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