Nirvana in Fire 琅琊榜 - Episode 54 FINAL (Recap)

kakashi: Tissues ready, my friends? Loads and loads and loads? We are at the end of this show, the end of our recaps of this show, and to top this, we also get an episode that shreds out heart to pieces. It is bitter-sweet, because Lin Shu gets to live his life to the fullest at the end, but the loss is almost unbearable. Never forgotten. Almost remembered. It is hard to forget someone who has given you so much.
JoAnne: I don't think I can share my tissues this time, Eleanor.
Eleanor: Don't worry Jo, I brought loads of my own T_________T

Episode 54 - FINAL Episode

While Lin Chen merrily plans Lin Shu's and his holiday in detail - there's lots of teasing, because Lin Shu wants Li Gang and Zhen Ping to manage the Jiangzou Alliance for him, while they object to him travelling only with a child (Fei Liu) and an insensible person (Lin Chen), who, proving just how insensible he is, then suggests Miss Gong Yu should join them! - the Lin family, Prince Qi et al. have a special memorial hall set up for them, now that their innocence is proven. There is a memorial tablet for Lin Shu as well ... but Prince Jing covers it with a red scarf.
Does that have particular meaning, when you cover a tablet like that? Or is it simply an emotional gesture on Jing's part?
I don't know but it still stabs my heart into a million pieces *unabashedly sobbing*
Tears start to flow freely, on and off the screen, when Lin Shu comes to pay his respects, and, overwhelmed by his feelings, breaks down sobbing in front of his family's shrine.
I thought he was doing that 1000 bows ritual here and worried about his health, realized it was a gif, therefore repeating.
How can this be so beautifully happy and yet so utterly tragic at the same time? 
Paying his respects to the dead was the last event Lin Shu wanted to take care of in the Capital - they're packed and ready to go. But Fate wants it that this is the day several neighboring forces decide to start a war against Liang. It's pandemonium! There are several fronts at once and Liang is struggling to get their defenses ready. What they lack in particular is an adequate Commander General to lead them to war.
I won't lie, my first thought was that Xie Yu somehow didn't die, and organized these factions against him.
*shakes fist at stupid opportunistic armies* LEAVE MY JINGYAN'S KINGDOM ALONE!!!
All his ministers are too old, so Jingyan wants to go himself - but his ministers beg him not to. The Emperor is frail, the situation volatile and a strong presence is needed in the Capital to manage state affairs. But what other options have they got? 
So none of these armies have anyone at all as second in command? No young men willing to lead?
They need someone to rally behind; I think it's more than just having a good military leader. 
Mei Changsu is also adamant that Prince Jing CANNOT go. They cannot trust the Emperor. If Jingyan leaves, chaos is wont to erupt in the Capital for sure! But he did some planning: Wei Zheng is good at water battles, so he should go to the East Sea. The battle at the Southern Border, that's something for Nihuang to take care of, because she knows the area so well. But what about the Northern Front? It seems they have to act quickly and decisively, because their enemy is not in for a long fight. They decide to send Nie Feng, the Jifeng (=Violent Wind) General, with Xiadong to translate for him. Yay, Beast Power!
I wonder if his fur will get all tangled up and pinched by the armor scales.
LOL poor fuzzy general. 
That, my friends, leaves Da Yu. And Lin Shu is thinking that ... "You cannot go", the Crown Prince interrupts him. Absolutely out of the question! But Lin Shu claims he has an excellent doctor and he is in much better health! so Prince Jing agrees to let him go if that doctor can really confirm that he is up to it. Nihuang's shocked face speaks more than a thousand words, but desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.
How is Lin Chen ever going to agree, though?
Because it is what Lin Shu wants *sobs*
That doctor thinks Lin Shu is insane. It's almost winter, this battlefield is in the North! How long does he think he will last? "Three months", is Lin Shu's answer. He knows Lin Chen made Bingxu Grass pills. He also knows that without this war, he could live peacefully for, let's say, six months, maybe a year. Yes! That's a given! Lin Chen shouts. Can Lin Shu not think of himself for a change, now that the Chiyan Army case has been resolved? Can he not stop loading the suffering of the world onto his shoulders?
Has he met the guy?
*sobbing* Lin Shu, the man who gave everything away to save so many. Let him have this one Lin Chen. I hate the thought of it, but I have to respect his choice. 
But Lin Shu has made his choice. He has lived as Mei Changsu for thirteen years. If he has the chance to end his life as Lin Shu on the battlefield, he wants to take it. He may well have told Prince Jing that Lin Shu should remain dead, alive only in memories... but that was before this happened.
Okay, but if he goes everyone will know he was Lin Shu and then what about all that gossip about Jing they wanted to avoid? That suddenly no longer matters at all? Of course, if there's no empire, Jing's reputation won't matter at all...
I don't think he will tell anyone publicly he is Lin Shu, I think it's just for him, and of course the people who know and love him know. He really was a brilliant military strategist. And ultimately, all that Lin Shu has done, all that Mei Changsu has done was ultimately to protect his country and the people he loves, so it makes sense he wants to do this as well. It's just who Lin Shu is. 
Lin Chen claims he does not know that Lin Shu guy. The friend he kept alive with all his power is not Lin Shu, Lin Shu died a long time ago. What use is it to revive that person for three months and kill Mei Changsu in the process? It's because Mei Changsu has already fulfilled his duties, says our warrior turned to scholar - but Lin Shu has not. He wants to die as the person he really is. He wants that Bingxu Pill.
So Bingxu GRASS will cure you forever as long as you kill 10 people in the process. But the Bingxu PILL, which no one had ever mentioned before last episode, cures you but only you, but only for 3 months and then you die? You can't just keep taking the pill?'s grass in Nine Gates, too. Is it also Bingxu grass?
I don't think it cures him, more like will give him a bit of a boost. Like Red Bull, but fourth century China. Isn't it also what the heart pills from all the previous episodes were made out of? 
The Bingxu Pill will give him his physical strength back but it will also kill him. It's a deadly poison. After this, there is no point of return, no "day-to-day" living. It's the certain end. "So what!", Mei Changsu exclaims, with so much passion, "after all these years, I am still the young Marshal of the Chiyan Army, Lin Shu!" He wants to return to the battlefield - that battlefield. It is the place he belongs.
Let him go - if he's going to die anyway, let him die where he wants in the way that he wants. Hasn't he given enough? This choice IS for him.
Exactly. Let him choose. I hate it, but let him choose. 
I would have given him those poison pills too, friends. This is a dying man's (last) wish, kind of, and there is truth in what he says, so much truth! And guess who is going with him, storming off to the enlistment office right now (just like the Sunshine Boys did earlier): his doctor, the often-but-not-always insensitive Lin Chen. Mei Changsu smiles, tears in his eyes, as he says he believes that Lin Chen will very much like Lin Shu once he gets to know him.
Absolutely. It's the only right choice. And I love Lin Chen's 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' attitude.
I just want to hug all these people and never let them go. I don't know if I can let them go.

And then, "Aging of a Beauty" begins to play and I lose it and really cannot un-lose it until the end. Nihuang steps into the garden and looks at this man she has always loved but could never have, tears flowing freely, as he looks back at her. But you know what, she is smiling through her tears. She of all people knows that giving him this chance, be it as short as it may, is giving him back his life.
If I were here, I'd have married him on the spot, had one night together, and prayed for a baby. But she's a warrior, too, so I guess she can't do that.
*sobs hysterically* Never have I mourned for a pair of starcrossed lovers as I have for these two. 
Jingyan can no longer object to Lin Shu's involvement after Lin Chen has given his approval - Mei Zheng will be Commander General and Lin Shu will be his strategist, which will ensure his safety. Lin Shu assures his cousin, who is upset that he cannot ride to battle with him like they used to but has to stay behind, that he will be fine. 
You're a lying liar who lies, Lin Shu. Although I guess your definition fine could be different than mine.
T_______T It is very hard to comment when you are crying *grabs tissues* I also feel so sorry for Jingyan because while he knows that Lin Shu is probably not going to return, he can't really do much about it. The choice to pursue the throne means sacrifice for him as well. 
Elsewhere in the night, Nihuang tells Fei Liu about that time when Lin Shu rode out to battle at Meiling; she was about the age Fei Liu is now. At the time, she thought her Lin Shu gege was invincible, that he would return soon and be by her side, for the rest of her life. That turned into thirteen years. When he returned, he looked like a completely different person, but in her heart, "he has always been and always will be, the most radiant boy of Jingling City, with an unchanging pure heart that will never perish." And she will do everything to support him and let him do what he wants, until the end. And she asks Fei Liu to please take good care of Su Zhe this time.
Please tell me Fei Liu survives.
Oh Nihuang! Fei Liu had better survive! This really is so hard to comment when I keep on having to pause to wipe away the tears. 
Thirteen years, echoes Jingyan on the wall, thirteen years was too cruel. And now, there is not even knowing when they will meet again. But he needs Lin Shu, he needs him by his side, to help him with this burden of becoming and staying a good emperor. Can he give his word that he will come back? "Of course", says Lin Shu.
But he was never going to stay, Jing. He was leaving forever regardless. Didn't he know that, or was it just the Emperor who knew that?
I think that Jingyan knows, but he still must ask. I do not envy him the burden on his shoulders. To walk the path of leadership is ever lonely, and made lonelier still by the impending loss of his best friend, Lin Shu, again, after so many years. 
The troops are moving out! Prince Jing watches from the battlement, stone-faced. Lin Shu and Nihuang, on horses, watch from the side. "Brother", she says, "please don't forget, you promised me that we would travel the world together. After the war ends, you must come to Yunnan first".
He says nothing, so she continues: "I know that you hold the fate of the kingdom in your heart. As long as there are still battles ongoing in the land, you and I can never spend our time together like an ordinary couple".
"They say that fate lasts for three lifetimes", he finally says, "I hope we can be born into ordinary families in the next life and spend our lives together in peace". It's a promise. And their final goodbye.
At least he is honest with her at the end.
This is too sad T______T  I loved this scene even though it broke my heart. Lin Shu knows he is leaving and not coming back, but at least he tells her he wants her, and he wants a life where a life with her would be possible. *shakes fist at Xia Jiang and all the nasty people*
Cut to Prince Jing in the memorial hall ... and Nihuang in her tent in the South, receiving a letter with grave news from Gong Yu. Slowly, Prince Jing unveils the memorial tablet that reads: "Deceased Xiaoqi General Shu of the Lin Family". At the base of the tablet, there is the pearl the size of an egg.
I was a little confused by this at first. I knew this was our notice that Lin Shu had died, but I thought it was Qi's tablet that got covered up initially, and  so then when we see it here, I thought Lin Shu had put his pearl there with Qi's tablet but I had no idea why. I thought maybe it was symbolic of all he had done to restore Qi's honor as Mei Changsu but then Lin Shu could only give his ge-ge this one thing that had really meant a lot to him. My eyes might have been a little blurry.
I think it might be a title, but I can't remember. My heart though, it is breaking right now. I think it must have broken a million times over with these beautiful scenes. 
Several years later, the Emperor is dead, long live the Emperor! Jingyan has two sons, one from his Consort and one the adopted, now quite big Tingshen. Everybody is happy and even Gao Zhan is still around, though he is getting old. Jing's Consort says: "Look, the wind is rising!" as one of the flags moves, but Gao Zhan knows better: it's not that the wind is rising, it's that within the palace walls, the wind has never stopped. (Read this bit from Joyce about the 4th official NiF song)
Heavy, shaky sigh from me.
Lin Shu!!!!!!!!! *sobs* But I am also so glad that Jingyan is the Emperor and that the kingdom is safe and prosperous. 
A new army is formed out of two previous branches and General Meng asks Emperor Jingyan to give it a new name. And thus he names it "Changlin Army", in honor of Lin Shu and Mei Chang Su. A man who gave his life twice for this country.
There are no words.
*heaving sobs*


*Ugly sobbing*. I tried several times to write these final comments, but it is hard. It feels like losing a dear friend in real life, which is so totally silly, but I guess just shows what kind of drama this is.
I have all sorts of ugly sobbing happening and it's been months and months since I watched the final episode. It stays with you. 

Ending it at episode 53, with Lin Chen's statement that Mei Changsu should stop thinking about his death and just continue living, one day after the other, would have been okay. It would have left us with some hope that maybe, with the right care from this excellent but silly doctor, Mei Changsu could live one for several years, enjoying the pleasures of life with Fei Liu by his side after thirteen years of plotting and scheming.
And then maybe some small final scene to show him at the very end. I would have liked that.
I think I would have liked it, but at the same time, it would have been a less beautiful ending. 

But that would not have been a happy ending for Mei Changsu. That very moment he gets a chance to become who he once was, he goes for it. Yes, he told Prince Jing before that Lin Shu would remain dead, but he only said it because he needed to remove himself from Prince Jing's life (for a variety of reasons). There are several scenes throughout the drama where it becomes clear how much Mei Changsu misses being Lin Shu, how much it costs him psychologically to act like Mei Changsu.

See, I fully understand him. He has the chance to live three months as who he truly is or live a year or more as an alter ego he does not even like that much. Be on the battlefield, save the country, die a meaningful death - I get it. I also get why he lied to Jingyan about it all, why he promised him he would be back. He had to. His cousin is too stubborn and would simply not let him go. But that part hurt me. Prince Jing feels so lonely, to the very end - as they always said he would be.
At least that baby teeth consort of his turned out to be a good person. Why did they make it seem like something else? I wasn't the only one who worried about her...
What Kakashi said. Leadership is lonely and painful and full of sacrifice. I really wish that he and Jingyan could have hugged it out though. Just once. 

Nihuang, at least, knows... even though she does not acknowledge it to Lin Shu's face, she knows he will not return to her. The hope that they can be together in one of their next lives is real for them - and that makes it (kind of) all right. She will endure; she knows they will meet again.
I don't like the idea of her always being alone in this life, though.
I do love that they had the alternate lives conversation. (In the book she is actually married to someone else even when Mei Changsu arrives, so they changed this for the drama)

Ending at episode 53 would have left us with some hope, this does not. He died a hero and he gave everything for his country, more than once. Let me go and copy part of that translation from Joyce, changing/shortening it when appropriate, from the song "Journey to the End", because it seems to fitting to end with it:

"The first half of his life is about friendship and loyalty - but then he was forced to wander. The fragrance of medicine becomes his companion as he builds a new name for himself in his forced exile.
He returns to Jinling, but this time he is not the passive party. Like a game master, he controls the ebb and flow and the fate of not only the people around him but also the fate of the Empire.
The young and carefree, they are but a fleeting moment in life, just some stories people would later enjoy retelling. In forgotten graves, the spirit of the people who were wronged do not rest and continue to call.
Oh how the wind rises, how it blows.
It has been blowing for more than a decade and has made many things into stories and song and buried many feelings, forever entombing them in the past. 
But now, the wind rises again with Lin Shu's arrival and it rages in the courts ever more ferociously as the end nears.
When the war starts, when the country needs him again, he re-adorns his armor without hesitation and all this is for a belief that is held dear in his heart. His life will be to create, to forge and prove through his actions, his beliefs.
But in the next year, when the Langya list is written anew, he is not there anymore to be placed back on the list."

Final Comments

I am full of gratitude to so many people and I feel I need to express that here. First and foremost, thank you, JoAnne and Eleanor, for joining me on this journey of recapping Nirvana in Fire. It has been such a pleasure working with you!
Always, any time.
Anytime my dear friend. Anytime. Thank you for asking me. 

And thank you, commenters, knowledgeable people like Joyce and moonlil, who have enriched our recaps with those important details about the book, about the background, about the context of this incredible story. This was much more than just a recapping project. It is an honor to know all of you!
Yes, this was a much more interactive process than usual, and it enriched the journey for us all. I am so appreciative of the knowledge and patience and willingness to share that everyone showed us. 
Yes! Thank you! And because of these recaps I met Joyce and moonlil! Whoohoo! I love the internet *hugs everyone*

And thank you, readers, for the great support you have shown us throughout these many, many months. Recapping becomes so much more of a pleasure when you receive enthusiastic feedback from the people out there in the vast internets.
I send out big internet hugs to everyone who loved this show and waited patiently for us to work our way through it.
Thank you! You are all so amazing! 

I feel emotionally drained right now, but this drama, it will stay with us forever.
Look at all the things Mei Changsu gave us - we have this story, but we have also now opened a door into many other mainland dramas for ourselves if not for others, and none of us knew much of anything at all about them before we started this. Not that we know so much now...but it's a start. And then, of course, there are the trips to see Wang Kai, and Eleanor...well - Eleanor.
Well, it's not really an understatement that this drama, and with it Wang Kai, came at a very difficult part of my life and well, made my life so much more interesting and lovely, maybe changed things for me forever. And yes, Wang Kai, he will always be so very special to me. Always. This whole drama is, but especially Wang Kai.