Saturday, August 28, 2010

Queen Seondeok - Who is Who

            To all: this is my own, private take on this drama, written after re-watches (OK, truthfully, from 21st episode, mehehe), so it includes my own personal feelings, and I do not care about opinions of others. This way, you are entitled not to care about my opinion as well. I was thinking about writing a separated insight into one of these characters, but this could prove me speechless.
This drama is not perfect. It has many flaws (I am not talking about the CGI effects used in the battles scenes, but some huge screenplay nonsense as well), many annoying characters, and way too many episodes. This all could be done nicely in 50 episodes. Still, this is one of the best dramas I watched. I enjoyed the show, I was angry, frustrated, I cried, I laughed and I trembled in sheer terror. This is how I watch movies/dramas.
After episode 50th, everything went awry, it looked like if all the crew was fighting each other over the ending and final shape of those doomed characters.
Queen Seondeok ruled the following years: 632-647, and according to some stories, she remained unmarried, and according to other sources, she had two political spouses. Whatever the truth is, it is a solid, proven fact she was a remarkable character, very strong and independent. I was hoping that drama would include the famous episode with Tang envoys and the paintings of peonies. But I didn’t see it. They could do it instead of extended, boring Kim Yushin’s battle of Gaya honor. They jumped 10 years from one episode to the next regardless.
            The truth is, I was addicted to this drama back then, I started to watch it from the 6th episode and I quickly watched missing 5. From then, I was waiting every Monday and Tuesday for new episodes. Around the end of a first half, I had enough. The actions were swift in the first 15 episodes, but then they just protracted all movements. If it was any other drama, I would most likely give up, but it was a period drama and my first watched almost “live”. Therefore, I wanted to continue no matter what. And I’m glad I did.
So much for my personal attachment.

            Queen Seondeok can be divided in two halves, first reaching episode 20, and the second from episode 21 onwards. I would consider last 12 episodes as something hybrid, with which I had the biggest struggles to watch because of the amount of discrimination toward one character. Discrimination came from two sources: screenplay and other characters.
Why such division? I guess everyone is aware who appeared at the end of episode 21st. This was the greatest blessing for the drama, but in the end, it came out as the biggest weakness of it. Because it was clear, that in the last episodes, the character of Bidam was far beyond screenplay control in a sense they were not sure how to write this character, that is why it felt a bit awkward, but maybe it’s just my imagination. It looked like screenplay was too weak to handle him in a proper way, to make something good out of him and for him. The best were two last episodes where Bidam was emotional, not scheming.
Dramatis personae:
Greed, devotion, trust, betrayal, love, hatred, honesty.
Who is who: a short layout and brief (muahaha, not the last one) description of few main characters.
Mishil: her smile will haunt you, her laugh will freeze the blood in your veins. At the beginning, Mishil was as cheerful as every girl at her age. But then a chain of events led her to the thought of becoming Queen. She had everything in her favor: she was a brilliant strategist, fearless warrior, cold-blooded killer, and femme fatale in the best incarnation. She soon achieved the position of the ruler of all Hwarangs, and thanks to her marriages, she climbed to the position of Seju, The Highest Lady in Shilla, the actual ruler. She gave birth to 3 sons, but she soon disposed one of them as useless in her court politics, and most likely forgot about him. She staged an insurrection when realized she could have done it 30 years earlier. Mishil… I really liked confrontations between Mishil and Deokman. It looked like a fight using the power that is able to tear the Earth surface and create new lands. They learned one from another. Mishil had in her favor over 30 years in politics, Deokman had her determination and youth. Mishil said it once, that the thing she hated the most in Deokman was her youth. Mishil made a mistake of looking down on Deokman and marginalizing her will. Princess, who slapped her with the glove, wasn’t any ordinary princess. The only person she truly feared was Bidam, and it was before she learned he was her son. Played by Ko Hyun Joong, who did a marvelous job. She gave a monster the face of the beautiful woman that is feared even by Tang emissaries. Mishil was strong, careful politician who made one mistake in her life: she did not kill Bidam when he was a baby. However, she managed to poison his soul even in her last 5 minutes of life.
Princess Deokman: future Queen Seondeok. She was a feisty, cheerful girl from the beginning, fearless, brave and totally not royal-like. She was looking at the very beginning for a man called Munno, but later on her search and the reason was not developed. They met, Munno did not like her (I wonder, was there anyone whom Munno liked? Yes, I’m biased, I hate him). When she found out who she was, she was determined to do something about the situation of the royal family. The death of her twin sister changed her life completely. Before it, she was even willing to leave Shilla and start her life anew with Yushin, but after it, she decided to go back to the capital and reclaim her position in the court, and in effect – remove Mishil. Between her and Mishil, from the beginning of Deokman’s presence in the palace, a strange relationship formed. They hated each other, but in the same time, they admired one another. She died of a heart disease. And one beautiful thing, while she passed away, she was wearing marriage ring, like the one she gave to Bidam.
Kim Yushin: of Gaya descent, what played a crucial role in the last episodes. Brave general and loved by all his soldiers. He gave up his feelings for Deokman as a woman and pledged his support to her as his ruler. He subjugated Baekje, as seen in the last episode. He was in close relationship with Wolya, the last leader of Gaya independence movement. Even when facing severe punishment, even death for the treason, he did not severe his ties with Gaya people. Of course he did not. He was a noble general.
I liked Yushin, I really did. It was somewhere in the middle of “thirties” I started to see the lack of any improvement. He did not change even a bit. He was the same loyal Yushin. Even noble and positive characters can be displayed with more attention to details, to slight changes, maybe displayed once every 10 episodes. This was what kept on irritating me along the episodes. I thought, maybe watching it for the second time would change something. I was wrong. I don’t know, maybe it was because of the screenplay, but there could be more to this wonderful warrior. And I noticed incoherencies in sketching the other characters. If only he could sometimes be out of his character, that would suffice.
And funny historical fact: he was the brother-in-law of Chunchu, and even rescued him from the hands of the enemy. The tomb of Kim Yushin is one of the best preserved tombs from Shilla period.
King Jinpyeong: enthroned thanks to Mishil and her fraction. Completely powerless even inside the palace. He couldn’t do anything under ceaseless vigil of Mishil. He tried to help his daughter as much as he could, mainly by rejecting court propositions and proclaiming his own decrees. Died of a heart disease. His wife Maya, was weak and constantly on the verge of weeping.
Princess Cheonmyeong: Deokman’s older sister. Killed while helping her to the boat and wearing her clothes to trick the pursue. Efficiently. I was glad she passed away. I did not like her at all. She was so lifeless. But this was probably the wypadkowa of her rising in the Palace. All she could do was lamenting over their lost childhood, of Deokman not looking and behaving like a woman. What did she do? She brought a dress for her sister when they decided to meet. She wanted Deokman to live happily with Yushin, to leave Shilla and start a family. Yes, knit and make some cinnamon buns as well. Come on, stupid girl!
Alcheon Rang: at first, palace guard of Cheonmyeong. Then he pledged his loyalty to Deokman, and stood by her till her final days. The only one who wasn’t swayed, he wasn’t accused of anything. One of the best characters in the whole drama. He was loyal, but managed to be something more than just a “paper” character as Yushin. The true strength of Alcheon lay in his fidelity. It wasn’t blind fidelity like that of Bidam, it wasn’t “brothers-in-arms” fidelity of Yushin. It formed while seeing how words of Princess are becoming her deeds. Yup, one of my favorites in the whole drama. And to be honest, there are not that much characters I liked. (No, my love, I’m not really sure I liked your character. I can write paeans to your glory for the way you portrayed him, but it was not THAT likeable character. It’s more of… ah, it’s complicated!).
Lord Seolwon: Mishil’s lover and a great warrior. Along with her he was bestowed the power to rule all Hwarangs. His son Bojong was also a warrior, but sometimes acted like a mindless henchman. Seolwon acted as the last keeper of Mishil’s will and he pushed Bidam into splitting his character even more. He ruined Bidam’s newborn fealty and poisoned him with mirage of grandeur. He died trying to lead Yushin’s army in his stead on Baekje’s army. The problem with Seolwon was that he still loved Mishil.
Lord Misaeng: Mishil’s brother. I wished he was forced to drink this poison Mishil gave him after revealing that it was him that arranged the plot of killing Deokman (and as we know, her sister died). I really hated him. He was cunning, completely without any morality, focused only on the benefits for his own clan. But one thing can do him justice: after his sister’s death, he was the only one who realized that they may all extinct. This all led him to entangle Bidam in the web of his scheming.
Lord Sejong: Mishil’s spouse and the high ranked nobleman. At first, she was trying to get the throne for him, knowing that nothing would change and still she would remain the one with power. He even risked his life to frame Deokman in the forming of insurrection. Instead, this turned out to be the end of Mishil. His son, Lord Hojong was a loud, annoying coward.
Lord Seohyeon (Yushin’s father): of Gaya descent. He held a position in Hwabaek. Then he was removed from it and given part of the army.
Kim Chunchu: son of Cheonmyeong and Kim Yongsu (he was the son of King Jinji, so a step-brother of Bidam in that way). He could be no more than 15 when he first came to Seorabeol (when Hwarang Tournament was going on). Cunning, scheming, lazy, sly… He despised Deokman, Yushin, royal family, he feared Bidam (who would not after such first meeting^^), but he joined Deokman fight for the throne after she made it clear that his breaking out from Mishil’s clench was a failed subterfuge and they both, Deokman and Chunchu – “woke up the sleeping dragon”. I will say it once and for all: I hate Chunchu. He was the final drop of poison to Bidam’s soul. He hated him seeing as a natural candidate to the throne. I hate Chunchu, everything happened to Bidam because of him in the last two episodes.
He was later King Munmu of Shilla, but from what I know (I heard the stories around the bonfire, yes), he wasn’t that much of a king. Still, maybe gifted in diplomacy (Shilla was leading the unification, so naturally, it was hated), but what kind of diplomacy requires being rescued by the general?
Sohwa: nursemaid who took care of Deokman. She protected the Princess all her life, and like Cheonmyeong, she died in her stead. I liked her at the beginning, then I wanted to see her dead, and after her coming back to the palace, I started to like her again. She feared and hated Bidam (even when he was a child) and after learning of Munno’s plans, she escaped with little Princess. Many people think of Sohwa and Chilsuk as Julia and Romeo. Well, if Romeo killed Julia, OK. The fact that he didn’t know is not that important. I do not deny one thing, they had feelings for each other. Chilsuk helped her during Mishil’s insurrection, but he was bound to Mishil by fealty.
Chilsuk: in Mishil younger days there were two men with remarkable sword skills. Chilsuk and Munno. Chilsuk was a great sword-master, and his abilities was equal only to Munno ones. He was fighting for Mishil sake after she saved him on the desert. His lifelong quest to kill Deokman ended when on his path appeared Bidam and Yushin. They both killed this unfortunate man.
I liked Chilsuk the way I hated Munno. Because of their principles. Chilsuk knew he was on the wrong side, but devoted his all to this side. This is especially seen in the episode after Mishil’s death when he and another lost soul, Hwarang Sokpum Rang decided to die in the battle. Sokpum is a similar person. I really thought he was a one-dimensional character, but when the action after episode 30 started to speed up, I saw another facets to him. He was asked (read: forced) to participate in Sejong “attempted murder” case. His dagger pierced Lord Sejong’s ribs and this helped to accuse Deokman’s group. After this, he couldn’t get his peace of mind back. He knew he was a traitor. But he stood on the side of Mishil till the very end because of fealty. I liked Chilsuk for his calmness. It was a graveyard calmness. I liked also his words when he remembered all those dangers he escaped from in his life. His mind changed. He started to see it as if he escaped death that should claim him long ago. And he said that he would not ruin this the next time. He wanted to die, but he wanted to kill Deokman, seeing in her the source of his both damnation and salvation.
Mishil war was later blamed on both Chilsuk and Sokpum as their insurrection. I’m not sure if it was a wise decision though.
Munno: he was the one who took under his wings little Bidam. However, to be honest, those were stone wings that crushed the young boy. He wasn’t bringing him up, he was rather planting him and let him grow on his own, wild and untamed. He taught him only one thing – swordsmanship, and as he refused to teach him some more, Bidam observed him secretly and remembered the moves (what bewildered even Munno). In his young days he was a great warrior, whose skills were equal only with Chilsuk’s skills. He was given the position of gukseon – that is the head teacher of all Hwarang forces. Mishil feared him and wished to see him dead, but Munno found a small village and stayed put for almost 30 years. He incited Bidam that a great future for him awaits, that he would do many remarkable things ad his name would become his eternal legacy. Quirky as he was, Bidam was also bottomlessly naïve. He believed. Munno treated him like a ballast, not showing him any compassion, any love, any heart, any warm feelings, not even guiding him in distinguishing between right and wrong. That is why he was so confused when Bidam explained in all his honesty that he tried to help Deokman out of compassion. According to Munno, Bidam had no feelings whatsoever. Apart from those feelings of the animal. When Bidam poisoned and slaughtered a few dozens of people, the only response from Munno was his frozen heart. He did not explain to the boy that what he did was wrong, he just turned his back on him.
That is why I hate Munno. It was all up to him in creating Bidam and he failed. He realized this only moments before his death.
There is a terrible scene in the last episodes when confused Bidam remembered of one night. He was sleeping close to Munno and, child-like, he took Munno’s hand. The man slipped out from boy’s fingers. Bidam repeated it, but Munno did the same and turned. Bidam then took in his hand invisible fingers and pretended to hold it. This officially broke my heart.
Jukbang: a low-grade Hwarang, hyungnim of Deokman when she was in Yushin’s army. Very witted and gifted. He fell in love with Sohwa when she came back to the palace. He ended up as a courtier under Seondeok’s rule. His fellow companion was Godot, who was later promoted to have his own Hwarang troops. Their oral fights with Santak always lightened up the atmosphere. In the last episode he, along with Santak, tried to rescue Bidam from his madness, but it was already too late.
Wolya: Gaya chef and leader of independence movement. He wanted to see Yushin on the throne that is why he supported him. When general finally rejected his offer and claimed he was not interested in gaining it, Wolya severed their pact. But in the end, Deokman captured his fealty.
I liked Wolya, because he was the one who thought about his nation, his people, not about the power and not about morals. He was more-dimensional than Yushin in that point. He knew that Gaya had no chance, but he wanted to create this chance. When he found out it was impossible, he yielded. But I surely felt his pain for his people. He’s done what a true leader should do.
Yeomjong: like Georrrrge the Snail and regular lawyers, he left a trail of slam. He was the perfect scum, easy to bribe, easy to buy, but when he promised to do something, he did. He was able to pierce through one’s own nature and reach to the most vulnerable part just to hurt it. When he appeared for the first time, he was Munno’s trusted associate. His assassins killed Munno, and here it ends. Bidam had the chance to kill him, but he incited a remorse in Bidam’s consciousness. So their peculiar pact started, he helped Deokman, but after that, he changed sides and went on Mishil followers’ side (because of his ties to Bidam). He forged the last stratagem and Bidam fell in his trap (hell, who wouldn’t, it was perfect). I despised him, I wanted to strangle him and rip off his veins one by one.
Bidam: son of Mishil and King Junji (reigned for 3 years), abandoned by her and taken care of by Munno. Bidam… As I wrote, the only character apart from Mishil and few other smaller ones worth elaborating on. His appearance in the drama raised the tension. Because till now, the alpha male was Yushin. And now we got another one. He rescued this drama from falling into low ratings. Bidam is one of the most complicated characters I have ever witnessed. Any less talented actor could screw this role up. Because it was a tentative character. He was as if walking on the Chinavat Bridge, as narrow as a hair. This bridge started in wilderness and led to happiness. On his one side he had the love he always wanted, on the other one he had howling darkness that somehow appealed to him. But the bridge collapsed.
As much as I’m impressed by the portrayal of Bidam, lets be frank, it’s not the best role of Kim Namgil-nim. The most known for sure, but still not the best.
Bidam came out from a dark cave, yawning, and clueless about the identity of two Hwarangs. He helped them, and even after learning about their identity, he showed no reverence whatsoever. He wasn’t taught that this was necessary. That is why he was scorned constantly by Alcheon and Yushin for that. He helped Deokman to gain the throne. He rescued her few times, he risked his life for her. But in the way he learned who he was. As much as he hated Mishil, he was drawn to her just to hear one word: son. He desperately yearned for her to acknowledge him. She never did. There is this scene right before her death when she was losing the consciousness and almost collapsed, he tried to help her and she stopped him not allowing to even touch her. He wanted to kill her, he despised her, but deep down he was a broken child who wanted to feel a warm embrace, first in his life. Mishil didn’t want to use him while she was alive, but she left that kind of legacy to Lord Seolwon who slowly was eating Bidam’s heart like a worm. What I found the most appalling in Mishil’s last words was her definition of love. She knew no love, she didn’t want to remember her first, innocent love. And she poisoned his first and pure, albeit awkward, love with her last words. For the next ten years he was told repeatedly that he is her blood, her legacy, her will. That he has to gain the throne because she wanted it. This was the best way to his heart – through making him believe that Mishil would care. Lord Misaeng commented on it during their final hours in the best way – that Bidam never resembled Mishil, she knew it and Misaeng knew it. Those words came at least ten years too late.
After Deokman became The Queen, she left Bidam by her side as Royal Commissioner. And this was her biggest mistake. Bidam was born to kill. She should appoint him in Yushin’s army and let him kill. This way he would be kept away from the treacherous clan. Instead, he built around himself a sphere of influence that devoured him in the end. Plus, he got a sworn enemy in Chunchu.
Life of Bidam was marked by bad luck. He was born not out of love, but out of purpose, he grew up as Munno’s tool, and later he was treated like a tool by The Queen. His love and devotion meant nothing to her. This can be understood considering her position as a female ruler. However, she did not trust him for one simple reason – he was Mishil’s son. Bidam was being used by all those who needed something, and was awarded with nothing, apart from suspicion. He wasn’t treated as Yushin or Alcheon’s equal. And please, remember, he was King’s son. He was not included in her councils before final battle with Mishil clan, Deokman never consulted him, even when he was present, she focused her attention on Yushin and his opinion. He was an easy target of subterfuges and scheming – because, when not in a berserk mode, he was the easiest person to fool. He was honest and this became his undoing. He wanted to gain the power, but not the throne. With time he overcame it and wanted to be loved. Simple as it is. He gave books so fervently protected to Yushin to help him achieve their goal. He wrote an oath to Deokman. And then his followers decided to revolt using him. Convinced that The Queen wanted to dispose of him as the enemy of the state, he joined their forces and led the insurrection. Against his will. Everything came in a bad timing. It was all because of his devotion.
But what completely shocked me it was how easy Queen gave up on Bidam. He was the leader of the insurrection – shouldn’t she at least try to talk with him? She did it with Wolya, Tang emissaries, Mishil, Chunchu, she never gave up on Yushin. But with Bidam, she jumped to suspicion right away.
Plus, I think the last episodes were confusing whenever Bidam came to play. As I said, it was only thanks to the brilliant actor that this character was true, hurting, dark, dangerous and broken till the very end. I think stage experience helped here. It was like if no one was sure enough – should they make him a bad character or good. I know, the balanced way of playing this is only thanks to the actor, KNG said that Bidam is both good and bad in the same time, but still, I feel he wasn’t treated with the care that character could get. The care from the screenplay.
Because, ultimately, Bidam was a borderline personality. Deokman had the chance to, at least, tame him, but she failed. Bidam could live, she could live longer. Who knows.
So yes, when KNG comes to play, I focus mainly on his character. Sue me.

History showed in QSD really happened. Of course, the need for dramatization has to be taken under the consideration, as well as some fictional characters. Nevertheless, there has to be in the back of one’s mind that those people lived and died, and those things were real. Cruel as they were, some evitable as well, fate taken into the hands of a child who abused the rules and played as it pleased. Some things were easy to avoid, but due to misunderstandings, subterfuges and silence, they caused everyone involved a huge tragedy.
            The story revolves around two pillars of the political power. One was the king Jinpyeong, the other one: the Highest Priestess, Seju Mishil. Mishil and her followers enthroned Jinpyeong what bound him and caused to remain powerless. The true ruler was Mishil and her clan. She couldn’t ascend the throne herself because of not being born as one of the two royal lines: sacred bone (seonggol), and true bone (jingeol). And up until later, she never wanted to usurp power. She firmly held the country, assuring her followers and maintaining the status quo.
But her rule was endangered by the royal family itself. When she thought she would be promoted to a Queen consort (as the spouse), a first, and only wife of king appeared being pregnant. This ruined Mishil’s plans, but it didn’t eradicate her greed and hunger for power. By simply threatening the king and his family to dethrone and kill, she managed to stay at power for 30 years.
Queen gave birth to twins. Younger one was quickly hid and given to a nursemaid called Sohwa. It was due to the prophecy than when the Queen gives birth to twins, all male seed would dry up. Princess Deokman was taken by Sohwa and they remained for a short time under the protection of another rogue – Munno. Munno himself for few years had been in charge of bringing up an abandoned boy. Strange fate wanted those two little children to meet only at the beginning and the end of their lives. The boy who was under Munno’s wings was the unwanted, useless and abandoned child of Mishil. When the boy was born, she tried to use him against King Jinji, forcing him to promote her to the Queen position. Since he refused both to do it and to acknowledge the child, the young boy became useless, as well as the King himself. Mishil got rid of both quickly.
            When Sohwa learned that those two kids are bound to be joined in conjugal ties later on, she took Deokman and disappeared. They were on continuous run, hiding from the assassins Mishil was sending one after another. But even her best man, Chilsuk, couldn’t kill the Princess. After meeting with Kim Yushin’s army, Deokman put on man’s clothes and enrolled into his army as a low ranked Hwarang. Relationship between those two developed. Everyone in both courts was informed about the other Princess. But as time went by, no one could even guess how could she look like, and this became Deokman’s strong ally. She was found by her sister, Princess Cheonmyeong, and they both formed the pact with one aim – get rid of Mishil and give the power back to the royal family.
            And here things started to move rapidly. Chilsuk recognized Deokman while she was fleeing from Seorabeol along with Yushin. The pursue was dispatched. And not for the last time, unfortunately, Mishil’s brother, Lord Misaeng made a plan. He secretly ordered to kill Deokman, while Mishil ordered to capture her alive. By chance, they came to the village Munno was hiding in, and along with Munno – Bidam, who wasn’t hiding at all (yes, if he could, he would walk with a plate above him: here’s Bidam!). The latter helped them, and decided to leave Munno (after his unfair words) and join Deokman, Yushin and Alcheong.
After Deokman was recognized as Princess of Shilla, the true war with Mishil started, war we were waiting for over 25 episodes.
She ordered to erect the observatory, which survived until modern times and now is considered as the oldest observatory on the Far East. From Tang kingdom prince Chunchu came, and at first, he seemed to be on Mishil side.
After some hesitation, Chunchu joined his forces and influences (if he had any, I couldn’t see it) with Deokman. Insurrection was taken to Daeja Fortress and Deokman people took it over thanks to Bidam’s idea. Mishil took her own life by drinking poison. Deokman spared the lives of her followers. She needed capable people. This was a mistake. She should at least send them to exile.
Kim Yushin had his own army and fought with Baekje and Goguryeo. In the meantime, independence movement re-started to operate. Wolya did not stop it, but was supporting it in secret. Yushin was announced as the enemy of the state and kept in the prison, and in the same time, Baekje army trespassed and attacked Shilla. Of course no one could repel the invincible army. Lord Seolwon died from his wounds. Yushin was pardoned and he led his army for the victory.
Bidam’s followers started to overgrow him and they plotted subterfuges behind his back. They tried twice to overpower Queen, without his consent, they even framed him in secret pact with Tang envoys, which was equal to the treason. Queen trusted him though. It was all proven to be just a scheming. Furious Bidam asked Yushin for a thousand of his men to resolve the problem when his followers fled Seorabeol and hid in the old mine. He had no time, Queen asked him to hide in some quiet town and wait for her, giving him, as a token, a marriage ring.
Devotion caused his last mistake. He didn’t go, but instead started to act on his own to bring his followers down. In the forest, he was attacked by one of the palace guard, who shouted “death to the enemy of the state”, and committed suicide. In the same time, Queen wrote a letter to him asking Jukbang to deliver it. Jukbang with Sorak started to search for Bidam. When finally they delivered the letter, Bidam was already in the armor, leading the insurrection. As always, he had two sides: one believed the letter, the other rejected it. Truthfully, he wanted to believe. However, he kept remembering Deokman’s harsh words that she cannot love anyone except for Shilla. He wanted to become Shilla then.
When he believed, the new decree was issued stripping him off the Sangdeudeung title and announcing him as the enemy of the state. Risking his life Santak learned who framed his master and delivered this to Bidam. Completely broken, he just wanted to explain everything to Deokman and die.
He never had the chance, he was killed by Yushin, less than 10 paces from the Queen, whispering only her true name. Seondeok died in 647. After that, Yushin led his army against Baekje, and Alcheon reported it standing in front of Seondeok’s tomb. Bidam never had the chance to explain himself and he died as the traitor.
1. I didn’t like how they dealt with Bidam, regardless if it was true or not. It was obvious he meant no harm to Queen when he appeared in the camp. He wanted to talk. Yushin was the last who talked with him, and Bidam did not intend to fight him. He killed every other soldier who blocked his way to the Queen (70 paces, 30 paces, 10 paces… heart-wrecking countdown), but his perseverance was mistakenly seen as the murder attempt. He was slain by Alcheon and Yushin.
2. The other thing – why he didn’t attack this mine? He was supposed to do this the very same night he asked Yushin for his soldiers, so I see no reason in not doing this.
3. The observatory Cheomseongdae – Princess ordered to erect it, and right after it, this element was lost. I wanted to see it, dammit! They just forgot about it completely.
4. Princess’ idea of putting away dependence on Heavens and trusting the science was never developed.
5. Wonhyo, a Buddhist monk – he disappeared suddenly when Cheomseongdae was abandoned.
6. The excursion of Mishil and Bidam. It was ok, but one scene was totally useless. Yes, love, I say this about the scene you’re in. It was pointless and useless, it gave nothing to the plot. Plus in the last 8 episodes Bidam character was going from plotting to hurting and I think it’s not like it should be, as if the screenplay wasn’t consistent. I know he was unhinged as a persona, but this was just too much. They should either leave everything in the hands of the actor, or give him more coherent points.
7. Some scenes with Sohwa “on the run”, they were so annoying. Desert? Oh, give me a break, I could not stand it!
8. Technical stuff: I don’t like this sudden pan on the face. It creates tension, blah, blah, blah. A good actor doesn’t need this to create it. It helps less gifted ones, but creates discomfort both with watching and with sympathizing. Personally, I hate it.
9. I especially liked the way all gems were cut – in the shape called cabochons. Because sometimes in period movies they make this mistake and have the gems cut in facets. This is a nonsense and anachronism.
10. And although I do not deny that Shilla court was rich and had the contacts with Levant (through Goguryeo perhaps or Tang Empire), some decorations were just too much. Good thing that they had bronze mirrors, and did not make the same mistake all Western movies make. Because mirror, as we know it, wasn’t known until late 16th century, when they created it in Venice. So, no, my dear readers, no mirrors in Medieval bedrooms.
There are also minor faults and scenes that made me feel uneasy or just not too comfortable. Even with those, this 62-episodes long drama (plus two specials) is worth watching for anyone who likes period dramas. If you don’t, just stay away. Because there are long talks, rememberings, and swordfights. Swordfights! They improved in the latter half, considering most of the scenes were done by actors themselves not by stuntmen.
If you don’t want to watch all of those, watch Chiseok Special: it will brief you about the action into the middle “thirties”, so you can save yourself a lot of time.

Actors worth watching:
Ko Hyeon Jeong as Mishil
Kim Nam Gil as Bidam
Ahn Gil Kang as Chilsuk
Lee Mun Shik as Jukbang

 Character chart to identify:

2010 46th Baeksang Art Awards: Daesang Grand Prize TV Section (Ko Hyun Jung)
2010 46th Baeksang Art Awards: New Actor TV Section (Kim Nam Gil)
2010 46th Baeksang Art Awards: Best Drama nomination (Queen Seon Deok)
2010 46th Baeksang Art Awards: Popularity Award Female TV Section nomination (Lee Yo Won)
2010 46th Baeksang Art Awards: Popularity Award Female TV Section nomination (Ko Hyun Jung)
2010 46th Baeksang Art Awards: Popularity Award Male TV Section nomination (Kim Nam Gil)
2009 MBC Drama Awards: Daesang-Grand Prize (Ko Hyun Jung)
2009 MBC Drama Awards: Female Top Excellence Award (Lee Yo Won)
2009 MBC Drama Awards: Male Top Excellence Award (Uhm Tae Woong)
2009 MBC Drama Awards: Male Excellence Award (Kim Nam Gil)
2009 MBC Drama Awards: Male Newcomer Award (Yoo Seung Ho, Lee Seung Hyo)
2009 MBC Drama Awards: Drama of the Year Award
2009 MBC Drama Awards: Best Couple Award (Kim Nam Gil & Lee Yo Won)
2009 MBC Drama Awards: PD Award (Shin Goo)
2009 MBC Drama Awards: Special Child Actor Award (Nam Ji Hyun)
2009 MBC Drama Awards: Golden Acting Award (Ahn Kil Kang, Seo Young Hee)
2009 MBC Drama Awards: Writer of the Year Award (Kim Young Hyun & Park Sang Yun)