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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

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