THE SHORT VERDICT:
Easy-going, laidback and quite breezy in a Disney-esque sort of way, Show could be a great drama to unwind to, after a long day of real life.
Sometimes Show leans into the silly, and sometimes, it leans into its more dramatic side, but either way, everything vibes simple and also, somewhat simplistic.
Show is basically a treacly-wholesome Disney-esque take on the daily life in the royal courts of Xinchuan, our fictional feudal society in which our story takes place.
Fair warning that there are people who do bad things too, in this drama world, and so, very occasionally there is some indication of (real, rather than comedic) violence, which might be disturbing for some folks.
On the upside, these characters always, always get their comeuppance, so that’s the silver lining.
Your mileage is likely to vary with this one, since some folks find it kind of meh, while others think it’s the most wonderful thing ever. But I’ll do my best to help you figure out where you’ll land with this one, even before you take off. 😁
THE LONG VERDICT:
The reason I sat up with such interest over this one, back when a slot had just become available on my drama plate, is that there’d been a good amount of positive buzz that Show is fun and enjoyable, yet somehow comforting, in the midst of the silly.
Apparently, Show’s rise in popularity is very impressive, because the positive comments had been greatly forthcoming, and the user ratings had been pretty darn high, even from Show’s early episodes.
Fast-building positive word of mouth? And with such promising descriptors? Yes, please. 😁
Now that I’ve emerged on the other side, with 20/20 hindsight, I can say that this show can be enjoyable – but lens management is a must, which I’ll talk about shortly.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it, while you read the review.
I found the music in this show pleasant all-around, though I couldn’t hum a single tune for you right now, even if you put a gun to my head. 😅
That is to say, the music was solid and well done, but not especially memorable in any real way, for me. I did enjoy it when it came on though, just to be clear. 🎶
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. This show is slice-of-life
This is one of THE most important things to know, going into this show. Instead of big dramatic arcs, Show prefers to delve into the smaller, daily hum of life in Xinchuan.
Adjusting your viewing lens for this, would be hugely helpful, I think.
Also, because Show is so slice-of-life, I’ve concluded that this would actually work really well as a drama nightcap.
It’s the sort of drama where it’s actually more than fine, if you fall asleep and miss bits (or even chunks) here and there. And, it’s mostly low-stress, with a feel-good sheen coming through almost always.
2. The OTP loveline is secondary to our story
This is more of an ensemble kind of piece, so unlike Love Like The Galaxy (review here!) where our OTP was much more front-and-center, the loveline in this can feel like an afterthought, almost.
It’s still cute and sweet overall, but if you go into this primarily for the romance, you’re much more likely to lose patience and drop out, because the romance in this is a sloooowww burn. 😅
Just knowing that it’s a slow burn helps.
3. We’ve got a sprawling cast
..Which means that it’ll take a while for you to get your bearings in terms of who’s who, and how they’re related to one another.
Don’t sweat it too much, and given a bit of time, it’ll all come together in your head. 😊
4. Show isn’t based on actual history
..so there’s no need to be concerned about whether certain beliefs or practices are real, or whether the costuming, sets and such, are “accurate.”
There are some recognizable Chinese traditions, eg, the use of red as a wedding color, but honestly, it doesn’t feel relevant to discuss whether Show is representing history, customs or traditions accurately, particularly given Show’s light, tongue-in-cheek sort of tone.
MY APPROACH FOR THIS REVIEW
In a slice-of-life show like this, it’s just not practical for me to attempt to talk about everything in this drama; it’s just too much.
So I’ll be doing a macro look at the things I liked and didn’t like so much, before doing selective highlights for some characters and relationships.
If you’d like to read about my more detailed reactions over the course of my watch, you can check out my episode notes on this show on Patreon here.
STUFF I LIKED
Show’s strong start
I really, really enjoyed Show’s first four episodes, honestly.
If Show had managed to be as engaging and entertaining as I’d found the first four episodes, I’m sure I would’ve given this drama a higher final grade.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this watch, overall.
Let’s put it this way; if the first four episodes were 100% what I’d wanted this show to be, then the rest of the show clocked in at around 80%, which isn’t bad at all. It’s just.. not 100%, y’know? 😅
When Show was at its best, it all comes together really well, and I found myself giggling at the silliness, and enjoying Show’s breezy pace, and feeling pretty enthusiastic about watching the next set of episodes, and soon.
Very impressive, for a drama that has strong-ish comic sensibilities, as that is exactly the type of drama that typically doesn’t work so well, for me.
The mini arcs don’t drag out for very long
Because Show is slice-of-life, it’s made up of multiple mini-arcs, on top of the bigger arcs, and I’m pleased to say that Show doesn’t like to drag out gags or misunderstandings for very long.
Everything’s not overly dramatic, and gets resolved relatively quickly, so that we can move on easily, to our next narrative pitstop.
It’s angst-lite, easy-breezy viewing, and I got attuned to it, Show was actually quite enjoyable.
Even when I wasn’t super into some of the narrative pitstops, they’re over soon enough, so that I feel free to look forward to the next narrative pitstop.
In that sense, Show almost vibes like a tasting menu, almost? Like, you get a taste of all the dishes, and you like some dishes more than others, but everything’s presented in smallish servings, so that you have room for everything.
Yes, trust a Singaporean to come up with a food analogy. 😁 Our country is only food obsessed, is all. 🤭
The emphasis on girl power and women’s rights to personal agency
It didn’t take very long for me to notice that Show’s got a somewhat feminist streak, in the sense that it’s obviously for and not against girl power, and wants to put forward the idea that women should have the right to personal agency.
Because this show is slice-of-life, more often than not, it’s in a lot of the little things, rather than big sweeping arcs.
Here are just a handful of highlights, where I found myself noticing and appreciating Show’s stance in supporting female independence.
E11-12. I do like how Show tends to shine the spotlight on problematic chauvinistic points of view, and then turn them on their heads.
Like the way we first hear Yin Song (Edward Zhang) tell Hao Jia (Chen Xiao Yun) to lose weight because her waist is no longer as slim, and then, how all the other girls decide that losing weight is nonsense, and that if the clothes are tight, it’s the clothes’ fault, heh.
It’s like a lighthearted spot of public education for the viewing public, and I kind of think that it might actually strike a chord and make a difference, with some viewers.
E15-16. I wasn’t super into the girls’ night out arc, but, I do want to mention that I thought Li Wei (Tian Xi Wei) speaking up for herself, in response to that chauvinistic man, was quite glorious.
For a hot second, when I saw Yin Zheng (Bai Jing Ting) enter the restaurant, just as the man demands to know which household Li Wei is from, I’d thought that Yin Zheng would step in to defend her.
BUT, the best thing about this arc, is that Li Wei defends herself just fine, and Yin Zheng doesn’t need to step in at all. I liked that little detail.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Show’s sense of humor
Overall, I’d say that I was generally ok with Show’s sense of humor, in that, most of the time, I found it low-key amusing &/or unobjectionable.
Occasionally, I found something really funny, but probably just as often, I’d find something that didn’t sit well with me.
Which is why this is in this section.
Here are just a few examples of when Show’s sense of humor worked for me, and when it didn’t.
When it worked for me
1. A fair amount of comedy comes through our female lead, Li Wei, and her ravenous appetite for food, and the lengths she’ll go to to have food to eat, and it’s silly but quite entertaining, especially in our early episodes.
2. In our early episodes, there’s a running gag where Li Wei misunderstands that Yin Zheng has only a bit of time left to live, and decides to do everything she can, to make his remaining days better.
I was quite amused by this.
When it didn’t work for me
I’ll talk more about why these next couple of items became uncomfortable for me in the next section after this, but first, here they are, for the record.
1. Yin Qi (Chang Long) regularly gets beaten by his wife Shangguan (Fan Shuai Qi).
2. Yin An (Liu Guan Lin) regularly gets derided and made fun of by his harem of wives, in a very sustained passive-aggressive sort of manner.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Show’s use of violence, disdain & sustained spurning as comedy
Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t like Show use of violence and disdain as comedy, and thinking about it, I think that I might have found small amounts of this easier to swallow.
The thing is, Show leans into both these arcs quite a lot, over many episodes, and that made me uncomfortable.
From Show’s musical cues, it’s clear that Show means it for comedy, but.. I didn’t find it very funny at all, personally.
Show eventually softens its attack, in that Yin Qi and Shangguan do arrive at a more cordial, less violent way to relate, and Yin An does start to get along (slightly) better with his harem of wives, but.. yeah. I would’ve much preferred if Show hadn’t leaned into this angle quite so hard. 😣
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
In an ensemble cast like this, it’s just not possible for me to talk about every character or relationship, so I’m just going to pick a few to highlight.
If you’d like to read about my more detailed reactions about all the other characters and relationships over the course of my watch, you can check out my episode notes on this show on Patreon here.
Bai Jing Ting as Yin Zheng
I developed a bit of a soft spot for Bai Jing Ting after loving Reset (review here!) and selectively enjoying You Are My Hero (Dropped post here), and so he was definitely one of the reasons I had interest to check out this show.
Overall, I really liked Yin Zheng as a character, in that he possesses a lot of positive qualities.
He’s patient, reasonable, kind, thoughtful and considerate, on top of also being smart and strategic.
He’s everything you might want in a male lead, more or less, except for the fact that he’s packaged himself into this beta male of little importance.
Because of this, one of my favorite Yin Zheng things, was watching him come into his own, and get recognized for his strengths and his contributions.
And of course, any and every time Yin Zheng showed a bit of badassery, I couldn’t help but get stars in my eyes. 🤩😁
Here are just a few Yin Zheng highlights, for flavor.
E3-4. In the wake of Yin Zheng finding out about Li Wei’s completely incorrect assumption that he’s going to die, I’m actually rather impressed that he doesn’t confront her right away, and chooses to just let her be, while he concentrates on preparing for the Exam.
I mean, in Chinese culture, it’s considered extremely bad luck, for someone to wish death on someone else, and in this case, most people would assume that Li Wei’s wishing death on him.
AND YET. He doesn’t jump up to confront her. All he does is avoid interacting with her as much as possible, as he prepares for the Exam. I’m pretty impressed, honestly.
I’m also impressed to see how smart Yin Zheng is.
He’s got a well-considered answer for every question that’s asked of him in the exam, and I’m starting to wonder why he’s so overlooked by his father. Is it because of his poor health?
On that note, I’m actually quite curious about the careful front that Yin Zheng is putting up to the world.
I mean, clearly he isn’t as weak as he would have people believe, if he’s capable of lifting weights and doing push-ups, as a matter of routine.
And, he’s got some measure of ambition, it seems, with the way he desires to do well in the Exams, and leave a good impression on his father.
But, for some reason, he’s carefully keeping a low profile, even as he works towards being an asset to the court.
I’m sure we’ll get answers to the reason behind his strategy soon enough, but I do like the fact that our male lead is smarter and more capable than most people think.
I also like how he’s not the quick-tempered sort, and how he’s genuinely interested in the truth.
When he asks Li Wei to tell him her impressions of him, he’s pleased with her honest answers, and even tells his steward to arrange for the cook to prepare some dishes from her hometown Jichuan.
Aw. That’s nice of him, isn’t it?
E25-26. Of course, I couldn’t not mention that moment of badassery we from Yin Zheng, when he kicks Yin Song to the curb (literally!), and draws his sword against him, in order to get the physician into the house, to see Hao Jia.
Ahhh! That’s so cool and so decisive of him! 🤩
I just love these flashes of badassery from Yin Zheng, and I can’t help but wish that we got more of those, throughout our show. But.. we’re not done yet, so maybe there’s a lot more badass Yin Zheng to come? 😁
E35-36. These are some of my favorite Yin Zheng moments.
1. When Yin Zheng politely defies Yin Jun (Ji Xiao Fei), and invites willing soldiers to go with him to Canghe Town, even though Yin Jun states that they should focus on Wuxiang.
That unflappable intensity was pretty cool, I thought.
2. Yin Zheng showing true leadership by caring for the wellbeing of his men, even after they get robbed of a chunk of rations by bandits.
Every time Yin Zheng roars out his words with intensity, I sit up with a bit of relish. 😁
3. In the same vein, Yin Zheng roaring, right in Yin Jun’s face, to PLEASE SEND SOME MEN, FOURTH BROTHER, with fire in his eyes, and a “I dare you to deny me” defiance about him, is a sight to behold. 🤩
Yin Jun meekly giving permission in response, was icing on the cake. 😁
Tian Xi Wei as Li Wei
This is my introduction to Tian Xi Wei, who plays Li Wei, and I find her nicely likable.
She pulls off the silly and the naiveté in a way that still lands as likable, which is a big plus for me.
I also think it’s cute that she loves food so much, that almost everything in her mind revolves around food.
I also like the little detail, that the reason she’s so strong, is because she eats well. 😁 I do love me a female lead who knows her priorities. 😋
Beyond the silly, we do see that Li Wei’s got a big heart, and is loyal and resourceful, and we also get to see her grow very nicely, over the course of our story.
Yin Zheng and Li Wei
My primary interest in watching this show, was the OTP relationship, which worked out fine, as long as I reminded myself not to expect a strong, smoldery, intense sort of romance, like we get in Love Like The Galaxy (review here!).
This one’s more of a sweet, innocent slow-burn, where our thrills come from the tiniest leaked smiles and other small indications of mutual ease, care, and concern, rather than the unabashed, smoldery, intent, “I can’t take my eyes off you” kind of appeal that Love Like The Galaxy served up.
I do think this is an important lens adjustment, because I’m pretty sure that I came into this expecting that kind of intent, unabashed smolder, I would be quite disappointed. 😅
In fact, the OTP relationship develops at a pretty glacial pace, but we do regularly get low-key evidence that our OTP is growing closer, and are becoming more comfortable, open and honest with each other, which is a positive thing.
Here are just a sprinkling of OTP highlights; again, for flavor. 😋
E1-2. The whole sequence of how Li Wei steals food from the kitchen, assuming the untouched dishes to be leftovers, then panics when a servant comes to ask for the dishes, which are meant to be served to Yin Zheng, is quite hilarious.
The way Li Wei tries to repurpose the ingredients and rearrange the dishes is silly but funny, and Yin Zheng’s increasingly bemused reactions to each dish that gets served, is also quite amusing.
And then, when Yin Zheng goes to the kitchen to investigate, it’s understandable but still entertaining, that Li Wei has no idea who he is, and, assuming him to be some noble dude, pretends that she’s a poison tester who works for Sixth Prince, HA.
That whole sequence, where Yin Zheng falls down and she tries to help him up, only to make everything worse, while not knowing his identity, does give me some echoes of The Red Sleeve (review here!), but I found it silly-entertaining anyway.
Also, Show doesn’t drag out the misunderstanding for very long, because before we know it, Li Wei finds herself married to Yin Zheng, heh.
I also find it quite hilarious that Li Wei gets the wrong idea, that Yin Zheng only has 2 weeks left to live, when he really only has 2 weeks left to the Imperial Exam, ha.
Her efforts to be nice to him, because he’s going to die soon anyway, are ridiculous and quite entertaining.
Her efforts to, at the same time, cater to her appetite, are also quite amusing, while being rather out there.
Yin Zheng is really nice, though, to purposely touch every dish that she’d like, with his chopsticks, even though he doesn’t intend to eat them himself, since the rule in the palace, is that wives and concubines may only take from the dishes that their husbands have taken from first.
Aw. That’s pretty considerate of him, isn’t it?
For those not in the know, the joke about Li Wei’s gift of chrysanthemums, is that chrysanthemums are used as mourning flowers during funerals and memorials. That’s why Yin Zheng and his steward are so perplexed that she decorates his entire study in chrysanthemums.
And, the way she displays his portrait, is also just like how it’s done for memorials, which adds to Yin Zheng’s bemusement.
How funny, though, that the maidservant tells Yin Zheng, that yellow chrysanthemum and lily signify stable and long-lasting love, and that even though Li Wei doesn’t say it, she really likes him a lot.
The way this sends Yin Zheng’s brain into overdrive is quite cute. 😁
E3-4. This set of episodes, I’m rather amused by how Li Wei assumes that she will be sentenced to death for inadvertently wishing such bad luck on Yin Zheng.
Her tearful chagrin, that she still has to consummate the marriage with him, even when she’s about to die, is quite hilarious. 😆
And then, it’s also quite funny how, when her maids tell her that she won’t be sentenced to death, she’s happy only for a moment, before fixating on the fact that she still is expected to consummate the marriage with him. 😁
E3-4. I like the fact that Yin Zheng is strong.
I mean, the way he swoops in to catch Li Wei, when she almost pretend-faints from standing in the sun for too long, and then princess-carries her away, is quite swoony, I have to admit. 😁
I wouldn’t mind seeing this side of Yin Zheng a little more, please and thank you. 🤩
And, even though the OTP relationship is far from being minted, I like that we’re getting little glimpses of partnership between them.
I like how Yin Zheng explains the situation to Li Wei, when taking her to see Third Prince Yin An, to persuade him to come back to the palace, instead of keeping her in the dark, which he could have absolutely done as well.
And then, when Yin An actually agrees to come back to the palace, thanks to Li Wei’s indirect influence, I like that Yin Zheng acknowledges this, and praises Li Wei for her efforts.
Just as I was enjoying the little hints of burgeoning connection between Yin Zheng and Li Wei, and the way she relaxes around him when he tells her that he won’t force her to sleep with him, Li Wei makes that request, that when Yin Zheng enters the court eventually, that he divorce her.
Aw. The way Yin Zheng agrees, but can barely hide the look of disappointment that flashes across his face, does make me feel sorry for him.
I think he was just starting to like being married to Li Wei, so I’m bummed that he’s bummed. Boo.
E5-6. I was absolutely thrilled, at the beginning of episode 5, when Li Wei’s getting punished for offending Yan Momo, and Yin Zheng arrives, tells Yan Momo not to make things difficult for Li Wei, and then simply sweeps Li Wei into a princess-carry, because she’s been hit on the soles of her feet.
Ahhh! I did say that I hoped to see more of this side of Yin Zheng, and Show heard me! 🤩🤩
Melt. I do love how clearly he’s on Li Wei’s side, and how intent he is, on getting her out of there, to a safer, more comfortable space. He literally looks like nothing could distract him from saving Li Wei, in this moment, and I love it, so much. 😍
And, it feels so important, that he tells her that it’s not her fault that he got punished.
I do really like that this gentleness and kindness from him makes Li Wei comfortable enough to tell him some details from her childhood. This sharing of personal details feels very key, to building the connection between them.
And then, how sweet is it, that Yin Zheng takes off Li Wei’s shoe and applies the ointment on her wound, for her? 😍😍
It’s really quite melty – it’s just too bad that Li Wei tells him that he reminds her of her mom.
Oops. I’m preeetty sure that’s absolutely NOT the effect that Yin Zheng had been going for! 😅
But, that doesn’t actually seem to slow down the connection that’s forming between them too much, which I’m relieved about.
I like how open-minded Yin Zheng is, that when Li Wei shows that she knows something about the floods in Danchuan, he asks her to tell him about it, even though Butler Su tries to shush her, because it’s not a woman’s business.
In fact, I really love how Li Wei’s involvement becomes such an integral part of Yin Zheng gaining his father’s favor.
First, there’s her input on the floods in Danchuan, and then, perhaps more importantly, there’s how she encourages Yin Zheng to feel at ease in speaking to his father, rather than be intimidated by the idea that he’s the king and lord of the land.
It’s really thanks to Li Wei’s encouragement, that Yin Zheng dares to speak his mind in front of his father, and thereby gains his father’s favor and approval – and even gets assigned the apparently prestigious task of organizing the Mid-Autumn banquet.
And then, when Song Wu (Liu Mei Han) tries to prank Li Wei by messing with Baifu and dressing him in flowers, it’s pretty great how Yin Zheng immediately knows that it’s not Li Wei’s doing, but Song Wu’s.
This idea that he knows her, is quite thrilling to me. 🤩
E5-6. It’s heartwarming to see how hard Li Wei works, to help plan the Mid-Autumn banquet; it’s clear that aside from her own desire to do well and hopefully gain enough favor with Lord Xinchuan, to ask to see her parents, she also wants to do well for Yin Zheng’s sake.
That’s why I was glad to see her banquet being so well received, despite Yin Song and his wife’s attempts to criticize it.
..It’s just too bad that Song Wu’s prank succeeds, and Li Wei gets into trouble for bringing charcoal into the palace – which gets her permission to see her parents revoked.
Aw. I felt really bad for Li Wei, because that permission was taken away, so soon after it had been granted. It must have been so upsetting for her.
I’m just really comforted by how Yin Zheng is clearly on Li Wei’s side, and clearly understands her heartbreak, at not being able to see her parents after all.
Isn’t it so sweet, the way he goes to her with Butler Su, with that bowl of noodles (because he knows she loves food, and must be hungry), and then wipes her tears, before apologizing for not being able to protect her reward.
The thing that strikes me about this scene, is how Li Wei apologizes too – at the same time, actually – because she’d brought the charcoal and barbecue into the palace without permission.
This mutual consideration is very appealing to me, and I feel like this will be one of the things that I’m going to like best, about their relationship.
I mean, the moment Li Wei realizes that the noodles that she’s eating at birthday noodles, because it’s Yin Zheng’s birthday, she immediately tries to get him to eat some, and then makes sure to celebrate his birthday for him, the next chance she gets.
That touches Yin Zheng a good deal, for sure, since, like Butler Su says, no one ever remembers to celebrate Yin Zheng’s birthday, because they’re all so focused on the Mid-Autumn festivities.
..And how awesome, that at the same time, Yin Zheng’s got a surprise visit from her parents, to surprise Li Wei with. Aw. That’s the BEST present he could ever give her, honestly.
I feel like the sweetest thing about Yin Zheng, is how tender and considerate he is towards Li Wei, even in the areas that aren’t apparent to her.
Like the way he tells Butler Su to secretly send her letters home, using his name, and also, the way he tells Butler Su to bring her parents to Xinchuan to see her. This, despite the fact that it’s against the rules for her parents to enter the palace.
It’s really quite thrilling to me, that Yin Zheng would knowingly break the rules, because to him, decorum isn’t as important as Li Wei’s happiness and wellbeing. Melt.
And then, he’s so considerate to give Li Wei alone time with her parents, in the way he chooses not to interrupt their family dinner, even though he could have totally joined them.
I feel like it makes him happy to see Li Wei happy, and that makes me happy. 🥰
Also, it feels significant, that while talking to her parents, instead of wanting to go home like before, Li Wei means it, when she tells them that she’s doing pretty well in Xinchuan, and living a pretty good life.
And, in the flashbacks that tell us about the various experiences and people who come to her mind, as she makes this statement, it’s also significant, that Yin Zheng is right there too.
Plus, I do detect a nice amount of mutual burgeoning hyper-awareness between Yin Zheng and Li Wei, as they share a room (and a bed!), in order to make room for her parents during their visit.
E5-6. Honestly, I feel like I like Yin Zheng more, the more I see of him.
Like when he and Li Wei say goodbye to her parents as they leave, I love how it’s important to him, that the next time they visit, he’ll bring them to the palace in a grand manner, instead of having them sneak in like they did this time.
See, that’s exactly the kind of thing that would make me melt into a puddle, if I were in Li Wei’s shoes. How thoughtful and considerate is he?? 😍
And then, when Lord Xinchuan (Gao Shu Guang) orders Yin Zheng to go to Danchuan with Yin Qi to bring Shangguan back, I love that Yin Zheng’s first thought, is to ask for Li Wei’s grounding to be lifted.
I know there is strategic intent there, in that, I do think that Yin Zheng genuinely thinks that there will be strategic benefit to bringing Li Wei along.
But, I also think that this is his way of helping Li Wei get a chance to enjoy herself a bit, outside of the palace – which is a sweet thought, yes?
E7-8. I love how, when Lady Danchuan (Sun Shuang) points out that Li Wei doesn’t like him, and therefore won’t be hurt by the dissolution of their marriage, Yin Zheng holds Li Wei’s hand, and quietly admits that even though their marriage had been the result of an imperial order, he is sincere in liking her, and hopes that Lady Danchuan won’t make things difficult for him.
That is very sweet indeed, and I would be in a puddle, in Li Wei’s shoes.
She does immediately speak up for Yin Zheng, to say that he’s a good person whom she can try to live with, and that she doesn’t want to be separated from him right away.
I don’t know if that’s her simply backing him up, because she can see that he doesn’t want to agree to the marriage that Lady Danchuan proposes, or if she’s also perhaps feeling something in response to his confession.
Perhaps it’s a bit of both? She does look genuinely flustered at Yin Zheng’s very sudden and very public confession. 😁
It seems that they both end up in a daze, judging from the way they keep holding hands, all the way into the courtyard, even after Shangguan puts an end to the impasse, by telling Lady Danchuan that she will go back to Xinchuan with Yin Qi.
It’s too bad, though, that Li Wei quickly brushes off the whole thing, by assuring Yin Zheng that she won’t get the wrong idea about what he’d said. Aw. I wish she would, though! 😅
Later, Yin Zheng looks genuinely crestfallen, when, during their conversation about what Li Wei might do after their agreement comes to an end, and she goes home, she talks about marrying someone she likes, and who likes her, and living a good life together.
The way he mutters, “I lost,” seems so rich with meaning; clearly, he’s not just talking about the little game that they’ve been playing – he’s talking about losing Li Wei to her hypothetical future husband. Aw. Poor sad puppyyy. 😭
That’s probably why, when he gets drunk during the farewell banquet, he gets all hung up on the question of whether Li Wei hates him, then whether she likes him, even a tiny little bit.
..Which is how we get that dreamy drunken kiss, where I’m flailing on the floor, for how tender and gentle Yin Zheng is, even when he’s drunk.
I’m really quite tickled by the aftermath in the following days, because Li Wei’s fixated, not so much on the fact that he kissed her, but on the fact that she didn’t hate it. Tee hee hee. 😁
E9-10. I’m actually relieved that Li Wei’s no longer avoiding Yin Zheng, and it’s kind of funny that her reason for no longer avoiding him, is that she.. forgot. Ha.
And again, I like how Li Wei’s musings about her family’s experiences actually give Yin Zheng something useful to apply, in his task of collecting old debts.
This seems to be an on-going motif between them, and I rather like it, because in this drama world where women are expected to be seen and not heard (like in Hao Jia’s case), Li Wei proves to be a helpful partner to Yin Zheng instead.
Plus, it’s Li Wei’s idea, to mobilize the Solar Term ladies, that actually gets Yin An to agree to help Yin Zheng with the debt collection. That’s pretty sneaky-smart, and it’s pretty cool that not only does Li Wei come up with the idea, but Yin Zheng supports her in executing it.
E9-10. It’s actually sweet that Li Wei starts working hard, so that she’ll be able to come in first in the exams, even though she has no idea that this would benefit her in any way.
She simply believes that this is something that Yin Zheng needs from her, for his own advancement, and therefore applies herself accordingly. That’s really quite touching.
And, it’s really nice to see the two of them spending time in the study together, with Yin Zheng reading, while Li Wei works on her studies.
That feels like quality time, particularly when Yin Zheng steps in to help coach her on things.
AND, that moment when he stands over her and puts his hand on hers, to teach her how to use the abacus, is just the kind of hyper-proximity that makes me squee. Eee! 🤩 I really hope we get more of those kinds of moments, actually. 😁
Plus, the way they start smiling at each other, as they interact over her studies, is really nice to see as well. 😍
This kind of unconscious sense of ease and comfort is quite thrilling to me; it makes me think that they’re growing to enjoy each other’s company more, and I love that idea.
And, how about that little playful scene at the end of episode 9, where they start smearing ink on each other’s faces?!?? Ahhh! I love that they are this playful with each other! More of this, please and thank you! 😍😍
E9-10. When Song Wu tries to get Madam He (Karina Zhao) to consider getting rid of Li Wei and making Song Wu Yin Zheng’s legal wife, Yin Zheng is quick and resolute, in shooting down that idea.
“You don’t need to. I’ve already decided that Li Wei is my only wife.”
Augh. That is really quite swoony, and I wish Li Wei would see and hear this, and know that Yin Zheng’s heart is beating only for her!
And then, it’s so assuring, when Li Wei tries to apologize to him for getting him in trouble, and all he says to her, is, “We share joy and sorrow. From now on, as long as I am here, you don’t have to be afraid.”
Aww. He’s so gently protective, and he doesn’t even blame her for the reprimand that he had to endure, from his mother. 😍
And, how tender and gentle is he, when he tells her, later that night, that while he’s away, she can send messages to him while preparing for her exam, so that she doesn’t have to bear everything alone.
Plus, the way he tells her that he has something to tell her when he comes back, feels so full of.. gentle promise?
There’s just something very tender about the way he talks to her and looks at her, in this scene, that I find very sweet and melty. 🥰
E9-10. Li Wei asks Yin Zheng about his reason for getting her to come in in first place for her exams, and he tells her that this was the only way he could make her his wife.
And then.. when she haltingly says that there will be other, better wives in the future, I love how Yin Zheng is quick to refute it, saying with certainty, that there will be no other wives – and that yes, he likes her.
YESSS. That is a legit confession, finally.
E11-12. When Li Wei finally broaches the subject with Yin Zheng, I find myself loving the gentle, sincere, restrained-but-intent vibe between them.
The way Li Wei hesitantly brings up the difference between Jichuan and Xinchuan; the way Yin Zheng immediately understands what she means, and assures her that she would be his only wife; the way the tears sheen slightly in her eyes, as she then tells him yes.
It feels like such sweet relief, as Yin Zheng then pulls her in for a hug, clearly overwhelmed by her answer.
Ahhhh. I like it. I like it a lot. 🥰
Afterwards, the tone and vibe between them is so sweet, and both shy and bold, at the same time, like the way Li Wei now dares to address him as “Yin Zheng” instead of Sixth Prince, and the way their smiles are wider now, when they’re around each other.
E13-14. There are these little hints of care coming from Li Wei, which feel like such precious little drops of hope, for Yin Zheng.
Like how she gives him the last bit of honey, when they’re sneaking food together in the kitchen, and she casually says that she’s only letting him have it coz it’s him; that she wouldn’t have given it up if it had been anyone else.
Ooh. That arrested sort of pause, as Yin Zheng registers what she just said, made my heart leap a little. Like, YES, he caught it! 😁
I’m glad that Yin Zheng manages to ask Li Wei about whether she still wants to leave, because communication is a good thing, but I’m bummed that Li Wei tells him that until Yuanying leaves, they should keep themselves separate.
However, I console myself that at least she leaves things open for recalibration later, instead of completely closing the door on their budding relationship.
E23-24. I’m really glad that Yin Zheng doesn’t write that divorce letter, and instead tells Li Wei that she can do whatever she wants, and to just never talk about divorce again. Aw.
On that note, I thought it was quite punny, the way Show has Li Wei asking Yin Zheng to write her that divorce letter (休书) and Yin Zheng starts to write “休” on the paper, and so Li Wei tears, thinking that he’s really writing the divorce letter she’d asked for, but it turns out that Yin Zheng writes, “休想” (wishful thinking) instead.
Pretty clever, yes? 😁
And, YES, we get our first backhug between our OTP, FINALLY, and neither of them is drunk. Progress!
Liu Ling Zi as Yuanying
After about 10 episodes, Show introduces Yuanying into our drama world, and I just wanted to say that I ended up liking her a lot.
E11-12. I love that Yuanying doesn’t waste time negotiating a deal with Yin Zheng, so that their marriage is immediately positioned as a partnership, where their goal is to dissolve it at the first opportune moment.
And, what a great side benefit, really, that she offers to coach Li Wei, so that Li Wei will be ready and equipped to take on the role of Lady of the house, when the time comes.
I do think that Yuanying would make a great teacher for Li Wei, because, based on what we see this set of episodes, she’s very sharp, and wise to the wily ways of some of the servants, and quick to assert her authority and set things right.
If Li Wei could learn to do that, while preserving her sweet personality, that would be pretty darn awesome.
I actually really appreciate that it’s Princess Yuanying who puts a stop to Li Wei avoiding Yin Zheng, by forcing an open discussion among the three of them, where she basically lays everything on the table, and doesn’t allow Li Wei to decline her proposal, heh.
At least this way, we don’t have Yin Zheng being pushed away by Li Wei any longer, yes?
E13-14. Although Show does indulge in poking a bit of fun at Princess Yuanying’s effect on the household, and how both Yin Zheng and Li Wei are so hungry all the time, I find myself liking Princess Yuanying quite a lot.
I mean, yes, she’s a bit extreme, and could afford to be a little less strict with herself and others, but aside from that, I like that she’s so capable, and I also like that she’s actually a reasonable person who has compassion for others.
In the midst of her dispensing teaching, advice and guidelines through this set of episodes, we actually get multiple instances of her demonstrating that she’s fair, ready to admit her own mistakes, and has a good amount of heart.
For example, when Li Wei makes progress in her work, I like that Yuanying acknowledges that progress, instead of only focusing on the areas where Li Wei still needs to improve. That’s evidence that Yuanying’s a good teacher, and I like that a lot.
And then, when Yuanying’s maid gets into that fight with Li Wei’s maid, Yuanying’s quick to discipline her maid, but is also quick to acknowledge that she understands that her maid’s actions are driven by her loyalty towards Yuanying.
Plus, she’s ready and willing to apologize to Li Wei herself, even though she wasn’t even personally involved in the incident.
On that note, one of my highlights this set of episodes, is seeing Li Wei and Yuanying become closer.
In the way Show gives us a peek at all the little incidents in their daily lives via its slice-of-life lens, I actually find the growing sisterhood between them very believable.
I guess that’s the plus point of a slice-of-life drama; the little moments stack up so nicely, to create a believable evolved picture, that you barely notice that things have changed, because it all feels so organic.
One of my favorite things between them, is seeing Li Wei cajole Yuanying, to let her take a break, or let her have a snack.
The very fact that she dares to do that, and the very fact that Yuanying gives her permission, while tamping down a little smile and a shake of her head, just gives off warm sisterly vibes to me.
E19-20. When Li Wei’s isn’t allowed to attend the banquet that she’d worked so hard to prepare for, it’s really nice to see that, besides Yin Zheng, Yuanying also takes a private moment with Li Wei, to comfort her as well.
It’s really heartwarming, to see how that turns into a heart-to-heart chat, where Yuanying opens up to Li Wei and tells her that she’s always wanted to be an official in the court.
And how lovely too, that Li Wei expresses that Yuanying’s basically so awesome that she’s able to do anything she sets her mind to.
Aw. I do love the sisterhood between these two, and I would be very sorry to see Yuanying leave Xinchuan, if that ever happens.
E31-32. This set of episodes, we spend a good chunk of time on Yuanying’s divorce from Yin Zheng, and her return to Jinchuan, and I have mixed feelings about it.
Like I’ve said before, I actually enjoy having Yuanying around, particularly since she and Li Wei have grown such a sisterly bond between them.
On the other hand, I do recognize that it’s her presence in Xinchuan, that’s put our OTP loveline on hold all this time, so I get that we need to wrap up this arc, in order to allow our OTP loveline to progress.
The thing that really got me fully convinced that this is the direction for Yuanying, though, is when she says, this set of episodes, that it’s time for her to live her own life now.
That’s when it hit me, that even though she likes the people in Xinchuan, she doesn’t see this as her best life, and wants something different for herself. And so, of course, it’s important that she get to live the life she desires, even if it means saying goodbye to Li Wei.
I actually really like how Show handles this arc, with Li Wei going along with Yin Zheng and Yuanying to Jinchuan, to get the divorce approved by Yuanying’s father, and then get Yuanying’s political aptitude acknowledged, at the same time.
This platonic threesome is just so wholesome, that way.
In fact, it’s the goodbye scenes and conversations between Yuanying and Li Wei, that get to me the most, this set of episodes.
The scene where Yuanying explains the situation to Li Wei, and tells her it’s time that she lives her own life, really vibes like that of an elder sister explaining her departure, to her younger sister, and assuring her that she’s now mature enough, to hold the fort at home.
Li Wei and Yin Zheng stepping in to support Yuanying, while they’re in Jinchuan, to help her father see her point of view, is also very wholesome.
And it’s just like Li Wei, to be able to mediate between Yuanying and her father, by seeing the heart behind the actions, and being able to articulate it.
That Yuanying desires her father’s approval so much, while her father is simply concerned for her future, rather than thinking of trading her in another political marriage.
It’s a little simplistic, sure, but I’m glad that father and daughter have a much-needed conversation to clear the air, and I’m glad that Yuanying gets her wish, and is appointed Jinchuan’s first female official – because she really is talented that way.
The final lesson between Yuanying and Li Wei is so poignant; it feels so final, and yet, so freeing, at the same time.
It’s so bittersweet, to see them give each other full marks, and both graduate, into new phases of their lives.
The goodbye scene, where they’re both so tearful at saying goodbye, and emphasizing that they’ll always be there for each other, is so bittersweet as well.
But, the thought that this is what’s needed, in order for them to live their own best lives, and that they are still going to stand by their sisterhood going forward, helps to sweeten it all.
One of the things that really stands out about this show, is how there is a strong sisterhood among many of the female characters in this drama world.
I feel like Show’s making it its mission to promote healthy, mutually supportive female bonds, and in a drama landscape where concubines scheming against one another is practically an entire genre on its own, this is very welcome and refreshing, to my eyes.
Again, it’s in a lot of the small beats, that add up to one big idea, that sisterhood rules, in this story world. 😁
So here’s a small sampling of some of those beats.
E3-4. I actually really loved the scene of all the concubines coming together and sharing food, and talking and laughing together – until Yan Momo steps in to stop the festivities.
(As a point of interest, the last name “Yan” (严) also means strict, so Yan Momo’s been named in a pretty punny fashion. Just thought you guys might like to know that. 😁)
E9-10. On the exam front, I find it so endearing, that the other concubines are so willing to support Li Wei in her quest to be the top scorer, that they even fight over who should come in last, heh.
This sense of supportive sisterhood is really one of my favorite things in this drama world. 🥰
E13-14. When none of the other guests show up to the banquet because of Yin Song’s influence, sisterhood prevails, and all of the Li Wei’s friends find a way to show up and make it happy occasion after all.
E19-20. Much as I haven’t cared for the way the Solar Term ladies have been deriding Yin An, I do appreciate their sisterhood, and this set of episodes, that sisterhood is on full display, with them – and Li Wei, Yuanying, Shangguan and Sisi – banding together, to tackle the challenge of opening a restaurant together.
Their struggles to rent a place remind me of a similar arc in A Dream Of Splendor (review here!), which reinforces to me, how this must have been a very real thing, back in the day, and how dramas these days, are looking to show us a different way of being, by having female characters break out of those norms.
It’s not realistic for the times, sure, but it’s still uplifting and aspirational, so I’m on board with it.
E21-22. As can be expected, sisterhood is on full display as the restaurant opens, and honestly, it’s really quite pleasant to watch, even though it’s nothing groundbreaking.
It’s great to see how united all our sisterly concubines are, as they work towards opening their restaurant.
From signing the lease together, to encouraging one another through each and every milestone, to banding together in times of difficulty, these ladies never falter in their loyalty towards one another, and that’s a beautiful thing.
E23-24. It’s touching, really, that Li Wei and the rest of the concubine sisterhood are all ready to help Hao Jia escape, even if it means that they’re in danger of losing their lives.
Chen Xiao Yun as Hao Jia [SPOILERS]
Among the various concubine arcs, I thought I’d highlight Hao Jia’s story, because hers is rather more dramatic than the others’.
At first, I’d thought that Hao Jia would be able to enjoy a good and easy life, since she sets out to hook the Legitimate Eldest Prince, Yin Song, and gets him to take her as his concubine.
Plus, she manages to snag him just like she wants, even though he’s not officially looking for a wife during this selection; I thought that was really smooth.
And so, with her good looks and apparent wile at her disposal, I’d figured that Hao Jia would be able to hold her own in Yin Song’s household.
But.. that’s not how it turns out at all.
Because of Yin Song’s unreasonable and cruel ways, Yin Song’s legal wife, Fangru (Chen Zi Han), goes from attacking Hao Jia, to eventually becoming Hao Jia’s protector.
Which means that Yin Song really does display some very alarming behavior.
It’s bad enough that he manhandles Hao Jia to the point of strangling her by the neck, but his worst colors come through when Hao Jia falls pregnant.
The way he starts to treat her as a baby factory, rather than a person, is just gross, to me.
I mean, forcing her to eat something, because the baby needs it, even though it makes her want to throw up, is just not ok. Blech.
Yin Song’s only good to her when he thinks that there’s a chance that she will give birth to a son, and even then, his idea of being good to her, is to keep her cooped up in her room with incense that’s supposedly helpful to bring forth a boy, and force-feed her things that are good for the baby, even if it all makes her gag.
No wonder she’s all wan and depressed.
To make things even worse, he’s force fed her with so many tonics, that the baby’s grown too big to be delivered easily, and it’s also horrible that he would refuse to allow her to receive pain-relieving acupuncture, in case it hurts the baby.
He doesn’t even seem to care, that she’s in labor, saying only that he should be notified, if the baby is a boy.
If not for Fangru putting her foot down, I’m sure Hao Jia would’ve died in labor.
I was very relieved, when, in the end, Hao Jia gets to make a new start in life, and I’m glad she’s surrounded by friends who care about her and will support her through thick and thin.
As a silver lining to this disturbing arc, I do also like the solidarity and sisterhood that grows between Fangru and Hao Jia.
In episode 34, when Fangru comes to see Hao Jia, and tells her that she’s leaving for her hometown, their goodbye, which, for all intents and purposes, is likely to be the last time they’ll see each other, is heartfelt and poignant, and I think, one of my personal highlights.
Chang Long as Yin Qi
I have a fondness for Chang Long, particularly after his turn as the reporter bestie to Big Brother in The Bond (review here!), so I was quite pleased to see him as Yin Qi, the blustery Fifth Prince.
Somehow, in his hands, I don’t find the loudmouthed and shallow Yin Qi at all annoying. I just find him quite harmless and low-key amusing.
As we get to know him better, however, he starts to show his loyalty, courage and sense of justice, and I have to conclude that he’s a really good-hearted, decent guy.
One of the Yin Qi moments that stands out to me, is in episodes 25-26, when our band of good characters go through a whole lot, this episode, to save Hao Jia.
I think Yin Qi deserves a special mention, because he’s not particularly close to her, and yet, puts his life on the line to save her – for Shangguan’s sake.
For someone who tends to be quite timid, and who’s typically more concerned with keeping a low profile and not getting into trouble, Yin Qi really throws all caution to the wind, in order to get a doctor to Hao Jia, even if means breaking some very grave rules.
That just goes to show how he is 100% sincere, when he throws himself into saving Hao Jia, so that Shangguan won’t have to, so that she won’t undertake any risk.
The fact that he keeps up a cheerful attitude, even after being whipped as punishment, is really touching.
Yin Qi and Shangguan
I know I mentioned earlier in this review, that I’d been uncomfortable with the way Show had Shangguan hit Yin Qi every time she got upset with him.
However, once I take into account that this is just Show’s sometime dubious sense of humor rearing its head, and put this whole thing aside, there is a sort of sweetness to this loveline, which I wanted to highlight.
Basically, despite their vast differences in personality, Shangguan and Yin Qi ending up liking each other much more than they themselves realize, and their loveline is basically them slowly coming to terms with that.
Yin Qi’s can’t-get-me-down good nature plays a big part in making this connection work, but it does work, in that I could believe that these two people would grow fond of each other, and want to be together, against all odds.
Here’s a sampling of highlights for this loveline.
E13-14. Lately, we’ve been seeing Yin Qi being much more caring towards Shangguan, and this set of episodes, it looks like she’s finally starting to really believe him.
I mean, I don’t blame her for being slow to believe him, because I’ve been slow to believe him too, given how easily distracted he’d been, by other women, and how he’d wanted to get a concubine and have Shangguan live her own life, at one point.
But, now, when he’s suffering from an unexpected poison, and only thinks about the fact that Shangguan mustn’t be blamed for it, especially if he dies, it really does convince Shangguan – and me! – of his regard for her.
E17-18. I do like how things are softening up and warming up between Yin Qi and Shangguan, though overall progress is still slow.
It’s just nice to see her leaking smiles around him now, rather than get exasperated with him all the time.
And, the fact that he cares about her prized swords even when he’s drunk, shows that he’s genuine in his concern for her.
Also, now and again, we get these moments of quiet honesty and vulnerability between them, like the scene where Yin Qi expresses that he feels out of place for not being in the crafty-wily role-playing zone that seems required for politics, and Shangguan tells him that it’s fine to just be straightforward and honest, and that she’ll protect him, if anyone gives him grief for it.
Aw. That’s sweet.
That big ol’ smile on Yin Qi’s face, when he hears her say that, is so precious. It feels so raw and genuine, and.. unadulterated. I like that a lot.
E21-22. I do like how Yin Qi is so blithely behind Shangguan, especially when Yin Yue (Li Zi Rui) starts mouthing off about how shameful it is for women to be involved in running a business.
I do think that Yin Qi’s going to win Shangguan’s heart before long, with the way he’s going; he’s now so simply and unequivocally on her side, all the time. It’s endearing.
E23-24. Shangguan looks seriously touched, when she realizes that Yin Qi had run out to get her in the rain, and then fallen down in his hurry to get to her. The way she wipes off the rainwater off his face, is the most overtly tender thing we’ve seen her do for him, and that’s progress.
Generally, I do think that she’s softening towards Yin Qi a lot, because he’s been so consistent in showing care and support for her. It’s just too bad that he keeps putting his foot in his mouth, each time they’re on the verge of becoming closer.
BUT, Yin Qi does manage to really touch Shangguan’s heart, when he makes fake snow for her using chilled goose feathers, and he gets rewarded with a hug! A HUG!
Awww. That’s great, and I’m glad that after being stunned into momentary paralysis, Yin Qi manages to go hug her back. 🥰
E27-28. Narratively speaking, I do think that Yin Qi getting into trouble works as a big catalyst, to galvanize some relationship development between him and Shangguan.
It’s been clear for a while now, to us viewers, that these two care about each other, and are just too awkward (and proud too, in the case of Shangguan) to admit it.
Now that Yin Qi gets into such big trouble and gets detained in prison, it’s actually quite touching to see how Shangguan would even think about breaking into the prison to save him, when her fourth sister-in-law misleads her into believing that Yin Qi’s life is in danger.
Even more touching, is how, when Yin Qi gets stripped of his royal title, and is made a commoner, as punishment for his transgression, Shangguan refuses to divorce him, and makes the decision to stick with him, even if it means living a life of hardship.
Aw, these two. I just want them to get over their reservations and just be open about their feelings for each other, and be lovey-dovey already. 😁
E29-30. I’m rather bummed that Yin Qi lies to Shangguan, in an effort to let her go, so that she won’t suffer with him, but I can understand why he might think that it’s the kinder thing to do, especially since he thinks that she doesn’t like him anyway.
While I groaned at the lie (that he still likes Hao Jia), I did clock that Chang Long, who plays Yin Qi, does a fantastic job of the role, with the dual layers that he manages to bring forth, in the scene.
On the surface, he’s got the silly, casual manner that Yin Qi wears often, but underneath the smiles, you can see his sadness and the tears in his eyes. Really nicely done, I thought.
And, I can also believe that after Shangguan actually leaves, Yin Qi would fall into a depressed funk, because he never actually wanted her to leave, in the first place.
Yin Qi can be rather dim, yes? 😅
I do feel sorry for Yin Qi, though, because he’s lost so much – being demoted to commoner status, and losing his home, and now, losing Shangguan too – and all in the spirit of protecting Yin Zheng.
Some of this methods may have been misguided (like with Shangguan), but his heart is sincere, and he was just doing his best to be a good big brother, the only way he knew how.
I’m glad that he goes to Danchuan to seek out Shangguan, and is so doggedly determined about seeing her, even if she doesn’t forgive him. I like his emphasis, that he just wants a chance to apologize to her in person.
His participation in the husband selection is quite cute, because it shows how well prepared he is now, after having lived with Shangguan for some time.
But of course, I’m also glad that when it comes down to it, Yin Qi just can’t let Shangguan go, and goes to look for her at Danxia Lake Post, where he’s told that she’s traveling.
E33-34. I’m glad that, this set of episodes, we see Yin Qi and Shangguan finally come to an agreement, to stay together.
I’ve been feeling rather sorry for Yin Qi, for a while, because he’s been trying so hard to get into Shangguan’s good books, for so long.
I just think it’s high time that they lay out all their cards on the table, put their differences aside, and embrace the fact that they love each other, and want to be together, even though being together can sometimes be annoying.
I felt a stab of satisfaction, seeing them do exactly that, at the end of episode 34.
Liu Mei Han as Song Wu
I think viewers would likely fall into two camps, when it comes to Song Wu; those who find her amusing, and those who find her annoying.
I’d just like to say that I don’t hate Song Wu; I just find her amusing and somewhat annoying, like a buzzing fly that just won’t go away, no matter how many times you swat it. 😁
And then, at about the episode 19-20 mark, Show introduces a little loveline for Song Wu, which I found rather enjoyable, to my very pleasant surprise.
It’s all very sudden, and it legit feels like a whirlwind romance, packaged into these two episodes, so much so that it feels like a little drama special, in a way.
Despite the whole thing speeding through its milestones like there’s no time to waste, I found myself feeling quite entertained and reasonably invested. That’s not bad, honestly.
The way we go from random meet-cute to electricity-laced shy gazes, to that harebrained scheme to win his heart, to contrite apologies, to shy, pleased glances, as they realize they really do like each other, to Song Wu asking to relinquish her Princess status, in order to marry him, is nothing short of a rollercoaster.
I have to credit Liu Mei Han, who plays Song Wu, for making Song Wu’s reactions so full of believable emotion. With Song Wu having been such an OTT sort of character so far, I must say that this was a very pleasant surprise.
With Song Wu showing such strong lashings of vulnerability and sincerity, it really helps to sell the rollercoaster of a loveline that she’s in with her literary boy Song Wu, and make it possible for me to buy into it, despite the small amount of screen time it gets.
The goodbye scene, where Song Wu serves tea to Yin Zheng, Yuanying and Li Wei, to thank them for everything they’ve done for her, is really quite heartfelt and poignant, and that hug that she shares with Li Wei, really brings home how far these two have come.
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m kinda sorry to see Song Wu leave the household. 😅
Baifu the pup
I just want to give Baifu a quick shout-out, because he’s such a cute and well-behaved pup. 😍
I also wanted to mention that, while Li Wei pouts that the name that Yin Zheng gives Baifu is so uncool, it actually means Hundred Blessings, which I thought was very sweet.
I also thought it was sweet that Yin Zheng decides that Baifu should take Li Wei’s surname, since she’s the one who brought him home. Aw.
However, partway through the show, Baifu stops making appearances for no apparent reason, and now that I realize this, I feel somewhat cheated. 😅
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
I’ve come to the conclusion that with this drama, mood plays a critical role.
For a while in the final stretch, I’d started to feel rather impatient, because it had felt like not a whole lot was happening, despite us being so late in the game.
BUT, I found myself enjoying this finale stretch quite nicely.
I do think that part of it is because Show has no choice but to give us all the important dramatic movement that I’d been hoping for, but I think part of it is also definitely that my mood is in a different space now.
While watching these last 4 episodes, I found it all very wholesome and relaxing and feel-good; again, a perfect combination for a drama nightcap, if that’s what you’re looking for.
In the end, all’s well that ends well – which is exactly what I’d expected of Show.
Yes, it’s pretty much pretty bows all around time, but y’know, if Show hadn’t gone this route, it would’ve felt out of character, so this very neat sort of ending feels quite perfect, for this drama world.
Yin Jun ends up turning over a new leaf, and Yin Zheng, now Crown Prince, is merciful, and gives him another chance to start over.
On that note, I really do like the serious and somber way in which Yin Zheng receives his appointment as Crown Prince. He doesn’t see it as achieving power through the throne; he sees it as a deep and heavy responsibility which he needs to uphold.
Very different from how the power-hungry princes have been looking at the position, for sure, which means that Lord Xinchuan’s chosen wisely, in appointing his successor.
Yin Qi gets welcomed back into the family, when he shows such heartfelt concern for his father, when Dad is sick. I liked this detail, because Yin Qi’s expulsion had always felt rather unfair.
As for our OTP, Yin Zheng and Li Wei finally (like seriously, finally!) consummate their marriage.
It feels like it’s been a really long time coming, which is admittedly rather perplexing from a viewer’s point of view, but which does ensure that we’ve got lots of context to support the emotional connection between Yin Zheng and Li Wei, that eventually leads to the consummation, so I suppose it evens out?
It also feels well-earned, when Lord Xinchuan gives permission for Yin Zheng to make Li Wei his legal wife.
I thought it was sweet that Yin Zheng would think to go back to Jichuan with Li Wei, to formally ask for permission for Li Wei’s hand in marriage; it honors Li Wei and the culture of her people, and that feels like the right thing to do.
Li Wei’s dad getting all upset and refusing to agree to the marriage feels like a bit of filler, but it’s relatively harmless, and I’m glad that Yin Zheng wins him over in not too much time.
It isn’t long before we get an actual wedding, with everyone happily in attendance.
Yin Zheng gets really busy as Crown Princess, and so does Li Wei, as Crown Princess, but our steady lovebirds still find ways to spend time together and express their affection for each other, and it’s just all very wholesome.
Our big final arc, is Yin Zheng and Li Wei working to turn the traditional bride selection into a selection for female officials, and it’s quite nicely handled, I feel.
It might be a little cheesy and sentimental, but the way Show juxtaposes the new batch of young women entering the palace, with how Li Wei and the others had once come to Xinchuan for the bride selection, works out very neatly.
It effectively shows us just how far our characters have come, and how much they’ve grown, in the last several years that we’ve spent with them.
And as they all sit on the roof, eating mooncakes and enjoying the fireworks, during the Mid-Autumn Festival, and talk about their future plans, I do feel like it was a pleasant thing after all, to have been part of their journeys.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Wholesome slice-of-life, with a Disney-esque sensibility. Pleasant, for when you’re in the right mood.
FINAL GRADE: B+
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of New Life Begins, is Our Blooming Youth. I’ve taken an initial look, and I do think Show’s off to a solid start. My E1 & 2 notes on Our Blooming Youth can be found here.
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Entertainment tidbits + the first set notes of all shows covered on Patreon (that’s 2 episodes for kdramas and 4 episodes for cdramas)
Early Access (US$5): The Glory Part 1 [Korea]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House [Japan]
VIP (US$15): +Meet Yourself [China]
VVIP (US$20): +Our Blooming Youth [Korea]
Ultimate (US$25): +Crash Course in Romance [Korea]