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