It’s kinda hard to describe it, but these episodes feel all rosy and are sorta like the calm before the storm. Unlike Hua Fei who ruled with an iron fist, Zhen Huan takes a different approach to establishing her power in the harem. First of all she smacks down the arrogant and childish Qi Pin all in one swoop to send the message to all of the younger concubines that she is BOSS and not to be messed with. In general the younger (read: also the ‘newer’) concubines are the troublemakers which is why it’s so important that Zhen Huan set the record straight with their leader Qi Pin. Sucks for Qi Pin that even though she had a couple years to gain more of the emperor’s favor in Zhen Huan’s absence, she still cannot outsmart Zhen Huan and easily gets a taste of her own medicine.
I love seeing Zhen Huan as one of the top concubines because she is more of a leader figure in the harem rather than a competitor. (Although she still faces competition from Ling Rong, etc.) She takes in some of the less favored concubines like Xing Gui Ren and Ning Gui Ren under her wing, not by using manipulation or threats (Hua Fei’s approach) but instead by showing that she’s on their side. And of course, she’s winning these concubines over to her side for future allies!! Bwahahaha!
As for Zhen Huan’s relationship with the emperor, maybe it is just me…but I’d say it’s much more subdued than before. Before, Zhen Huan had faith in the emperor and could even pour out her pain and sorrow to him. Now, her interactions with him are much more tactful and controlled. There seems to be a purpose behind everything–every gesture, every word, every smile. She has perfected her persona as the emperor’s concubine with a confident smile and her commanding composure.
But……is she happy? To me the answer would be no. Zhen Huan’s happy and confident persona is almost always a facade. There are so many moments when she shows a different kind of vulnerability that I feel like I haven’t seen from her before. It’s this sort of understanding that even though she has a lot of power, there are many other things outside of her control. She’s stronger than ever and yet also so very limited by her responsibilities and the people around her. For instance, Zhen Huan wants to reconnect with her daughter but cannot because of Jing Fei. She also wants to protect Jin Xi but cannot even do anything when Jin Xi is demoted and forced to do menial labor. I think the only times Zhen Huan is genuinely happy is when she is with Mei Zhuang and Duan Fei, when she can forget the pretenses and just have a normal conversation with her good sisters.
Jing Fei really stands out in these few episodes. I like how the drama tries to show her motivations in going against Zhen Huan and has a lot of build-up before her betrayal. Jing Fei does not want to hurt Zhen Huan but she will do anything to make sure that she does not part with her daughter Meng Yue. I guess I have a thing for the mother-daughter relationships in the harem (like with Cao Gui Ren) because it shows how devoted the mothers are. Also if you think back to the way Jing Fei was before she became the mother of Meng Yue, she was so much more unhappy back then. Now she is no longer lonely since she has a daughter to love and care for..Meng Yue is her only happiness, how could she give up her happiness to Zhen Huan who seems to have everything she could ever want?
Thankfully we have Duan Fei to act as the mediator between Jing Fei and Zhen Huan. I think Duan Fei would’ve been the best choice for one of the heads of the harem simply because she is the most “moderate” in her views. She is not biased towards anyone and has a good view of the big picture. She is fit to advise the emperor in his difficult issues but isn’t necessarily manipulating him in her own best interests. (whereas Zhen Huan has a personal agenda)
Aside from Jing Fei, Mei Zhuang also steals the limelight. My favorite scene is when the emperor visits Mei Zhuang and offers to reconcile with her. This whole scene is PERFECT, so bittersweet and full of pent-up feelings that have been stewing for YEARS. Finally, the emperor is candid and vulnerable in front of Mei Zhuang and talks openly with her about their relationship. Of course, this takes getting him a bit drunk to finally talk so directly to her but it is better than nothing, right? I think it is significant that the emperor is finally offering Zhen Huan an olive branch because usually he just sweeps everything under the rug and avoids the concubines who remind him of unpleasant memories. Part of me wonders why the emperor chose this particular time to finally reapproach Mei Zhuang but unfortunately we never get to see his reasoning behind this decision. (Although I was kinda thinking throughout this scene, UHHHH COULDN’T THE EMPEROR HAVE SAID THIS…OH, I DON’T KNOW………….5 YEARS AGO!?!?!)
Pretty much all the dialogue is gold in this scene, but you just gotta love the moment when Mei Zhuang politely says she doesn’t dare to be angry with the emperor, but the emperor dismisses it and says he knows that is a lie. And the moment when the emperor offers his hand to Mei Zhuang and she slowly accepts it. EVERYTHING IS SO PERFECT. Mei Zhuang is holding back so much just as she always has been, trying to be as reserved as possible and hiding her disappointment and resentment towards the emperor. So sad.
“I’ve given up on you. Why did you have to tell me so much? Your majesty, although Hua Fei framed me, but you were the one who disappointed me.”
When the emperor leaves, Mei Zhuang stands alone in her room, defeated. It looks like she has the whole world weighing down on her shoulders. She has this awesome monologue in which you can tell her old feelings of disappointment and brokenhearted are coming back to her. She was so set on forever excluding the emperor from her life, that now his suddenly coming back is only confusing her.
“Just who am I? Does he know about my feeling? He won’t care about me even if he knows.”
The above quote also gets kinda trippy because the “he” is ambiguous. Does it mean the emperor or Dr. Wen? Perhaps it could be both–she doesn’t know who she is to the emperor, nor does she know who she is to Dr. Wen. The emperor and Dr. Wen do not understand Mei Zhuang’s feelings of resentment towards the emperor & unconditional love towards Dr. Wen. :'(
“Aren’t you and I the same kind of people? We hurt ourselves to protect our beloved.”
Long story short, Mei Zhuang & Dr. Wen get drunk, it fades out, and then Mei Zhuang gets pregnant with Dr. Wen’s baby. O____O Yes, it sounds very implausible and actually at first I didn’t even get what happened until Mei Zhuang & Dr. Wen were talking about keeping the baby. O______O Only then did I put the pieces together!!! So Mei Zhuang decides to keep her baby and gets back together with the emperor. Kinda funny that Mei Zhuang basically did the same thing that Zhen Huan did–after they got pregnant with their lover’s child, they both got back together with the emperor so that they could pass off the child as the emperor’s. Heh.
I guess the awesome thing about Mei Zhuang is that she obviously could’ve won back the emperor’s favor way earlier if she wanted to. But she didn’t. Instead she tried to go on her own path apart from the emperor no matter how unhappy she was. That, I think, is respectable in that she was not dependent on the emperor. She only gets back together with the emperor as her final resort, the only solution to protect her child.
Sometimes when I see Zhen Huan bravely taking on the rest of the harem by herself, it strikes me when I realize how lonely Zhen Huan must be without anyone to watch her back. Now that Mei Zhuang is back by her side and is favored by the emperor, I’m sure Zhen Huan must feel at least more at peace and less lonely. Mei Zhuang & Zhen Huan are really the perfect duo–Mei Zhuang is calming and refreshing while Zhen Huan is more witty and alluring. (<alluring is not quite the word I’m looking for but I can’t think of anything else.) LZH is much funner to watch when it is not only Zhen Huan who has a lasting impression on the emperor. Anyways SAVOR THESE MOMENTS OF SISTERHOOD because they will not last long :'((((((((
I’ve been taking waaaaaaay too many screenshots throughout these episodes, haha! Zhen Huan’s headpiece is amazing, it’s like with every different angle I HAVE to take a screenshot of it because it is so beautiful.
I really wish they would show more backshots of the hairstyles because some of them have decorations on the back part as well. I think it is absolutely gorgeous. As you can see in the pictures, there is a part of the hat that sorta loops around to the back. This is one of my favorite headpieces because it is so intricate!
*Edit 10/16/13: Updated with different collages & updated review.