Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace: Eps 7-9 Review
First of all, props to Zhou Xun for pulling off this pose without poking her eyeball out. I held my breath when her nail guard wandered waaaaaaaaay too close to her eye!! O_O
Episodes 7-9 set off lots of palace scheming. Surprisingly the first new concubine in the harem, Mei Daying (He Hongshan), is already at the center of some of the fights in the harem. Mei Daying appears in ep5 when she uses a trick to catch the emperor’s eye. It’s interesting seeing the emperor’s *cough* tastes and how Mei Daying manipulates them to her advantage. She’s an interesting addition to the harem because she has scheming abilities and a clever tongue. She lands a lot of punches with her clever words alone. But, Mei Daying is definitely gonna get smacked down soon because she is too eager to fight with other concubines and has an arrogant attitude. I totally facepalmed when she insults Xiyue right to her face. Her shocked expression when she gets punished is priceless. Mei Daying is making enemies unnecessarily–she even frames Ruyi!
Note: Mei Daying’s full name is Bai Ruiji. She’s almost never called Ruiji in the drama.
The other main antagonist in these episodes is Xiyue/Gao Gui Fei, which is no surprise. One of my first impressions of Xiyue was that her bark was worse than her bite. Well, she proves me wrong in these episodes. She is downright scary. There’s a great scene when Hailan’s maid talks back to her and she immediately lashes out in a rage. Gotta hand it to Tong Yao, I noticed even her nostrils were flaring! O_O The scary part is Xi Yue’s complete lack of remorse. There’s like a total disconnect where she can’t see the extent of her harmful actions. Xiyue even acts like she is wronged after her own scheme (in which she frames Hailan) fails and she gets rightfully punished. Is she in denial or does she really believe that her proclaimed enemies deserve such horrible treatment?
Jia Guiren continues to feel like a mystery because I don’t know what her end game is. Every action of hers is polished and exact. Even when she has a ‘slip of tongue’ it seems like she deliberately planned to say it (with ulterior motives). Jia Guiren is the one who instigates Xiyue’s scheme against Hailan…and she wins without even lifting a finger. Ruyi’s camp is hurt and Xiyue is grounded. Jia Guiren, on the other hand, gets off scot free. I love the scene when Xiyue is pouting over the outcome and Jia Guiren literally laughs right in her face.
These episodes show how the Empress’ camp’s resentment towards Ruyi grows through a series of misunderstandings. First of all, Ruyi’s head maid, Ah Ruo, brags about how the emperor favors Ruyi the most. This results in the rumor spreading that Ruyi ordered her maid to flaunt her favor & status. Secondly, Jia Guiren taps into the Empress’ insecurity, telling her that Ruyi is definitely resentful over losing the first wife status. Interesting how the villains always assume that the protagonists are just like them–resentful and scheming–when it is so far from the truth…Ruyi seriously doesn’t care that she wasn’t made first wife. I wonder if Jia Guiren actually believes that Ruyi hates them, or if she’s just telling the Empress what she wants to hear. If she wants to use a “divide and conquer” strategy then she would benefit by pitting Ruyi against the Empress.
Poor Hailan endures a lot in these episodes. Xiyue falsely accuses Hailan of stealing, and punishes her outside on a snowy night. This scene is so intense that it had me on the edge of my seat. I really felt the urgency of the scene especially since Hailan is out in the snow and only wearing thin clothes. I also liked the contrast of cold and hot with the snowy cold and the torches lighting the night, and Xiyue’s cold demeanor contrasted with Hailan and Ruyi’s fiery struggle to survive.
The snow scene is epic…but feels truncated to me. I heard that some clips were cut because they were too graphic. The trailer shows Hailan’s bloodied feet and her being whipped. She is actually tortured more severely than is shown in the drama. The aftermath is heartbreaking. Even though Hailan’s name is cleared and she gets to move to Ruyi’s palace, she is so traumatized and humiliated that she is bedridden and has nightmares. Janine Chang nailed these scenes. She fully conveys Hailan’s pain, humiliation, and grit. I was rooting for her and so glad to see that she worked through her fears to defend Ruyi!
“For things that are hard to endure, clench your teeth, smile, and just endure for a while. Then think of a way after. If you give it too much importance, others will treat you as a joke. If you cheer yourself up and be indifferent about it, no one can do anything to you.”
So far I feel that Ruyi is good in every sense of the word. There are some shows that have “good” characters that end up feeling unrealistic, preachy, and too idealistic. Thankfully Ruyi is not that kind of character. She is very humble. She doesn’t do good deeds to show off how great she is to others. Ruyi lives according to her convictions, treating others with respect and fairness. I love the moment when Ah Ruo advises her not to save Hailan, and Ruyi says something to the effect of, ‘if not me, then who?’.
Ruyi is obviously smart and well-spoken. However, she’s not as good with words as Zhen Huan in LZH. Zhen Huan (and most of the other LZH characters) was brilliant. She knew how to defend herself and pick apart her enemies’ lies! Ruyi, on the other hand, ends with weak arguments like “I’m innocent” or “I know Hailan isn’t the type of person to steal”. Such arguments aren’t gonna be enough to protect herself in the future. In this sense, I feel Ruyi is still naive. She believes that the emperor will clear her name as long as he trusts that she’s innocent. She thinks as long as she’s innocent, things will work out ok. I hope Ruyi will realize soon that just saying “I’m innocent” isn’t gonna cut it…
“After getting bribed, she [the servant who betrayed Hailan] could immediately open her mouth and bite her mistress. Our palace mustn’t have such a kind of person.” –Ah Ruo
I like Ruyi’s strong bond with her maids, Ah Ruo (Zeng Yi Xuan) and Suo Xin (Chen Xiaoyun). The 3 of them together are so adorable! I like how Ah Ruo and Suo Xin have opposite temperaments and use their unique strengths to support Ruyi. Ah Ruo reminds me a bit of Huan Bi from LZH because she is more outspoken and prideful. She’s very candid and cutely teases Ruyi about how much the emperor favors her. Suo Xin always feels like a breath of fresh air when she’s on screen. The light green color that she wears suits her personality so well!
Ruyi gains 2 more loyal allies, both of whom are Suo Xin’s childhood friends–Eunuch Li Yu (Huang You Ming) and Imperial Dr. Jiang Yubin (Yuan Wen Kang). There’s already a love triangle forming between these childhood friends (starting ep10)! >__< I’m glad that Suo Xin has suitable love interests and isn’t doomed to have an unrequited love. I hope she has a good end, unlike old Zhen Huan’s maids Huan Bi and Liu Zhu.
“If you show him [Eunuch Wang Qin] that you are intelligent, you will only harm yourself. While you’re below someone, you mustn’t expose your cleverness. Especially if the one above is unaccommodating. The Emperor likes you to be smart, but others may not. When you go back later, don’t show your resentment.” -Ruyi, to Li Yu
One of my favorite scenes is when Ruyi treats Li Yu’s wounds. The emotions in the scene are so…tender. I think it’s this moment that makes Li Yu a loyal ally of Ruyi’s for life. Ruyi shows him such kindness and warmth. She treats servants as valuable people, not dispensable tools. It contrasts with the Empress, who’s already thinking using the Emperor’s head eunuch. Ugh! I like the final moment of the scene, when she quietly tears up by herself. Zhou Xun conveys Ruyi’s feelings about the palace schemes without a word. Ruyi’s reaction is so emotional yet so controlled. That moment of silence makes the scene a powerful one.
The Empress’ scenes mainly focus on her being scolded by the Empress Dowager and Emperor. First the Empress Dowager scolds her for a long time…and the Emperor just sits there without helping her. (He only speaks up at the last moment) The Empress even glances at the Emperor as though she’s wondering why he’s not putting in a good wood for her. This scene is so AWKWARD especially with all of the servants witnessing this happening…I can see why the Empress is feeling insecure over how the Emperor doesn’t speaks up for Ruyi but not for her.
There’s another memorable scene when the Emperor scolds the Empress for not handling Ruyi’s framing case fairly. It’s probably true that she was trying to use the case to her advantage, so it was right for him to scold her. But it was still hard to watch because his expectations are waaay too high. He basically wants her to act like a saint. Ironically, later on, the emperor doesn’t live up to the very values that he expects the Empress to uphold. Such a double standard. By the end of the scene, the Empress is on the verge of tears. Dong Jie did great in that scene!
While watching eps 7-9, I started feeling more accustomed to the pace and flow of RRL. Maybe it’s because RRL has entered into more familiar territory of scheming, which is what I’m used to from LZH and other period c-dramas. That being said, the scheming is different in RRL. Like I said, Ruyi isn’t as much of a wordsmith and it’s the same for most of the other concubines in RRL. Compared with LZH, RRL characters say things more directly, so there’s less reading between the lines and dishing out veiled insults. I do miss the intricate and witty dialogue from LZH. The schemes also seem to be more straightforward than in LZH for now.
It’s interesting reading some of the comments about RRL because many people say that they can’t get past the emperor having lots of concubines while still loving Ruyi. It’s not a shocking issue for me, maybe because I got used to it from other period c-dramas?! It seems like a lot of people are assuming that the emperor is just sleeping around and weakly not controlling the harem. Actually there were a lot more complicated factors involved–particularly politics–it’s just that RRL doesn’t show this very much in the earlier episodes. IMO, LZH did a better job at showing how the political situation was related to the concubines’ status.
Quote translation credit: Viki