Saturday, December 17, 2011

Queen Seon Deok Review (2009)

Drama Rating: ****
Personal Rating: Enjoyable

Deokman was one of the twin princesses born to King Jinpyeong, but to keep her safe from Lady Mishil, a powerful and influential member of the court, Deokman is sent far away from the Kingdom of Silla. Time passes and an unknowing Deokman eventually returns to Silla, determined to seek out her true identity and background. She joins forces with her twin sister Princess Cheonmyeong and together with General Kim Yusin, they face off against Mishil and attempt to thwart her plans to snatch the throne.

*Spoiler warning*

As with all historical dramas, one of the biggest hurdles faced by the screenwriter(s) is the pacing of the story and the inevitable introduction of a large number of characters without confusing or alienating the audience.  On this point, they certainly did a commendable job. While the story is fairly lengthy and requires several cast changes to reflect aging characters, the writers handled these transitions very smoothly and at very logical points in the series. Pacing was very regular and progressed quite naturally so there were very few, if any, unexplained sequences. The storytelling was very well done; I was kept hooked for hours on end, finishing the 62 episode drama within 2 weeks =)

Lee Yo Won, portraying Princess Deokman, clearly grew well into her role as the series progressed. Her performance throughout the series was consistently solid. Ko Hyun Jung, playing the part of Lady Mishil, clearly dominated the series. Her facial expressions, delivery of lines and body movements completely captured the essence of Lady Mishil - ruthless, cold and calculating. Uhm Tae Woong as Kim Yushin, Park Ye Jin as Princess Cheonmyeong, Kim Nam Gil as Bidam and Yoo Seung Ho as Kim Chunchu formed a strong core of the large supporting cast. Performances were consistently strong across the board although Kim Nam Gil and Yoo Seung Ho brought a particularly welcome and refreshing change to the drama midway through the series. Overall, specific character relationships and their development were kept to a need-to-know basis thus allowing the drama to progress smoothly and steadily. Comic relief by Jook Bang and Godo sprinkled throughout the drama also helped to lighten the sometimes heavy atmosphere.

The musical soundtrack for Queen Seon Deok suited the drama nicely and generally matches the pacing quite well. In particular, the sinister, glass-tinkering music to match Lady Mishil's pondering and scheming was particularly memorable - I'm tempted to name it the Lady Mishil motif =)

Queen Seon Deok is one of the better historical kdramas I've watched. Despite the length, which at times does feel like it drags on, the drama moves at a generally steady pace and provides plenty of cliffhangers so that one never feels stuck in one place too long. Interestingly, as was also reflected in the ratings, Ko Hyun Jung clearly seems to have made a bigger impression on viewers than the namesake of the drama Queen Seon Deok. Generally though, the acting from the core cast was top-notch and definitely worthy of portraying the story of the first Queen of Silla.

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