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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!