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