Open Thread: Nirvana In Fire Episodes 22, 23 & 24

Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! What a pivotal set of episodes this turned out to be. I feel like this screenshot really says it all. If ya know, ya know?

Here are our usual ground rules, before we begin:

1. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. If you really need to talk about a spoiler, it is possible to use the new spoiler tags, but please know that spoilers are still visible (ie, not hidden) in the email notification that you receive, of the comment in question. We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.

2. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?

Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️

My thoughts

Episode 22

In the excitement of everything that went down during the birthday banquet itself, it hadn’t occurred to me that there would be a lot of emotional fallout from, well, everything.

First, there’s Grand Princess Liyang making her apologies for how she’s basically lied to the Zhuos all these years, in order to protect her son. That’s true; if she hadn’t known at the point when one baby had died (we had an interesting discussion about this in the last Open Thread; you can check out my mom’s take, and CP’s interesting findings here), she had definitely known, as Jingrui had then grown into his father’s likeness, and she’d kept up the ruse, in order to keep Jingrui safe, while the Zhuos had continued to love him like a son. That does feel like a betrayal of sorts, given how open-hearted the Zhuos have been towards Jingrui and towards this unusual arrangement as a whole, all these years.

I have to say, I find Mrs. Zhuo a very gracious person. When Liyang asks that they have mercy on her daughter Xie Qi, who is their daughter-in-law, I’m really impressed that Mrs. Zhuo is able to say – right then and there, while her emotional wounds are still so fresh – that the sins of the previous generation will not be held against the younger generation. That’s so gracious of her.

The part that really gets me, though, is when Jingrui calls out to his Zhuo parents, and kneels before them, sobbing.

Augh. It hit me all over again, at this point, just how this entire reveal is tearing Jingrui apart, on the inside. He’s loved and respected the Zhuos his whole life, and seen them as his parents, and now, they’re suddenly.. not. I can feel all the parental love that the Zhuos have for Jingrui, come pouring out, as they embrace him, and tell him that he’s a good boy, and this isn’t his fault.

I almost want Jingrui to just continue his relationship with them regardless, until I remember that, 1, Zhuo Dingfeng is most likely about to die, because he’s decided to bear the consequences of his misdeeds, in order to testify against Xie Yu, and 2, it would be too painful a reminder for Mrs. Zhuo, of her deceased baby, every time she saw Jingrui. It is probably kinder to close their ties now, even though this, too, is a painful thing. 😭

I’m actually really quite surprised by the conversation that Liyang has with Xie Yu, in the aftermath. I think the thing that surprises me the most, is that there appears to be genuine care between them. I’d assumed that Xie Yu had married Liyang as a political move, and I’d also assumed that Liyang would have hated being married to her rapist. But here, in this moment, Xie Yu’s expressing that he genuinely likes her, while she, on the other hand, is literally offering to die with him, if dying alone would make him feel lonely. I mean, that’s a huge offer, and I’m stunned that Liyang would even make it.

The fact that Xie Yu is not willing to admit defeat despite how the odds are stacked so heavily against him, and is willing to risk his family’s honor, and the family’s noble title, for one last bid for victory, shows just how tenacious and ambitious he is. Well, that, and self-centered too, since he really doesn’t seem to care that his actions will inevitably affect his entire family, including future generations.

I did like the debrief between Prince Jing, Mei Changsu and Commander Meng, afterwards. This is the first time they’re having a conversation like this, where Commander Meng is also in on the secret mission, to put Prince Jing on the throne, so this feels quite momentous.

It’s quite thrilling to hear the details of how Mei Changsu guided things along, so that Prince Yu would come to know the truth of Liyang’s scandal and Jingrui’s birth. It really was so meticulously planned, with rumors being started, so that Banruo would carry them to Prince Yu, as well as investigate the rumors on her own, and then with Gong Yu’s failed assassination attempt on Xie Yu, so that she could seek refuge with Banruo, and thus tell her the story of her own grudge against Xie Yu. Talk about being a puppet master! This is why Prince Yu always thinks that Mei Changsu is helping him, and not the other way around.

The other thing that strikes me during this conversation, is how Mei Changsu is so careful in managing the dynamics of how he and Commander Meng relate to Prince Jing. From Commander Meng’s point of view, Mei Changsu is Lin Shu, and deserves all of his trust and unquestioning confidence. However, Mei Changsu is right, from Prince Jing’s point of view, it wouldn’t make sense for Commander Meng to defend Mei Changsu so strongly and so unquestioningly.

I wonder if Commander Meng’s small slip will give Prince Jing food for thought?

It’s so tragic that Xie Qi dies in childbirth. She seems to have suffered a lot, through no fault of her own. Her husband had barely been around because he’d been busy doing dark deeds for Xie Yu, and then, now, she dies in childbirth without getting to see her husband one last time. Dang. That’s so sad. The only consolation is that the baby survives, and gets to be with his father in the end.

Xia Dong’s shifu Xia Jiang comes back to Jinling, and right away, he proves to be quite the force to be reckoned with.

From his conversation with Xie Yu in the prison, it quickly becomes clear that Xia Jiang isn’t as clean or righteous as one might like to think the Head of Xuanjing Bureau to be.

Given that he offers to keep Xie Yu alive, if Xie Yu will keep his silence to the very end, this already tells us that Xia Jiang is a shady character. He’s basically interfering with the justice that he’s supposed to uphold. Plus, the fact that he and Xie Yu have had private agreements in the past, also tells us that Xia Jiang’s probably on the darker side of things.

This background puts everything that he does this episode, in a very suspicious light, doesn’t it? He doesn’t punish Xia Dong because he’s so righteous; he punishes her and keeps her grounded, so that she won’t be able to go snooping around Xie Yu’s case. And he doesn’t point out the manner in which Xie Yu’s brought to justice to the Emperor for nothing; he does it in order to distract the Emperor from Xie Yu’s crimes, and cast suspicion on Prince Yu, for having schemed to drag Xie Yu down.

How interesting, that Mei Changsu finds a connection between Xia Jiang and Xie Yu so quickly, even though they are not known to be close. All he needs is Prince Yu’s account of what’s happened, and a list of the assassinations that Zhuo Dingfeng’s carried out for Xie Yu, and it’s enough for him to piece together the likelihood that some of these people had been assassinated, not for Xie Yu’s purposes per se, but perhaps as a favor to someone else, ie, Xia Jiang.

Ooh. Impressive. Our Divine Talent really is brilliant.

Episode 23

Wow. The conversation that Mei Changsu has with Xie Yu in prison, turns out to be pivotal indeed.

The way Mei Changsu makes it such that he’s doing Prince Yu a favor by visiting Xie Yu, in order to persuade him to talk about the deal that he has with Xia Jiang, is clever, but that’s something that we’ve already come to expect, from the way Mei Changsu manages Prince Yu.

I’m more impressed with how Mei Changsu basically plays Xie Yu and Xia Jiang against each other, with Prince Yu going to tell Xia Jiang that Xie Yu’s already confessed that he’d had Li Chongxin killed for Xia Jiang, while Mei Changsu casually paints a picture for Xie Yu, where he’s already lost Xia Jiang’s trust, and Xia Jiang will likely have Xie Yu killed, in order to silence him.

I thought it was particularly fitting, for Mei Changsu to remind Xie Yu that he himself had been determined to silence Zhuo Dingfeng, not too long ago. With that in mind, it’s not hard for Xie Yu to believe that Xia Jiang would want to silence a longtime collaborator too.

That moment when Xie Yu realizes that Mei Changsu has him cornered, is so dramatic. The way Xie Yu desperately but ineffectually lunges at Mei Changsu, bellowing his name, and then the way he collapses in a defeated heap, asking what he needs to do, is a great illustration of the tsunami level of emotion that he’s just gone through.

I can only imagine how much Xie Yu hates Mei Changsu right now, and yet, he has no choice but to cooperate with him. There’s got to be a lot of conflicting emotions there. And then later, as he makes his confession, it’s interesting to see how he can’t seem to look Mei Changsu in the eye. Does Xie Yu have a conscience after all?

And, what a confession we get, from Xie Yu. It seems Mei Changsu had anticipated the details of this confession too, judging from how he arranges for Prince Jing and Xia Dong to secretly listen in.

The machinations that Xia Jiang and Xie Yu had collaborated on, are stunningly cruel. I mean, we’d already seen some of it play out via the flashbacks that we’ve been shown, but it’s still gutting, to know how everything had been orchestrated.

That fake letter from General Nie had been instrumental in framing Lin Xie and Prince Qi, and they’d had the scholar who’d written that letter for them, killed. Talk about being used and abused.

Importantly (and my mom pointed this out to me), we learn that the fake letter had been written on Xia Jiang’s orders, and not Xie Yu’s. This means that the whole conspiracy to take down Prince Qi, Lin Xie, and the entire Chiyan Army, had been pushed by Xia Jiang, and Xie Yu had just been along for the ride. Woah.

How unspeakably horrible, that Xie Yu had gone out there, on the pretext of saving General Nie from the alleged suicide mission that Lin Xie had sent him on, in order to kill him. That’s an angel turning out to be a devil. And it’s so much worse, that he then brings back General Nie’s remains to Xia Dong, as if he’d tried to save him, but had failed. That’s a devil pretending to be an angel. Gah. It’s nauseating, honestly.

And because of this, Lin Xie had been framed for colluding with Da Yu in order to put Prince Qi on the throne – thus leading to Prince Qi’s death sentence, and Noble Consort Chen’s suicide. It’s altogether horrifying to have it all laid out like this, even though we’d already understood the gist of what had gone down.

What a blow to Xia Dong, to realize that the shifu whom she’s obeyed and respected all these years, had basically schemed to have her husband killed for his own purposes and ambition.

That’s a world-tilting sort of realization, and I can totally understand why Xia Dong would basically almost keel over right there outside the prison doors, in this screenshot above. I do admire her, though, for thinking to apologize to Prince Jing, for the grudge that she’s held against him all these years. That takes strength of character, and Xia Dong demonstrates that she has it in spades.

Afterwards, it’s so poignant to see everyone basically reel from it all, in their own ways.

That scene, of Jingyan visiting his mother, and telling her that he misses Xiao Shu, is so poignant. That look on his face, is like that of a lost little boy, honestly. Jingyan really does yearn for his best friend. 😭 And then there’s how Mei Changsu himself broods silently in his study, lost in his thoughts, and unwilling to speak to anyone, so much so that even Li Gang and Zhen Ping don’t dare to approach him to ask him to take his medicine.

Xie Yu’s confession has touched some very tender, raw nerves for our characters, and many of these wounds that have been unearthed, are still fresh, after all these years.

I find it significant, that once again, it’s Jingyan who seeks out Mei Changsu via the secret passageway. Any hint that we get, that he trusts Mei Changsu and wants to connect with him, makes me happy.

It’s understandable that Jingyan, being the straightforward, righteous person that he is, would expect Mei Changsu to do something with the confession that they’ve gotten from Xie Yu. His desire to clear the names of Prince Qi and the Lin family is very natural, and the wrongful accusation so deep, that I would be surprised if he’d wanted anything less.

I am amazed, really, that Mei Changsu is able gather himself together, and advise Jingyan in such an objective manner, considering that he is, in fact, Lin Shu, who has suffered directly from this conspiracy.

Mei Changsu’s insight is so keen, that the Emperor had himself been suspicious enough of Prince Qi, that he’d willingly believed the accusations that Xie Yu had brought against him. It hadn’t been the conspiracy per se, that had brought about Prince Qi’s death; it had been the Emperor’s suspicious nature.

On this note, I thought it would be apt to share with you guys what my mom pointed out to me, in relation to the Emperor’s suspicious nature.

As we’ve learned, Lin Xie and Marquis Yan had helped the Emperor to ascend the throne. Subsequent to that, the Emperor had then found ways to connect himself with their families through marriage, in service of finding ways to secure and assure their long-term alignment with him.

This is why he had married Yueyao (who then became Noble Consort Chen), who had been Lin Xie’s sister, even though his good friend and supporter Marquis Yan had been in love with her. This way, the Emperor would have the loyalty of Lin Xie and the army that he commanded. And then, to secure Marquis Yan’s loyalty and keep him in check (despite his betrayal of stealing Yueyao), he then married Marquis Yan’s sister, who is now our Empress.

On top of all this, it is highly likely that Lin Xie’s marriage to Grand Princess Jinyang, who had been the Emperor’s sister and Lin Shu’s mother, had been a political move by the Emperor as well, to keep Lin Xie doubly aligned to him.

This is why the family tree is as complicated as it is; Mom says you guys were right to blame everything on the Emperor, in the last Open Thread. 😆 Also, this helps us to see that the Emperor didn’t become a suspicious man all of a sudden; he’s always been the deeply suspicious, scheming type.

Episode 24

This scene between Jingyan and Mei Changsu is so important, and so full of powerful emotion. Augh.

I did wonder, a bit, why Mei Changsu would dissuade Jingyan from investigating the Chiyan case, when in actual fact, I believe he himself would investigate it anyway, and I think that it’s probably because he’s isn’t Lin Shu to Jingyan right now; he’s Mei Changsu the strategist. And it makes more sense for Mei Changsu the strategist, to advise Jingyan thus, because it is true that investigating the case will not actually help Jingyan’s quest for the throne.

As we’ve seen, Mei Changsu is very meticulous when it comes to calibrating how he and the people around him, like Commander Meng, ought to relate with Jingyan, given that Jingyan does not know that he is Lin Shu.

I have to say, though, Jingyan’s emotional, righteous, loyal response is completely affecting. Mei Changsu looks genuinely moved, to see how much this means to Jingyan. It’s this look, that makes me think that Mei Changsu had been sincere, in asking Jingyan not to investigate the case (vs. the idea that he’d perhaps been testing Jingyan), and is so moved by Jingyan’s sincerity, that he does actually change his mind and pledge to assist Jingyan in the investigation.

I find it utterly moving, that these two men bow to each other like this; Mei Changsu to pledge his allegiance, and Jingyan, to express his thanks. Augh. This legit gave me chills. 😭

I’m really sad that Royal Great Gran passes away, but I can see how this would be useful, narratively speaking. For one thing, it gives Nihuang a valid reason to return to Jinling, and for another, it makes Xie Yu’s pardon from the death sentence easier to accept for everyone, since the state is in mourning.

I appreciate the fact that Nihuang’s able to tell Mei Changsu that Royal Great Gran had looked peaceful, because Mei Changsu himself is unable to go see her to pay his respects. I feel like hearing that she at least looked peaceful, would be of some comfort to him.

This conversation is the first time that Mei Changsu talks about possibly not being part of Nihuang’s future, and the look of horror on Nihuang’s face, as he says this, is really heartbreaking. Poor Nihuang still doesn’t know how ill Mei Changsu is, and I can only imagine how devastated she would be, to know that he doesn’t have much time left.

I’d imagined that Nihuang’s return would mean that she’d be able to at least be around Mei Changsu, but instead, she ends up volunteering to observe Royal Great Gran’s wake at Mount Wei for a year. Ack. I hadn’t seen that coming. This is far from the OTP reunion that I’d hoped for.

However, I can understand why Mei Changsu would think it better for her to stay away from Jinling. I think it’s partly true, that he feels her presence would divide his focus, but at the same time, I think he wants to spare her the agony of being so near to him, and yet so far from him. He cannot promise her a future with him, and keeping her in limbo, hurts her, and I think it hurts him too. 💔

Although I’m not surprised that Mei Changsu makes a request through Grand Princess Liyang, that Xie Yu write a detailed confession, I am admittedly rather surprised by the logic of it, which Xie Yu sees immediately. If this confession letter exists, it actually helps to keep Xie Yu alive, because once he’s dead, there’s no longer any need to guard the contents of the letter. I honestly may have never seen that, if Xie Yu hadn’t spelled it out for me. It’s narrative events like these that convince me that I wouldn’t survive in this drama world, heh.

I’m quite touched by Liyang’s grace and what appears to be genuine care towards Xie Yu. I mean, it must be tempting to read the letter, to learn the truth that’s contained within, but she pledges to never read it, saying that she doesn’t want to know what he’s done in the past. I feel like part of this decision, is to preserve her goodwill towards him. I’m guessing that she instinctively knows that reading it will cause her to lose any remaining respect for him.

I do wonder whether Xie Yu will manage to stay alive, though, given that Xia Dong’s shooting him dangerously murderous looks. Seeking to avenge her husband’s death, is definitely the sort of thing that I would imagine she’d do. And, it seems that Mei Changsu had anticipated such, as well, from the way he talks with Jingyan. Will Xia Dong hold it in, and not confront Xia Jiang over her husband’s death, like Mei Changsu hopes?

The thing that grabs my attention more, in this scene, is how Jingyan is again reminded of Lin Shu, by Mei Changsu. Although Commander Meng had once said that Mei Changsu’s changed so much that not a trace of Lin Shu remains, it is true that mannerisms and personal ticks are things that tend to continue, even if almost everything else has changed. I love that Jingyan’s picking up on these Lin Shu vibes from Mei Changsu, not only from his personal habit of fingering his robe like we saw before, but also, from the way he gets so engrossed when he talks about things like the strategies around military provisions.

It’s such an echo to what Master Zhou had said in episode 12, when Jingyan says that if Mei Changsu had had the opportunity to meet Lin Shu, they would have been great friends – like he and Mei Changsu are. Eee!! Jingyan’s outright said that he’s great friends with Mei Changsu; isn’t this a huge development?!? 🤩

It seems that with the Emperor growing more and more frustrated with the incessant fighting between the Crown Prince and Prince Yu, he’s beginning to find Consort Jing and Jingyan a refreshing change of pace. I just like the idea that after being forgotten all these years, Consort Jing is suddenly finding herself in favor with the Emperor, just for being herself. I love her; there’s something so soothing and graceful about her presence. ❤️

It seems that the Emperor’s suspicious nature is never far away. I mean, the moment Jingyan asks for his reward to be the pardon of an exiled prisoner, the Emperor literally starts banging on the table, demanding to know where Jingyan’s learned to start recruiting people to be on his side.

I do kinda love that Jingyan doesn’t give in to his mother’s silent urging to drop the issue, but continues to press in to ask for this as his reward, because only the Emperor is in the position to pardon the prisoner. It feels like a breakthrough, that Emperor Dad likes that Jingyan chooses not to abuse his power as a prince, and affably grants Jingyan’s request.

Might Jingyan finally find himself in the Emperor’s favor, after being the disfavored prince for so long?

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phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago

Character Reference Guide
(In order of appearance and description is based on their place in drama at time of appearance)

Episode 23

  • Li Chongxin – teacher, master forger killed by Zhuo father

Places/Sects Reference Guide (in order of appearance)
Episode 23

  • Sky Prison – Prison where Prince Qi was held, current location of the Marquis of Ning

There are no new characters/places for episodes 22 and 24.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
3 days ago

Just when evil Marquis Ning is out of the picture, we find that he was working with/for Xia Jiang. That puts the whole conspiracy from 13 years ago in a new light.

The prison scene between the Marquis and MCS was a masterpiece of writing and acting.

beez
3 days ago

@Geo – I think I did see some sign of caring in the following episode(s) when she sees him off. But I can’t help but think it’s still got to be a relief not having to live with a murderer whom, even though she knew she was safe physically, had the capability to kill her child… to kill any child for that matter. I know some people blamed her for keeping the birth secret from the Zhou family for so long but that’s not farfetched that she would do that considering Jingrui’s safety was at stake. It sucks, but what mother wouldn’t?

beez
3 days ago

@Geo – Thanks. I’ll wait. 👍

beez
3 days ago

– Ahhhh. Okay, I’ll be patient.

beez
3 days ago

– Good to know. During my first watch, I assumed we’re supposed to play along and pretend he’s hideously scarred a la Lee Joon-gi in Scarlet Heart Goreyo.

Thanks, phl1rxd

beez
5 days ago

– whenever reference is made to MCS’ changed looks, I picture him falling off that cliff into a lava pit filled with surgeons (resistant to the heat, of course) who chiseled out perfection!

Oh! I thought of another question – in the book, is his face supposed to be hideously scarred?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
5 days ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – I can answer this quickly. In the book it does not say that his face had any scars or his body was deformed in any other way. He is described as a ‘handsome young man’. That he is Miz B! 💖

beez
5 days ago

@Natalia – I’m somewhere between teary wires and hysterical laughter at the mangy dog story. 😭😂😭😂😭😂😂😂😂😂 (I think the laughter won out)

beez
5 days ago

@Elaine – and everybody at the party, family members and guests!

beez
5 days ago

@Geo – I’m sure we all know the reason CP’s mom is the Emperor’s favorite queue Beauty & the Beast music “tale as old as time…”

There’s also another reason why he prefers CP to Prince Yu but that will be revealed later.” quoting Geo
I don’t remember hearing why that was. If it’s not spelled out clearly later on, please follow up and let me know. I’m baffled

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
5 days ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – I know that you will remember this fairly soon. It has been a little while since your 1st watch so it just slipped your mind temporarily – it is a spoiler.

Geo
Geo
4 days ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez: Without giving too much away, I don’t think, I’ll say the reason has to do with Prince Yu and not the CP.

beez
5 days ago

@Natalie – Ditto. The actor’s looks changed throughout the scene from handsome & confident to frantic and aged. Kudos.

beez
5 days ago

@Geo – Grand Princess’ offer to join Marquis Rapey seemed more like a manipulation to me. First of all, she offered it along with a knife for him to get busy and do the deed. Second, she said “after the children are settled”. Seems to me that means after Jingrui has gotten over his trauma, dealt with his new family and come back and he and XuiBee have found spouses and had children… so… say… around another 30 years or so. 😆

Geo
Geo
4 days ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez: I don’t disagree entirely with your interpretation of Liyang’s words. However, when she says “after the children are settled” I think she’s referring to setting them up in their new residence since the Marquis’ estate has been confiscated and they have to move their new home.

I think it’s possible that Liyang could develop a sort of relationship with Xie Yu even with the horrific start. Liyang is royalty and her marriage is likely destined to be driven by politics rather than love so she is conditioned that way and, especially given that her mother was part of the despicable plan, I think she could make the best of her situation especially as she is Xie Yu’s weakness and she knows that.

Now whether that is enough of a relationship to offer to die with him, I don’t know and the more I think about it, I start to doubt the sincerity of her words. Both positions may be valid, she may have a “working” relationship with Xie Yu and she maybe trying to get him to commit suicide.

beez
5 days ago

@jisaab – I’m with you, jisaab. I don’t know how Grand Princess could stand living with Rapey McGee Marquis, and he had murderous inventions toward her child! I know this is a different time where women stayed married through necessity but – dang! She had the clout of her brother being the Emperor. I should ask – why did Grand Princess stay married to her rapist? Was it because of the out of wedlock pregnancy by the Prisoner that she stayed? What were her plans for dealing with the pregnancy if Rapey had not intervened? Did Grand Princess’ mom (grandmother?) Who drugged her know of the pregnancy and that was her reason for doing it?

P.S. Others have stated Grand Princess loved Marquis Rapey. I see that she might’ve developed some amount of care after living with and birthing his children; but I also see some very intense underlying hatred and a need to be done with him.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 days ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – Whew – more good questions. ⭐ I will be happy to give you my opinion on this (sorry about the length but you really do ask hard questions Miz B.) 🧐 Let’s hope I do not have another senior moment getting through this. 🤣 👵 😂

I truly respect that others may have differing opinions and I appreciate their feelings on the matter. This is my own personal opinion.

Grand Princess Liyang: At the time she got pregnant her brother was not yet the Emperor – their father was – and he was a little lenient with his daughter. As for the current Emperor, her brother, he looked kindly on the Marquis up to now so I would not have expected any help from him.

FWIW – I commented on E4 here about the conversation Liyang had with MCS when she went to him for his help to save Nihuang. Check it out. You can see she feels pretty helpless. I think the the rape really damaged her self esteem and pushed her into victim/survivor mode.

Did she love the hostage prisoner? Only MCS mentions it as love in Chapter 26.

The novel says Liyang’s mother quickly had him [hostage prisoner] ‘escape’ back home. So I would say that she indeed knew of it and got rid of the culprit asap. Hostage prisoner was from Southern Chum, a rival nation to Liyang so, while they may marry a lesser Princess/Prince to a Chu Prince/Princess, Liyang was a Grand Princess and at that time daughter of the Emperor. Their marriage would not be a good political move due to her high position. My personal opinion is that I believe she loved her hostage prisoner. Part of the reason I believe it was love is due to MCS’ comment using the word love and my own personal feelings.

As for fixing the pregnancy problem without marrying the Marquis – your guess is as good as mine although she was certainly never given the opportunity to even think about it was she?

The novel is pretty clear about her lack of physical affection towards the Marquis (1 hug in 20 years). So she clearly does not ‘love’ him as most people love their spouses. She may feel she has a duty to be a good wife.

Why did she stay married to him so long?

  1. divorce was not an option for a royal
  2. traditional, filial and cultural sense of duty to family

Let’s imagine she could leave him whenever she wanted to. I can see why she might have some emotional reasons why she might stay with him such as her low self esteem from the rape, guilt for switching the babies and years of lying to the Zhuos (working off the bad karma?), perhaps feeling that by being a ‘legal’ parent via marriage she could find a way to keep her child alive and/or she could hide all those secrets behind an official marriage. But I do not think these are worth considering given that she had no choice after taking that rape but to stay married. I think she was encouraging the Marquis to commit suicide as a survival reflex.

Let’s face it. To be fair, she has not been squeaky clean (the Zhuos).

I commented previously that I thought the Marquis loved her on my first and second watch. But after all of my watches I believe he only ever loved himself – she is there to provide him a title and access to power and these are the things he truly loves and fears losing. Even if he decided after a while not to kill Jingrui, I do not think that makes him a good guy because it became convenient for him to keep Jingrui alive. Just because he hugged her and told her he loves her does not make it love. He may believe he truly loves her as his definition of love may be based upon his own view of what love is. Remember this is a man who had no qualms about killing a lot of people using anyone and anything to do so.

To be fair, we know nothing of his childhood and whether or not that has any bearing on the present situation.

I think everyone has their own internal understanding of love and relationships. I think a marriage needs love to be a verb of action rather than a noun. I needed proof that he truly loved her. I saw none.

BTW – Jingrui’s very un-happy, un-birthday party in the novel was very similar to the drama, albeit it with more emotional explanations and a few minor differences. She did say that she would join him in the afterlife in the novel as well and that makes no sense to me at all. He would be the last person I think she would want to see.

beez
3 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– Thanks. I followed the link to your Ep4 comment (Chapter 26 link isn’t working). That was deep.

Because I couldn’t control myself and watched straight through to The Party as soon as we began this rewatch, I didn’t trust myself to participate in the blog for fear of saying or asking about something that would be a spoiler so I missed some of you guys’ info and insights early on.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
3 days ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – yes, it was so deep that I captured it a while ago in preparation for this group watch. You know Beez, we find it hard to wrap our heads around her having to live with him (regardless of whether or not she had any options). All I can say I can glad to live in this day and age. The human spirit can be indomitable even in the worst situations.

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[…] | E4-6 | E7-9 | E10-12 | E13-15 | E16-18 | E19-21 | E22-24 | E25-27 | E28-30 | E31-33 | E34-36 | E37-39 | E40-42 | E43-45 | E46-48 | E49-51 | […]

beez
9 days ago

Just goes to show you how people can watch the same thing and see something entirely different:
“…I’d also assumed that Liyang would have hated being married to her rapist. But here, in this moment, Xie Yu’s expressing that he genuinely likes her, while she, on the other hand, is literally offering to die with him, if dying alone would make him feel lonely. I mean, that’s a huge offer, and I’m stunned that Liyang would even make it.” kfangurl

My subs said she’d follow him to the afterlife so he wouldn’t be lonely but only once she had the children settled. I took that to mean in 20-30 years. https://s.w.org/images/core/emoji/13.0.1/svg/1f606.svg I did see some care there but I also felt an underlying hatred on the Grand Princess’ part. It seems more like she knew she’d betrayed her husband/the father of her children and had regret for that and for the fall of a heretofore respected household for generations. A lot was to be lost and that affects her children as well. I think she realized how much Marquis Rapey really loves her and she doesn’t take that lightly but she knows he’s a slow but sure cancer that needs to be cut out. She knows he won’t go really into the night so she says what she thinks will comfort him and convince him to do is all a favor – hence the knife. But sadly she was right that he wouldn’t make it easy for anybody. So ultimately, I saw her actions as an attempted manipulation to finally rid the world of his rotten azz!

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
9 days ago
Reply to  beez

That was my interpretation too Beez! I think she was trying to persuade him to go easy into the night by offering comfort, and promising to fulfill her duty as a wife to follow him to the afterlife. I didn’t think 20 to 30 years but yes maybe after several years. As I mentioned in another comment she is a very strategic thinker too, hence why she intervened when she did, and all her actions to try and reduce the damage.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
9 days ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez and Elaine – I am on the glass half empty view of Marquis Xie. As we say: “I would not trust him further than I could spit on him”. 🤣 😂

FWIW – When they hugged in that E22 scene at 9:07:00 this is what the novel said about that – In the more than twenty years of their marriage, she had never once returned her husband’s affections, but now, she raised her arms and wrapped them around his waist.

No affection in 20 years is a lot of no affection. I like the way you ladies think.

BE
BE
8 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Novel spells out and validates beez’ take. But the way Zhang Yan Yan enacts these several scenes, it leaves room for an alternative take. For the second time in show, I go for ambiguity. This is the kind of drama that could be reenacted with a different cast and still stand up very well. Nuance in possible role interpretations is one way in which, imo, that is so.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  BE

BE – yes, there are a lot of takes on different scenarios in this drama that I discovered while researching fan pages that were in English. Fan social media sites went crazy during and after the drama aired with these discussions. I so enjoy/ed reading everyone’s take.

I also was one that felt that the Marquis Xie truly loved his wife on my first watch and I thought, well at least he had one redeeming quality, right? But after my re-watches I understood more and he became more dysfunctional with each re-watch. 🙄

I was drawn to the novel due to my love of the drama but also to try to get the author’s take on what was in her character’s hearts. It added additional dimension and answered a lot of my questions.

Natalia
Natalia
8 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

When my great-grandfather passed, I told my great-grandmother: “You must be devastated”. Romantic Me had thought that they have shared the love of the century, seeing that they had married very young (he was 19, she was 15) and stayed married for 70 years. Grandma replied:”Well, after so many years, I would have been sad even if it had been a mangy dog that died”.
I later found out that my great-grandfather’s family had kidnapped my great-grandmother in order to force her own family to consent to their marriage since she was already “damaged” and get her abundant dowry.
To me, Grand Princess Liyang’s attitude in these episodes is explained like that: she never forgave the Marquis, but after so many years she has accepted him as the mangy dog that she has a duty to care for.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
6 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

Natalie – I would make sure that the story of your GG gets handed down to future generations. Every family has one (or more) of these stories and they are definitely worth recording. I do love your reference to a mangy dog – that was great!

J3ffc
J3ffc
6 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Apologies for being dense, but could someone remind me where the details of Liyang and Xie Zhu’s early “relationship” were revealed to us?

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
6 days ago
Reply to  J3ffc

It was in quite n early episode, when Concubine Jing found out that someone was bringing Qin Si Rao wine into the Palace to drug Princess Nihuang so that someone could rape her and force her to marry him, Concubine Jing asked Princess Liyang for help because Liyang had been a past victim and wouldn’t want Nihuang to fall prey to the same plot. There was a brief flashback to the deceased Empress Dowager who gave the drug to Liyang while Xie Yu waited in the wings to have his way with her =( it was a political marriage for him to rise in the ranks, and for the Empress to cover up Liyang’s affair with the Southern Chu Prince.

j3ffc
j3ffc
6 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

Thanks so much, Elaine! I remember the scene but hadn’t made the connection. Yet another scene that means so much more with later knowledge. One can really see how this show benefits from multiple viewings….

Geo
Geo
6 days ago
Reply to  J3ffc

@J3ffc: You’re not alone, I totally missed this on my first watch. There’s so much going on in this show that seemingly careless or casual lines or events, more often than not, have a significance difficult to ascertain at the time.

j3ffc
j3ffc
6 days ago
Reply to  Geo

Thanks for helping us newbies out!

Ele Nash
9 days ago

I say again, thank the stars for your insightful summaries, kfangurl, and also to everyone who comments on here. I watch and enjoy the episodes each week but always have a vague awareness that I’ve not entirely understood. Like, wait, what, Great Grandmother is Lin Shu’s Great Grandmother?! But, wait, what, so he’s related to everyone?!! He’s ROYAL??!! 🤯 Gah, I feel like my brain crumples with all these (for me) revelations – though they’ve probably been stated plenty of times, I just didn’t notice with everything else going on. Great Grandmother clearly loved Xiao Shu then – the most, according to Nihuang (who is just about the most beautiful person in mourning drab 😍).
As for Marquis Xie, how gratifying to see him undone but then – eek – the Big Bad (great Buffy reference, !) isn’t actually him but some other guy who’s rocked up under the guise of being like Chief of Police. Ooh… I did rather enjoy his little whisper of suspicion to the Emperor that someone with a great mind designed events around Xie. He’s not lying, is he?!
I do wonder about Prince Jing’s friendship with Lin Shu / Mei Changsu. MCS is SO much smarter than him and quick-witted where Jing is all by the book and (I don’t mean this unkindly but…) dull?? Am I going to get hate mail from Jing fans now?! I don’t dislike him or anything and can see a fairness in him that would make a good Emperor. I just don’t really see why Lin Shu would have particularly been friends with him back in the day.
Anyway, I wait for the next mind-blow moment 😅

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
6 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Hi Ele – believe it or not, I had to look up BTVS Big Bad as I have never watched a single episode 🤣😂😅 Well, you learn something new every day. Thanks!

No hate here 😆 just nothing but love 💖💖💖 at the Fangurl Verdict! 🙆‍♀️🙆‍♂️

As for Prince JIng and MCS – there was a lot of chatter on this very subject when the drama was released so you are not alone in your thoughts. A lot of folks could not understand why they were so close due to the differences in their personalities.

In fact Ele, there was so much chatter on this issue [of Prince Jing being capable enough] that the author herself addressed it and again, a multitude of thanks to the novel translators: She says that from her point of view, the most important attribute of a successful ruler is not being able to scheme or being clever, because a court should not be filled with dim plots and strategies, but the most important is knowing your people and knowing how best to put each to good use, and valuing the people of the nation, and being fair in bestowing rewards and punishments. And this is the message she is trying very hard to get across in this book. Source

Let’s take a look at their connections. They are 1st cousins (very close in age) so there is the familial relations (which were very close) and they spent a lot of time together growing up. They also had a solid connection to the military as both were experienced in the ‘art of war’ and must have spent hours discussing different battlefield formations and practicing martial arts. We tend to forget that Prince Jing is a very successful military commander. FWIW – Lin Shu was as well, having been given his first Chiyan command at age 13. Note – he was 18-19 at Meiling so he is now around 30-31.

Lin Shu was a much different person in his youth. I so wish the drama had more scenes from his youth. I want a prequel! 🤣 😅 He had no use for political schemes as everything was always ‘front and center’ in his life, kind of like Prince Jing is now. Not only his physical appearance but his personality changed after Meiling. He had to adapt and change to meet his end goal. MCS now has to do [bad] things that he would never have done as Lin Shu. It is a testament to his brilliance that he could adjust so well and gather so much alliance power and intel in the last 12 years. MCS is a combination of both military and political strategy (extreme) intelligence.

The novel states that Lin Shu was such a ‘rising star’ ⭐that no one paid much attention to Prince Jing. 😮

I believe that you will enjoy tracking Prince Jing’s progress as the drama unfolds.

Ele Nash
4 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Well, I forgive you for never having watched Buffy 😉 just, and thank you for the explanation about why Lin Shu might be friends with a guy like Jing. I want to like Prince Jing. He’s sort of maudlin, which I guess is down in part to what happened to Lin Shu so maybe younger he laughed more 😊 And, to be fair, he has grown up less favoured to the point of bullied. Perhaps it makes me like MCS even more, that he’d be so loyal to the guy. He probably could have dazzled anyone as Lin Shu, just as he seems to pretty much dazzle everyone as Mei Changsu. I mean, the way Prince Jing forlornly cried to his mum that he missed Lin Shu, it struck me that he seemed really to have loved him.

Geo
Geo
9 days ago

These episodes show MCS at his best, his intelligence and logical analysis, his quick thinking and his ability to manipulate very difficult individuals.

He knows there was a forged letter (the existence of the letter is well known and MCS knows it is fake because his father was loyal) accusing the Lin family of treason and is able to deduce from looking at the list of individuals killed by or on Xie Yu’s orders the importance of the scholar’s death, an individual with no seeming connection to anyone. MCS knew Xie Yu was involved since Xie Yu was the one who ambushed and killed Nie Feng and his army and blamed it on Lin Xie.

MCS next quickly grasps the significance of Xia Jang meeting the emperor and Xie Yu and the shift in attitude of the emperor, he’s now dithering on issuing the death edict on Xie Yu. He quickly moves to neutralize Xia Jang in one of the highlights for me in the whole show, the manner in which he breaks down the trust between Xie Yu and Xia Jang, MCS’ dialogue with Xie Yu is a masterpiece of logic and persuasion and shows why he became the master of the Jiangzhuo Alliance despite his physical limitations. And he gets Prince Yu to plant the seeds of distrust in Xia Jang about Xie Yu. Finally, his cleverness in getting Xie Yu to commit to paper a “confession” of his misdeeds in a public place so all could see.

The love of Xie Yu for Liyang comes clearly through and her apparent reciprocal feelings as you point out KFG, she offers to join him in death! I had totally missed this in my first watch. This is difficult to believe after the way he forced their marriage but I think it must have helped that she knew Xie Yu loved her and probably treated her like a queen (she married the one who loved her rather than the one she loved, kind of a variation on advice I’ve heard, faced with two choices, marry the one who loves you more) and after so many years and two children, their relationship had moved to another level. The Marquis is one complex character but as I think of him, I’m reminded of the advice from one of my older relatives, paraphrasing, everyone is a “fool” for at least one person, no matter how strong or ruthless they are.

KFG, your Mom’s insight into the Emperor’s suspicious nature manifesting itself in the various relationships he enters into is spot on. His past attempts to marry off Nihuang follow the same model. It’s tragic though that the Emperor’s extremely suspicious nature would lead to him ordering the death of his son and his loyal general, Lin Xie.

It feels like the show can’t get any better but enter Xia Jang, who is shaping up to be the toughest opponent for MCS, Xia Jang has already figured out someone, a mastermind, has used the Bureau for their purposes (getting Xia Dong to witness the Jingrui party revelations) and his jaw sets in a determined way. It’s interesting he doesn’t attribute this scheming to Prince Yu who is the big beneficiary of these stunning events. Importantly, he sows the seeds of doubt in the Emperor’s mind as to the true motives behind the downfall of Xie Yu.

Finally, the emotional intensity of these episodes is beyond belief. There is not a character unaffected (maybe except for the Emperor) and MCS’ realization of the hurt and damage he has “caused” is difficult to watch. Despite his claims, he’s not the heartless strategist he claims to be. .

jisaab
jisaab
9 days ago

I’m curious as to if Jingyan suspects Mei Changsu being Lin Shu. It’s clear that he’s picked up that Mei Changsu is similar to Lin Shu, as did Nihuang. But I feel like he’s also getting other suspicious vibes from the way Commander Meng acts with Mei Changsu too. There’s just too much trust and familiarity, considering that technically Commander Meng and Mei Chansu just met semi-recently.

Also, I feel stupid, but I feel like the reveal of Xia Jiang being the mastermind behind Prince Qi’s death just created more questions. What was his vendetta against them? Also, maybe I’m understanding it wrongly, but isn’t Xia Dong his daughter? How could he orchestrate the murder of his daughter’s husband? Like the cruelty is astounding. Poor Xia Dong.

I’m also so weirded out by the Liyang and Xie Yu relationship. Like how is Liyang ok living with her rapist? Why does Xie Yu love her so much?

I’m curious as to what will happen to him. Is this the last we see of him?

And man, the emperor is such an ass. It’s so crazy how appearances are so decieving. I thought he was an ok dude, just whack cause of how much he favoured the Crown Prince, despite the Crown Prince being useless. But I think his strategy is to favour the Crown Prince because of how useless he is. Plus that whole reveal of how he married Consort Chen despite knowing how much Marquis Yan and her loved each other is so gross. What an asshole. I’m beginning so severely dislike him.

manukajoe
manukajoe
9 days ago
Reply to  jisaab

Xia Jiang is Xia Dong’s boss/mentor. They work for the secret service (Xuanjing Bureau). Xia means summer and the apprentices are named after the other seasons (Dong is winter).

jisaab
jisaab
9 days ago
Reply to  manukajoe

ahhhh that’s really helpful – thank you!

Natalia
Natalia
9 days ago
Reply to  jisaab

About the Emperor, yes, I also thought that he seemed cool minus his ridiculous preference for the Crown Prince who is, simply put, a cretin. And I was wondering too whether the reason he preferred him was precisely the fact that he’s worthless and thus harmless. Well, I think we are right, that must be it. The Emperor is not cool after all.

Geo
Geo
9 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

@Natalia: I think the Emperor’s preference for the CP may spring in part from his perception of CP as being less threatening as you point out but it may also be because CP is older than Prince Yu so to bypass the birth order could have serious consequences, especially if older sibling is ambitious. In addition CP’s Mom is Emperor’s favourite consort, as to why, we can only speculate, lol. There’s also another reason why he prefers CP to Prince Yu but that will be revealed later.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
10 days ago

A flurry of stream of consciousness comments from me as I’ve finally watched the episodes ahead of time this week. These 3 episodes in particular demonstrated to me how NIF stood head and shoulders over other dramas, Western or Asian. You would expect after the defeat of Xie Yu there would be a victory party for the heroes. Instead, you have difficult emotional decisions. Jingrui tries to take the knife from Liyang but she says she still has a lot to do. So beautiful and delicate but instead of fainting she steels herself and points the knife at her nephew, demonstrating strategic forethought when she demands he treat the Zhuos well even if they cease being useful to him. And then a difficult conversation, awful and wretched where Liyang apologises for lying to the Zhuos all these years. Marvel shied away from their heroes having to deal with the real consequences of past crimes, in Falcon and Winter Soldier they cut away from a difficult emotional conversation just as it was about to start!

You also get humanisation of a complex villain, still unchanged in grit and determination despite his defeat. And many more emotional goodies. A feast for the brain, heart and senses (martial arts action! Beautiful costumes! Look at the thick fabrics and embroidery, oh my. I love Jingyan’s costume, and Consort Jing’s. And so many more!)

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
10 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

That was beautifully said Elaine!

manukajoe
manukajoe
10 days ago

I’m not keeping up with the conversation, but I am keeping up with the watching.

Ep 22 I like the opening with the Emperor’s Half-sister Grand Princess Liyang apologising to the Zhou family. Very moving and poignant.
Ah so we can see that the Bureau chief is one of Xie Yu’s buddies.
Ep 23
Ep 24 Waaaa! Mei Changsu manipulated Prince Jing so hard right there to pursue the Chiyan case!
Xie Yu’s family came to see him off, even though he never gave them a single thought. Wish that Xia Dong would have run him through then and there.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
10 days ago

Such a painful heart-rending moment when Xie Qi died in childbirth! After the relief we felt that all the good guys made it out alive after Xie Yi’s determined onslaught, that one innocent death was awful. It almost felt biblical, the sins of the father resulting in the death of his child =( Hu Ge did an amazing job as MCS receiving the news, anguish and guilt wrapped up in a bitter ironic smile for Fei Liu, that he will be alright cos his heart will get harder. He is counting the cost as there will be more innocents hurt as his mission proceeds.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
10 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

@Elaine – in the novel MCS went with Aunt Ji (she had midwife experience) over to the Marquis’ house to try to help Qie deliver the baby but the baby was in the feet first position and Qie was barely alive at that point. There were 5 imperial physicians there who had pretty much given upon both mother and baby. Aunt Ji managed to save the baby (it does not say how she did) but could not save Qie.

Natalia
Natalia
9 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I can’t help but wonder if Qi’s death was partly due to the emotional stress she went through on Jingrui’s birthday party.

Geo
Geo
9 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

I think MCS feels the same, witness his anguish when he hears news about her death.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
9 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

Yes the doctor who couldn’t save her said the difficult labour was exacerbated by emotional stress. Think that line was pretty explicit to put the blame on the party and the breakup of her family! Can you imagine, to find out your father ordered the killing of your husband’s Little brother? Awful.

BE
BE
11 days ago

Lucid as ever, and the mom connection about the marriages clarifies detail dropped into the show earlier. You are so good.
That is the thing of this show, so much is dropped episode after episode, some of it in passing that only becomes more meaningful as time goes by, and only when someone points it out. Your reviews continue to illuminate. I cannot say it enough, things that take me a whole paragraph and a half to unpuzzle, you do it over and over in just a few clearly written sentences. Why I am just continuously blown out of the water by your reviews. Hand clap emoji!

Some impressions. In the opening scene of 22, I love how Jingrui is a blur in the background. Really one thing about visual composition, especially photographic visual composition, we actually do not see everything simultaneously the way film often seems to indicate. Liyang is in the foreground. Period. It is a beautiful set up of call and response with the Zhuo family, and interesting how they are staged as well. Qing is closest to Liyang but clearly perpendicular to Liang, and somewhat separate in his stunned silence from his parents. Ding Feng is center, the father, but head down with shame, and Mme. Zhuo appears to be leaning away from her husband and is the most dynamic (echoing for me her action scenes earlier for some reason) in her body language as well as the only one at the beginning speaking. Jinrui is there, he will be there, his blurred image an immediate foreshadow of his falling at the feet of the Zhuo’s, and while there is a lot of stiff upper lip with Liyang, stunned silence, guilt, justice, it is clear even to the Zhuo’s upon whom this family tragedy has most befallen. An amazing scene.

I think the previous episode already demonstrated Marquis Xie’s feeling for his wife. She was the one who persuaded him to relent. She was the soft spot in his underbelly. And after all they shared children with one another. Although it would seem that she had a million reasons to fear her husband, and it almost makes no sense that she would love him, making the best from a fated situation–no woman in her position was likely to marry for love, let’s face it–especially given Jingrui to shower her love upon, a love that Xie more than tolerated. He was the spoiled brother of which nothing was asked. And the years…Anyway I was not surprised when they meet. History is riddled with women married to and loving horrible men, and Xie seems quite tender towards her as well, despite being a man given to ruthless self interest.

Which leads me to this: after the fall of the Marquis, in the following three episodes, Liu Yi Jun does what we have not seen him do in all the earlier episodes really deliver the Marquis with a whole range of emotions in his interactions with others and somehow despite his villainy and narcissism make him human. Really for me Liu Yi Jun between episodes 22-24 delivers the best characterization among many good ones in any three episode set in show to this point. Just terrific screen presence, interactions, the gamut of emotions, most especially in the interview with Mei Chiang Su (and does anyone intone that name with greater fervor? Just loved to hear him scream it).

The whole interview with Xie Yu in its revelations felt so devastating. Of course to Xia Dong, who not only felt the brunt of the betrayal, her shiffu planned it, Xia Yu whom she believed had done her the honor of bringing her back what was left of her husband, her anger with not just Jing, but Nihuang for remaining loyal to the Lin family, all set in the stone and engraved in her heart and mind undone. Simply undone. And of course Jing, feeling the full brunt of the injustice done to his great companion and friend, as he says going from a belief and faith in his friend to concrete evidence, especially as a Prince of the family who had made even mention of the case taboo and punishable. Finally Mei Chiang Su, who despite his downplay with Jing later is visibly shaken. And for us the reveal that while up to this point Marquis Xie Yu appeared to be the author of the Chinyan ethnocide, we see he was midlevel management, and there is certainly at least one bigger fish to fry.

Ah Xia Jiang! The way he is introduced, the marching music for Tong Lu to deliver the news, the gallop into the gates (how theatrical those enter the gate on horseback scenes, full gallop ahead) and the ominous music, really that musical intro for some reason made me more aware of how much pathetic fallacy via music show has. I should have noticed it before, but music with Xia Jiang from moment one seemed to say, VILLAIN entering Dodge City. And then Wang Yang Quah’s voice! Oh yeah, pure iron, about four ranges lower pitched with about four ranges greater distance. A bad, bad man, and definitely a mountain we will have to climb as time goes on.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago
Reply to  BE

Bravo BE – bravo. I hear the music whenever Xia Jiang comes on the screen. Liu Yi Jun rocks these episodes. Ah my heart – the casting is just tremendous.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
10 days ago
Reply to  BE

Beautiful writing every week BE!

BE
BE
8 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

Thank you Elaine. It is wonderful to be a part of this group watch. While I am not quite as enamored of this show as I am Chuno, show is so brilliantly constructed, the actors so well cast and characters enacted, and there is so much to chew on, I feel K is assembling a series of reax that folks doing their first watches of show can refer to for years to come. It does not hurt, of course, on this, that we have a Number 1 NIFty, phl1rxd,doing so much detail work, dropping nuggets, clarifying, and rooting us all on, but so many folks, including yourself, week in and week out keep on chiming on the wings of this butterfly and its various winds.

Trent
10 days ago
Reply to  BE

BE, I think you’ve got some great insights here (along with everyone else–really consistently high quality of commentary here–KFG and phl1rxd as MVPs, of course–is really enhancing the viewing experience (just as it did with Chuno and Money Flower, to be sure)).

I particularly like/agree with the insight and observation about Marquis Xie in these episodes: he becomes vastly complexified here, and although he’s still evil, guilty of bad things in the past and present, he seems a more fully-rounded human here for the first time. A really very fine job by the actor playing him.

And I also really appreciate the comments by everyone about Xia Jiang. I realized from what’s happening on the screen, of course, that he’s playing a deeper game than what he’s letting on, but the highlighting of various clues and such by y’all helped me to realize that he’s (probably) a much bigger fish in the antagonist pond than I was initially crediting. Good stuff!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
10 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Trent – I call him the Big, Big Bad and all I can say right now is that he is the great white shark in the fish hierarchy. I think Natalie is going to be very, very happy with him. 😃😉

Natalia
Natalia
9 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I was just about to post a comment saying that although Marquis Ning seems to be out of the game, which is sad (also, I actually felt sorry for him this time around!), the Evil Shifu has made a very promising start as my new favourite Villain! Although the Marquis had a touch more panache, which I rather appreciated. Sort of like Cardinal de Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, whereas Shifu seems to be of the Frollo kind (Claude Frollo, of The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

Ha Ha Natalie – that was a great analysis! Evil Shifu Jiang is going to make your watchs very enjoyable!

BE
BE
8 days ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent: fwiw I posted a long reax to Beyond Evil in the comments to K’s review. After I got into it, I binged on through.

Trent
8 days ago
Reply to  BE

Yeah, I saw it; it was some great commentary, much appreciated. I posted a follow-up comment that hopefully didn’t get eaten!

BE
BE
8 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Did not get eaten; my fear about 2/3 the way in, thinking I will never start this all over again. But all good.

Natalia
Natalia
9 days ago
Reply to  BE

Very well said, BE. It was puzzling to realize that the Marquis was only a small(ish) fish after all. And the script + performance in these 3 episodes really humanized him. For me, the best scene in all these 3 episodes was the cell scene between MCS and the Marquis.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

Natalie – that scene is also one of my favorites. It is pretty epic. After we are all done I would really love to know what scenes were everyone’s favorites.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
11 days ago

Quick comments. Episode 22 – I think MCS definitely found out some time ago that Xia Jiang was behind the conspiracy, hence him picking out the name Li Chongxin, he had to have Intel that put of all the people Zhuo Dingfeng killed, this one was linked to Xia Jiang.

Episode 23 to 24 I actually think MCS was testing Jingyan to see his resolve to open the Chiyan case by playing devil’s advocate. If he had genuinely thought it best not to involve Jingyan in the investigation he wouldn’t have invited him to the prison to hear Xie Yu’s confession.

Why are there no eavesdropping prison guards to give Intel to Prince Yu?? Xia Jiang and MCS’ secret meetings with Xie Yu completely escaped his radar.

I’m bummed that MCS is not being upfront about his sickness with Nihuang. My guess he rationalised that if she knew the truth she would be so protective that she would stop from his mission. And maybe he also can’t bear to let her go. Even though he suggests she can have a happy future without him he’s not very convincing or persuasive about it! I like the interpretation from earlier episodes that somehow he can’t help but show his real self to Nihuang.

I heart how adorably clueless General Meng is. He helps the audience to ask what the heck is going on and forces MCS to explain his machinations haha.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
11 days ago

Oof Fangurl – these were some really exciting episodes. You did a such a fabulous job recapping these Fangurl! I love Mom’s input.

E22 – I would not want to be in GP Liyang’s shoes right now as she has to be feeling a ton right now. Her deepest, darkest secrets were revealed in the most awful way (is there is ever a right way to do that?)   

Tears for poor, poor Jingrui – the truest of friends, kindest and noblest of souls is in terrible, terrible pain and nothing can be done about it. I am crying as I write this it is just too sad.

I agree with you Fangurl that it would be too painful a reminder of her deceased baby for Mrs. Zhuo every time she saw Jingrui. That makes it even sadder doesn’t it, as Zhuo mother is someone Jinrui loves so dearly.

I admit that I am more pessimistic about the relationship between GP Liyang and the Marquis.

More grief for Grand Princess Liyang losing her only daughter to a difficult childbirth.

Cue Scary Music! Dun di dun dun! It is Xia Jiang. Head of the Xuanjing Bureau and one of my favorite characters from NIF. Actor Wang Yong Quan (also an assistant director for NIF) plays this role to absolute perfection and he is fascinating to watch. He puts Xia Dong in lockdown (although in my humble opinion she explains and rationalizes her decisions that night perfectly) and reacts very strongly to her being involved. Fangurl is on the money as he wants to keep her from looking into things he wants kept secret.

Then we get a real peek in how the Emperor’s master manipulator works. Remember folks, that Xia Jiang is one of the few people trusted by the Emperor. My stomach is turning listening to his passive aggressive subversion of the mountain of ironclad evidence. He manipulates the Emperor to become suspicious. Do you see a pattern here?

MCS starts to dismantle Banruo’s network. When Prince Yu visits he is understandably upset over his father’s wavering mind. Prince Yu really has this mental trip about his greedy grab for power. I do not know what I would do if I had two sons who whined and complained and fought like these two princes.

E21 Recap

  • Voice actor Lu Kui dubbed Xia Jiang’s voice and did a remarkable job both in tone and inflection

DID YOU KNOW…

  • In the novel MCS remembers Xie Qi (Jingrui’s sister) as a child who used to hang onto his robes. This made her death all the more painful for MCS.
  • This series of events [Marquis Xie] rocked the court and had the Crown Prince’s allies begging for Imperial mercy

——————————————–
OMG – this is such a mind blowing episode!

E23 –Fei Liu delivers an important message to Xia Dong. Can I say right here that she wears the best lip gloss?

Sky Prison the place on earth most able to convey a sense of disparity between what you once had and what you have now.

Wow this conversation! Take a minute to admire in awe how MCS so effortlessly controls the narrative with the Marquis,. Not once does he loose his cool. MCS bobs and weaves. It is pure mastery and this folks, is part of the real Lin Shu we are seeing right now. The very brilliant young military strategist waging war against his enemy Marquis Xie. He outfoxes him at every turn and blocks his escape so that the Marquis has nowhere to retreat and can only surrender. Shudder! – I get chills every time I watch this scene!

BTW – Li Chongxin is just a scholar who excelled at forgery, you know someone that the bad guys would keep in their back pocket in case they ever needed him for something rotten – he has no relation to anyone.

Let’s talk about why MCS made this visit:

  • MCS needs the Marquis to make MCS his savior (instead of Xia Jiang) because MCS needs him alive. So I had to ask “Did MCS know about the forgery? The answer to this question is yes. He mentions in the novel ‘he had heard’ what the letter contained.
  • MCS needs to ensure that he has the support of Prince Jing and Xia Dong in the future. This will cement Prince Jing’s trust in him and Xia Dong will know the truth about her Shifu and her husband at last. MCS needs Xia Dong in the future. MCS needs Prince Jing to trust him. He is killing two birds with one stone.
  • MCS needs to get Xia Jiang. To say this is important is an understatement.
  • MCS needs to go through this experience to strengthen his own personal resolve. What he is undertaking is so hard for any human being to do – he has to cut off all his emotions (the pain is intense – just think of all his illness attacks when he feels these emotions) and act rationally at all times. He will also need to do things he does not want to do, like hurt a few innocent people who happen to be in the way.
  • I also think a part of him wants to see Marquis Xie reduced to this state of misery. What the Marquis has done is so hideous. That forgery was the start of so much wrong.

Take a minute to put yourself in Prince Jing and Xia Dong’s shoes – it is a painful place to be right now.

I really appreciate Mom’s perspective on the Emperor’s suspicions – she is on the money! If you read those couple of paragraphs, just stop for a second and think about how close Lin Shu was to these people…

Brava Fangurl and Mom on this – “…the Emperor didn’t become a suspicious man all of a sudden; he’s always been the deeply suspicious, scheming type.”

The actor who plays Marquis Xie, Liu Yi Jun, just nails this entire scene. Uh – so, so good and no one will blame you for hitting the rewind button to re-watch this excellence.  

E23 Recap

  •  Do we now see why he worked so hard to gather all the intel on this for 12 long years?
  • Pingie and Gang-Gang really love their Chief and I love them

DID YOU KNOW…

  • [from Marquis Xie’s point of view] “Facing Mei Chang Su was like facing a cat determined to play with the mouse in its grasp.” Source

——————————————-
E24 – Poor, poor MCS – his beloved Great Grandmother is dead. His emotional reaction is so visceral.

Take note of the official talking to Minister Shen – that is Cai Quan. Both of them are rock solid and two of my favorites.

You can see all the brothers in the funeral scene!

It is so sad that MCS cannot go to the Palace to mourn his great grandmother like all the other grandchildren but then again he is far too weak to be able to take part in the ritual. Note from the book: when Lin Shu was born, Great Grandmother could not wait for him to be presented in the Palace and instead, she made a rare trip to the Lin Household to see him. She adored her Xiao Shu.

Marquis Ning is escorted out of the city and MCS has kept his promise. That note is worth its weight in gold. Yes Fangurl, GP Liyang was afraid of what was in it.

Prince Jing! You are so close to recognizing your true brother who is sitting right in front of you. If MCS was Pinocchio, his nose would be in the other room by now.

I love Head Eunuch Gao Zhan! He is brilliantly equipped to handle the Emperor. He is like a concierge [on steroids] and he sees all.

The Emperor grants Prince Jing a wish of having one of his mother’s old teachers pardoned. When the Emperor sees “You are stubborn”, I see “You are following the correct way and also giving me respect.”  

E24 Recap

  • I love when Gao Zhan hollers his announcements and I want his voice on my ringtones to announce each individual family member who calls me.
  • Zhang Ling Xin, the actress who plays Xia Dong, perfectly emotes the novel’s description of “murderous rage” seen in the scene when the Marquis is leaving.

DID YOU KNOW…

  • For the thirty days of the ritual guarding of the spirit, all the Emperor’s sons were required to stay in the palace and were not permitted to return to their own residences. Neither were they allowed to bathe, sleep on beds, nor eat meat in their meals. They were expected to remain kneeling and bow to the departing spirit, as well as to weep and mourn as ritual dictated.Source
  • This chapter was so very difficult to read (a lot more internal feelings are discussed) that I had to stop a few times and wipe my eyes.
Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
10 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Thank you so much for your extensive sharing each week phl1rxd! Amazing insights and sharing from the novel.

My first time watching I had no idea MCS was related to the royal family via his mother so I didn’t know why he grieved when the Grand Empress Dowager passed, I had to ask my colleague. Was this info mentioned earlier in show? I didn’t catch it.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
10 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

@Elaine – It was not mentioned ‘outright’ before – in fact, one has to really think about it to realize this. So far, bits and pieces and hints have been dropped here and there but the viewer has to really pay attention to catch it. I did not see this on my 1st (or 2nd) watch as so much else is going on.

You have figured out what I consider one of the most important psychological twists of this drama. I was waiting until someone figured it out and you just did! Lin Shu is indeed, a member of the Royal Family (as his mother was a Grand Princess and the Emperor his uncle) and is closely related to most of the people in this drama. More on this as we get into future episodes.

I love how Fangurl wove this into the suspicians of the Emperor!

This makes his path all that much harder as he is deeply affected by the past and what he must do in the future. This is also why he knows so much about them all. It makes his story that much sadder as well. It also explains his steely determination to see justice wrought even at the risk of hurting others (which affects his illness greatly). Think about how he is able to hide himself in full view of them, carefully watching every word he says to avoid suspicion. I often think that MCS’ path is littered with land mines that at any moment could go off and destroy him. It is deep.

As for GG – I came across some very sad and soul stirring facts in the novel concerning GG and Lin Shu but they must wait for a future episode so as not to spoil. I ugly cried while reading these passages. I was a mess. GG absolutely adored Lin Shu so it makes it easy to understand why she mentioned him on her death bed.

Last edited 10 days ago by phl1rxd
BE
BE
10 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Brilliant as always. You make watching this with everyone so interesting, accessible, fun.

J3ffc
J3ffc
6 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Thanks for the color commentary, phl1rxd – helps immensely with following this complex story. I did have to chuckle at your ring tone idea…someone’s got to do this! And:

I love Head Eunuch Gao Zhan! He is brilliantly equipped to handle the Emperor. He is like a concierge [on steroids] and he sees all.”

The irony being that, as a eunuch, GZ is quite literally a concierge not on steroids.😉

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
6 days ago
Reply to  J3ffc

Hi j3ffc – 🤣 😂 😅 – you got me there! That was quite, quite clever! You can make your own ringtones, but as I do not understand Mandarin I might chose the announcement saying “Make way, the Emperor is now going to the bathroom” 🤣 😂 😅 BTW- what exactly is Head Eunuch Gao Zhan saying? Is it different every time? Anybody out there – , @CP, Fangurl – can you help me?

j3ffc
j3ffc
6 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

 👍

manukajoe
manukajoe
6 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Well the characters are on the screen, but they usually get covered up by the english subs!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
6 days ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Ha Ha Joe – I just went to E27 and I realized that they are subbed. I do not know how I missed this 🙄 I must have been so enthralled with the voice I missed the subs.