The Horse Whisperer
If I was in two minds about Arthdal Chronicles, the second episode crushes any doubts I had over this gorgeous fantasy epic. Despite a relatively slow start, Arthdal kicks into gear quickly and delivers a thoroughly enjoyable episode, one that builds on the foundation set last time, advancing both the lore and characters in a meaningful way.
We begin with Eunseom on trial for having dreams. After the events in the previous episode, the villagers look at him with an untrusting eye, comparing him to Tan-Ya, their future leader who isn’t able to have dreams. These tensions continue as it’s debated by the village, with some of the more vocal members contemplating whether to banish Eunseom or not. Having earlier come up with an idea of riding the horse, the leader of the tribe, Yeol-Son tells him he has until the next full moon to ride the horse or he will be banished.
Troubled by the past, Eunseom is interrupted by Tanya and they discuss his past and dreams. She suggests he wear shoes before leaving, instead replaced by Cho-Seol who tells him he doesn’t belong and will never be one of the Wahan tribe. Leaving him to stew in her words, she joins Tan-Ya and together they embark on a ritualistic dance in the shallow water. Unfortunately, she has fears about the heritage of her name and what that means in being the next great Mother of the tribe.
Tan-Ya then tries talking to the horse, telling it to trust Eunseom before cutting the rope and letting the horse free. His name is Helper and as Eunseom runs after it through the lush forest, Tagon’s forces make it down the cliff and begin traveling across the Sea Of Tears, ever closer to the village. Oblivious to the threat on its way, back at the village Eunseom prepares for the festival with Tan-Ya’s help. He tries to kiss her but she rejects, telling him she’ll kill him if he kisses her.
After laughing this off, Eunseom attempts to ride the horse again but stumbles, as he happens upon a member from another tribe, beaten and bloodied. After fighting off invaders armed with steel swords and armour, he informs the Wahan tribe what’s happened. He shows them the sword, telling them the warriors speak their language and they need to leave. They don’t believe him though and call for Eunseom to be banished. As they step outside, Tagon and his forces arrive.
They slaughter the villagers, killing and pillaging as they go. Young Doti manages to escape abut others are not so lucky. Tan-Ya is captured and watches in horror as a flaming arrow lands in the shrubbery the kids are hiding out in and burns. The remaining villagers are tied up and marched out while on the horizon, Eunseom appears to have mastered riding Helper. He rides down, giving Tan-Ya a knife and freeing the others. Chaos breaks out and for a faint second it appears they may escape but it’s no good – the warriors are too disciplined and strong. Begrudgingly, Eunseom rides away, promising to return at a later date and save them all.
As the riders try and catch him, they realize the horse may be the fabled Kanmoreu, making it the fastest horse known to man and a deadly enemy against the clan. As Eunseom rides out to the horizon, the episode ends, setting things up nicely for the next double-bill of episodes.
Arthdal Chronicles delivers a really enjoyable episode, one that builds on its foundation to begin advancing the story and deliver a well-paced slice of fantasy action. Given how shocking the final 30 minutes of this episode are, the slow pacing works really well to build up the clan and make the devastation they experience all that more significant. Seeing kids burned is certainly one of the more shocking moments and goes to show the brutality these warriors are capable of. It helps dislike them too and despite not doing an awful lot, Tagon’s smug, arrogant demeanor make him an easy villain to hate.
I’m genuinely excited to see where this show goes next and given the money poured into the production of this one, Arthdal Chronicles makes good on its investment and delivers a very good episode in return. It’s still early days yet but with the narrative in full swing here, Eunseom’s journey, and ours as viewers, has only just begun.