Nirvana in Fire 琅琊榜 - Episode 52 (Recap)

kakashi: The biggest victory of them all is won in this episode, but there is so much sadness ... with Lin Shu's time running out quickly, he is tying up loose ends and says his goodbyes quietly. It is very satisfactory, but also very sad.
JoAnne: Watching Lin Chen prepare Fei Liu was hard.
Eleanor: I'm not sure if I can handle the sadness *takes deep breath*

Episode 52

Ah, Mei Changsu is very disappointed about Liyang's lack of courage and honor. But Prince Jing is less depressed - they still have Marquis Yan, he declares. Who will most likely pay dearly for it, but he's ready.
A good man, that Yan.
He is a good man. A very good man. I am so glad that amid the ruins of a corrupt kingdom, there still remain a few good men. 
Oh, but what is this? Grand Princess Liyang is having doubts about her decision, as soon as she is outside. She realizes that this is unstoppable now - Jingyan will make sure the truth will be revealed, no matter what. She now fears that she has lost the opportunity to plead for leniency on the Xie clan. Jingrui on the other hand finds Su Zhe's behavior quite intriguing ... he realizes that he may very well have come to the Capital solely for this case. He admires his and Prince Jing's determination. Good boy!
I'm sorry I made fun of you, Jingrui. It was done affectionately. Remember how angry I was with Mei Changsu at your birthday party? It's proof that I've always been fond of you.
*hugs Jingrui* I don't want to say goodbye to this drama. 
He has not uttered a single word of disapproval, but his mother still understands that she messed up, just through his quiet admiration of these two men - she asks to go back. YES! She will do it and the most important thing about it is, that she was in no way forced to commit to this. And Jingyan promises to make sure the Xie clan will be safe. Yup, he is that perceptive, woman.
Except when it comes to recognizing his best friend at his side for what? two years?
Poor little water buffalo. Maybe it was just too traumatic for him think about? And yay! Way to step up finally Princess Liyang. 
The whole thing got her thinking a lot about Sir Su, though ... She cannot hide her curiosity, especially when Prince Jing repeats that him and Su "can be treated as one". But I guess she has not yet heard the rumor, has she.
Hasn't she been in seclusion?
Oh Jingyan. You loyal darling. I love how firmly he defends his friend. He is just so loyal. Ugh. These two. My heart. 

Consort Yue/Xian aka The Snake has lost it and is creating a ruckus in her palace. Or is pretending to have lost it? Whatever the truth, she hates Consort Jing with a vengeance, for everything. Consort Jing makes sure the woman will not receive any further information from the outside and stays where she is, without ever seeing the Emperor again. Bye, Snake. 
Let's call her Felicia. Bye, Felicia.
Do NOT mess with Consort Jing. Just don't. 
Our two boys are now as well prepared as they can be - a high risk remains: the Emperor is too unpredictable. As to that, Mei Changsu has a request: he wants to be there during the birthday celebrations. Oh, Prince Jing reacts reeeeeally strangely to this, all upset! But not because he thinks this is difficult to do ... but because he is upset Lin Shu would even ask that! Of course he needs to be there, after all he has done! He wants his cousin to stop being Mei Changsu, at least in front of him! He wants his best friend and cousin back!
*Hands Eleanor a half-empty box of tissues* Sorry. I used some.
These two have torn my heart to shreds and then stomped on the pieces TT_______TT
I think there is something in my eye...
I gave the tissues to Eleanor...
*hands them to Kakashi*

What's Lin Chen cooking up now? He is extracting venom from a snake! Carefully mixing it with some powder and then adding a little bit of it to some other stuff that he is heating up on a small stove. At the end, he looks long and hard at the "Bingxu Grass". Then, he fiddles around with dried scorpions and other horrible stuff - it all goes in the pot. OMG, who will have to eat/drink it?! (I can guess, who...)
He should tell Fei Liu that's his dinner.
Venom as medicine is something that has long fascinated me. I would love to chat with Lin Chen. 
He tells Fei Liu that they will soon leave this place, which gets Fei Liu excited ... he likes to go anywhere that is not the Capital, if only Su gege is there. Yeah, why don't you crush my heart, you stupid drama.
Can I have those tissues back, please? There's another box there by the couch.
Kakashi has them, oh but here's another box *sniffs* Oh no, Fei Liu, your face TT______TT I need the tissues back. 
It's with a slight delay, because they were interrupted by Liyang and Jingrui, but now, Jingyan wants to know what his friend will do after all this is finished. Leave the Capital? Mei Changsu just says he is really tired after the last 13 years. He will... just wander. He will come visit Prince Jing again, in four or five years.
LIAR! Bad, mean liar! LIAR! *pauses TV to cry*
You idiot! Just tell him! Or do you want to break Jingyan's heart again? Okay, I get it, you want Jingyan to focus on ruling, but really, really, can't you guys just hang out for like a few hours, bring all the crew, have a picnic, throw oranges to Fei Liu TT_______TT
You know what? Prince Jing will have nothing of that bullshit. He wants straight answers, like: is Lin Shu's illness getting any better? Lin Shu says recovering fully is out of the question - he is weak and will never be able to beat his cousin in a fight again. Indeed, Prince Jing says the scholar has the advantage, because even if he would hit him, he would not dare hit back - to which Mei Changsu answers hitting the Crown Prince would be a death sentence anyway. Oh you sweet boys.... TT____TT
Now hug. HUG, dammit!
It's supposed to be a happy moment but now I'm crying even more TT_______TT
It's time to discuss another matter; that matter being Ting Shen. Who will never be able to be part of the royal family, because of the strict rules of proving lineage with all kinds of birth certificates. The two friends agree that it is better to leave him in the dark about his true heritage, all things considered, so that he can grow up in peace... and then Prince Jing offers to adopt him. That will allow him to at least become a minister.
I think I have another box of tissues upstairs, hang on.
Forget a box. I think we need a whole crate. 
Mei Changsu is clearly quite melancholic about all those things he's wrapping up, but Jingyan has something to show him... it's a pearl. The pearl he got him after he left the Capital and they last saw each other! I think Lin Shu is touched - he kept it all those years!!! - even if he's not at all showing it.
Suddenly the phrase 'pearl of great price' is running through my head. Is that from The Good Earth?
It's from a parable in The Bible in the book of Matthew, though maybe you are thinking of a different reference. I think that the more the drama shows beautiful and happy-ish moments like this, the more I feel sadder because of all that has been lost. 
Cut to Lin Chen and Fei Liu and some more heartbreak. Fei Liu refuses to believe that Su gege will die, because he believes Lin Chen will save him. But Lin Chen confides in the boy that he is worried ... what will happen to Mei Changsu when he reaches his final goal and can let go of that last breath he has been holding?Will you cut it OUT already? I'm getting dehydrated. 
*Hands Jo some tea* Why can't they just find a cure already!? We need Fei Liu to teach Lin Shu and Nihuang's children how to do cool martial arts. 
And then, it's time. It's the Emperor's birthday! While he is in a chipper mood after resting several days (does he look greyer than before though?), Princess Liyang looks like she wants to drop dead on the spot as she gets ready (though she smiles at her son in a very sweet way). The Princess Consort accompanies her husband to greet the Emperor and Consort Jing even before breakfast. Elsewhere, people start arriving for the banquet ... everybody is there, Sir Su, Nihuang, Marquis Yan, Little Prince Mu, Prince Ji, you name it. The Emperor is still enjoying himself with his son, playing Go (which ends in a deadlock for the time being), but his Eunuch tells him it's time to make a move.
The meal must have been hard for Jing and his mom, knowing what was coming.
I don't know if I can do this. I can feel the tension. This game of go, our small piece that is our beloved Prince Jing, is coming into his own. The Emperor does not yet know that the game is lost. Oh man, this fallout isn't going to be pretty. But at least Prince Jing is. 
There's music and dance and food and drinks and everybody seems to be having a good time ... in truth, several of the people in this hall are sitting on pins and needles - the wait must be excruciating. And then, she appears ... Princess Liyang in the house!!!! The walk up to the throne seems to be taking f o r e v e r. And then she kneels. And begins.
I cannot breathe.
*pauses so sob a little* The framing of this shot. That long walk. Agonising. 
She pulls out the letter from her sleeve and says she wants to reveal Xie Yu's horrible sins in his stead and in front of everyone. The Emperor explodes in anger, he does not want to listen to that stuff on his birthday! But she won't stop. She tells everyone about the scholar who forged the handwriting of Nie Feng, the false claim of the Chiyan army revolt, and how they then murdered him (Sin #1). About how Xie Yu ambushed Nie Feng and his troops and then claimed it was Lin Xie (Sin #2). How Xie Yu tricked his Majesty into giving him the imperial seal of the military and then went to slaughter the exhausted Chiyan army at Meiling without a warning, when they returned from fighting the enemy (Sin #3). Afterwards, they claimed the Chiyan army had resisted imperial orders and had attempted to rebel (Sin #4).
Gotta hand it to her, once she made up her mind she didn't waiver. She's the Emperor's sister, right?
Yes, she's the Emperor's little sister. She has nerves of steel right now and it's amazing. This scene leaves me utterly breathless. 
The Emperor screams for the guards to get her out of his sight, but General Meng intervenes! (and his Majesty's guards are blocked by Prince Jing's guards outside) He begs his Majesty to let her finish what she has come to say. She gains more time and continues: Xie Yu and Xiajiang used General Li's seal to forge more letters, "proving" that it had been Prince Qi who instigated the rebellion because he wanted to take the throne by force. This, as we well know, led to the annihilation of his entire household (Sin #5). They killed everyone who knew differently and wanted to speak to the Emperor (Sin #6).
Judging by his reaction, I honestly think the Emperor did not know. He just accepted what they told him and didn't give it another thought. Well he did think about it, obviously, but he didn't question it.
I think that also judging by his reaction, he has known that he should have questioned it. I think he's known that, but ultimately not cared to question it. It shows his utter failure as a leader - to not question such a thing as this that lead to the deaths of so many. If he had ever cared an ounce about justice, he would have listened and investigated and double checked. But because he lacks integrity and was so hungry for power, he chose to listen to voices of dissension and doubt without questioning them once. He played games and pitted his sons against each other. He lead the court into corruption. Obviously I have very little love for this man. 
All of this, Xie Yu confessed in his letter - "please follow the Heaven's orders by allowing a thorough investigation and order to reopen the Chiyan case!" Princess Liyang ends her speech; only then will she feel at peace. Nihuang gets up, kneels. She was betrothed to Lin Shu back then - and she still lives by it. She sees herself as a surviving member of the Lin family and asks his Majesty to reopen the Chiyan case. And then, more and more ministers get up to kneel and beg for this. The last one to do so is Prince Ji ... and the Emperor starts crying tears of anger and frustration.
I think he's shocked that all these people question what happened in the past - and by extension, his decisions about those events. Each time he said 'even you...' I thought what he was feeling was betrayal, however rightly or wrongly.
For those people to have been able to stand up and to stand behind the reopening of the case comes down to one man, Lin Shu, Mei Chang Su, the man embodied with the ghosts of 70,000 men and their families.


OMG THEY DID IT! (almost) I want to clap and shout and scream! Oh Lin Shu, how GOOD it must feel! But please don't take your last breath yet, hear me??! TT______________TT
I don't think he feels good, though. I think if anything, now that it's out of his hands, he feels empty.
He looks like he is about to unravel and his ashes to fly away on the wind. 

I hated a bit on Grand Princess Liyang in the last episode and I am sorry for it, because!!! Despite being screamed at by her horrible brother, she stayed steadfast and delivered this awesome speech with such an impact. Thank you! Thank you, Grand Princess!
She did very well. I continue to feel a bit sorry for this emperor. None of us are perfect, and he falls far short of the mark - but he was bolstered in his wrongness on all sides and I don't think he ever deliberately hurt people just because he could - not that I can recall seeing, anyway. He thought he was right, and very few people ever were able to say otherwise, so his belief in himself and his opinions was always supported by the behavior of those he trusted. He's fearful and suspicious and he should never have been emperor. But he was the emperor, so given all that, how could he act differently?
I think that for me it's also a commentary on good leadership. To be a good leader and a good person, one must question such deeds and not create an environment where people cannot try and rectify wrongs. And the Emperor did not create an environment where justice and integrity were prized. There were so many other cases that Mei Chang Su unravelled to overthrow the ministers - these are the people that the Emperor surrounded himself with. As Emperor he allowed the kingdom to rot. The massacre of 70, 000 people and their families isn't something that one can hush up without serious investigation, and yet he did just that. I think if he were a better man and truly wanted to lead well, there are many things he could have done differently. Perhaps that seems harsh, but considering his actions as a leader and the lack of integrity he possessed, I cannot feel sorry for him, not really. He is just as culpable as Xia Jiang in my book because he didn't do enough to make sure the false information was false and instead just believed it. I'm also perhaps being a tad idealistic, but I really do think that leadership should not be sought out by power hungry individuals, but that's probably too much reading of Plato's The Republic ;)

The "goodbye-scene" as I want to call it between Lin Shu and Jinyang is bitterweet. One the one hand, just having Lin Shu/Mei Changsu near him is such a consolation for Prince Jing. To be able to experience this victory with Lin Shu there makes it a thousand times more powerful. But on the other, Lin Shu as Mei Changsu has come to the end of this road, almost. He needs to disappear after setting everything in order. He is ready to do that, has always been since his return - but now that the day is imminent, he cannot help but feel the loss of all these people he values so dearly again.
I hope he leaves with the intention of returning to visit. He can go off to do other things, to rest, but always thinking he will see them again. And then, if he dies peacefully in his sleep, I will be okay.
I don't know if it is really possible for Lin Shu to have a happy ending. Or perhaps his happiest ending is to finally rest and be at peace.