The Great White Wolf
Studio Dragon are fast becoming one of my favourite Asian studios. After the success of Mr Sunshine, Memories of The Alhambra and The Crowned Clown, Arthdal Chronicles feels like another sure-fire hit. With each episode clocking in at a little over 80 minutes, there’s an awful lot going on here but the extended run-time is certainly welcome to try and flesh everything out. There’s been a lot of comparisons to Game Of Thrones over the past week and aside from the opening credits – the two shows couldn’t be more different in the realm of fantasy.
Eunseom and Doti kick us off this time as they revel in the sights at Arthdal before Helper begins eating medicinal herbs. After a run-in with one of the traders, Eunseom stumbles upon a group of child laborers and is shocked at their treatment, forced into grinding stones. Chae-eun fills us in on the background of these children, prompting Eunseom to demand Sanung’s location so he can confront him. She shows him the temple before leaving, letting him ponder his next move.
Meanwhile, the buzz in the various tribes revolves around Tagon, who is due to stand trial at the Sacred Court. The Bachi tribe discuss what to do about the situation while Asa Hon discusses the same thing with his family. Tae-Alha’s marriage to Tagon is called into question too when her family learns that he plotted everything and from here all the dominoes begin toppling.
We leave the city briefly to see the Wahan slaves at the mercy of the soldiers who take one of the boys, Dol-Dol, away and behead him for being close to dying. As the Great Mother looks set to be next on the chopping block given her fatal wounds, Tanya puts blood in her eyes and foretells a grim, bloody prophecy involving the soldiers. Hesitantly, they leave her alone for now. When Tagon shows up, he asks how to lift the curse to which she demands that the Great Mother be given a proper send off. After a few seconds deliberation, Tagon agrees.
Under the bright moonlight, Tanya says her goodbyes and her mother dies peacefully after sharing some hidden truths about being the leader and her visions for the future.
In the comfort of their own chambers, Tagon discusses the truth he’s been hiding with Tae-Alha, including the Igutu baby whom we know as Eunseom. Tae admits she didn’t tell her father about his plotting originally, openly admitting she wanted him and is falling in love with him, to which he replies he is too.
The day of Tagon’s trial arrives and he’s put on trial. One of the Asa girls become possessed by the Ancient Gods and a chilling, maniacal laugh echoes around the chamber. “When you meet your brother and share alcohol, there will be blood.” Tagon is told, before judgment is passed. However, all eyes turn to Sanung as he’s accused of wrongdoing. After denying his involvement and despite pleas not to, Sanung orders his troops to slaughter the Asa Tribe. After slashing his way through several people, he heads outside where Tagon and Sanung’s forces clash.
Meanwhile, a prepared Eunseom whom we saw earlier apply war-paint, rides in on Helper, shouting Sanung’s name, and prompting the leader to raise his hand. Eunseom snatches Sanung up and rides off with him, right into the heart of Arthdal. Held up in a large tower, he holds the leader at knife-point, demanding that the people of Wahan be brought to him.
Tagon then arrives, along with the Wahan Tribe, and ascends the top of the tower alone to meet with Eunseom and discuss terms. However, Tagon is hiding a knife and as the two arrive in the room together, they charge at one another, knives in tow.
Arthdal Chronicles is an intricate character web of tribes, politics and fantastical beauty, all wrapped up in a silky web of prophetic messages. It’s a show that’s really starting to come into its own now and make good on the promising start it had last week. With so many characters and so much going on, Arthdal Chronicles makes a very welcome choice to point out who all these characters are via on-screen text (and alleviate the amount of time this reviewer has spent on the Arthdal Chronicles page on Asianwiki). It’s something the first few episodes did sparingly but here it’s used a lot, much to the credit of the show.
It’s taken a few episodes but the extended run-time and sheer number of characters really helps Arthdal Chronicles feel like a living, breathing world. With next week essentially ending the first season of this 3-season epic, who knows what direction this one will take going forward but if it can keep up the good work done here, it may just have the legs to go the full 3 season distance without fatiguing along the way.