The Legend of Zhen Huan: Eps 4-7
It’s been a while since I’ve posted about Zhen Huan (and it’s only my second post on it) but you can be sure it is one of my top dramas right now. Even without the subs I watched ahead because this drama is just too gorgeous to not watch. Even though this is set in the Qing Dynasty, you can still empathize with the characters.
**So, I watched ahead and also saw the spoilery long trailer. This kinda ruined my views of some of the characters ahead of time. So I’m trying hard to keep my posts unbiased for certain characters. Please if you know what happens/have a certain opinion of a character because of what happens in the future, wait until the post for that episode. No spoilers!!!**
We begin to see the character dynamics shift as our threesome experiences the Inner Palace in different ways. For Mei Zhuang, she’s the first out of the new concubines to gain the Emperor’s affections. This was like a victory for me because I love Mei Zhuang!!! She’s that sort of role model you’d look up to, because she’s modest and wise. The Emperor sees her good qualities and tasks her with helping in the management of the Inner Palace.
As much as it’s great to see Mei Zhuang gain power so quickly, it’s also frightening. Now that she’s acknowledged by the emperor, the other concubines will watch her carefully to make sure she doesn’t compromise Hua Fei’s status. Mei Zhuang must be careful to tiptoe around Hua Fei because otherwise she could very easily be crushed.
For instance in the scene when she’s accidentally late to greet the Empress, Hua Fei’s group pounces on Mei Zhuang’s mistake just because she’s a newbie. This is one of our first introductions into the harsh world of survival in the Inner Palace. This is the survival of the fittest, and hopefully Mei Zhuang’s righteous and kind ways will prevail!!!!!!!
It’s also quite refreshing to see our threesome sticking together. They become a sort of support network that’s always there for whoever is struggling. For example, they visit Zhen Huan when she’s sick, and Ling Rong when she’s down. I also love that Mei Zhuang uses her influence to help Zhen Huan’s struggling palace, or to reprimand Ling Rong’s gossiping servants.
Zhen Huan & Mei Zhuang are often the more prominent ones in the threesome, both because of their age and their status. Both of them seem to light up the room whereas Ling Rong is overshadowed by their presence. They are incredibly kind and gracious toward Ling Rong since they’ve taken her under their wing. However this could only make Ling Rong feel worse, because she still hasn’t made a name for herself and can only depend on her sisters.
I felt incredibly bad for Ling Rong when she failed on her first night with the emperor. That was her chance to finally show she was chosen by the emperor and served him well. However she’s so terrified that she’s shaking nervously and on the verge of tears when she’s taken to the emperor’s bed. It’s easy to forget how young these concubines actually are. If I recall correctly, Ling Ring is 17 (or around there..). Mei Zhuang & Zhen Huan are also very young themselves. They are so mature that you would expect them to be in their 20’s. In this scene, I was reminded that Ling Rong is just a young girl, of course she would be terrified of her first night.
AUGH and when Ling Rong has to GO BACK to her own palace because the emperor rejects her!?!?!?? And she sees another carriage going the opposite way?!?!?!? (probably another concubine to replace her) We don’t even need to hear her thoughts..we just see that she’s devastated and ashamed. Also to make it worse, all of her servants wonder to themselves why the emperor sent away their mistress. Everyone wonders what Ling Rong did wrong to have caused such a thing. Poor Ling Rong will have an even harder time keeping her head held high in front of all the gossips and higher status ladies.
I know some people think the emperor is annoying (maybe that’s to come in the later episodes) but up until now I think he’s fine.
Zhen Huan & the emperor’s first sort-of meeting in the snow on New Year’s Eve was BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!! It felt so whimsical and AGOUJAWSIOGJSEOHBIJ IT’S FATE, IT’S FATE!!!!!!!!!!!!! Zhen Huan goes to see the cherry blossoms out in the snow, all by herself to pray for the new year. It just so happens that the emperor also takes a walk out in the garden and happens to see Zhen Huan’s figure. She hides and he calls out to her. She runs away and the emperor doesn’t know who it was, but this is the first spark of interest between the emperor and Zhen Huan.
Zhen Huan: “When entering the Harem, girls will pray for his majesty’s adoration. I only wish that my parents and my younger sister can be healthy and safe, that I can survive the Harem…I wish, if the wind can understand my heart, then it shall not break me.”
Emperor: “Every year, the flowers are always alike. But every year, people change.”
This scene just works so well that it doesn’t feel like a cliche. It was just so beautifully filmed, and I was so in the moment, that it felt a lot more natural than the usual contrived cliche.
Their first actual face-to-face meeting is also just as whimsical and fairy-tale like. The emperor finds her in a garden, peacefully playing the flute. He’s fascinated by her carefree attitude, and when SHE DOESN’T RECOGNIZE HE’S THE EMPEROR AND THINK’S HE’S A PRINCE, he’s even more intrigued. AHAHAHA. Is that not the best first meeting ever? So the two of them form a friendship, Zhen Huan thinking he’s just a prince, and the emperor enjoying the company of his concubine.
When she finally finds out who he really is (this actually happens quite quickly, thank goodness) she’s shocked and much shyer. However the emperor CARRIES HER IN HIS ARMS back to her palace. This is a huge gesture because the emperor is WALKING and he’s CARRYING SOMEONE. :OOOOOOO It was really funny seeing the emperor’s entourage of servants following him at a distance, and all eunuchs sneaking a peak to see who the lucky concubine is.
This change comes just at the right time because Zhen Huan’s household has been struggling for a long time. One episode focuses on how Zhen Huan’s servants leave her because they don’t want to be stuck with an unsuccessful mistress. Since Zhen Huan has been sick a long time, they’re impatient and want to switch to another mistress. I loved this scene because Zhen Huan just goes, ok, take your money and leave. But then afterwards we see she’s not just indifferent, she was actually weeding out the bad servants to see who the loyal ones were.
Her remaining servants are extremely loyal and devoted. Even though it’s hard for them to serve Zhen Huan, they do so with such gusto that it’s heartwarming. Also, Zhen Huan treats all her servants like family, even spending time with them on New Year’s Eve. It’s so sweet seeing how proud the servants are in their mistress, especially when she receives the emperor’s favor.
I love that Zhen Huan’s innocence and naivety is what draws the emperor to her. She’s not scheming to make the emperor fall for her, she’s just being who she is. And lookee here, she scored!
There’s bound to be lots of jealousy and envy amongst the other concubines once they see how quickly Zhen Huan made her way into the emperor’s heart. No way are they going to let her have her way that easily. Thankfully Zhen Huan has backup–the awesome Mei Zhuang! She has people to watch her back, but this could not be enough against Hua Fei. Zhen Huan will eventually have to adjust her views to survive in the harem. She’s such a pure and kindhearted person that I wonder what would happen if anyone in the harem ever betrays her.
Lastly, Hua Fei & the Empress. Both are fascinating and fearsome. The Empress is amazing at maintaining her composure and gracefully managing the harem. How hard it must be for her to control Hua Fei…especially when it seems like the emperor favors Hua Fei more than the Empress. I think Hua Fei is that sort of character you normally wouldn’t root for, but she’s much more than just a villain. She often seems overly confident and arrogant, but I also think she’s a bit insecure about the new concubines. i.e. After she sees that Mei Zhuang has been given some beautiful flowers by the emperor, Hua Fei immediately orders all of those flowers to be removed from her own palace. She doesn’t even want to have the same flowers as Mei Zhuang’s. Hua Fei is determined to be the emperor’s favorite and nothing but his favorite.
I want MORE!!!!!!!!!!!! I love just taking in all the great costumes, acting, and architecture…everything is just so beautiful and AHHHHHHH.