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"Ashin of the North" is a special 92-minute episode of the Korean Netflix original television series Kingdom, and the thirteenth episode overall. Aired after Season 2, it serves as a prequel to Season 1 and explains the background of Ashin, the mysterious woman introduced at the end of Season 2. The episode premiered on July 23, 2021.

Synopsis[]

Tragedy, betrayal and a mysterious discovery fuel a woman's vengeance for the loss of her tribe and family in this special episode of Kingdom. Set before the events of the first season, it delves into Ashin's origin story and her experiences growing into a scorned woman that turned against the Kingdom of Joseon.

Plot summary[]

During her childhood, Ashin lived in the Northern village of Seongjeoyain with her ailing mother and her father Tahab, who was one of the Jurchen people living in Joseon and the head of their settlement. Tensions were high between Joseon, the central kingdom, and the Jurchen border tribes of Pajeowi. The Pajeowi had gathered their army at the basin of the Pajero River. As a result, the Joseon army recruited a group of Jurchens from Seongjeoyain to monitor the Pajeowi. Ashin's father was called up to be a spy because he had pledged his loyalty to Joseon earlier. He agreed in the hopes that the king would grant Seongjeoyain governmental representation, which would improve the lives of its people.

Two Joseon guards find a group of 15 Pajeowi Jurchen dead, piled naked in a heap with a tattoo on the backs of their hands. Animals mutilated their bodies post-mortem, however the Deputy Commander of the Chupajin group, Min Chi-rok, discovers a bead in the hand of one of the dead Jurchen's that leads him to believe the group was actually killed by Cho Beom-il, a high ranking member of the Haewon Cho clan, and his elite guards. After Min Chi-rok confronts Cho Beam-il who confesses that he and his men murdered the 'trespassing' Jurchen, Min-Chi-rok travels to the Seongjeoyain village to conduct damage control and prevent an erupting conflict against the Kingdom by the Pajeowi.

The Commander instructs Tahab to travel to the bordering Pajeowi tribe and spread the message that a tiger killed the men. Tahab does so with the continued faith and loyalty that Joseon would ultimately uphold its promise to help his people, despite Ashin warning him that if the story is a lie then he could be putting himself in danger. While casually spreading the tiger rumor in the Pajeowi camp, Tahab is threatened by a Jurchen soldier who implies he knows that Tahab is a Joseon spy spreading falsehoods.

Ashin’s ill mother becomes worse, so she runs back to the hidden cave shrine to learn more about the resurrection plant. She studies the ancient wall glyphs to understand its properties and effects, desperate to help her mother. While she is gone, the Pajeowi military, led by Ai Da Gan, descend on Ashin's village in the middle of the night. Upon returning to her village, she is shattered to discover that it has been burned to the ground and everyone has been killed. Ashin finds her father’s necklace dangling from the feet of one of the dead that has been strung up on posts and believes he has been killed as well.

Being the sole survivor of the massacre, Ashin goes to the Commander and begs for him to avenge her family. He places her in a military settlement post, where she begins to mainly work as a butcher, a job she learned from her father, while training secretly and relentlessly with a bow and arrow in the woods. The Commander also sends her out to spy periodically on the military camp of Pajeowi. It is revealed when she is older that Joseon soldiers have been raping her (likely since she was a child due to a reference by one of them to an odd place she would sleep when she was younger). After a Joseon military camp official catches one of the rapists leaving Ashin's sleeping quarters late one night, he tells the man never to return but does nothing to punish him.

During one of her reconnaissance missions, Ashin is shocked and horrified to find her father imprisoned in the camp, his limbs cut off as punishment for betraying his fellow Jurchen. She weeps and promises to save him, but he only wants an end to his misery. He repeats, over and over, “Kill me.” Finally, Ashin complies and sets the camp on fire before going back to the settlement to get answers to her burning questions.

Prior to her return to the military settlement, the Commander was summoned to return to the South to deal with the war against the Japanese forces, leaving his Second-in-command and soldiers behind. Soon after, Ashin uncovers through scrolls inside the Commanders hut, implicating the Commander and his army, in a conspiracy of framing the Seongjeoyain tribe for the Jurchen deaths' at Pyesa-gun, leading to the eventual massacre of her village. The Commander had told the Pajeowi that the tiger story was a lie from the start and that the Seongjeoyain tribe was directly responsible for the men’s deaths. His strategic deception works to focus the Pajeowi’s hostility away from Joseon. They branded Tahab as a traitor, leading to his captivity and mutilation, and planned their retribution against the Seongjeoyain.

Ashin prepares to take revenge against the Kingdom of Joseon. After night falls, she kills several Joseon soldiers as they sleep and uses the resurrection plant to bring them back as monsters. Then, as the monsters rampage around the camp, she ensures that the military can't mount any effective resistance by picking off soldiers with her bow from the rooftops. She also ensures that none escape by locking everyone inside. She uses the last soldier as bait, to gather the monsters together and then lights them all on fire, leaving no survivors, living or undead, in the camp. Ashin is then seen dragging a giant sack into an abandoned forest, to a lone dilapidated hut. As she enters, she has flashbacks of her tribe and its people. Monsters snarls snap her back to the present, where it is revealed that after the massacre of her village, she had converted them all into monsters. Chained in a barn in the forest, Ashin had been feeding them animals for years, but this was not enough. She now had something that she believed they would find more delicious in the sack, revealed to be one of her rapists whom she has dismembered as her father was.

After feeding him to the monsters, Ashin leaves to meet Lee Seung-hui, the Joseon King's physician at the border in Uiji. She sells him the resurrection plant, setting in motion, the events that would later occur in the "Battle of Unpo Wetland" and the tragedy that would come to pass at Dongnae. After exiting the city, Ashin walks into an open field, and later witnesses Ai Da Gan and his Pajeowi brethren riding horses in the distance. The Pajeowi riders approach Ashin and she shoots an arrow.

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