Nirvana in Fire: Eps 7-18 (Review)

Chinese DramasDrama Reviews

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For some reason, everyone still calls Mei Changsu “Su Zhe” even though they all know that he’s really Mei Changsu.    What’s up with keeping these confusing double names?!  I’ll continue calling him Su Zhe for now.  T_T”

“You know, this pair of hands used to bend bows and tame horses. But now it can only hide in the dark and stir the pot.” – Su Zhe

Lin Shu aka Mei Changsu aka Su Zhe is an interesting character, but it’s hard to get into his mind.  He holds himself back in most all situations and keeps a cool distance between himself and others.  This is understandable considering he is hiding his identity and wants to execute his plans without getting a lot of emotions involved.  Also, since Su Zhe is nearing the end of his life, he may not want to get people’s hopes up.  I mean, imagine the feeling of knowing that someone you thought was dead for 12 years is actually alive…but will die within a few months.  Yet I can’t help but feel saddened by how Su Zhe must carry the burden virtually alone and how he will likely not let himself get fully reconnected with the people who care about him the most.  The flashbacks of Lin Shu all show that he was an outgoing, lively young man–a big contrast with who he is now as Mei Changsu.

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“In this world, there’s no carefree person.  If you have desires and feelings, you won’t be carefree.” – Su Zhe

My favorite Su Zhe scenes are the ones in which he momentarily reveals his true self and emotions. For instance, there’s a scene when Nihuang takes him to the Lin family’s old residence to see if he would react.  (At this point, Nihuang is suspicious of his identity.)  He masks his emotions and leaves–but his troubled expression afterwards shows that visiting his old household revived painful old memories.  And of course, another one of my favorite scenes is when Nihuang confirms that Su Zhe is Lin Shu!!!  No words to describe this scene.  I actually didn’t even see it coming, so when it struck, it hit me hard.  This is the only time when Su Zhe can’t hold back his tears.  I think he can take some solace in knowing that one more person from his past now knows who he really is.  Definitely a cathartic and long-awaited moment.

One of the interesting things about Su Zhe is that he is actually Machiavellian.  Although he is working towards a greater cause–putting a competent and righteous emperor on the throne and serving justice–his methods are not necessarily ethical.  The ends justify the means; Su Zhe is fully prepared to sacrifice his morals and do the dirty work so that his friends (mainly Prince Jing) won’t have to.  He is willing to act like the enemy to defeat the enemy.  This adds a much darker dimension to Su Zhe’s character.

Although I’m rooting for Su Zhe to defeat the Crown Prince & Prince Yu, I admit that I want to see what would happen if he loses control.  For the record, I’m not saying I want him to lose…I just want him to be more challenged.  Up until now Su Zhe has been almost god-like in his power plays.  I think there’s only been one time when someone acts outside of Su Zhe’s predictions–when Prince Yu blows up the Crown Prince’s fireworks factory.  Come on, I want more unexpected things to happen to change things up!  All of the players in this game have their own free-will and ought to have more surprises up their sleeve.  Please let there be a wild card character who will be a tough opponent!

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Now, let me talk about a verrrry important topic in NIF: the bromance & the guy characters!   Dare I say it?  The selection of princes & noblemen in NIF is even better than the selection of princes in Bu Bu Jing Xin.  😛

  • Meng Zhi (Chen Long)–I love his bromance with Su Zhe.  He recognized that Su Zhe was Lin Shu from the very moment he first saw him.  The funny thing about Meng Zhi is that he appears to be an intimidating powerful general, when in fact he’s actually adorable and isn’t the brightest bulb around.  I also like how he welcomed back Lin Shu into his life with open arms, no questions asked.
  • Jingrui (Chen Hao Feng)–Jingrui  is one of my favorites.  I like that he’s goodhearted and truly wants to do what is right.  Unfortunately his family background has put him into a tough moral dilemma.  Jingrui is totally crushed when he finds out that his fathers (Yes, fathers.  He belongs to 2 families at once o_o) are colluding together to kill off some political opponents.  I hope that Jingrui won’t be implicated by his fathers’ actions.  x_x
  • Fei Liu (Wu Lei)–Su Zhe’s friendship with Fei Liu is the closest to a ‘real’ bromance because he really treats Fei Liu like a younger brother.  Some of the only times I’ve seen Su Zhe genuinely smile is when he’s with Fei Liu.
  • Prince Mu (Zhang Xiao Qian; also known as Mu Qing) & Yujin (Guo Xiao Ran)–A new bromance in the makings?  These two are the younger guys in the show, and are both bright eyed and bushy tailed.  They are so funny together.  I think Mu Qing needs to join the Yujin/Jingrui/Su Zhe bromance!

I hope that all the bromance lasts ’til the end.  Just saying.

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“I care not for the views of others.  But the noble souls of the departed are watching. I cannot allow them to think that I, Xiao Jingyan, has succumbed.” -Prince Jing

And on the topic of favorite guy characters, how can I not mention Prince Jing (Wang Kai; also known as Jingyan)?  I know a lot of people are crushing on him a lot, but I’m not quite a HUGE fan (yet).  I know this may sound like blasphemy to some people, but I just haven’t gotten to know his character well enough to be a super Jingyan fan.  It’s more like, I respect that he has unyielding morals and doesn’t put on any airs.  Also, I like rooting for underdog characters so of course, I’m looking forward to seeing how Jingyan can catch up to the Crown Prince & Prince Yu in the fight for the crown.

BTW, has anyone else noticed that Jingyan always looks sorrowful?  :'(  I understand why Su Zhe isn’t revealing his identity to him…but I think Jingyan would be so much happier if he knew the truth…

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Although there are important female characters in NIF, the drama still feels male-dominated. Yes, we have some kick-butt female characters who serve as investigators (Xia Dong), generals (Nihuang) and political advisors (Banruo), but they are still in the minority.  When it comes to the politics, the men are the major players, not the women.  The princes’ wives are virtually nonexistent, aside from Prince Yu’s wife.   Much of women’s power in NIF exists in the domestic sphere and in the Inner Palace.

Some quick thoughts on some of the women in NIF:

  • Banruo (Wang Ou)–She intrigues me because she’s hard to read and has a political agenda of her own.  Although she answers to Prince Yu, she’s likely using him for her own ends.  I want to see what she’ll do when Prince Yu’s faction starts to lose more power.  Will she switch sides?
  • Nihuang–Smart, no-nonsense and loyal.  She won’t hesitate to stand up for herself but also knows when to back down.  I think she will be one of Su Zhe’s most important allies.
  • Xia Dong (Zhang Ling Xin)–I love her action scenes!!!  Xia Dong is tough as nails.  I wonder if she’ll catch wind as to Su Zhe’s real identity since…after all…she’s an investigator.
  • Gong Yu (Zhou Qi Qi)–Seems like she has romantic feelings for Su Zhe?
  • Consort Jing (Liu Min Tao)–Prince Jing’s mom.  She is a quick thinker and knows how to navigate the inner palace politics, although she generally stays out of the fray.  Now that she knows that Prince Jing is aiming for the throne, will she join in the fight against the Empress & Yue Gui Fei?

Overall

I’m happy to say that Nirvana in Fire‘s popularity has sky-rocketed within this past month!  I’m happy that a c-drama is getting more attention in the international drama community, even from people who usually don’t watch c-dramas.  I always secretly rejoice whenever I hear that someone I know is watching the drama, hehehe.

I’m curious to hear from other NIF fans: Who are your favorite characters?  Favorite bromance?  I’d also like to hear about how NIF matches up to the original novel, if anyone has read the novel…

Lastly, please no spoilers in the comments!  Although the drama has finished airing, I haven’t finished watching it yet!

Lang Ya Bang OST

Quote Translation Credit & English subs: Viki

heisui

I'm heisui, an Asian drama blogger and the creator of My Drama Tea. I love stories and writing, so I watch dramas and blog. I especially have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese dramas, and those hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Oh, and I'm Legend of Zhen Huan-obsessed!
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Nirvana in Fire: Eps 19-23 (Review)
  • I’m on episode 31…such a great show. My favorite character is Mei Changsu…how could it not be? Meng Zhi is a close second though for being so cute. I also really fond of Yujin’s Dad…not sure why but he is kind of awesome.

  • I like Fei Liu since he’s such a different character. You can also put me on the boat of “not a very huge fan of Prince Jing” simply because of how much his sense of self can make him inflexible and a “block-head” which I found kind of annoying… Mei Changsu was simply a little “too perfect” in this drama for me in terms of the perfections of his calculations and everything…

    I also like Banruo because she’s a nice mix between “evil” and “good” and I am tired of female characters being polarized between one or the other.

    btw… is you’re new profile image from the opening credits for this? I keep looking at it and just wanted to confirm.

    btw 2… just wondering if you were able to find the alternative ending. I linked it below just in case so don’t watch it until you are ready.

    http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTM1NDg0MzM1Ng==.html?from=s1.8-1-1.2

    • Someone told me that there’s an alternate ending, but I’m holding off on watching it ’til I get to the official ending. I’m watching the episodes in spurts, not all in a huge marathon. Thanks for sharing it!

      Yes, Fei Liu always cracks me up. And his personality is refreshing especially when he’s in an environment where everyone is scheming against each other. I’d like to know more about how MCS saved Fei Liu. Agreed about female characters being polarized. Yue Gui Fei has been consistently portrayed as the stereotypical evil concubine so far. I’m looking forward to seeing Banruo playing her hand in these power plays. I want to see how she can match up against MCS.

      Yup, the butterfly in my avatar is from the opening MV, which I love. 😉

      • It’s not really an alternate ending in the strict sense of things but more of an “addition” I feel… For more about Fei Liu, I haven’t read the books but somebody shared with me some information they pulled online since the drama does not seem to go into detail about his background… let me know if you are interested later. I won’t vouch completely for the correctness of this since I didn’t read it myself… XD

        • It would be lovely if you could shed some light on Fei Liu and Su-gege’s meeting and his past. I’ve search all over the place but I can’t seem to find it. Please help ;v;…

            • SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

              I have not actually read the novel so I am not vouching for the correctness of this entirely but somebody told me that Fei Liu was involved in a group from Japan who would drug children with something that would make them extremely proficient at martial arts but seriously affect them socially. The group was eventually captured and dispatched of but since Fei Liu had not killed yet so he was not captured. Lin Shu found him near death on a trip there and helped nurse him back to health.

              SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

          • *SPOILER WARNING*
            I have read the novel. In brief, Fei Liu had been trapped in Japan by a mystical organization and trained as a ninjia. He had suffered from inhuman treatment there and got a head injury (that is why Fei Liu is kind of “intellectual impairment “). MCS met him in Japan during a trip and brought him back to China. Thus, Fei Liu take MCS as his rescuer. (In the TV drama, the rescuer is Ling Chen but the rest of the story is the same.)
            *END SPOILER*

  • Love NiF very much, I haven’t been able to enjoy any Cdrama in years, finally this one came along stole my heart and give me some confidence in Cdrama…

    It is difficult to choose because I love all the character, bromance and the ladies… but if I have to choose then….

    Most Favorite character: of course Mei Chang Su…. he is one damn sick good-looking guy with a smart and calculative and perfect charisma…. talking about perfect though MCS is not as perfect…. when knives and enemies are coming his way, I worry for the dude so that’s one of his flaws… No Martial art skills
    2nd: Fei Liu
    3rd: Meng Zi
    4th: Jing Rui
    5th: YuJin
    6th: JingYan
    7th: MCS two guard and the JiangZhuo Alliance people…

    Favorite Bromance: Love All the Bromance but most Fav is Mei Chang Su and Meng Zi, 2nd is JingRui and YuJin…

    Favorite Ladies of the court: Ni Huang and Xia Dong….

  • It’s kind of concerning how deep I’ve fallen in the endless hole that is NiF. I started rewatching it while it was airing, and now I’m on my 3rd rewatch, and I’m reading the novel! (And I have a few fanfics lined up in my bookmarks as well) I love watching historical c-dramas a lot, which means I’ve seen a lot of trash…but I’ve also seen a lot of good ones! NiF does have faults (MCS is a little too strong, distinct lack of female characters etc.) but the strengths are so many and acting is SO GOOD that to critique anything is nitpicking…

    As for any differences from the novel, so far I’m picking up on quite a few. For one, Nihuang’s original love interest in the book has been completely deleted from the drama. There’s also a lot more explanation on what exactly is the “Lang Ya Ranking”, and it’s really interesting. How Jingrui & co. meet MCS is also changed. A lot more characterization for many of the characters, and Yujin get’s an IQ boost. I’m not far, but also based on the comments on YT from Chinese fans, there aren’t any major differences (except for NH/MCS….but no one is complaining about that.) If you can believe, the novel is even more tragic than the drama in many ways.

    I had a hard time picking my faves, but now after starting to read the novel, I have to say MCS has stolen my heart. He’s so tragic and kind and heartbreaking and intelligent and selfless etc etc. I can go on about him forever! I don’t see him as too perfect at all – if he were, then he would have stayed away from the court or would have let Jingyan clear his father’s name after he helps him to the throne. The path he chooses to take hurts a lot of people and demands a lot of sacrifice. On that topic, his relationship with Jingyan is so sad and everything about it hurts me. He made the right choice to keep his true identity from Jingyan (bc poor Jingyan, so brash and naive)…but at the same time, the angst levels!!!! That being said, I’m pretty much in love with all the characters here. There are no true villains, which is a good indicator of the level of storytelling here. Marquis Xie says it right, “The one who succeeds is naturally just!” Everyone comes from their own viewpoint and perspectives. Anyway, I’ll stop myself there or else I won’t be able to!

    • WOW already on your 3rd rewatch?!? O_O I haven’t even finished it yet. Eh, I will still critique NIF nonetheless. LOL about Yujin getting an “IQ boost”. Is his original character not so bright? I believe you when you say the novel is more tragic. Chinese tragedies are some of the saddest & painful stories ever, omg.

      I’m not saying MCS is perfect because he’s obviously Machiavellian. What I meant is that his plans go way too smoothly. No matter how brilliant of a strategist he is, there is no way he can plan for every single person’s possible actions especially given that all the actors have their own free-will & possibility for spontaneity.

      • Ah well regarding how MCS’s plans seem to go so well, there was a quote from the original light novel, chapter 69 that went something like this:

        “No one is really more power/smarter than any other, it’s just that this (his revenge) is all that MCS has been thinking about for the last few years. Hence he appears to be more thorough and have counter measures for a lot of things”

        All I can say at this point is to keep watching… 🙂

      • Hmm, perhaps it’s not really mentioned in the movie, but in the novel it’s hinted that MCS has been planning his revenge for at least over a decade. He didn’t just start investigating when LYB named him as the “divine talent”. That, in addition to his family’s close relationship with LYB and his prior knowledge of court politics, is a huge reason why his journey has been smooth sailing so far. He does get the short end of the stick a couple times though (that’ll come up in the future) when everyone starts to see who he’s really supporting.

        Yujin is far more inquisitive in the novel than in the drama. It doesn’t really add up to much (although there’s a lovely conversation between him and Jingrui about the nature of MCS and his relationship with others that isn’t in the drama) because he obviously keeps it hidden.

        Yeah…it’s probably just because I like to put dramas on in the background and I don’t need subtitles. I’m not 100% paying attention all the time ;P so I still find out little things I missed here and there.

        • I’m curious as to whether you will ever draw anything NIF related. And also what you think about the drama’s aesthetics considering you come from an art background. I wonder how much MCS is able to anticipate in his plans though. Crisis & risk management can only go so far. I would like to see him improvising more.

          • I have a lot of things on my plate and we’ll have to see if my interest in NiF can outlast the semester! Anything I make will definitely just be a small side project though.

            Coming from an art/design BG, I really only have praise for NiF. The composition in a lot of shots is just really great. There are nice moments of silence in the pacing and the neutral palette is really nice. It makes Jingyan really pop in the later moments when he’s wearing dark red. And ofc MCS very white/neutral color palette just immediately draws attention to him, esp with all the darker backdrops. Banruo’s eyeliner though….it’s something small but so outside of the aesthetics of this drama. Not many c-dramas (esp palace ones) have this sort of quiet color palette. I appreciate it a lot. I even showed some of my classmates the trailer and oohing and aahing over the cinematography.

            Hmmm, well I realize that MCS’ character is an archetype that I’m quite partial to so his “overpowered”-ness doesn’t bother me like it should. All I can say is, keep watching! It only gets better.

  • I loved it! I powered through without actually fast forwarding any scenes. All the characters come alive and are so well acted. The color and outfits are gorgeous. No plots are wasted and every incidents were carefully planned by smart characters. The reveal of Su Zhe identity to the princess even caught me by surprise. I’d have to say I wanna see more bromance from Su Zhe and Jing Yan. It doesn’t need to return to its former glory but would love it if JIng Yan finds out and they’d have this long deep talk with some hugging please! I am quite impressed by Wang Kai and I’ve now moved on to watch his other series Love Me If You Dare, where he’s this totally different person, modern and happy and all, and actually love that he has the acting range to do it.

    • I have only finished the first 11episodes and by far my favorite guy character is Prince Jing and FeiLiu. Jing Yan really act like a man who served in the army, I mean you do see the way he moves. And FeiLiu OMGGGGG he’s adorable!!! I’m Actually impressed by Wang Kai, he ‘s sooooooo good in the Disguiser, but in NiF,he’s just another person. Sometimes it’s pretty funny to see NiF and the Disguiser at the same time because these two almost share the same crew, though I enjoy NiF a lot , I still have to recommend the Disguiser!! Viki is now having it subbed in English and the first 2eps are already available!! Oh thank god finally!

  • I agree with you that MCS is portrayed a little too perfect, and I don’t always fancy his Machiavellian way (case in point with Xiao Jingrui). Yes, he’s been planning it for years, but there’s gotta be something that is out of his control. No, not the revelation of his identity, but just one of his plans.

    While I DO think the female characters here are way better written than in most period/wuxia dramas (strong, independent, smart, not bitchy towards each other, not competing over men), I also tend to agree that they don’t serve much to the story. And here’s the blasphemous part: out of all the female characters, ironically it is Nihuang whose identity is a little more than the hero’s love interest. The audience is told in the beginning (through dialogues) that she’s a seasoned general, she went to battles, she’s in the Lang Ya list, etc. But so far I don’t really see it. On the other hand, we see Xia Dong and Banruo doing things in their respective capacity as the investigator and the strategist.

    • Hmm I think that even the female characters like Xia Dong, Banruo and even Nihuang are portrayed in a way that relates to marriage/romance. Nihuang’s main side-story was all about her marriage competition & Yue Gui Fei drugging her. Xia Dong often refers to her deceased husband. Banruo’s scenes tend to have underlying hints at how her and Prince Yu’s relationship seems to be ambiguous. (ex. her giving Prince Yu a massage, etc.) Their identities are partly defined relative to men.

  • Hey Heisui! It’s been a while since I posted a comment on this site and it’s great to see you’re reviewing my current favourite drama! 😀

    I finished NIF last week, so I’ll try not to write any spoilers. Overall, this is an excellent drama with excellent cast, costumes, and production designs. I enjoyed the plot too, but like you said, it was such smooth sailing. Even if something did not start as Su Zhe expected, it will usually end in his favour (Which is not bad, since he IS our protagonist…) but it takes some excitement out. I think the worse wildcard in Su Zhe’s life is actually Prince Jing, since he can be such a blockhead lol.

    I like all our protagonist group (Su Zhe, Nihuang, Fei Liu etc..) and I can’t really pick favourites.
    I like the bromance of FL and SZ, YJ and JR, but my favourite is the bromance of Jing Yan and Lin Shu. All the flashbacks and the pain that Jing Yan still shows prove they had a reallyyy deep friendship.

    I didn’t exactly read the novel, but I listened to the audio book for around 20 chapters. The beginning was all in JR’s perspective and it detailed how he met SZ and became friends with him. It was very different from the drama (which skipped all the introductions) and I don’t know if it’s the version I listened to (there are 3-4 editions of the novel), but the relationship between JR and SZ was very BLish. I felt like they were falling in love as the chapters went on. I have nothing against BL, but it deviated from my view of the drama. That’s why I stopped listening before I got to the main plot of Su Zhe’s revenge.

    Overall, great drama, and I look forward to your reviews Heisui!

    Btw, did you watch Hua Qian Gu? It was also insanely popular in China a while back.

    • Hey min, good to hear from you! Lol you’re not the only one who has mentioned that Prince Jing is a blockhead. I haven’t gotten to his blockhead moments yet, but at least now I’m prepared for them. 😛 WOW it sounds like Jingrui & Su Zhe’s bromance is super deep in the novel. Eh I didn’t know there are so many editions of the novel. I tend to get confused between all the different versions in c-ent…what’s up with having cut & uncut versions and alternate endings for so many c-dramas. Aiyah.

      No, I haven’t seen HQG; I heard from some people who watched it about how the plot is kinda crazy so I decided not to watch it. How’d you like it?

    • About it being BL-ish, that’s actually because the author apparently originally posted her story on a BL forum, but as her story progressed and the plot grew more complicated and serious she revamped the story such that it was purely plot driven and removed the BL aspects of the novel and moved it to another forum to continue posting 😛

      As a loyal Hu Ge fan who picked up the book and was thoroughly in love with it after he recommended it in 2012 after fans recommended it to him (way before he was cast!) it really is very cool witnessing how popular it became as a drama! I have some parts I wished were more developed on (like i wish there was more characterization of Lin Shu beyond Jing Wang’s flashbacks and perspective of him and mentions of him by characters)(but on the other hand I also admire how they are able to effectively provide characterisations of ppl like Lin Shu and Qi Wang just through dialogue? ahh dilemnas haha) and the way Wang Kai interpreted Jing Wang’s feelings towards Lin Shu/Mei Changsu and subsequently portrayed them wasn’t how I imagined it to be (though I do think he acted well!) but differences of intepretation so 😛

      But overall it really was an amazing adaptation that was really such an obvious labour of effort and dedication 😀

      • Ok that makes sense. Thanks for the explanation! 😀 So the novel started as a web novel, right? I think it’s really cool that Chinese web novels have been successful enough to even be made into dramas. 😀

  • Unfortunately, I can not find a way to obscure the text… Unless you can find a way to do so, I probably will not be able to write anything since Heisui wants to avoid spoilers…

  • I really love this drama. A LOT. I love going thru all your comments here. Thank you all for commenting. My fav characters are
    1 Mei chang su
    2 Fei lui
    3 Meng zhi
    4 Prince Jing yan
    5 Master Lin chen
    6 Emperor and Head Eunuch
    7 Jing Rui and Yujin
    8 Princess Ni huang
    9 Jing yan’s mom, Consort Jing
    10 MCS’s retainers, Li Gang and Jing Phing.

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