Well, here we go with another of these interminable sageuks that have been taking the television world by storm. This time with The Great Queen Seon Deok or Seondeok Yeo Wang, we’re even earlier in Korean history to a time when these lucky people acquired their first Queen. This Korean drama was directed by Park Hong Kyun and Kim Keun-Hong, working to a script by Kim Young Hyun and Park Sang-Yeon. It was so popular when it started to screen in 2009 that, instead of running the originally projected fifty episodes, it was expanded to fill sixty-two episodes. Let joy be unconfined.
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.
When King Jin-heung of Silla (Lee Soon_Jae) is dying, he leaves a will appointing his grandson Prince Baek-jong (Kang San) (son of the first royal prince Dongryun) his heir and ordering Mi-Sil (Ko Hyun-Jung), his consort, not to play any part in the politics of his kingdom. He knows Mi-Sil will disobey the order so he orders Seol Won, the 7th leader of Hwarang Warriors, to assassinate her. When the King gives the order, he not know they are lovers. This provokes a coup in which Seol Won leads his troops into the royal compound and kills everyone loyal to the dying King. Fortunately the King dies of natural causes before Mi-Sil can offer him poison. Now she offers to change the will so that a better puppet, Geomryun (Lim Ho), can become King. Her condition is that she becomes Queen. So Geomryun ascends the throne as King Jinji as the 25th King of the emergent Korea, but then refuses to confirm Mi-Sil as his Queen. Now he’s in place, he rejects the blackmail of the original will. Mi-Sil prepares to fight for the throne. So she will not feel constrained, she abandons her baby son. What a hard-hearted woman she’s proving to be.
During the coup, Moon No (Jung Ho Bin), the 8th leader of Hwarang Warriors, is outside the city. He experiences a series of supernatural events as a stone shatters and winds blow unexpectedly. These events match what’s happening back in the city. He also foresees no-one can stand against Mi-Sil until an eighth star appears in the Big Dipper. When he returns, he gives notice to Seol Won he will stay neutral and not interfere.
Now times passes and Prince Baek-jong (Jo Min Ki) has grown up and married Ma Ya (Park Su-Jin). He gives a small dagger to his wife who’s pregnant. This is revered because it also saved the life of King Jin-heung. When Mi-Sil leads a second coup to oust King Jinji, she has Ma Ya kidnapped. When Moon No attempts to stop this, they are tied together and thrown off a cliff into the sea. Fortunately, Ma Ya pulls out the dagger and, between them, they cut the ropes and Moon No pulls her out of the sea. They decide to hide and observe events. As originally intended, Prince Baek-jeong is now appointed King Jinpyeong. Six months later, Mi-Sil convenes a gathering to have herself married to the King and so become Queen. With all the world watching, Moon No and Ma Ya walk back into view. The King is overjoyed. Mi-Sil and her conspirators are frustrated. Now we wait for the birth.
The Queen is moved into the Shrine, but no men are allowed to enter during the birth. The midwife has already detected twins but only tells Mi-Sil. This will fit into ancient prophesy so that, if twins are born, the line of kings will end. The first baby has a birth mark behind her ear. All the midwives withdraw and the King is allowed in. The second baby then starts to appear. Fortunately a usually clumsy servant, So-Hwa (Seo Young-Hee) stays behind. The doors are locked. The maid now delivers the second baby. Predicting the King may try to hide the second birth, troops are stationed around the Shrine. Moon No sees the eight star appear in the Big Dipper and acknowledges that the new baby will defeat Mi-Sil. The King gives the second baby Princess the dagger. Moon Ho distracts the troops with a dummy, and So-Hwa runs away with the baby. Damned poor planning from Mi-Sil who should have had the court standing around the bed while the twins were born. Now there’s no evidence of the twins. Also seeing the stars change, Mi-Sil sends out Chil-Sook (Ahn Kil-Kang) to catch the maid and the baby. After a fight in local caves, Moon No rescues them and leaves with Chil-Sook in pursuit.
Fifteen years later finds So-Hwa and Princess Deokman (Nam Ji-Hyun) running an inn at a major trading centre in the Uigur region which overlaps with the Roman trading empire. Needless to say, the girl finds Chil-Sook in the desert and brings him to the inn. She’s helping the Roman Cartan (Mametkulovs Mansur) and other merchants avoid the local warlord’s prohibition on trading tea. As an act of kindness, she introduces Chil-Sook to them as a potential bodyguard. Unfortunately, they are arrested by the warlord’s troops. Fortunately, the girl saves everyone. Then there’s fighting and a fire in the inn as Chil-Sook tries to arrest the ladies to take them home. That magic dagger is back in action again, wounding Chil-Sook. Meanwhile, back in the Silla capital, the third baby boy dies at birth. King Jinpyeong and Queen Ma Ya are despondent at the lack of male heirs, but hope their surviving daughter, Princess Cheon-myeong (Shin Se-Kyung) will be able to stand up to Mi-Sil. Sadly, Mi-Sil is already undermining the confidence of the Princess. She’s now married to Kim Yong Soo (Park Jung Chul). This is King Jinji’s eldest son and so not very popular. When King Jinpyeong states his intention to name Yong Soo as his heir, there are protests. So, to prove he has the right heroic qualities, Yong Soo declares to will go off to fight in the next military campaign. Needless to say, Mi-Sil does not expect him to return safely.
Meanwhile, So-Hwa and Princess Deokman flee into the desert pursued by the wounded Chil-Sook. So-Hwa falls into quicksand and, to avoid being a further burden to Deokman, uses the magic dagger to cut the rope Deokman is using to pull her out. Chil-Sook comes up to them, still bleeding from the dagger wound in his side and his eyesight failing from the burns. Before he can do anything, they are overtaken by a sandstorm. When she pulls herself from the sand, Deokman tries to locate So-Hwa but only finds the blanket in which she was wrapped as a baby and the magic dagger. Fainting, she’s discovered by Cartan and the other merchants.