Nirvana in Fire: Eps 47-54 (Final Review)
Yes everyone, my journey with Nirvana in Fire has finally come to an end. I did not have much difficulties parting with the drama—not many withdrawal symptoms—and I feel at peace with the ending. I think this is in part because I watched the drama at a slow pace (rather than marathoning it) and because I accept what happened in the ending. So without further ado, let’s get into the review!
Note: Spoilers ahead.
Let’s start out by talking about Mei Changsu’s ending. This is, after all, what’s on everyone’s mind, right? I understand why many people may feel sad or unsatisfied over the official ending—because obviously, no one wants the main character to die at the end. And people may still feel unsatisfied with the unofficial alternative ending because Mei Changsu isn’t reunited with Jingyan & Co. even though he’s alive. However, I feel that the ending is fitting and appropriate.
First of all, it is obvious from the get-go that Mei Changsu is going to die at the end. We knew about Mei Changsu’s limited lifespan ever since episode 1. We have had 53 episodes to prepare for Mei Changsu’s death—and all throughout those episodes we were constantly reminded of his deteriorating health. On top of that, Mei Changsu decides to go off to the battlefield in episode 54, ignoring all warnings about his health. It is no surprise that he does not survive. In fact, it would’ve been a surprise if he did survive. And even if he miraculously survived (in the alternate ending), there is no guarantee that he can live much longer.
“Jingyan, for me, after the re-trial of the case, it is the end. But for you, it is only the beginning.”
Secondly, I accept Mei Changsu’s ending because I believe he is ready to go. He accomplished his goal, reunited with his loved ones, and was able to live as Lin Shu one last time. For him to live on would be to prolong his pain. For him to live on would be a constant reminder of the past. And now that Mei Changsu has righted the past, it is time for everyone, including himself, to move on into the future. It is time for Mei Changsu to pass on the torch, to let Jingyan & Co. fulfill his vision of a just kingdom. Even though Mei Changsu has passed on, his spirit lives on as people build upon the foundations that he set in place.
Say that Mei Changsu is still alive based on the alternative ending. It implies that Mei Changsu made everyone else believe that he was dead, and then disappeared to live with Lin Chen and Fei Liu. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch considering this would probably be the only way for him to leave without Nihuang and Jingyan going after him and trying to get him to stay. Mei Changsu likely wants to fulfill his promise to the emperor and also…he just wants to rest. Staying in the capital would not be a viable option because he would inevitably get pulled back into politics. (which is bad for his health)
^Someone give me a GIF of this!
I was pleasantly surprised by how much more I got to see of Mei Changsu’s personality in these final episodes. The arrival of Lin Chen (Jin Dong), Mei Changsu’s longtime friend, really livens up the drama. I get a kick out of all his scenes, especially the ones in which he interacts with Fei Liu and Mei Changsu. Lin Chen brings out a different side of Mei Changsu. I mean, Mei Changsu smiles multiple times, smirks and even cracks up! How many times did we see him do this before Lin Chen came? I gotta say, I love the Lin Chen x Mei Changsu bromance!
I also like Lin Chen’s character because he has no qualms with giving Mei Changsu a piece of his mind. I was scared that the two would have a falling out over Mei Changsu’s insistence on going to battle, but at the same time Lin Chen said what really needed to be said. Mei Changsu’s inability to let go is one of his biggest strengths and weaknesses. Though he believes he is doing things out of concern for the greater good of everyone, at the same time the people close to him will get hurt. I could feel Lin Chen’s frustration and anger towards Mei Changsu’s stubbornness.
“Not being Lin Shu, I am not saddened. I have been Mei Changsu for thirteen years. I am used to it. Let the Lin Shu that everyone remembers stay in their memories that way. Isn’t that better?”
“I am still Lin Shu. Even though 12 years have passed, I am still the young marshal of Chiyan Army, Lin Shu! I want to return, return to Chiyan’s battlefield. I want to return! For that is the place where I belong!”
The last aspect of Mei Changsu’s character that I’d like to address is his dual identity. The drama plays around a lot with this concept, with multiple scenes in which Mei Changsu affirms and denies his identity as Lin Shu. Though he speaks of Mei Changsu as a created identity that was a means to an end, he cannot simply discard it once he reaches his goal. To give up one identity would also be to give up the people who were connected to that identity. In the same way, even though he wants his Lin Shu identity to be no more, he also can’t help but cling onto it at the very end of his life.
One of the most memorable parts of these episodes is, of course, the final show-down between the emperor and Mei Changsu. The resounding refrain in these scenes is “Doesn’t the truth matter? Don’t you regret it?”. I echoed the characters’ sentiments and was wondering why the emperor was taking so long to come to a decision. But there are many different reactions to the truth, especially when the truth is ugly. In this case, the emperor wants to deny the ugly truth and refuses to even look at the evidence. I think this is because he cannot come to terms with the consequences of his decisions in such a short time period. In the first part of the show-down, the emperor is experiencing cognitive dissonance, in which suddenly the story that he’s been telling himself for 13 years (that his actions were justified, Prince Qi was a traitor, etc.) is totally wrong. His entire narrative has been overturned.
“It’s not that I was born heartless. As long as you sit on this throne, people will change.”
As for whether the emperor regrets his actions, his final appeal to Mei Changsu on his knees (a big gesture for the emperor there) says a lot. Then again I may be biased because I like the emperor’s character. >_> The emperor also lost a lot because of his actions; his sister, son, good friend and one of his favored concubines. Ironically he suspected everyone–even those who were trustworthy–so much that it led to his downfall. I think he wanted Mei Changsu to turn around one last time, to acknowledge him and show some sign of forgiveness. Also leading up to this scene, you can see the emperor looking at Mei Changsu’s face sort of curiously and inquisitively, as though he is trying to see if traces of Lin Shu are still there. So maybe he wanted to see Mei Changsu/Lin Shu’s face one last time. It is huge that Mei Changsu does not turn around, thus denying him of any forgiveness or chance of seeing him again.
On the topic of the emperor, I really wonder what Jing Fei’s views of him are. Jing Fei has had a constant role all throughout the drama, yet I feel I didn’t get a very deep insight into her mindset. Note that she’s one of the only ones who does not speak out about the Chiyan case when everyone pleads before the emperor. While there are many possibilities as to why she doesn’t speak out, a part of me wonders if she did this out of consideration for the emperor, to not add on to his public humiliation. I think Jing Fei is someone who, even when she is righting a wrong, still wants to allow people to live with dignity.
BTW, Jing Fei becomes the empress dowager by the end, so I guess we can’t call her Jing Fei anymore. Does anyone know her actual name?! I’ve only been calling her by her title this whole time…
These final episodes show a lot more of the Nihuang x Mei Changsu OTP. Honestly I haven’t felt that much for them because I have always been more interested in the power plays than in the romance in NIF. I’m glad that the drama didn’t let the romance overshadow the politics or make Nihuang into a damsel in distress/love-blind. The thing I do like about her relationship with Mei Changsu is that they don’t need words to communicate and they are already past the honeymoon/lovey dovey stage. They are close companions and a source of strength for each other, but both of them also accept that things cannot go back to the way things used to be. (Though Nihuang has wanted to leave and start a new life elsewhere before, I think she knew it was unrealistic.)
“In fact in many people’s eyes, when he [Lin Shu] returned to the Capital, he had changed into a completely different person. But in my heart, he has always and will always be the most radiant boy of Jinling City. With an unchanging pure heart that will never perish.”
I really appreciated Nihuang’s quote (above) because it helped me better understand her perspective. I think Nihuang plays the role of a person who never stops believing in Lin Shu, even after she thought he was dead. Her belief in him and affinity for him goes beyond death, beyond identity changes, and beyond time. Though Lin Shu is not the same as he was before, that doesn’t matter for Nihuang, because she can still see his best qualities, his “unchanging pure heart”.
Last but not least, let’s talk about Jingyan! Jingyan becomes the Crown Prince and of course, later becomes the emperor. He also finds out that Mei Changsu is Lin Shu—thank goodness—and is devastated, but recovers quickly. He lives out his friendship with Lin Shu one last time. The dynamics between the two of them don’t change that much. I feel that Mei Changsu is still holding back because he doesn’t want Jingyan to get too attached or distracted. I really like the last scene where the EMPEROR (aka Jingyan) names the new army after Lin Shu/Mei Changsu. I love how the commemorative name acknowledges both Lin Shu, for who he was 13 years ago, and Mei Changsu, for what he did for the Chiyan army and the country.
- Xia Dong reuniting with her husband–I teared up during this part. It was so touching seeing her reunite with her husband even though I knew little about this couple.
- Princess Liyang playing a big role in the finale–I wasn’t expecting this because I had forgotten all about Xie Yu’s letter. LOL. Props to Princess Liyang for having the guts to bring the letter before the emperor. Good thing the emperor usually doesn’t have good aim when he throws things at people.
- Jingyan got married–His wife is only shown a few times in the last episodes. Jing Fei was the one who chose her, so I assume Jing Fei knew what she was doing. At the end we see that Jingyan and his wife had a child.
- Xia Jiang making a lame comeback–Xia Jiang was the most annoying villain to me. He constantly stirs things up but then fails big time. Stop wasting our time, Xia Jiang!
- Eunuch Gao remains–Eunuchs tend to get overlooked in period c-dramas (unless if a eunuch is a main character). But did I mention before how much I like Eunuch Gao? I liked his interactions with the emperor and how he tried to help out Mei Changsu. At the very end we see he’s still around.
Thank you to all my readers who followed along with my Nirvana in Fire reviews. I enjoyed reading all your comments and discussing the drama with you! For those who are searching for another Chinese drama that is ‘just like Nirvana in Fire,’ I hate to disappoint but I cannot think of any. I generally don’t watch political period c-dramas so I’m not very well-versed in them. I will however, give some recommendations based on what other NIF fans have recommended to me; these are not necessarily similar to NIF but may be worth checking out:
- Battle of Changsha
- Three Kingdoms
- The Disguiser
- Love Me If You Dare
Read more Nirvana in Fire:
- Episodes 1-6 Review
- Episodes 7-18 Review
- Episodes 19-23 Review
- Episodes 24-33 Review
- Episodes 34-46 Review
- Instrumental Theme Song Covers
Lastly, if you need anything to help you laugh, this clip of Fei Liu, Lin Chen and Mei Changsu will do the trick:
Quote translation credit: Viki (English subs)