Early Man and medieval glory give us our start in this fantasy telling of the origins of man. We have two groups of warring peoples, and it’s a fine line between right and wrong. One tribe vies for dominance, but is their latest conquest their biggest mistake? Join Kate and me as we review the first two episodes of Netflix’s “Arthdal Chronicles.”
Kate: I can’t believe this is only six episodes. It feels more epic than that — I’m not sure how far into the plot we’ll be able to get in this six-episode arc. I’m definitely not sure who to be cheering for yet entirely. So far, I’m team Eunseom (Song Joong-ki) and Tanya (Kim Ji-won). I don’t know if I ship them, but I want them to succeed. Whatever that means.
Wendilynn: There are actually 18 episodes scheduled for this. I know Netflix is currently 10 episodes in their upcoming lineup, but there will be a full run of this drama. With each episode at around 90 minutes, it’s going to be a huge adventure. I got totally wrapped up in the early story.
I couldn’t help but feel that the Neanthals were almost werewolf-like in their abilities. Having their lips reflect their purple blood was a nice trick. Now we get Eunseom, who is half of each tribe, riding a potentially mystical horse and I admit, I’m totally on board for this adventure.
Kate: Three six-episode arcs is definitely a new series structure!
At first Tagun (Jang Dong-gun) seemed somewhat main character-ish before he ransacked the Wahan’s village. I thought he was going to be our hero until then. But I am a sucker for a character like Tanya, who has a role and a fate she’s not entirely sure she can fit into. I felt for her as she was trying to remember the spirit dance, protect Eunseom and finally hear spirit voices and name the horse. I look forward to hearing more from her.
Wendilynn: It will be interesting watching Jang Dong-gun be a bad guy. Although, I’m still conflicted if Tagon is truly a bad guy or just trying to survive in the ruthless world he’s born into. He’s clearly a clever strategist and sees being the leader as the only way to have what he truly wants. But when your soldiers are willing to set fire a grove of trees to kill all the children … I have no damn sympathy for your problems. He’s a bad guy, and I hope Eunseom flays his back.
Kate: When that soldier on the horse struck down the young boy, it was definitely a strong message that these people were going to be ruthless. This was no mission of peace.
The Wahan culture is an interesting one: no domesticated animals, no cultivating crops, no ownership of land. It seems the days of hunter-gatherers are numbered in this story, though. I wonder how much Tagun is connected to Tangun? He is the mythical first king of Korea who also brought agriculture to the land. It’s obviously not meant to be an exact retelling of that story, but it may be like the Wars of the Roses are to “Game of Thrones” — a significant storytelling influence. I want to know more about the cultures and societies of the other groups in this series!
Wendilynn: The world building is excellent in this show. I loved how they took us through the beginnings of man and how they changed and are changing based on needs and technologies. If your neighbor isn’t willing to do a treaty with you, do you let it go, or do you take what you want anyway?
Granted, our Arthdals were willing to kill. But in the beginning, they believed they had to or they would die. But then they got greedy. I still don’t understand why they felt they needed to wipe out the Wahan tribe. They spoke the same language, they were clearly less advanced. They could have absorbed them into their people easily. They were no threat, unlike the Neanthals. It made no sense from a conquering standpoint to kill or enslave everyone, so that’s why I am now rooting for their fall. It may not be likely as they are the biggest group of tribal people now, but I’m still going to root for our Eunseom and Tanya to beat their asses.
Kate: Once societies start to expand and own property, many do turn to owning people in those early stages. The Arthdals do seem to be showing greed for resources, and I wonder if that will be addressed on an ethical or spiritual level in the world of the story.
It’s neat to see the portrayal of their spirituality so far too. I wonder if dreaming will continue to play a role in different group identities, and whether the ability to dream or not to dream will gain greater significance. I’m also a fan of mystical messages. Are the voices the characters hearing gods? Are they tricksters? Are they good, or do they mean ill or some of both — like the Greek gods? There’s a lot of room to build on these aspects of the story that have been raised so far, even without the myth of the world’s fastest horse!
Wendilynn: I agree, there is a lot of room to grow in this story, and they’ve built a world able to hold it. I was excited when I heard Song Joong-ki was going to be in this. Then you add Dang Jong-gun and Kim Ji-won, who starred with SJK in “Descendants of the Sun,” and there is some stellar talent involved. There were so many faces I recognized. I like that the director worked with Joong-ki on “SungKyunKwan Scandal,” so there’s a good relationship there. Our director also has some great dramas under his belt, so it bodes well for the story.
The first two episodes give us a rich world to tell this story in. Do you have a favorite character yet? Will Eunseom and Helper be able to fulfill the legend and free his adopted tribe?