It’s just episode 2 of Tale of the Nine Tailed, and I can say that Lee Yeon (Lee Dong-wook) and Nam Ji-ah’s (Jo Bo-ah) ship has already sailed. More new characters are introduced, as well as the backstories of our main characters, which is the good part because it makes viewers understand the nature of these characters and gets them invested. While the first episode introduced important characters and plot points in the story, the second shines a spotlight on the supporting characters and their backstories.
A little about each characters’ background: Lee Yeon is the master of Baekdudaegan—a mountain range that runs through the Korean peninsula—and is able to control the wind and rain. He meets the young A-eum, who comes by every day to visit him until she grows up, and eventually, the two fall in love. In a tragic incident, A-eum dies and Lee Yeon abuses his power out of desperation. Before she crosses to the next life, Lee Yeon promises to find her in her next life and gives her his fox bead. He then enters into a contract with the higher gods to resurrect A-eum in exchange for his service on earth as the “annihilator” of evil spirits. At present, Lee Yeon is over a thousand years old and still looking for his first love’s reincarnation.
Meanwhile, A-eum has been reincarnated several times after her death. A-eum has lived as a mortal in all her previous reincarnations, never remembering Lee Yeon. At present, A-eum is reincarnated as the gutsy and daring Nam Ji-ah. She has a dark past, which involves Lee Yeon. To solve the mystery behind her parents’ mysterious disappearance, she begins working in TV programs about urban legends. Interestingly, Lee Yeon’s powers of memory deletion don’t work on Ji-ah, which is why she is able to remember everything that happened in the past, even Lee Yeon’s face.
The two form an odd duo to track down spirits and investigate mysterious cases in the country. I was actually expecting the series to focus on a different urban legend and its investigation every episode, instead of the whole series just being about Lee Yeon chasing after A-eum’s reincarnation and Lee Rang courting trouble. I think introducing various Korean myths and legends to the viewers will draw lots of fantasy and mystery genre lovers like me to this drama and keep them watching until the end.
On the other hand, Lee Rang’s background is still unknown, along with the reason why he deeply hates human even though he is half-human himself. My assumption is that Lee Rang hates getting left behind by humans. His human parent must have left his gumiho parent, or vice versa, leaving little Lee Rang to bear witness to their heartbreak. His sudden emotional outburst about his brother, Lee Yeon, abandoning him to chase after his love is also an indicative of lingering resentment. It seems that Lee Rang respects and looks up to Lee Yeon, but the latter’s choices have hurt Lee Rang. To quench his hatred of humans, he now plays with their greed and rejoices in their sorrows.
This episode introduced us to the many side characters who will play a part in influencing the outcome of the story. And I’m pleased to note that most of them are interesting! Hwang Hee (Arthdal Chronicles) plays Shin-joo, a veterinarian who is also a mythical creature and serves Lee Yeon as his “master.” Lee Yeon used to be a powerful mountain spirit, which places him above other mythical creatures. As a mythical creature himself, Shin-joo understands the hearts of animals and serves as an advisor on Ji-ah’s TV program.
Kim Jung-nan (Born Again) is the gatekeeper Taluipa, older sister of Hades, the lord of the underworld. In the old days, she used to deliver souls to the underworld on her boat, but in the present, she struggles with modern technology and works in a big library full of records of the souls. I’m familiar with Greek mythology, but I don’t recall Hades having an older sister who delivered the dead to him, so I can’t figure out if this character is based in mythology or just made up for the purpose of this series. Taluipa’s husband, Hyun Ui-ong, is played by veteran actor Ahn Gil-kang (Memorials), who measures the sins of the dead and gives the souls an orientation of the next life before they cross over.
Overall, the story is consistently fast-paced through the first two episodes. I am still disappointed that Kim Bum isn’t pulling off Lee Rang’s creepy vibe, but the side characters look fun! Especially the old couple Taluipa and Ui-ong, who seem to be an adorable team that guides the dead to their last destination. Though, I must admit, the concept of Lee Yeon as a powerful immortal hung up on his human first love is really the oldest concept in the K-drama book, and while it is still entertaining, things are already starting to feel predictable. I hope writer Han Woo-ri proves me wrong and surprises us with a refreshing take on this K-drama cliche!