Tale of the Nine Tailed 1938: Episodes 3-4
As our drama settles into its story, we learn more about our fox’s past and his connection to our antagonist, who continues to work in the shadows and from behind a mask. Meanwhile, the rest of the drama hasn’t seemed to figure out that there is a vengeful baddie on the loose because, intermixed with all the curses and murder attempts, there’s a bromance that continues to tickle our funny bones.
On paper, this drama reads like an absolute disaster with too many plot devices and seemingly no clear directive, but unlike a recent goblin-themed drama (if you know, you know), the execution of this particular story is an absolute delight. It’s all thanks to the characters and actors, whose enthusiasm for their respective roles permeates every scene — even when they are filling time in between demon slaying. It goes without saying, of course, that the bromance between Yeon and Rang has captured our attention — and our hearts — but the new characters that have been added this season are starting to pull their weight, too.
Take Hong-joo, for example. As much as I enjoyed her action packed introduction and marveled at her ability to wield a giant claymore and go toe-to-toe with Yeon on top of a moving train, I was a wee bit concerned that her obsessive personality and crush on Yeon would make her a bit, well, annoying. Instead, we open this week with not only a reminder that she’s an absolute badass capable of drinking a dozen men under the table, but with new insights into her character.
She’s fiercely loyal to those who are “on her side,” as demonstrated by her confrontation with the Japanese soldiers who torment one of the girls under her employ at Myoyeongak, and she swiftly disposes of their ringleader under the cloak of darkness even though she knows Taluipa will punish her for killing a human. Her protectiveness and willingness to fight for those in her care, however, puts her in a bit of a predicament because both Yeon and Moo-young are her childhood friends who trained with her to be mountain gods. And now that Moo-young wants to torture and kill Yeon, Hong-joo is finding it a bit hard to choose sides. But after getting rejected, once again, by Yeon (because he’s a fox who’s eternally loyal to his mate), Hong-joo becomes complicit in Moo-young’s latest attempt on Yeon’s life.
This time, Hong-joo’s weapon of choice is a saetani, a cursed spirit girl who renders Yeon blind after gazing into his eyes. (Soooooooo creepy. Legitimately, the stuff of nightmares.) Now, you might be thinking, why curse Yeon and not go for a more direct approach? Well, for starters, this gives our story another chance to feature some more brother bonding while Rang reluctantly helps Yeon navigate the world without his eyesight. And since Rang is very distrustful of this new, overly doting version of his big brother, his methods are a bit brutish — and highly amusing for those of us emotionally invested in this bromance.
The bonding moments between Yeon and Rang, however, are also fuel for Moo-young’s hatred. Their brotherly love serves as a reminder of Moo-young’s deceased older brother, and although the exact circumstances are still murky, Moo-young holds Yeon accountable for his brother’s death. And when it comes to enacting his revenge, Moo-young can’t simply kill Yeon and find closure. No, like a proper villain, he must ensure Yeon feels the same pain he felt when he lost his own beloved sibling.
And so, Moo-young weakened Yeon by stripping him of his eyesight. This provided Moo-young with the opportunity to kidnap Rang and Shin-joo and force Yeon to feel the same isolation and helplessness of not being able to save his beloved brother(s). Except, you know, Yeon is a total BAMF. He uses his wits and other senses to fight off the demons Hong-joo “invited” to Myoyeongak in order to delay Yeon from rescuing Rang and Shin-joo (who have been trussed and tossed in a well for a dramatically slow death).
After Yeon defeats the hoard of demons, Moo-young uses his bow and arrows to skillfully coax Yeon through the woods and push him towards the waiting saetani and, presumably, his demise. In a stroke of luck — or more likely fate — Yeon and the girl who would become the saetani have a tragic history. Before the saetani’s family sacrificed her to a shaman and left her to starve to death in a box, Yeon gifted her a bell and promised to grant her wish, but sometime shortly thereafter, Yeon lost Ah-reum and was stripped of his mountain god powers. Tragically, he was unable to hear the girl’s cries for help and save her.
In the present, he remembers the saetani’s real name and is able to break her curse, thus allowing her to reincarnate into a (hopefully) happier life. But once again, Yeon seemingly feels the weight and guilt of his former self-centeredness. Although he’s been keenly aware since Season 1 that his tragic love story with Ah-reum strained his relationship with his brother, he’s also seeing how those formally under his protection were harmed in the aftermath. There’s no time to wallow in his guilt, though, because Rang and Shin-joo are still in danger.
Actually, maybe there is time for Yeon to wallow in his guilt because, by the time Yeon arrives on the scene, Rang has already been rescued by JANG YEO-HEE (Woo Hyun-jin), a half-mermaid who has had hearts in her eyes ever since she met Rang and taught him how to tie a tie. (Me, too, Yeo-hee. Me, too.)
It’s obvious to everyone — but Rang — that Yeo-hee is smitten and determined to win Rang’s heart, and Yeon, who wants his brother to find happiness and companionship after he leaves, is single handedly blowing on the sails to make sure this ship leaves the harbor. Yeon and Shin-joo tease Rang mercilessly, and I nearly died from lack of oxygen when Yeon and Shin-joo paired up to enact a play-by-play of how they envisioned Rang’s forthcoming horse ride — totally a date — with Yeo-hee would go.
The actual date, however, is equally hilarious. For starters, Yeon and Shin-joo accurately predicted that Yeo-hee was eager for a back hug and some skinship, but instead of delivering on her romantic expectations, Rang taught her how to ride a horse (solo) and throw an ax. (Oh Rang, you’re such a tsundere.) To add insult to injury, he’d rather have her on his team of bandits than as his girlfriend. Not sure if he’s that clueless or if he’s so burned after being denied affection from Yeon when he was younger that he’s closed off any possibility of personal attachments. (Probably both.)
When Rang returns from his date, our plot shifts from its Splash-like love story to a more Three Men and a Baby style comedy when our hapless trio unexpectedly finds an infant on their doorstep. Shin-joo is quick to go into caregiver mode, but it takes Yeon and Rang some time to warm up to the baby. In fact, the brothers actually bond over their shared desire to try and pawn the baby off on some other unsuspecting family, but no matter how far away they go to leave the baby on someone else’s stoop, she magically returns to the front steps of Myoyeongak.
The baby eventually worms her way into Rang’s heart after proving herself to be his personal gambling lucky charm, and Yeon comes around, too, after nursing the baby through her fever, which brings out his protective instincts. But just as the brothers have given her a name and resolved to keep her in their care, the Japanese authorities show up and attempt to forcefully remove her from their possession. The ensuing fight scene, however, is joyfully bright and full of bubbles — as if the drama was censoring itself for the baby’s eyes.
Sadly, we’ll have to wait until next week to discover our baby’s identity and her connection to the man currently detained — but completely unfazed — by the Japanese. Given the man’s addiction to carrots and rumored luck at finding gold mines, I’m going to assume he’s some sort of rabbit god. It’s stated that the Japanese intend to use his ability to find gold to increase their nation’s wealth, which is also increasing thanks to the generous donations from Eun-ho’s father. Bad guys can never have too much money, though, so of course Kato intends to hitch himself more securely to the Sunwoo money train (again) by marrying Eun-ho, his deceased wife’s sister.
Speaking of Eun-ho, we didn’t see a whole lot of her in our latest episodes, but she did have a couple of memorable encounters with Shin-joo, who finally met his wife’s doppelgänger when he robbed her house and stole the golden ruler before Moo-young could get his hands on it. Considering the ruler is rumored to have the power to bring people back from the dead, I think it’s safe to say Moo-young intends to use it — and the zombie beauty pageant winner — to resurrect his brother. And now that Yeon is in possession of the ruler, it’s only a matter of time before Moo-young shows up to retrieve it.
Hong-joo’s intentions, however, are more murky. Given her previous obsession with Yeon, I assumed she’d remain eternally loyal to him despite his disinterest. But after Yeon’s recent rejection, I’m not so sure.
She could certainly be playing a double agent right now, trying to figure out Moo-young’s plan so she can either protect Yeon or bridge the gap between the former friends. But now that she’s located the 1938 Yeon, it’s entirely possible that she could go rogue and just spend the next 85 years trying to woo 1938 Yeon before he sobers up and meets Jia. Whatever her motivations, though, I think we can all agree that her wardrobe is to die for. I’m totally willing to stare down the blade of her claymore if it means a chance at owning the pinstripe pant suit she wore at the end of Episode 4. (*extends grabby hands*)