Mane of Glory #17: Arthdal Chronicles Ep 1-2

Wow! It has been so long since we have done a Mane of Glory recap that I barely remember back when we did them weekly. And while we can’t 100% commit that we will be covering the whole drama (reviews are mixed so far and drama watching time is sacred) we can commit to at least one MOG recap. And there is always the chance we will continue depending on whether we all watch or not. So, for now, come join The Fangirls as we chat Arthdal Chronicles.

Neanthal VS Humans

So we have a basic plot that pits the Neanthal (Blue lipped natives) against the up and coming humans (aka…future Koreans). The former group is fast and deadly but the latter is cunning and greedy. You can tell the Neanthal’s by their blue tinged lips and blue eyes… and judging from the opening scene they have claws? Something tells me that these two groups are not going to get along well.

Kmuse: I am not a fan of the made up language and the styling. The clothes look very costumy and the language keeps detracting from what is happening on screen. Also, the premise that they can switch from hunter gather tribes to a settled farming style culture if they unite together makes me roll my eyes. That really isn’t how nation building works is it? There always has to be war, war, and more war to create a large nation. And one side always ends up being the loser. It doesn’t get to that point since Neanthal refuses the unification and the Humans attack, winning the plains they wanted to cultivate.

Clkytta: So it’s a fight to win the land (it’s ALWAYS about land, I don’t care which culture or language we are talking about). The farmer and hunter can’t be friends. I was kind of impressed that the women were doing the translating.

Drama Geek: I don’t see this as war. The humans needed the land that the Neanthals had and they took it, and they didn’t play fair at all. I find it very interesting that they’ve so blatantly made the humans the invaders who destroyed villages and then round people up for slave labor.

MiataMama: Two (long) episodes in and I don’t feel they have made it very clear as to ‘why’ the humans are so land greedy. At this point I’m actually on team Neanthal. The humans are all horrible and selfish. Also, was I the only one who was curious as to why the Neanthals don’t use garlic or mugwort?

Kdrama Jen: I think it is interesting that there is this juxtaposition of the hunters on one side (who are presented as more fierce in the beginning) and the agrarian society on the other, usually viewed as more civilized. And then we get the next part of this drama…and I am convinced the Saram are more vicious than any beast. As far as the made up language, I was distracted because there were words here and there that seemed almost familiar. I kep trying to understand what they were saying, and it wasn’t working!

Saving a baby & the great hunt

The humans send an emissary to the Neanthal tribe bearing gifts. Those gifts just happen to be cloth and items that have been infected with a plague that harms only the Neanthals. Which of course causes mass illness. While everyone is ill, the humans torch their territory killing most of the Neanthal. Two of the survivors are babies that the emissary (devastated by how her people used her to kill innocents) smuggled away. She hooks up with a Neanthal gentleman who also survives and helps with the surviving children. We also discover that the unethical scheme to kill off the Neanthal was made by a young boy Tagon (played by one of our new favorite idol actors One.) The Emissary and Neanthal hook up and have two babies of their own. One of the babies is stolen by Tagon during a raiding party and the emissary takes the other (Eun Som) to raise in hiding.

Kmuse: Ugh. That is truly a horrible and underhanded way to win a war…if you can even call it that. On a more shallow note….Young Tagon has a mighty fine mane of glory going on.

Clkytta: The Humans are way more sophisticated than the Neanthals, that’s pretty obvious. Let’s talk about all that fancy cloth and everyone is wearing rags that look like they chewed on them. Where the heck did all these brightly colored blankets come from? Young Tagon is HOT, like HOT HOT, way hotter than he was in Her Private Life.

Drama Geek: I was sad that we didn’t get to see more of Ragaz and Asa Hon’s romance. He was a pretty great character and that could have been interesting. It was hard to pay attention in a lot of these scenes because the CGI and the fighting was so off. I was also grossed out by the limbs that were being dismembered. It was not the best special effects here. LOL. As for One, he looked pretty but not much else.

MiataMama: I really liked how Asa Hon’s character was depicted and I really wanted more back story on her. How did she learn to speak Neanthal? How much time had she spent amongst the Neanthals in the past? Obviously, she didn’t have the same antagonism towards their race, as the rest of her people. I’m also curious what happened with Eun Som’s sibling, having been stolen away and raised by Tagon. And speaking of Tagon – before I started Arthdal, Kmuse shared a still of him that I felt kind of ‘meh’ about. After watching, I am really sad that his screen time on this drama was so short.

Kdrama Jen: Vicious and brutal are the words that came to mind when I saw how they defeated the Neanthals. It is not too far from some true historical accounts I have read about how humans have conquered other humans, and it gave me chills. Now, about Tagon. Yup. I think the mane of glory was lovely, and it was interesting to see One with this look after recently seeing him play the puppy idol. Not much puppy in this one!

Tribal Frat Party

It has been ten years and all of the Neanthals have been destroyed by Targon… who currently seems to be the leader of a very entitled and drunken frat tribe? I seriously don’t know how else to describe his imbibing and self congratulations party. He also has become more sweaty, glistening, and stringy as he has aged. What happened to his beautifully coiffed mane of glory? Now it is very much primal overlordish hair.

Kmuse: He has lost all that spark he had of being interesting and at this point I am just whispering “ew” to myself.

Clkytta: Um, what happened? When did he turn into a wino? He’s supposed to be brilliant, but he seems more crazypants now.

Drama Geek: I’m actually more interested in this version. If One had been this character it would have been very flat. He is supposed to be more of a general of his all conquering army.

MiataMama: Young Tagon was all about thinking outside the box and strategizing, like he was playing a game of chess. Now he’s just another bloodthirsty, power hungry member of evil human army. I’m disappointed.

Kdrama Jen: I laughed when Kmuse was referring to the frat party scene. There is something positively ghoulish about drinking from a skull punch bowl. So much has happened since his early days of strategizing. I was expecting them to start chanting, “Toga! Toga!” And then I realized they aren’t really wearing togas…

Kmuse: I will say that Targon has a ton of chemistry with his lover, and keeper of the Neanthal child he secretly took home ten years earlier. It cracks me up how everyone else is going full barbarian chic and her styling is almost Roman. Have I mentioned how much I am NOT enjoying the clothes in this drama?

Kdrama Jen: Oh! Maybe Tagon will take inspiration from his lover and also go Greco-Roman. You know, like with a toga!

Clkytta: I’m not done hating on the clothes. She looks like she stepped out of a video game. I’m also not a fan of the whole, I’m gonna marry you one day promise. Girl, he’s never gonna marry you! He’s got you raising this kid and all the other perks, but he’s not gonna marry you.

Drama Geek: I’ve seen some of her outfits compared to a character in Game of Thrones… so that is possibly where the styling came from. I never watched the show, but I do know that the different areas of their world had different styling and one of them was more Greek inspired. Since this child is Eun Som’s sibling, I’m assuming that one day they’ll be tasked to kill him.

MiataMama: I’m far from a fashonista, so I really didn’t notice of all the clothing inconsistencies until my fellow fangirls pointed them out. I’m fully focused on the story at this point and not worried about the wardrobe. Clkytta and I are on the same page regarding Tagon’s girl, though. She needs to tell him to put a ring on it! I foresee her and surrogate son turning on him in the future.

We need more slaves

UGH. After finding themselves in a situation where they have plenty of food and provisions, the Arthdal tribe is getting greedy again. This time they want to build better palaces and such which means they need a new source of slaves to do all the work. They discover that they can go down the great cliffs to where there is a whole bunch of Barbarians who would make perfect slaves. It is also where Eun Som and his mother disappeared to after the massacre.

Clkytta: Where have all the real barbarians gone? Where is Conan when we need him? How do you enslave barbarians? Isn’t the whole idea that barbarians beat the crap out of you and enslave you?

Kmuse: Everything about this plan is so ethically wrong. I keep cringing and wishing that there was some glimmer of goodness to appreciate. But so far all the Arthdal people have been 100% scummy and cutthroat.

Drama Geek: I do hope that we’ll see some humanity (or maybe we are already seeing that?) from Arthdal and they aren’t just portrayed as one note evil. Eun Som’s mom has been the only person to act like killing and enslaving people is an issue.

MiataMama: Why? Why are all the humans so horrid?? I’m still on team Neanthal. Eun Som needs to get himself a posse together and put some people in their place, ASAP!

Kdrama Jen: I think I am beginning to catch on to the theme that is pounding us over the head. Humanity is about actions and character, not about being a “full-blooded human.”

Prophesy of Eun Som

We are told that Eun Som was born on the night of a brilliant comet which means he is destined to destroy everyone. Judging by how horrible the humans are, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing. To protect her son Asa Hon travels far away from all civilization so he can grow up safe from harm. She also is inspired to go by a dream she had prophesying her death if she didn’t escape. Only later, on her death bed, did she realize that the person in the dream was her son Eum Som. As she dies she wonders if she was used to fulfill the prophesy.

Kmuse: I actually found the whole dream prophesying thing interesting. Because she feared the prophesy and death, she literally fulfilled it by getting Eun Som to Iark (name of the territory underneath the black cliffs).

Clkytta: I thought this was an interesting twist. This poor woman was simply a carrier vessel and I felt bad for her. She found so much comfort that the gods couldn’t get to Iark, and when she discovered that she had brought a god, or a tool for a god, to Iark, she just gave up.

Drama Geek: I found the dream aspect of the drama very interesting. The Neanthals could dream, and the humans couldn’t. It means that the person who originally came down the black cliff was Neanthal (or a half-blood like Eun Som) and the blue blood has been diluted enough that they don’t remember their heritage.

Kmuse: I also had some confusion with this segment of the story. I didn’t get that Eun Som and his brother were different then the two babies the couple saved during the Neanthal slaughter. A bit more details showing the time jump would have been greatly appreciated.

MiataMama: Not to sound like a broken record, but I also like what the dreams and prophesying are bringing to the story. Hoping this plot device will be used wisely, in the coming episodes.

Kdrama Jen: I just loved how they found a young version of Song Joong Ki who really looked like him. He was really adorable and showed some great acting potential. He is one of those young actors who catches your eye, and then you realize you have seen him in a number of different dramas: Mad Dog, Suspicious Partner, Circle, Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, and so on. I am predicting now that he will be the next Nam Da Reum.

How can dreams be a big deal if you don’t know what a dream is?

We have a time jump (maybe, 10 to 15 years?) at which time Eun Som has grown up to be a very wiry Song Joong Ki. He is being accused of dreaming. Gasp. Not only dreaming but stealing the ability to dream from the tribe’s golden child Tanya. Tanya and Eun Som both deny this truth, with Eun Som trying to explain what dreaming is. The tribe does not get his description and pretty much just accuses him for everything under the sun because he is different.

Kmuse: UGH! It is so frustrating to see these people going on a literal witch hunt. Just look at Eun Som! He is so adorably innocent except when it comes to stealing a horse to ride rather than have the tribe eat it. But how else were we going to get a half-dressed Song Joong Ki riding a horse scene?

Clkytta: Yay for half dressed Song Joong Ki! Is he aging backward? I have those face masks with his face on them, maybe I need to start using them. It’s the normal story, oh look someone is different, they must be evil, blah, blah, blah.

Drama Geek: It seems only the direct descendant who has the most concentrated amount of Neanthal blood can dream and it’s passed down. I would like to point out that Eun Som wasn’t actually trying to ride the horse himself (props to the horse for its acting. LOL). He only came up with that on the fly. He was going to use the hide and meat so he can return to above the black rock. And Song Joong Gi played the wide eyed innocent so well, I will be sad to see his more hardened character next week.

Kdrama Jen: In the past, we have abbreviated our Mane of Glory posts as MOG. I think we could keep that abbreviation, but maybe this should be Muscles of Glory. Seriously. I know others complained about the costumes, but I am fully on board with these vests over bare skin and bulging muscles. No complaints from me.

MiataMama: What inevitably happens when you get a group of people together? Someone has to be the outcast and get (figurative) stones chucked at them. In this case, it’s Eun Som, who is of dubious origin and has the dreams. Thank goodness Tanya is on his side. But seriously, who could hate that face??

The scab is gone

Eun Som’s mother told him that when his back scab fell off that he had to return up the Black Cliffs from where he came. That time has come and Eun Som has plans to leave the Wanha tribe and travel back to Arthdal. He secretly agrees with the Mother Shaman that he will leave after the Flower Festival because he doesn’t belong in this tribe. Of course, his main issue over leaving is his complicated feelings for Tanya, the tribe’s Shaman mother in training.

Kmuse: So much pretty scenery! Now if the director would only stick to one camera angle and not flip around so much. I liked watching the conversation between Eun Som and the Mother Shaman. She had legitimate reasons for being concerned with Eun Som staying in the tribe. Much more logical than that of the rest of the tribe that hates that he is just different.

Clkytta: I think Mother Shaman is worried about the relationship between Tanya and Eun Som and what that will do to the tribe. I can see that. He knows all their rituals though and I think that’s going to come back later in the story. She’s going to need his help to perform some ritual and save their people.

Drama Geek: I really liked their conversation and it was nice to know that they understood each other. And it was interesting to get a peek into their tribes rules. Obviously their founder was trying to protect them from following in the human’s footsteps.

Kdrama Jen: I could understand why she was so protective and wanted Eun Som to leave. He was little by little revealing himself to be everything this spiritual leader of her tribe had been told to avoid.

MiataMama: Does Eun Som know about his parentage – that he is half human and half Neanthal? I understand why he is leaving (mom’s directive) and why Mother Shaman wants him to leave (he doesn’t belong and is throwing of the balance of things). But what exactly was he planning to do once he climbed back up the Black Cliff? This part left me wondering just a little bit.

Do I detect some chemistry?

Tanya obviously has burgeoning feelings for Eun Som. And judging from the looks he is giving her during the flower festival, those feelings are reciprocated. I think it is too early to tell if this is going to be an all time OTP (one true pairing) in the making but they do innocent puppy love well.

Kmuse: No complaints so far. And since romance isn’t usually this writer’s focus, I won’t be to upset if it isn’t the main draw of the drama.

Clkytta: This guy, he’s always cozying up to the leading lady with his lips pursed isn’t he? I NEED romance, so if this is going to keep my interest there better be some kind of romance.

Drama Geek: I really like their sweet innocence and could feel how comfortable they were with each other. He was giving her some pretty longing looks when she did his make-up for the festival.

Kdrama Jen: These scenes were just made for nostalgic flashbacks in the future when everything is destroyed and all dreams (pun intended) are trampled. I also loved the scenes where Tanya tells Eun Som that giving the horse a name is the way to tie them together. Names and identity are a powerful thing. I loved this little bit of foreshadowing.

MiataMama: There were definitely longing looks on both sides. I’m sure my hopes and dreams for these two, to live happily ever after, are going to be totally crushed. So I will make do with whatever tidbits of romance that are occasionally cast my way.

The Arthdals have arrived

As we knew would happen the second the Arthdal leaders started talking about overtaking Iark, Targon’s army attacks the Wanhu tribe. Taking all the survivors of the attack as prisoners and transporting them back up the Black Cliffs via historic elevator. Eun Som is absent during the actual attack but follows the invaders and their prisoners, riding the majestic black horse.

Kmuse: This was a very brutal scene. My heart hurt when they burned the young children’s hiding place. But once again, the use of a steady camera and less switching between viewpoints could have made this scene go from sad in theory to actually breaking my heart. Opportunity lost.

Clkytta: When they burned out the children, I almost dropped this drama. That was heartwrenching. All those babies in there with their mouths covered trying to stay quiet just killed me.

Drama Geek: Things that ring of real history are a very horrid thing to behold sometimes. My heart died for Tanya and her people. They have hard days ahead, and my biggest hope is that Arthdal needs labor workers and not something else.

Kdrama Jen: I didn’t need anything else to convince me the Saram are evil and barbaric, but killing all of the children like that made this conviction undeniable.

MiataMama: The suffering of the children, the capture of the adults, the smug superiority of the Arthdals. . . this part was really hard to watch.

Defeated…..for now

Despite Eun Som’s best efforts to release all the prisoners, Tanya and many of the people are captured once again. Tanya screams to Eun Som to save himself so that he can come and get them from the enemy another day. The episode ends with Eun Som outriding his pursuers thanks to his horse magically making the other horses go slower? Uhm? What/who is Kanmoreu? According to the bad guy, Kanmoreu is the descendant of the first horse ever to live. And the person riding him is the legendary Aramun. I guess we will have to wait til next week to learn more about this mysterious legend.

Kmuse: Oooh. I love a good legend/prophecy. Especially when it means that Eun Som will have a lot of cool stuff to do in the future (hopefully).

Clkytta: There’s an awful lot of prophesy and magic going on, but there are also a lot of people dying. How many tribes are going to be wiped out?

Drama Geek: This was one of the worst filmed scenes of them all. There is a very delicate balance when showing a chase scene. You have to make me believe the pursuers can’t take the person they’re chasing out. Until the horses magically slowed down, there was no way they wouldn’t have gotten him. I do think prophecies are cool, and I love that Eun Som has his trusty horse with him.

Kdrama Jen: There was so much happening, but I was focused on that gripping moment when Tanya screams for Eun Som to save himself and he, in turn, asks her to name him. We know from earlier in the drama that names are a way of connecting and tying someone down. This was just a beautiful bit of author’s craft that made we wish for a moment I was reading this story instead of watching it. But, then I was reminded of Song Joong Ki’s shirtless scenes, and I decided I was fine with watching.

MiataMama: I’m with Kdrama Jen on this one – the scene where Eun Som had to let Tanya go was beautiful and haunting all at once. And I love the name she gave him – Dream. (As far as the chase scene went, I just really wanted to know if SJK rides horseback in real life? I have the feeling he’s going to be spending a lot of time with that beautiful black horse during this drama!)

Final Thoughts

Kmuse: I liked the story and setup a lot. I would kill for a different style of directing. I don’t understand that the same director who filmed My Mister and Signal can get this so very very wrong. Obviously, he was just not meant to film action scenes because they truly suck. It’s a good thing that I stick with dramas that have exceptional writing or I might be annoyed enough to dump this one.

Clkytta: I’m not so sure about this one. If it gets political, I’m out. When the fangirls start talking about exceptional writing that typically means no romance and lots of politics and my eyes start to glaze over.

Drama Geek: I really liked the writing and I thought there were several really great characters. Who else is curious about the evil hottie in the mask? It will be interesting to see where they go with the story, and if it devolves into the familiar political back and forth I hate.

Kdrama Jen: I wish Netflix had released the first four episodes all at once, because I think it took until the end of the second episode to really draw me in. I am intrigued by the story at this point, though, and I definitely plan to keep watching. I am also a fan of the Kbaddie/hottie guy in the mask. That is Ki Do Hoon. I have only seen him in supporting and minor roles, but I think he manages to command attention as he stalks around wearing that mask!

MiataMama: I wasn’t sure this was a drama I was going to be on-board with at first. I balked a bit at the episode length and I have some reservations about the way Netflix is dividing the airing into three seperate ‘seasons’. However the story has drawn me in, and I’m not nearly as bothered by the things that are giving my fellow fangirls pause. Fingers-crossed that they don’t to turn this into a snooze-fest by focusing on the politics!

Til our next magical moment.

The Fangirls

Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

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5 thoughts on “Mane of Glory #17: Arthdal Chronicles Ep 1-2

  1. Unrelated to this post but I’m just wondering if anyone from the team is watching Search WWW. After a decade of Kdramas, very few contemporary dramas manage to give me butterflies in the stomach but somehow this one kinda did in the first episode. I like that it tackles the issue of internet freedom and self-regulation in the tech sector which is highly relevant. And of course the romance is convincing as well (at this point). I’d love to hear some opinions from others.

  2. This wasn’t on my radar to watch as I didn’t like the promo materials but I checked out the first episode and I want to keep watching more. I’m actually surprised I liked it better than I expected.

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