Six Flying Dragons keeps our attention on the shenanigans of Yi Bang Won (Yoo Ah In) and his buddies as they run around Goryeo trying to start a revolution, but let’s not sleep on Yi Seong Gye‘s other sons, Yi Bang Gwa (Seo Dong Won) and Yi Bang Woo (Lee Seung Hyo). Unlike their carefree brother, they are both members of their father’s army. Prior to the action of the K-drama, they probably spent most of their time hanging out on the battleground. However, they are no slouches. Have you ever noticed that Bang Gwa is always on “enhanced interrogation” duty? And Bang Woo can be counted on to support the wacky plans of his younger brother, even when they directly contradict his father’s wishes. But nothing shows how fantastic these sons of Yi are than when evil forces contain them (“for their protection”) while Papa Yi is forced to fight a battle he is sure to lose and that will harm the people. They both look at each other as if to say, “We’ll go along…..for now.” Of course when the order comes down to execute them, they have this look on their faces that say, “Don’t you know who we are? We are Yi’s sons! We are not going out like that!” Beatdown ensues. Even when the odds are against them, as in the ill-fated dinner at Jo Min Soo’s house, they are not going down with a fight! What good sons!
Historical Kdramas are known for the palace intrigue, political drama and tensions between the ruler and the ruled. But if you are a frequent viewer, you also wait with anticipation for the other hallmark of the period Kdrama: warrior hair!
What is warrior hair? Warrior hair is an aesthetic common to the historical Kdrama, when heroes (and villains) tie their hair up on their heads or back in a ponytail, presumably to keep it out of their eyes and they embark on the multiple episodes that make up these kdramas, all the while allowing it to cascade down in all kinds of ways. Headbands are optional.
You know what I’m talking about. Exhibit A: Ji Chang Wook as Baek Dong Soo in Warrior Baek Dong Soo:
Before he decides to stop being a boob and devote himself to martial arts, that hair is just, well, there. You know he’s serious when he ties it back.
Exhibit B: Lee Min Ho as Choi Young in Faith:
Do I even have to say anything about this? This is great because from episode one, he’s a warrior, so the warrior hair is always on display.
Exhibit C: Jang Hyuk as Lee Dae Gil and Oh Ji Ho as Song Tae Ha in Chuno:
Here we have two for the price of one! While Tae Ha is technically the only warrior, you get the picture.
Most viewers of Kdrama I know agree: everyone looks good in warrior hair. But it also serves a couple of important purposes. First, warrior hair marks the transition in the development of a character. Sometimes, it appears after the requisite “child phase” with the first appearance of the adult versions of characters.
Second, warrior hair denotes class distinctions. Most of the time, if you are sporting warrior hair, you are not inclined to follow the rules. You aren’t part of the royal family, and you are definitely not part of the noble class. You are drifting on the outskirts of society, like one of my favorites, Kim Nam Gil as Bidam in Queen Seondeok:
But even military officials and members of the court may fall out of favor with respectable society. How do you know? LOOK AT THAT HAIR! That’s precisely what happens with Lee Seung Hyo as Alcheon in Queen Seondeok. For much of the Kdrama, Alcheon is prim and proper with his hair tied up in a respectable way, nary a strand of out place and a key member of the Hwarang. However, once stuff goes down in the palace, and Seondeok and her loyal followers are hiding out in the forest, no one has time for that. It’s warrior hair time!
Finally, facial hair is the sidekick to warrior hair. And like warrior hair, it means something. Sometimes, it’s used to tell the viewer that a character has gotten older (you know how much time a Kdrama can cover). However, it can also be used to suggest a change in character and nowhere is this more apparent than with Ju Jin Mo as Jin Ha in Bichunmoo. He starts out as a nice, considerate guy, but once a whole bunch of tragedy befalls him, not the least of which is when someone tries to kill him, he becomes a lot less nice and forgiving. And in case you missed the personality change, warrior hair is there to help!
So the next time you watch a sageuk, take some time to appreciate the warrior hair!
SPOILERS, Y’ALL, SPOILERS!!
Ok, I’m not surprised. It’s not called the Great Prime Minister Bidam, it’s called the Great Queen Seondeok, and knowing it is historically based, I know how this was probably going to end. But I still have ISSUES!!!
First, I come from the wuxia world, where people don’t have problems messing with actual history. If I was Deokman, I would have taken a page out of The Water Margin, way back when she was Princess Deokman after Cheongmyeong gets shot. I would have gathered Bidam, Yushin and Archeon together, any rogue Hwarang hanging out, and anybody else who was tired of the status quo, and taken it to some impregnable mountain fortress, and told the king: “We out! If the cause is just and righteous, we’ll come and help you out. Good luck with Mishil!” Then I would have told, TOLD Yushin: “Look, I need a general, and you are it. No more doe eyes!” I would have made Bidam my bodyguard, ’cause he’s cute and handy with a sword and good with sneaky stuff, but I don’t really have any romantic interest him, leaving Archeon to be my BOO!!!!!!
But I digress. Back to the show. I’ve been reading around the ‘net how they describe Bidam. He’s on a mad quest for power. He wants to be king. He leads a coup (ok, he does that last bit). First, let’s see what all the fuss is about:
Ok, things have been moving fast and furious on the show. When you realize that there are 62 episodes to this thing, you learn to pace yourself. I think I had some Queen Seondeok overload over the break. At any rate, it is still a top quality pursuit. I know I go on and on about Mishil, but when was the last time you saw a smart, conniving woman who was a real villain worthy of your respect AND your disdain? I actually got a little scared when it looked like Mishil was going to give up….but luckily, she comes back even more gangsta than ever.
The royal politics are very intriguing, but I do have some concerns. Like you would think the palace guards who protect the princess would be better fighters. During the coup (oh,I didn’t mention this–there’s a coup, y’all!), they are far too easily dispatched. Then again, there can’t be too many Yushins, Archeons and Bidams rolling around. In case you have forgotten, Archeon is my boy! Lee Seung Hyo is fantastic! He should totally get more air time! I especially like it when he gets his righteous indignation on! I like Bidam (Kim Nam Gil) also, but my spidey sense is telling me that tragedy is waiting for him down the road in this drama, or at least something I won’t be groovy with.
Also in the interim Cheonmyeong’s son shows up, all arrogant and in desperate need of an introduction to a belt. He eventually reconciles himself to the Princess Deokman plan, but it does point to one of the strengths of the show, and the need for the 62 episodes. 62 episodes allows you to develop characters, let them grow and change, even in ways you may not like. It makes villains for more complex and heroes a little less shiny. People have opportunities to make mistakes, I mean BIG mistakes (dude, Munno?) and move on from them. Take for instance Yongchun. I was ready to consign him to the “I wish someone would whack you” category when he opposes Deokman’s quest for the throne, but he totally won me back when he says that he’d slit his own throat before letting Seolwon and his crew arrest him. That was sassy. Forget the fact that he apparently can’t wield a sword to save his life. I like his attitude!