Nirvana in Fire: Eps 19-23 (Review)
I knew that Jingrui’s story arc would be a doozy, but I didn’t know that it would be THIS intense. There are a lot of secrets revealed–Jingrui’s birth secret, Li Yang and Xie Yu’s dark past, and a clue to the massacre 12 years ago–thus resulting in major upheavals in the characters’ lives. Truly cathartic, angsty and life-changing for all those involved. Things will never quite be the same after this. Although I tend to dislike a lot of angst, I actually enjoyed this story arc the most out of all the other story arcs so far. I like how it shows divided loyalties, switching sides, and the consequences of Mei Changsu’s schemes.
Here’s a “quick” run-down on Jingrui’s very complicated backstory: Jingrui belongs to two families–the Zhous and the Xies. His two mothers gave birth to sons at the same time, after which one of their newborn sons died in an ‘accident’. However, they were unable to determine whose son had died. So the two families decided to ‘share’ the remaining son aka Jingrui.
The big reveal is that Jingrui is the bastard son of Li Yang (wife of Xie Yu) and the king of another country. Xie Yu hired an assassin (who happened to be Gongyu’s dad) to kill Li Yang’s illegitimate child, but the assassin messed up and killed the Zhous’ son instead. Li Yang knew about this but stayed silent about it and played along with the facade of sharing Jingrui. Xie Yu used Jingrui as a link with the Zhou family to further his own political goals.
WOW. Talk about a confusing backstory! Since I didn’t read the novel or any spoilers, I had no idea that Jingrui’s birth secret would be this big and…well…messed up. Then again, this is a c-drama and c-dramas are great at coming up with the most tragic scenarios ever.
All I can say about Jingrui is that I feel bad for him. He’s on the top of the world at the start of his birthday celebration, only to have his world come crashing down for him that night. The saddest part is when he falls to his knees and bawls in Zhou-mom’s (forgot her name, oops) arms as Li Yang tearfully watches on. :'( I’m nervous that Jingrui won’t recover from this.
“If I have to die, I want to die willingly.”
Although I call these episodes Jingrui’s story arc, it could also be considered Li Yang and Xie Yu’s story arc. These two really shone the most in these episodes. First of all, Xie Yu (Liu Yi Jun) is a darn good villain. He is an example of someone who takes everything to the extremes, to the point of self-destruction. On the surface, many of Xie Yu’s traits would actually be considered to be ‘good’–ambition, determination, and refusing to give up. However, he takes all of these values too far, especially in combination with his greed, hunger for power and disregard for people’s lives. Xie Yu is so ambitious that he even uses his own sons (Xiebi & Jingrui) as pawns and forces Li Yang into marriage, so determined to achieve his goals that he kills off anyone in his path, and so unable to give up that he digs his own grave.
Li Yang (Zhang Yan Yan) really surprised me in these episodes. I already knew that she’s resourceful and proactive, but she really went into action to protect her family and the Zhous. Seriously, she:
- threatens suicide to prevent Xie Yu from fighting with Prince Yu
- holds a knife to Prince Yu’s breastplate to protect the Zhou family
- holds a knife to Xie Yu’s neck and suggests that he dies to protect his honor
O_O The thing that interests me the most about Li Yang though, is the interesting contrast of how she both wields and limits her power in her relationship with Xie Yu. As demonstrated in these episodes, Li Yang does have the power to protect those who are dear to her. She also has the power to intervene in some palace affairs such as in Yue Gui Fei’s plot to drug Nihuang. However, her marriage has a restrictive nature because Xie Yu has more hard power. While it’s not explicitly stated, it’s implied that Xie Yu raped Li Yang while she was drugged to force the marriage. On top of that, Xie Yu can dangle the knowledge that he didn’t (but could) follow through with Jingrui’s assassination over Li Yang’s head for all these years. Xie Yu definitely has more power to instill fear in and exert control over Li Yang.
The other thing that intrigues me is how Li Yang has grown to care about Xie Yu despite all of his wrongdoings. It must be hard for her to cope with being the wife of the man who raped her and ordered an assassination on her baby. I have no idea how she survived acting out this lie all these years. Yet, Li Yang seems to truly care about Xie Yu and feels a sense of duty towards him as his wife.
Mei Changsu orchestrates this plan despite knowing how much it would hurt Jingrui because he believes that this is the only way to bring down Xie Yu. A part of me wonders if he befriended Jingrui in the first place because of his identity as Xie Yu’s son. Is it really a coincidence that Mei Changsu is the friend of one of his enemy’s sons?
“People can only be betrayed by friends, enemies would never have the chance to.” – Mei Changsu
Whether or not Mei Changsu had ulterior motives in befriending Jingrui, he is visibly affected by the incident and looks like he feels bad that Jingrui had to go through this as a result of his scheme. I wonder if Jingrui will suspect Mei Changsu’s involvement, and whether their friendship will survive. :'(
On the bright side, I love all of the combinations of characters that we’re getting to see in these episodes! It’s epic seeing Jingrui, Xia Dong, Meng Zhi, Fei Liu, Gongyu, Qing Yao, Zhao-mom and Zhao-dad all fighting together to fend off Xie Yu’s soldiers! Definitely one of my favorite action scenes so far! I see a new bromance forming between Meng Zhi, Jingyan and Mei Changsu. Ohohoho! And there’s even a partnership between Xia Dong & Meng Zhi. Really, can’t all these characters just join together to form Team Mei Changsu already?!
I think it’ll be hard for NIF to top Jingrui’s story arc; though I hear that the future episodes are just as good. I’m glad that Jingrui has gotten a lot of screen time in Nirvana in Fire because he’s one of my favorites. Admittedly I’m still kinda confused about the entire backstory because it’s always being updated with new clues and it involves so many characters. T_T It’s easy to miss details here and there.
On a side note, for those who are still itching for more of the cast members in NIF, you may want to check out the currently airing fall c-dramas Love Me If You Dare (starring Wang Kai as a supporting character), Good Times (starring Hu Ge as the lead), and The Disguiser (has both Wang Kai and Hu Ge).
*Update: Thank you for everyone explaining who drugged Li Yang.
Note: No spoilers in the comments please.
Quote Translation Credit & English subs: Viki