Open Thread: Nirvana In Fire Episodes 52, 53 & 54

Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Can you believe we are at the end of this epic journey? Thanks for sticking with me through this one, for 18 whole weeks, y’all. ❤️

1. I will put up a brainstorming post shortly, so that we can start thinking about what show to watch next as a community. Do pop on over, to share your thoughts!

2. If you’d like to visit my review of Nirvana In Fire, you can find it here.

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

My thoughts

Episode 52

What a significant episode this turned out to be. Liyang does change her mind after all, or rather, as it turns out, as she describes it to Jingrui, she’d actually wanted to present her plea, in exchange for amnesty for her family.

To be honest, I’d felt that the way she’d acted during the initial meeting with Jingyan and Mei Changsu, didn’t quite line up with what she says in this scene with Jingrui. Her distress and horror, in response to Jingyan’s request, and the way she’d said, “What’s in it for me?” didn’t give me the impression that she actually wanted to negotiate. In fact, the vibe that gave me, was that she was horrified at the request, and didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

My mom theorizes that, if Liyang really had had the intention to negotiate, and her reaction was all to gain the upper hand in the negotiation, so that she could secure amnesty for her family, that this could a disconnect between what is written and how the actor (Zhang Yanyan) interpreted the scene.

In the end, we felt that a good compromise is to think of it as Liyang coming to the realization, during this conversation with Jingrui, that if Jingyan’s as determined to overturn the case as he appears, there is basically no way to not be involved. Which is why she turns around and goes back.

And what an interesting turnaround it is, for Liyang, who realizes that Jingyan had already planned on giving her family amnesty. What a good point Jingyan brings up, that Mei Changsu had not brought this up to her earlier, because they did not want it to be an deal; they needed Liyang to actually have personal conviction to present the letter to the Emperor, and not just do it as the result of a mere transaction.

I appreciate that Jingyan makes sure to let Liyang know that if she changes her mind at any time, or finds her courage wavering, to let him know at any time. Now that I’ve actually finished the episode, I can see why Jingyan says this. Given the intense pressure of the moment, Liyang really does need a great deal of courage and conviction, in order to stand her ground. It’s wise of Jingyan and Mei Changsu, to ensure this point.

This episode, we get the most honest, hearts-bared interaction between Jingyan and Xiao Shu that we’ve yet seen, ever since Jingyan came to know of Mei Changsu’s true identity. It definitely does help to make up for the fact that many of us found their reunion less than satisfying.

It’s quite perfect, really, that it’s Jingyan’s straightforward and emotional personality, that provides the push that Mei Changsu needs, in order to lower his guard and speak freely as Lin Shu, even if just for a while.

It’s just like Mei Changsu to be all formality and decorum, addressing Jingyan as “Your Highness,” and politely asking if it would be possible for His Highness to make it possible for him to also attend the Emperor’s birthday banquet. I feel like Jingyan all but sputters at Xiao Shu, “Did you think you need to ask this of me? Of course you must be there! All of this, everything that has been accomplished was all your heart blood. How could I not let you see the resolution of it?”

And when Mei Changsu tries starts to reply, “Your Highness,” I do love that Jingyan just cuts him off, with, “What Highness?!” Ahaha. Jingyan’s basically dropping all the pretenses now, and bulldozing Xiao Shu into doing the same.

It’s really refreshing to hear them talk as friends – not the way Jingyan and Mei Changsu had become friends, but in the way that Jingyan and Xiao Shu have been friends, for years, since their childhood.

I still feel bad for Jingyan, that his Xiao Shu is keeping the truth about his health a secret from him, and going so far as to say that Jingyan has so many worthy people to help him with state affairs, that he’ll just travel for a while, then come back to see Jingyan in 4 to 5 years.

When Jingyan presses Xiao Shu about his health, I do appreciate that he manages to get Jingyan to crack a smile, with his irreverent remark about being a weak scholar now who could never beat Jingyan in a fight again.

Finally, there’s a glimpse of the cheekiness that Jingyan always used to see, from Xiao Shu.

I also love that Jingyan finally gives Xiao Shu that big pearl that Xiao Shu had once asked Jingyan to bring back from Donghai. It’s just like Xiao Shu, not to say anything emotional about it, and just pocket it, saying that it’s something Jingyan’s owed him, implying that Jingyan’s kept him waiting for a long time. Pfft.

It’s a bit sad to hear from Jingyan and Xiao Shu’s conversation, that Tingsheng will never be officially acknowledged as Prince Qi’s son, because of the complicated royal requirements around that, that have been made impossible by Tingsheng’s circumstances. However, I do find it heartening that Jingyan wants to adopt Tingsheng. That does feel like it puts him in a position that feels closer to his true identity compared to his current situation, where he’s just a slave boy whom Mei Changsu rescued.

On the day of the Emperor’s birthday banquet, I find it such strong foreshadowing, that Jingyan’s friendly game of chess with the Emperor is in a deadlock, and the Emperor cheerily says, “It seems indeed, this game will not come to an end anytime soon. So be it. After the ceremony, we shall continue our battle.”

Amid all the pomp, there’s definitely a strong sense of.. anticipation, mixed with some trepidation, among our key players, as everyone gathers in the banquet hall. This really is the moment everyone’s been waiting for, for 13 long years.

I have to admit, my opinion of Liyang had dropped somewhat, with the way she’d handled the initial meeting with Jingyan and Mei Changsu, but that all changes again, in this scene.

The way she handles herself, as she presents that incriminating letter before the Emperor, and the way she finds a way to just keep going, even when the Emperor gets really upset and orders her to stop, and then starts yelling for guards to come and drag her out of there, is just so steady and so impressive.

Importantly, she makes sure to announce the contents, point by point, to the entire gathering of ministers, which means that the contents of that letter can now no longer be swept under the carpet. Well done, Liyang!

I found it interesting, that Nihuang could step forward to speak as a member of the Lin family, and my mom explained that because her betrothal had been royally bequeathed, it could not be broken, even though Lin Shu was believed dead. The reason that the Emperor could look for a husband for Nihuang at the beginning of our story, is because he’s royalty, and therefore, was in a position to break that betrothal by bequeathing Nihuang a new one. I thought that was interesting, and wanted to share!

The thing that strikes me about the Emperor, as one by one, people start coming forward to join the plea, is how he takes it all so personally. In Chinese, there’s a saying, 帮理不帮亲 (“bāng lǐ bù bāng qīn”), which means to stand on the side of reason rather than relationship, and it’s used to describe the state of being very fair and just. It strikes me that in this scene, the Emperor is demonstrating the exact opposite of that.

With each new person who steps forward to add their voice to the cause, he keeps sputtering, “You too?” … “Even you?” and then he caps it all with, “How could you all do this to me?!??” He totally expects people to stand on his side, on the basis of pure loyalty, never mind if there’s damning evidence in the room. Honestly, doesn’t he look like he’s on the verge of throwing a proper tantrum, because his birthday party’s been ruined?

On a rather irreverent tangent, it occurs to me that this is the second Significant Reveal sort of event, that’s happened during a birthday, in our story. Perhaps there’s an underlying message here, that one should be wary of big birthday celebrations..? 😉

Episode 53

So I was right, the Emperor really was on the verge of throwing a proper tantrum last episode, because this episode, he throws a proper, quite spectacular one. It’s like.. watching a giant toddler with a lot of power – but not really as much power as he’d thought, heh.

Honestly, the Emperor’s refusal to see why everyone’s asking him to re-open the Chiyan case is quite remarkable. Everyone who speaks up, is calm, reasonable and logical, and yet, the Emperor’s fury and disbelief just keeps amping up, wave after wave.

He really appears to see no need to pursue the case, because both Xie Yu and Xia Jiang have already been punished by the law. Well, that says a lot about his view of justice, doesn’t it?

He only cares about punishing the perpetrators, and appears to have no thought towards those who have been wrongs. To me, this echoes the scene where Xia Jiang had pushed the Emperor’s buttons by crying out that it’s better to wrongfully kill the innocent, than to wrongfully release the guilty.

And for a hot second, it almost looks like he’d be willing to actually kill Jingyan in front of everyone, for daring to speak up about the case.

Plus, he’s so quick to blame the request for the retrial itself on Jingyan too, even though there’s no evidence to prove it. It’s all very, very personal indeed.

Because of how personally the Emperor takes everything, I actually think it’s quite brilliant that Mei Changsu, when called upon by the Emperor, decides to meet him where he is, and lay on the personal facts too, about the many times that Lin Xie had helped him, and saved him (which gets the Emperor even more riled up) – before he brings it all back to the present request, by asking why the Emperor is so against such a natural and reasonable request.

It feels like a symbolic foreshadowing, mixed with a bit of retribution, when the Emperor loses his last shred of self-control because he’s all in a twist that Mei Changsu must indeed be Lin Shu. Not only do no guards come through the doors when he calls for them to kill Mei Changsu, he himself falls down the stairs and loses his crown, in front of everyone. In this moment, he looks so ridiculous and pathetic – and almost powerless.

I’m glad that Jingyan stays resolute, even while the Emperor has a sword to his chest. It says everything, really, that the Emperor’s first words to Jingyan are, “Do not think I won’t kill you. If I kill you, tomorrow, there can still be a new Crown Prince.”

Really, Emperor? Do you really have that many Crown Prince candidates up your sleeves? I don’t think so. This is just how delusional the Emperor is, by this point.

I feel that Jingyan’s answer is polite yet shrewd and resolute, “You can kill me. You can kill anyone who dares to reopen the Chiyan case because you are the Emperor. But once you have killed everyone are you still the elevated emperor? I have always taken Prince Qi as a role model. But I will never be another Prince Qi.” I think this drives home the point that, once the Emperor kills a son, it’s done. There is no turning back, and there is no bringing back the son who’s gone.

I knew that I loved Noble Consort Jing, but I’m more impressed than ever, by her appeal to the Emperor. I feel that her words really cut to the heart of the matter, and I do think that her words help to pierce through the fog of blindness and denial that the Emperor is in.

In particular, I like how she reminds him of the truth, and of the things that are beyond his control.

“The truth. The truth that was always there. Your Majesty, as the Son of Heaven, as long as you don’t want to know what happened no one can force you to. Yet, even the most powerful and dignified Emperor has things he cannot achieve.

For instance, you cannot influence the conscience and morals of the people; you cannot change the criticism of historians in the future. Just as you cannot prevent the once close deceased from entering your dreams and walking towards you. Has Your Majesty recently again dreamt of Consort Chen, Princess Jinyang.. Dreamt of Prince Qi?”

And then, when he gets even more upset, I love how Noble Consort Jing basically points out that it’s his never-ending suspicions that have caused everything to fall apart. That’s telling it like it is, and she does it with such fiery grace. If there was anyone who could get through to the Emperor and nudge him towards actually taking a productive next step, it’s Noble Consort Jing.

The meeting between the Emperor and Mei Changsu is such an important one. Unlike their previous meeting, this time, the Emperor is convinced that Mei Changsu is, indeed, Lin Shu, and speaks with him accordingly.

The entire conversation is tense and comes preloaded with a ton of emotional baggage. For a while, it seems that the two do nothing more than verbally circle each other, but I do love how Mei Changsu cuts to the heart of the matter, when he confronts the Emperor with the fact that, in the many hours since the letter has come to light, the Emperor has not once asked to see the confession, nor expressed any indication of concern for those who were wronged, even though all the key people who had died, had been closely related to him.

How telling, that when Mei Changsu offers to read a copy of the letter to him, the Emperor immediately refuses. All of the Emperor’s protests, are around how Lin Xie and Prince Qi had disobeyed him or disrespected him, and it really sounds like a desperate attempt to justify his own actions.

At the same time, it also sounds like the fake letters, which had pointed to Lin Xie’s and Prince Qi’s betrayal, had been exactly the kind of excuse that the Emperor had been waiting for.

Clearly, he’d been chafing for a long time, at how he perceived Lin Xie and Prince Qi to be disrespecting him and threatening his authority. The reports of their alleged rebellion gave him a reason to do something that would eliminate them, assuage his injured pride, and reassure his anxious mind.

Doesn’t it say everything, when the Emperor, in trying to justify his actions, blurts out, “Tell me! Is this country mine, or Xiao Jingyu’s?!?”

I love how Mei Changsu corrects him so pointedly, and reminds him so sharply, that the country belongs to the people, and if not for the people, why would there be a need for an Emperor?

I think the way Mei Changsu lays out exactly how the Emperor had misunderstood Prince Qi’s habit of debating issues with his father, forces the Emperor to see things from a different perspective. And when he starts running out of excuses to defend himself, he agrees to reopen the Chiyan case – on the condition that Lin Shu will not be part of the court.

I’m kind of shocked that when Lin Shu turns to leave, the Emperor even falls to his knees, in tears, as he calls out to Lin Shu one last time. But.. just as I think that perhaps the Emperor has had a change of heart, he just keeps protesting that he’d been deceived by others. Sigh. I guess the Emperor hasn’t changed after all; he’s still in deep denial about his own culpability. It’s no wonder Lin Shu doesn’t turn around, and just keeps walking out of that throne room.

Thereafter, things move at what feels like the speed of light. Jingyan is charged with the responsibility of overseeing the reopening of the Chiyan case, with Grand Prince Ji, Marquis Yan and Ye Shizhen of the Supreme Court presiding the trials.

..And the next thing we know, a month has passed, and it seems that the case is now concluded.

Well. That was quite anticlimactic, if you ask me. We’ve only been waiting for the case to be overturned for 53 whole episodes. And so, to have the case finally reopened, after so much time and effort – and then to have it concluded offscreen, in the literal blink of an eye, feels rather disappointing, honestly.

However, I suppose this can only mean that Show has even more plot points up its narrative sleeves, for our finale, and that’s why everything else needed to be cleared out of the way.

Episode 54

Guh. What an emotional finale this turned out to be.

Yes, it does feel rather convenient, that Daliang is suddenly being attacked by different enemies, on each of her borders, but I appreciate why writer Hai Yan takes our story in this direction.

It’s true that the Chiyan case is now closed, and the names of the wronged, finally cleared. Under Jingyan’s leadership, the case is wrapped up, with, 1, the Emperor’s decree, clearing Prince Qi, Lin Xie and their followers, of treason charges, to be sent throughout the Kingdom, 2,  Consort Chen, Prince Qi and other children interred in imperial tombs, 3, the Lin’s family’s memorial hall and their offerings reinstated, 4, survivors promoted and rewarded, and 5, the families of the deceased compensated.

This finale, though, is actually dedicated to Lin Shu reclaiming the essence of his identity, and it’s such a personal thing, that it almost feels just as important as the overturning of the false charges of the Chiyan case.

This is most clear, as Mei Changsu works to persuade Lin Chen to allow him to take the pill made from the Bingxu grass, so that he can assist in battle on the Northern border.

Lin Chen’s horrified refusal demonstrates how much he really cares about his friend Mei Changsu. In his opinion, Mei Changsu has done more than enough, in overturning the Chiyan case, and now, it’s time that he think of only himself.

However, from Lin Shu’s point of view, this is him, thinking of himself. It’s true that it’s for the country too, but this is also his chance to truly feel like himself again; to be in the place where he feels he was born to be: the battlefield. I can imagine that from Lin Shu’s point of view, this is something that he’d never thought he’d be able to do again, in this lifetime. When the Poison of the Bitter Flame had completely changed his body, being on a battlefield again must have felt like a literal impossibility.

And now, it’s become a possibility, thanks to  the existence of the Bingxu pill which Lin Chen has made from the blade of Bingxu grass, and thanks to the circumstances, where there really is a shortage of Commander Generals, to go out into battle.

He would gladly exchange the time that he has left, for 3 months on the battlefield, where he would be able to feel most like himself, and live most like himself. He would rather live for 3 months as Lin Shu, than for another year, as Mei Changsu.

We’ve seen Mei Changsu show spurts of emotion from time to time in our story, but never more so than in this scene, as he desperately works to persuade Lin Chen to see things from his perspective.

It’s testament to Lin Chen’s love for Mei Changsu, that he reluctantly agrees, and then heads straight out to enlist for the military as well, so that he’ll be able to go with Mei Changsu, to the very end.

I feel bad for Jingyan, that he doesn’t realize how definite a “goodbye” this is, with his Xiao Shu, but I’m glad that they have that conversation on the roof, where Jingyan’s able to express his struggle, in letting Xiao Shu go into battle like this. There are details that remain unspoken, but the tears feel honest and needful.

Even though Lin Shu is unable to fulfill the promise that Jingyan extracts from him – to return from battle and be by his side to watch over him with his own eyes – I believe that he answers in the affirmative, because he plans to do so, even in the afterlife. 😭

We see such a selfless love at work in Nihuang, who is clearly terrified of the idea of her Lin Shu Gege going out to battle. She knows that with his health being poor, it’s quite possible that this is the last time she’ll see him again. Yet, she also knows how important this is, to him, and that’s why she swallows her tears and asks Fei Liu to take good care of him.

Even though Lin Shu has consistently avoided making any promises to Nihuang ever since she realized his identity, he makes her a promise now, and I do think it’s the most touching one he could make, given the circumstances.

“They all say fate lasts for three lives. In the next life, I hope that we can be born into ordinary families, and spend the rest of our lives together in peace.” And, as Nihuang tearfully tells him that he must keep his promise in the next life, he says, with a bit of a smile, “I will definitely keep my promise in the next life.” How is this so moving and so heartbreaking, at the same time?

Sigh. The inevitable happens, and we get confirmation of Lin Shu’s passing, as we see Gong Yu present a letter to Nihuang, and we witness Jingyan somberly removing the red cloth that’s been shrouding Lin Shu’s memorial tablet.

My mom explained to me that Jingyan placing the red cloth on Lin Shu’s memorial tablet in the first place, is a superstition thing, where it’s considered unlucky for a living person to have a memorial tablet in their name. With the Lin family’s memorial hall reinstated, it had been necessary to have a memorial tablet made for Lin Shu, because Lin Shu was officially dead. However, because Lin Shu was actually alive, Jingyan had therefore placed the red cloth over Lin Shu’s memorial tablet, to neutralize the bad luck (red is considered the color of luck, in Chinese custom).

What a poignant touch, that the pearl that Jingyan had brought back for Xiao Shu from Donghai, is now placed at his memorial tablet. And what a subtly but deeply gutting moment for Jingyan, as he processes his loss of Xiao Shu, all over again. 💔😭

I love that when Commander Meng requests Jingyan to bestow a name on the new army, consolidated from the Northern Expedition Army and the former Shangyang Army, Jingyan gives it the name 长林军 (“cháng lín jūn”) which translates as Changlin Army. “长” means “long” and “林” is the Lin family name, so you could interpret it along the lines of “Long live the Lin name,” or something similar.

It’s a fitting way to give the Lin name a military legacy, and more than that, it’s a beautiful and meaningful way for Jingyan to honor his Xiao Shu. And in return, I’m sure that his Xiao Shu continues to watch over Jingyan from the afterlife, true to his promise. 😭❤️

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phl1rxd
phl1rxd
27 days ago

Character Reference Guide
(In order of appearance and description is based on their place in drama at time of appearance)
No new characters in episode 52, 53 and 54

Places/Sects Reference Guide (in order of appearance)
No new places in episodes 53 and 54
Episode 52

  • -Dong Hai – where Prince Jing was assigned when all the events happened 13 years ago, the East China Sea
Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
6 days ago

I am three weeks late to the party! I got nearly to the end of episode 53. Wanted to wait for the group watch to catch up before I watched the ending but then work got crazy busy and I had to drop it. And now that work has ended I am not sure I want to watch episode 54 and go through it again – the emotional wringer and disappointment at how rushed the ending was. I’m moving on to easier fare, like the Stranger group watch! But yes this group watch was fabulous, so much meat to chew on and so many great views shared by all! It was engrossing and fun to read kfangurl’s recap and all your comments every week, what a treat! NIF will always have a special place in my heart. I am now more aware of its flaws, but its high highs – excellent plotting, emotional moments, outstanding cast – have stood the test of time! MCS’ yelling at Jingyan in the snow, Nihuang riding in to the rescue, all the tears for the scene where Nihuang confirms MCS’ identity, the awesomeness of Consort Jing and let’s hear it for our villains Prince Yu, Xie Yu, Xia Jiang and the kindly uncle with a heart of darkness, the Emperor! Ah and how can i forget the martial arts awesomeness of Zhen Ping and General Meng, and even Jingrui and Xia Dong got their fights in too!
 
I actually found this show amazing for daring
to completely change the system – through all his moves and plotting, MCS
managed to remove corrupt ministers and put in place clean ones, and he ensured
the whole system would be clean by positioning an incorruptible Crown Prince to
take over as Emperor!
 
Last little tidbit, the Chang Lin army doesn’t
just mean Long live Lin, it also incorporates the Lin surname with a character
from Mei Changsu’s name – the same Chang. So Jingyan honoured both Lin Shu and
Mei Changsu with that name.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
5 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

Elaine – thanks for that clarification on the naming of the Chang Lin Army!

Alaskan
Alaskan
21 days ago

Thank you for your wonderful reviews of one of my favorite dramas! I’ve watched Nirvana in Fire several times but I can’t believe how much your and your mother’s insights and analyses added to my enjoyment and understanding of this drama. Wow!

BE
BE
22 days ago

PS Living in TX is a number of things, but to hear someone from Singapore sling a y’all at us, well, what I can say, y’all, cept chicken fried steak to my ears?

BE
BE
24 days ago

Sorry so late.
First of all to our most esteemed Queen and Champion Gurl K Fan Fan, Bravo! Effing Bravo! For your posts, unbelievably lucid, this has to be the greatest tour guide for a complicated bit of film ever, and all done in the inimicable KFangurl Style. For your hosting, let’s face it, aren’t we all just so lucky to have her doing this for us? The Best.
Secondly, I will repeat what I noted below in response to one of phl1rxd’s posts. My goodness gracious! For me, the purpose of these group watches is for a collective nerding out on shows. This was like having a guest lecturer, ph…d in NIFtyology professing, expounding, and doing the science, making reading these commentaries and posts as much fun as watching the show. How very, very cool ph1rxd! Thanks so much. I am a fellow that has been seriously laid up for awhile, and this has just been such a delightful place to stop in, visit, chat. For you: the awesome Toumani Diabate on Kora with his Symmetric Orchestra on “Salsa”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc5B7MSsvE4
And to all of you that have chimed in on all of these posts, cannot say how much I appreciate your commentaries, interactions, and willingness to put up with my convoluted sentence structure that I am too lazy to proof read.
Insofar as these three episodes go. First of all, I really am grateful show writers gave Ding Yong Dai his hour to strut upon the stage. That bit of him moving across one stage after another repeating “Luanchenzeizi” ((“rebellious subjects and undutiful sons”)–thanks Manukajoe for this, and I must say that this is a case where I wish show had used the literal translation of the characters rather than the word “traitor” because it so aptly and articulately expresses the Emperor’s mind) was a highlight only eclipsed by Victor Huang’s impressive scenes. I thought he was terrific throughout, especially at providing gesture and facial expression that allowed the audience to watch him considering within all the arguments presented before him. Just great, as was his final interview with MCS, and certainly as a member of this great cast of actors, he was a charismatic presence, flawed, brilliant, obtuse, compassionate, self deceptive and evil, tragic–he had the potential to be a great emperor but fell prey to the lonely is the head that wears the crown syndrome, leading him to terrible, violent, and oppressive decisions, the narcissism and ego mania of men for whom throughout history so much death, murder and mayhem falls at their feet.
Though I believe my attitude in the preceding episode vis a vis MCS’ disappointment with Li Yang was justified by the events of episode 52 in which her willingness to testify not only demonstrated the necessity for her being the one to testify, but proffered her character a great opportunity for this stirring act of heroism, I must say I do believe Consort Jing was again a three ep MVP. That expression on her face when the Emperor turns to her in his et tu, Consort Jing moment, so implacable, so ferocious, so more than equal to his power–no need for a word spoken, amazing! And then in the aftermath, her setting the Emperor straight as to the brass tacks of the whole deal: The Truth. Pure and simple. Liu Min Tao was good throughout, even as the horizon, but in scenes where she got to step out emotionally, she was simply the best thing in show.comment image
And yes, even though she is 30 years my junior, would that she would run away with me.
And I also really loved the scene between Nihuang and Fei Liu in the final episode, when after sitting down by him and allowing herself to pour out her heart and mind with Fei Liu, even getting an acknowledgment of understanding from him, just the way Tao Liu, says back at Fei Liu, such a weary understanding, even at the expense of Fei Liu’s utter impossible comprehension of what she is saying, “What do you understand?” So bereft, so alone, the things only the broken hearted can understand in heart, mind, body and soul. Just beautifully delivered.
Like almost everyone, I found the final episode underwhelming, and made my suggestion for alternative endings, which I would have found far more suitable, and a bit less arbitrary. And I did have a problem with show’s propensity to tell when showing would have been infinitely more effective. But that said, I do believe that watching these shows, one does not balk at flaws, plot holes, misteps in a show one really likes, whereas in a show that does not connect every little example of such gnaws away and piles up one upon the other. As the Tao Te Ching points out, “great perfection appears flawed.” While I would not call NIF a work of “great” perfection, and if profering a grade I would probably give it an A/A-, the A for plotting, density, extraordinary use of foreshadow–a veritable textbook on that account, casting, and acting, especially the acting, and the A- for its uneven execution, it is so good that complaining over much about its flaws seems a bit ungrateful.
So many good characters and actors, the list would go on and on, ditto the number of dramatic scenes. My personal favorite performances as I have already mentioned were that of Victor Huang and Liu Min Tao. But I would also like to give a special shout out to Ning Wen Tong and Prince Ji–and whoever did his voice over, what a voice–his great physical gestures, the most likeable character, imo, in whole story, his sensibility, his heart.

Thanks all. Been grand, eh?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
24 days ago
Reply to  BE

@BE – Big thanks for link! A very versatile piece of music and I could even hear a little pachanga vibe going on.

An interesting tidbit – Xuan Xiao Ming was not only the the voice of Prince Ji, he was also the voice of Prime Minister Fan (the official who hid Xia Jiang after Prince Yu sprung him from jail during the Spring Hunt) and Zhuo Dingfeng (I called him Zhuo father, Jingrui’s other Dad). That is pretty cool to be able to do three characters in one drama.

Another interesting tidbit – As for Ding Yong Dai (the Emperor), he plays Andy’s (Liu Min Tao) father in Ode to Joy. Forewarning – this scene contains a big spoiler in the drama so bypass if you plan to watch the drama – if you do not plan to watch, go to E38 (it is on Viki)and in the first 15 minutes you will see Liu Min Tao and Ding Yong Dai tearing up the screen. After this scene we see our Lin Chen (Jin Dong) as her protector. Note that there is no dubbing on this drama so you are hearing their actual voices.

The acting was so very good in NIF and I so agree with all of your points. Consort Jing in that last episode was fan-tas-tic. She stood her ground. Prince Jing has a wonderful ally!

Yes BE, it has been mighty grand indeed.

Ele Nash
25 days ago

Gosh, well 54 episodes, 18 insightful kfangurl (and kfanmama) summaries, countless brilliant additional book and character info, amazing thoughts from everyone in the comments, and it’s over 😥 I could write as many words as the whole number in the Chiyan Army combined about how I found the show but that would probably be really boring for anyone to read so I will try to curtail my enthusiasm and be concise…

Despite this show centring around the bromance between MCS and Jingy, for me it was all about the women. Ah, from Nihuang‘s intuitive courage, to Mama Jing‘s kind sheer brilliance, to Banrou‘s commitment to avenging her people, to Consort Yue’s manipulative prowess, to Liyang’s dignified walk toward the Emperor, to Gong Yu’s unrequited love for MCS, to Fourth Sister’s sacrifice, and all in the most beautiful costumes (I’m looking at you, peacock dress), make-up (yes, your eyeliner Banrou was always en fleek), adornments (I want Nihuang’s headdress). The only female character to disappoint was the Empress, who seemed petty and a bit dull. But otherwise, let’s hear it for the girls 😉

As for the boys, well my first shout out would be for Prince Yu. Now I know I wasn’t meant to like him as much as did – and he did do some horrible things – but I couldn’t help taking his side. This may be down to the actor’s portrayal, or the writer taking time to create a three-dimensional ‘baddie’, or indeed my own desire to always find the good in people, but he really got to me and I found his demise sad, as opposed to cheering over it with MCS. He provided such a great taste of how the Emperor used to be, flawed but not bad, vain but not yet blind. I think show adding in the Hua mother was way too unbelievable (in terms of no one remembering / knowing she was a Hua Princess) and wish it had been better resolved as that would have made his character arc top-notch for me 🤔

Second up is surprising for me as I found him initially a bit, well, square, it’s our Jingy 😍 Oh, I really sided with him from about a third of the way through and it only grew stronger until the end, where I thought he looked super impressive sitting on the throne, writing the army name (thanks for the explanation of what that name meant, kfangurl). It was very gratifying. I also totally believed how much he loved his Lin Shu and appreciated the way he kept pressing MCS to be ‘himself’ around him. I liked how reserved he was and yet his direct view of the world always felt heartfelt and true. Respect, Emperor Jingy.

Other characters I enjoyed were: Commander Meng (explain that to me again, slowly 😆), Jingrui (ah, the dignity!), Pingy (some skills), Yujin (he’s a friend you’d want), Marquis Yan (again, you’d want him on your side), the two minister guys, and the other guy who seemed to disappear but who was like MCS main guy (am hopeless with names but I hope you know who I mean).

So that leaves me with our lead, Mei Changsu AKA Lin Shu. Well. I will go out on a limb here and say he did not rock my boat the way I think he rocks true lovers of this show. That is, I loved his strategy, felt bad about what happened to him, wanted him to succeed and all, but I just didn’t love him. I loved the way others loved him (Nihuang and Jingy especially) and so cried when he died but not because he died (not like I CRIED AND CRIED over our Daegil for example 😭) I cried for their grief, and thinking of how bereft Fei Lui would be. Otherwise, I didn’t mind him dying and felt his death was actually quite a gift from the writer, that he didn’t miserably sink away, he died on the battlefield as Lin Shu.

I believe my biggest stumbling throughout the show centred around MCS. For one, his resolute lying to Jingy; I still can’t believe (as @BE said right from the get-go) this was acceptable. For two, his gloating over Prince Yu – that’s the way I saw it and given I was fairly unreasonably in Prince Yu’s cell, feeling his feels, it made MCS the insensitive intruder. For three, his shrugging over The Hua Tribe Problem. As he said to the Emperor, the country is for the people so why did he never factor in the Hua Tribe as belonging to the people? His ‘righting the wrong’ was entirely personal – as his face off with the Emperor proved. And that’s fine, of course, but then it was all too convenient to reprove the Emperor for making everything personal while acting with no care to the people his father annihilated.

So while Jingy’s restraint felt a part of him, MCS for me ended up way, way too cold. The small glimpses of humour with Jingy, the few embraces he gave Nihuang, all felt too little and it made him a bit hard for me to emotionally connect with. For example (oh, of course I’ll reference a Jang Hyuk drama again) Pilju in Money Flower’s moment of reveal – this is who I actually am – to Mal Ran ran circles around Lin Shu’s. It meant something to Pilju, we could read it all over his repressed face, whereas for MCS, there remained a coolness that belied the very great emotional frisson of betrayal and loss MCS was feeling. I didn’t experience MCS’ glory in the guts. It didn’t get to me the way I’d have liked.

Now, I have had to waggle my lenses plenty of times with Asian dramas so I appreciate the telling aspects of the show are maybe a way of story-telling I’m just less used to. BUT, I thought so often through the show we were told things when I’d have found it so much more affecting to be shown them. I am a person who adores Asian drama for the restraint of its characters (bar those comedic parts which veer into excess) and as I say, in the case of Prince Jing this was suitably painful to watch, but I do need drama. For me, this show lost so much by not showing key moments which weakened its impact. I enjoyed every week watching the three episodes, but I never once especially wanted to race ahead.

Gah, I am yakking on. Shut me up! The last few things to say are the scenes where I did feel it. Number Five: Jingrui leaving and his full-of-hurt forgiveness of MCS. Number Four: Xia Jiang realising he’d been outfoxed and had lost the prisoner whose name of course escapes me. Number Three: Marquis Xie roaring while chained to the prison wall. Number Two: Jingy slashing the bell off the secret passageway. Number One: Without question, my favourite bit of the show was MCS, growling out to his cousin, his friend, his comrade, in the snow. Ah, the desperation. Ah, the expression on his face. I LOVED THIS SCENE ♥

Anyway, thank you kafangurl, for this excellent and enjoyable group watch!!!! I’m really looking forward to the next one 😘

j3ffc
j3ffc
24 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Chuno!

What a great expression of your reception to the show! As usual, your post adds even more intellectual grist for consideration and I agree with it much more than not. Plus, you’ve given us “en fleek” today and for that I thank you.

Ele Nash
24 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

In the urban dictionary, en fleek now has a photo of Banrou’s pink eyeliner 😆

BE
BE
24 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

@Ele Nash: I liked Hu Ge and MCS more than you, granting him the scenes in which he begs Jing on his knees and in the snow to believe in him, when he first greets Xia Jiang who has come for him, and in the way he testifies before the Emperor on how his family not only had been true followers but actually were the ones who gave him the throne, the betrayal for which so emphatically implied, as among the three most powerful scenes in show.
And as we discussed I had no problem with his sneering at Yu at all. Yu was part of the coverup and implicated in it all as such, and I have no doubt however much I found him to be the great tragic character of show, wonderfully enacted–I would love to see Victor Huang do Shakespeare, that it was his ambition for glory, not his Hua lineage, except insofar as he viewed it one more way he had been scorned by the Emperor, that drove him to rebellion, not as was the case with Prince Qi a desire toward just governance for the people of the empire.
But I do wish the scenes in which the young Lin Shu were presented in more depth, especially battle scenes in which his derring do and comraderie might have been shown, along with scenes of him as a boy with Consort Jing and more romantic scenes with Nihuang when they were youths.
And if show was going to send him off to battle at the end, I would have liked to see the Lin Shu (bolstered up by that grassy tonic or whatever) that MCS wanted Lin Chen to know, acts of courage, bravado, and a heartfelt death in battle.
When you speak of comparing Dae Gil to MCS, albeit a real classic apples to oranges comparison, in the former case we have one of the, if not the, most accomplished physical actors in the world, Jang Hyuk, who has spoken about how he uses action scenes to relay emotional aspects of his character. Hu Ge is being asked to enact a much more cerebral character who has been forced to swallow his passion in order to achieve his clearly planned out revenge. Dae Gil was a much more conflicted character. We never got more than the briefest glimpse of a young Lin Shu who might have been a comparably charasmatic character with a similar swagger and humor to him.
And personally, I did not think the final episode with its all of a sudden invasions from all sides was very satisfying and would have preferred MCS leveling with Nihuang, who after all is a warrior accustomed to death in the battlefield in which people she must have cared about had perished, and the two of them going off to the south for his final days together with her, and some of that passion displayed. IMO he owes her that, and it would have displayed some of the warmth that so many find lacking in his portrayal.

For the rest, you in your wonderful commentary and I are pretty much on the same page.

Ele Nash
24 days ago
Reply to  BE

Agree, Nihuang deserved his time, not a promise in the next life. FYI, I only compared Daegil in terms of his demise, not character. It’s Pilju who more overlaps with Mei Changsu in his same repressed state, stifling his true self in order to exact a kind of vengeance / righting a wrong. Jang Hyuk, indeed king in movement, shows how much feeling can be poured into stillness and silence. While I really like Hu Ge’s acting style, I felt those last few episodes were played too tightly and for little purpose as everyone now knew Mei Changsu was Lin Shu. I’d have liked more leaking emotion like the one we saw with him in the snow, growling Xiao Jingy (or a version of that!) And, honest 😏, I only reference Jang Hyuk because he’s been in two of our group watches. Honest. I’m not obsessed. Not at all…

Trent
24 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Great summation! Loved the comparison to our Pil-joo!

Ele Nash
23 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Ah, thanks Trent – love all your commentary too – but I must say someone cleverer than me mentioned the Pilju-LinShu connection a few weeks back and it stuck in my mind 😊 Any excuse to mention Jang Hyuk and I’m on it!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
24 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Great comment Ele! I really enjoyed reading it. I love your top 5 scenes! 💖

Ele Nash
23 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I realise I forgot so much – Nihuang riding in to the rescue for one – and also the music! God, I love the soundtrack. Thank you again, phl1rxd, for all your great snippets of extra info. It’s made the group watch exceedingly brilliant! xx

Geo
Geo
24 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

@Ele: A great closing commentary. There’s so much to like in this show, from the aesthetics to the cinematography to the superb, all round acting to the very human, rounded characters (both “good” and “evil”)and the whole spectrum of well developed human relationships. For me though, the highlights were the strategizing by MCS and his verbal battles with Marquis Xie, Xia Jang and the Emperor and Prince Yu (to a lesser extent). MCS’ dialogues with others, notably Prince Jing, Nihuang and Lin Chen come in second only because they are not antagonistic but they are just as heavy and emotionally moving.

How ironic, the leader of a martial arts alliance prevails by force of intellect and logical, articulate arguments, achieving what force of arms cannot. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

If I have quibbles with NIF, I think the Nie Feng sub-plot (including the search and development of the pill by Lin Chen) got too much attention and that time could have been better spent showing more flashbacks to the young Lin Shu (and Nihuang) as well as showing more of the off-screen action. I think it would have been ideal to show MCS in battle at the end, why show us the 3 month antidote to the poison but not show its effect?

Still, I rate NIF the best Asian drama I have seen to date.

Ele Nash
23 days ago
Reply to  Geo

That’s high praise for NIF indeed, Geo! I think I enjoyed it more than I would have because of the group watch element and yours and everyone’s comments here. It would have been too easy for me watching alone to miss key stuff and get as muddled as our Meng 😆

Geo
Geo
23 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

@Ele: I guess I should qualify my comment about NIF being the best Asian drama I’ve seen by noting that I only started watching Asian dramas in April last year when the pandemic locked virtually everything down so my experience isn’t as extensive as most viewers here.

eda harris
eda harris
23 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

ele, i was amazed how close your thoughts mirrored my own, although i am equally invested in mail or female characters, depending on their acting and character. but you wrote it so beautifully, not much i can add. i felt exactly the same as you about unfortunate prince yu, who was a victim as much as a villain himself, due to his birth origin, his upbringing, the entire system that conditioned him to crave power or else… existence without it is not an option. and yet when he was in the cage at the spring hunt after loosing the rebellion battle, when he spoke to his father, i could not help it, my heart was breaking for him. the way he conveyed his deep accumulated pain, his raw emotions – his acting delivered it all in the most powerful way. and of course, the meeting with his father the emperor in the prison cell, where he was asking to save his wife and unborn child – the end of his rope – o so sad. i must say, he’s a very impressive actor and i would like to see him in some other productions.
i agree with you on prince jingian, except that i sensed his mute secret power from the very beginning, and my expectations only grew.
the character of commander ming was somewhat lacking for me, although very macho physical strength, his thought process was always a few steps behind, and i think it was somewhat exaggerated by the writer. how can such a powerful commander in such a high positing be so slow in brain power.
i also feel quite identical to you about mei changsu, although i feel that the lying to his closest friend jingy was a necessary evil to achieve their goal, as jingy was stubborn and completely non-diplomatic – he could have easily screwed up the whole machination so meticulously concocted by mei changsu for so many years. mei changsu simply could not take this risk.
but… i also did not feel mey changsu’s “glory in my gut”, as you said and the way i would have liked it. something was of, either in the character as written by the writer, or the director’s interpretation or hu ge’s delivery, or all of the above. although, do not get me wrong, hu ge is one of my most favorite chinese actors to this day. in regards to his “gloating over prince yu – remember prince yu delivered the poisoned vine to his brother prince qi in the prison, avoiding to tell him the truth and thus killing him and clearing his own way to becoming the crown prince.
this is difficult to forgive or forget. but mcs felt way too icy to me, too void of emotions, too stiff …although may be that was the intention of the show – i did not figured that one out.
and just like you, my biggest disappointment was not showing the first meeting between the two soul mates, jingy and lin shu . it should have been the peak, the crowning of the entire show. what a monumental loss for this show!
i could go on to a lot of other characters and actors/actresses… most of them were interesting, engaging, thought provoking… but i must add one more character and actor that you did not mention – and that is fei lui. i was totally invested in his character and the delivery of it by the actor leo wu – so minimal yet so powerful and soooo autistic. i loved him and all about him with no reservations.
and last, my favorite scenes in no particular order or preference:
yes, the scene in the snow, where majestic mei changsu if forced to become momentarily lin shu and yell to the “water buffalo” prince jing to bring him to his senses. i would name it most powerful.
mama jing meeting with mei changsu/lin shu in the tent for the first time. most painful and touching.
old grand empress dowager calling mei changsu xiao shu and joining the hands of mei changsu and princess mu. most intriguing, eyes can deceive, but not the heart. i believe she knew what she was saying and doing.
emperor with son prince yu at the spring hunt after defeat. most gut-wrenching.
the first meeting of jingrui and his sister the princess from southern chu at the entrance to the city. most beautiful martial art scene. i would add to this all fei liu’s martial art scenes.
prince jing’s loneley walk on the red carpet to his coronation ceremony and the ceremony itself. most satisfactory, at the same time the pain of future loneliness.
consort yu, wife of prince yu – begging her mother -in-law the empress to find a way to spare prince yu’s life, both on the floor, with “peacock tails” spread wide and majestic, but tragic in its infinite artistic expression.
and the very beginning, mei changsu playing the flute and floating in the boat. most mystical, captivating. i can add to this also at the beginning, lin chen in his white floating clothes, floating in the air on the rock in the most beautiful setting, reminded me of the movie hero, one of the most stunningly beautiful movies.
i have a lot of other outrageous mementos from this drama, but it would be a book.
and last i would like to bow my head in reverence and admiration to kfangirl and all the people that contributed to the discussion of this one in a lifetime drama.
(why don’t we in the west go on our knees and bow our heads and be filial to our parents? i would love to greet this way, seems really cool.)

j3ffc
j3ffc
23 days ago
Reply to  eda harris

Great comment!

Also: “(why don’t we in the west go on our knees and bow our heads and be filial to our parents? i would love to greet this way, seems really cool.)”

Done.

j3ffc
j3ffc
25 days ago

I absolutely loved the scene in ep 54 when Empress Dowager Jing (!!!) notes Gao Zhan coughing and encourages him to take care of himself. That might be the first time in his life that anyone, less someone of her import, cared about his well-being. I’ll bet it would have been a huge moment for him.

laos7D
laos7
25 days ago

It’s really hard to believe that we’ve arrived at the end of this almost flawless series. It’s been my 3rd time to rewatch it, but actually also the first time to finish the whole series (I never had the courage to watch last 3-4 episodes).
All in all, it was more than worth it to watch it with you guys, to read all of your thoughts and info outside of the drama world.
Still, I cried buckets during the ending. It was satisfactory, an in my book in tone with the whole series. Like I expected Lin Shu to die, but not on the battlefield! I’m sure for him it was the best ending he could hope for in his circumstances.

laos7
25 days ago

It’s really hard to believe that we’re at the end here. It was my 3rd ‘rewatch’ of NIF, but the first time I’ve actually finished it (watched the last 3-4 episodes). Up until now I had no courage to see the ending of what I deemed as pretty much a perfect drama series.
But, all in all, I wasn’t disappointed at all. I cried a bucket, but it was all worth it. I found the ending really satisfactory and actually in tone with the whole series.

Natalia
Natalia
26 days ago

My thoughts:

– The scene in ep. 52 between Jingyan and MCS was good, but it felt a little bit too little, too late.
– Princess Liyang and the rest of the Ministers did an excellent job in forcing the emperor’s hand. Still, I can’t understand why he resisted so much. I know he had pretty strong feelings about all that, but I thought his reactions were exaggerated or plain foolish. Also, was his hair so white before? Anyway, good job by the actor.
– Consort Jing finished the show as probably the wisest person in the kingdom.
– Lin Chen was admittedly a great friend. I loved all his scenes with MCS in these episodes.
– I wasn’t so happy with the plot point involving the magic weed being turned into a magic pill. As I wasn’t happy, in general, with every fantasy element in the show (the worst being the Nie Feng).
– As someone that got strangely invested in the Hua cause, I felt that we didn’t get any closure on that and didn’t even see what happened to Banruo. I realise they were just a plot vehicle and not the plot itself, but what can I say.
– I didn’t care that much about the ending. I mean, ten minutes before the end of the final episodes the whole universe attacks Da Liang, everyone marches against the enemy, MCS takes the magic pill eventually committing suicide and then we all mourn him. It felt rushed to me, but I did like how we didn’t see him die but we learned of his death via the reactions of Jingyan and Nihuang, the revelation of his memorial stele (if this is a word in English) and all these flashbacks that were excellently chosen. In so many shows we get flashbacks that are indifferent or even irrelevant, these were spot on.

To summarize, although I think the show had a few weaknesses (understandable when adapting for the screen a novel with so many characters/events), I really really enjoyed it, so thank you for that!

manukajoe
manukajoe
26 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

Agree.

Trent
26 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

Some really good insights, Natalia.

I feel like the rapidly graying/white hair on the emperor was meant to show that he was already really hitting a physical decline, which I think we’d kind of had hinted at in earlier episodes. Showing simultaneously that his physical force, stamina, and presence was no longer what it was when he successfully took the throne, and also highlighting that he is at the point where he really needs a competent crown prince and supportive court, if he cares at all about dynastic health and succession. Although in the final confrontation, he makes much of the fact that he can just get another crown prince, and dismiss all his disloyal ministers as well…in point of fact, he really can’t. Maybe fifteen years ago, with a united Xuan Jing secret police led by a loyal Xia Jiang backing him up, but not now. And the white hair is a signifier of that reality.

I agree about the Case of the Hua, and am glad you point it out, because as various commentators have discussed over the course of our watch…there’s a whole lot of moral ambiguity around the whole thing, to say the least. In fact, I’ve been mulling it over, and I have a big gnarly half-baked speculative essay noodling around in the ol’ bean (that I’m manfully suppressing and that will probably never see the light of day), about how and whether there’s any legitimate nexus or relationship to be drawn between modern-day Han treatment of various ethnic minorities on the one hand, and the depiction of analogous relationships in historical fiction on the other; more specifically, whether the treatment of the Hua in the NIF narrative can be seen as any sort of meta-fictional reflection of current dominant elite political/cultural perspectives.

But we’ll just…leave it there.

Natalia
Natalia
25 days ago
Reply to  Trent

It is interesting though. I was also intrigued by what phl1rxd said about changing the novel’s South China Sea to East China Sea in the drama. But I may be imagining things.

Geo
Geo
26 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

@Natalia: Just a couple of comments:

The Nie Feng episode seems like a filler and not integral to the storyline but I think it’s used to illustrate the two options Lin Shu faced after being poisoned and his mindset to choose the “normal” looking but shorter life option vs the non-verbal, physically off-putting appearance but normal expected life span.

The sudden attacks from all quarters on Da Liang are not totally unexpected when there is a transition of power, and external enemies try to test the mettle and resolve of the new ruler. It does allow MCS to go out on his own terms.

Still a great show, highlighted by the verbal battles between MCS and various villains, culminating in his exchange with the Emperor who’s smart enough to figure out Xia Jang was right, MCS is Lin Shu.

Natalia
Natalia
25 days ago
Reply to  Geo

Hey Geo, I get what you are saying about Nie Feng, it’s just that I felt he came accross as, well, somehow funny in the drama. It almost felt as his predicament wouldn’t be that bad if he just shaved and used a paper +pen to communicate. I would have him be of a more terrifying nature or maybe be way too beastly. But I won’t insist, it might as well be that I sort of scoffed every time I saw him because well, I am not a fan of the fantastical.
I would also be 100% ok with everyone attacking Daliang if it didn’t happen during the last 10 minutes of a 40 hour long show. It felt rushed, is what I didn’t like. But as I have said, I liked both how MCS decided to live as LS even if it were for a couple of months and the way he died off screen. It felt very ancient Greek tragedy to me, where we never get to see a hero die but rather we learn of their demise through a messenger or “the good people of Thebes”.
So, although in a parallel universe where I would have a say over the show I would choose to do a couple of things differently, I still liked it a lot.

Geo
Geo
24 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

@Natalia: I agree the Nie Feng arc was overdone, his relevance to the show could have been accomplished in much less time and it seems more comedic than tragic. I also agree the ending was rushed, all these external enemies are attacking Da Liang and it’s not explained why unless one theorizes they are just testing the new ruler but why would they do that? The underlying rationale is not explained. It seems a plot device to get MCS off to battle and end the show.

BE
BE
24 days ago
Reply to  Geo

I largely agree that Nie Feng’s Abominable Snowman was more of a plot point to reveal the nature of the poison afflicting MCS than anything else, and that it was done poorly–character could have appeared much more heroic. Given the amount of time in show devoted to Nie Feng, they could have given his actual character considerably more agency without spending any more or less time on him.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
27 days ago

A few thoughts on the book versus novel.

There are two major differences in the novel:

  • -Prince Jing was having tea with Prince Ji, Marquis Yan and Meng Zhi. Marquis Yan was talking about his old Jianghu days when he roamed the countryside with Lin Xi. They took on pseudonyms. The Marquis mentioned “Someone even pointed to a tree and made it his name!” and “At the time, there was heather growing in the garden^, so…” Prince Jing dropped his tea cup and his angst that followed was palpable through the pages of the novel. Thank goodness Meng Zhi was there to help him as Prince Jing had an emotional meltdown up to and including sitting in the road for a half an hour in shock after his horse threw him.
  • -Nihuang was very attached to Lin Shu but after his ‘death’ she fell in love with one of Lin Shu’s generals – Nie Duo – who had survived the battle of Meiling. In fact the novel states that Nie Duo was the one who helped her with the advice on the water battle and his being in the camp allowed them to forge a relationship.

Prince Jing had raised a wolf named Foya. Lin Shu was the only person beside Prince Jing who could handle him. At the hunt Prince Jing brought him along. Foya was constantly jumping up on MCS and licking his face. It was tense a few times at the hunt and MCS was worried that Prince Jing would see the affection the wolf had for him as Foya only behaved that way with Lin Shu. Poor Foya died shortly after the novel reveal. The drama had decided to include it but they used a Tibetan mastiff which would not cooperate with the filming. So they nixed it, but you can see this dog in the BTS videos.

There was also a Princess Jingning among the Princes but her story arc was short and sweet and it made sense for the drama to not include this.

Novel pieces that I wished the drama had covered:

  • -Chen Lin doing the fan dance after losing the bet while the entire Su residence carried on and partied
  • -The Lantern Festival and the contest of ‘who could name the most instruments just by listening to the sound’. This would have been a beautiful scene and I truly wish it had been included.
  • -The wolf Foya and his interactions with MCS – it upped the reveal tension a hundred fold
  • – The way MCS totally spoiled Fei Liu

There are more differences and Chaikat has outlined them here – https://chaikat.tumblr.com/post/144655106146/drama-consort-jing-marquis-yan-birthday – if you are interested.

The drama had tension galore. The novel had all the feelz. I understand the need to change the Nihuang arc for viewers. It added a much needed love for MCS.

To end I had mentioned that I would throw in some novel info on the Grand Empress Dowager, and her relationship with Lin Shu. I hope that you enjoy as much as I did.

The chief commander of Chiyu Battalion, Lin Shu, that heroic spirit that soared to the skies, who was favoured by the gods, was the only son of Chiyan’s Supreme Commander Lin Xie and Princess Jinyang, and had always been most treasured* by the Grand Empress Dowager. *He was her “flesh of the heart and mind”!

When the Chiyan case first broke out, this old lady who had lived through 3 generations of rulers and never interfered in any of the court affairs went barefoot with her hair hanging loose over her shoulders, lying prostrate (as if she was kissing the floor) in Wuying Hall, her face covered in tears, begging the Emperor to remove Lin Shu’s name from the criminal name list.

It was impossible for the heartbroken and inconsolable Grand Dowager Empress to save the Chiyan Army, but she hoped at least to be able to save her young 17-year-old great grandson’s life. What she didn’t realize was that once the Emperor had made his decision to dispose of the Chiyan Army, there was no way he would leave alive that Lin Shu who had been on the battlefield since he was 13 years of age to scheme and raise army to take him by surprise. And so to prevent any (future) schemes or hidden threats against him, the Emperor could not allow this undefeated young general famed for his military exploits to go free.

So even though he had no choice but to make his promise to the Grand Empress Dowager, he did not remove Lin Shu from the criminal list. He still secretly gave orders to Xie Yu to ensure that Lin Shu did not have the slightest chance of escaping with his life. Later, the Chiyu Battalion resisted fiercely, and the situation got out of control. In the end, the news of this indiscriminate destruction was reported back to the Grand Empress Dowager. Source

Again, big thank you to Fangurl for allowing me to fangirl my love for NIF. Thank you!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
26 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Fangurl – I so looked forward to this every week! I was so happy and grateful to finally have others to watch this with. I learned a lot too from the other commenters. I appreciate you doing this Fangurl. I cannot tell you how much I loved that your Mom joined in – that was totally cool.

Natalia
Natalia
26 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

What?!!? Nihuang had another lover??! 😲😮😲😮 (actually, it makes sense, but I wonder how that other general got away with his life after the decimation of the Chiyan army).
Also, I would have loved it if the wolf had been included after all.
But I wouldn’t have loved the “name the music instrument” game given the show’s total failure in the few scenes involving music instruments!! 😁

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
26 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

@Natalie- yes she did and I did not want to mention it until we were all done as that would have been awful to hear that mid-watch. Plus this was originally intended to be a BL novel with MCS and Jingrui as the MLs. I am glad the author rewrote and added certain parts. I loved the MCS/Nihuang arc.

Some of the survivors of Meiling worked for MCS in his Jiangzuo Alliance. He took care of them and made sure they remained out of sight.

I am cracking up over the musical instrument comment as it was also one of my pet peeves. That being said the contest (prize was a private concert) was arranged so that a curtain was drawn and Fairy Gong Yu was behind it with her back to the curtain. We would not have had to sit through much of her pretending to play an instrument off the beat. The audience (now in teams) had to guess which instrument she was playing. I think she had about 20 instruments she went through. Of course our MCS, Yujin and Jingrui team won and that is how Gong Yu came to play at the un-happy un-birthday party.

Natalia
Natalia
25 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

What??!!? After Nihuang cheating, now you give me MCS and Jingrui? Not MCS and Jingyan??! Not even Jingrui and You jin??! All my ships are sinking…😄

BE
BE
24 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Heart emojis your way ph1lrxd. You along with KFG made this so wonderful with all your commentaries. Makes one wish for someone like you on any group watch. Just wonderful, and I am sure your commentaries brought an enlarged participation and readership to all these. I do think the Foya bit could have been added to show along with, certainly, Lin Chen’s fandance, which would have been such a delight. Kudos, thanks, the whole nine yards–actually the whole field from end zone to end zone.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
24 days ago
Reply to  BE

Right back at ya BE! I have to be honest and let you know that your ‘pro/tell him’ discussion had me thinking long and hard. I would find myself doing laundry and mulling over your POV in my head. Your persuasions were that good. I am still on the con side of the fence but I did give your words serious thought and much consideration.

I also completely changed my POV on Prince Yu and I will fess up that I was not a fan at all. You managed to open my eyes to the pathos of his story. So big thanks BE for enriching my watch!

P.S. Shout out for the music comments, as I was young again, if only for the time it took to listen to your links and respond. For now I can only drop back and punt while remembering my glory days. 😄

Last edited 24 days ago by phl1rxd
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
27 days ago

Why do I love Nirvana in Fire?

I found Fangurl’s review of this drama on her full list of reviews. I wanted to watch all of her A-rated dramas (I know a good thing when I see it and The Fangurl Verdict site was not just good, it was fab-u-lous) and, because she rated it A++, this was my first watch from her list. That was five years ago and I have never looked back.

You know, there have been times when I have seriously asked myself why I have watched this drama 11 times. That equates to 26,760 minutes of my life. I am not a serial re-watcher by any means, in fact, while I have watched over 9,300 drama episodes, very few of those hours were devoted to a re-watch. Nirvana in Fire accounts for only 594 of the total hours.

Which brings me to why I felt so attracted to this drama. First, (and this will be the only time I ever mention politics on this sacred site) I felt fearful about the politics of my country in the last several years. I often said to myself “Where is MCS because we need him here.” So, watching this made me feel that there are good people who care about their country and its people and doing the right thing. I needed to see bad people being brought down and good people succeeding. Sounds simple, but that is how I felt.

Second, the visuals are stunning, the acting is superb and the story is a mind blowing plethora of intelligence, top notch martial arts and let’s not forget, brotherhood. I realized I missed most of what was so I kept re-watching It to connect the dots and each time I found a new treasure. It was like the gift that keeps on giving. Plus all the great feelz! Who among us has not shed a tear at some of these moments? The meeting between Consort Jong and MCS in the tent? The Unhappy Un-birthday party? The final message deliverd by Gong Yu? Who has not felt the thrill of Meng Zhi riding into battle or when he held down the fort until Nihuang arrived? Didn’t our hearts swell just a little when she did?

So for the first few years I dug around and found many fans who loved this as much as I did. I will share some links below. Then Beez and I started a NIF conversation last year and I discovered the novel had been completely translated. These wonderful translators started September 14, 2016 and ended with the last chapter on January 28, 2021. Many translators worked on this and every single one has my utmost gratitude. The fact that they allow embedding with link backs was a blessing for us to get some tasty novel tidbits.

So without further ado let me show you how to go down the NIF rabbit hole…

My personal favorite fan video and yes I am a Hammer fan and yes this is still on my playlist – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9oGnUsnyBQ   

A fun interview with Hu Ge containng some NIF tidbits – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbounEA9oDk

Hu Ge, Wang Kai, Chen Long, Wu Lei – GQ October 2015 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI6DAB9Sfdc

Hu Ge Liu Tao Interview – 10 Years of Change – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP-TScoBhB0

Cast Interview – https://incessantcomposition.tumblr.com/post/145959353098 Somewhere out there is a better copy of this but I cannot find it.

Nirvana in Fire Cast Then and Now 瑯琊榜 演員昔今 2020 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWBjmPwBrwA All I can say is Victor Huo looks…words cannot express…

Deleted scenes made all the better as I think some of these contain their actual voices-

Behind the Scenes subbed

 
Behind the Scenes unsubbed 天边行云 You Tube Channel – somewhere in here is my lost Pingie video, I know.  Here is the extensive playlist link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-UQhiYhe3Y&list=PLzMVfKOb–CG_MdB61XzPg-N-XEPgGTxw

Study on the Aesthetics of Han Chinese Clothing Culture in the TV Play “Nirvana in Fire” https://www.atlantis-press.com/proceedings/iccessh-18/25898038

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
26 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Correcting myself – I meant to say ‘Nirvana in Fire accounts for only 594 of the total episodes’. This is what happens when you stay up too late.

Natalia
Natalia
26 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Phl1rxd, I’ll just say here that watching the show has been so much better (and easier, especially while struggling to tell who is who in the first episodes) thanks to you. Thank you! 😊
Also, I totally appreciated that although such a big fan, you were never on a holy crusade against those of us that expressed their small complaints as it happens so often when one dares to spell out that a fan favorite show has a weak spot or two (I for instance will never not find Nie Feng a weakness for this show…). So thank you for that too.
Finally, in a different note, I would like to mention that even I, who do not easily cry in shows, did tear up in two scenes: Gong Yu delivering the letter to Nihuang and most especially MCS collapsing on his knees when Jingyan cuts the rope of that bell in the secret room/passage!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
26 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

@Natalie – No problem as I was happy to do the characters and places. I also learned many new things from others as well and BE managed to turn my Prince Yu opinion completely around which I found to be quite the big deal. I simply could not refute BE’s rationale nor his prose.

Nie Feng is a very wuxian type character and not everyone loves wuxia like I do. Also, fwiw, MCS had a serious discussion with Prince Jing towards the end of the novel about making amends with the Hua nation.

My favorite scene is the scene in the tent with Consort Jing and MCS. I just reach for the box of tissues because I know I will cry.

Here all opinions are honored. The only time I ever got upset is when someone once dissed FG on a comment. Even then I got my message across without being mean.

As the great Sly Stone once said:

Different strokes for different folks

And so on and so on and scooby-dooby-dooby

We got to live together

Leslie
Leslie
25 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

How fun is the Fei Liu/Hammer video? 😆 Thanks for yet another of your great shares @phl1xrd.

eda harris
eda harris
24 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

you made my day – i am so grateful to you – you watched NIF 11 times?! the most i watched a drama was 6 times and it was TROP. people around me thought that i am getting a bit crazy since i started watching chinese/korean dramas. so now i feel so much better. but how do you find the time? and thanks for all your input.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
24 days ago
Reply to  eda harris

@Eda- I agree that TROP was that good, that is until the last 10 episodes let us down. 😖 Even with that Eda, I really loved it. The best OTP ever in drama world.

Yes, I have watched NIF that many times 🙄🙄🙄 but there are many fans that have many more watches than I do. I know of one person with over 30 watches. I also spread my watches out over a 5 year period. It was my go-to drama when we would go through a drought of good KDrama. I also took notes every time I watched so I could link things together.

BE
BE
22 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

In the then and now, yes my two favorites Victor Huang and (oh my goodness) Liu Min Tao, are rather unworldly beautiful. And although she was not presented as part of the main cast, jeez m’knees when Liu Min Tao came on stage previous to the group interview. Liu Min Tao! And the two of them such talented actors too.

My favorite Fei Liu which was quickly shunted through in the Hammer time vid was when he comes to rescue Mei Chang Su from the clutches of Xia Jiang and upon finding the Big Twin about to off our hero, that shot to the solar plexus, not just jousting around but in the nick of time, boom, show’s real turning point.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
27 days ago

, does the book say what happened to the remaining characters? Jingrui, Yujin, Nihuang, Gong Yu? Banruo too?
At first I thought that the story should have ended with the completion of the investigation and restoring the honor of everyone who got wronged 13 years ago. But on second thought I do agree that MCS /Lin Shu chose to live the last of his days as his true self and that makes for a very fitting and emotionally satisfying ending.
I am very impressed with the drama’s plotting and pacing. The acting was outstanding too.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
27 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Hi Snow Flower – the novel ends as the drama does so there is no further info on their lives. Hence the multitude of fan fic stories! People loved these characters so much that they wrote their own continuation stories.

manukajoe
manukajoe
27 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

It seems quite common for asian dramas to have quite a different idea about how to end a story compared with what we’re used to in the west. They often seem to end with a whimper, or with many things unresolved.

BE
BE
27 days ago

Thanks K for hosting this, for bringing your mom’s insight into this, for delivering post after post after post the most lucid recaps and reax imaginable to this densely plotted, complex drama, and by doing so engaging so many of us in thoughtful discussions, reactions, and analyses. Said it before, will say it again now, there ought to be a grand internet award presented to you for this set of posts. Queen! Champion! Kudos🥳 🎏🎆🎇👏🏼🙌🏼
A bit tired and commented out from other posts tonight, but you know I will be unsparing with clause and phrase laden sentences later on.
I do have a question: the Mandarin word for traitor—could I get a pinyin spelling, and is it a compound word, and if so the meaning of its components?
I can’t imagine a guy repeating the word traitor to the same effect of Ding Yong Dai and his voice over via vocal inflection, facial expression, and body language going from location to location simply repeating that one word.maybe the greatest single word soliloquy anywhere in any drama. I certainly have not seen any such enactment anywhere else myself. The old king going tragically mad trope—always a killer, but done with a single word? In the slang of my youth: WOW!

manukajoe
manukajoe
27 days ago
Reply to  BE

I was interested too. 乱臣则子 Luanchenzeizi (“rebellious subjects and undutiful sons”) is a chengyu, a very common kind of Chinese idiom. This kind of four-character idiom is very common in Chinese, and one thing that is hard for foreigners to learn.

Last edited 27 days ago by manukajoe
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
26 days ago
Reply to  BE

BE – I am looking forward to your full comment. BTW – I recently watched another drama just to see Ding Yong Dai. I knew the drama was pretty bad going into it (Under the Power), yet I wanted to see him play an Emperor again. Let’s just say NIF was a crowning role for him.

j3ffc
j3ffc
27 days ago

Finale weekend! Having lived so long in the Langya capital, it hardly seems possible that we won’t be marveling at MCS’s next step in his 13-year plan for another 54 episodes. Those of you with serious NIF cred will be weighing in with informed commentary (no more need for spoiler alerts!) and I look forward to reading what you have to say and occasionally pitching in, but for now here are a few comments to get them on the table. 

My POV is not as a fan of historical dramas – I lean more to slice-of-life and rom-coms – and I am much less experiences in the land of Asian dramas then most of you, so maybe this would The Newby’s Verdict Meekly Rendered Suggestions.

Despite the length, which worried me at first as I am Mr. Short Attention Span, and the complexity of the show in its early going, as I am Not Good At Keeping Track of Things, I enjoyed the entire series, with going from watching to looking-forward-to-watching-watching in the final third. Kfangurl, in her “flash” review nailed all that was great about this show, but for me the things I enjoyed the most were:

1. Fully developed and fascinating characters at all levels with realistically complex motivations and personalities. And beautifully acted by all. I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of outstanding female characters who were given real agency in the plot. 

2. A fantastic world-view, wonderfully realized by the set and costume designers. I have no idea as to how realistic this show’s looks was, but it was eminently believable.

3. Really impressive plotting (although see item 1 below) that kept the interest up.

There was no aspect of the show that I disliked, but I thought a few things could have been done differently.

1. I found the ending to be a little disappointing. We all knew that the case would be re-tried and overturned, but the last two episodes fell victim to the single biggest beef I have with the production, that being the balance being too far on telling things than showing things (although it must be said that the big set pieces were fantastic!!). Too many characters drifting off into the sunset without a proper farewell, and I felt the war being brought up in the last 40 minutes of the entire drama was a bit arbitrary. The feels for some of the goodbyes just didn’t come through for me (and as we know, the Nihuang/MCS “romance” was a new element for the show, and it did show).

2. The occasional lapse into arbitrary plot turns (I’m looking at you, deus ex pharmacopeia). 

Overall grade for me: It’s a supersolid A, and I could well imagine it going to an A+ on a second watch where I would be less in the dark for much of the early going.

I probably wouldn’t have gone to Nirvana at all if it weren’t for the group watch and this amazing community that participated. I know I’ve said it before, but this time you’ve really outdone yourselves. I wouldn’t have been able to follow along without the accompanying commentary.

Of course, this begins with our founder supreme who has set a new bar for K-drama scholarship, in the best sense of the word. BE is right in pointing out that these posts will become forever part of the NIF firmament for the benefit of viewers for years to come. And for bringing Mom along for the ride. Brava!!

Thanks especially, to phyl1rxd, for providing incredibly useful guide maps of characters, place, and adding insightful commentary that could have made up its own darn blog. Your love of this show is palpable and infectious. I’ll bet you’re already planning your next watch…

All of you in the comments have made it special, but kudos to BE, for writing sentences that may take a few passes to get, but once one does, add unexpected insight, and for being a tireless advocate for greater transparency by MCS; Ele and Trent for wonderful wordplay; Elaine for fascinating background info; manukajoe and beez for keeping it real. But really, everyone, for making this the coolest water cooler in the world.

Last edited 27 days ago by j3ffc
Trent
26 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Good wrap up…I agree about the costume and set designers, because so many of those outfits, especially the ones intended to be worn at court, were really fabulous. And the sets were quite immersive.

I assume they have some sort of historical consultant(s) on call–maybe a hotline to some professors at a nearby university?–but I’m often curious how deeply they drill down on historical accuracy, how obsessive the producers/directors get with “I need precise representation of 6th century Southern Dynasty material culture,” versus “give me something more-or-less identifiable as post-Han, pre-Tang and we’re good”? More likely the latter, given inevitable budget and schedule constraints, I’d think. But in any event, it looked really good.

And I also agree that the ending was…less sharply delineated than we might hope. We’ve already been kvetching about Banruo’s fade from the scene, and then it seems like several other characters are following the path she blazed, or rather, didn’t blaze, there at the end. Just kind of sloping off into the ether. Then when we hit the final episode bell and all of a sudden we’ve got massive military threats from all sides, and I’m like…uhhh? how we gonna resolve this in thirty minutes in anything more than a fairly terse after-action report (which is more or less what we got). So that was a choice.

But overall, that’s quibbling, and still a pretty solid A, as you say.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
26 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Trent – They had a whole team of etiquette experts to teach the actors how to move, bow, pour tea, etc. The group also worked on another big CDrama but I cannot remember which one (maybe TROP?). YYes to the the latter. As it is a fictional story they went with a post-Han, pre-Tang reference.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
26 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Well just dang j3ddc – that was a great comment. I feel like we all went to Fangurl’s house every Tuesday night to watch NIF with her and Mom. All I did was bring snacks. LOL! It was a real blast.

j3ffc
j3ffc
25 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

And what great snacks they were! Tasty AND nutritious! Heartfelt thanks.

Ele Nash
23 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Aw, thanks j3ffc! Love reading your comments – always objective! Was it you I was chatting with before about Doctor Who? If so, did you see Russell T Davies is returning to the helm?! SQUEEEEEEEEEEE!!

j3ffc
j3ffc
23 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Thanks to you as well! Although we did discuss some Dr. Who videos, I should probably admit that I am a very casual viewer of the show (although I do enjoy it when I do watch it). Had not heard of Davies’s return…good news, one suspects. How have you liked Jodie Whittaker?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
27 days ago

Fangurl – I cannot believe we have reached the end. You have done a fantastic job with this group watch and I tip my hat to you and to Mom. It was a blast having her contribute and I enjoyed her comments.

E52 Grand Princess Liyang has decided to be the catalyst and I must say she is one very brave. Between her personal knowledge of the Emperor’s temper and her memories of what happened to all who dissented all those years ago she has put her life on the line.

The scene with MCS and Prince Jing is the most of a reunion we will get. They argue and joke as they did in their youth. We see cheeky Lin Shu after he receives the pearl. I just want more. FWIW, the novel also uses this as the first real one-on-one reunion between the two of them. But in the novel reveal (which was different) they had several chances to meet and I could read their feelings which were described in depth. While we can see them together here, the interaction is very matter of fact. For example – in the novel this sentence stood out to me: When he heard his name called out [by MCS] like it used to be in the past, Xiao Jingyan felt a mix of astonishment, sorrow and joy. Emotions surged within him, forming a lump in his throat. But he was unwilling to reveal his emotions for fear that his close friend would feel sad, so an array of expressions passed through his face, but in the end, he still couldn’t settle on one. Source

An interesting tidbit. In the novel Prince Jing states: “I contacted the court officials [he is referring to his party preparations] without first discussing it with you and was worried that you would reproach me for being reckless. According to Meng qing, you’ve always emphasized the need to take one steady step at a time, which is why you kept so much from me, for fear that I would be too extreme.” Source

So cool to see Tingsheng being discussed as a possible minister as that is exactly what happened in NIF2.

I love Fei Liu’s face when Lin Chen is getting the poison out of the snake. Their deep conversation shows the seriousness of Lin Chen and the naivety of poor Fei Liu.

And it begins…. let me take a moment to give Ding Yong Dai a standing ovation. He is so good in these scenes.

Recap E52

  • -The flashback where Lin Shu asks Prince Jing for a pearl from Dong Hai is the last moment they had together before all the events happened 13 years ago.
  • -The dancers at the emperor’s party would not have been allowed as they were still in the period of mourning for the death of the Grand Empress Dowager.

DID YOU KNOW…

  • -The pearl that Prince Jing give MCS is mentioned several times in the novel. Prince Jing was distraught that he was never able to give Lin Shu his promised gift.
  • -Prince Jing did a good job with the party preparations. Meng Zhi personally selected the guards on duty for the party to ensure that Grand Princess Liyang could finish her reading.
  • -In the drama Prince Jing was deployed 13 years ago to Dong Hai (East China Sea) but the novel states he was deployed to Nan Hai )South China Sea)
  • -Even though Prince Jing is now married, according to the mourning rites for Grand Empress Dowager, after the wedding the new Princess had to wait 100 days before living (consummation being the interpretation versus physical proximity) with the Crown Prince Jing

—————————————————————–
E53 – The Emperor has lost his power and he is having a meltdown as he is being forced to look at his past errors. He tried to wiggle his way out by reminding everyone Xia Jiang and Xie Yu have already been punished. He assumes that this is an active rebellion taking place when it is far from it.

I love my pit bull Minister Cai Quan as he is the first Minister up.

I love how MCS stands and reminds the Emperor of the loyalty of those he murdered. To me this is a big reminder of how much the Emperor has changed. I cannot rationalize General Lin supporting a man like the Emperor as he is now. This tells me that at one point he and Marquis Yan had enough faith in him that they helped his rebellion. Absolute power and the fear of losing it has corrupted him to such a degree that he would kill without a second thought as he has in the past.  

Consort Jing lays it on the line to the Emperor. She is, as always, a voice of reason.

That conversation that MCS has with the Emperor is one he has waited 13 years to have, and what a revealing conversation it is. Whew – the last part especially. MCS is not moved.

Post investigation, Marquis Yan suspects MCS is Lin Shu. I find that not a lot is said about this. If they interviewed Xia Jiang in jail surely he told them MCS was Lin Shu, right? I sincerely wish I could address this through the novel but alas, I could find nothing. It is a big open hole to fall into.

Recap E53

  • -The Emperor’s party clothing is stunning. I cannot help but wonder how many hours it took to complete the dragon embroidery. Just stunning!  

DID YOU KNOW…

  • -Novel Note – In all his decades as the supreme ruler and absolute monarch, the Liang Emperor had never felt truly alone and helpless until that moment. What’s even more important, he could no longer override all objections with force and cruelty as he did back then.

—————————————————————–
E54 – All the wrongs are bring righted. They mention DOTC/Lingchi. I suggest you google it as it is quite gruesomely interesting. It was usually reserved for major offenders. Trent and I had an interesting exchange on Banruo’s end. I know this is Xia Jiang’s end but we are still uncertain of what happened to Banruo.

MCS is wrapping up his work and Pingie gets a fan whipping for worrying over MCS. Lin Chen brings up Fairy Gong Yu as a possible travel companion. I have to laugh as I think Lin Chen is the one who wants her with them. They joke around not realizing what is about to happen.    

How satisfied MCS must be to be able to properly honor those he loved.

Prince Jing has risen to be a true leader which we can see at his war meeting. How far he has come! I am proud of him. Thank goodness for Minister Shen protesting Prince Jing leading the army. MCS has already figured out how to fight this battle.  
The conversation between MCs and Lin Chen is a real tearjerker. I always cry at this scene. For all his carefree ways Lin Chen is really a very serious person and a devoted friend. In his heart he admires MCS and all of his sacrifices and struggles. Fangurl you hit the nail on the head with “He would rather live for 3 months as Lin Shu, than for another year, as Mei Changsu.”

Nihuang knows the real deal here and she is suffering terribly as are we. Prince Jing’s heart is breaking (as is ours) knowing he will lose his Lin Shu again. Big thanks to Mom for the information on the memorial tablet!

I also hope that they can get that life they want next go-round. I think Nihuang should get her way in that next life most of the time because she really deserves it!

Prince Jing renames the army the Changlin army, a fitting tribute.

Here is my personal thought. I felt so emotionally invested in MCS and his goal to set things right, that I honestly would have liked to be there when he died. FWIW – the novel has the same ending. I will post another comment with a lot of fun stuff and a well done fan-fic better ending…

Recap E54

  • -Those 54 episodes were intense

DID YOU KNOW…

  • -Novel Note – It took a total of 9 months for the investigation to conclude. MCS was not allowed to assist n advising on the investigation process. In the drama it only took a month
  • Chapter 173: Two days later, the Inner Court Division issued three imperial decrees. The first, exonerating Prince Qi, Lin Xie and thirty-two other implicated civil and military officials from the criminal charge of plotting a great rebellion, declaring the facts of this injustice far and wide. The second, to order that the remains of Consort Chen, Prince Qi and all his direct line of descent be moved to the imperial tomb, and to rebuild the ancestral hall of the Lin clan in order to reinstate the ritual sacrifice to the departed for both families; to restore all survivors to their original positions and reward them; to order the Ministry of Rites to discuss a manifold, generous compensation to support the families of the deceased who had suffered injustice. A grand ceremony was scheduled on the 20th day of the 10th month, when a spiritual altar would be set up in the temple of the imperial household, and the Emperor would lead hundreds of officials to personally offer sacrifice to appease the souls of the deceased. The third, the leading conspirators, Xia Jiang, Xie Yu and their accomplices were convicted of the capital crime of rebellion, and were sentenced to death by a thousand cuts. Since Xie Yu was dead and it was not possible to execute him, after some consideration, all nine of his clan branches were implicated and wiped out except for Grand Princess Liyang and her three children who earned merit by reporting it first.
  • -Novel Note – Nobody would ever think of keeping Lin Shu from the battlefield. He was a natural God of War, the undefeated young general, the legend of Chiyan, the pride of Da Liang, the most trustworthy friend and the most dependable chief commander
  • -Novel Tidbit – The day before dispatching the troops, the Liang Emperor suffered a stroke, probably due to the recent shocking events. He lay paralyzed in bed, unable to move nor speak. Xiao Jingyan led the members of the imperial clan, the ministers and all the military officers involved to pay their respects by his bed, and inform him of the upcoming battle. As they each took turns to make their salutations, Mei Changsu suddenly bent down close to the Liang Emperor’s ear and whispered something. Nobody knows what was said, but the old emperor’s eyes suddenly opened wide, and saliva dribbled from the side of his mouth. With great effort, he tried to lift up one of his arms towards Mei Changsu. Source

As it cannot be said enough, eternal gratitude to all the translators of both drama and the novel (blessings on these wonderful ladies) for all of their hard work. Special thanks to Fangurl for making this group watch so special for all of us!

Ele Nash
23 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I woke up in the night (by a baby, but then also by a sudden horrible feeling regarding your comment “after some consideration, all nine of his clan branches were implicated and wiped out except for Grand Princess Liyang and her three children who earned merit by reporting it first.”) The daughter who died in childbirth – the baby wasn’t part of the execution? Or that branch of the family? Right? 😨

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
23 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

@Ele – No worries as in the novel chapter 105 it states that after Marquis Xie Yu’s trial ended, Prince Yu sent the Zhuo family (baby included) back to their own Tianquan Manor. It implies Zhuo father was saved as well as he offered up all the evidence against Marquis Xie.

Prince Yu had promised Liyang to put them under his protection (remember when she had the knife on his heart after he gained access to the party?) but he really kept them safe because he had plans to use their sect for devious purposes in the future even though he promised not to do so. Fortunately, that never happened.

The verdict described above refers to the resolution of the Chiyan Army case which occurs well after the birthday party. The clan members mentioned are the Xie clan and even though the Zhuos had married unto it they really had their own separate clan. Even though Prince Yu was out of the picture by then, I believe MCS and Prince Jing would have honored Liyang’s wish for the Zhuo family all to be kept safe.

Last edited 23 days ago by phl1rxd
Ele Nash
23 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

OK, phew! 😅

manukajoe
manukajoe
27 days ago

Well it all ended rather abruptly didn’t it?
Ep 52 Oh Jingyan’s new wife is cute. But we missed the wedding! And we didn’t get to see them having breakfast in the Imperial Palace!
The first half of this episode was boring, but it certainly ended with a bang!
Ep 53 What??? the trial happened just like that, off camera!!! Not cool.
Ep 54 A little bit too neat and tidy. Weird that we never went back to Langya Mountain after the first Ep.

I’m happy to have made it through. It’s a quality show and a big name. Overall I think I didn’t like this show as much as others. Maybe because there were no characters I particularly identified with. I was more interested in the female characters but they weren’t the most central. Also I prefer stories about ordinary people and romantic plotlines in general. Thanks for leading the group watch!

Last edited 27 days ago by manukajoe
Trent
27 days ago

Well, that was an epic journey, wasn’t it? Very impressive bit of dramatic storytelling. And the watch immeasurably enhanced by KFG’s perspicacious weekly episode notes; MVP phl1rxd’s expertise; and the commentary and insights of all the assembled crew. Thanks to one and all!

So we get one last big dramatic event, as the emperor is confronted with the hollow edifice of the “treason” that he’s been relying on as a seeming cornerstone of his belief and identity for the last decade plus. Not only is the thrust and parry interesting and dramatic for its own sake, but also very interesting and satisfying to see that the all-powerful emperor is still ultimately helpless against the assembled moral authority of his unyielding court. In the end, he realizes that there’s no other path out than to reopen the case. He can’t kill them all, even if he can find the troops who would carry out such a command (he probably can’t, at this point), and even if he did, how could he continue on? His authority and reign would crumble almost instantly, I’d bet, if he did do such a thing.

This one was high on my list of dramas to see, thanks to the stellar reputation, but it was always kind of daunting due to length and supposed complexity. So it really was a great choice for a group journey.