidote to persuade Moo-young and Hong-joo to team up with him. They are initially suspicious of the supposed antidote that their opponents handed over to Yeon, so Yeon pops the pills first to prove they’re harmless, which seems rather dumb, considering he’s already been drugged once this season. When the antidote proves to be as advertised, Hong-joo eagerly takes it, but Moo-young is still a bit reluctant — because teaming up with his enemy totally delays his revenge plot.
While Hong-joo and Moo-young recover, Yeon scouts ahead and comes upon NYUDO (Jung Sun-chul), and the frail-looking demon claims he’s just another innocent bystander who got sucked into the forest illusion, too. Yeon doesn’t fall for it, though, because he gets a whiff of the same scent on Nyudo that he smelled on Usiuchibo. Yeon immediately stabs Nyudo through the stomach, but even injured and without the element of surprise, Nyudo manages to latch onto Yeon and use his magical power: the ability to swap bodies.
So now Yeon is trapped in an old man body and bleeding from a wound in his stomach that he, ironically, inflicted. On the bright side, because Hong-joo had already pickpocketed and the crystal from Yeon, Nyudo can’t steal it, but now that he’s inhabiting Yeon’s much more nimble and attractive body, he can easily approach Moo-young and Hong-joo. Obviously, this will be a test to see how well Moo-young and Hong-joo know their childhood friend, but Yeon unintentionally plays the same game with Yuki and OOGAMA (Lee Kyu-ho), the fourth Shinigami, to see if he can infiltrate their ranks and find out their weaknesses. He’s at a bit of a disadvantage, though, because Yuki and Oogama are aware of Nyudo’s body swapping abilities and are appropriately cautious. Moo-young and Hong-joo, on the other hand, have no reason to suspect that the Yeon in front of them isn’t their lifelong friend and frenemy.
And if that situation doesn’t sound dire enough, wait till you read about what’s been going on back at the Bando Hotel. Rang and company have been fighting off zombies! Y’all, I did not sign up for zombies — excuse me, yacha. I absolutely loath the zombie genre, so my sympathies for Moo-young (and whatever trauma he’s working through because of his dead brother who tried to kill him) went right out the window when he unleashed his zombie beauty pageant winner on the unsuspecting hotel guests.
And as if I wasn’t already traumatized enough from all the guttural noises and head twisting, the writers had to have a zombie bite and infect Yeo-hee. While I’m mostly apathetic about her character, the implications of her impending doom for Rang have me all sorts of torn up. After driving home the point that nine-tailed foxes mate for life (or lives, if one of them is prone to dying and reincarnation), and then seeing Yeon give Rang his seal of approval, I’m ready to battle the zombies myself (gulp) if it means keeping my precious little bean, Rang, from crying.
But the situation does not look good for our little mermaid. Rang and company may have survived a zombie swarm in order to retrieve a possible antidote, but they left a bunch of skittish and stab-happy gisaengs at her bedside. At the first sign of zombification, they are ready to end the mermaid’s life, but they are so scared that they might do so prematurely. So will Rang and crew brew up an antidote before Yeo-hee turns? Or will the last Shinigami — the leader who disguised himself as a bumbling hypnotist’s assistant — go head-to-head with Rang while Yeon and the other mountain gods are otherwise preoccupied? I don’t know, and it’s killing me!
I’ve got to admit, while this week’s episodes were not my favorite (f**k zombies!), they ended on an extremely suspenseful note, and it’s going to feel like an extra long week while I wait for our finale. Am I still concerned that the last two episodes won’t have enough time to tie off all the loose ends? Yes, but at this point I’m banking on the network following through with their initial announcement of a third season, and hopefully any plot points that aren’t neatly wrapped up this season will carry over into the next. (tvN, please, please, please make another statement about Season 3 and promise it will be as fun as this one!)
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