After last week’s episode, Arthdal Chronicles returns with more twists in the tale and a much more grounded slice of drama. Although there’s not much in the way of plot development, ultimately the episode falls to the Asa Clan and Tanya who both have a big part to play in the events that transpire here.
Starving and dying of thirst, we begin the episode with the Wahan Tribe begging for water. The soldiers refuse, instead attempting to coerce them into admitting they’re actually dujeumsaengs in exchange for water which none of them are willing to do. Including Eunseom, who winds up in a heap on the ground, bloodied and beaten after being attacked by the guards.
Meanwhile, Tanya continues her scheme and aligns herself with Saya. After seeing birds outside, they both head out to the forest where Saya admires Tanya’s technique in hunting birds with makeshift rock slingshots.
Eventually the Wahan Tribe caves and begin calling themselves Dujeumsaengs, prompting the soldiers to begin splashing water in their faces. Angry at the degradation of the tribe, Teodae confronts Eunseom and, with a stick to his throat, pleads with him to tell the soldiers what they want to hear. Eunseom is defiant though; he wont besmirch his name and honour as that’s all he has left. Teodae laughs bitterly, curses Eunseom and slits his own throat.
Back in Arthdal, Yeon-Ball overhears Mubaek’s conversation about his trip to the White Mountain and promptly informs Tagon. Before he can act however, a sickness begins spreading across Arthdal where residents claim Isodungyong is the one responsible. Inevitably, this prompts the city residents to flock to Asa Ron for guidance. When they arrive, the people learn Asa Ron has received an oracle. As part of that, Tagon is tasked with heading to The Great Shrine to purge vengeful spirits from his body. The Union Leader grits his teeth and endures the ritual.
Angry at Tagon for being tricked so easily, Taealha confronts him and demands to know what he’ll do next. She believes it was all a clever ploy from Asa Ron but Tagon chimes in, begrudgingly admitting that Mubaek may have something to do with it too. Determined to find out, Mubaek himself is attacked by Yang-Cha. Although initially overpowering the masked warrior, Tagon arrives and imprisons him, tying him up to a chair to be interrogated.
Mubaek admits to Tagon that he deceived him which in turn leads Tagon to admit he killed Sanung by accident, revealing the true events of that night. He then asks why Mubaek met with Asa Sakan and outright asks if he’s going to deceive him. Mubaek refuses and attempts to persuade Tagon into trusting him again. In the process of doing so, he does make one bombshell reveal – the Asa bloodline may have extended to the Wahan tribe. The descendant of the Great Mother may well be a direct descendant of Asa Sin. That descendant being Tanya.
The episode then ends with Tanya learning more about Arthdal courtesy of Saya before stumbling into a hidden cave where she comes across the familiar symbol she learned previously in past episodes. Is this her calling?
Aside from the few well timed plot twists, there isn’t a whole lot here to really chew through this week. The Eunseom story with the Wahan Tribe dominates much of the early run-time and aside from showing how defiant and proud Eunseom is, doesn’t really do a lot else. Whether we really needed 20+ minutes of this is left up for debate but given we’ve seen plenty of struggle for the Wahan Tribe ever since the early few episodes, it doesn’t offer a whole lot of originality.
Tanya’s narrative is certainly more enjoyable this week though and her strained alliance with Saya is a lot more endearing, enough to keep you guessing what’s going to happen next. Her big reveal at the end and surprising ties with the Asa tribe feels like a big step forward for the series and certainly helps to show how she slots into the bigger prophetic picture.
Given the alleged big budget spent on each episode, this one didn’t feel very fantastical or groundbreaking in terms of visual effects. The episode itself does feature some nice moments and a few nice, establishing shots but given most of the run-time is spent inside the walls of Arthdal, this confined setting pales in comparison to some of the earlier episodes where we got to admire the world a lot more. Given how expansive this world is, I can’t help but feel we’ve only seen a fraction of its beauty, ultimately lending itself to feel under-utilized.
Still, there’s 3 more episodes left of this season and with such a stacked cast I just hope this one ends with a bang. I feel like we’re gearing up for a climactic finish, one where there will be casualties and not everyone will survive. Whether this comes to fruition remains to be seen, but for now Arthdal Chronicles keeps you guessing (and watching) through to tomorrow’s episode.