Setting Up Season 2
After 20 hours of Arthdal Chronicles dodging and weaving through a number of different plot threads, character angles and ideas, it all leads up to this finale. Unfortunately Arthdal’s ending only serves as a finale to chapter 1, with the promise of a second season to come where the fight will continue. In a way this makes Arthdal’s journey somewhat cheapened, especially during this third part where it feels like things were moving toward a climactic finish rather than a cliffhanger ending.
With Taealha announcing her pregnancy to Tagon last episode, we begin with Tagon storming off silently while we get confirmation that Mihol is now definitely dead. Unable to accept Tagon’s apathy toward the situation, Saya pleads with him to see reason, but instead he has a meeting with the Daekan where they confirm people have stopped coming to the market since he desecrated the statue. However, it’s here they learn of the slaves being liberated and Eunseom’s insurrection. Smiling, Tagon tells the others that this is exactly as he foresaw.
Meanwhile Eunseom gathers the troops and tells them they’re going back to their hometown. Those not part of the Ago Tribe don’t have to join in but he does give them a task – to continue liberating the slaves and sending them home. With Eunseom confirmed to be Inaishingi, the clans agree to meet together just like they did 200 years ago.
Back in Arthdal, Taealha burns Mihol’s body in a funeral procession as Tagon watches on. In the aftermath, she meets the King and he tells her how he feels, suggesting they get married. There’s certainly a dark poetic irony to this, as Taealha points out herself given they both killed their fathers and he’s asking her this after Mihol’s funeral.
In secret, he tasks Saya with finding out the secret of the bronze while she heads to see Asa Sakan. Saya speaks to Tanya about a new name for the Union and tells her Tagon wants her to come up with it. Giving him the cold shoulder, Saya takes his leave after wishing her luck with the ceremony. However, as she heads out the palace, she’s shown the child slaves while Yang-Cha stays by her side. She forbids them to shackle the slaves any longer and demands they be freed. Once they are, Tanya feeds them all bowls of food while talking to a young girl about the future. This nicely leads back to the opening part of Arthdal Chronicles with Tanya as a young, hopeful girl in her village.
This brings us back to Eunseom himself who runs into trouble with the clans. Unfortunately 10+ years of bad blood is enough to prevent the clans from seeing eye to eye and at the heart of this is Tae Apdok, the leader of the Tae Clan. Speaking to everyone, Eunseom admits that he’s not sure if he really is Inaishingi but he does know that if he has been brought back, then the head of the Tae Tribe will die by sunrise. If he’s not Inaishingi then he himself will die himself by sundown.
Despite the Ago Clan leaders being against Eunseom’s idea, outside the hut the Tae Clan leader asks Dachi to come forward and be whipped 50 times. Instead, he maniacally slices him up as the rest of the clan watch on in incredulous fear. As night turns to day, it’s revealed that the Tae Clan leader has been killed, making Eunseom the leader of this combined tribe. As Suhana, the elder of the tribe, drops to her knees Eunseom meets her gaze and tells them all that glory will descend on the tribes.
Back in Arthdal, Tagon watches his throne from afar while Taealha moves swiftly through the night to put her plan into action. As Saya relays his plan on to Mubaek, he tells him he’s going to kill all of the Wahan Tribe after rounding them up after Tanya’s ceremony later that day.
The ceremony itself gets underway and Tanya is lead up to the front of the Palace. With Saya and Mubaek shooting knowing glances at one another, the Niruha recites her words to the silent crowd hanging on her every word. She presents Tagon with his crown while we learn through a flashback that Taealha has rallied the fragments of the White Peak Mountain Hearts to her cause. Tanya goes on to call the people her “subjects”, while in secret she casts a spell on them to become anything they want and that her fate is now entwined to theirs as she promises to protect them.
Tagon then takes the reigns of the speech and tells them they’ll conquer the Ago Tribe and set their sights East to start a war. It’s a bold move and one that’ll see Tagon potentially going face to face with Eunseom where we leave the episode, and the show’s future, hanging in the balance. However, we do receive some concept art and drawings after the credits that hint at what will be to pass as we get our confirmation that Arthdal will be returning again. But how big of a gamble will this be given the dwindling ratings?
Arthdal Chronicles has had quite the tumultuous ride. When it first launched back in June it came under fire for its (frankly unjustified) comparisons to Game Of Thrones and since then has felt like a show desperate to shake off those shackles. However, this combined with the meandering part 2 and 8 week break has really hurt this drama from having more of an impact. Interestingly, Arthdal Chronicles has had quite the impact Internationally from what I can see but in its native Korea, Arthdal’s dropping ratings have really hurt the show.
It’s always a gamble when you set a show like this up for a second season after pouring so much money into it and you can see Arthdal is really trying to hit that fantasy epic peak. Unfortunately, despite some exciting episodes and some nicely worked set pieces, the show has never quite reached its potential. For large stretches of this finale, the show lays the foundations for a second season rather than actually closing things out in a satisfying manner.
As an episode partway through the show Arthdal does absolutely fine but as a series finale with little resolution, no character arcs wrapped up or any sign of finishing anytime soon, Arthdal Chronicles fails to really live up to its expectations, coming to a rather disappointing ending ready for another 18 episodes to follow.