The Sons of Yi Seong Gye. . . Are On My Mind!

Six Flying Dragons
Six Flying Dragons

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!

Warrior Hair in Kdrama

kingdomofthewind

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:

warriorbaekdongsoo

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:

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:

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:

seondeokbidam

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!

Source:  http://www.soompi.com/forums/topic/176217-drama-2008-bichunmoo/page__st__40

Source:  http://www.soompi.com/forums/topic/176217-drama-2008-bichunmoo/page__st__100

So the next time you watch a sageuk, take some time to appreciate the warrior hair!

Queen Seondeok: 57-The Bitter End

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:

 


Bidam http://www.hs.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=114126085268552&id=288913751479&ref=share)

 

 

I like Bidam.  I’m going to defend Bidam (very capably played by Kim Nam Gil). Remember where we first meet him? Dude was sleeping in a cave and throwing chicken at Yushin. That’s your great villain.  Bidam is very conflicted, abandoned as a child then abandoned by Munno. And Deokman doesn’t help once they get in the palace to help assuage his insecurity. Nobody every gives him a chance: from the get go everybody is like, oooh, he’s dangerous and can’t be trusted.  On side you got rat fink Chunchu (more on him later), on the other side you got Misaeng, Yumjong and the rest of the crazy Mishil crew. Whatever Bidam turns out to be, he didn’t get there by himself. If he and Deokman were just left alone, we could have avoided a lot of this. But we do have a coup, and I have to say, at least there was no whining, no pleading, no running away.  Deokman knew she had to whack Bidam; Bidam knew he was going to get whacked, and he took it like a man, going down swinging!

Let’s talk about others who are responsible for where we end up. I’m talking to you, Great Queen Seondeok! What would have happened if she just whacked Mishil’s crew from the get go? Sure, other ambitious people would have come on the scene and caused trouble, but would they have trained under the most cunning mind of the day? I think not. And they rush past it, but the Queen seems pretty satisfied to use Bidam to her dirty work. I like her, but she ain’t blameless.  She also just stands there and lets countless soldiers get whacked trying to kill Bidam, when all she had to do was say stop, let him say his peace, and execute him with those other punks. But no……

Let’s talk about that pimple Chunchu. How is he any different from Bidam, motivated by unresolved issues in his past? Except that dude makes no bones about wanting the throne the way that he wants it. He never gets over Mishil killing his mom, like he’s the only one who lost  a parent.  And remember he punked Mishil!  He’s not an innocent; he’s got a serious agenda: Gee Bidam, I know you are in love with my aunt, but since I want the throne, you gotta go, by any means necessary!  And can we not forget that he was in on the whacking of Munno? Hello? Rat fink! I hate his smug attitude (although, big props to the teenager who  plays him!).

Let’s talk about Misaeng, Hajong and that wacky crew. I know they eventually get the traitor treatment, but they make it to the end, causing trouble, being nobles. That hardly seems fair.

Which brings me to one thing I learned: you can’t have your love or any kind of a normal life and rule a country. Politics and righteousness and romance don’t mix.  Ask any wuxia swordsman. You don’t see them getting entangled in crazy national issues, and when they do, it NEVER works out:

  • The Legendary Warrior: guys spends most of the series denied his due by royalty, royal woman mostly, and who takes her out? Some royal guard? NO! Swordswoman!
  • Romance of the Red Dust: in addition to the crazy going on in the basements of some official’s homes, when our hero recognizes that the guy he helps get the throne is going to engage in the same type of shenanigans they fought against, he takes his cookies and goes home to live a life of solitude
  • The Young Warriors: we’ve already discussed how the Yangs get dissed by the incompetent emperor, and who has to suffer? our righteous Yang family
  • Shall I go on?
  • The Handsome Siblings: these guys just happen to be born to the wrong parents, and try as they may, they get caught up in some Single Chinese Empress syndrome because she’s obsessed with one of them. This costs both of the siblings EVERYTHING and EVERYONE!
  • Sword Stained with Royal Blood: I know, the title seems self-explanatory, but this is another story where you help new dude get rid of old dude on the throne only to have new dude act even worse and dash your hopes of a better tomorrow.
  • Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain: agent of the government mucking up jiang hu, all for the promise of recognition by the ruler.

If you want to survive and be an upright, fight-for-justice kind of person, and have your love survive, stay away from the palace!  It is not the place for righteous folk who have a cause. As bad as she was, Mishil manages to keep her people alive and safe, even Daenambo, who kills a PRINCESS and lives to tell about it. She worked the palace like Deokman never manages to do. She loses her people to crazy schemes, and it takes its toll.  Mishil don’t look lonely, and Deokman remains so.  It’s not so much that people are bad, it’s the quest for power and more power that drives them to do bad, BAD things. Even Mishil wasn’t going to destroy Shilla to get what she wanted.

Ok, on the up side, my boo Archeon lives!  Once again, let’s see what we’re working with:

 

Archeon http://meylaniaryanti.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/lee-seung-hyo-cute-al-cheon/

 

THAT, is my MAN!!! I love Archeon. I love his character and I love Lee Seung Hyo who plays him.  So, of course, way back in the early episodes, he was just as arrogant as the other Hwarang, but unlike the other Hwarang, he becomes boyz with Yushin after they narrowly escape the battlefield. Anytime things don’t look right, Archeon is like, “This looks shady, I’m not going to be a part of this.” Whenever somebody needs him to something for the cause, he’s there. He doesn’t get much screen time, but he is a righteous man, down to the end, and the only one that Deokman could depend on as Queen because he wasn’t in love with her. And even after Deokman is gone, he’s still on his job!

So that’s it: 62 episodes later.  Is Deokman The Great Queen? Yes she is great! Can’t say the same for some of the flunkies around her. And she’s also great because another woman made her great. MIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!

Queen Seondeok: Episodes 26-46

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!