The middle part of this three six-episode series.
I thought the first part was already hard to watch, but the second part is much worse. The former is about occupation, while the latter is about slavery, which is way crueler. But not all Wahans will agree.
As per Father Yeol-son’s final wise decision, every Wahan is to fend and make decisions for themselves going forward. They’re broken up and sent to different parts of Arthdal to varying working conditions: Father Yeol-son (Jung Suk-yong) is probably having the best environment at data collection/preservation department; Tanya who’s serving as Saya’s maid and initially mistreated by Taealha and her right-hand woman comes second; the men sent to work outside the ‘capital’ are having it worst. They’re not only physically and mentally abused but also malnourished and treated as the lowest of the low, which is so painful to watch.
I hate to see such close-knit tribe scattered, even if their survival rate may increase that way. What i hate to see more of, however, is the emergence of their ugly human side. They aren’t all angels and Eun-seom is never fully welcomed or considered part of them, but it’s really heartbreaking to see some of them harbor enough resentment to throw him — alongside Dal-sae (Shin Joo-hwan) — under the bus, when those two come to rescue them. It’s ‘heartbreaking’ because i could totally see where they’re coming from, but i wish they were privy to his point of view too, because boy is going through a lot.
Like, in the beginning, i thought he would be the hero who saved his people one by one, but after all of the horrifying scenes he’s witnessed so far, he could be the one that needs saving the most. He’s different from everybody else; he doesn’t belong even to the place he considers home; his attempt to negotiate with Sanung backfires and he’s kicking himself hard for jeopardizing the tribe; he’s betrayed by Moong-tae, constantly beaten for being an Igutu, then witnesses Teo-dae’s suicide right before his eyes because he refuses to call himself Purple, a son of a bitch and a monster; lastly, he dreams of Tanya uttering how regretful she is meeting him. She says it to Saya (also played by Song Joong-ki), but Eun-seom must’ve believed it was directed at him.
Thankfully, he doesn’t dwell on it too long. Instead, that awakens his fighting spirit. His ultimate goal is still rescuing Tanya, but at least that gets him going, starting from setting himself free. On the other hand, Tanya is working toward gaining power so that she can rescue him.
Thankfully for her, the door to power sort of opens itself for her as she finds herself in the middle of three-way power play: Tagon to become king, Asa Ron to keep himself above the union leader in Saram’s hearts, and Mihol to overtake the throne. Tagon is outnumbered but gains the upper hand by having Taealha by his side; together, they’re craftier than the other two factions combined.
But really, the revelation of Tanya’s lineage is long overdue. I probably overestimated the ambitious couple’s shrewdness since they never question the Wahans speaking the exact same language as Saram, which turns out to be a huge deal. Narrative-wise, part 1 (un)covers the people mentioned in the prophecy while part 2 brings us to the fulfillment of said prophecies. Which teaches Tanya everything is taught for a reason, including the things/skills she deemed redundant to master.
Her ability to dance the spirit dance perfectly and locate the legendary Star Bell are somewhat a miracle yet another proof to her strength in the midst of a crisis. This discovery makes Asa Clan’s elders cower in fear and i can’t wait to see Saram’s reaction to this news — especially the realization at how they’ve tortured and killed direct descendants of their revered ancestors.
The advent of Asa Sin’s direct descendant is the biggest development in the show thus far, which shall shake up the power dynamics in Arthdal, because the other plot points are brewing at steady pace. The biggest twist, however, goes to the reappearance of the Neanthals. I was happy that they were three Igutus left, but was thrilled to learn five blue-blooded Neanthals survived the hunt. Six if we count Nun-byeol too? Man, i knew she’s too pretty for Saram’s standard but never thought she’s a blue blood as well. Which explains Chae-eun’s knowledge of the species and nonchalant reaction upon meeting an Igutu in Eun-seom.
But i shouldn’t be too happy — or attached to a character — because who knows how long they will stay alive. I am sad for every fallen Wahan, for Dan-byeok who can never know the kind of person his beloved half-brother is, or for Sateunik who passes on a day too soon. And i think i will be torn for Saya. He’s the more prominent character in this middle third as Eun-seom suffers in the background, which has its pros and cons. We still get enough of Song Joong-ki (and boy is he pretty with those long locks), but i don’t know which character to root for as Saya inadvertently becomes the third leg in Tanya/Eun-seom’s loveline.
Romance isn’t a major focus in the drama so far, but i guess the love triangle angle is inevitable? But i’m more excited for the reversal and counterattacks. The plot has finally become more pointed and exciting the last two-three episodes, i’m expecting the writing and pacing to pick up on that momentum and deliver a gripping final third.