‘Solo Leveling’ Episode 9 Recap And Ending Explained: Was Jinwoo’s Secret Finally Revealed?

Hunter conflicts reach a new height in the latest episode of Solo Leveling in the most unexpected way, as our protagonist Jinwoo’s pursuit to become the strongest makes him acknowledge an unpleasant truth about himself. The series had emphasized the aspect of human potential for evil being greater than that of otherworldly threats, and once again, with the emotionally charged ninth episode titled “You’ve Been Hiding Your Skills,” viewers are reminded of that. 


In the previous episode, Jinwoo accepted Jinho’s offer to partake in raids for the Yoojin guild, and the formation of a new guild started making a buzz around other established Hunter guilds. Unable to level up as much as he needs to for conquering the S-ranked dungeon, which holds the ‘Elixir of Life’, Jinwoo decides to participate in a new dungeon raid, where he meets fellow surviving Hunters from the Kartenon Temple incident, including Hunter Lee, Hunter Song, Hunter Kim, and Hunter Jeongho. The rest of the raid participants included substitute prisoner Hunters, a seemingly problematic and violent lot, who were escorted by a B-ranked surveillance team member of the Hunters Association, Kang Taeshik. In the latest episode, history repeated itself in the worst possible way, as Jinwoo and the double dungeon survivors once again had to face a horrible revelation that took everyone by surprise. 

Spoilers Ahead


Why Did The Hunters Split Up?

As the episode begins, the Hunters are seen making quick work of weakling goblins inside the dungeon. The rest of the survivors are still wary of the prisoners, whose unhinged nature is evident in the way they slay the magic beasts. Despite losing an arm during the Kartenon temple incident, Hunter Song fights with finesse as he has strengthened the rest of his physical and mental capabilities, and his temperament impresses everyone. Song, however, is quick to realize that the one to attain a real glow is none other than Sung Jinwoo, who seems almost unrecognizable from his timid, less-confident, weak past self. 

As the team ventures further into the dungeon, they find the way forward to be divided into three different tunnels. Kang Taeshik suggests that in order to clear out the dungeon faster, they should form three groups and venture into each tunnel separately. Using his enhanced perception, Jinwoo is able to detect the tunnel that leads to the boss chamber and heads down the path, accompanied by Hunter Lee and Hunter Song. Hunter Kim and Hunter Jeongho go for another one, while Kang escorts the prisoners to the last tunnel. As seen earlier, a number of the Kartenon survivors were suffering from guilt after seeing Jinwoo, and Hunter Kim, the family man who had had to abandon Jinwoo inside the double dungeon, got the worst of it. While moving through the tunnel, he confides in Jeongho that he is looking forward to properly apologizing to Jinwoo once the raid is done and dusted. 


Why Did Kang Taeshik Turn On The Hunters?

On the other hand, Kang Taeshik questions the prisoners about the distinction between humans and the magic beasts when it comes to killing, to which they quite obviously react apathetically, as for them both feel all the same. The scene cuts back to a flashback, where a grieving father is seen to be begging  Kang Taeshik to kill the three prisoners, even going so far as to offer to bribe him. As the father reveals, the prisoners had assaulted his daughters, who took their own lives after that, and now, with the perpetrators about to be released, the vengeful father sees no other way to attain his peace of mind than to see them dead. Taeshik fulfills the wish of the grieving father by killing the prisoners one by one. 

However, Hunter Kim and Jeochul accidentally arrive on the spot and witness the brutal killings, and the murderous Taeshik turns on them, torturing the duo to his heart’s desire before delivering the death blow. A horrid cry from the tunnels alerts Jinwoo, Lee, and Song, who rush to the spot as well and witness the bloody massacre. Taeshik waits at a vantage point to attack the team at the right moment. 


A tragic sequence follows as Hunter Lee tries desperately to heal Hunter Kim and manages to grant him a few moments before he draws his last breath. With his inevitable death drawing near, Kim earnestly apologizes to Jinwoo for abandoning him in the hour of crisis and gains some solace through the acknowledgement before breathing his last. A distraught Jinwoo laments Kim’s death but finds himself out of time when his heightened instincts alert him right at the moment Taeshik lunges to kill the leader of the team, Hunter Lee. 

A dumbfounded Song questions Taeshik the reason for doing so, but without bothering to explain, Taeshik shares his plan of covering up his crime by concocting a story to the authorities and emerging as the sole survivor by killing everyone. As the survivor trio decides to defend themselves against Taeshik, Hunter Song takes the lead, asking Jinwoo to take the backseat as he considers an E-ranked Hunter like him to be no match for a B-ranked one. 


Was Jinwoo’s Secret Finally Revealed?

Despite himself being a C-ranked amputee hunter, Song fights quite impressively with the assistance of Lee’s healing and buff effects, shocking Taeshik on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, the murderous Hunter proves to be too strong for him to handle, as Song sustains several injuries while battling him and collapses. Just as Taeshik is about to deal the finishing blow, Jinwoo interrupts and blocks his attack, which surprises everyone present. Taeshik is in shock, seeing an E-ranked Hunter holding his own against him, but quickly deduces that Jinwoo has gone through a Second Awakening, as a false ranker would have been identified by his former peers (Lee and Song in this case). Taeshik also recognizes Jinwoo from their last meeting after the double dungeon incident and is surprised to see him radically changed since then.

Jinwoo asks Taeshik the reason for the wanton bloodshed, who shares his interaction with the grieving father – making it seem like he did everything to avenge his daughter. However, Jinwoo is not to be moved by such a flimsy ruse, as he believes there is more than social justice that motivated Taeshik, as reflected in the way he tortured Kim and Jeongho before their deaths. His assumption is proven true, as it is revealed that Taeshik is a psychopathic killer who takes more pleasure in killing human beings than the otherworldly magic beasts. In fact, he didn’t even need bribes or convincing by the grieving father, as the sole reason he had enlisted himself in the Hunters Association was to seek out chances to fulfill his bloodlust. 


Finally, Taeshik and Jinwoo square off, and the result of the battle goes as expected. Despite being an adept assassin built with heightened stealth skills, which make him invisible during battles, Taeshik meets his end to as Jinwoo activates his ability of murderous intent. As the system identifies Taeshik as a threat, it becomes imperative for Jinwoo to eliminate him. In his final moments, Taeshik is full of admiration for Jinwoo and shares a realization that makes Jinwoo engage in some self-reflection. Taeshik believes it is absurd to believe in conventional morality in the world of hunters, where survival is summed up in the ability to kill. Taeshik realizes that it is not the first time that Jinwoo has taken a life, and at this point he is operating like a killing machine, just like Taeshik was. The difference in the situation, and morality makes little difference. As a dying Taeshik warns Jinwoo against getting corrupted by the drive that motivates him to take lives, Jinwoo admits to himself that ever since he has gotten stronger, something inside him has slowly chipped away, and he fears the worst if he loses it entirely. As we had noticed during Jinwoo’s battle with Dongsuk and his loyalists, a serious question regarding moral implication was raised, and it seems to have a continual lingering impact on his mind as well. After Taeshik’s death, Jinwoo proceeds to clear the dungeon by disposing of the dungeon boss off-screen, and together with Song and Lee, he reports the incident to the Hunters Association after getting out. 

Association Surveillance Chief Hunter Woo arrives at the scene and apologizes on behalf of his deceased, crazed subordinate, Kang Taeshik. As he questions the trio regarding who eliminated a strong Hunter like Taeshik, Jinwoo considers his cover to be finally blown, but gets surprised to see Song and Lee taking the responsibility in his stead. Woo recognizes Jinwoo as well, and in his mind, he is convinced that there is no way that Song could have killed Taeshik. As Woo departs, Song affirms his trust in Jinwoo, stating he must have strong reasons to keep his skill hidden, and as a gesture of gratitude for saving his life twice, the least Song could have done is to keep his secret hidden. Later, as Jinwoo and Lee discuss the eventful day, Lee shows him a mana stone, and the episode ends right there. Viewers will recognize it as the first mana stone that a past, weakened version of Jinwoo attained during the double dungeon incident, and the fact that Lee has held on to it since then speaks much about the friendship the duo share.


The immediate focus of the upcoming episodes will revolve around Jinwoo’s secret, and given how the number of people who have seen him in an empowered state increases by the day, it won’t be long until someone starts questioning the Hunters closely as well. 

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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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