Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! I couldn’t resist having Commander Meng headline our post today; doesn’t he look fierce in full regalia? 🤩
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! ❤️
Things are heating up in no small way, and I suddenly feel like our story is racing forward, somewhat.
I don’t know much at all about what you can glean from taking someone’s pulse, but I can verify that in Chinese medicine, they get a whole lot more from taking your pulse, than your heart rate. When I was a kid and had some pain in my tailbone, my mom took me to a practitioner of Chinese medicine. He didn’t need to ask me a thing; he simply ran his fingertips against mine, and in seconds, whipped me around to fix my tailbone issue. I never had to tell him what the problem was; he could literally feel it through my fingertips. All that to say, the Poison of the Bitter Flame may be fictional, but the nuances of Chinese medicine, and the ability of a good practitioner to read A LOT from your pulse (and possibly your fingertips), is very real.
What I find most moving about this scene, is how emotional Noble Consort Jing is, at the realization that Xiao Shu is before her, and has suffered so greatly. Noble Consort Jing has always been so serene and calm under almost any circumstance, that it is quite startling that she would lose her composure so completely, in this moment. But that just demonstrates how dear Xiao Shu is to her heart, as well as how terrible his affliction must be.
I also think it’s significant, that Mei Changsu is the first to overtly acknowledge his identity, by addressing Noble Consort Jing as “Aunt Jing,” like he’d always done in the past. I think he realizes, from Noble Consort Jing’s tears, that she already knows, and that there’s no point in trying to deny it.
Jingyan is suspicious, of course, with his mother unceremoniously ordering him out of the tent, which she’s never done before, but there isn’t much time to ponder these things, since it isn’t that long before Jingyan receives news about Prince Yu staging a rebellion.
The whole rebellion takes shape really fast, I have to say. From Prince Yu convincing the Empress to order that the protection of the Capital come under the Jin army rather than the patrol army, to the closing of the Capital gates, to Prince Yu making a dark alliance with General Xu Anmo, of the Qingli army, and the Emperor’s camp at Jiu An Mountain receiving news of Prince Yu’s rebellion, it all seems to fall into place in short order.
As my mom pointed out to me, it’s interesting that Prince Yu frames the rebellion as a matter of life and death. He believes that if Jingyan were to come into power, he would not allow Prince Yu nor the Empress to live, because of what they’ve done in the past. I personally can’t imagine Jingyan killing Prince Yu in order to secure the throne, but perhaps this is another example of how Prince Yu takes after the Emperor. After all, he is also now walking in the Emperor’s footsteps, in staging a rebellion.
Shout-out to Fourth Sister, for making the decision to help Tong Lu escape, while telling him of Prince Yu’s rebellion. She could have just let Tong Lu be, especially since he’d already lost his trust in her, but she not only undertakes the difficult task of saving him, she also sacrifices herself, to ensure that he’d have enough time to get away. Aw. She really did love him, after all.
I also appreciate how loyal Tong Lu is. Even though he knows that he’s earned the distrust of his Jiangzuo brothers, he goes straight to them with the news, and even sacrifices his own life, so that Zhen Ping would be able to escape the Capital, and bring news of the revolt to Mei Changsu. Sniffle. I do feel sorry for Tong Lu. So earnest, from beginning to end. 😭
I have to admit that I was a little confused, when I saw Xia Jiang all cleaned up and talking with Banruo, when we’d last seen him in chains, in his prison cell. I literally paused the episode so that I could ask my mom what I’d missed, heh.
As it turns out, Show doesn’t tell us everything in such explicit detail, because Show expects us to be smart enough to figure out some things on our own. And what we are supposed to figure out, in this case, is that since Prince Yu’s gained control of the Capital, he’s gone ahead to release Xia Jiang, since he’s in cahoots with him.
I’m nervous, though, that Banruo’s now told Xia Jiang that Mei Changsu’s been afflicted with the Poison of the Bitter Flame. Can Xia Jiang use this knowledge to his advantage? I can’t quite think of how, but Xia Jiang’s such a crafty schemer, that I’m just reflexively cautious.
It’s good to see Jingyan and Mei Changsu strategize together; it feels like a symbiotic coming together of two very complementary, very bright minds. I found it part poignant and part funny, that they are so much on the same wavelength, that their discussions leave Commander Meng – and me! – flailing helplessly in their wake. Thank goodness for Commander Meng asking for clarification, otherwise I’d feel completely lost, watching their discussion! 😅
How interesting, that in the midst of all this urgent strategizing, Jingyan picks up on more quirks and tidbits of information, that point to a link between Mei Changsu and Lin Shu. Not only is there the thing where Mei Changsu grabs Jingyan’s sword to use as a pointer for the map they are studying, which is a thing that Xiao Shu had done in the past, there’s also the thing where Mei Changsu appears to have knowledge of a very obscure path on Jiu An Mountain, which Jingyan only knows about, because he and Xiao Shu had stumbled on it together, by chance. Not only that, as my mom pointed out, the way Mei Changsu talked about it, was as if he already knew that Jingyan also knew about the path.
It’s enough to give Jingyan quizzical pause, but again, I feel it’s not realistic to expect Jingyan to guess Mei Changsu’s identity, because Mei Changsu looks nothing like Lin Shu, and well, plastic surgery didn’t exist at the time. The fact that Jingyan’s instinctively intrigued and somewhat suspicious, is quite enough for me, and is the extent of my expectations of him, on this matter – for now, anyway.
I know it’s probably not very appropriate, but I couldn’t help feeling a touch amused, at how quickly the Emperor decides to put his trust in Jingyan, while denouncing Prince Yu for being treacherous. Ha. How far we’ve come, eh? From being the least favored Prince in the Emperor’s eyes, Jingyan has now become the Emperor’s expressed only hope of saving the kingdom.
I do find it satisfying to see that in such a critical time, the Emperor defers to Jingyan’s plans, and does not attempt to control or analyze the situation himself. He really is at a loss, and the plan that Jingyan presents, really is the only hope they have, of surviving the revolt.
What I find moving about our last scene, is how, when Jingyan expresses concern that he might not make it back in time, Mei Changsu tells him that in such an event, he should head to the Capital and command the armies, and ensure that Prince Yu does not succeed.
This is literally a life and death situation, and Mei Changsu, with Commander Meng’s quiet but emphatic agreement, is telling Jingyan that even if everyone on Jiu An Mountain dies, Jingyan has to succeed in saving the kingdom. Guh. They literally are prepared to die, if that’s what it comes down to. 😭
What a dizzying episode this was, to watch. I feel like I’m still reeling a little, as I type this.
I have to say, it was quite a treat, to watch Mei Changsu consistently anticipate Prince Yu’s next moves, and then give instructions to counter each of those moves, so that Prince Yu is foiled at every step. Sure, suspension of disbelief is required in spots (like, where did they come up with so many boulders at such short notice?), but the satisfaction of knowing that Prince Yu is growing more and more frustrated with each foiled step, more than makes up for it. As my mom pointed out to me, Prince Yu is no match for Jingyan, Mei Changsu or Commander Meng, when it comes to military strategizing.
In fact, I feel that the Emperor himself comes across rather poorly, in this whole thing. He really doesn’t do much more than sit there in disbelief, that Prince Yu would actually dare to raise a revolt against him.
It’s everyone else that rises to the occasion, and shows their mettle. I do love how Noble Consort Jing, ordinarily so restrained and quiet, takes charge and instructs Yujin to sort out how many additional able-bodied fighters they’d be able to muster, from among their entourage. She’s also the one who soothes the Emperor’s nerves, and assures him that Jingyan will make it back in time. It’s a difficult situation, but Noble Consort Jing just exudes oodles of calm control and unwavering grace. I love her.
And of course, there’s Commander Meng, Zhen Ping, Yujin, and everyone else who fights in battle. When it gets to the point where there’s no other option but to guard the Hunting Palace until help arrives, they really give it their all, and fight without any fear in their eyes.
I really appreciate that while Yujin, not being a military man, could have easily opted to stay indoors with his father, he chooses to put on armor and join the battle. Everyone basically avails themselves to the maximum, and it’s quite stirring to witness.
I was horrified when Zhen Ping got shot in the chest by an arrow, because I really don’t want us to lose him, but his act, of leaping up there into the line of fire, in order to push those vats of oil down on the attacking troops, is such a selfless one.
He could have gotten killed doing that, but he did it anyway, because there was no other way to get the oil where they needed it, so that they could fight the enemy with fire. I’m just SO relieved, that Zhen Ping’s ok. When he pulled that arrow out of his chest and kept on fighting, I found that I could finally breathe easy.
I’m also quite pleasantly surprised that the person who ends up giving the Emperor a bit of a pep talk, and prods him to take up his royal sword, is none other than Marquis Yan. Considering all that’s happened between them, and how, not that long ago, Marquis Yan had wanted to kill the Emperor himself, this is a Huge Deal.
I honestly doubt that Marquis Yan has forgiven the Emperor for everything, but I do think that in this moment, where everyone’s in a life-threatening, precarious position together, it makes sense to put grudges aside, and choose to fight side by side against a common attacker.
Happily, they don’t actually need to personally engage in battle, thanks to Princess Nihuang’s timely arrival. Huzzah! What a happy surprise to see her here, after so many episodes of her absence. And what a badass entrance she makes, riding in all fierce on horseback, and eliminating the commander of the Qingli army right away.
That’s exactly the right thing to do, from what I can tell, because an army without their commander is immediately left without direction. Ah! Such great thinking on Jingyan’s part, to send her a letter while on his way to ask for assistance from the Ji city army.
When Prince Yu’s surrounded by Jingyan and his men, it does look like he’s ready to fight to the death, in this moment, from the way he draws his sword. But it’s Jingyan who raises his hand to stop his men from shooting, even though they would be justified in doing so, since Prince Yu is clearly a traitor.
See, this is why I think Prince Yu was wrong to think that if anything were to happen to the Emperor, and Jingyan were to ascend the throne, Jingyan would have him killed. In this instance, when Jingyan has every right to kill him, he doesn’t. Instead, he has him captured and imprisoned, so that the Emperor can decide how to deal with him.
As Mei Changsu observes, even though this was a dangerous situation where they could have literally lost the kingdom and their lives along with it, now that Jingyan has prevailed, there is no stopping him, going forward. He’s essentially become the savior of the kingdom, and I’m sure that the Emperor’s going to be favoring him more than ever before, henceforth. I mean, for the first time, the Emperor’s even concerned about Jingyan’s wounds, as he comes in to give his initial report on the battle situation. The Emperor’s never cared to ask before. Things have changed, for sure.
In the scene where the Emperor confronts Prince Yu in his makeshift prison, what strikes me is how the Emperor looks sincerely dismayed and betrayed. It’s rather ironic, really, that the Emperor berates him for his ambition, saying that someone like him, with such poor ethics that he would start a rebellion, is not fit to be a ruler. Uh. I mean.. isn’t this exactly how the Emperor himself had come to rule? It feels like he’s really deluded himself, after feeding himself thoughts of “alternative truths” after all these years.
The Emperor looks really quite shocked, though, when Prince Yu tells him that he should have killed the prince born of Princess Linglong, in order to root out future problems.
This final conversation between Prince Yu and the Emperor is pretty sad, actually. I just feel a lot of disillusionment and rejection on Prince Yu’s part, which makes me pity him, even though I do still think he ought to be punished for his crimes. It’s just that, in this moment, when a death sentence is inevitable, all he wants to hear from his father, is the truth.
And that truth turns out to be so.. disappointing, honestly. The Emperor admits that Princess Linglong had helped him to ascend the throne, but thereafter, her existence had made him feel unsafe, because it meant that his secret would not be secure. And so, despite him acknowledging that she had helped him, he had “let her disappear, along with the Hua clan.” Gosh, he makes genocide sound so gentle, doesn’t he? “Let her disappear” indeed! Huh.
After all is said and done, I can’t believe that the Emperor even goes so far as to attempt to get affirmation from Prince Yu, that he would have done the same in the Emperor’s shoes. That’s so self-centered, isn’t it?
This reminds me so much of the time when the Emperor had tested Jingyan, and asked what Jingyan thought of how the Emperor had handled the Chiyan case. This is his guilty conscience talking; that’s why he’s always seeking affirmation from others. He doesn’t truly believe he’d done the right thing, and that’s why he’s always hungry to hear other people tell him that he was right, or that they’d do the same in his shoes.
Last episode, I’d wondered if there had been any jealousy in the way Nihuang had looked on, while Mei Changsu checked on Gong Yu and gave instructions for her to be seen by a physician. Well, as it turns out, there absolutely was jealousy involved, heh.
I’m rather amused, actually, that Nihuang’s all calm and amiable while she thinks that Gong Yu’s there to take care of Mei Changsu, but the moment she realizes that Gong Yu had gone there of her own accord (ie, not under orders), because she’d wanted to guard Mei Changsu, Nihuang’s calm demeanor is immediately replaced by one of sharpness, as she declares that she will now be personally responsible for safeguarding Mei Changsu. It’s quite cute, how she leaves in a bit of a huff.
The main event this episode, is the capture of the strange beast, which has been mentioned from time to time for quite a while now.
I personally feel that Qi Meng’s played rather too clownish in this beat, where he takes such glee in anything to do with the beast, who turns out to be Xia Dong’s husband Nie Feng, who’s been believed dead all this time.
I’ve come to accept that anything to do with the Poison of the Bitter Flame has something rather mystical about it. Not only does it alter people’s appearances, in Nie Feng’s case, apparently drinking Mei Changsu’s blood helps to alleviate his symptoms. It’s one of the more mysterious elements of this show, and while I would like more information on how all this works, I wouldn’t be too surprised, if Show doesn’t provide that.
What I do like about this arc, is how gentle Mei Changsu is with the “fur man” (毛人 máo rén; that’s literally what they end up referring to him as, once they realize he’s not a beast), from the very beginning, even before he confirms his identity. There’s something very compassionate about that, particularly when it’s juxtaposed with Qi Meng’s sense of fascination and glee.
What an emotional reunion, between Nie Feng and Lin Shu, who have both suffered so much that they are literally both unrecognizable now. It feels quite surreal, that they’ve managed to survive, and come face to face with each other, in spite of everything.
I’m glad that Mei Changsu is there to help Nie Feng, and that Noble Consort Jing is there too, to assist with interim treatment, until Lin Chen arrives.
I really feel for Jingyan, though, as all of this is going on. His suspicions keep getting aroused, with the various bits and pieces of things that don’t quite add up. I feel especially sorry for him in that scene, where Noble Consort Jing gives him her cover story, and Mei Changsu corroborates it, and Jingyan responds with a bit of pique, “Fine. Everything seems to be normal. I won’t ask anymore.”
Jingyan definitely knows they are lying to him, but he can’t find any fault with their cover story. He seems so resigned, frustrated and wistful, all at the same time. And when he tells his mother that he trusts both her and Mei Changsu, but just feels alone, I feel his wistfulness extra. 💔
While I understand Mei Changsu’s desire to help Nie Feng, the way he gives Nie Feng his own medication, worries me. After all, he needs that medication too, and without it, he becomes dangerously weak. It’s hard to watch him collapse, with neither Physician Yan nor Lin Chen around to help him. I’m glad Zhen Ping is there, and that Fei Liu thinks to yell for our water buffalo, and that our water buffalo thinks to call upon Noble Consort Jing for help.
In his feverish delirium, Mei Changsu calls out for his father using his military term of address 父帅 (“fù shuài”), which basically translates kinda as “Father-Commander-General,” and then goes on to say, “Jingyan, don’t be afraid.” Ahhhh!! Is this when Jingyan finally finds out that this is his Xiao Shu, whom he’s been longing for?!? We got a reunion between aunt and nephew this set of episodes; will we get a reunion between our cousins-besties-soulmates next?? 🥺