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The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 75 to end

February 20, 2012 5 comments

This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in these episodes so do not read this post if you want the experience of watching the serial unfold onscreen. Further, these episode numbers are based on the terrestrial broadcasts I have seen and not on downloaded or DVD episodes. It’s possible that these numbers do not match your experience.

Well the war with Baekje is not going well. Under the influence of Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil), all the second-rate generals are sent out, in one case with a battle plan drawn up by Kim Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong) in his cell. Bi-Dam will do anything and everything to prevent Yu-Sin from taking any credit for a victory. Emotionally, he’s like a big kid. Deeply in love with the idea of Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) and fanatically jealous of Yu-Sin, he’s forgotten the basic rule. If you want to secure Deokman’s heart, you have to love Silla as much as, if not more than, her. In peace, when she could watch over him and prevent him from getting out of hand, he was a blade and she was the safe hand holding it. Now she’s distracted by war, she casts him adrift. It’s all a little tragic. He describes himself as being like a duck. When he first came out of the metaphorical egg, the first woman he saw was Deokman and he’s imprinted, waddling after her. They meet and Bi-Dam asks why she can no longer see his sincerity. So she takes the time to explain the problem.

Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) and Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) fated never to be a couple

When she was just an ordinary person, no-one had to pretend to be anything other than they were. But when she became a figurehead, everyone stopped treating her naturally. Everyone except for Bi-Dam, that is. He would still wink at her and hold her hand if it was shaking. He remained natural in his reactions to her. So she came to love him. But then he started acting like a kid, becoming so petty and failing to protect her dreams. This sets the poor boy back so he does the right thing. Without prompting, he produces a document swearing on a stack of holy books he will only serve her and go into a monastery if she dies first. He will never seek the throne. Now she hopes he has matured and plans to marry him. However, not trusting he will still be the same man when she dies, she gives Kim Chun Chu (Yu Seung-Ho) written instructions to kill him if he tries to claim the throne.

Behind Bi-Dam’s back, Deokman is working to convince Wol-Ya (Joo Sang-Wook) to come and fight for Silla. In the end, Juk-bang (Lee Mun-Shik) leads them to the Gayan secret camp and Deokman leaves Chun Chu there as a hostage for her good behaviour or as a negotiator for peace. No matter, Bi-Dam is busy trying to persuade Deokman into abandoning the capital and running off to a secret hideout when the Gayans march boldly into the Palace and swear allegiance. At this point, Deokman releases Yu-Sin and gives him absolute military authority. This leaves Bi-Dam looking incompetent. Doekman was able to find the Gayans when he could not.

Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong) and Wol-Ya (Joo Sang-Wook ) finally fighting on the same side

Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong) and Wol-Ya (Joo Sang-Wook ) finally fighting on the same side

Once on the battlefield, not everything goes well with Baekje cavalry. They have a neat trick. The troop has been divided into two units and they are sent to opposite sides of a hill. One unit attacks from side A and then retreats. Minutes later, the second unit attacks from side B. From the Sillan point of view, the enemy cavalry is seemingly able to appear out of thin air. The troops are starting to talk about supernatural power. Even Ko-Do (Ryu Dam) is beaten in raw strength by the cavalry’s leader. This is affecting morale. Fortunately Yu-Sin tests the facts and works out the strategy. He then sets his own trap and with the Gayan archers and their special bows able to shoot far longer distances, they get the invaders on to the retreat. Silla is saved thanks to Yu-Sin — as we all knew it would.

As the peace threatens and the emissaries from the Tangs are due to arrive, Yum-Jong (Eom Hyo-Seop) discovers the secret agreement between Bi-Dam and Deokman. This outrages the nobles who have been supporting him. They want him to be King. So they plot his downfall by bribing the emissaries to embarrass Deokman and then blame Bi-Dam. In his mind, this gives Bi-Dam the same choice he had as a child. Then, he killed the community of thieves that stole the map and lost the love of Moon No. Now he worries he will lose Deokman if he simply kills all the nobles plotting against her. So he delays. Unfortunately, their plans are advancing fast and they bring matters to a head with the arrival of a message by boat and then, when an opportunity presents itself, almost kill Chun Chu. For a moment, Bi-Dam becomes the real focus of attention. His insecurity is now out in the open and, despite words from Deokman that should have reassured him, first Chun Chu and then Yum-Jong shake his confidence that Deokman loves him. So the little lost boy decides that, if Deokman only loves Silla, he’d better become Silla, i.e. rebel and take control.

Chun Chu (Yu Seung-Ho) survives to become King

At a single bound he becomes the rebel general and takes over a part of the capital. This gives the nobles a literal choice of which camp to join. Unwittingly Deokman almost pulls him back from the brink by sending Juk Bang with a letter saying she will abdicate and they can live out their lives in peace together. Unfortunately, he is not inclined to believe the letter is real, an opinion confirmed when Deokman issues a decree branding Bi-Dam an enemy of the state. But there’s still an itch at the back of his mind so Bi-Dam sends out a loyal follower to find out what’s happening. Sadly, he’s intercepted and is not able to deliver the news that Yum-Jong is tricking him. Now Yu-Sin attacks before the rebel troops can all come together. Naturally, the operation is a complete success. Just before victory, Bi-Dam learns he has been tricked by Yum-Jong. Except, when he confronts the man, he’s finally told the truth. All life has done is offer him choices but he chose not to trust others. First, he lost Moon No’s love by failing honestly to report the loss of the map. Had he done so, they could have recovered the map with less destruction and he could have grown by taking responsibility. Then he lost Deokman because he never really believed she would stay loyal to him. All he had to do was believe her love was real and he would have been rewarded. There’s a short scene where Mi-Saeng (Jeong Woong-In) confirms he has been the author of his own downfall. Then we’re into an unnecessarily long sequence where Bi-Dam tries to fight his way through to Deokman only to die a few paces from her. Three days later, Deokman dies (a broken heart aggravating her underlying medical problems).

This is a frustrating end. There’s no sight of Chun Chu taking over the throne. All we get is Yu-sin and Al-Chun (Lee Seung-Hyo) looking old and a tearjerker dream sequence. I’m not saying this is a poor ending. The last few episodes pushed Deokman to one side and we focused on Bi-Dam’s self-destruction. This is not the way I would like to remember Deokman. She may not have been the most effective of rulers, but it’s a sad commentary on the entire enterprise when the production team forget we’re supposed to be following her rise and fall.

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 1 to 6

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 7 to 15

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 16 to 25

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 26 to 32

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 33 to 40

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 41 to 50

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 51 to 62

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 63 to 68

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 69 to 74

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 75 to end

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 69 to 74

January 22, 2012 Leave a comment

This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in these episodes so do not read this post if you want the experience of watching the serial unfold onscreen. Further, these episode numbers are based on the terrestrial broadcasts I have seen and not on downloaded or DVD episodes. It’s possible that these numbers do not match your experience.

Well, after all the excitement of the civil war that wan’t, it’s time to bury the dead. Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) and her loyal supporters wave goodbye to King Jinpyeong (Jo Min-Gi), while the clan bemoans the loss of Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung). Except Seol Won (Jeon No-Min) is already nagging at Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) to aim for the throne. Before this can get too serious, Deokman decides to blame the rebellion on Chil-Sook (Ahn Kil-Kang) and Suk-Poom (Hong Kyoung-In), leaving the Mi-Sil clan free of obvious blame. All they have to do is surrender their weapons and lands, and swear allegiance to Silla. Deokman is castigated by her inner circle for being weak, but she prefers to try and recruit all the people of talent into her government. The rest she will watch. She appoints Bi-Dam as her watcher. He’s to lead a new secret police force, rooting out treason and corruption wherever it can be found. To help him, a special supervision board is established. This has Seol Won, Mi-Saeng (Jeong Woong-In), Bo-Jong (Baek Do-Bin), Ha-Jong (Kim Jung-Hyun) and Yum-Jong (Eom Hyo-Seop) as members. Mi-Saeng and the two boys are less than pleased when they discover Bi-Dam is the committee chair. Se-jong (Dok Ko Yeong Jae) retires to the countryside.

Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) growing into the role of Queen

Deokman continues her policy of working with the people, rewarding those who turned waste land into farm land. She reasons she can build support if the people see the value of land ownership. This also means dismantling the Gayan threat. Although they seem to be integrating reasonably well at ground level, there’s a problem at the top. Now Bi-Dam wearing threatening black and sporting a slight beard, and Yum-Jong come into their own as the new secret service, investigating all threats to security. Wol-Ya (Joo Sang-Wook) is considered a major danger because he has refused to dismantle the Gayan underground. Unfortunately, he’s very close to Kim Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong) so a choice will have to be made by our loyal sidekick. Is he a Gayan or is he a Deokman man? Meanwhile, all the original members of Yu-Sin’s team have grown beards and are increasingly formidable in new armour. Even Ko-Do (Ryu Dam) has blossomed now Juk-bang (Lee Mun-Shik) has moved into a more advisory position with Kim Chun Chu (Yu Seung-Ho) and as a spy for Deokman. The army returns from a big campaign against one of the neighbouring states only to find some of their number being arrested by the Investigation Department. Tensions rise when Bi-Dam orders the arrest of Wol-Ya as the leader of the Gayan underground.

Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) in pursuit of power

All this rather sidelines Deokman as Bi-Dam, egged on by Yum-Jong and Seol Won, sets an elegant trap for Yu-Sin to fall into. Our innocent but lovable lug is arrested and then “rescued” by the terrorists who want him to be King. Why can’t they leave him alone? He just wants to be loyal to Deokman. Such divisiveness between Bi-Dam and Yu-Sin, the left and right hands of government, could split the nobility and build a power base for Bi-Dam just in case he decides he’d like a year or so as King. Stuck in the middle, Deokman fumes, but must wait for Yu-Sin to pull himself out of the pit. Fortunately, the honourable guy walks back into the palace and surrenders himself to whatever punishment is coming his way. Deokman stands in front of the nobles and exiles him. She invites Bi-Dam to assist the reoganisation exercise made necessary by Yu-Sin’s departure but, once she has all the names of those supporting Bi-Dam and the rump of Mi-Sil’s family, they are rejected. Indeed, Bi-Dam is demoted, now reporting to Chun Chu rather than to Deokman directly. She also tells him she will never marry, so he can forget any idea he might have had about become King through marriage. That’s wiped the smile from his face.

Chun Chu (Yu Seung-Ho) now being groomed as the next King

Once he’s out of the capital, the guards hand Yu-Sin a secret message from Deokman. He’s to infiltrate Baekje, the neighbouring state, and steal all its military secrets. Our hero just squares his jaw and sets off with a couple of hench people in tow. They almost have all the secret plans in their hands when they are unmasked. About to be killed, they are rescued by Wol-Ya and his men who are protecting their investment in the next King of Silla. Except, after the rescue, Yu-Sin finally convinces the rebels he will never fulfill their dreams. Instead, he lectures them that they should give up the rebellion and fight for Silla. They stomp off in despair. Messages are sent back to Deokman that a well-placed spy is going to open the gates to one of the key defensive strongholds. But, on his way back to offer more details, Yu-Sin is captured by Bo-jong who’s floating around the countryside spying for Bi-Dam. Unfortunately for Bi-Dam, Deokman is hailing Yu-Sin’s contribution to the war effort and our spy master has lost momentum. Now the race is on to save the stronghold.

Wol-Ya (Hoo Sang-Wook) as the potential saviour of Silla

Except one key part of Yu-Sin’s evidence turns out to be a misinterpretation of the name of the spy and therefore he’s discredited. Only a relatively small force is left to defend the fortress and, when the gates are thrown open and a fire set in the granary, the Baekje forces walk in. Now who’s to lead the army? Bi-Dam recommends Seol Won. Unfortunately, the old guy is not up-to-date with military tactics and has an undeclared heart problem. His troops get beaten back. Now Juk-Bang steps up and organises a meeting between Deokman, Chun Chu and Wol-Ya. The idea is to buy their co-operation by destroying all the evidence of Gayan ancestry. That way no-one will be able to tell Sillan from Gayan and it will end the threat of discrimination. Meanwhile, Yu-Sin is increasingly upset that the enemy is advancing. He begs Bi-Dam to be allowed to do something about it. After he has saved Silla, Bi-Dam can kill him if that’s what he wants. When Seol Won dies of a heart attack, Bi-Dam is out of options. I’m sad to see Seol Won go. He was always the calm, quiet one sitting beside Mi-Sil but he, more than any of the others, had keen intelligence and could actually help her assess strategy. Literally, she would not have survived were it not for his loyalty. In his own terms, his motives for helping Bi-Dam are legitimate in advancing the Mi-Sil cause. More importantly, he’s also quick to step forward in defence of Silla. Whatever his faults, he remains a loyal patriot, a real man of talent.

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 1 to 6

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 7 to 15

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 16 to 25

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 26 to 32

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 33 to 40

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 41 to 50

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 51 to 62

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 63 to 68

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 69 to 74

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 75 to end

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 63 to 68

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in these episodes so do not read this post if you want the experience of watching the serial unfold onscreen. Further, these episode numbers are based on the terrestrial broadcasts I have seen and not on downloaded or DVD episodes. It’s possible that these numbers do not match your experience.

Well now Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) decides to follow the advice of her ancestor King Jin-heung (Lee Soon_Jae) who, when caught by a tiger, pushed his arm further into the beast’s mouth until his small knife could reach the creature’s vital spot. She may be weaker but she’s got Kim Chun Chu (Yu Seung-Ho) who can take over if anything happens to her. So she publicly surrenders to Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung) in front of the envoys from the Central Plains and demands a public trial. Meanwhile, Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) is all upset because no-one asked his opinion (as if he has any track-record for giving good advice) and Chun Chu sets off to talk to the lesser nobles who have troops under their command. Mi-Sil will have to control them if she’s to be safe.

Chun Chi (Yu Seung-Ho) and Yum-Jong (Eom Hyo-Seop) now on the side of light

Mi-Sil calculates she can use the excuse of the public trial to call all the nobles together and then intimidate them. Unfortunately, come the day, Chun Chu has done his job well and almost no-one turns up. Bi-Dam pretends to be Moon No to get the Hwarang to rise up and free King Jinpyeong (Jo Min-Gi), and then there’s a desperate rush to save Deokman. At this point, we get a silly supernatural element to round off the symbolism of the King’s knife. Mi-Sil gets tired of watching Deokman’s smirk, so she picks up a bow and lets fly an arrow. Unfortunately, Deokman is wearing the dagger around her neck and the arrow hits it — better than kevlar, neither Deokman nor the knife has a scratch. At this point, it’s abandon ship for the Mi-Sil group who decide to fight their way out of the Palace. On the way out, Mi-Sil discovers someone has stolen the order from King Jin-heung she be killed. Seol Won gave it to her and she’s kept it all these years. It’s So-Hwa (Seo Young-Hee)’s revenge from beyond the grave that Deokman now has it. Except, of course, when she asks Bi-Dam to go and fetch it from where it was buried, he reads it and keeps it.

Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung) and Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) out for a ramble before the revolution

With Seol Won (Jeon No-Min) leading from the front, the Mi-Sil faction fight their way out of the capital and set up in a supposedly impregnable fortress. This is now heading towards civil war. Except something Juk-bang (Lee Mun-Shik) proposes as a strategy inspires Bi-Dam to suggest poisoning the water supply. Deokman smiles. As an honourable fighter, it’s not something she would do but she can create rumours that it’s being done. Many inside now lose their nerve and defect. This pressures Mi-Sil to meet with Deokman, but the offer of a truce and an active partnership to promote the future wellbeing of Silla is rejected. As she leaves, Bi-Dam takes Mi-Sil to one side and tells her that he has the execution order given by King Jin-heung. As her son, he’s protecting her name for now. It’s actually quite an affecting moment as the two seem to be coming more comfortable in their relationship. I wonder when Bi-Dam will tell Deokman of his parentage. Unfortunately, border troops loyal to Mi-Sil now decide to come to her aid and enemies who have been waiting for just such an indiscretion, cross into Silla. Now both sides of the potential civil war come under pressure. Neither Deokman nor Mi-Sil want to encourage attack from outside.

Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) and Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) have their first tender moment

The area of Silla where the foreign troops have entered is one which Mi-Sil physically fought to secure. She spilled her own blood there. The idea this duel with Deokman is weakening the Kingdom is enough to defeat her. Having rejected a partnership, her pride leaves only one way out. She therefore takes poison and orders Seol Won to surrender all troops except the border group which is immediately to return to eject the invaders. Bi-Dam rushes to her side, perhaps hoping for an acknowledgement of maternity from Mi-Sil. But all he gets is a lecture on the nature of love. According to Mi-Sil, love means selfishly taking everything and everyone into your power. Bi-Dam says he will love in his own way which is Deokman and Silla, but not necessarily in that order.

Deokman arrives to find Mi-Sil dead and Bi-Dam in tears. He runs off with Kim Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong) in pursuit. We then have time and geography subject to extraordinary manipulation. Deokman organises the surrender and deals with Seol Won. Chil-Sook (Ahn Kil-Kang) and Suk-Poom (Hong Kyoung-In) decide to defy the order to surrender and set off to kill Deokman. Suk-Poom organises a diversionary attack while Chil-Sook sets off in pursuit of Deokman. All four players then end up in the same place. Deokman arrives to prevent Yu-Sin and Bi-Dam fighting. Finally, she hears of the family relationship from Bi-Dam and gives him a reassuring hug just as Chil-Sook arrives — these GPS tracking devices work so well. The combined skills of our two heros then defeat Chil-Sook whose heart is not completely in the venture. He dies with So-Hwa’s name on his lips. A formal planning meeting in the field is then interrupted with news King Jinpyeong is finally about to die. A desperate ride back to the capital gives her a moment at his bedside with Queen Ma Ya (Yoon Yoo Sun) before he gives up the ghost and goes to find his lost daughter.

Chil Sook (Ahn Kil-Kang) finally bows out in a blaze of glory

This is an appropriate time to reflect on progress to date. I long ago gave up real interest in the detail of this serial. The character of Deokman started off really likeable as a teen but rapidly became rather tedious and unattractive. Even allowing for the difficulties she’s had to face, I find it very difficult to understand why she has inspired such loyalty. She’s clever but not really a sociable people person. For quite a long time, Mi-Sil was the more interesting figure. Her calm malevolence was entertaining except the appalling melodrama of the production wore me down. Every time we saw her, there had to be a close-up of her lips compressing and eyebrows twitching. I’m glad this overused device will now be restricted to Deokman. It should speed up the story.

It was equally interesting to see Seol Won emerge as the only one in Mi-Sil’s immediate circle who had any intelligence. Se-jong (Dok Ko Yeong Jae) and the two official sons are lightweights. Mi-Saeng (Jeong Woong-In) has potential, but he wastes it as a dilettante and rather dissolute figure. Perhaps we should be sad to see King Jinpyeong finally leave the way clear for Deokman to mount the throne, but he was an annoyingly ineffective figure. Having lost Mi-Sil as the primary antagonist, I suppose we now have to watch Deokman deal with the rump of the nobility that’s left. Settling everyone down after the civil war that wasn’t, will be a challenge, but one that’s more diffuse unless Bi-Dam decides he’s got royal blood in his veins and throws his hat into the ring alongside Chun Chu. That would liven things up in the stakes as to who should succeed Deokman.

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 1 to 6

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 7 to 15

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 16 to 25

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 26 to 32

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 33 to 40

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 41 to 50

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 51 to 62

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 63 to 68

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 69 to 74

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 75 to end

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 51 to 62

This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in these episodes so do not read this post if you want the experience of watching the serial unfold onscreen. Further, these episode numbers are based on the terrestrial broadcasts I have seen and not on downloaded or DVD episodes. It’s possible that these numbers do not match your experience.

Now the time Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) spent in the trading centre pays dividends as she plays the market, selling the army’s store of grain to stem the panic buying and, when the nobles realise their investment values are falling, continuing to sell until she triggers panic selling. When the panic sets in, she stops selling and, through a corrupt associate of Moon No (Jung Ho Bin) and Kim Chun Chu (Yu Seung-Ho), Yum-Jong (Eom Hyo-Seop), buys at the bottom price making a major profit. When the nobles complain and try to make an order she not interfere in commercial matters, she provokes them into fighting among themselves and completes her first victory over them. Even Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung) looks a little bent out of shape as her plan of forcing the independent farmers out of business comes to naught. Kim Chun Chu is apparently following Mi-Saeng (Jeong Woong-In) into the underworld and is still considered a good catch by Mi-Sil’s camp while Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) is working more successfully with Deokman. You can see the look in his eye with Kim Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong) marrying himself off.

Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) and Chun Chu (Yu Seung-Ho ) working together

Ha-Jong (Kim Jung-Hyun) now tries to provoke a new crisis when the tenants farming his land have a pest infestation and lose half their crop. When Deokman intervenes, there’s the first really interesting discussion with Mi-Sil. It boils down to this. Mi-Sil has been a formidable ruler behind the scenes, but Silla has not prospered. It has stagnated. Deokman offers the critique this is because she has no long-term vision. She’s only in it for short-term profit. It comes down to the mentality of ownership. The owner of a country feels no need to help the people who live there. So long as they pay their rent, they are free to live or die as they please. But the mother of a country cares about her children and wants them to prosper. Mi-Sil fires back that Deokman is naive. The people are like scared children so will never take responsibility for themselves. The only thing you can trust them to do is take whatever you give them.

Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) and Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung) still not acknowledging the mother/son relationship

To prove the point, Deokman gives the rebellious farmers some virgin land, some high-quality tools to till the land and enough food to see them through the harvest. They take the food and refuse the land so, to show she’s not to be messed with, she takes a sword and personally kills their two leaders. Now there are to be soldiers based there to encourage them to farm independently. Back in the palace, the King Jinpyeong (Jo Min-Gi) has heart problems and plans to marry Deokman off except she refuses to be a part of this succession process, demanding she be named the heir. She is, after all, of the royal blood. This is interesting because, with the world indelibly patriarchal, no-one has considered the possibility of a Queen. But with there being no other direct descendant of a King to hand, she has a good claim. At this point, Chun Chu enters the fray and convinces Mi-Sil that she should sponsor his claim for the throne. Once in the meeting to discuss the regency, he dismisses the notion of royal blood as foolishness and asserts he has a better right as a man. His father only failed to be royal on a technicality so his right should be recognised. In fact this is designed to set Seol Won (Jeon No-Min) against Se-jong (Dok Ko Yeong Jae), a device he pushes forward by abducting Seol Won’s daughter and marrying her. If he does become King, this will make Seol Won one of the royal family and Se-jong will be out.

Seol Won (Jun Noh Min) who genuinely deserves to be by Mi-Sil's side

So now there’s a moment of peace before the storm. Deokman meets with Chun Chu and speculates his plan will fail because he has failed to take account of two factors. In that eventuality, she offers him a helping hand. Bi-Dam goes on a ramble in the country with Mi-Sil, who holds on to his arm as if she was his mother. And Seol Won and Se-jong start to mobilise their factions in case there’s trouble. In fact, the sons act rashly and kidnap the other’s father. But Seol Won’s basic common sense wins through and there’s no actual fighting. Mi-Sil now emerges from her retreat with the decision she will bid for the throne in her own right. Deokman has broken the mould by putting herself forward as Queen and Chun Chu has undermined the concept of royal blood. She will trade on her years of service to the nation as justifying her claim. So Chun Chu’s attempt failed because he badly underestimated Seol Won and Mi-Sil failed to respond as he predicted. Indeed, the very idea that Mi-Sil would allow such a primitive plot to work was naive from the outset.

So-Hwa (Seo Young-Hee) and Chil Sook (Ahn Kil-Kang) foreshadow the tragedy

So now Chun Chu joins up with Deokman and they’re out to split the nobles with a tax reform proposal. The idea is simple. If they peel away Mi-Sil’s support, she will not win democratically. Since she values her reputation, she will also probably not attempt a coup. As anticipated, the nobles’ Council is seen to block the proposal so all the smaller landowners are angry. This provokes a coup attempt from M-Sil. Seol Won manipulates the Princess’ faction into appearing to stage their own coup. The palace guards are ordered to arrest everyone and we spend a long time watching first Juk-bang (Lee Mun-Shik) and Ko-Do (Ryu Dam) rescue the Princess and Chun Chu. Then Yu-Sin gets them to the gate and Bi-Dam gets Deokman and Chun Chu through the gate and away. This leaves Yu-Sin arrested, the King and Queen under guard, and So-Hwa (Seo Young-Hee) locked away under the Holy Shrine where, by coincidence, Juk-Bang is wondering around looking for a way out. Needless to say, he falls over So-Hwa and they escape together to join up with Deokman (carrying what might prove to be a vital piece of paper from Mi-Sil’s collection).

We now get into an attempted rescue that ends in tragedy. A small team infiltrates the prison complex and spirits Yu-Sin away as a dead body. Chil-Sook (Ahn Kil-Kang) is alert and follows them, trapping Deokman, So-Hwa, Yu-Sin and Wol-Ya (Joo Sang-Wook) in one of their hideouts. We then get an extremely unlikely escape strategy that enables all but So-Hwa to escape. Because he believes the masked figure to be Deokman, Chil Sook acts on Mi-Sil’s order to kill. Needless to say, he’s devastated when he realises what his blind obedience has led him to do. When Wol-Ya brings back So-Hwa’s body, we have both Deokman and Juk-Bang wailing out their misery (except whereas Lee Yo-Won produces buckets of tears, Lee Mun-Shik is dry-faced). When they are all cried out, Deokman announces she’s had enough lurking in the bushes. She’s going to come out fighting.

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 1 to 6

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 7 to 15

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 16 to 25

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 26 to 32

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 33 to 40

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 41 to 50

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 51 to 62

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 63 to 68

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 69 to 74

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 75 to end

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 41 to 50

December 20, 2011 2 comments

This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in these episodes so do not read this post if you want the experience of watching the serial unfold onscreen. Further, these episode numbers are based on the terrestrial broadcasts I have seen and not on downloaded or DVD episodes. It’s possible that these numbers do not match your experience.

Well, there are lots of tears shed and, for the first time in many years, both Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) and So-Hwa (Seo Young-Hee) can feel happier, but there’s still a general conspiracy not to tell Deokman everything that’s been happening. The poor thing must be protected from further shocks. There’s even some kind of reconciliation between So-Hwa and Chil-Sook (Ahn Kil-Kang). He may be loyal to Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung) because he feels there’s no-one else to protect him but, in the best traditions of Romeo and Juliet, there’s no reason why a maid and a warrior can’t be friends. This seems to create a love triangle because Juk-bang (Lee Mun-Shik) is obviously attracted to her. Moon No (Jung Ho Bin) now comes back into the reckoning with a literal bang, beating almost all the Hwarang in combat — what a pathetic bunch of fighters these young professionals are. Now we have confirmation Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) is Mi-Sil’s abandoned son by King Jin-heung so he also has royal blood flowing in his veins. It seems Moon No intended him to marry the twin Princess and they fight Mi-Sil together. Now Moon No comes to interview Deokman to see if she’s up for the job. He also insists on a competition by combat to decide who should lead the Hwarang. Needless to say, Bo-Jong (Baek Do-Bin) is quietly confident.

Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil), Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong), Al-Chun (Lee Seung-Hyo ) and Bo-Jong (Baek Do-Bin) ready for combat

The competition gets underway and Bo-Jong wins the observation round but the second task requires us to have an extended flashback to understand why Mi-Sil would want to hide the old King’s dream of uniting the three kingdoms into one. While Deokman gets her head into the research, Bi-Dam gets very interested in who his parents were. We also find out that, when he was young, he killed a large number of men, women and children. After that, Moon No treated him as the sociopath he seems to be. To explain, Moon No had been travelling the three kingdoms mapping out the land for potential invasion. The people Bi-Dam killed stole the maps when he was carrying them. In his eyes he was merely protecting the value of the work done. This second test is also a problem since it involves publicly admitting the nature of the dream. The other two kingdoms would obviously interpret this as a threat to their sovereignty and prepare for war. Anyway, Deokman works out what the dream is and Kim Yu-Sin wins the second round with a watered-down version of the dream. Now it’s into the arena for combat with Bi-Dam insisting he has a right to fight.

Moon No (Jung Ho Bin ) looking older but no wiser

This gets a bit boring as the combat is drawn out to show Bi-Dam allowed to fight and then trying to take a dive to allow Kim Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong) to win. Needless to say, a foul is called, Hwarang honour has been besmirched, and so Yu-Sin can only become top dog if he can survive repeated attack by Chil-Sook. Not surprisingly, he aces this challenge, even impressing Bo-Jong. In all this, it’s hilarious to see the production values. A few thousand spent on CGI would have produced a crowd to watch the contest. With the whole cast standing around the arena, people are spread a bit thin. When it comes to his accession to the leadership position, Yu-Sin is challenged over his deal with the Gayans. Now to avoid all his plans coming unstuck, he seems to abandon Deokman and agrees to marry one of Mi-Sil’s many relatives.

Kim Chun Chu (Yu Seung-Ho ) already plotting

Meanwhile, Kim Chun Chu (Yu Seung-Ho) the legitimate son of Princess Cheon-Myeong (Park Yeh-Jin) has appeared. He first seems very dim and annoys everyone from his escort back to the capital, Dae Nam-Bo (Ryu Sang-Wook), to Juk-bang who explains what’s happening in the capital, talking as if to a child. However, given the way he acts around Mi-Saeng (Jeong Woong-In) in following him to brothels and gambling dens, there’s a lot more to him than meets the eye. For the record, Mi-Sil is planning to marry him off to another of her clan at the earliest opportunity.

So-Hwa (Seo Young-Hee) back in the palace again

Bi-Dam now discovers Moon No is planning to give the plans for possible invasion of the other two kingdoms to Yu-Sin. This does not make our boy a happy bunny. There’s a fight with the Master more than holding his own before a poison dart flies from behind a tree and fells the old guy. Without a pause, our boy picks him up and runs with him for help. Just before he dies, Moon No realises he messed up the upbringing of his protégé. Instead of teaching him, he repressed him as if he was always going to be a killer. It’s sad Moon No has to die in this way. We should forgive him for being such a self-righteous and inflexible twit, unlike Yu-Sin who’s prepared to surrender his values and go through a marriage ceremony to save his Gayans. As Deokman recognises, this has earned their eternal loyalty and gratitude. In a way, it has begin the process of making a single unit out of Silla.

Bi-Dam hides the fact of Moon No’s death and has himself appointed one of the Hwarang Captains. He’s now on the warpath to take revenge, tracking down the man immediately responsible for Moon No’s death. But he also discovers the reason for taking the book was to give it to Kim Chun Chu. Interestingly, it turns out our boy prince has a photographic memory. Now that’s a useful ability to be hiding behind a mask of slow stupidity. Meanwhile, back in the capital, there’s a sudden and dramatic increase in the price of food with all the nobles hoarding everything they can buy. Even in those days, it seems you had to speculate to accumulate.

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 1 to 6

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 7 to 15

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 16 to 25

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 26 to 32

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 33 to 40

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 41 to 50

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 51 to 62

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 63 to 68

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 69 to 74

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 75 to end

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 33 to 40

December 6, 2011 2 comments

This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in these episodes so do not read this post if you want the experience of watching the serial unfold onscreen. Further, these episode numbers are based on the terrestrial broadcasts I have seen and not on downloaded or DVD episodes. It’s possible that these numbers do not match your experience.

Well, with a single bound, Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) has gone from quivering jelly to Princess of the Royal Blood. Instead of being one of the lads, she’s “touch-me-not, I’m your master or mistress depending on which clothes I’m wearing”. While I don’t mind this as applied to Al-Chun (Lee Seung-Hyo) who’s always seemed a bit of a sub, it’s grossly unfair to Kim Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong). He’s given up everything out of love and now finds himself relegated to the position of Loyal Follower No. 2. The only one who seems to find this a bit odd is Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) who, instead of throwing himself on his knees begging to be disciplined, just pursed his lips and kept his powder dry until episode 40 when knees met the ground. So Al-Chun delivers messages to King Jinpyeong (Jo Min-Gi) and Queen Ma Ya (Yoon Yoo Sun) while the Leader and her two minions plot the downfall of Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung).

Princess Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) finally dressing as a woman

Meanwhile back at the Palace, the Queen curses Mi-Sil which impreses all on-lookers but not Mi-Sil who’s busy planning to offer Mi-Saeng (Jeong Woong-In) and Se-Ri (Song Ok-Suk) the chance to drink some poison for betraying her. Her brother talks his way out of it. Deokman infiltrates the Palace and with the help of the Queen, confronts Se-Ri who’s busy trying to decide whether to take the poison. When the seer “sees” Deokman, she sees the future Queen. With great powers come great responsibilities so, when she hears Mi-Sil coming, she waves Deokman behind a screen, takes the poison as Mi-Sil looks on and tells the hidden Deokman to go to the Reverend Wol-Chun (Oh Yeong-Su) for guidance on astrological matters. Unfortunately, before she can get there, the Gayan underground movement storm the temple and take the Reverend away.

Deokman sends Kim Yu-Sin away. Every time she sees him, she just wants to throw herself in his arms and be a commoner. So, if she’s to make herself the Queen, he’s gotta go. Dejected, he wanders off to see his parents who tell him the Gayans are on the warpath. He therefore arranges for them to capture him and, as with all the best alien films, he’s able to say, “Take me to your leader” with a straight face. Once he meets their leader, he’s able to strike a deal for making everything right again. As on cue, Deokman, Bi-Dam and Ah-Chin attempt to infiltrate the Gayan compound to rescue the Reverend. They are, of course, captured but then immediately released when Kim Yu-Sin introduces her as the next leader of Silla. This provokes everyone to drop to their knees in amazement. During this mass self-abasement, Kim Yu-Sin pulls Deokman to one side and gets in a quick hug before telling her to go off and be the Queen-in-waiting. She then sets about explaining to the Reverend why he should tell her when the solar eclipse is to come. There’s some modern politics on display at this point with the Reverend pulling the usual scientist’s defence: we only make the tools, people decide whether to use them for good or evil. Deokman responds by making him feel guilty his last prediction was used to oppress his fellow Gayans. As a friendly gesture, Deokman sends a message to Mi-Sil she has the Reverend. This comes on top of the decision by the rather stupid Ha-jong (Kim Jung-Hyun) to leak the news of the twins to the people. It never rains but it pours.

Kim Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae Woong) wondering why love is so hard

Now comes the push from both sides. Mi-Saeng has the magic fountain in the marketplace overflow with blood as flocks of birds die around royal sites. So much for the ill omens. Deokman responds with luminous birds flying around the Princess’ palace and then Bi-Dam appears before the fountain and has a broken stone rise. This contains a prophesy there will be an eclipse to show an ending of the old regime represented by the death of the Princess and, as the light returns, there will be a new Princess and the Heavens will smile on Silla. Most of this sleight of hand is due to Bo-Jong (Baek Do-Bin) who has now found his way back into the fold and is forging the inscription on the stone and out spreading rumours. Deokman has briefed Bi-Dam this is all a bluff, that the Reverend has refused to give her a reliable date. The intention is therefore to provoke Mi-Sil into announcing there will be an eclipse and then lose credibility when the sun remains untouched. Bi-Dam does his best but, in the end, he falls for a simple trap and discloses his belief there will be no eclipse by trying to escape. Kim Yu-Shin also does his best to lie to Mi-Sil but she sees right through him. Then there’s the wording of the Reverend’s declaration. In the past, he never gave an exact date. He always hedged his bet because the science is not yet precise. And all the royal family are encouraging her to announce there will be an eclipse. It’s all so transparent to Mi-Sil who announces there will be no eclipse and that she will burn Bi-Dam as a traitorous conman. So it comes as a real surprise when they have Bi-Dam on top of a pyre and the sun goes out. And when the first shafts of the returning sunlight touch the adjacent tower, who should be there but our girl. With the right people in the crowd to shout out encouragement, she’s hailed as the saviour of Silla and immediately confirmed as the Princess we never knew we had.

Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) is recaptured after attempting escape

Deokman’s first act is to announce the building of a Royal Observatory with the Reverend in charge. He will teach the people how to calculate the seasons and understand the movement of the planets and stars. This supplants the mystery of the Seer and moves the battle on to the secular political stage. There’s now an interesting discussion about power and how to rule between Deokman and Mi-Sil. It all comes down to giving the people hope for a better quality of life vs tell the ignorant and superstitious what to do. And, with the subtlety for which Korean drama is famed, we then have a scene with the common folk completely convinced the Heaven-sent Princess is building a new shrine from which to make her predictions. It’s going to be an uphill battle to rule this uneducated lot without exploiting their ignorance through fear and superstition.

Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung) wondering what it would actually be like on the throne

In a hut out in the countryside, So-Hwa (Seo Young-Hee) has been in a coma but troops loyal to Kim have been following some of the captains in Mi-Sil’s camp. While they watch the hut, a maid emerges. This is So-Hwa making a break for freedom. Korean medicine was really something. She wakes from a coma of a month or so, overpowers a healthy maid and then takes off across the countryside like a startled rabbit. Soon everyone is chasing after her. By coincidence, Deokman is in the neighborhood to bless the site for the observatory and, after a confrontation between Moon No (Jung Ho Bin) and Chil-Sook (Ahn Kil-Kang) who both just happen to be out and about, there’s a tearful reunion between Deokman and her “mother” — a heartwarming note on which to finish.

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 1 to 6

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 7 to 15

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 16 to 25

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 26 to 32

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 33 to 40

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 41 to 50

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 51 to 62

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 63 to 68

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 69 to 74

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 75 to end

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 26 to 32

November 22, 2011 2 comments

This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in these episodes so do not read this post if you want the experience of watching the serial unfold onscreen. Further, these episode numbers are based on the terrestrial broadcasts I have seen and not on downloaded or DVD episodes. It’s possible that these numbers do not match your experience.

I suppose I’m the wrong gender to appreciate this but if I found out I was a royal princess, the last thing I would do is sit on a rock for 24 hours and howl like a banshee. First, people would think someone had died (banshees have a terrible reputation) and second it might attract the wrong people to find out who was making such a racket. I might get a bit upset that people were trying to kill me but finding out I was brought up by a palace maid does not seem to justify this degree of despair. But if that’s how the script writers want to keep Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) out of the palace for a day, I suppose I’ll just have to accept it. While she’s away, everyone works out who she is except King Jinpyeong (Jo Min-Gi) who seems to be living in a bubble protected from outside influences by Eul Jae (Shin Goo) who, if I understand him properly, is one of these guys who will stop at nothing to defend his view of what the royalty should be, no matter what they think about it. Queen Ma Ya (Yoon Yoo Sun) meets her other daughter and is now lining up to protect her as best she can.

Kim Nam-Gil and Uhm Tae-Woong lining up with Lee Yo-Won

Meanwhile, Juk-bang (Lee Mun-Shik) gets kidnapped and spills the beans to Seol Won (Jeon No-Min). It was Doekman wot made me plant the petition, the battered figure gasps. Chil-Sook (Ahn Kil-Kang) conveniently gets his eyesight back just in time to see Deokman riding out of the palace with Kim Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong) pursued by Al-Chun (Lee Seung-Hyo) and Im-Jong (Kang Ji-Hoo). Passing on the news of the surviving twin to Mi-Sil makes it another perfect day for her.

So now everyone has to decide what to do. Eul Jae decides Deokman has to die so that the line of succession can be maintained. He therefore plans to marry Princess Cheon-Myeong (Park Yeh-Jin) to Kim Yu-Sin and offers this as a bribe to Kim Seo-Hyeon (Jeong Seong-Mo) to track down his son, rescue him and resolve the problem. Reluctantly to protect the interests of his clan, Papa Kim agrees. Mi-Sil decides she wants Deokman alive so that the whole story of the twins can be exposed, the King deposed and the country fall into her hands. She has spies everywhere and follow Papa Kim as he sets off to meet his son with loyal mercenaries by his side. They are poised to wait at a hut close to villages where the plague has hit. Papa Kim will send Deokman there to hide.

Kim Nam-Gil deciding who to support

Now Bi-Dam (Kim Nam-Gil) wanders into view (it’s about time we get to meet him) and, more importantly to catch a glance of Moon No (Jung Ho Bin) trying to help those sick with the plague. Now with everyone converging on the hut, battle lines will grow more clear. As befits a pupil of Moon No, Bi-Dam drives the first wave of kidnappers away and rescues Deokman. However, when Seol Won offers him access to a quantity of wild ginger, he agrees to deliver Deokman. He therefore locks up Kim Yu-Sin and ties Deokman to a tree.

Meanwhile, Mi-Sil is making her first moves. She produces Chil Sook in public where he testifies there was a twin and she’s still alive. However, the script writers have signalled Mi-Sil getting too sure of herself. When Se-Ri (Song Ok-Suk) the high priestess and a wise counsellor suggests Mi-Sil may be defying Heaven’s Will, our lady curls her lip in contempt and denies the power of anything supernatural to disturb her plans. Obviously, there will be a price to pay for her overconfidence. At this point I feel the need for another rant. I understand Mi-Sil is supposed to be the super evilest person on the face of the planet at this time in history, but the endlessly melodramatic slow close-ups of her as she plots her next wicked moves and twitches that little smile as she imagines all her enemies falling to dust — well all that’s growing really annoying. It drags out the minutes when we could be getting on with the story and just makes her look silly.

Lee Seun-Hyo as hwarang Al-Chun getting a little more screen time now

Back on the battlefield, Bi-Dam hands over Deokman to Seol Won and then decides to rescue her when Moon No is distressed at the price he paid to get the ginger. I suppose this is Mi-Sil’s bad blood warring with hard training methods from the good Moon No, but this boy is swinging wildly between twerp and hero with nothing in between. Anyway, between them, Yu-Sin and Bi-Dam rescue Doekman who was planning suicide by Seol Won. They jump off a cliff into a river and then hide in a cave. When challenged as to why he’s risking his life, Kim Yu-Sin comes close to saying he’s in love with Deokman — now there’s a surprise. In the palace, the Princess commissions Al-Chon to accompany her to discuss matters with Kim Seo-Hyeon. There’s now the makings of a small army lining up to rescue Deokman. As a good seer, the Priestess foresees bad omens and, when Mi-Sil refuses to listen, she persuades Mi-Saeng (Jeong Woong-In) to take action to kill Deokman before it’s too late. This leads to a long episode when the sisters variously dress as a warrior and women, thoroughly confusing all those in pursuit. Variously Seol Won, Bo-Jong (Baek Do-Bin) and Suk-Poom (Hong Kyoung-In) wander round the countryside and the assassin (Dae Nam-Bo — Ryu Sang-Wook) one of Mi-Saeng’s many sons) with poisoned arrows finally manages to shoot the Princess.

Park Ye-Jin bids farewell as the Princess

We now have an attempt to get into the Guinness Books of Records for the longest death scene on television. While Deokman and Bi-Dam do the miraculous dash across the landscape filled with soldiers looking for them, the Princess and Kim exchange a few acting pointers in a cave as Al-Chon goes out looking for herbs to help slow the poison. Needless to say, Deokman is too late. The Princess has finally given up on her record-breaking attempt. This leaves Al-Chon to ferry the body back towards civilisation while Deokman does her imitation of a shivering jelly for three days and nights.

Meanwhile Seol Won has captured the assassin who’s not saying too much, and then has a stand-off with Kim Seo-Hyeon that would have turned nasty had the Princess not been wheeled into view. Urgent word is sent to the court. King and Queen are devastated. Eul Jae says he’ll take the blame. Mi-Sil is frustrated because she can’t really pursue the question of the twins with the Princess dead. Mi-Saeng and the Seer are in fear because they have caused the death of the wrong twin. I suppose it’s all boiled up to a pivotal moment but I’m underwhelmed by it all.

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 1 to 6

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 7 to 15

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 16 to 25

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 26 to 32

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 33 to 40

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 41 to 50

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 51 to 62

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 63 to 68

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 69 to 74

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 75 to end

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 16 to 25

November 13, 2011 Leave a comment

This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in these episodes so do not read this post if you want the experience of watching the serial unfold onscreen. Further, these episode numbers are based on the terrestrial broadcasts I have seen and not on downloaded or DVD episodes. It’s possible that these numbers do not match your experience.

Well, the troop is full of confidence now they have been formally accepted as part of the Hwarang. They also discover the perks of free food courtesy of the state and the delights of female company to cook and serve it —supposedly they are kept at arm’s length but this doesn’t apply to Juk-bang (Lee Mun-Shik). The officers meet for a ceremonial drink. Bo-Jong (Baek Do-Bin) and Suk-Poom (Hong Kyoung-In) insult Kim Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong) who gets drunk and passes out while talking with Deokman (Lee Yo-Won). This gives Princess Cheon-Myeong (Park Yeh-Jin) a chance to sneak in for a chat still disguised as a nun. This is getting to be a more common feature as the twins find themselves comfortable in each other’s presence. Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung) refuses to do anything to attack Kim Seo-Hyeon (Jeong Seong-Mo). His return from the campaign has left him highly popular and it would be too obvious to bump him off immediately he returns to the court. There’s then an interesting piece of realpolitick. Mi-Sil explains her camp will always be disadvantaged because they are not of royal blood. They only have power because of the alliances they make. They cannot simply seize the throne. It will require support from all the major power brokers. If she’s known as too quick to kill her enemies, too many will keep their distance.

Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) under torture

Seol Won (Jeon No-Min) is angry he failed to kill Kim Seo-Hyeon on the battlefield and Bo-Jong takes this as a hint he should arrange for the man to die. He instructs an archer to lay in wait as the general leaves the evening meal to celebrate victory. As our fairly drunk Kim Seo-Hyeon passes close by where the Princess and Deokman are chatting, the assassin shoots an arrow but misses. However, he’s able to pin the blame on Deokman as the Princess runs off.

When the Princess returns to the palace King Jinpyeong (Jo Min-Gi) and Queen Ma Ya (Yoon Yoo Sun) are waiting for her. Upset she’s going to damage her status if she’s found to be flirting with the common troops, she’s confined to barracks and the royals prepare to let Deokman die. Fortunately Kim Yu-Sin is on the case. He leaks the news he’s found the nun and is going to get her. When Bo-Jong hears this, he sends the archer out again, but he’s caught and brought into the compound where Deokman is being tortured to death. The heroic assassin confesses his guilt and runs on to a sword held by Kim Yu-Sin. At this point, the Princess does a jail-break and runs into the compound. If anyone says anything to tie the Princess to Deokman, this could get difficult for everyone. Except Deokman passes out (such are the penalties of a torture session) and the King arrives which distracts everyone.

Princess (Park Yeh-Jin) to the rescue

Yet again, I want to complain about the fundamental stupidity of this cross dressing device. Even if she could manage to avoid detection while living in the same accommodation as the men and on the battlefield, how come the torturers didn’t notice. More to the point, I understand that medical science was weak in those distant days, but the Princess sends the Royal Physician to treat Deokman when she was released from torture. How could this doctor not tell the difference between a man and a woman? More importantly, did no-one undress her to see how badly injured she was or make arrangements for a change of clothes? Even more incredible is the speed of her recovery. She’s immediately up and walking. A day or so later, she’s running through the woods. So much for the effectiveness of the torture. Perhaps the torturers should go into spa management specialising in foot therapy.

We now get into what’s obviously going to be the next set-piece. When King Jin Heung was alive, he instructed Moon No to search for the source of Mi-Sil’s rise to power. The King Jinpyeong decides the Princess should take over this work. Moon No wrote a cryptic note about “Sadaham’s Plum Blossom” in his journal. The Princess, Eul Jae (Shin Goo), Deokman and Kim Yu-Sin try to make sense of that phrase, concluding it must have something to do with the early love affair between Mi-Sil and Sadaham. However, we then have Doekman and Kim Yu-Sin scouting a temple mentioned in the journal. They hide in plain sight and overhear a conversation between one of the monks and Mi-Sil’s brother Mi-Saeng (Jeong Woong-In) confirming that the Plum Blossom is on the way with a trade delegation due to arrive soon. This now confirms this magic ingredient as something to be imported and Deokman is going to infiltrate the mission to find out what it is. A raid on the temple finds Mi-Sil enjoying a quiet retreat for prayer and nothing else of significance.

Who would have thought a knowledge of how to cook curry would get Deokman through the door of the trade delegation’s accommodation. Anyway, with Juk-bang to pick the pocket of the suspect merchant and then cut a duplicate key, we have Deokman open the box and find herself looking at her own childhood book and the personal identity tag carried by her “mother” So-Hwa (Seo Young-Hee).

Kim Yu-Sin (Uhm Tae-Woong) discusses strategy with Deokman

Now we have two flashbacks to explain what’s going on. Chil-Sook (Ahn Kil-Kang) dug So-Hwa out of the sand and has been carefully looking after her while slowly working his way back to the capital. In a letter, he reports both maid and twin died in the fire. He sends the message to Mi-Sil through the merchant carrying the Plum Blossom. As to Mi-Sil, she had a passionate affair with Sadaham, partly to gain access to the lunar calendar he was working on. Even though she cheated on him, he still gave her the completed calendar before dying. This has allowed her to predict weather patterns and astronomical events with divine accuracy, beating the performance of the local priest using the local calendar. There’s then a demonstration of the “power” with Mi-Saeng producing a nice piece of stage management to get the message from Heaven across and a lunar eclipse as a sign of Heaven’s displeasure should the message be ignored.

Meanwhile Chil-Sook and So-Hwa have been picked up by Mi-Sil and medical attention is being lavished on both. Doekman has seen Chil-Sook but, because he’s all but lost his sight, he could not warn her away (yes, he may be a good guy now). Meanwhile we have an incredibly stupid set of maneouvres to get Deokman as a spy inside Mi-Sil’s camp and they are now chatting away on philosophy and statecraft. Except, Mi-Sil sees through this transparent ploy and taunts the Princess, Yim Yu-Sin and Deokman with the truth about the lunar calendar. What can they do when they can’t second guess the calendar? Such is the power of superstition in that culture (see Dong Yi — superstition and magic).

Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung) getting ready to reveal Heaven's will

The world now gets complicated as Deokman decides to get proactive to find out who she is. Juk-Bang plants a petition in the locked room but it’s intercepted by Eul Jae (Shin Goo). When he sees someone wants to return the old King’s dagger, he sends out Al-Chun (Lee Seung-Hyo) and some hand-picked troops to capture and/or kill the man at the designated place. Al-Chun fights with Deokman but lets her go, reporting this to Kim Yu-Sin. The Princess independently asks the King and Queen for details about the story of the twin. This triggers the King into inquiries about what’s happening in the Palace and he’s outraged by Eul Jae’s decision to search the Hwarang for evidence of who broke into the Palace to plant the petition. He stops this before Deokman is forced to undress in public but not before Juk-Bang works out Deokman is a woman. Walking through the Palace, he’s shocked to see So-Hwa wandering around before she’s rounded up by the Temple Maids. Knowing that the twin is a woman, the Princess and Kim Yu-Sin compare notes.

Now the secret is out, the Princess and Kim Yu-Sin decide it’s no longer safe for Deokman to stay in the capital. She must be removed to a place of safety. Except, to string out the plot, they decide not to tell her why. Meanwhile, Mi-Sil decides to separate Chil-Sook and So-Hwa only to have troops loyal to the King snatch her away. At least this turn of events enables Mi-Sil to confirm Chil-Sook’s loyalty. Now everyone pauses to decide what to do next except, in a moment of script madness, So-Hwa is allowed a sight of Deokman before she’s bundled away. Shame no-one gives her a piece of paper and a pen so she can overcome her speech problem.

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 1 to 6

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 7 to 15

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 16 to 25

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 26 to 32

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 33 to 40

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 41 to 50

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 51 to 62

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 63 to 68

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 69 to 74

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 75 to end

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 7 to 15

November 2, 2011 2 comments

This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in these episodes so do not read this post if you want the experience of watching the serial unfold onscreen. Further, these episode numbers are based on the terrestrial broadcasts I have seen and not on downloaded or DVD episodes. It’s possible that these numbers do not match your experience.

The twins now seem destined to meet rather earlier in the plot than I expected. I had imagined the script would show parallel narratives until the two stars in the Big Dipper collided. So, here’s how it’s all going to happen. After being rescued in the desert by Cartman (Mametkulovs Mansur), Deokman (Nam Ji-Hyun) decides to head to Silla. She knows Moon No is involved. He may even be her father. So, when she arrives, our naive girl (hadn’t noticed this before in her dealings among the Uighur in Xinjiang) wanders round his home town asking for him and gets taken in by conmen Juk-bang (Lee Mun-Shik) (good to see him back from Iljimae) and Ko-Do (Ryu Dam). Meanwhile, time has been flashing by at an incredible rate for Princess Cheon-myeong (Shin Se-Kyung). Her husband was cut down just as a glorious victory was declared. So she disappears off into a convent to have her baby, Kim Chun-Chu. Her brother-in-law, Kim Yong-Chun (Do Lee-Seong) then brings news of Moon No’s presence in his home town so she leaves the enormous child in the arms of her retinue and starts off to find the man who can tell her the real story behind her birth.

Kim Yu-Sin (Lee Hyun-Woo) and his loyal troops

This is where Korean drama scores well. The script is like one of these watch mechanisms. When the conmen see Kim Yu-sin (Lee Hyun-Woo) they run. Deokman pursues and Juk-bang slips a stolen badge into Deokman’s coat. She berates Kim Yu-sin for falsely accusing the “priest” of stealing the badge. As a reward for rescuing her, Juk-bang sends Deokman to the camp of the rebels where he pulled off one of his cons — she’s a kind of peace offering. Crossing the river, the twins meet. The Princess is separated from her guards and the twins run off. They arrive in the village as directed and are locked up. Deokman gets free by praying longer and harder than the conman priest and also trying to dig a well while everyone else is asleep. Her can-do spirit earns her release. When troops attack, Deokman gets the Princess away but this time the Princess saves Deokman from drowning. Now Deokman gives her coat to the wet Princess to keep her warm (this still has the stolen badge in it). They get to the temple where they think Moon No is only to be attacked by a team of assassins led by Bo-Jong (Kwak Jung Wook). Unfortunately, government troops also get involved and the Princess and Bo-Jong are wounded as they all fall in the river. Now the Princess is rescued from the river by Kim Yu-sin who finds his lost badge. I could go on but you should all watch the skill with which these plots are put together.

Juk-Bang (Lee Mun-Shik) never happier than when hiding in the undergrowth

To cut a long story short, the conmen and Deokman save Bo-Jong’s life, and identify Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung) as directly involved. Not surprisingly, Deokman blunders her way in front of the King and all the courtiers and identifies both Bo-Jong and Mi-Sil as directly involved. As a reward, Deokman, the conmen, Kim Seo-Hyeon (Jeong Seong-Mo) and his son Kim Yu-sin are taken to the capital, and Mi-Sil is hopping mad her plans have been thwarted. Now Deokman is enrolled into the Hwarang Warriors and we get into the training regime. There are the usual intersquad rivalries with everyone contemptuous of the newbies from the provinces. The worst performers are Deokman, Juk-bang and Ko-Do, but there’s time for Deokman to confront Mi-Sil and make a deal with her for finding Moon No. Now we reach the first crisis. There’s an invasion just before the Hwarang are due to hold one of their intersquad competitions. The army must be sent out but Deokman is attacked by Bo-Jong and his squad and this may merit a private resolution. Except the war takes priority so the feud is put on hold as they march for the front line. Two brief asides. The twins are meeting on a regular basis with the Princess still appearing as a nun. Deokman has yet to realise who has befriended her. Secondly, the characters are suddenly switching actors as they age so it’s actually quite hard to keep track of who everyone is.

Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung) so desperately wanting to be regal

Now we’re in the camp close to the target. Seol Won (Jeon No-Min) is in charge with Kim Seo-Hyeon as his second-in-command. Seol Won sets off with all but 3,000 men and Kim Yu-sin by his side. This leaves his father to guard the camp. At this point, I need to complain. Cross-dressing is a nice convention to play with for television purposes and, in the real world, we’ve had Joan of Arc (who admitted being female), Ann Mills, Hannah Snell and so on who all served on the battlefield. But here we have someone who looks like a girl and has the strength of a girl yet, although this excites comment, no-one detects the deception. Secondly, none of this group of young recruits learns how to fight properly. Frankly, they all fight like girls. That’s why all the other units treat them as a joke.

Anyway, once they are underway and enemy spies have reported their movements, Kim Seo-Hyeon opens secret orders and discovers he and his 3,000 are supposed to attack a near-by stronghold. Knowing this is doomed to fail unless reinforcements arrive, the diversionary force sets off. In a game of bluff, the enemy blinks and sends reinforcements to defend the second camp. This leaves Seol Won and his army to walk into the original target more or less unopposed.

Deokman (Lee Yo-Won) going commando-style to take out the archers

By one of these chances available in war, Seol Won has picked all the troops loyal to the Princess to be in the second attack. He refuses to send reinforcements leaving them all to be killed. You must remember the phrase, “cut the flesh to break the bone”. This is the military strategy at work. You sacrifice the few so the many may prevail. Or, in this case, so that Mi-Sil may prevail. This leaves Deokman and her buddies to fight their way out. We see Deokman actually step up in a command role, save some and kill many of the enemy in executing some of the military manoeuvres they have learned. Later she defies military convention by preventing the leader from killing the wounded. She thinks this is bad for morale and wasteful of trained men. She argues the army will ultimately be stronger if no man is left behind. Suk-Poom (Hong Kyoung-In) the ranking officer then decides Deokman and her troop must lead off the enemy while the wounded limp home. As we might expect, this is successful with all returning safely including Al-Chun (Lee Seung-Hyo) who’s obviously going to switch loyalties to the Deokman camp. Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. Now all our heroes have to do is survive the peace.

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 1 to 6

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 7 to 15

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 16 to 25

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 26 to 32

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 33 to 40

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 41 to 50

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 51 to 62

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 63 to 68

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 69 to 74

The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang — episodes 75 to end

Iljimae

April 25, 2010 1 comment

There’s nothing more fascinating to an audience than the idea that wealth can be redistributed. Not unnaturally, the wealthy deeply resent the notion and will do their utmost to prevent it from gaining common currency (pun intended). In modern times, for example, the elite of the US stigmatise the idea of redistribution as the worst conceivable aspect of communism, rejecting even a modest use of taxation to achieve any degree of social justice. Yet, albeit in a subversive way, the idea runs through many different forms, perhaps most often emerging in the myth of Robin Hood. In this, I note the imminent arrival of yet another film version. This time, Ridley Scott and the often-cast Russell Crowe are having a crack at it. All of which neatly brings us to Iljimae, the Korean version of Robin Hood which takes a slight detour through Shakespearean-like confusions over a prophesy and the identity of brothers and their parents.

The primary question asked and answered in this Korean television serial is the ever-popular nature/nurture. Is the way in which character develops inevitable given the package of genes handed down by parents, or do people become the sum of their experiences, learning and adapting to the environment as it rewards or threatens them? So, as is the way of things when you want to set a cat among a flock of pigeons, you start off your journey with a long back story. We see the king and his always honourable brother who sires three young children, all of whom lead privileged lives. Unfortunately, rather like Macbeth, the king is given a prophesy which he assumes means his brother will betray him. As any self-respecting villain would, he sends paid killers to terminate this potential threat. The brother dies but, through a combination of circumstances, the rest of the family survives.

Displaced into an unfamiliar world, the children follow different paths. Some thirteen years then passes in the blink of a flash forward. With his identity concealed by his mother, one son is adopted into a wealthy family. The other is raised by a retired thief and his wife. The older sister only reappears later in the story, bent on vengeance but quickly betrayed. Although we lack the element of twins, this takes us into the territory occupied by Comedy of Errors as both sons struggle to relate their pasts to their present surroundings. The charity case is despised by his corrupt adoptive family — although their daughter plays against type to become the Maid Marian figure and a demonstration of the conundrum of character as a rich girl afflicted by a social conscience. In ignorance of his true parentage (which would have caused his immediate execution), the rest of the family still treat him like dirt and he reacts by growing into a pillar of moral rectitude, outperforming all-comers intellectually and, under the supervision of one of the men who killed his father, developing into a fearsome warrior with the skills to become a killing machine. He sees no moral difficulty in killing anyone who is less righteous than himself. Played by Park Shi Hoo, who went on to co-star in a high-octane romantic drama called Family’s Honour where he played a young man who finds redemption (albeit through the love of a slightly older woman), this is a solid performance in a role not designed to be sympathetic.

The other son suffers a traumatic loss of memory and only slowly remembers his past. Before and during this awakening, he’s a classic underachiever, electing to work as little as possible. He does not immediately follow his adoptive father’s profession as a thief, and most people in the city surrounding the royal palace think him likeable but slow-witted. However, when spurred into entering into a locked building where a nobleman stores his wealth, his lack of experience traps him. Without thinking of the consequences, he removes a valuable ink drawing and then abandons it. Another young man picks up the drawing and, not unnaturally, is accused of being the thief. When he is tortured and imprisoned, guilt forces our hero into action. After blundering several times, the innocent man is exonerated.

Unfortunately, as our hero grows in confidence and breaks into more homes, one innocent victim in the community is the harbinger of many others to follow. He must learn new skills in a surprising range of different trades to become a Robin Hood figure, being called Iljimae because of the calling card he starts to leave at the scenes of his thefts. He robs the rich to help the poor and, where necessary, uses his fighting skills to defend the innocent. Played by Lee Jun Ki, some of his early scenes as the simpleton are a little tedious but, as his memory returns and a steely resolve emerges, he grows into the role of a hero (ironically going on to star in another Korean drama with the title Hero).

What distinguishes the serial is the genuine humour surrounding the increasingly sophisticated thefts and one spectacular rescue of people from jail. They are worthy of David Copperfield on steroids. In a story supposedly set in the early Joseon Dynasty, presumably in the fourteenth and fifteen centuries, our hero is supposedly able to produce major special effects that, in modern times, would require teams of men days of effort to set up and then execute. This superhuman quality enhances the initial sense of naive enthusiasm surrounding our hero but, as is always the way, it soon turns dark as the state begins the inevitable crackdown to identify and capture the thief.

The central dynamic driving the story is the rise of the self-righteous brother as the detective to track down the thief. He is increasingly humourless and driven. Worse, he is manipulated by the King who ordered the death of his father. When the detective finally works out his relationship to the thief and comes to understand how their father died, the serial heats up to a violent and tragic conclusion. In this, some characters find redemption while others find only pain and death. The plot is correctly structured to give initial drama, some pathos interspersed with comic interludes, and then increasing tension moving towards the final series of confrontations as identities are unmasked.

This is not to say the serial is a complete success. It runs for some twenty hours and would probably have been better if it had decided to focus more completely on the brothers, the good-hearted ex-thief (Lee Mun-Shik) and his wife who protect the boy raised as their son, and the surviving men who killed their father. While opening out the pool of characters gives even relatively minor characters their moment and adds to the richness of the tapestry of the life described, it dilutes the intensity that would otherwise have been achieved. We cannot care about everyone, particularly when they only feature early on to become sacrifices later in the story. One point of interest is the appearance of Han Hyo-joo as a lost childhood friend who eventually recognises the grown up Iljimae. Nevertheless, the whole is reasonably entertaining and an interesting commentary on the paranoia and corruption that so often afflicts the ruling elite of many countries throughout time and around the world.

You can download the OST main theme called Lonely Footsteps here. It’s a great balance between a tender piano melody and a pulsating adventure theme.

For those of you who are fans of Park Shi Hoo, there’s a fan site at http://parksihoo4u.com/

 

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