Part 2! I didn’t think that I would have so much to say about the two leading ladies, but well, I constantly surprise myself. Before I go on about the boys, let me finish off the leading ladies part of my review with Princess Cheonmyeong, Deokman’s sister.
More spoilers ahead! Don’t blink!
Cheonmyeong was the baby that was kept in the palace, but strictly speaking, her life was not much better than Deokman’s, imo. Deokman grew up in a more cosy environment under the loving nurture of Sohwa, but Cheonmyeong grew up under the malicious,watchful eyes of Mishil. Cheonmyeong had the burden of being in the royal family ever since she was young, unlike Deokman. She also had to endure the deaths of 3 younger brothers. Remember the prophecy about the royal heirs running out? Mishil took the opportunity to sow some seeds of suspicion into Cheonmyeong, so Cheonmyeong felt that her existence was the cause of her brothers’ deaths. Cheonmyeong’s mother and father also blamed themselves, making all of them distracted enough to not interfere with Mishil.
Cheonmyeong’s husband, Yongsu was King Jinji’s son (which would also make him Cheonmyeong’s uncle, eww) and he was slated to take over the throne if there were no male heirs. But Mishil had him killed when he went out to war, snuffing out all hope that was left in Cheonmyeong’s camp. Cheonmyeong, who was pregnant with her son, Chunchu, decided to leave the palace for her and her child’s safety.
Cheonmyeong had a good heart, but she lacked Deokman’s fighting spirit and determination, and she is not as cold and cruel to her enemies like Mishil can be. So despite trying her best, she was not a worthy opponent of Mishil. I looked forward to her appearance as an adult, because she’s portrayed by Park Yejin from Family Outing, so I have some sort of bias towards her.
I kind of pity her, because if she didn’t die she would suffer the same fate as Deokman – forced to pursue a destiny that is greater than herself. Even though Cheonmyeong loved Yushin, he didn’t see her as anything more than his master. Therefore her only way of being with him was to have him by her side against Mishil. So she was crushed to know that Yushin picked Deokman over her. I pitied her a lot, and in some ways her death may not have been the worst possible thing, because even though she died young, she did not have to suffer and fight as long as Deokman did.
Yushin is probably one of the most constant characters throughout the series, because apart from his age, everything about him (that’s known to us) practically stays the same. That’s the thing that I like most about him.
He’s not a very expressive person, strong and silent would describe him perfectly. He even finds it hard to tell Deokman that he likes her, although for viewers his actions speak louder than words. (To me, at least) However, poor oblivious Deok did not understand Yushin’s not-so-subtle “I choose you” actions though. When they fled from the palace, despite Yushin telling Deokman millions of times that he chose her, he’d rather stay and protect her than to go back to the palace, Deokman really did not get him. Poor frustrated guy…all his actions seemed silly to Deokman, and at that point of the series, Bidam appeared. Which made Yushin kind of pale in comparison. Will explain why in Bidam’s part.
I feel that Deokman felt guilty because Yushin liked her instead of Cheonmyeong, which made up most of the reason why she was apprehensive to accepting him. She liked him, but probably not as much as he liked her. And after Cheonmyeong’s death, I felt that it was inevitable that they had to be apart, due to her newfound sense of responsibility and overwhelming guilt over Cheonmyeong’s death. She would be even more guilty had she chosen to be with Yushin, I think.
But Yushin persevered. Even though he knew he could not be with her, he still served her loyally. This part is really admirable, because the poor guy did go through a lot of hardship and pain to help Deokman. In the end he did marry someone else from Mishil’s camp in some political power play, but I think that was just as hard on him as it was on Deokman, because someone as stubborn as him would only feel more pain from not being with the one he loved. So in some ways he became like Cheonmyeong in that he could only be comrades with Deokman, always moving in parallel with her but they can never be together. Aww.
All in all, he’s admirable in that he always places Deokman’s interests first, but he also refuses to betray his own people. Somehow that worked out for him due to his determination and persistence. Guess that’s why he’s a legend.
Bidam is the son of the dethroned King Jinji and Mishil. He was abandoned by Mishil as a baby because he no longer served her purpose, since King Jinji refused to abide by Mishil’s wishes to be queen. Munno raised Bidam and taught him martial arts and everything, with the intention of one day making him King. Since Munno also saved baby Deokman from the clutches of evil Mishil, he wanted to raise both Bidam and Deokman together and make them marry each other and become the power couple, King and Queen, and to unite the three kingdoms of Korea. Kind of idealistic and silly at that point of time, to anyone.
Anyway Munno’s plan did not come to action because Sohwa ran away with Deokman. After Munno told his plans to her, she disagreed, saying that King Jinpyeong only asked that she keep the baby alive and raise her well, not to make her into some sort of political ammo. (Sohwa sounds a bit like Switzerland lol) Bidam grew up without much love from the cold cold Munno, who developed some sort of fear towards Bidam, after Bidam as a child, showed signs of being a sociopath.
I suppose Munno’s lack of love steered Bidam into being even more terrible. Can’t really blame Munno though – the thought of a kid killing a caveful (literally) of people just because they took his book is super scary. Bidam however, tried his whole life to impress his teacher, for his own fear that he would be abandoned again.
It’s difficult to pinpoint Bidam’s character though, how do you understand a sociopath? He did seem pretty complex to me at the start, and also very scary, because I’m generally afraid of people who kill other people without batting an eyelid. Somehow, Deokman managed to reach out to him, and for once Bidam was compelled to protect her. He had some sort of scary devotion to her, because he would basically do anything to protect her – he was very goal-oriented, so anything that comes in his way, he’d sweep them out of the way by slashing their throats.
After Bidam discovered his true identity and his heritage, the thought of becoming the King starting to poison him. From that point on, it was hard for me to tell whether the things he did for Deokman was because he truly cared for her, or because he thought it was his destiny to own the throne and Deokman was his free pass to it. See how it’s so complex? Maybe because in his head he can’t really decide too.
It wasn’t all a joyride for Bidam – apart from being undermined and belittled by his teacher, his mother refuses to acknowledge him, even till her death. Although she did see a glimmer of hope in Bidam carrying on her mission, she thought that his feelings and desire to possess Deokman would ruin him. (Which was true! Please refer to Part 1 where I said Mishil was a prophet lol)
Deokman also did not acknowledge her feelings for Bidam despite his numerous attempts, because she was more focused on her goal of inheriting the throne and moving towards unification. Plus, because she is the Queen and the ruler of the Silla, she did not want to marry since it would spark off all kinds of political power plays. So she spent most of her rule without a husband. Poor Bidam. I can’t say he’s completely innocent though, because he did lust for the throne, although in his defense he was misled to think that owning the throne = being able to be with Deokman.
Also, thanks to the crowd of unruly people around him feeding him lies, he started to doubt Deokman’s trust in him, which led to him revolting against Deokman’s rule. Not completely his fault, just that his weaknesses were exploited by those people. This shows how different Yushin and Bidam are, because Yushin trusted Deokman completely no matter what, but Bidam always had his insecurities, thinking that Deokman would eventually leave him.
And that’s the thing which has got my heart aching all over – if only he had more faith in Deokman. If only. Even though Deokman seems so serious and aloof most of the time, the fact is that she does see how Bidam cared for her, and she was moved. She did realise that perhaps Bidam has ulterior motives for treating her well, she herself did at times use Bidam’s influence for political purposes, but in the end, when it boiled down to ever after, she was ready to abdicate the throne to live with him. (And he *had* to see that as some trick. Sigh) I think Kim Nam Gil carried out the character really well – I would have hated Bidam otherwise, but he just exuded so much charisma through his sad sad eyes and it was difficult to resist him.
His final scene was really heartbreaking though, I don’t think I can forgive the writers for putting out his death to be like that. It’s not out of character for him, because in his final moment he just sincerely wanted to go to Deokman, nothing else. He didn’t see the people who were there to stop him, he couldn’t see the logic that Deokman could not possibly step out to save him, not in front of everyone. All he wanted to do was to reach her. Like in the beginning, where he devoted himself completely to protect her. Gah. Complete tearjerker. T.T I hate those writers, they can be so cruel, just to earn our tears.
When I first saw this name I was like “Empress Chunchu? Isn’t this the wrong era?” Lol. Chunchu is Cheonmyeong’s son with Yongsu. At first I couldn’t come to terms with it, because Yongsu is clearly Cheonmyeong’s uncle and they are direct relatives so the eww factor is there. And there’s also the eww factor for Deokman and Yushin and Deokman and Bidam, because if you refer to the handy relationship chart here, you’d see that Deokman is related to her two love interests by blood too. Yushin’s mother is King Jinpyeong’s sister, which makes Deokman and Yushin cousins. And Bidam is Deokman’s uncle once removed? Or something eww like that.
But somehow Chunchu turned out fine, despite all the eww factors. Smart even, as I sensed from the first episode that he appeared in. He’s kind of the annoying smart alec that you find, and he’s pretty full of himself too. He thinks very highly of himself throughout the whole series, even after Mishil and Deokman proved to be way more capable than him.
He has guts though, he tries to take down Mishil once he arrives in Silla (he was hidden away somewhere in China for his safety as he grew up), and he’s filled with bitterness over his mother’s death. He rejects Deokman’s love for him initially, because she was trying to fill her sister’s shoes. Then Deokman realised that to make him succumb to her, she had to prove herself. And she did, so Chunchu remained on her side. I think he knew that he was no match for Deokman, and he knew he’d outlive Deokman anyway, so might as well let her do the hard job of fighting off Mishil first.
Not really, actually. Deokman was actually trying to teach Chunchu and guide him on how to treat his people, how to value talent, how to become a good king. She never wanted to fight with Chunchu for the throne in the first place, but she wanted to take the throne first while Chunchu establishes his power and influence in Silla. Like keeping his seat warm for him. That’s why she went to all the effort to gain the loyalty of the Gaya people (Yushin’s people) for Chunchu, so that he could carry on the baton in the unification battle, which was their ultimate goal.
I think Chunchu was one of the more dark horse characters for me – I didn’t think he’d be that outstanding, but he was! He impressed me with his cheeky ways and his coolness when dealing with matters much greater than himself. He showed the poise and calmness of a leader which I suppose justifies his later succession of the throne (according to history anyway, because it wasn’t exactly stated in the series). At some points I just wanted to pinch his cheeks, but at other times he would show maturity beyond his age (and I would still want to give him a hug still, poor little squishy boy).
That said, the other supporting characters are really amazing as well, and would have you rooting for them just as much as the mains.
I think this guy is sort of a dark horse. He and Mishil are the embodiment of villains who are not completely evil. He is a more 3-dimensional villain. We get to see his side of the story as well, that he wasn’t just a determined bounty hunter. Over the years of chasing down Deokman and Sohwa, he’s somehow developed some longing for Sohwa, and that seemed very real. And when he returned to Silla with Sohwa he was caught between Mishil and Sohwa. He wanted to be with Sohwa but Mishil wanted him to serve her. (Mishil just can’t allow capable people to flow through the cracks, really.)
She was kind of annoying at first as this ditzy little servant of the young Jinpyeong, but somehow when entrusted with baby Deokman, she managed to become a really good mother. She became stronger and tried to raise Deokman as well as she could, and her love for Deokman was reflected in Deokman’s strength and perseverance. Deokman would have done anything for Sohwa, and that speaks a lot of Sohwa’s nurturing.
Sohwa somehow grew closer to Chilsuk as they travelled together back to Silla later on, since he took care of her she probably felt grateful to him more than anything else. As for other feelings she may have loved him too, but in the end, they were both servants first, and they chose to serve their respective masters over themselves. Which is honourable, in some ways, and very very sad. Especially when Chilsuk told Mishil that he used to think that he was fortunate to have avoided death so many times in his life, but in the end he just felt that he lost the opportunity to die. This was after Sohwa died, which I guess killed off all his other hopes of living on as well. Aww.
He was one of Mishil’s lovers, and her loyal servant. His loyalty and love for Mishil somewhat mirrors that of Yushin’s towards Deokman. Just that Yushin could not openly have a relationship with Deokman due to her status. Actually, I don’t know how everyone else is so accepting of Seolwon’s relationship with Mishil, with the known fact that Mishil’s husband is Sejong. And bringing in the fact that he had a son with Mishil too. It’s as if Silla is pretty open towards bigamy, lol.
Anyway, even though Seolwon is on the dark side, his undying love and trust in Mishil was really amazing. He’s a great general himself, and Mishil valued him for his capability, and also his tolerance. I mean, if he weren’t tolerant and understanding he would have killed off Sejong right at the start. But Seolwon is a gentleman. Even after Mishil’s death he remained true to her wishes and continued fighting for her cause, which is to make Bidam king.
Even though he didn’t succeed, I don’t think anyone would truly cheer at his death. I felt that in the end he was fighting for the same cause as Yushin and Deokman, just that he believed in another ruler to do the job, Mishil as opposed to Deokman. It’s like how in war that no one really wants their people to suffer and get hurt but yet each side would still fight and kill their hearts out to win, because of the leader that they believe in.
Another one of the good guys. He’s a pretty decent guy who comes to be a great ally to Deokman, and a great friend of Yushin. He can be a bit stubborn and silly at times (even more so than Yushin even), but Deokman valued him for his background and also his loyalty.
There isn’t much drama surrounding him, but I do get excited seeing him and Yushin sharing a scene – there’s just too little brotherly love in this series that you have to treasure everything that you get. Sometimes all the drama and the mind games and the power plays do get very burdensome and it’s nice to see some heartwarming moments with Alcheon in it. (And I particularly enjoyed the scene where he had makeup on – he looked so gorgeous lol)
On another note, Deokman’s readiness to abdicate the throne showed how lonely she was as the queen, I don’t think it was something she was truly prepared for when she made the decision in that little cave to take over her father’s position. She was ready to leave Yushin, yes, but I didn’t think she really thought she would be so lonely.
In the last episode my heart really ached for her, because the person she wanted to spend her life with was dead, and she was so desperately lonely that she had to bring up her past with Yushin. My tears just couldn’t stop; it was just so sad, the fact that she had come this far from being that kid in the desert, and looking back onto the other characters as well – Bidam, Mishil, Sohwa, Cheonmyeong and even Chilsuk. It wasn’t just in the sadness of Deokman’s death or Yushin’s tears, but just everything else, the journeys of these characters and how much they grown and changed. It was a very emotional ending for me.
Recommendation: This series is not for everyone – you have to have determination to finish watching 62 episodes (this was the hard part for me), you have to be patient when it comes to remembering names and faces of the many many characters, you have to hold on to something because of all the suspense (a stress ball would be great!), you have to live with a sad ending because in the end, everyone dies. And yes, I do think Bidam’s death was too tragic, but if it weren’t as heartwrenching as it was, it wouldn’t have left such a strong impression on me. But the entire series overall touched me greatly, my emotions went along with the flow of the series, and the whole series is like an amazing journey for me, which is why I’m writing this review.
Watch it if you are ready to go along Deokman’s life journey. It’s not the destination that matters, but the journey.