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! ❤️
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..? 😉
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.
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. 😭❤️