Tag Archive | Bidam

Putting Bidam and His Story Into Perspective

An official poster of the drama. From left to right: Bidam Sangdaedung, Mishil Seju, Deokman Paeha, Kim Yushin Chamgun, Princess Cheonmyong

An official poster. Left to Right: Bidam Sangdaedung, Mishil Seju, Deokman Paeha, Kim Yushin Chamgun, Princess Cheonmyeong, Prince Kim Chunchu

This is a rumination of the 2009 sageuk (South Korean historical drama) The Great Queen Seon Duk. I rushed my way through Episodes 53 to 62, not having seen everything in detail but enough to grasp the overall picture, and I am now about to store it to where it belongs in my psyche, so that I could draw breaths from it whenever I need to in my ongoing journey of earthly life 🙂 Ja, some intense sageuk characters do hit me hard, almost wrenching me away from non-screen life, and so I have to place them among my scheme of thinking, and so to be washed off of the business-world’s intent to profit from emotions. I really condemn mass media’s shameless exploitation of the human psyhe, but, it’s shikataganai (nothing-can-do-about-it). However, knowing the opponent is a first rule in conflict, and that’s why I have to put into perspective an exploitative drama that is just one among the thousands 🙂 Simply put, I feel the need to tame my reaction to the story 🙂 One of these days I will go back to it, see all the gruesome scenes and hear all the maddening scheme-ings, so that, in Chunchu’s words, I’d be able to turn all the stones.

Mishil, and the valiant men who are willing to die for her

Mishil, and the valiant men who are willing to die for her

This drama presents the extent to how far power can disfigure and dehumanize. Mishil, the concubine to two kings here, pining after a dead love, lover to a general, wife to a noble, mother and aunt to warriors, and mother to the abandoned direct-descendant-royal-prince Bidam, plays with the viewer’s life-defense-instincts until you (at least it happened to me) realize that her angelic smirks are too theatrical to take seriously. And so I managed to shift from being terrified of her potency to laughing every time one of her brows lift.

I have already seen a bit of this drama years ago. I have marked the Bidam character to be worth looking at again, and that’s why I recently did so. I have marked also that the Mishil character is vile, the accompanying OST to her I deemed to be like those from the horror movies. Chincha. Fortunately time has passed, I have seen Sa Taek Bi and Eun Go, I have re-viewed Kiha and her dark-lord guardian, and several other near-invincible antagonists, and so things have resettled again: evil never wins. Mahatma Gandhi is my hero.

Mishil ceases to be an empathetic woman and excels in moving people around in her many years of romance with power. Her early life isn’t depicted here. She only says that one day she suddenly stopped being abhorred by violence — she stopped crying for other people. She simply stopped feeling. And there was that love whom she abandoned, she says, because she went for the king.

young Deokman and her best friend Cartan the Roman merchant

young Deokman and her best friend Cartan the Roman merchant

Deokman and her desert world

Chilsuk and Deokman could have been friends. He catches up with her in her desert world of international merchant-buddies.

That lost love was her downfall: he provided her with the key to more power-sucking, the capability to be seen as super-human through the use of pure science.  She used an astronomical almanac and a mathematician monk to get the better of her shamanistic-drenched society. Until Deokman, by her knowledge of the wider world through her international contacts in the desert, and by the naive fearlessness of her friend Bidam, pulled an eclipse on her face. Mishil’s sun was darkened starting that day.

And so Deokman engages in conquering the evils of her inherited kingdom. Alas, she will not prevail. The worm Yeomjong will defeat her. The guile that is her beloved nephew Prince Kim Chunchu will cut her heart to pieces. Alas, we, all of us, continue to contend with evil everyday. Trusted persons may and do betray us. And that’s why we hope, and we also pray. And that’s why we teach our children to hope, and also to pray. And that’s why even sincerely hatched ideologies cannot bring in utopia. And that’s why sageuks and regular dramas will continue to be a very profitable industry. Kaja.

Kim Chunchu the guileful

Kim Chunchu the guileful

The day Deokman wielded power, on her installation as Silla’s ruler, the ‘Deokman’ persona disappears. She must be on guard against everyone and everything because she ultimately is responsible for all that will befall her kingdom. The sense of ‘taking responsibility‘ is taken very seriously in the world of sageuks, and that’s why the ‘ranking’, the ‘ordering of status‘, borders on insanity, borders on discrimination, fosters marginalization, and, since it involves humans, feeds on greed. Shikataganai. That’s how it was then. That’s how it is in the world today, albeit that ‘responsibility’ part is something that only the likes of Kim Yushin can consistently adhere to.

Kim Yushin has it in himself to cleave a rock by striking it thousands of times with wooden swords = the result of a straightforward warrior's weird form of meditation

Result of a straightforward warrior’s weird form of meditation. Yushin has it in himself to cleave a rock by striking it thousands of times with wooden swords.

It is the most staunch of warriors who take the issue of loyalties very seriously. The fiercest in Deokman's generation, from left: Bidam, Yushin, Alcheon, Bojong

It is the most staunch of warriors who take the issue of loyalties seriously. The fiercest in Deokman’s generation, from left: Bidam, Yushin, Alcheon, Bojong.

Gen. Kim Yushin is so steadfast that he can cleave a rock by sheer perseverance. This, his unbending course, almost caused him to deal Deokman a double-wham in the heart, losing both Bidam and him. Yushin is not spared of the tension of wavering between two loyalties. The characters are all presented with agonizing choices of loyalties, be it to persons or to causes or to self. Bidam was torn between Munno, Mishil, and Deokman. Yushin was torn between Deokman and Gaya. Alcheon was torn between which person represents his true calling as the people’s protector: Mishil or Cheonmyeong. Bojong is torn between his father’s sense of personhood and his father’s devotion to Mishil. The viewer’s logic is constantly bombarded with issues of ethics and morality that their real-life manifestations are in danger of being relegated as just matters for passive viewership. Like being slowly convinced that violence is the norm. It’s a very dangerous phenomenon.

The ruler now, formerly Deokman to all, flanked by the heir apparent her nephew Kim Chunchu and the Dowager Queen, formerly Lady Maya.

The ruler now, formerly Deokman to all, flanked by the heir apparent her nephew Kim Chunchu and the Dowager Queen, formerly Lady Maya.

Bidam, his basic persona

basic Bidam, self-sufficient yet empty

Bidam faces

a Bidam of expressions

Bidam, faulty material to begin with

…unguarded moment

Bidam, the mal- and under-fed soul

Bidam, needful soul…

That’s why I have no excuse to offer for the genius of craftiness who is Kim Chunchu. The nearest would be ‘nationalism‘, and that’s why I understand why Germany for one is wary of this noble phenomenon. Like Bidam, nationalism is a double-edged sword, it both builds up and distorts, carrying both life and death. Kim Chunchu, in his nationalistic fervor, cause the downfall of both queens Deokman and Eun Go (of Baekje, of the drama Gye Baek 🙂

Deokman grew up with the boys. Here, in a fierce dialogue with Alcheon.

One of the boys. Deokman clashes with Alcheon.

Deokman and her hands

Bidam says nobody touches this kid.

Even if Deokman had been effective in everything else the presence of Kim Chunchu would constantly threaten her predetermined course. Well, it would be illogical to surmise that Deokman less Chunchu would have been tragedy-less. Even as supreme ruler Deokman wouldn’t have been able to contain all the freely-moving thinking entities surrounding her.  Like the way atoms would move, in the Brownian model, to new directions after being mutually hit by others, there’s no way of predicting how isolated human decisions would end up in the domino effect of things. The nakedly base persona who is Bidam — itinerant, instinctual, eccentric, unbound, expressive, vulnerable, deadly, emotionally hungry, naive — through leaps of events that usually happen in fairy tales he metamorphoses into the queen’s soul-mate. Or should I say that, in the words of Bidam himself, all things find their final place. Bidam said this to himself when, upon his engagement to the queen, decided to accede to Munno’s wish of giving the geographical books to Yushin. Bidam’s metamorphosis is reflected in Deokman’s, whom the desert eventually spewed back into Gyerim, where she became one with the boys, though not becoming as warrior-fierce as Mishil once was.

Deokman and her hands (2)

Yushin & Bidam rescue the princess.

Alcheon vs Yushin

Alcheon, a legitimate alpha male candidate, in tournament combat vs. Yushin.

Bidam vs Yushin, the alpha males

Yushin vs. Bidam, tournament

Deokman and her hands (1)

Alcheon steps back, though remains as the queen’s personal guard.

And, as in mirror images, their ‘directions’ are opposite: Bidam came from isolation and had to prepare to be the ruler’s consort; Deokman came from the openness of free thinking but must now focus on the path of wielding absolute control but where as she controls she is also being controlled, manipulating but also being manipulated. Many personalities evolved in this story: Jukbang, Godo, Seolwon, Chilsuk, Munno, Sohwa, but it is the transformation of Deokman and Bidam that are most remarkable. And, between the two, it is Bidam’s. On the contrary Yushin stayed as steady (as the rock before he cleaved it 🙂 — otherwise Deokman would have been left with nobody to be thankful to on her dying chair.

The Great Queen Seon Duk utilizes this steady image of the great hero Gen. Kim Yushin in order to cook up a tale of males vying for the alpha position. The male characters have their own charms, even the funny Santak and Jukbang who in the end teamed up in trying to bridge the misunderstanding between Bidam and Deokman. Even the slime Yeomjong could be attractive to some, with his wealth, position, influence, and the capabilty to mobilize amrs. Ah, needless to speak of the array of masculinity, from Chunchu down to the Hwarangs, down to the resistance movement where Wolya is the most beautiful. I am relieved that Alcheon was spared of the bloody battle for Deokman, and he becomes Deokman’s beta instead (a step down, supporting, positive). The final alpha candidates, Yushin and Bidam, are a confusion to me because Yushin was never aggressive towards Bidam. It was difficult for me to accept the battle between them.

Bidam, the alpha male for me, was simply a damaged material to begin with. But for many that’s no excuse. Episode 53 was a painful watch for me, where Bidam, basking under Deokman’s confidence, starts to push people around including Yushin-the-ever-good. Uhm Tae Woong was a very good choice for this role because his face, even in his ‘fierce’ look, communicates “sincerity”, truth, jinsil.

Deokman-Bidam twin dragon rings (2)

Deokman-Bidam twin dragon rings

Bidam does not want to leave

Bidam, who wants to protect Deokman, is being protected by her. Otoke?

Bidam, loved but scared

A giving, but also a depriving. Otoke?

Deokman, powerful but helpless

Deokman, the helpless ruler

Bidam & Deokman, forced to do something they don't like = be away from each other

Bidam & Deokman, forced to do something they don’t like = be away from each other

Bidam, the instinct to protect what's his

The alpha male’s instinct is to protect. Bidam reclaims his sword.

Bidam crumbles

Bidam, assessing…

Deokman intends to live with him

Deokman ready to retire, with Bidam

However, when Bidam “saw the light”, which is his term for his bond with Deokman, he settles. He refutes Mishil’s reasoning that loving is taking. He says that it is the opposite: it is giving up. He becomes the pupil that Munno would have been howling proud of. His volatility quiets. It didn’t count for him that he’s the son of a Holder of the Royal Seal and a former king. He wishes to forsake the world on the day that, if ever, Deokman dies before he does. He gives up his claim to Munno’s premature promise that he’ll be the one to unify the three kingdoms. He basks in Yushin’s thankfulness. Deokman fully embraces, gives him the highest government post, sends him away to safety as she battles the hidden traitors. She gives him what is equivalent to the West as the marriage ring. He achieved THE alpha position beside the top female. (I have to refocus against the fact that Deokman’s father is his cousin; this might be strange to me but it’s natural in that part of history.)

The fault lies in the Brownian motion. I will side with Deokman and I will not condemn Bidam. The queen may have abandoned the traitor but Deokman did not abandon Bidam. Indeed it was only him who was responsible for all his actions but Bidam was simply too ‘deficient’ to start with, or whatever safe description there is, to take the quantum leap of accepting-betrayal-in-exchange-for-200%-sincerity. Not everyone has the capacity to be like the biblical character Job. The author-philosopher C. S. Lewis says something like it being more laudable to appreciate the man who has traversed from ‘badness’ to even a bit of ‘goodness’ than a man who has always been ‘good’. THAT IS, if Bidam did betray Deokman… Bidam had found his rest. He had renounced all claims in favor of the light who for him is in Deokman. He had become a happy man getting ready to retire 🙂 I was already at rest with his happiness. The writers simply had to find a good excuse to have the drama end ‘very dramatically’. On the other hand I’m glad that it showcased personhood. Personhood is the redemption of the tragedy that is Bidam and Deokman.

I will have to write another post on the anatomy of their separation. It has something to do with the frailty of trust. What I believe in now is that none of the two betrayed each other. Deokman’s hands were tied with the country’s laws. Bidam may act on the contrary in the face of people he intends to confuse but I will stick to my conviction that, in his own reasoning, he will work for what would be advantageous for Deokman.

When Deokman sent him away from the city with a ring the twin of her own Bidam was concerned of the separation, an echo of repeated abandonment in the past, plus he instinctively wants to protect Deokman knowing that she is facing a big problem that is threatening the royal family’s safety. When a fake assassin fails to take him he says something like: if that throne is too heavy for you then I will be responsible for it on your behalf, or I along with those who threaten you will disappear from this earth, or that I will become the throne so that you will not be torn into different loyalties anymore. What’s tragic is that as Bidam was formulating all this, slumped against a tree and clutching his ring, Deokman was writing him a letter, that she will abdicate after she solves the current problem and so he just wait for her, find a temple where they will stay together, because, ugh, she is dying. I don’t want to cry right now so I need to finish this long post fast.

The fault lies in the Brownian motion. Chunchu acts. Yeomjong acts. The power-greedy act. The fearful act. Bidam was cut off from his line of communication with Deokman. Deokman cannot be as expressive as she was in her childhood. Bidam, who only very recently got healed from being damaged, but still hurting from the cruelty of his mother, crumbles in the onslaught. He returns the dragon ring to Deokman. Disaster. Everyone has a field day. I think about life. I mourn for the possibilities. I have to accept so that I could move on. Shikataganai. I breathe because Yushin is still standing. Like Dongyi’s orabeoni. Like Songyeon’s Daesu. He carries on the legacy of the woman that he loves.

Bidam Deokam beginning

Bidam-Deokman, embrace instead of condemnation

Bidam pats Deokman to sleep

Bidam pats Deokman to sleep

Bidam offset by Mishil's trick

Mishil pulls a trick on Bidam

Mishil in a regular meeting with her family

Mishil in a regular meeting with her family

Deokman embraces Deokman in her dream

Deokman embraces Deokman, in her dream

Deokman and Yushin best friends forever

Deokman, Yushin, best friends forever

Deokman and Yushin best friends forever (1)

Not persons, but ruler & subject

Deokman says goodbye

The ring on the limped hand

Deokman says goodbye (1)

goodbye world, hello Bidam

I am relieved that the suave Seolwon died with honor. He was a sincere beta to Mishil’s alpha, and his speaking voice commands respect. I am saddened that Deokman’s and Cheonmyeong’s father, the king, was such a weakling. Perhaps that was the result of being born to a household drenched with tension: one opts for the extremes. The way Mishil’s men face each other at their table meetings, concocting schemes, in terror of her, and maintaining superficial amicability, is sickening. I wouldn’t want children to watch this drama. Mishil herself, with the OST accompanying her, is a dose of unhealthy information about a reality that isn’t necessarily so.  I’m sure the Mahatma Gandhi would have thought so, too. Confronting an evil structure does not necessarily entail violence, and so the supposedly frightening monster is reduced to an object of perspective. For Deokman it took only a sincere dialogue with the mathematician monk. And confidence in Bidam’s ingenuity. And the guts to risk a bit bigger than she ever did before.

The likes of the character that is Bidam does not come along often. I am glad that I have come to know him. His image as a killing machine is something I would like to protest against. I don’t believe that anyone as simple as child like him has the heart of a cold killer. He does kill very efficiently, yes, but the standard at that time was to exactly excel in that art. That’s why Munno realized in the end that he was wrong about Bidam. Bidam is his pupil, is like him, and is not a monster. It’s just that Kim Nam Gil’s eyes can really shoot daggers 🙂 His theatricals are excusable considering that Bidam has to be portrayed as a character of extremes. However, I wish the violence in that last fight, one against many, was done away with. If it was only to feature Bidam’s Munno-like prowess then it wasn’t entertaining at all. It was very painful to watch. Why did the writers have to make Bidam decide to fight his way to her? It’s a pointless recalling of the theme of mass murder that happened to him a long time ago. Was it to emphasize who the real Bidam is and so justify the violence done against him? The writers should have made the queen shout for everyone to stop. Or to rope him. Or a net. It’s ridiculous that all those troops couldn’t stop a single un-armored man, as if to really put him across as a killing machine.  No wonder Deokman’s heart rioted. Also, I simply protest against the killing of Santak. It was pointless.

I can generalize the story’s theme this way: touching another person creates miracles. The Bidam-Deokman bond was defined when she embraced him, they embraced each other, figuratively and  bodily, instead of condemning him for a lie she found out about. From then on it was only him who could continue to address her casually and hold her hand. He pats her to sleep, a replica of how he touched her forehead when they were babies.

Bidam’s heart was touched at Mishil’s unexpected touch, extracting a stalk from behind his ear, a trick she may have conjured to trick him into filial piety despite everything she did to him. Earlier he was already startled when it was his arm that Mishil took instead of Chilsuk’s to support her on the rough terrain.

The tensions in the entire storyline are tied to the relationships of these three.  Mishil’s safety net is her people’s devotion to her. Deokman’s are Yushin and Alcheon. Bidam’s, well, lest I say Munno’s acceptance of him, then he has nothing. But for me Munno would suffice for him, and that’s why I have faith in his final decisions. He faced death just so to relay to Deokman that her love for him was not betrayed. That, I believe, was her foundation why she continued to wear her pair of their rings on the day she died, which was only three days after he did (so, Bidam’s answer to Mishil became true, that he’d die three days before the ruler of the kingdom does). I repeat: The queen may have abandoned the traitor but Deokman did not abandon Bidam. Deokman fulfilled Bidam the vow that he gave to her, to give up the world also in the event that the other dies first. But Deokman went all the way for both of them. She did not merely retire from power. She left everything.

Kim Yushin the incorruptible

Kim Yushin the incorruptible

There was also that embrace from somebody, in a dream when she first came to Gyerim, that she relates again to Yushin. She says she now knows who it was, and Yushin repeatedly asks her to tell him. We don’t hear her tell him. We are instead shown a scene of grayed Yushin and Alcheon (whom to my delight was put by the queen in the position that Bidam vacated, the Sangdaedung, the highest office in the court) unexpectedly meeting at the queen’s mound, each to report of the success that Silla had over Baekje (ah, poor Gye Baek and Eun Go). Next we are shown the teen-age Deokman’s dream: the unknown woman who embraced her was the Queen Seon Duk wearing mourning clothes. Was the queen mourning her own death? Did the queen signify the Deokman who will die once she comes to the palace? Does it say that Deokman has been embraced by ‘non-person’, a queen but not a person, the moment she came back to where she belongs? That one who embraced her also urged her to endure until the end.

Bidam, shikataganai

Bidam, virtual royal consort, put on a pedestal but used shamelessly. Shikataganai. The warrior is a child.

And how about Yushin, her first love? Yushin deserves all her gratitude and more. Yushin more than deserves to hear all those words from her. Yushin became a man side by side with her, had been hers and her twin’s strength. But she and Yushin were not ‘people’ to each other. They were subject and ruler. It was only with Bidam that she is a ‘person’. Naturally she collapses when he died. Three days she was unconscious, on regaining consciousness she goes out to see the sky and the land — much the same scene at Eun Go’s final moments — she goes out and be with Yushin for a few hours, expressing her love for him. She asks him to run away with her now like the way they planned to a long time ago. But Yushin becomes flustered, and seems to say he possibly couldn’t because she, after all, has just left to him all the tasks for the sake of land still left undone . In Bidam’s insecurity he believed that it was Yushin who achieved everything, who had ‘all’. He didn’t see how Yushin would have liked to be in his shoes since a long time ago. Yushin knows how Deokman loved Bidam despite of her being unsure herself of that love. Love for many cannot really be formulated into words. But when Deokman told Yushin earlier that she wanted to spend her final days with Bidam then what more can be said about how she truly felt? So Deokman closes her eyes, tears fall (of regrets? of happiness? of relief?), and then she goes to follow Bidam.

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Getting To Know Bidam Better

Mr. Kim Nam Gil as the complex character Bidam

Mr. Kim Nam Gil as Bidam.

For perspectives, first, I’d say that I’m about to get specific about a persona in a drama (i.e., it specializes in arousing a gamut of emotions, predominantly those that cause crying and anger 🙂 It’s addicting, it’s a downer and an upper at the same. But stories have always embodied the soul of humanity, and so despite my upbringing that tended to ‘look down’ on dramas I’ve nevertheless come to the conclusion that they could be ‘respectable’. Blah blah blah. I guess I’d have to create another post on this topic, where I have to discuss my perennial dislike for the sword fights and the crashing horses. Otherwise I won’t be able to sleep soon, late as it is. It’s 2:50 am 🙂

Okay, as I was saying, first, for perspectives, this drama is a feminine power dynamo. The main protagonist and antagonist are very strong historical women, back when it was absolutely a man’s world in there. Much fiction has been interwoven into the plot (of course) but the limelight is never taken away from the two female leads, Mishil and Deokman, who each have an impressive entourage of devoted male power behind them. It should be among the most notable mass media produced stories in history.  It has its defects but they won’t matter much to the non-finicky. Even professionals in the stories-industry would appreciate its strengths. It is as good as a drama can get — the plottings and subplots present themselves as equally crucial that somewhere along the way I gave up on trying to follow them too closely. They’re draining on the logic and the extra emotions spent on them aren’t worth it 🙂 But in order to get down to my main aim I must reserve talking about the entire storyline for another time. This time, now, is Bidam’s.

Bidam is the character played by Mr. Kim Nam Gil in the South Korean sageuk drama Queen Seon Duk (2009). I don’t have a summary here so unless you’ve seen it or learned about it, much of what I’m about to say ahead would be, I guess, incomprehensible. I could guarantee, though, that Bidam is an interesting character. 🙂 This post, then, is my take on Bidam as of today. I have just finished Episode 52 and am 10 episodes away from the final one. I know that Bidam and the queen have a tragic love story. But since I like Bidam I’m trying my best to understand him. If ever I will, after all, find his character obnoxious in the end then I hope I will be able to say so. I hope I will have the courage to say so.

Munno _ep25

Munno

I like Bidam because he is the only disciple of Munno. Munno’s persona is the most ‘dependable’ one in the drama. Meaning that whenever he’s there then you’d expect for things to go well. (However, his connection with Yeomjong was lamentably his weakest spot. He gained much from Yeomjong but he also lost much, including his life. And now Bidam has strengthened that connection and I’m afraid that in one of the future episodes my fears won’t be unfounded.) I can say that Chilsuk’s is also as ‘dependable’ but unfortunately he’s with Mishil and so I can only empathize with him…

Munno himself acknowledged his deficiencies in raising up Bidam. In their final conversation they ended up touchingly reconciled with each other. Munno confessed to Bidam that finally he understood him, and thus wholeheartedly accepts him as his legitimate pupil regardless of what others might say about it. Bidam in turn was healed of his hurts with his master. Thus, this open communication forged an unbreakable bond between them. At the last moment of Munno’s life the ideal master-pupil harmony between them is cemented: there’s affection, acceptance, respect, trust, commitment.

Nevertheless, Bidam’s character as a fearless persona remains. Had Munno stayed alive he still wouldn’t have been able to suppress or eradicate this facet of Bidam. But manifested affection from him certainly would have tamed Bidam a bit, or should I say dulled the sharpness of his volatility. Indeed, Bidam is a sharp double-edged handle-less blade/sword. Bidam is reckless and he needs bounds to keep himself safe. Munno was barely able to provide this control, a fact he realized at that day of massacre at the cave to which Bidam was responsible. That incident indicates the extent to which Bidam can make manifest whatever conviction he has. He gives his all — this, I think, is what Munno finally saw in Bidam. That’s why his final word to Bidam was for him to support Yushin and Deokman. Unfortunately Mishil fed him with additional “insight” on how to apply this devotion, and so the plot gets more complex. Mishil on her last conversation with him defined love as this: taking everything without reserve — I hope to say about this somewhere below. As of now I am looking forward to finding out if indeed Deokman is Munno’s hoped-for wielder of the sword that is Bidam, and thus will effectively contain his potency.

Bidam does not fit within the order of things but at the same time he embodies radical truths. He is like a fairytale character introduced into history, a mythic figure come to life. He does not belong yet he is there, and his presence is strong. He was not invited in the councils during Deokman’s rise to power over Mishil. Yet the roles he played have been consistently crucial to Deokman’s success. The first serendipitous act he performed for Deokman’s benefit was saving her from the assassins sent by Yushin’s father. Unknowingly he fulfilled the mission that Munno was not able to do: find Deokman. However, Munno’s intention was actually to raise both children together along the path that would eventually make them rulers, as a married couple, of the unified kingdom that King Jinheung envisioned.

As of Episode 52 I could see that Bidam and Deokman are virtually acting as a unified couple, albeit Deokman as king and Bidam as queen [in the sense of being a support, a subordinate, yet nevertheless privy to the tension that Deokman feels regarding the security of the kingdom]. They are in concert over decisions that none other than the two of them alone orchestrate. Yushin, who has for long had Deokman’s affection, is now in danger of being implicated in the treasonous movement participated in by clans related to his, those from Gaya.

The Gayans, headed by Wolya, may have a legitimate reason in persisting with their ‘restoration’ movement but this is a deception of the understanding that Deokman + Yushin + Wolya put up at the start of Deokman’s rule: that this secret military movement be disbanded and all personnel be integrated into Silla. Deokman has treated all from Gaya well and therefore sees this still-alive ‘restoration’ movement as a betrayal. Will she be able to forego this betrayal the way she did with Bidam, when she discovered that he lied to her about finding King Jinheung’s message of order-to-kill-Mishil?

He is a king’s son, of authentic royal blood, and the son of the most powerful woman before Deokman. Had things been for him his right to rule would have been legitimate. But he is also an abandoned child. However, his father entrusted him to the most trustworthy subject of the kingdom. And his mother has reserved for him her final contingency lest all her efforts fail, which is a deserved right-to-power over Silla. Bidam, therefore, was removed from mainline reality and placed in the realm of abstracts. The most glaring proof of this is the fact that his master Munno wove around him the dream of the united kingdom that his grandfather King Jinheung first dreamt of. Bidam is the projection of both: an object callously discarded, and an extension-of-selves placed on a pedestal. He is the proprietor of extremes of a person’s possible point of reference for self-perception — because he is an orphan who at the blink of an eye lost his master’s affection, how then should he think about himself? — because he is an affection-hungry just-as-sharp-disciple of his very-strong teacher, how then should he conduct himself in society? How does he proceed to ‘give’ love after confusedly losing the only love he’s basked at since birth?

Bidam and Munno _ep25

Munno and Bidam, affectionless relationship

Bidam questioned for his sincerity _ep25

Munno, surprised by empathy

Bidam questioned for his sincerity (1) _ep25

Bidam, cringing pupil

Bidam questioned for his sincerity (2) _ep25

Bidam, hatching from his shell

Bidam is so naïve yet so smart, so vulnerable yet so impregnable. It is disturbing how he could, while just a child, murder for his conviction. I agree with Munno in that even at that young age Bidam should already have been able to discern that his planned retaliation was something horrendous. Instead, Bidam saw it as a measure of restoring balance. The men were violent to him, a defenseless child. They stole the thing that his master treasured, and that which his master declared was upon completion reserved for him. He believed he was protecting his master’s interest as well as guarding what is rightfully his. His full devotion to his master and his sense of self-worth drove him to perform an extreme act, which sadly was a very violent one: killing men, women, as well as children. I most certainly cringe at Bidam’s take at justice. It was in no way justifiable, just as in no way that a single life be seen as less in value as several’s. What fascinates me about him is his latent capability, which naively he has allowed to be manifested.

It was at the appearance of Deokman that Munno was little by little made to see that Bidam is not without compassion. Munno was surprised that Bidam was unconditionally willing to help the yet ‘unknown’ Deokman. It was this openness to Deokman that allowed Bidam entrance into the world of the twin princesses, allowed him legitimacy into the legacy of Cheonmyong. In fact Bidam cringed at the sight of Deokman’s first handedly meting capital punishment with the sword to two betrayers to an agreement with her. He knew that the act was painful for her. Out of pity Bidam implored Mishil to agree to Deokman’s invitation for an alliance. He had felt Mishil’s protracted struggle for the power which he sees she’ll never have, and so, despite his resentment for her, felt compassion for her. Bidam, like Mishil, could read people very well.

However, whereas Mishil is calculating and cold in her maintenance of her regality, Bidam is first shown on screen as a youngster of passion, though ‘base’ and irresponsible. He simply expresses himself without regard to decorum. He bullies peasants to gather the herbs for him. He surreptitiously feasts on meat — something which I just assume that Munno forbids as part of discipline. He picks his nose whenever he wants to. Though he isn’t shown to have started a fight, he doesn’t think twice about retaliation where he sees it warranted. He just acts as he pleases, except in front of Munno. With Munno he is just a child who does his best so as not to be reprimanded. That he rebelled against Munno was an indication of how far he could go.

Bidam and his mother Mishil, at opposing sides  _ep.50

Bidam & Mishil, mother & son at opposing sides

Bidam starting gets confused after seeing Mishil's reaction when he called her 'mother' _ep.50

Bidam, confused at Mishil’s reaction as he addressed her ‘mother’

Bidam, watchful for Princess Deokman _Ep.50

Bidam, always watchful for Princess Deokman

Bidam, smart, interpolating _ep.50

Bidam, smart, interpolating _Ep.50

As the woman of two former kings and the wife of two high officials, Mishil is never shown as being genuinely affectionate to anyone. The only time she is shown within one husband’s embrace she had a knowing smirk on her face. The acts of intimacy shown with another husband was of him either washing her feet or combing her hair. Either she manipulates or she is worshipped. Perhaps Bojong himself was surprised that he received an embrace from her, not a disapproval, at his defeat to Bidam at the martial arts tournament.

Whereas Munno reclaimed Bidam’s affection, Mishil repeatedly abandons Bidam. The only instance where she appears to be protecting Bidam from harm was when she orders Yeomjong to take Bidam away from the capital on the three days that she will stage the coup. It is this act that has Bidam confused, too. On second thoughts, if indeed Mishil has intended Bidam to continue her dream to rule then it makes sense that she removes her from the scene of the coup. She knows that Bidam will stake his like in protecting Deokman. Mishil will not risk Bidam’s life in case she herself perishes at the coup. Therefore, taking him away from the scene was not an act of affection but was part of her calculated plans. If she had affection for Bidam she had all the chances to show it to him at her death scene. She abandoned Bidam as a baby, abandoned him by not acknowledging him when he reappeared in the scene, abandoned him in making him a mere receiver-object of her unrequited dreams, and abandoned him at her last breath by not communicating to him even a hint of remorse at her treatment of him. She played her card of filial-piety against Bidam, and this was his downfall.

Bidam _ Deokman _ met as babies _ep25

Bidam and Deokman met as babies

baby Deokman _ep25

Munno remarked that Bidam already liked Deokman then

Bidam _ Deokman _ met as babies (1) _ep25

Bidam & Deokman: joined fates, accdg. to Munno

Will Bidam, like Mishil, grow callous with age? The Bidam that I see in Episode 52 is not the bubbly Bidam that was in the earlier episodes. The same way that the bubbly Deokman turned into the grave princess/king-queen, Bidam’s smiles are hardly seen now. His sudden switch to gravity is almost comical. Will the maintenance of power that sustained Mishil shape the adulthood of both Deokman and Bidam? Both Deokman and Bidam were youngsters who expressed their passions openly. Both were abandoned babies. It is this mutual understanding that forged their bond. Bidam, though till then unsure of Deokman’s regard for him, finally found rest at Deokman’s comprehension of why he did not tell her the full truth about Mishil. Instead of abandoning him for that betrayal, Deokman felt with him and embraced him. Thus, the Bidam-Deokman couple is born. Both are fed with the will to establish that unified kingdom. Both are passionate about the welfare of the common folk. Both agree that corruption should be effectively eradicated. Will this ‘upright’ couple stand against the ravages of wielding power?

Similar to Bidam, Deokman is capable of going to extremes in her quest for ‘justice’ or ‘balance’. Bidam saw this when he himself was deluded by her in her plan at defeating Mishil with the eclipse. Instead of abandoning her for this ‘betrayal’, he gave his allegiance to her. He saw this capability of taking the extreme again when she wielded the sword against the two peasants. Just as she understood Bidam, Bidam understood her abhorrence for violence. Like Sohwa, Bidam reads Deokman’s shaking hands with compassion.

However, whereas Deokman was pained by what she had to do, Bidam laughed those many years ago after he retrieved the books from the people he killed. Was that Bidam still the same Bidam that has come to Deokman now, or has that Bidam changed? Should Bidam be condemned by that manifestation of an irreconcilable code of justice? Is Bidam’s moral code twisted, after all, and would that be the end note to this persona? Is Bidam simply incapable of being bound by norms, the quintessential misfit? Or, has he changed under the influence of Munno’s and Deokman’s unconditional acceptance of him but then was disfigured anew by his mother’s words? Hence, is Bidam after all unstable, groundless, just a pathetic fool camouflaging strength, and hence Deokman made a big mistake in trusting him?

Okay, I remember that there was a line among the dialogues on: the ruler should neither trust nor mistrust. This may simply mean trusting but also giving an allowance for any untoward eventuality. If taken negatively we may look at this as being suspicious of others’ motives all the time, which is such a tiring act to maintain — but happens to many of us, many times unconsciously. It’s sad, and lonely, but that’s how it is. Or perhaps taken positively, the awareness of this phenomenon makes life simpler because of complementary theme of being able to forgive seventy-times-seven times, or in other words, forgiveness can always be handed out where it is needed. It’s nicer put that way. And that’s life. I hope this is how it is with my power couple here until the end… 🙂

Finally, on my take on what he meant when he silently promised to Deokman that he will take everything away from her without reservation, on her coronation day. I listened to his voice cadence as he was saying this in his head. It was not menacing. It was solemnly sincere and all-out giving. Like Deokman, I, too, would like to stake my trust on him, and so I think this is what he meant: that, since he has already given his self to Deokman as the manifestation of his love for her, he in turn intends to have everything from Deokman as the manifestation of her love for him. It’s not an intention to destroy Deokman. Rather, it’s an intention to openly receive Deokman’s love for him, which is the mirror image of how he himself gives his love to Deokman. Whereas Yushin blocked off this movement between him and Deokman the day she vowed for the throne–shortly after Cheonmyong’s death at the cave, Bidam intends to stake his all for the sake of his and Deokman’s bond. I think that by this time at Queen-King Seon Duk’s coronation Bidam already knows that Deokman, in whatever way he understood it to be, loves him. He knows, by that uncanny intuition of his, that he already has an established place in her heart.

Yushin Rang _Uhm Tae Woong in action ep46

Yushin Rang (Uhm Tae Woong) in blurried action

Alcheon Rang _suicide mission get-up _ep25

Alcheon Rang in sucide mission get-up _Ep25

I have a soft spot for Uhm Tae Woong (along with all the nine guys with him at the 1N2D Episodes 367–369), and his Kim Yushin character here is really admirable, but he’s just as ‘straight’ as Lee Seo Jin’s Gye Baek.  …hmm…meseems that ‘upright’ generals of that era are devoid of artistic creativity and spontaneous passion 🙂 🙂 🙂 even Song Il Guk’s Jumong the general, and king, is a bit like that. In this regard Ji Jin Hee’s Lee Seung Gye is a different specimen: he rocks… 🙂 🙂 …come to think of it, Ji Jin Hee’s King Sukjong is also of a different class: he waves a casual greeting to his lady attendants 🙂 🙂 Uhm Tae Woong’s ‘straight’ Kim Yushin pales (slightly 🙂 )beside the complexity of Bidam… tsk tsk … Alcheon Rang is also consistently adorable, but just like Yushin he can’t steal the thunder… ah, they recall to me Hong Lim’s elite troop of guards (A Frozen Flower) … Nevertheless, Deokman and her manly entourage including Wolya and Chunchu during the early episodes seem just like children playing house compared to Mishil’s seasoned gang, and all her family to boot — actually I’m still stuck with processing the fact that Mishil holds council with her two husbands and their respective sons, like a queen bee or a queen ant … chincha … simply amazing … it’s the first time I’ve encountered a visual representation of polyandry and I find it fascinating…  🙂 I’m thankful, though, that Chilsuk fell in love with Sohwa because Chilsuk being in love with Mishil, too, would have been too much for me to take 🙂

As of Episode 52 only Bidam and Deokman are infected with the icy-demeanor virus — methinks it’s the projection of suspicion directed at almost everyone around — just until when will both be able to maintain this synchronized vibe between them, I wonder. Hence, I must watch closely. I know that the eventualities will affect me as much as Damo did. I’m going to take the coming episodes slowly — simply because heartbreaks aren’t entertaining at all 🙂 🙂 🙂 no way José 🙂 🙂 🙂 [read as: no way hoe say] … comments on the net say that the writers adapted to Bidam’s popularity as this drama was running … that’s the business side of all this, but a story is still a story … to make my life simpler I’ll just stick to the final storyline and take everything from there … to all intents and purposes my packets of tissue paper are already stationed nearby 🙂

P. S. Will everyone eventually find out that Munno had actually died a long time ago already, or would Bidam stay faithful to his silent/unspoken covenant with his master? Would I be able to see clear proof that Deokman and Bidam are really THE couple here, which is something that I had to dig for in the case of Eun Go and Gye Baek? Would there be a sort of a redemption for the tragic ending here, like there was for Hwangbo Yoon, Chae Ohk, and Jang Sung Baek? Kim Chunchu was Eun Go’s nemesis. Hence, will I see an evil Kim Chunchu here? I did not particularly see Gye Baek’s Kim Yushin as evil, and so it wasn’t such a long jump to encountering a nice Yushin here 🙂   . . .

… seeing how the plot consistently twists I may be revising many of my earlier impressions by the time I finish the story… !kaja to Episode 53 on!