How to catch up on your chinese dramas

maxresdefault“So the heroine is in a spot where she has to die in about three days so she can be reincarnated as her immortal self, but there’s this one guy who is in love with her as a mortal and he’s like, ‘No way, nuh-uh, no one’s taking you.’ But if she doesn’t die, she’s going to be screwed because they’re going to take away the thing that’s keeping her original self alive and give it back to the hero because he gave up his heart for the other thingy and he’s going to die if he doesn’t get it back soon.”
“So we want her to die.”

“Yeah, she has to die, but she’s worried because she doesn’t actually know that and she’s thinking the hero only liked her for her past self. But the guy who likes the heroine as a mortal is up to his eyeballs in this other plot. He wants to get revenge on this other guy who is down in the spirit world right next door to hell–but not quite there, he’s not actually fully dead–and they hate him so much they’re going to bring him back from there just so they can kill him properly this time. And if they do that, there’s a chance that the demon king will be able to come back from hell, too, which is why they sent the heroine to Earth in the first place, so she’ll die and the demon king won’t be able to come back. Also, the guy everyone hates is her grandfather and her mother just jumped into the spirit world abyss to get away from the people who had her and bumped into him down there.”


“And the reason the mother had to jump into the abyss is because she was rescued by the guy who is in love with her adopted daughter, who is kind of a psycho–but she’s very cute–and, uh, she wasn’t rescued well enough.”

“You lost me again.”

“Yeah, I love hearing about this show from Riders because I can follow it in bits and then she says something else and it stops making sense again.”

“Well, they were going to use the mother to open the gate of hell, but now they’re probably going to have to use the heroine. Except that the person who is trying to open the gate is the guy who likes her and doesn’t want her to die. And then there’s the bit with the heroine’s older sister and the hero’s younger brother. They’re having a romance and it’s very funny and cute, but it’s on hold because the brother got turned to stone for a thousand years.”

“…Oh, okay then!”

“Oh yeah, and then there’s this evil girl who is in love with the hero and she’s making aaall the wrong decisions. She’s awful.”

“See, now I’m completely caught up. I can jump in at episode forty-nine and be just watchin’ right along with you.”

(Start here)

The Rebel Princess – Episode 11 – Recap

Previously on: our heroine was rescued after having been kidnapped by a group wanting vengeance against her husband (who had destroyed their land and villages.) These guys were kind of losers, but they were also being backed up by unknown sources from the capital, which made rescuing her difficult until a “freak training accident” involving grenades to the face manages to get rid of the imperial representative. Also, it turns out that the heroine’s loyal maidservant Jin’er is actually in love with Prince #3 (A’Wu’s childhood romance) and has just been manipulated into putting on A’Wu’s clothes and perfumes and going over to pay the drunken Prince a comforting visit. Yeahhhhhhh….

So anyhow, Jin’er is dressed up like A’Wu and perfumed up (with A’Wu’s perfumes) and sent in to see Prince #3. Who has been drinking and staring at his pictures of A’Wu. Fade to black.

Back at the court, the Emperor is not paying much attention things, the Grand Vizier is standing around smirking a lot, and the Crown Prince is starting to be the one saying “approve” to courtly proposals when news rushes in that A’Wu is found and okay, and that XQ has survived well. Prince #2 and Lord Huan exchange alarmed glances. The Crown Prince is overjoyed, bless his little heart. But the Emperor, who has been just sitting slumped over, laughs and then breaks down in tears. News also comes to Aunty Empress. She’s honestly relieved about this also, as are Mom and Brother.

A’Wu, meanwhile, is learning about the travails of frontier life, such as only bathing once a month or having to hike ten miles to bathe in the rivers. Worse, this applies to her husband, too. Worse still, no one at the fort has any sense of style AT ALL. A’Wu, however, is missing Jin’er and hopes she’s okay.

(She is, but Prince #3 is having a bit of a brood anyway). Aaaaand that’s when news of A’Wu being found arrives.

A’Wu has also started asking questions about her husband. Apparently, he has no hobbies other than being busy, reading books, and practicing swordsmanship. (Boring). A’Wu also gets into a spat with one of the head maidservants, Xing’er, who makes the mistake of being too much of a stuck-up smartass and also annoying.

Jin’er, meanwhile, hears the other maids gossiping about her.

A’Wu, meanwhile, is about to have to deal with Xing’er’s older, fatter, bossier counterpart, Mrs. Lu. A’Wu orders that they go and kneel in the courtyard, regardless of their rank. I have a feeling that the court versus country discipline/manners thing is going to cause problems pretty soon.

Not to be suppressed, Mrs Lu heads over to XQ to complain about things….not that it actually does any good. XQ backs up his wife immediately and goes back to discussing politics. He and his men are monitoring the royal family’s activity.

Oh, the current crisis is: the Emperor’s brother, under pretext of a friendly visit, has shown up with 150,000 soldiers. Hah. All the ministers are milling around and flapping their sleeves a bunch, as they tend to do. Prince #2 is hanging around in the background, not at all suspiciously. The Crown Prince has sent for the Grand Vizier, but he and his smirk haven’t shown up yet at all. This guy, King J, was the runner-up for the throne back in the day and now is probably coming back for his revenge and just dues. Whats worse, he’s a skilled soldier and has veteran troops and then have none. None at all.

(Prince #2 sends a looooong, considering look at Lord Huan).

Possibly because their main general is kind of busy trying to get his wife to look him in the face. But the boy does got game, though, and has soon convinced her to go for a walk with him. (All the troops cheer, when they see her, lol, and XQ tells her just to roll with it.)

So. XQ hasn’t been around much because he’s been over at the border…sending Liupan Guy (okay, fine, Helan Zhen) back home. Miraculously, he survived one arm being cut off and falling into a bottomless chasm, although I’m going to guess not by turning himself into a mechanical spider-legged hybrid sustained by the Dark Side of the Force and hatred. HZ is the only remaining son (albeit illegitemate) of the king of Hulan and the heir. However, he also has a cousin-rival for that position, who was the one who actually destroyed Liupan in an attempt to displace HZ from the throne and lay the blame on XQ.

XQ let HZ go back to fight his cousin so they can squabble amongst themselves–which works out for his benefit and the safety of the realm. A’Wu is impressed by his planning skills. But then she points out that XQ is using her as a pawn in his plans as well, and that she doesn’t like it.

He tries to change the subject, but she calls him a coward for it. He replies that she does not want to hear the truth, but if she’s strong enough and willing, he will.

XQ says: There was a border emergency. On our wedding night. It was absolutely no coincidence. I did not want to marry you and I was also forced into it. Your father set this all up because he wants my army. I have absolutely no desire to be involved in capitol plots and didn’t want to get between you and your true love. The so-called border emergency was just me getting the hell out of Dodge because I’m scared of your psycho grand vizier father.

A’Wu is mostly impressed that he’s not actually in cahoots with her father. Unfortunately, this means she realizes that her father is behind most of what’s been happening. She breaks down and asks for some privacy, but then calls him back.

Hey, a hug! That’s definitely progress on both their parts!

Xiao Qi tells her that she is his princess now and his woman. She’s not allowed to be weak. The camera then wanders discreetly off, so I’m going to assume that this is our official fade-to-sex.

Back at the capital, Grand Vizier Lord Wang Dad is taking some night air when he sees his son coming in through the back gate….and orders him to go back home and pretend to be a happy couple with Huan Mi since her father’s at home. Also, if your concubine has a boy, he’s going out to a farm and by farm, I mean we’re going to expose him on a rock. We need the Huan Family’s support, OK? So I need a legitimate male grandchild.

Brother Su points out that: the Xie Family is no more, the Crown Prince is in a stable position, and the Empress is in power. Shouldn’t that be enough? (No.)

Prince #2, meanwhile, is cuddling up with his concubine….wait. Wait. Wait. Is his girlfriend also Brother Su’s wife, Huan Mi? HOOOOoooo BOY.

Back at the fort, the two snooty girls A’Wu press-ganged into being her junior handmaids, are begging for help from Mrs. Lu (the fort’s steward and also their aunty). A’Wu susses out that they actually hope to catch XQ’s eye and become concubines. A’Wu says: I don’t mean to punish them. Just throw them out of the house. NOW.

The Rebel Princses – Episode 10 – Recap

Previously on: our heroine was kidnapped by flying ninjas who have a grudge against her husband, and is in eventual danger when their plot comes into fruition but a lot more immediate danger from the crazily jealous ninja girl. Her husband has been prevented, by nefarious plots, from going directly to the rescue. Her faithful maidservant (who is actually in love with the guy who our heroine is in love with) went to go fetch said guy so he could go help look, despite the fact that he’s supposed to be under house arrest. Remarkably, everyone else is even less useful.

So Prince #3 and Jin’er have been searching, somehow accompanied by soldiers. They aren’t finding anything but keep at it. News of this reaches the Lord Xie in his exile. He wants to see the boy….to chew him out for being concerned for a woman who is a) the daughter of their enemy, the Wangs, b) married to someone else. Lord Xie is unimpressed with the idea that #3 is trying to redeem himself for abandoning A’Wu before: it’s not possible to make a comeback for something like that, and anyway, we have a blood feud going. #3 says, sure, you’re right, but I do want her to be safe. Lord Xie fumes a bit.

A’Wu and her captors have stopped for the night.

Meanwhile elsewhere, Grand Vizier Dad has arrived somewhere and finds some guy (? the governor of the city?) begging for mercy for allowing the princess to have been kidnapped on his watch.

Dad says: listen up. I don’t have anything against you, but I’ll have your entire family buried alive if she is harmed. The guy then begs his way in to see the Eldest Princess (I think he means A’Wu’s mother, but who he gets is A’Wu’s sister in law, her useless brother’s ignored wife). She sends for A’Wu’s mother….who everyone has been carefully keeping the news away from. (We’re going to learn later why Wifey doesn’t like this family and it’s a doozy. I mean, other than the obvious reasons why.)

Mom is, of course, shattered to hear that something has happened to A’Wu.

At the inn, Xiaoye and A’Wu are at it again. Xiaoye makes A’Wu eat bread that has fallen on the floor, but A’Wu does get her hands untied in the bargain….until one of the guys brings in some nice stew the Young Master ordered for A’Wu specially. HAH, lol, A’Wu locks XY outside when she goes out to throw the soup away. Then she….sets the door on fire?

Liupan Guy says: don’t panic, just make sure the horses are all tied down.

Back at home, Grand Vizier Dad arrives. Mom is still passed out. He is able to tell the brother that he’s sent word to Xiao Qi and this should allow him to take action himself. Brother doubts that XQ (who ran off on the wedding night) actually cares, but Dad points out that he is allied with the Wang Family now, not to mention a danger to the Emperor. If he doesn’t toe the line, he’ll get his one way or the other.

Brother then finds the time to complain about his wife. (Really, can’t blame her too much: her husband has been ignoring her in favor of knocking up concubines, and yet she takes the blame for not producing grandchildren.)

Elsewhere, Prince #2 is assuring his faceless and nameless girlfriend that she’ll be there with him when he becomes king. Trust him. (I wouldn’t, but…)

Prince #3 and Jin’er are heading back to the capital now. They’re not giving up on A’Wu, but there is still the Lord Xie, looking suspicious.

Back at the caravan, A’Wu gets caught, again. But! XQ’s Swordsgirl Sidekick is there! It’s a rescue! Not a very good one, because we spend about three minutes just in one section of the corridor-set, dodging behind walls and they’re all the same wall! A’Wu takes command. They obviously can’t escape together, or right now. She knows that there is some sort of thing happening, using her as bait, in three days, and that XQ is the target. She’s safe enough–for the next three days–and so decoys off the pursuit, sending them with the message: Tell XQ three days–I’ll be waiting.

Swordsgirl stays to defend the princess secretly and the other guy goes out to carry word.

Meanwhile, the poor governor guy has arrived home and now that he upset Mama Wang, he’s really worried about his continued existence, lol. He and his wife and family are going to make a run for it.

Back at the caravan, Xiaoye is about to get raked over the coals, and not just the ones that are still smoldering because she let the prisoner burn down the inn. So, this girl has kind of an interesting character, or would if she was given a bit more time. She’s in love with Liupan Guy and totally jealous; but she’s also at least nominally focused on their revenge plot and doesn’t want that endangered, either. Also, I think at least one of those guys is in love with her.

OH MY GOSH HE ORDERS THAT ONE OF HER ARMS GET CUT OFF. This prompts A’Wu to speak up in her defense and Liupan Guy to decree that she’s goign to stay in his rooms for the night. For safety.

Back at the governor’s house, a woman comes to the door. She says: if you want to live, follow me. So he goes off for a meeting with Lord Huan.

OKAY. So I think I’m getting the hang of this. Grand Vizier Wang’s son (Su) is married to a Huan daughter. I think that Prince #2 is also a Huan, or at least is in league with the Lord Huan. So, here we go.

Speaking of which, #2 shows up.

Liupan Guy is at the “if we met in a different lifetime, do you think we’d still be enemies” stage of their relationship. It seems that he is the child of a Liupan princess who was raped by a Hulan prince, but was later accepted into the Hulan royal family since they were getting underpopulated….Ahhhhh, was this one of the guys that XQ killed back in episode 1? Heh. Liupan Guy tried to go back and get his mother and sister out of the warzone, but it was too late. He now has a few loyal followers from the Liupan survivors, but that’s it.

He’s dead set on revenge. Except that the thought of killing A’Wu makes him a little unhappy. Oh this strange thing called sex love….

Back at the palace, the Emperor is getting a secret message from Lord Xie about the plan to kill Xiao Qi. Someone named Xu Shou is going to take over the army when he dies. Prince #3 is on his way home.

Meanwhile, Xiaoye, much subdued, shows up with clean clothes and washwater for A’Wu. She pays her debts, and she owes her existence to Liupan Guy and also is in love with him. It’s okay. She can deal with it. If he needs her to die, she will die for him and for their revenge!

A’Wu says: even though we’re not friends….woman to woman, it’s not a good idea to be infatuated with someone to this degree. Okay? Think it over, kiddo.

Cut to, uh oh. Xiaoye is dressed in A’Wu’s clothes. The other guys salute her for her courage, and the one guy who’d always been hitting on her before shows up, too, and promises to stay with her.

A’Wu then spots the imperial envoy’s emblem on Liupan Guy’s robes and blanches a little. But worse is to come. Oh shit, they’re going to put a suicide vest on her….


Liupan Guy advises her to pray that they kill Xiao Qi easily, since that means she’ll be in less danger…and then he can take her back to the steppes with him.

Meanwhile, back at the army camp, Xiao Qi and his men are standing around in their armor, fretting over whether Swordsgirl is going to be able to do the bodyguarding all by herself. And, it does look like the decoy trick is going to work on her….

END EPISODE. So, given that this is episode 10, I’m starting to be a little impatient with the device used for Xiao Qi’s characterization, which is to have him standing quietly in the background while his sidekicks bicker amongst themselves. It’s a good setup, it’s a good trick, but he has got to do something every so often and do it well. Considering that episode 11 is apparently titled “Xiao Qi heroically rescues Wang Xuan,” we’ll see….

The Rebel Princess – Episode 8 – Recap

So A’Wu is getting her hair done for the wedding, to the accompaniment of sad flute music. She goes off for the departing-from-home ceremony, and it appears that her mother did survive the previous episode, so that’s good. Well, after all, I guess even a Grand Vizier isn’t going to straight-up murder his wife just for helping his daughter attempt to elope.

Grand Vizier Dad is embarking on some last patriarchal admonitions when A’Wu (rather rudely, but very satisfyingly) ignores him to bow farewell to her mother instead and then walks out. Dad is nonplussed but that’s what you get when you marry your daughter off against her will.

The wedding procession proceeds….XQ is wearing armor under his clothes. I hope this means there are going to be ninjas.

In the ceremonial hall, however, A’Wu is being slightly less than cooperative and doesn’t take her cues properly and also refuses to make eye contact with her new husband. (Minister Wen is in the audience and for some reason seems satisfied with this?)

XQ is recieving the post-nuptial congratulations (AKA: drinks) when an urgent message rushes in! They’re needed at the front!

Lol, cut to A’Wu’s faithful maidservant suggesting that she take her fancy wedding hat off and take a nap, it’s been a while. But this isn’t allowed, only the husband is allowed to do it. Fortunately, the news comes in at this point. A’Wu is about to storm out of the bridal chamber before the women stop her.

XQ, still in his fancy wedding clothes, takes off.

Sidekick goes to report to her that, sorry, ma’am, it was an emergency. But the boss told me to say goodbye for him.
HAH, A’Wu says: I did not think your hero general was a coward who runs away at critical moments.
Sidekick says: Ma’am, there is, uh, context.

Well, she’s dropping truth bombs on the wrong guy. Sidekick’s a nice person and he also didn’t have anything to do with what’s been happening to you. Poor guy doesn’t deserve to be made to grovel to his boss’s wife.

A’Wu orders Sidekick to go take her hairpin to XQ and tell him that she is NOT TO BE PUT ASIDE LIKE THIS.

Not that XQ is particularly happy about it, but he is a dutiful and loyal general who gallops off gamely (the actor is clinging to his saddlefront, but still.)

A’Wu dramatically rips off her fancy wedding hat.

Cut to: three months later. XQ is still at the front. He has been sending letters and gifts, to no avail. He says: keep sending them.

Prince #3, meanwhile, is hanging out somewhere waiting for…letters from the front?

A’Wu is taking it easy, meanwhile, and by taking it easy we mean getting drunk a lot. Her maidservant is trying to convince her to at least look at the letters XQ is sending, but no dice. However, she’s at least also ignoring the letters that #3 is sending, so…

But she does agree to go in to town for the lantern festival. They were invited by some lady, and the whole atmosphere is rather PTA-ish and twee, something which is slightly modified by the fact that Some Bearded Guy turns around and gives the camera a fishy look. He’s got accomplices! They’re moving in!


Not for this stylish mode to be outdone, they then smuggle her out of town in a coffin that they claim is infected with smallpox, a necessary step given that the city is sealed and people are busy searching for the missing, kidnapped princess. The soldiers are smart enough to try to open the coffin at least, but there is at least one dead body in there on the top layer. So the escape is made.

Back at the imperial palace, Wan’Ru has reached the point of (attempting) to prevent the Empress from doing things. The Empress has some sharp words to say about this, naturally.

The Emperor is technically awake, it seems, and Wan’ru has been taking care of him, an office which the Empress attempts to do. He rejects her, though, and she sweeps out. None of this has passed the notice of the eunuch on guard at the door.

Speaking of people we haven’t seen in a while, the Crown Prince shows up to comfort Wan’ru. She says that she was just trying to help and do her best! Prince #1 thanks her for it, and, uh oh I do not like her smirk. OH FUCK SHE REALLY IS PLOTTING VENGEANCE, she just offered to bear him a son. Poor guy. He kinda-sorta escapes his mother’s clutches and ends up in her hands.

News of the kidnapping has reached various ears at this point.

A’Wu’s brother wants to go and rescue her, but his father forbids it: it’s going to kill their mother if he leaves, too. Dad has already sent his own people to go get her. She’ll be fine. Go take care of your mother. (doorslam)

A’Wu’s maidservant is, meanwhile, hastening….somewhere. Ah, she’s gone to get #3.

Meanwhile, XQ’s assorted sidekicks are incensed over the fact that they (XQ) have been ordered (imperially so, so: no getting out of it) to attend a military parade and NOT go rescue his wife. What’s worse, the orders came after the day A’Wu must have been kidnapped. One of the slightly smarter sidekicks suggests that he order them to go rescue her.

XQ, however, has been quietly thinking it over. This obviously wasn’t the work of the barbarians, who have just had a defeat and need to regroup. It’s someone who is holding the princess hostage for leverage–either over the Grand Vizier….or me.

The Rebel Princess – Episode 7 – Recap

Wan’Ru has come to visit A’Wu and ask if she’s seriously going to be marrying Xiao Qi. Then, OWWWWCH, she had a hairpin to give to A’Wu at her wedding with #3….and A’Wu says to keep it for the girl he does marry. Wan’ru presses it into her hand and exits quietly. A’Wu is hoping that #3 will hear from Wan’ru that she is happy to marry a war hero who rescued her from ninjas and will forget her, because that’s the sort of thing heroines do.

#3 and Lord Xie have been exiled. Guys, this is exactly opposite of what you should have done. You should have killed the men and left the women, like Concubine Xie, alive. But these guys are going to want vengeance and you’re just letting them loose. A few of the Xie retainers remain and come to see him off.

A’Wu’s family, meanwhile, is worried that she’s acting so normal.

Wan’ru, meanwhile, turns out, is doing exactly what A’Wu wanted her to do, and she’s doing it good and hard. Wan’ru blames A’Wu for sharing in the fortunes of the Wang Family (and misfortunes of the Xie Family), and so passes on the word of the XQ-A’Wu marriage to #3 with extreme prejudice. Wan’ru, also, wants revenge. Can’t exactly blame her, but being duplicitous towards a dumbass like the Crown Prince seems really unfair.

XQ, meanwhile, is trying to get his house (army camp lite, remember) set up so that the Shangyang Princess will not be put to discomfort or disgrace while she’s there. Sidekick grins slyly.

A’Wu’s mother arrives to pay her respects to Concubine Xie’s funeral tablet and #3. She wants to know what #3’s thoughts are re: A’Wu’s new marriage….and has just told him what the terms are.

So. Elsewhere, Prince #2 arrives…somewhere…? to beg Minister Chen to help him save the country! (??)

A’Wu’s mother is trying to convince #3 to leave the capital, it seems. She’s arranged everything: he can get out and be safe. Tomorrow. At midnight. Be there or be tortured horribly to death, probably.

Meanwhile, the Empress has arrived to pay a visit to A’Wu. But no amount of talking up XQ is going to assuage a broken heart. Empress promises anything in return if A’Wu is just going to be a good girl this once….but no, not to the extent of sparing her. Not that.

XQ is stalking around his decorated manor house to the accompaniment of brooding, ominous music, as one does when one is a brooding hero against whom marriage and assassination plots have been sprung. The music is ominous, because Minister Wen has shown up….with a dagger.

Which is not a smart thing to bring to a fight with not one, but two master swordsmen.
Minister Wen says: if you are going to marry A’Wu, then just go ahead and kill me and give my head to Lord Wang.
XQ says: and if I don’t marry her?
Minister Wen has to think this over a bit. What he has to say is of the utmost importance to the realm and is XQ man enough to hear it and act on it?

A few minutes later, XQ and Sidekick discuss: well, the Wang Family’s sudden rise prominence and assorted people’s falls does seem rather….coincidental, and now we’re going to be dragged into it via this marriage, but what can we do? Get out of town?
Sidekick says: Sure, that’d be smart, but do you actually want to leave the girl behind?
XQ says: Got it in one, kid.

So it appears that our hero is, well, kinda smitten.

Someone has just shown up at A’Wu’s room-slash-prison with drugged tea and is hustling her out to join #3 out in the boat. Her mother then shows up to put her seal of approval on the plan and hug her daughter farewell….and give her a box of unmarked gold. A’Wu kowtows until the lady-in-waiting drags her off, lol.

So the women are hurring down the road in the rain and, GUESS WHAT HAPPENS. GO ON. GUESS.

No, not that.

No, not that either.

A’WU TRIPS AND FALLS. (why? It’s not actually as if this scene even INVOLVES heights or handsome men.)

#3 isn’t at the boat….he’s still in the freaking temple. And remembering how his mother once told him to stay away from A’Wu, since politics were involved and the situation might get dicey if he did. A’Wu stands out in the rain, with only the lady-in-waiting’s tiny little umbrella, waiting. For hours.

Lord Grand Vizier Dad Wang, meanwhile, is at his own devotions, when his wife walks in. She demands to know, in front of his ancestors, whether it was him who poisoned her brother the Emperor. Or at least if he’s man enough to admit it. And when he does, she pulls out a knife and with trembling hand…

LOL. He just leans back and closes his eyes and waits with a serenely sarcastic expression….and finally his eyes just pop open again and he just tells her to put the knife down. Dude has got balls, gotta give him that. But he also stops her from killing herself, which she also, naturally, resents. And at this point news arrives that A’Wu has vanished.

Hah, XQ and his Sidekick are packing up to get the hell out of Dodge. They’re going to leave via the river…

A’Wu is still waiting, in the rain, by the river.

(The order has gone out to lock the city gates, and at this point this is when the absolute dumbass #3 realizes that A’Wu was going to elope with him). At least, down at the river, it has finally stopped raining. On the other hand, Dad has arrived. With ninjas.

He yells at her a bit, points out that #3 is a dumbass who didn’t show up, and is too stupid and cowardly to make a real run for it. And then gives her a half-hug, because even Grand Viziers have feelings.

A’Wu throws her hairpin (that #3 gave her) away and it breaks and falls by the rocks.


The Rebel Princess – Episode 6 – Recap

So the Crown Prince is confirmed as heir while the Emperor is….indisposed. The Grand Vizier is regent, however, and he’s smirking fit to bust.

Wan’ru, naturally, is intensely distraught that her aunt and cousin are accused of high treason and her family is in trouble. The Crown Prince, showing that he’s not quite as complete a moron as we thought, admits that a) he has a hard time beliving Concubine Xie is guilty (poor guy), and that b) it doesn’t really matter, since at this point his mother and Uncle Grand Vizier have got the reins and aren’t likely to let go. He counsels Wan’ru to keep her head down and promises to keep her safe. But he knows perfectly well that only his father the Emperor can stop the Wang Family now they’ve got started.

Cut to: lol, A’Wu’s other uncle surreptitiously trying out the throne for size. The Grand Vizier explains that they’re going to go slow right at this moment, since the presence of Xiao Qi and his soldiers might make a too-hasty move fatal.

Crown Prince is watching over his father, and poor guy is starting to have questions. Like, why did Concubine Xie do this exactly? She and her already had the Emperor’s favor. But his mother assuages his guilt and he promises to do his best in his role. THIS GUY, SERIOUSLY! He means well! He’s just really too sheltered and stupid to be effective. This is genuine character development, though. He’s trying. He’s admitting his guilt and culpability when he realizes it. At this point and if it continues, especially if he has to learn things the painfully hard way, I wouldn’t actually mind if he ended up with A’Wu.

Grand Vizier is pushing the Empress into moving actively for the throne. She agrees but is reluctant, and she has drawn a hard line at getting her poor, idiot son involved again. If her brother does that, she promises to fight back against him. But meanwhile, what the Grand Vizier wants is for an imperial decree for the immediate marriage of A’Wu and Xiao Qi.

Grand Vizier Regent reports to the council that the frame, uh, I mean evidence, is complete and the Xie Family is guilty and to be imprisoned and executed. One of the ministers protests. The Empress slaps him down, while the Crown Prince squirms and XQ–and Prince #2–observe proceedings quietly but with great interest.

The Empress goes down into the dungeons with, uh oh, a bottle of wine and two glasses. Minister Xie is there and takes the opportunity to warn her that if he does happen to get out, he’s going to be after revenge. But her target is Concubine Xie. She’s there to offer her a way out for Prince #3: confess, die, and I’ll let him live. Concubine Xie agrees and makes her promise. Yeah, I don’t trust that look.

And, argh, they leave her a noose. Damn, that’s cold.

The Grand Vizier presents this “evidence” to the council. His brother urges that the entire family be therefore executed. All of it.

Meanwhile, Prince #2 is assessing the situation. His advisor points out that an alliance with Xiao Qi (and Xiao Qi’s 200,000-man strong army) is going to be necessary for the Wang Family at this point: to shore up power internally and externally. The current plan is that someone named Wang Xuan (whoops, that’s A’Wu) marry him, but #2 is prepared to stop that as well.

Back at our heroine, she’s waiting for her father to come back to ask him whyyyyy? And at this point, her brother arrives with the word from the Empress that the way to save #3 is marrying XQ. A’Wu gallops off to check things out for herself.

But the Emperor wakes not for her tears, and the Empress is there instead. She is actually quite kind to A’Wu (you know, as she explains why and how her arranged marriage is going to be arranged and therefore there is no fighting it if you want the actual person you love to survive.)

And A’Wu agrees. Her voiceover reflects that this is her actual coming-of-age ceremony: accepting the fact that, as a noblewoman, her actual life’s course is in the hands of others and expected to serve her family.

A’Wu’s parents are arguing about it, but, of course, Grand Vizier Dad is a Grand Vizier and the head of the Wang Family and it was his idea in the first place. Also, it’s not for power, it’s for power and security. Also he’s seen his sisters have to make loveless marriages for the sake of power and security, so it’s not like his wife (who married for power and security) has a leg to stand on.

Heh, his wife falls back on, BUT A COMMONER, EW! Grand Vizier Dad slaps that one down hard, causing A’Wu’s brother to offer to join the army to consolidate a military alliance instead.


But A’Wu steps in and quietly says she’s willing to do it.

Meanwhile, XQ is brooding silently, as one does when one is a silently brooding hero whose marital arts might or might not surpass his martial ones. His sidekick points out that he’s been brooding silently for a really long time. Sidekick is trying to figure out all the angles and is kind of stumped. XQ asks what he thinks they should do.
Sidekick says: Well, I do what I’m ordered to, but I’m also going to keep my distance from that Lord Wang.
XQ says: Got it in one, kid.

A’Wu’s mother goes to pay a visit to the Empress and quietly states that A’Wu is not going to marry XQ.

Prince #2 and his advisor are also discussing matters. The marriage-alliance is extremely dangerous to their faction, as it gives too much power to the Wang Family, so, (mutter mutter mutter), that’s brilliant, Lord Huan! I’ll keep my distance and you can go do the dirty work. (Huh??)

Back at the moms. A’Wu’s mother asks her sister in law: how well do you know your brother? Do you really think he’s got your son’s best interests in heart? Or his own? He’s willing to sacrifice his own daughter for his ambition…exactly what do you think he’ll do to a nephew he doesn’t even like? The Empress doesn’t want to hear this, but the message is received nonetheless.

I remain highly impressed by the way the plot has progressed so quickly and yet the lingering, drawn-out misery porn hasn’t.

The Rebel Princess – Episode 4 Recap

So Prince #3, being a good guy, directly goes over to thank XQ for saving his life. They drink a toast. (XQ’s cup is filled with water, as he doesn’t drink alcohol. How heroically random.) Meanwhile, not at all suspiciously, the Crown Prince edges off. It might need to be pointed out at this point that A’Wu was previously decoyed out to ostensibly meet with the Empress secretly and in person, but the Empress is sitting in the banquet hall, looking edgy. Also, there’s some suspicious-looking incense burning. The Crown Prince also has everybody shooed out of the hall where he is waiting.

XQ quietly slips out as well for some fresh air. A be-funky-hatted guy attempts to herd him back inside, but you need a lot more than a hat to impress a guy who kills barbarians and sends their fur hats plus the heads inside them home to the Emperor.

A’Wu, for her part, walks obediently into the trap, uh, we mean meeting with the Empress. Aaaaaand manages to walk in on the Crown Prince making time with a random concubine. Sheesh, boy, weren’t you trying to impress this girl? What’s more, A’Wu has been locked in. OKAY, I do not get this. I get luring A’Wu into a deserted courtyard where her lovesick suitor is. I get the lovesick suitor lying in wait. I get the drugs. I don’t get him boinking a random other girl while he’s waiting. Whose plan was this??

Oh, oops, he thought it was her and he was drugged, huh. But drugs is drugs and while he’s stumbling around asking her to come back, A’Wu is screaming for help and hitting him with a stick. And then she trips and falls. (WHAT IS IT WITH CDRAMA HEROINES, IS IT AN INNER EAR DEFECT?)

(Meanwhile, the poor other girl is inside, breaking down in tears. Huh. OH SHIT IT WAS WAN’RU?!?)

A’Wu makes a break for it up a tree and along the roof. AAAAAaaaaaaand guess what happens.




Yeah, that’s right, SHE FALLS OFF.

AND XIAO QI CATCHES HER. A’Wu recognizes him and then passes out.

Report, meanwhile, of this debacle has reached the Empress. A flashback shows that Wan’ru was also lured into the hall and locked in, only for the Crown Prince, drugged out of his mind, to mistake her for A’Wu. Okay, but…why was she brought there in the first place??

Cut to: the shaken, sobbing Wan’ru being comforted by (Concubine Xie) whilst the Empress stands by, the Emperor paces, and the Crown Prince is cutting out the middleman by hitting himself upside the head. I’ll give the boy this: I don’t think he’s evil in the slightest and this mostly wasn’t even his fault.

Nevertheless, he mans up and admits his wrong-doing. Unfortunately, he manages to majorly piss off his father whilst doing so. But the Emperor calms down enough to administer justice. Well, what he actually orders is that all the servants present be poisoned to death, but that’s actually fairly close for China.

The Crown Prince is, later that night, still getting grilled by his mother (can we discuss for a moment the fact that she planned this whole affair? Because the bitch planned this whole effing affair.) This gets interrupted by Grand Vizier Dad storming in to slap him some more. But the family that plots to retain control of the imperium together sticks together, so when the fact that their Crown Prince might stop being the Crown Prince if he’s pissed off the Emperor that badly, Dad calms down enough to lay down the law.

The Crown Prince is to marry Wan’ru immediately, and if he screws up again, or even looks crosswise at A’Wu, or otherwise causes trouble for The Plan, he’s going to be double dead and then he’s going to regret it.

And things haven’t even finished getting bad for the Crown Prince, because Prince #3 is waiting outside for him. And then starts beating him up: half for Wan’ru, and half for A’Wu.

(Y’know, at this point I’m feeling sorry for the Crown Prince more than anything else. The poor guy is just kind of pitiable. He’s been alternately bullied and indulged his entire life and doesn’t really know how to be accountable or responsible for anything. He’s not worthy of respect, but he’s never been given the opportunity to earn it. And the girl he likes doesn’t like him back. And he’s a total mama’s boy. But he’s never been malicious or sadistic; he hasn’t been cruel or vengeful. It would be cool if he had some sort of redemption arc and became, if not a heroic character, at least a trustworthy one aligned on the side of good. I highly doubt this is going to happen.)

A’Wu is still unconscious, and, lol, her brother is itching to get on the Crown-Prince-beating bandwagon. He even snaps at his wife when she comes in to check on things. Heh, his mother finds the time to ask him why she hasn’t had grandchildren yet.

Dad slips in to the sickroom to check on things. Aw. See, Grand Viziers have feelings, too!

Meanwhile, the Crown Prince is just willing to take his licks, as he well knows they’re richly deserved. (See what I said above: he’s a character with potential) It’s his mother who is causing trouble, again. She’s poisoning the well against Wan’ru and the Xie Family. (also, SHUT UP ABOUT A’WU ALREADY).

Meanwhile, XQ is sitting alone by himself, brooding. As one does when one is a brooding, dark-clad hero whose arms girls fall out of the sky into. His remaining sidekick comes up to fret about, well, home decor. And no, this is one of the male sidekicks, not the Swordsgirl.

Hah, XQ says: fill the courtyard with our weapons, fill the house with military books and maps. This place should look like our camp.

Sidekick says: Hey boss, were you thinking about that giiiiiirl?

XQ says: You know, people who don’t have anything else to do should run laps and do pushups and other military excercises.


Meanwhile elsewhere, the Emperor is talking to his only genuine confidant, a mute priest. He, personally, has no uses for the Crown Prince, who is an idiot. (I mean….but still….)

Meanwhile: Grand Vizier Dad and Uncle Guy have discovered the drugged incense. Next question: why was Wan’ru there? (That’s what I am also wondering.) The maidservant who brought her there has vanished. And this whole affair has thrown quite the twist into everybody’s plans–the plan to tie the Xie Family to Xiao Qi and the plan to force a tie between the Crown Prince and A’Wu. Plus, there was that whole assassination attempt on Prince #3 and the murder of Lord Gu. And absolutely nobody is benefitting right now: not the Xie Family, not the Wang Family, and not the Emperor. Weird.

(If it’s XQ behind this and his innocent act is an act, I’m going to be flabbergasted.)

And, uh oh, looks like the Crown Prince is going to be replaced. This has implications for the Wang family, and the Wang Family does not take such implications lying down.

This discussion is overheard by A’Wu’s mother…you know–the Emperor’s sister. She has a good story, but fishy looks are exchanged by all parties.

Prince #3 has shown up as well and is waiting in the courtyard. A’Wu’s maidservant comes out to check on him. Aw, that was sweet.

The Emperor is, meanwhile, discussing the issue with Wan’ru’s father. Weirdly, he’s not okay with the idea of his daughter becoming Crown Princess. He likes the idea of simply deposing the Crown Prince in favor of Prince #3. (Buuut…wouldn’t that put A’Wu and the Wang Family back on track again??) But both of them do agree that things are fishy and the investigation should continue.

The Emperor isn’t going to do that just yet. He’s going to marry the Crown Prince to Wan’ru and this is the last chance. The Crown Prince takes it, but the Empress pushes her luck and says that this isn’t fair. Golly, this is one bitch who just doesn’t know when to shut up. Grand Vizier Dad overhears the end of this.

He goes off to check on A’Wu and gives her a hug, aw. They discuss things, and A’Wu’s maidservant eavesdrops.

Meanwhile, Prince #3 shows up to do his bit of pot-stirring….END EPISODE. GRH.

The Rebel Princess – Episode 3 – Recap

Prince #3 goes to visit his mother, who is upset and blames the Empress for the assassination attempt. She tells him to be careful.

Back at the palace of being grounded, A’Wu is hanging out with Wan’ru and discussing boys. Wan’ru is a little subdued (on account of her own arranged marriage to A COMMONER, EW).

Meanwhile, A’Wu’s mother meets with #3’s mother, who gives her a bracelet for A’Wu. Both mothers are whole-heartedly in favor of the kids getting together, all politics aside.

A’Wu tries to comfort Wan’ru, who is NOT AT ALL happy with talk of a war hero who is A COMMONER, EW, and especially more so when A’Wu mentions the three-heads-six-arms thing. They’re going to plan to sneak out and see him entering the city tomorrow, an activity which is not proper for girls and why do I have a feeling this is going to involve cross-dressing?

A’Wu is asking her brother to take her, but Dad slithers in unexpectedly (as grand viziers do), and wants to know why. She covers hastily, that it’s because she wants to see A Real Soldier! Not like the men of the noble class who wear swords but do not use them! Dad praises her but seems unconvinced…and then turns this around on his literary, artistic son. Well that was nasty and unnecessary.

Meanwhile the moms are asking Uncle Emperor to just let the marriage take place already. Heh, turns out that part of the reason A’Wu’s mom is so happy with this is that she was forced to marry into the Wang family when young. The Emperor has a chat with her regarding her very powerful, very dangerous husband whom she married young, and whether she is acting in her capacity as a wife….or as his (the emperor’s) little sister.

Meanwhile the Empress and Crown Prince have got wind of what’s going on. To his credit, the Crown Prince appears to be genuinely distraught because he really likes A’Wu and wanted to marry her, whereas the Empress has decided to get nasty and stay that way.

A’Wu and her mother are giggling together over current events when Dad wanders in and wants to know what’s up. For some reason this makes A’Wu scurry off in a huff? I’m missing some subtext here. But Dad admits that he can’t go against the Emperor’s command, so…

Later, Dad (wearing his metaphorical Grand Vizier Hat, but actually only wearing his top-knot, which thankfully is much more dignified) learns about the whole Prince #2 in the brothel incident. Prince #2 and the Crown Prince have also dropped by for a visit. A’Wu is entirely bored with the proceedings, but her brother (I don’t actually know his name yet?) is still covering for her. The Crown Prince has brought her some fur robes he personally killed himself and had made into robes for her. A’Wu sweeps off with her nose in the air, since he’s known her for sooooo long and still doesn’t know what sort of things she likes, hmph!–leaving him puzzled and distraught.

A’Wu’s father rolls his eyes in a manner that is only half Grand Vizier and entirely Impatient Dad. He then explains to the Crown Prince that a) he’s a dumbass, b) I’m kind of on your side boy, try giving me something to work with here.

Okay so meanwhile. One of Those Indistinguishable Guys (I think this is Lord Gu, the guy who was in charge of the deceased-ninjas investigation) is busy fretting that he is going to have to recieve A COMMONER, EW, into the city as a peer. You guys….seriously…

But then he gets garrotted by his tea girl. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere!

So we immediately cut away to where the preparations are taking place, and look, when I say that A’Wu’s father goes places, what I mean is he’s got a completely villainous swagger going on and it’s amazing. He’s there to poke fun at the Duke Xie (Wan’ru’s father) having a new, expected son-in-law.
A’Wu and her maidservant discuss Prince #3 meanwhile.

Another one of Those Guys has showed up and he says, hey, don’t kick the Xie Family while they’re down in the shameful dust of having to marry A COMMONER, EW.

HAH. Grand Vizier Dad says: You guys are MORONS (like the guy I probably just had assassinated oh wait did I just say that out loud?)

Anyhow, the girls (and A’Wu’s brother) are in place to make eyes at Prince #3 and witness XQ’s triumphant entry. Princes #1-2 notice. A’Wu, however, is doing her BFF-ly duty to talk up XQ for Wan’ru’s benefit, too.

So the parade begins, and hey, that many horses is pretty good production quality, even if they’re only there for about three shots, repeated from many angles.

XQ’s sidekicks, including Swordsgirl Sidekick, are there as well, wearing masks for some reason. (But we know Swordsgirl is a swordsgirl, because a) she has subtle boob armor, b) she’s not wearing a helmet, and c) her mask is more stylish.) Nevertheless, Prince #3 recognizes XQ when he takes his helmet off. (A’Wu is too far away to see clearly.)

The Crown Prince has had just enough time to sneer at A COMMONER, EW daring to approach the Emperor when…hah, lol, ninjas? Oh, no it’s not a ninja. Someone threw Lord Gu’s body off a balcony attached to an inflammatory banner. Wow. Or did they frame it as a suicide? Ahhh, it’s framed as a suicide protesting XQ’s ascension. Huh.

This was pretty upsetting to A’Wu, but her Grand Vizier Dad is more worried about whether she was close enough to see how “assisted” his suicide actually was. So Lord Gu has a granddaughter and grandson, whom the Emperor both give hefty promotions to (at Grand Vizier Dad’s suggestion.) Duke Xie, on the other hand, has questions about why Lord Gu had such strong feelings about XQ in the first place. Kind of suspicious, no?

Meanwhile, XQ is settling into his new residence with the advice of Duke Xie. XQ asks about Lord Gu but is assured by the Duke that it’s all good, everything’s fine, no worries, just stay put.

XQ immediately orders his sidekicks to leave immediately, hurry back to the camp and tell everybody to STAY PUT UNTIL FURTHER ORDERS FROM ME, PERSONALLY. Swordsgirl thinks that if it’s that dangerous, he ought to leave town, too; but, being the hero, he’s not going to.

Meanwhile, however, the autopsy has revealed that Lord Gu’s time of death isn’t lining up with the official timeline. So, That Other Guy (Dad’s brother, it seems?) is there in the room. Grand Vizier Dad discusses with him the possibility that, hm, perhaps Lord Gu was killed before he, ah, jumped. Could it have been something he discovered in the course of his ninja investigation: aka, did the Empress kill him? Of course, this means that someone else will have to take his place…and then there’s that upstart XQ…

Hm. So, was Dad not behind this?

Interestingly enough, the Empress is meanwhile ordering a tearful and reluctant woman to do something that she really doesn’t want to…which is overheard by a creeping courtier.

We cut back to our heroine, cuddling with Prince #3 up on the roof. She’s really shaken by all this sudden death, especially since Lord Gu was one of her uncles as well. Dad saunters up and spots them. Cut to the next morning, in which he is having the tree by which A’Wu has been accessing the roof, carefully chopped down. Hah.

Lol, he says that a thief came to their house last night, didn’t she know? And then he grins to himself when A’Wu storms off, yelling for every tree to be chopped down. Okay, I like this guy, because even when he’s being all slimy Grand Vizier, he’s being low-key about it; and it’s the same when he’s being an asshole paterfamilias. Not to mention, he seems to be enjoying the hell out of this whole process anyway.

So the welcoming-the-conquering-hero banquet is finally on, except that Wan’ru is in tears and insisting that she’s not going to go out there be faced with marrying A COMMONER, EW. Does her father care more about the Xie Family than about her, his daughter? (slap)

Apparently not.

Okay, so the board is set up, somehow. XQ is at the banquet, A’Wu is on her way there…and the Empress’s serving-woman is lurking in a corridor, to divert her into going to see the Empress. Alone. By herself. Right now.

Meanwhile, XQ is being finally, formally entitled Lord Yuzhang. I’d be happier about this if absolutely everyone in the banquet hall didn’t look really, really shifty.

The Rebel Princess – Episode 2 – Recap

Oh, ok. So. The plot, much as a broth consisting primarily of onions, bell peppers, chopped garlic, and Better Than Bouillion (Chicken Flavor), to which cornstarch has been added and the heat turned up, begins to thicken.

In the previous episode, the Emperor was considering a match between our to-be-properly-introduced hero, Xiao Qi, and Some Guy’s daughter, Wan’er.

Wan’er has just turned up to console A’Wu for being grounded. So, here we go. (Prince #3 is not the guy in white, because they make a point of saying how he hasn’t come to visit her.) And Wan’er concludes the visit by convincing A’Wu to go sneaking out against orders during the Lantern Festival, hinting that there might be a Third party involved if so. Please notice the pune, or play on words.

So meanwhile, Xiao Qi has had an invitation from ?somebody? to go attend the Lantern Festival, which is something that slightly alarms his swordsgirl sidekick; but, given that his position is perilous and frought with political subtext at every turn, the guy has no better options than to…just go.

MEANWHILE back at the secret council of officiousness, they’re still fretting about how a commoner (EW) is going to be allowed to join their noble ranks. Thing is, one of these guys is A’Wu’s father, and he seems to agree with them. ((The Guy In White is A’Wu’s actual brother, it seems?)) The poor guy appears to just be trying to work in his library with all these schemers busy lurking and muttering in the meanwhile, heh.

So that night A’Wu climbs over the wall to go to the Lantern Festival.

She falls! What is it with C-drama heroines? Is it some kind of inner-ear defect?


So it is the long-expected Prince #3, and off they go. Except that A’Wu’s faithful maidservant promptly catches up with them to bring her mistress her cloak. And warn them to be careful. And then…stares longingly and/or suspiciously after them….?

Our young couple are skylarking around, buying masks and watching puppets, etc, and at this point our hero bumps into them. Literally. Heh. He’s meeting up with a not-at-all-suspicious person in a not-at-all-suspicious gigantic hood…oh. It’s A’Wu’s father. Okayyyyyy….

Grand Vizier Dad tells XQ that the Emperor isn’t going to be rewarding him–only seeming to, as his military power now makes him a threat.

XQ parries: “How well do you sleep at night, Prime Minister?”

Grand Vizier Dad says: “I like talented people. I like being allied with them. I like to protect them. If you know what I mean.”

Meanwhile, in a not at all coincidental turn of plot, A’Wu and #3 are watching a puppet opera of the mighty Big Sword General Xiao Qi (here portrayed with three heads and six arms)’s exploits and bickering with random peasants who are speculating that perhaaaaaaaps the Princess Shangyang might be a good match for him. Xiao Qi and his loyal but puzzled sidekick just so happen to wander past as Princess Shangyang-AKA-A’Wu reacts to this as we might expect. XQ’s sidekick takes offence, but #3 just tries to hustle her away. (LOL SHE MAKES A FACE AT THE SIDEKICK AND HE MAKES ONE BACK AT HER AS THEY EXIT. HAAA)

XQ, meanwhile, is thinking that three heads + six arms might actually be kind of sweet.

A’Wu and #3 have done the make a wish and then set your floating paper lantern on fire thing and are just generally being soppy on the bank of a river. Meanwhile, the Empress has rattled up in a coach and is not looking happy. Cut back to A’Wu and #3 and then NINJAS! (lol, I love ninjas, so this development, no matter how short-lived or random, makes me happy.)

Prince #3 isn’t all that much of a fighter, but luckily XQ hears the commotion and arrives to the rescue. The remaining ninjas run away, and XQ strides off after them without bothering to introduce himself. #3 is quite stoic about it when he gets to comfort the sobbing, shaken A’Wu….at least until he feels that he can get more sympathy by playing up his scratched arm, heh.

He gives her a hairpin he’s made himself (it’s quite nice), and they send each other off quite sweetly.

A’Wu sneaks back in through the back door and….

…promptly discovers that her aunt the Empress has been waiting and not particularly happy about it. But this family is actually quite sweet, for a C-Drama. Auntie actually seems more concerned about the fact that she was out by herself, without attendants or a bodyguard, than that she was breaking the rules or something.

But! On to business. Aunt wants it to be known that A’Wu is going to marry the Crown Prince, right? Like a good girl, right? Don’t you want to marry the man you’ve always called Big Brother? A’Wu begs to demur.

Aunt then points out that the women of their family are destined to be Empresses. (As if that’s something that can’t be changed by a good dynastic overthrow.) Auntie doesn’t actually lose her temper until A’Wu proclaims her undying love for Prince #3 and determination never to have to face the same pains and struggle for power that the Empress did.

Okay, to her credit, part of Aunt’s argument is that it is A’Wu’s duty as a royal princess to bear the burden of power and empire, as she (Aunty) has done herself. (But she does nearly slap a bitch when A’Wu says she’d just as soon live as a commoner, LOL.)

A’Wu’s mother arrives at this point and provides cover. Aunty leaves in thwarted rage, but bumps into Grand Vizier Dad. He points out that the Emperor was unlikely to let their family gain still more power by marrying the Crown Prince and consolidating it’s grip over the court….he thinks that the Emperor had an ulterior motive for allowing A’Wu to choose her own husband. But on the off-chance that it was just a random slip-up, he is also going to go play chess with the emperor.

Meanwhile, A’Wu and her mother are having a little sit-down to discuss the ninjas. (The easiest and most obvious suspect is: the Empress. She does not like Prince #3 and wants him gone, her family has the most to lose, and she has prior cause to resent him).

Cue #3’s mother popping up to complain to the Emperor.

Cut to: Some Guy (look, they all look freaking alike!) who is in charge of capitol security, getting raked over the coals for a) not protecting the prince from ninjas, b) not producing any live ninjas. Is he involved in the nefarious ninja plot? Dead men tell no tales! (Hm. Is this going to backfire on XQ somehow when he turns up?) The Emperor appoints Someone Other Guy to investigate the case.

The Emperor also grills the Empress a little bit. She defends herself smoothly but is definitely rattled. And, even he thinks she’s the prime suspect, so she definitely does have reason to be scared.

OKAY, SO. Wan’er’s father (this guy) is of the same family (the Xie Family) as Prince #3 and his mother. That’s good to know. He is not in charge of the investigation, some other guy is. But the investigation continues, and it does indeed look like the trap is being aimed at XQ: the idea that the men were killed to keep them from revealing secrets, the fact that they were evidently killed by a master swordsman, and the fact that they’re not locals.

So naturally our valiant detectives go storm a local brothel to look for non-local peoples.

The madam tries her best to keep them out of one particular room….

…where a customer tries desperately to keep his face out of sight….

…because it’s Prince #2. (huh, I was kind of expecting XQ there.)

Meanwhile. Wan’er and her father have a talk….thing is, once she finds out the plan for her to marry XQ she pitches a fit and refuses and storms out, finis this episode.

OKAY, so that was two episodes.

I really quite like Ziyi Zhang, and putting aside the fact that she’s far too old for her character, she’s great. Again: she’s a totally beautiful actress, perfectly made up and expertly filmed. What’s even better is that she sells her character expertly. A’Wu is also a good heroine–lively, but not annoying, willful but not stupid, stubborn but not selfish, and spoiled but not rotten. She’s what a lot of dramas aim at but fall short of.

Our hero has had basically zero screentime, but given that 90% of it consists of spinning kicks, I’m in.

The plot maintains a good pace and a certain amount of drama without getting too bogged down into the tedious “my house versus your house and the stakes are everybody potentially getting tortured to death if we do the wrong thing by a hair but nothing ever, ever, ever happens except people glaring at each other and making cutting remarks but the stakes are SO HIGH GUYS.”

Aaaaand, I guess I’m going to watch episode three.

But not tonight.

The Rebel Princess – Episode 1 Recap

The Rebel Princess is a 2021 C-Drama starring Zhang Ziyi and Zhou Yi Wei as the leads. Also present is Kara Hui, whom discerning audiences will remember from the Shaw Brothers’ My Young Auntie, or similar. It’s available with English subs on Viki (but took too long to load there so I watched it on Youtube.)

So, without more ado: here’s my recap for episode 1.

So we start off with the child princess, played by some child actress. She’s a pampered, spoiled, and much-loved princess, rather than a put-upon and bullied one, and is on good terms with her grandmother, her uncle the Emperor, and her three…cousins…? the princes. Of them, she prefers Prince #3 and it seems to be mutual. Her official name is Shangyang, but her personal name is A’Wu.

Her family is extremely powerful and has had twelve empresses, one of them her being aunt. Her father is also the prime minister–read: grand vizier, but low-key. He doesn’t cackle, he just lurks, stares meaningfully, and smirks a lot. This seems, out of the first twenty minutes or so, to be one of the less dramatically cut-throat imperial courts, but that will probably change.

About ten minutes later, she’s grown up enough to be having her puberty ceremony and she is played by Ziyi Zhang.

Now….Ziyi Zhang is about 41. She’s playing a role basically the written for someone the age of her Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon character, except now she could comfortably be cast in the Michelle Yeoh role.) She’s absolutely beautiful and flawlessly made up and also probably plastic-surgeried up too, and she’s a powerfully charismatic actress who absolutely sells her character. It’s just kind of a shame that she can’t play some sort of role written for a mature, powerful, and beautiful woman instead of…a teenager.

But anyhow, A’Wu’s puberty ceremony gets sidetracked into the various factions asking pointed questions about royal marriages, and then even further derailed when A’Wu goes off script and says that she’d prefer a love match over a high position, and in this world only wants to be married to–

–cue her own father suddenly and coincidentally shouting her down with a report of urgent news from the border, sorry no time for matchmaking, there’s going to be a warn on, men’s business must go first (kid we are going to have WORDS after this).

After this, anyway, A’Wu is sulking too much to properly partake in the ancestor ceremonies, omissions which are not overlooked by her family. But A’Wu won’t take a hint and demands to know why she wasn’t allowed to state her preference for a husband. Is it because her father doesn’t like Prince #3?

His reply is basically, “Well, at least you aren’t all dumb, kid.” Heh.

But, also, it’s because there’s going to be a war on.

Cut to THE WAR! Some guy with a big sword rallies the troops and they all go RAAAA and gallop off. Meanwhile on the other side, some guy with a fur hat rallies his troops and they wave their spears in the air. And then form up a nice, tight shield-wall with only their spear-points sticking out.
Tactics, man. They always sneak up on you when you’re not expecting it. So Big Sword Guy is alone in a ring of pointy spear and the dust flies…

Cut to: the council discussing the, y’know, extremely theoretical possibility that the barbarians, y’know…win. On the other hand, the reward for killing the barbarian king is instant promotion to the nobility.

OK, so the conversation is actually about the possibility that if this general guy (Xiao Qi? Big Sword Dude?) wins, a (ew) commoner is going to be promoted to the ranks of the lordship. HOW CAN WE ALLOW THIS BESMIRCHMENT OF OUR SOCIETY TO OCCUR? THAT’S RIGHT, WE SHOULDN’T….oh, wait, he is protecting us against the enemy isn’t he…hm. A conundrum.

A’Wu, meanwhile, is pestering her uncle the Emperor. He promises her anything she wants if she wins the chess game he’s currently playing against himself.

He is also worried about what will happen if Xiao Qi does win…and gets his promotion. The other nobles won’t accept him. A’Wu is of the opinion that they are stupid and stuffy. Just make him a lord already, he works for you one way or another, doesn’t he? Oh, she’s going to be maneuvered into agreeing to marry him, isn’t she…

Big Sword Guy flies out of the ring of spears and duels the head Fur Hat Guys one-on-one. We know they’re evil, because they have fur hats and veils that hide their (stuntmen’s) faces. And curved swords. Big Sword Guy, on the other hand, has no helmet on and is handsome. Sheesh. This is stupid. I know you wanted to have some sort of big hero moment, but…why start by making your hero charge his cavalry directly into entrenched spearwall and kill off all of his own men? Why not have him be the one with the spears? Or something else awesome?

Eh, I’m overthinking it and I know, the budget…


Eh. It’s not like I’ve reflexively started to empathize with barbarians who wear furs and challenge the dominant political structure, right?

Anyhow, A’Wu has won the game and immediately starts cajoling her uncle to agreeing to allow her the freedom to marry where she wills. And, since an uncle’s as good as his word, he agrees.

News of this promptly reaches the Empress, who is fairly disgusted with this notion: their family has had twelve empresses, and that’s going to be thirteen if it’s up to her (and her Crown Prince son.)

(Meanwhile, A’Wu’s celebratory dancing gets rudely interrupted by what I’m assuming is her brother-in-law? The guy who wears white a lot. Or just plain brother, perhaps? He warns her that her father is going to be pissed and probably give her a spanking when he sees her at dinner. But never fear! He’s got a pillow…)

So. The Empress’s son/the Crown Prince, has learned about the whole A’Wu Can Choose Her Own Husband thing, and is pissed. He’s even more upset that his mother isn’t all that likely to go to great lengths to force her niece into marrying him. She’s more focused on the fact that he might not always be the Crown Prince and ought to do something about it. But Prince #1 storms off, shouting that he doesn’t really care about it anyway.

A’Wu has seemingly decided to skip dinner…..until she then arrives with a bundle of sticks for being beaten with, lol. (The other members of the family carefully sink back out of the line of fire). But Dad asks: did the Emperor agree right away or after thinking it over first? He thought it over, first.

So Dad is about to paddle the shit out of A’Wu (who is a total wimp about it) before he notices that a) the sticks she has have thorns, and b) nobody’s had dinner yet. So she’s going to get fifty lashes with a non-thorny stick afterwards and NOBODY IS TO ASK FOR MERCY FOR HER OKAY? I AM THE PATERFAMILIAS HERE AND IT’S NOT LIKE I DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE PILLOW, YOU GUYS. Also, grounded. Let’s eat.

Back at the palace, the Emperor and….I dunno, I’m guessing this is Prince #3’s mother, discuss things. They are well aware that Prince #3 and A’Wu love each other, but on the other hand, A’Wu is one of the 12-Empress Family and her family is well aware of it. But, d’awwww, the Emperor did it because he wanted the kids just to be happy.

CUT TO: a messenger galloping in with news that Big Sword Guy has won! Woo!

Cut to: the council of officious nobles discussing the fact that the emperor’s response to this was: “Reward,” because, uh-oh, that means A COMMONER is going to join their exhalted ranks. Guys, this is why you keep getting overthrown in brutal peasant rebellions and small island nations.

So Xiao Qi is promoted to a Lord and ordered to return to the capital. His buddies (including a random swordgirl buddy), are jubilant but also wary.

We leave off the episode with the Emperor preparing to welcome the conquering hero in person (and hoping to arrange a fast-ball marriage with, look, all these old courtier guys look alike so I’m not sure who this person is exactly or more importantly who his daughter is but, y’know, his daughter who is not A’Wu but is instead Wan’ru or Wan’er or something.)

So, wait a minute. Who exactly is Prince #3 anyway??? Is it the guy in white? Have we even seen our heroine’s ostensible love interest yet? I am puzzled.

But intrigued.

Off for round 2…