In Chinese mythology, there are stories of a fox spirit, a god-like creature who acquires more knowledge and power the more tails it grows. It was said to be a symbol of prosperity, peace, marriage, and love. Starting as a Chinese legend, the story has since become part of Korean and Japanese folklore, although interpreted differently in some stories across the board.
Kang Shin-Hyo directs Tale of the Nine-Tailed, a Korean drama released Oct. 7, 2020 based on the tale. Starring Lee Dong Wook (Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (2016-2017) and Cho Bo Ah (Forest (2020), the drama follows the mission of Nam Ji-Ah (Cho Bo Ah), who is trying to find out what happened to her parents after a car accident 21 years ago.
In the first episode, we find her as a producer of a TV program centred around myths and the paranormal. Later on, she tells Lee Dong Wook’s character, Lee Yeon, that she started the program to find him, as he saved her from spirits who had taken the form of her parents and tried to kill her. Lee Yeon finds himself tagging along on her quest to find out what happened to her parents, as she resembles someone very important to him from his past; someone who had promised to return to him as she died.
Being a nine-tailed fox, Lee Yeon was the character I had the most questions about initially. Archetypally, there were many signs he was not the antagonist in this story. The gold coming out of his hand when he saved Ji-Ah was the first sign. As the story progresses to the third episode, we can see that while he doesn’t have much empathy for human struggle, and is generally desensitized to most of earth’s realities, including death, he is not bad at heart. His cool, suave, sarcastic, and blunt nature seems to be due to the fact that he has more important problems on his immortal mind than petty humans. We learn that this is because of his mate, who had passed away, supposedly by his hand, who Ji-Ah resembles but doesn’t carry the mark Lee Yeon gave her in order to recognize her.
As any good introduction does, the first episode left me with many questions, the biggest one being: what is going on? The amount of suspenseful moments made the episode feel like it was 20 minutes, not the hour and five it actually was.
The pilot of any show is important for the viewership, and I think Kang Shin-Hyo did an excellent job of portraying the caliber of the show. The characters were obviously well-developed, while still leaving some mystery to make the audience want to keep watching. The fight scenes between Lee Yeon and his half-brother Lee Rang (Kim Beom, Hidden Identity (2015) were very well choreographed, of course with some help from CGI in order to display both of their god-like powers and strength. The rock vibes of the soundtrack give it the comedic and casual feel the show needs, while still maintaining the intensity.
Each of the first three episodes were as suspenseful and captivating as the one before, ending with unignorable cliffhangers. Most of the unknown bits the pilot dug up were answered by the third episode, but that only means the amount of potential conflicts became even more apparent. How will Lee Yeon and Lee Rang’s relationship end up, as Lee Rang had already indicated one of them had to die for the other to live in peace? Will Lee Yeon find his mate reborn, and where does that leave Ji-Ah, as it is expected for the leads to end up together? What happened to Ji-Ah’s parents, especially now that Lee Yeon told her they’re still alive?
The production quality of the show is high, not only in the visuals, but in a gripping storyline and dynamic characters. While it is a show that needs the viewer’s full attention to be comprehensible, I really appreciated how they managed to pack the explanation of the nine-tailed fox legend, the characters’ backstories, and a seemingly complex storyline in 3 episodes. This fantastical, mythical drama will have any viewer on the edge of their seat, wishing for more of the charm of Lee Dong Wook and the strength of Cho Bo Ah by the finale.
Find the drama on Viki
More on the cast:
Cho Bo Ah: Instagram