Nirvana in Fire: Eps 34-46 (Review)

Chinese DramasDrama Reviews

Hello readers, long time no post!  I am taking my dear time watching and writing about Nirvana in Fire; most recently, I suffered from writer’s block and thus did not pump out this review ASAP.  My memory isn’t as fresh as it was a month ago, so here’s a quick refresher on the major plot points from episodes 34-46:

  • Mei Changsu carries out his rescue plan to save a survivor of the Chiyan army (Wei Zheng).
  • Xia Jiang detains, interrogates, and poisons Mei Changsu.
  • Jing Fei (who is later promoted to the rank of Gui Fei) roots out one of Banruo’s spies.
  • Prince Yu is demoted.  He finds out he’s the illegitimate child of a Hua princess, who was killed when the emperor wiped out her tribe.
  • Prince Yu rebels against the emperor.  Epic battle ensues.  He fails.
  • Prince Yu begs for his wife and unborn child to be spared and commits suicide.  However, his wife commits suicide before the emperor can pardon her.
  • Xia Jiang is arrested and eventually runs away from prison.
  • Mei Chang Su makes contact with another survivor of the Chiyan massacre: Xia Dong’s husband.
  • Xie Yu dies.
  • All throughout this time, Jingyan is increasingly suspicious of MCS’s identity, especially after Jing Fei cries in Jingyan’s presence!

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Prince Yu is one of the characters that stood out the most to me during these episodes, and rightfully so, considering that this story arc is all about his inevitable demise.  Prince Yu is a shell of his former self by the end of his life.  He starts out as a charismatic, proud and confident man, only to become increasingly disillusioned and desperate.   He vacillates constantly between hope and despair, grasping onto what little control he has left.  I actually feel bad for him–although I don’t agree with his actions–because I can see how his entire life has unraveled.   It’s sad to see Prince Yu realize that there was no way his father would let a bastard son become emperor, and thus that his entire battle for the throne was pointless.  Honestly, when I first heard Banruo share Prince Yu’s birth secret I was thinking, “um wouldn’t he just give up on the throne then?  How is this a motivational speech, Banruo?”

Well I was wrong, because Prince Yu decides to risk it all by rebelling against the emperor.  o_o  At this point Prince Yu becomes the wild card, a somewhat unpredictable enemy.  He goes all in because he believes it’s all or nothing.  If he wins, he will preserve himself, his family and what’s left of his allies.  If he loses or if he does nothing, he believes that he and his family will die.  (Which isn’t entirely irrational considering that historically, new emperors/kings have wiped out possible opponents / members of the royal family.)  Either way, the outcome is the same if he doesn’t rebel; rebellion is his only chance at winning.

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That being said, Prince Yu deals out a lot of damage before he goes down.  It’s no surprise that he failed, but there was a lot of suspense in this final showdown because I wasn’t sure how far he’d get.  It is epic & intense watching the battle between Prince Yu & Co. and the Emperor & Co., especially because a lot of the characters we’ve gotten to be so familiar with are in full-on combat.  X_X  I’ve gotten used to watching characters like Meng Zhi and Feng Liu duking it out in action scenes but this is on a whole new level.

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Emperor: “If this happened today, and happened to you, you would have made the same decision.  Wouldn’t you?”

Jinghuan: “Are you saying you have not even a bit of regret?”

Emperor: “Son, when a chess piece is of no use, when it’s time to give it up for the person playing the game, would they still ponder over the decision?”

My favorite scene in episodes 34-46 is the final confrontation between the emperor and Jinghuan.  I love the quote above because it says so much about the emperor and the drama as a whole.  The emperor rationalizes his decision to eliminate the Hua clan as necessary and something anyone would’ve done in his position.  His words “you would have made the same decision, wouldn’t you?” put Prince Yu on the same level as him.  Though Prince Yu did not betray his wife or kill off one of his sons, he did cause the deaths of many innocent civilians for the sake of power and control.

“Like father, like son” is usually used in a positive way, but in the emperor’s case, it’s simply ironic.  The Emperor took the throne by force, just like how Prince Yu rebels.  So this entire situation is like deja vu for the emperor, except this time he’s the one on the defensive.  o_O  (If anyone knows more about the emperor’s backstory, please let me know!)  Ultimately the emperor is a father who still cares about his son, Jinghuan.  Though he claims that he gets rid of chess pieces without any hesitation, he clearly hesitates over how to punish Jinghuan.  The emperor’s reaction to Jinghuan’s suicide shows how much he cares about him.

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The emperor’s words also relate to Mei Changsu.  Mei Changsu is similar to the Emperor and even to Prince Yu in that they must act decisively without emotion and sacrifice people for the bigger picture.  Please, do not paint Mei Changsu in the light of a righteous hero who can do no wrong.  He is all too aware of his deeds and has said explicitly that he will become like his enemies in order to win against them.  The truth is that lives have been sacrificed, friendships foregone, and morals put on the sideline for the sake of justice.

One big reveal in these episodes is that Mei Changsu was poisoned during the Chiyan massacre.  It was during his recovery that his appearance changed dramatically because they had to ‘move his skin and bones’ or something.  (Don’t quote me on that, ok.) Mei Changsu bears pain both physically and emotionally; his body is a constant tangible reminder of his past and his mission.  The poison and its effects may represent Mei Changsu’s past; in that sense, his past is literally killing him day by day.

On a side-note, some people have questioned: How in the world did the doctors achieve the ‘moving skin and bones’ in the ancient times?  Was this plastic surgery or what?!  I haven’t read the novel, so I don’t know the details of Mei Changsu’s operation (or whatever it was).  However this drama is fictional, not historical, and we cannot assume that the operation was realistically possible in ancient times.

Lastly, on the topic of Mei Changsu, I’d highly recommend you read the quote below to get a better understanding of his character.  To me Mei Changsu is a character that is larger than life and difficult to connect to.  I simply cannot relate that much to him…but I suppose he’s not meant to be relatable:

“I am often asked about my character’s relationship with other characters. No one ever asked what is the relationship between MCS and Lin Shu. Yes, they are the same person, with a different appearance and identity. However, when I am acting MCS, I have a different interpretation. I did not treat him as a person. This is because I feel that we cannot understand him as a human being after his ‘rebirth’ as MCS. He should be interpreted as the embodiment of the 70,000 ghosts of the Chiyan army, carrying their desires for vengeance. He returns to the imperial city as a symbol of justice. He does not have personal feelings and personal life. The only thing he wants is to clear the name of his army by pinning all their hopes onto Prince Jing to continue the path of Prince Qi and foster a court that is governed with law and righteousness. When this is done, he will vanish. Hence, he does not exist as a human being in the whole process.” [italics inserted]

– Hu Ge

(Big thanks to one of my readers, LFS, for translating this in the comments)

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At this point I’m just ready for Prince Jing to find out the truth about Mei Changsu’s identity.  I assume it’ll happen last minute for maximum angst, but gosh, I just want it to happen now!  My second favorite scene in these episodes is when Jing Fei meets Mei Changsu face-to-face for the first time.   I feel that Mei Changsu experiences heartbreak every time someone from his past finds out that he is Lin Shu.  He has to see the pain on people’s faces and old wounds reopened when they relive moments from the past and realize all that he has gone through.

Overall

Now that Prince Yu is out of the picture, the only opponent left is the emperor, right?  I’m verrrry curious as to how Mei Changsu will orchestrate the emperor’s downfall.  I highly doubt that Mei Changsu will let the emperor off, especially since he’s one of the most important figures in the Chiyan case.  I wonder if the drama will be able to top the Prince Yu vs. the emperor/Prince Jing battle though, it was just so epic. O:

Lastly, I’d like to share a couple of resources for Nirvana in Fire fans:

  • Character Relationships Chart: Considering the sheer amount of characters and the extensive backstory for NIF, a character chart is essential.  I finally found an English version, made by the drama blogger Dramakite.  I highly recommend it.
  • Wang Kai International: For all those who just can’t get enough of Wang Kai, you may want to check out this international fan site.

Aging of a Beauty – Erhu Cover

I recently stumbled upon an erhu cover of one of the most popular songs off of the NIF soundtrack, Aging of a Beauty.  This is by the Youtuber YungAn’s Erhu Fantasy who has also covered other c-drama, k-drama, and movie songs.  And yes, he even did an Attack on Titan erhu cover.  How awesome is that.

Note: No spoilers in the comments please.

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 47-54 (Final Review)
  • The actor for Prince Yu was one of my favorites. I felt like his acting was pretty strong throughout. It’s just kind of sad that based on the character he played, he does not seem to be getting as much attention… :/

  • Thanks for doing this “recap” and detailled analysis. I decided to drop it after all because I just couldn’t get myself in the mood to watch it. It is a long drama and it takes me a bit of effort to get into it completely ^^
    When I first checked the drama, I thought Wang Kai was Prince Yu (haha, since it is the first drama with him I watched and people always said he is the handsome prince…) Anyway, I like how the story is going. I feel like Mei Changsu’s main role was not to eliminate Prince Yu, but all the bad guys who plotted the massacre before. There must be a lot of show down to come!
    As for Mei Changsu, he is such a complex character who is so unrelatable from my pov. Hu Ge is really the star of this drama for portraying him so well.

    • I call it a review. 🙂 Yeah, I watch NIF in chunks and not in a marathon. I usually take a break after watching a few episodes. Apparently MCS got rid of Prince Yu not only because he was in the way of Prince Jing, but also because he played a part in the Prince Qi case.

  • beautiful.

    no matter how many times i watched that drama or read the reviews, NIF is still a beautiful drama with so many great characters. Both protagonist and antagonist.

    I could understand MCS’s point of view. i used to hate the ending cuz it wasn’t fair enough yet it was the best one. Ah.. this drama deserves every single praise!

    and thank you for the WKI <3

  • Thank you for your nice post. 🙂 I find it amazing how we cannot really relate to MCS but still feel for him. His heartbreak T.T

  • These episodes (inc ep 33 too, which is one I have been rewatching a lot) are pretty much the best of the entire NIF in my opinion. The battle scenes were so intense, I’m constantly wondering how they were going to get out of those tough situations. I felt bad for Prince Yu too, before Prince Jing came into the picture, he was fighting with the Crown Prince for like 10 years already and suddenly realising he actually had no chance at all. The way the Emperor called him the son of a chess piece = still a chess piece was a really memorable scene.

    Really loved the Hu Ge quote by the way. 🙂

    • I really wonder whether the next episodes can top these ones. They were definitely the most intense so far. Now that you mention it I think it’s also sad that the emperor and his son ended on bad terms. This will probably haunt the emperor for a long time..

      • Since they keep mentioning how Prince Yu was most like his father, I guess the Emperor should’ve understood exactly where his son was coming from… how very ironic the Emperor was saved by the son who is the opposite of him and whom he ignored for all these years…

      • Hi Heisui.. Thank you so much for the recommendation… Highly appreciated it… Now that I have googled so many info about NIF.. I finally understand… This drama really intrigues me in a good way.. One of the facts that moved me was when I found our that Qing Fei is actually the adopted sister of MCS’s mother.. No wonder she broke down when she knew MCS’s health condition.. I could only imagine how much “debt” she had to her adopted family… And even the guilt she feels when she knows that she and her son were “survived” aka not killed..
        And, I also finally understand why the two of them weren’t favored by the Emperor..

        Wow.. This drama still feels heavy in my heart.. Even heavier when I stopped watching BBJX.. Don’t know when will I recover…. :((((

  • Finally, I’ve caught up with you! This drama has seen my whirlwind return to that epic endeavor: the marathon! Although I try not to marathon more than 8 eps in any one sitting (it’s difficult, it truly is).

    Prince’s Yu’s narrative was so tragic to watch- especially with how he goes, begging even in death for the lives of his wife/child. It just reminded me how amazing this drama is that I can feel so much for the ‘villain’.

    Although, part of that is because – and I like how you said this above – Mei Changsu is not exactly the perfect hero in all this. I am fascinated by him, his mind is a genius, calculated and sharp and so far nothing has beaten him. He even manages to make use of unexpected situations. But if he wasn’t aligned with the character we (the audience) is made to think is the best moral candidate, MCS would be absolutely terrifying. Several dozen episodes back when he was was recovering from another bout of his illness, and as he was sitting up, Fei Lu was fussing about him, asking him if he would recover, or something. MCS’s answer kind of blew me away. I don’t remember it now but he said roughly: every strike against him will make him harder in the end. (I really wish I had written down the line) but it blew me away. That was not the word of a man merely hardening his heart to push past the nasty stuff of setting up an emperor- that was borderline villainous/pyscho talk.

    Okay, so I still *like* him as a character, but that’s bc I’m always intrigued by character arcs like his, specifically, what the toll will be in the end, if he’ll be as tragic as Prince Yu, or if he already knows /he will be/

    Love your thoughts on commentary on this btw! Okay, ep 47 here I go!

    • Thanks. I still got a ways to go to get to the ending. I wish the drama had shown more of Prince Yu & his wife’s relationship. But I suppose their ending was enough to show how devoted they were to each other. Good point about MCS–yup, if he were on the bad side he would be such a strong villain! O_O

  • Hi,

    I read your reviews on Empresses in the Palace and I liked it, so I come to check on your thoughts on NIF.

    I just want to remind you that Prince Yu’ s wife and son are saved by Mei Changsu.

      • Yes.. The pregnant wife commits suicide before the Emperor got to save her.. Even if he saved her then, I doubt that he will spare the son’s life in the future…
        I am quite touch about the adopted son / father’s love nest over here.. Some how, when the crown prince Qi got poisoned, the Emperor didn’t feel as sad as what He feels towards Prince Yu.. I guess maybe because He feels that he’s the son that really similar to him.. So, it’s a pure love that maybe the only love that the Emperor has..

        • Nope — right after the scene where the Emperor learns that the wife is dead, there is a scene with MCS and Meng Zhi on the hillside, and they discuss how they removed the wife from the prison, replaced her with another woman’s corpse, and sent her to live a simple life in the country.

          Thanks for these recaps — I’m obsessed right now!

          • Really?? I didn’t notice… I have re watched it for the second time and still didn’t get this detail..
            I think, I am going to re watch this for the third time…

            Thank you so much…

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