Nirvana in Fire 琅琊榜 - Episode 2 (Recap)

There's a number of important meetings in this episode, as Su Zhe's identity as Mei Changsu becomes known. The two princes' desperation to win him over is almost painful to watch. But the most touching scene is his meeting with his former fiancée, Nihuang, who cannot recognize his face, but certainly feels something for this mysterious scholar. It is good to see that Mei Changsu has very good friends in the Capital: Jingrui might look like a worried seal, as JoAnne put it, but an ally like him is what everybody needs.
JoAnne: Yes, he definitely seems like a good friend. And now I think he looks a little like Nikki Minaj.
dewaanifordrama: Oh Nihuang. I love her to pieces! I've been wondering, those headpieces must have caused killer migraines. 

Episode 2

The marriage competition is on everybody's mind these days: The Emperor is looking at long list of competitors he received from his ever-smiling, super-polite head eunuch. All the bordering countries will send a contestant - except for Southern Chu. No wonder, cause that's the country that Nihuang has been fighting for ten years in the borderlands! She's an extremely capable General and the Empire owes her a lot, but it seems the Emperor is also quite wary of her power. He thinks it's time for her lil bro to take over - while he will keep Nihuang in the Imperial City, where he can best control her. And how to best control women? Through marriage.
But doesn't it seem like she'd wear the pants in almost any relationship? I'm guessing Operation Keep Nihuang In the Kitchen won't go well.
Man, Emperor is so suspicious. I bet he doesn't get a good night's sleep like ever. 
Prince Yu and Xie Yu are watching how two men spar with General Meng Zhi (Chen Long) (I love Meng Zhi so much!!!!), against whom they stand no chance! He is the leader of the Jing Guards (responsible for guarding the palace) and is ranked very high on the Lang Ya list for his fighting ability (I think he's No 2). Currently, he is training men for the marriage competition so that the empire will not lose face against all the extremely powerful contestants that are coming. Also, both Prince Yu and the Crown Prince would like to see one of their trusted men become Nihuang's husband; because of her 100'000 soldiers, of course. 
Why doesn't he just marry her off to one of his sons?
Maybe he suggested it and she said no? I'm guessing this isn't the first time he's tried to arrange her marriage. Didn't he say something about this is where he puts his foot down and he's indulged her long enough. 
Meng Zhi leaves with Marquis Xie Yu to discuss the security arrangement for the upcoming event. At the estate, Mr. Su is reading in the garden while Fei Liu twirls over the roof tops. Awww, the little pumpkin is bored! He wants Su to go out with him, but the scholar has better things to do. Fei Liu leaves by himself after Su's encouragement - Su is certain he will be fine because he has "a good temper". Hahaha... NO. 
He's the grumpiest old man I've ever seen in a teen-aged body! I love Fei Liu probably best of all the characters, so far. It's either him or Nihuang, really.
Fei Liu!!! I wonder if we'll ever get the backstory on why he's so loyal to Su-gege (gege is like the Korean oppa/hyung used to talk about an older brother). 
Mei Changsu briefly mentions that he has saved him from something and that's why he is so loyal... will we get more on it? 
The Marquis and General Meng have arrived - the latter sees Fei Liu doing his weird jumps on the tilted roofs and thinks it's an intruder! They start an awesome fight and even though we know Meng is extremely good, little Fei Liu is just as good (or at least almost-almost as good) in terms of martial arts skills. That's amazing, seeing how young he is!
That face. Airbender!
Great fight scene choreography in Asian entertainment is one of my most favourite things ever. And this line-work is just fabulous! Also, Meng Zhi has fabulous eyebrows. 
Mmmmmm...Meng Mmmm is most definitely right
Hearing the commotion, Mei Changsu scurries to the courtyard and orders Fei Liu to stop immediately. He apologizes profusely for Fei Liu's bad manners and promises to make sure it won't happen again. Su Zhe introduces himself to General Meng as sick friend of Jingrui, but Meng says that somebody who has Fei Liu's exceptional skill as protection must be exceptional himself. Be more careful, dammit! The Marquis is already 100% more interested in Su than he was before.
True. But more importantly: don't you love that touch of white at either side of Meng's little beard? 
Yes! I do! Sometimes I think that Su Zhe kind of doesn't really want to keep it secret that he's Lin Shu. 
After returning to his part of the building, Jingrui expresses worry that Su's "true" identity will be revealed pretty quickly this way. Jingrui’s younger brother, Xie Bi, overhears their conversation and quickly walks away. Ha! Seeing the look on Mei Changsu's face, this was all planned! (Behind him, by the way, is Fei Liu, hitting his head against the porch because he didn't win)
He's a manga character come to life, that boy.
Every. Word. Every. Sentence. Matters in this drama. Ah! Mei Changsu is so smart! 
And thus, the news about Mei Changsu's presence at the Marquis' house spreads quickly to Prince Yu (through Xie Bi) and the Crown Prince (through the Marquis, who, we realize, is a very smart bad guy). It's not the first and not the last time that both princes simultaneously discuss the same issue, but in very different ways - this highlights the difference in their characters extremely well. While Prince Yu is excited to have this Divine Talent in the city and wants to win him over with presents and such, his brother, at the Marquis' behest!, plots to kill him in case he does not become theirs.
Okay, I figured out how I'll remember which prince the Marquis supports (and therefore which prince is not a good guy.) I Xie Yu. (I shee you, roughly.  Doing bad things!)
So much plotting and scheming. I really do NOT like the Marquis. 
Nihuang is riding a bit with Xiadong, who is charged with finding out the truth about the Duke of Qing. Nihuang feels her friend is embarking on a very dangerous mission, but Xiadong finds Nihuang's situation equally perilous. Drawing close at high speed that very moment: The (7th) Prince of Jing, Xiao Jing Yan (Wang Kai!), returning from years of military service. Haha, he is curt and stiff, this one, despite the fact that Nihuang seems quite happy to see him. Not at all happy: Xiadong, who blames him for still believing in the Lin-family's innocence.
Where are One, Two, Three, and Four? Also, did the Emperor do anything besides sleep with women and get them pregnant with sons? Ever?
A consort for each night of the week? Seven sons that way? And WANG KAI!!!!! I will admit that Wang Kai is now my phone background. The first prince was Prince Qi, who was killed 13 years for his "rebellion" and the others we'll find out eventually I'm sure. 
Righteous Jingyan is not much loved at the palace either - he has to wait outside for his father’s summons. The last time he returned to the Capital, he didn't come to see his father but went home first (to wash himself first, actually), for which he had to kneel in front of a tomb for three months. Well, waiting an hour or two is peanuts then. 
Awwww, look at the FACE.  We like this prince, right?
I LOVE this prince ❤❤❤ One of my favourite things about Prince Jing is his dogged determination to do the be as upright as possible. He just seems to embody nobility to me. And it's not just his jawline. He's just so regal and you get that the minute he's onscreen - I just knew that I was going to like this character. 
Because the head eunuch reminds him of the waiting prince, he is finally summoned. He hands his father his military report and is reprimanded by the Crown Prince for being so "travel worn" and in armor. Argh, I hate him!! Well, Prince Jingyan talks back at his elder brother, which earns him a second reprimand, this time from his father. It seems he is known for his bad temper.
I definitely don't think too much of the Crown Prince.
Damned if he goes home first to shower, damned if he doesn't. Poor man. I know he's known to be impatient, but considering he doesn't punch his brother, I think he actually has some forbearance at least. 
Because he is told to leave immediately, he cannot go see his mother (Consort Jing), who is  a lowly ranked concubine. She is a doctor and the adopted sister of Lin Shu's father, Lin Xien (hence Lin Shu's aunt, which makes Prince Jing his cousin).
Family ties for the win!
Consort Jing!!! I love her!
Back in the Marquis estate, the Empress (Prince Yu's mother) is personally waiting to meet Mei Changsu. When they return from a little stroll and are informed about this, Jingrui realizes that his brother was the one telling Prince Yu about the identity of his guest and gets really angry. He leads Mei Changsu away so that he can rest instead of having to deal with a charged situation, and the Empress, Jingrui’s mother, Princess Liyang (sister of the Emperor and Xie Yu's wife) and Nihuang are left waiting. Of course they're annoyed, but seeing how these are "just people of the pugilist world", it's fine not to meet them. By the way, poor Jingrui thinks his father is "neutral" in the power-game going on right now.
I've been dwelling on his future misery since last episode, yep. Jingrui has major daddy issues, but for now ignorance is bliss.
I'm getting distracted by the beautifulness that is Hu Ge. I just love that he's often dressed in blue or with blue overtones - it suits him so well. 
Tournament time!!!! Yaaaaay! Jingrui, Yujin, and Mei Changsu arrive at the palace to watch. Our hero's arrival is much anticipated by both the Crown Prince and the Prince of Yu, of course. Totally enthralled and then angered by the fighting: Nihuang's little brother Mu Qing (Zhang Xiao Qian). Poor guy is worried about who gets to marry his sister.
Awwww. I hope he's a good guy, too. I don't want Nihuang to be disappointed in her brother.
He kind of reminds me of Joo Won actually and I also LOVE his robes. I love how defensive he is of his sister. It's cute.
As soon as they get the chance, the Crown Prince and the Prince of Yu make their way over to where Mei Changsu is sitting and try to impress him. Yu is smart though: he praises him for keeping fourteen states together peacefully. Crown Prince is just annoying. Go away, you cockroach! The situation turns more and more awkward, when both princes start offering him things like privileges access to the palace (Su gives it to  Fei Liu, haha), rare books and leave out no opportunity to one-up the other.
I loved the bit where the one brother embarrasses the other into giving Changsu his rare book collection, since allowing him to borrow the books made it seem like he wasn't very generous.
Those two princes are such idiots. I also really loved that part about the book collection. The writer has a really wry and fun sense of humour. It's something about the drama I really appreciate.
To our great relief, an eunuch lets them know that the Great Dowager Empress wants to see her "boys". Mei Changsu knows her ... and he quietly instructs Fei Liu about the appropriate manners). The grandmother has dementia, and each of the sons of nobility needs to be re-introduced to her, based on their lineage. She calls all of them "little" something, her memories stuck in the past. When her eyes fall on Mei Changsu, she seems to recognize him and calls him Little Shu. Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiih! Well, only Nihuang thinks it's strange, all the others seem to think she's either gaga or is just mispronouncing his name. When he kneels in front of her, she gives him one of the sweets that are "his favorites" and then calls Nihuang to join him. The Great Dowager Empress takes both their hands, puts them on top of each other, and urges them to marry soon.
My name is JoAnne, and I support this suggestion.
This scene and all the feels. I can't even. 
The others laugh in embarrassment, telling the old woman that she is making a mistake - Nihuang has not been betrothed to anybody yet! When Nihuang wants to withdraw her hand, Mei Changsu grasps it more firmly. She glances at him, strangely quiet, and certainly puzzled ... but definitely not violently opposed. 
I'm getting emotional just thinking about this scene. Maybe it's also because I'm listening to the drama soundtrack number called "Emotions" (情感巴乌). 
She goes after Mr. Su and asks to speak him alone. He freezes when he hears her voice ... damn. It must be hard. This is the first time in 10 years that he has seen and touched her, right? He apologizes profoundly for touching her that way, he did it considering the old woman's feelings, he claims. She didn't mind, she answers - but on a normal day, his hand would have been cut off.
Oh, that future husband is in for a wild ride!
I don't know how Lin Shu managed to keep that together. The emotional and physical pain that man carries is insane. 
They start walking together and have great rapport immediately. She finds it a little bit strange that he has come to the busiest of all place to heal and rest. She is also interested in whose side he will choose, but he does not give her a straight answer. Is he walking extra slowly to draw out the time they have together?
Poor, sad, ill-fated beautiful. So doomed.
I know. They just click so well together, and yet you know that they're about as star-crossed as lovers get. 
Suddenly, there is a commotion: An eunuch starts hitting a servant child for spilling water. Nihuang instinctively moves to help.
They're both so gorgeous! *stares* And look at the colour palette of this drama!!! Ah!I just love it all.


Wow, a lot is happening and it's only episode 2! We met several VIP characters, for example General Meng, who is one of my absolute favorites (mine too!). Just love his down-to-earth, pragmatic ways! We also met the prickly 7th prince and his mother, both related to Lin Shu. Jingyan is hard to love for his rigid ways, but we already see that he is the only uncorrupt son the Emperor has. And then, the scene with the Queen Dowager ... my heart almost stopped! I am utterly glad the Marquis of Ning was not there, because I am quite certain he would have suspected something.
It's a very moving scene, because before he goes in, Mei Changsu quietly prepares himself (by talking to Fei Liu) to meet somebody he cared for a lot in his youth. That the grandmother recognizes him is both very scary (if they find out his true identity at this point in time, he will be killed on the spot - traitor's son!) and touching (he had to give up his appearance and is now frail and very sick, no longer a great fighter, but she is able to see through it all, see his essence). (Kakashi, I started crying while reading this. So beautifully put, thank you!) That he acts impulsively in grabbing Nihuang's hand just underlines how deeply moved he is. Almost everything he does is planned (clever in this episode how he made sure his "true" identity would be revealed at an opportune time), but at that moment, he forgot all caution.
You can't look away for a minute with this show. Dialogue matters, but even more, body language and facial expression is important. Fortunately, the story is being told by very well-equipped actors. Speaking of - please tell me Meng is a good guy.
Should we tell you now or later? ;P I'm so glad for this chance to revisit each episode because I appreciate the drama more and more. Not only is the writing tight and meaningful in all the right ways, but paired with the excellent acting, it has an emotional pull that just increases for me with each episode. There had better be a parallel universe where Lin Shu and Nihuang get their happy ending.