(Sorry, I just could not help myself with the title.)
Well, the first run of a brave new experiment completely failed as I ended up writing just as much as before if not more on top of adding extra summaries. It probably didn’t help that I most likely spent more time talking about The Matrix Trilogy plus extras, the importance of voting in the American 2020 mid-term elections (mark that year down, it’s going to be important and for more than you think), the end of Imperial China and another swing at Predestination, maybe it would have been a bit shorter (maybe as in yes, yes it would have). Longest one ever, Scott tells me.
OK, I suppose the super short version is, go read Bree Chan’s one at Drama Kiwi on the link just up above, it’s a really good detailed one with some nice pictures including Zhang Peng doing his best Natalie Portman in Black Swan in the last picture. Right, now on with the show.
Now, I guess could cut out all the links and references to things that aren’t Go Princess Go but let’s not go overboard and all crazy here. I can wind it back a notch, though.
Today’s non Go Princess Go feature being … featured is Another Earth.
Just imagine if one day, another planet suddenly appeared in the skies and it turned out to be an exact carbon copy of Earth, with exactly the same history up to that moment. However as each became aware of the other, their histories diverged and what was effectively one person existing as two copies, began to diverge at that instant.
It is quite obviously demonstrating an example of what if I made a different choice in life at a key moment, how would things turn out? I’m not privy to any extra information but I suspect that’s not the case with Exiern‘s alternate world in Dark Reflections. Maybe it branched off from a common history with what we’d call the main Exiern universe or maybe it was always apart but parallel, kind of like the Red and Blue Universes in Fringe, no matter how far back you go there are differences in history (possibly no President Jackson, part of California disappeared underwater, smallpox never eradicated, no Batman (!) ) but the same people keeping appearing on each side. I like to use the phrase quantum entanglement. Not sure how it applies here exactly but it sounds kind of cool).
Anyway, since they more or less revealed that moment in the trailer, here’s more of that scene. It’s a nice dramatic moment.
…and I really enjoyed the soundtrack, here are the opening minutes of the film which used “The First Time I Saw Jupiter”.
Here’s the full instrumental version from the official Fox Searchlight website:
I really liked this film, it’s a really meditative look on life, loss and learning to live again.
So I guess the message to Typh’s alternate doppelgänger on another Exiern? “Hey! You over there being evil? Stop being evil!”
That’s that sorted then. I bet Dark Tiffany’s really learned her lesson for sure now, though you’d have to read it to be absolutely sure. Which I’m sure you’re all doing already, right?
OK, that seems to be an improvement, we’ve reached the episode already. Furthermore, I think we can start on it straight away instead of big long stories like how you can imagine it’s an episode of Exiern on TV with a few tweaks.
Well, as the title says, it’s good to be the King. Being Queen isn’t really an option to men generally even now, never mind back then (I’m talking about actual official royalty here). Zhang Peng’s always been a special case, though - but not so fast, it’s not quite that easy just yet as we’re about to learn during the course of this episode.
In this episode we cover Zhang Peng …
… protesting the new Emperor’s massage privileges.
… delegating to Lu Li to beat up Prince Zhao for that whole murder plot.
… learning that he’s going to be next Empress.
… however that’s part of Qi Sheng’s plot to sneak Zhao’s Wife into the palace. Suffice to say Zhang Peng is *not* pleased with this development but as always, immediately starts looking for ways to turn this to his advantage.
… The Ninth Brother has been kicked upstairs and seems to have gotten what seems like one of those promotion-demotions.
We start this episode with Zhang Peng getting what passes for a facial in this day and age. I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised to learn that he knows a thing or two about facial maintenance given he was obviously one of those metrosexuals, as he goes on to confirm as he talks about what was undoubtedly his bathroom cupboard full of hair care products and other sundries in the far distant future past. I suppose it is fair to concede that as he says, a good pummeling like the one he’s had repeatedly over the last few days can age your face dramatically. I suspect he’s not quite got the hang of how they do things here as I don’t think you’re meant to eat the cucumbers they stick to your face.
Zhang Peng decides to go yell at the Emperor, who we’ve known up to this point as the Third Brother and the Crown Prince. He has actually got a name, Qi Sheng, which to keep it clear who we’re talking about, is the one we’ll use going forward. At some point on the way, Zhang Peng ditched the cucumber slices, or ate the rest of them. Qi Sheng is found to be having a massage and Zhang Peng is rather miffed that it’s from what he regards to be two very attractive women. Could he actually be as remarkable as this seems, getting jealous?
After sufficient complaining and noise making, Qi Sheng can hardly deny being aware of Zhang Peng at this point. He says it’s just a massage, Zhang Peng says if it’s just a massage then, share and share alike. He says it’s been prescribed to him by his doctor because of his dislocated shoulder, I forgot to mention that the Ninth Brother reset it for him during that sojourn in the woods last episode, complete with borderline nasty sound effect.
Zhang Peng takes issue with this but somehow achieves the otherwise impossible (but we know not for him) by making the Qi Sheng look good when it’s revealed that both masseurs are blind, deaf and mute. Zhang Peng then manages to go for the combo hit sequence of bad taste by saying to us past the Fourth Wall that it’s such a shame given how not bad looking they are. Any residual sympathy for his predicament would have been booking tickets for the next plane out at this point.
Meanwhile, outside Prince Zhao is stumbling about looking for his wife. Zhang Peng, having lost that last bout of verbal sparring with Qi Sheng due not realizing the situation of the masseurs before opening his mouth (basically speaking without thinking yet again), he works out some displaced aggression by using his ability to delegate by getting Lu Li to go and beat up Prince Zhao for that whole murder think. Lu Li assures Zhang Peng that she doesn’t need a bamboo stick as she’s equal to ten and goes on to prove it in a flurry of arms and fists.
Prince Zhao, already being quite drunk and disorientated doesn’t know what’s hit him (and still hitting him) so it’s all WHY WHY WHY oh right that whole murder plot thing. Zhang Peng now thinks it’s time to enter the arena and does so having clearly learned from his time in the royal family at the School of Imperious Storming. However, he can’t help but feel sorry for Prince Zhao as he’s able to tell his tale of woe. He’s been drunk daily (so no change there) and that he’s been told his wife is dead. He doesn’t believe it and thinks his brother, the new Emperor has spread this story to get his mitts on Zhao’s wife.
Zhang Peng does sympathize with this, probably at least in part because he’s undoubtedly been on the other side of that fence, in fact, we saw him up to basically that at the start of the first episode with his boss’s girlfriend. Prince Zhao admits that he saw the opportunity to get rid of all of his competition and everyone who had insulted him but primarily to get his wife back (she’s really not worth it dude). Then Lu Li asks if she’s to still keep hitting him and Zhang Peng decides that unfortunately, yes she does for all the inconvenience Zhang Peng has been put through.
Beating Prince Zhao by proxy didn’t seem to be as cathartic as hoped. Zhang Peng is worried because it seems like Qi Sheng didn’t need the influence of the Crown Princess’s family to become Emperor and as a result, he may not end up as Empress, which is something he thinks is important as part of staying alive, at least in the short term. He still hasn’t forgotten that Qi Sheng, as the former Crown Prince tried to have him killed and he hasn’t seen anything to change his mind about that.
So while complaining about this to Lu Li despite her reassurances that the Zhang family still has important influence, of course, the Emperor unexpectedly appears out of nowhere when his name is mentioned. He’s worse than the bloody Candyman but at least he hasn’t started disemboweling people with a hook (well, not yet). On the way to being dragged off with the usually squawked protests (this really is a theme now), Qi Sheng stops to tell off a maid for calling a protesting Zhang Peng the Crown Princess as he was being dragged past her. So I guess that’s official, then even if no-one seems have gotten a memo about it, hence all the confusion.
Zhang Peng tries to do the chivalrous thing by reassuring the maid that it hasn’t been confirmed yet (after all, it was news to him) and to get up from prostrating herself on the ground when Qi Sheng drags him off and says in effect that Zhang Peng’s problem is that he cares far too much about the plebs. Zhang retorts that this is called being a gentleman. When somehow you’re clearly sailing under the low bar that Zhang Peng has set about how he treats other people and is going as far as to admonish you for your behavior, you seriously need to be reassessing your life choices at this point.
Anyway, the one good thing to come out of this is that Zhang Peng is now Empress of a pre-modern Chinese state. Zhang Peng briefly looks pleased with himself at this development before Qi Sheng being Qi Sheng, brings it all crashing down again. Of course, this Easter Island stone head masquerading as a human being has to ruin the moment. He says “she’s here, she’s suffered a lot,” obviously referring to Zhao’s Wife.
Qi Sheng says he does owe Prince Zhao for what he’s put him through but what he did with the whole assassination attempt was too much. He really should listen to himself given that he drove his brother to this in the first place. He says he didn’t punish him this time (big of him) and was even offering him a way out (bigger of him). Qi Sheng tries to justify all this by saying that his brother’s perpetual drunkenness meant he couldn’t look after his wife and that she was getting sick because of it. Your fault much don’t you think? I don’t hold out much hope for his future administration based on his reasoning so far. Zhang Peng not being a complete dummy says whatever excuse you want to bring your mistress to the palace, he’s cool with it.
Zhao’s Wife is a terrible actress. As a perfectly suitable actress for the role of someone badly acting that they’re sick. I don’t like her (so I guess, success yet again in the portrayal) so I’m going to try and gloss over this part as quickly as possible (too successful?). Zhang Peng acts super concerned. It’s an act but not the one you might think, given his behavior lately. He minds us as the audience that he’s still very much a ladies’ man and that he’s going to use the opportunity to feel her up. Equally unsurprisingly, everyone else is like???
Zhang Peng attempts to retrieve the situation by saying he’s just showing concern for his sister but Qi Sheng isn’t buying it and kicks him out. Then follows a bunch of blah blah blah, another conversation where Zhao’s Wife notes her sister’s all different from before – and fair enough, I will have to concede her point that from her point of view, her sister’s acting just a bit creepy these days.
There’s a mention of the lifetime promise she and Qi Sheng have. Has it been mentioned what it is? Maybe, I can’t remember and to be honest, don’t really care. Qi Sheng says Zhao’s Wife has been brought to the palace just for her health and nothing else and it really sounds like he’s telling the truth here. Qi Sheng is starting to show doubt about this whole cheating on his wives thing as he does seem to be starting to fall for his wife number one again. He basically even says as much when he goes on to say that how he sees his number one wife and his mistress is changing in relation to each other. Zhao’s Wife is starting to lose her grip here and she knows it.
Zhao’s Wife tries some more manipulation here with an even more unconvincing coughing fit but it backfires as Qi Sheng says he should leave as she’s clearly not well. It figures that the future Empress who had been eavesdropping on all this eventually must have gotten bored with all this and is fast asleep in a squat near the fishpond. So, Qi Sheng, being the gallant individual he is, kicks Zhang Peng until he wakes up. Qi Sheng says the Crown Princess will soon officially be crowned Empress and should be dignified and elegant at all times and to stop acting like a rough mountain peasant. He does have a point there. Zhang Peng, in his defense, says there really wasn’t anywhere else to hide. Well, he’s honest at least. Zhang Peng ends up having to be dragged off by Qi Sheng in a half-cramped position as he can’t stand up.
Zhang Peng wakes up the next morning to find a large number of the female staff of the palace just standing there looking at him. Now, normally this would appeal to him but it’s all a bit Invasion of the Body Snatcher pod people and hence a bit too disconcerting even to him despite the number of women making him the center of attention. Lu Li luckily explains it all, apparently, it’s show time.
Lu Li is perplexed as to why all the jewelry choices she’s made are being rejected when the Crown Princess used to accept them all in the past. Zhang Peng really is a metrosexual as he ends up schooling Lu Li on which jewelry is the sort of thing men will like and what’s the good stuff. He also puts the boot in by saying that Lu Li obviously doesn’t know what men want and her choice sucks. He ends up making what he says is a much better choice which has is: “simple but of good taste, elegant but poised and most important thing is sex appeal.” I’ll take his word for it.
Cut to Enter the Ninth Prince. Mass wind machine effects and swooning as he heads in their direction. He smiles to himself, he knows he’s got it. Like I mentioned at some point earlier, they’ve got Zhang Peng looking like something out of Black Swan on his face and a beehive hairstyle made out of his hair on his head (???). Yes, it looks ridiculous. Zhang Peng hears the commotion and correctly diagnoses the Ninth Brothers approach through the “thick scent of young girls in love.” and that he “doesn’t even need to look.” plus he can hear the commotion from miles off.
Presumably, he’s immune for obvious reasons (if for some reason it’s not obvious, in the same way that Typh in Exiern is a man despite appearances, the same rule applies to Zhang Peng. Thus ends our obligatory forced insertion of a mention of Exiern for today. I don’t really have as much as last week to draw analogies with). The Ninth Brother says he’s been “promoted” but he’s definitely air quoting when he says it. He picks the same piece of jewelry that Zhang Peng picked for the same reasons. I don’t think anyone doubted he was a metrosexual before such things were invented – a proto-metrosexual if you like.
There is a following scene which seems to contradict what just happened with Zhang Peng saying the stuff that the Ninth Brother had sent over was no good but I had that confusing, so I’m choosing to ignore it. The reason the Ninth Brother is sending stuff over at all is because that “promotion” was to head of Internal Affairs of the palace and one of the tasks is the Empress Crowning ceremony. He feels it’s kind of menial and clearly to get him out of the way but Zhang Peng says it’s actually an opportunity.
They both sneak off to plot at Zhang Peng’s insistence. Zhang Peng says as long as Zhao’s Wife is here, he’s not safe. In a most unladylike squat yet again for this episode, he points out using golden triangles (better living through geometry) that an alliance with the Ninth Brother, the Zhang clan and flyboy and best buddy of the Ninth Prince, Yang Yan can protect them from Qi Sheng.
As stated above, we’re going to refer to the former Crown Prince as Qi Sheng going forward. Easiest way to not mix him up with mentions of the previous Emperor.
Just a reminder, the current situation seems to have stemmed from Zhang Peng foolishly engaging in some idle banter with the then Crown Prince about what kind of man he liked. Zhang Peng was probably talking about himself, the Crown Prince thought he was talking about the Ninth Brother and seemed to get mad enough to plot an assassination of his own wife that got caught up with Prince Zhao’s assassination attempt over the Crown Prince having an affair with his wife. Qi Sheng seems to have changed his mind but no-one else seems to know this at present.
Seriously, that bun they’ve made Zhang Peng’s hair into looks utterly ridiculous. You could mistake it for the head of an alien from the Alien series, that’s how ridiculous it looks.
There are no small jobs, just small people. Remember to take what seems like a problem and look at it from the other side and make it an opportunity (unavoidable restrictions may apply in some circumstances – like falling out of a plane with no parachute and it’s not on the ground for example).
Pheromones – yes, they really are a thing.
Once again, I guess we’ll see you next week.
Until next time, everyone.
OK, welcome to this week’s review and discussion of Go Princess Go. There’s going to be a few format changes. Firstly, this feature’s moving to Fridays, partly to pre-empt a possible technical issue with trying to post new Exiern pages and blog posts on the same day. Scott hasn’t forgotten about that. Remember the golden rule, has he ever let you down? (possible exclusions may apply to people who know him in real life – not that I know anything but conversely, I *don’t* know anything).
Also, reviews and discussions shouldn’t take longer to read than watching the episode, never mind writing them so, I’m going to at least try and be a *little* more concise going forward. To add, there’s the format change, which I totally *didn’t* steal from the AV Club (http://www.avclub.com/).
OK, now on with the pre-show and the now obligatory things that have absolutely nothing to do with Go Princess Go.
I mentioned Predestination last week. Found another (less spoiler-y trailer – well better late than never). Once again, I highly recommend this film, it’s really good and not completely removed from the storyline here in a sense, so I’d say give it a go.
Now, for something new. Everyone remember the Matrix Trilogy? Now are you ready to be appalled when you realize that at least some of the people born in the year the first movie came out will be old enough to vote next year and all of them for the 2018 US mid-terms?
On that note, don’t forget to vote in mid-terms in 2018, I’ll leave it to Samantha Bee to break down why (like I said, we’re going to educate you as much as possible through this column). We don’t want a repeat of 2010, do we? I’m not pushing a side here, though. Just take away the important message from this about voting. Exiern plans well ahead, so should you by penciling in a reminder to 2020 (Not such a problem in Australia as voting is compulsory. We may grouse about it at the time but it gets us to the polls and we’re better off for it as a result). Spare a thought for Scott, though. He’s currently trapped in Cleveland, Ohio where the Republican National Convention is taking place. Unavoidably, these huge events just can’t help but disrupt the usual running of a big city. [Ed. Note – My company rented a building in Akron for the convention, despite how unexpectedly peaceful (outside the Q) it has actually turned out to be. ~STH]
Anyway back to the Matrix. Did you ever hear of The Animatrix? Well, I think it was this was the finest thing that came out of the entire series (and its animated which is kind of related to webcomics … so relevant, I suppose?). Seriously, check it out, I don’t think you’ll regret it.
So, trailer here:
Still not sold? Well, ideally I’d like you to see it in context but here’s a segment from the actual war with the machines from The Second Renaissance (it does get a bit violent in the last minute, though – just saying).
My personal favourite segment in the Animatrix is Beyond. The trailer’s a bit misleading as Beyond is actually a lot more low-key and meditative than the trailer suggests. The Second Renaissance is first class and was, I believe, originally planned as a prequel movie to the original film with the intention of there being one sequel, not two. Oh, well something to put in the What Could Have Been File. Anyway, the key thing is, I highly recommend giving it all a go, a lot of good stories in there and there’s something for everyone. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Now on the subject of the three cinema films themselves (The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions), a popular line of critical opinion was that the first film was good and the next two … not so much (and that could be a charitable way of describing some of the criticism out there). Now in the same way that once the truth was revealed about everyone’s favourite barbarian Typh, it reframed everything he’d already done and especially his past interactions with women (and especially how thrilled he was at having earned Princess Peonie’s hand in marriage).
By the relatively similar token (admittedly this is just opinion as opposed to what was learned about Typh which was fact), try this as a thought exercise, does it change things for you if you don’t look at the Matrix Trilogy as a spectacular series of battles between man and machine and instead as a philosophical battle between two entities, the Architect representing the status quo of the system and the Oracle wanting to change it (and all that martial art and other stuff with guns and bombs really being just a bright and loud explosive sideshow to the real action, a battle of ideas).
The Oracle ends up forcing change through a new element threatening to destroy everything unless man and machine work together to defeat it – and having once done so, it can’t but usher in change to the previous cycle of humanity’s perpetual enslavement and destruction into something which is a new and much more equal relationship. Even the final battle at the end of Revolutions isn’t won by force but by knowing when to concede and seemingly give in. However, if that wasn’t to your liking, there was the video game “The Path of Neo” where the creators effectively went “Fine, here’s your end game boss fight”.
Added bonus thought exercise, try imagining Agent Smith as a tragic figure like Macbeth. Once loyal (if obnoxious) functionary of the system, seemingly used up and discarded as part of someone else’s bigger plan, seemingly given both unlimited power a vision of the future but here’s the key thing, like Macbeth, not the whole future nor it’s complete implications, neither did he possess as much power as he thought he had. It also ends badly for him as well as a result. In a sense, he’s the tragic anti-hero of the whole story and a perfect dark mirror to Neo. On that note, if you’re not reading Dark Reflections [pages 1-45] (http://extra.exiern.com/comic/dark-reflections-00/), you should be reading Dark Reflections [pages 46 onwards] (https://www.patreon.com/exiern).
Try it and see, maybe you’ll even gain a new appreciation for the much-maligned sequels by doing so (I’ll be the first to admit they’re far from perfect and some parts are definitely skippable – Zion rave party anyone? No, I didn’t think so – but there’s definitely some interesting parts in there worth digging back up and contemplating the implications of them). You know, assuming you *didn’t* like them before. If not … well, carry on.
OK, looks like we’ve now reached the actual episode preamble now. It’s almost as if I’m using this feature as a Trojan Horse to also talk about other things I like as well. Funny that. As for why this show is being fully recapped over 36 or so posts? Well, like it’s been said before; until there’s the budget to bring Exiern to TV and/or film, you could kind of pretend that’s what this is. I mean there’s a lead who’s had an unfortunate body transmogrification, a princess, and loads of royal court intrigue and other machinations. Sure, the lead and the princess are combined into the same character here but then, it’s not unheard of for film and TV adaptations to … well, *smoosh* characters together. So just pretend that’s what happened here.
Now for the title explanation. This one is taken from the movie “The Last Emperor” directed by Bernardo Bertolucci about the real life last Emperor of China and based on his autobiography. So, at least somewhat relevant for once. I can’t really remember much of the film which I saw on cinema release because my parents made me go (hey, I’m not *that* old that I’d have gone voluntarily to be educated) but I do seem to remember that after being confined to the palace (after the overthrow by the founders of the Republic of China and now govern what we know as Taiwan), he was at least determined to get his own palace in order since he at least ran that much, so he ordered an audit. It was strongly suspected the resulting fire was arson by members of the Imperial staff to cover their tracks and is portrayed in the film as starting when the Emperor was having sex with both of the two wives he had at the time … wait, what was I talking about again?
Er … OK to now actually talk about the episode itself (finally) … the title “The Last Emperor”, in this case, referred to the actual historical last Emperor of China. However, ‘last’ can also refer to ‘previous’. During the course of this episode, it is reported that the Emperor has died. Alas, we hardly knew you. Probably because we never saw him on screen. Him or First, Fourth through to Eighth and possibly more after the Ninth Brother, I can’t quite remember but then I guess it doesn’t matter if we don’t see them, does it. Anyway, we’ll get to this in a bit.
So, as to this episode, basically, the following things happened:
Zhang Peng and the Ninth Prince are still lost in the forest.
The Crown Prince turns up having floated up on the riverbank.
All three are ultimately rescued by the loyal palace guard.
News is received that the Emperor is dead.
The Crown Prince is now the new Emperor and he starts dealing with potential rivals.
So let’s break that down a bit now.
Zhang Peng and the Ninth Prince are still lost in the forest and the Ninth Prince is still quite comatose but fortunately, he wakes up. Given the very odd faces he’s making, Zhang Peng feels inclined to think his being knocked out has left him with an attack of the stupids, after asking him if he remembers who Zhang Peng is, tells him when they meet in the future that he’s his older brother (Like Sam Beckett, still not given up the hope of returning home just yet – obligatory kids, parents ask them who that is, not like it’s a Quantum Leap to draw the connection there ha ha ha).
The Ninth Prince says no, he definitely doesn’t know who you are anymore. Clever wordplay there, yes he recognizes the Crown Princess physically but behaviorally and personality wise, the person who went into the lake is not the same one that he pulled out of it. We all know something he doesn’t know.
They agree to make a deal for mutual protection against the schemes of the Crown Prince. The Ninth Brother is a bit miffed that that’s all the Crown Princess wants to do a “gentleman’s agreement” as quoted in the hopefully accurate volunteer English subtitles. Zhang Peng then goes off to look for food and water. I don’t think the playboy Zhang Peng from the future (but his personal past – wrap your head around that one) would recognize himself here.
Going beyond the obvious acquisition of girl bits, loss of some other bits and reconfiguration of the rest notwithstanding, I know we didn’t have much to go on but from what we saw, Zhang Peng really seemed to be a grandstanding self-centered womanizer. Here, he’s actually making the first steps towards the well-being of another human being. Admittedly, there’s still some benefit for him in keeping the Ninth Prince alive but it’s a start.
As more luck would have it, Zhang Peng is back at the river and finds the Crown Prince washed up on the bank (remember how he went into the river last episode to ostensibly look for his wife? He really needs to commit to either killing her or not. Pick a theme a run with it, for goodness sake). As none other than Sun Tzu once said (told you this was going to be educational) “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.”
Though to be completely accurate, it wasn’t so much as waiting but ‘walking back to’ and he wasn’t so much ‘floating’ as washed up but close enough. Ideally, Zhang Peng would take this opportunity to bash his brains out with a rock but he hasn’t fully acclimatized to the whole murder for political and actual survival ethos of the very rich and powerful yet, so instead, he tries to slap the Crown Prince awake.
The Crown Prince does, in fact, wake up and being the completely unlikeable jerk that he is, the very first words he says to the Crown Princess is to demand to know where his wife’s clothes are. Work it out, you’ve been swept down the river unconscious, following your wife who was also swept down the river before you. What do you think happened? This is the guy they expect to one day run one of the predecessors of modern China’s constituent states? This guy has no clue and that day could come any day now (OK, I’ve already given away that day is today, I realize that). Anyway, priorities dude, like seriously, that’s the first you ask? That’s a thing you’d ask at all during this whole fiasco? What is wrong with you?
Zhang Peng reasonably asks why the Crown Prince is here (knowing full well the Crown Prince tried to have him killed). He spins a tale of searching the river for Zhang Peng and explains the lack of his retinue of guards being that they got separated and he got knocked unconscious. OK, it’s true but it’s also spin. The other reasonable question, what happened to the assassins? The Crown Prince yells back about how could the Crown Princess be worrying about that?
Seriously? That seemed like the most pertinent question of all, not ones about what the Crown Princess is wearing or not wearing and could have easily been deduced by just about anyone who stopped to think for just a moment. So this is the guy who will be running the country one day (OK, later this day but he doesn’t know that just yet). The Crown Prince claims they won (well, they did, that is true) but then why does he look like such a loser? Zhang Peng notices the Crown Prince’s totally borked shoulder and goes to look for something to stabilize it with. Once again, past the obvious, he’s already changed a lot, it seems. The Crown Prince demands Zhang Peng come back but Zhang Peng hasn’t got time for that and just keeps going;
Zhang Peng finds the Ninth Brother has picked himself up and come looking for Zhang Peng. He tells the Ninth Brother to hide as the Crown Prince has unexpectedly turned up. The sudden change in the Ninth Brother’s face suggests something bad has just happened before he had time to make himself scarce. It’s a bear, isn’t it? Or maybe a lion? No, even worse, it’s the Crown Prince. He’s behind me, isn’t he?
To paraphrase what happens next, “Ninth Brother, what are you doing here? Fancy running into you here of all places he he he”. I think it’s worth making a note that despite trying to come off as a suave ladykiller playboy type in 2015 and even here and now (which confusingly enough is before 2015), at the end of the day, Zhang Peng is really just a great big dork. Obligatory stare off with horribly awkward pleasantries to follow. “How are you?” “I’m fine.” No, neither of us could possibly be wanting to kill the other right now based on what we’re seeing here. Here’s a knife, go cut that tension.
A quick confab follows where all three of them independently come to the conclusion that Prince Zhao must have been behind this even though they would never have considered as capable of such a thing beforehand. I guess brothers number One, Four through to Eight and possibly more after Nine if there are any really are more invisible than we thought. Zhang Peng decides to helpfully add with more Green Hat talk and rhetorically ask about what would you expect from a man whose wife is so brazenly involved in a public affair with another man? Awkward ….
To recap at this point as I can see how it’s possibly just a little confusing, looks like in reaction to Zhang Peng answering the question the Crown Prince asked about what kind of man he preferred, Zhang Peng happened to describe someone that sounded a lot more like Ninth Brother and definitely not the Crown Prince. I’m sure Zhang Peng was really talking about himself but the Crown Prince was clearly so offended that he tried to have the Crown Princess bumped off (Very important pro tip: When a powerful political figure asks you a hypothetical question and says it doesn’t count for anything, for goodness sake, don’t believe them and answer with the most extreme caution you can muster). At some point, Prince Zhao decided to jump into the fray by interrupting the Crown Prince’s murder plot with one of his own.
The Crown Prince follows that up with a seemingly random non-sequitur when he unexpectedly grabs Zhang Peng and a very big long smooch follows. Imagine it being like when Denver unexpected planted one on Typh when he least expected in a page a long time ago in an archive far far away. I’d say get a room you two but we’ve actually crossed that bridge even if in a drunken haze. Also, Zhang Peng’s resulting bug-eyes make it clear he’s really not wanting to revisit that part of his life anytime soon. Unfortunately, the Crown Prince being catapulted into a tree straight after this happening doesn’t follow despite the preponderance of trees around.
The Crown Prince says that if anyone makes him wear a metaphorical Green Hat, he will kill them while pointedly looking straight at the Ninth Brother. Subtle this is not, especially coming from the biggest of the big hypocrites in the immediate area at least. Fortunately, at this point what seems like a search party makes themselves heard in the vicinity. Maybe less fortunately, they might be more assassins on the way to finish the job, as the two princes had already speculated that for this plot to work to the point that it already had, there must have been a lot of infiltration of the royal court.
Zhang Peng clearly has changed as he stops the Crown Prince from calling out and says he should do it, it’s imperative that one of the princes other than Prince Zhao be in line for the throne because if Prince Zhao gets it, there will be disaster (he does like to drink just a bit) … True to form, Zhang Peng falls off the rock he’s on and plunges quite some distance. I have to say, that stunt looks both very effective and very painful, so hats off to the stunt crew there (not a green one, though).
Cut to a familiar position for Zhang Peng waking up in bed, unfortunately, this time with Not Prince Charming lurking about. He says it turns out to have been his men so no need to brag about being so tough or whatever because if they hadn’t been, they’d all be dead. He then asks Zhang Peng if he knows who sent the assassin. Zhang Peng catches himself in time as it was clearly a trick question and says how would he know? A note here, as trick questions and answers to trip you up go … Who sent the assassin? I’m not sure how you’d expect to get “You did.” as a reply unless the person you were asking was especially dense … oh wait, never mind.
OK, at this point we learn the Emperor is dead via a dispatched message via his grandmother that he died suddenly, presumably of complete budget failure. The Crown Prince reacts by looking, well … I guess slightly disconcerted and maybe even a bit perturbed. Well, whatever happened, I’m sure I saw a few of his features shift just a bit. He then legs it back to the capital minus his wife who he instructs is to be kept here “for her safety”. Really piling the Hypocrite’s Boy Scout badges here we are, aren’t we?
Zhang Peng at this point is about to storm out of his tent to find out what’s going on, unfortunately he walks slap bang into a guard coming the other way to tell him what’s going on and gets a simultaneous double Peonie boob punch special as he collides with the guard’s armored breastplate (how apropos). Not as painful looking as the fall but painful looking enough. After the guard goes through the requisite amount of groveling, Zhang Peng’s like “Get up you fool” and then he tries to find out what the deal is.
Turns out the guard was ordered to be a bit selective as he’s just a bit selective as to giving reasons as to why the Crown Prince is gone … and the Ninth Prince as well, basically just saying the Crown Princess should stay where she is because of the predatory lurking wind machine about (as if on queue, Zhang Peng then gets a blast of one).
Jump cut to Zhang Peng singing bad modern day pop songs to himself (badly) with three long strips of … something stuck to his face while doing something or other to amuse himself. This whole next bit’s weird so I’m going to just skate over it.
Lu Li suddenly turns up with one of the royal court officials. Zhang Peng is actually happy to see her, which means he really must be desperate, right up to the point of sniffing her repeatedly because it’s been so long since he’s smelled people. Like I said, dork. Big, weird dork.
The functionary goes into a big spiel bigging himself up as to the maneuvers he pulled to get Lu Li out here. Zhang Peng asks is that because he’s into her but he denies it, supposedly it’s something to do with royal court point scoring or something. Plus, I thought these guys were all eunuchs anyway so what exactly would be the point? It’s at this point, Zhang Peng learns the Emperor is dead, the Crown Prince is now the Emperor and Lu Li is upset about the death of the previous Emperor and she’d been crying all night … because she blamed him for being so weak. Wait what? Like I said, this whole bit was just weird. Yes, even weirder than usual.
I guess congratulations are in order now. Zhang Peng is now the Empress of a pre-Chinese kingdom. I don’t think it’s a career goal he’d previously seen in his future before this. Tying Exiern into this for a moment (which I did promise we’d do occasionally), this is something Typh never managed despite having this opportunity handed to him on a plate. I think what we had there was a failure to communicate. Typh didn’t want to be ornamental arm candy but as we know, the king didn’t want ornamental arm candy either (he was not at all pleased with the Deacon, if you recall).
Also, even if regardless of that, Typh wasn’t big on the arrangement, given that we’ve seen the oldest princess can ascend to the throne, one hilarious horse riding accident later, Typh could have been Queen of everything and have all the money. Short-term pain for long-term gain if for some reason the King didn’t float your boat. On the other hand, the King has turned out to be such an open minded magnificent bastard (that’s an actual trope), I think those two crazy kids would have made it. Such is fate *sigh*. See, this is what happens when you don’t look far enough ahead and weigh up all your options. Maybe there’ll be another swing at it in the future, if only I knew someone who could possibly make that happen one day *double sigh*.
Anyway, just a couple more things to wrap up this episode. This upcoming scene with the Ninth Prince I think shows why this show beat out a lot of other more expensively produced ones, it shows how they did so much with so little by just through acting and dialog. It seems that the Ninth Prince is being rewarded for saving the Crown Princess with many awards but he’s clearly not pleased and it’s because it’s coming by decree from the Emperor. We all know that means accepting the fact by saying the Emperor, it now means his brother – and great rival. This is driven home by the fact that he doesn’t take the decree in his hands and it’s ultimately dropped on the floor in front of him and then capped off with an attack of the wind machine on overdrive.
The final scene shows Prince Zhao – who unsurprisingly is drunk. He’s punished in probably the most humiliating and brutal way possible – by doing nothing at all. He’s told by decree that there’s no death penalty because he’s the brother of the now Emperor. He can even stay a prince and keep his house – and hopefully one day, he’ll understand why his brother did this to Prince Zhao. Suffice to say from his reaction, this day is not today.
- OK, this was the part I stole from the AV Club. It was supposed to be part of making this whole thing shorter and quicker. That worked out well. To steal something else they also use, it’s the name of the feature “Great Job Internet!” (yes, that’s quite sarcastic when they use it too but I deserve it).
- The sight of Zhang Peng standing on a rock yelling that Prince Zhao doesn’t have enough IQ to be Emperor and then for added emphasis “No IQ! No IQ!” before predictably falling off said rock is quite the sight to behold. Like I’ve said many times already, great big dork. It was hella funny too.
- Those pajamas that Zhang Peng has been wearing as sleeping attire since he first arrived in this time are very state of the art modern and very trendy, better late than never pointing that out.
- It can be easy to forget sometimes but our lead character Zhang Peng is actually a man, especially where it counts, in the mind. I was starting to worry a little that he was being portrayed as a bit stereotypically girly in the physical action department (women don’t really come across physically like that any more than men do) but the beat down the guard who was continually dodging a straight answer put to rest my concerns, it was the most manly of beat downs into submission with an impressive array of punches and kicks.
- Found some figures which said that Go Princess Go actually hit even more cumulative views than I first reported, with 2.69 billion as of January this year. On the off chance it hasn’t hit that mark yet, we’re going to push 2.70 billion, aren’t we?
- Well, this ended up much longer than expected again. Looks like I have a lot to still learn about creative writing. It’s good practice though, hopefully, I’ll get better by the end of this series. Don’t worry, I don’t think there’s any danger I’ll ever end up writing for Exiern, though. It’d probably end up as some ridiculous version of The Odd Couple if I ever did.
Scott would like to apologize that this is a day late. He thought he had set it to auto-post and was too busy yesterday to check. So sorry for the delay! He’d also like to state that COLUMBO is an awesome show and can be watched on Netflix or Sunday nights if you get MeTV. ~STH
A new recap site for these reviews:
I hadn’t linked to this one before because it does several episodes at once, in this case the link is to a review of episodes 1-8. Always good to get another point of view with even more screenshots from the episodes. I’ll include this site when the last of the episodes for each review in their group reviews is being covered.
These review sites are also useful, especially for those of you who can’t or don’t have time to access the video streams as there’s plenty of screen images from the episodes.
Also before the main event, a feature I’m going to make a part of this feature is things to do to help fill in any leftover time between Exiern pages. This week’s suggestion is the movie “Predestination”. Based on the short story by famous sci-fi author Robert Heinlein “All You Zombies,” it’s an excellent movie which really brings the story to life with some exceptional retro-future visuals and doesn’t feel it’s necessary to pad the story out unnecessarily, either. The cast is all exceptional. Ethan Hawke as always you can depend on but its effective co-star Sarah Snook who’s in great danger of stealing the show from him.
Not a completely random selection for readers of Exiern here, you should seek this out. You might think you know why from the trailers but don’t worry, there’s so much more going on that you might, and it’s not even close to giving it all away.
Best to go in blind, so I’d recommend reading the short story it’s based on afterwards. It’s very good but webcomics are a lot to do with visuals and you usually can only be completely surprised the first time and this is one of those times that a film that lives up to its source material. “By His Bootstraps” is another excellent time travelling short story by Robert Heinlein, if you like that sort of thing it’s worth looking for. Not surprisingly, this is where we got the name of the bootstrap paradox from.
This movie is not a completely random selection either. Firstly, the obvious commonality between this show and this movie is the time travel element. You should also seek this out if you just generally like an intricately plotted story whose parts all fit together very cleverly by the end. With any luck, there’s going to be a time travel feature covering many more films and other media like this. There’s also reasons this particular film is aimed at readers of Exiern. You might think you know why but don’t worry, there’s so much more going on than all the promotional material might seem to suggest.
Seriously, look it up. It’s very good and the time you spend watching it is less time to the Exiern page by the time it’s finished. Don’t say we never did anything for you.
OK, on to this week’s episode coverage. Now, I’ve as of yet never seen Game of Thrones but I imagine it could be a bit like this week’s episode. Read on to see how I think how and feel free to sound off in the comments if I’m off base. Or just sound off about anything else about the show or Exiern if you like. It’s all good.
Picking up from last week, for someone who appeared to have no essential skills for the apocalypse (or even the more minor inconvenience of a power outage) in the present day as well as being someone no-one would miss then either (and probably aren’t), Zhang Peng seems to have been at least using some of his time wisely in learning to ride a horse (so not just flower arranging then). Unless of course, it was his ex-girlfriend from the first episode that was speeding towards the party he was at on a horse to teach him a lesson that had shown him how to do so. I guess I can’t rule it out. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Ideally, I would imagine more Exiern pages per week would be better than less. After all, 3 a fortnight is better than one a week and two a week is even better and so on (obvious proviso, standards have to be maintained). Still however, even if it were possible that there could be three pages a week, four even and let’s say why not even five … even with an extremely generous 2 minutes per page to study each page remarkably extensively, that still only accounts for 10 minutes a week. That still leaves us with about 167 hours and 50 minutes to fill.
Sure, some of that will be stuff like eating, sleeping, working, transit to and from working (and all that’s before we even touch on all the other miscellaneous activities that make up the week), but somehow I suspect that there’s still going to be more time to fill than even the fastest production rate of Exiern can manage on its own.
So, I guess the point I’m getting at there’ll always a be look out for the most potentially interesting stuff out there that can fill the gap between one page of Exiern and the next. Well, it’s a good a reason as any, I suppose.
This week’s review title is from a recent Lifetime movie you might have heard of, most likely in the United States. The original 1996 film had a relatively straightforward setup with our young heroine finding out her boyfriend is more of the obsessive stalker type than she’s comfortable with.
In this 2016 remake, it’s a bit different. It’s a lesbian couple, the more dangerous one initially is a vampire and there’s an incredible amount of fake blood thrown around even for a production of Macbeth. Throw in James Franco and well, at the very least, regardless of whether it’s good or bad, well it’s certainly different.
Have a look at the trailer and see for yourself.
See? Told you.
So that’s our probably far too long explanation of where this week’s review title comes from. It’s also where we start this week’s episode. Zhang Peng’s not sleeping with danger but he is asleep – and soon to be in very clear and present danger.
Seemingly recovered from the trauma of inadvertent sexytimes with the Crown Prince for now at least, Zhang Peng is doing what he does the best, professional snoozing. Seriously, he could doze for China in the modern Olympics (you know, if either of those things existed yet and being lazy was an Olympic sport).
This peaceful solitude doesn’t last long (well, you’d hope so as otherwise it would make for a very boring episode) as Zhang Peng is rudely flicked awake by the Crown Prince. We also get to see that his slap happiness from the previous episode has left one hell of a welt on Zhang Peng’s face.
What passes for affection from the Crown Prince (and what we’d call in the modern era manhandling) and application of some anti-welt medication he brought with him later, the Crown Prince reveals that his investigations have found that Zhao’s Wife faked the whole disintegrating soccer uniform on the pitch and he actually, by his standards, apologizes.
Zhang Peng is understandably quite cross though he does actually understand why the Crown Prince has to cover for his mistress and that it’s in Zhang Peng’s best interests for him to keep doing so.
However, instead of quitting while he’s ahead, once again he forgets where he is and who people think he is, worst of who the Crown Prince is to him, and tries to have a mano-a-mano talk with the Crown Prince about Zhao’s Wife and once again confuses everyone with the wit and wisdom of his futurespeak.
After the lead-in about what green tea girls are (shy and demure on the outside and cunning and manipulative on the inside – what is it with China, the colour green and infidelity anyway?), he wonders out loud what the Crown Prince could possibly see in her for those very reasons.
Zhang Peng then commits a huge blunder by then saying he’s gotten romantically involved with many a girl like that in the past.
Luckily, the Crown Prince – as do all past people to Zhang Peng’s messages from the future – dismisses it yet again as nonsense in a fog of confusion. He also doesn’t consider that his wife could be a lesbian either as it appears by his (lack of) reaction yet again to his wife’s stated interest in women because lesbians obviously hadn’t been invented yet (it’s the only explanation I can think of to explain it).
The next scene has Zhang Peng adding to his repertoire of competitive reclining by lounging in a very nice outdoor bath. Enter the flyboy Yang Yan, who once again shows he’s yet to stick the landing, this time toppling straight into the outdoor bath after contacting the ground. Turns out he can’t swim either but if he just stopped panicking for a moment, he’d see he wouldn’t drown if he just stood up. It takes Zhang Peng slapping some sense into him to make him calm down.
It’s then that Yang Yan gets all modest even though he’s been spying on Zhang Peng all this time, revealed by the fact he’s brought better anti-slapped face medicine on behalf of the Ninth Prince to one up his brother, the Crown Prince, something Yang Yan tipped him off about by lurking on the roof. Zhang Peng is understandably unimpressed and tells him he’s even more stupid than the Crown Prince. Considering Zhang Peng doesn’t think much of the Crown Prince, this is quite a burn.
The main reason for Yang Yan ‘dropping in’ (literally) was that the Ninth Prince wanted to invite Zhang Peng out for dinner. Zhang Peng really isn’t interested (looks like his attempts to repel potential male love interests by being as obnoxious as possible is somehow having the reverse effect). Yang Yan leaves with a take-off that was much better than his earlier landing.
However, he wasn’t gone for long. Not one to take no for an answer, he returns while Zhang Peng is constructively using his time practicing throwing fruit into the air and catching it in his mouth – and gasses him with a paralytic agent. Zhang Peng unintentionally gets him back when Yang Yan trips over and plants his face into Zhang Peng’s feet. From the look in his face, I’m to assume they were rather smelly.
Zhang Peng eventually does wake up and finds himself thinking he’s back in 2015 because it looks like he’s in a modern high class restaurant. Then he looks around and finds he hasn’t left the village we call the past, complete with its number one idiot looking at him.
Enter the Ninth Prince who innocently says that he thought Zhang Peng wasn’t coming. If you had any doubt about believing him, it’s certainly amplified by Yang Yan straight up says he had planned to give Zhang Peng two choices, volunteer or be carried here anyway. Zhang Peng glares at him complete with the pointed finger I’ll deal with you later look.
Yang Yan had let slip that the Ninth Prince had planned a surprise for Zhang Peng which was to see the sea. It still turns out to be a surprise as it was a metaphorical sea of lit lanterns at night across all the buildings you can see from the Ninth Prince’s balcony. It’s very nice.
We get an important history lesson. It turns out that their grandfather liked the Third Brother most (must be his winning personality, I guess) and he asked their father to make him Crown Prince. Turns out their grandfather quite liked Zhang Peng Peng too and had the two of them put in close contact which presumably led to the two of them ending up married.
We find out that as children, the Ninth Prince thinks Zhang Peng Peng liked him more than the Third Prince (seems plausible) and that he probably was both indulged too much and didn’t appreciate the value of things as they were just handed to him. The subtext was obvious.
Choice quote of the evening is the Ninth Prince to Zhang Peng after already remarking the Crown Princess seems different lately: “Your mind should still be the same as in the past. It hasn’t changed, right?” (Ha!)
It’s also confirmed that attempts to repel everyone is just piquing their interests. Law of Unintended Consequences from the point of Zhang Peng but one of the first and foremost Laws of Drama for us viewers as the Ninth Prince confirms his love for the Crown Princess regardless of what she says and does in response to this. Zhang Peng, who just happens to be piloting the Crown Princess’s body at the moment and hence not being interested has repeatedly tried to make this clear up to and including some choice glaring but it doesn’t seem to be working. He ends up making his excuses and leaving.
… Only to find himself in another, larger frypan when he finds the Crown Prince waiting for his return as we saw earlier when he woke and frankly quite terrified Lu Li. Zhang Peng exhibits his expert skills of reading people’s faces to deduce that the Crown Prince didn’t know where he went.
The first thing the Crown Prince says is that he knew where Zhang Peng went. If there was any doubt before, I think it’s all but gone now as to how Zhang Peng gets caught up in so many disasters of his own making.
Zhang Peng demands to know why the Crown Prince is here. He asks as to whether he needs a reason? The tone is highly suggestive of being a rhetorical question. A good point being that he is the Crown Prince. Zhang Peng overcompensates by overplaying the submissive princess at this point in trying to walk back his question. Awkwardness ensues and not for the first time between these two.
The Crown Prince says he’s just here to casually ask a question (yeah right) where he wonders what kind of man his wife likes. A modest, mature and serious man or a romantic, carefree, young and handsome man. No, can’t possibly be based on any real-life people here now, can it? Zhang Peng in one of his many asides to the audience this episode re-emphasizes that he doesn’t like men at all (well, obviously).
There’s also an odd remark when Zhang Peng says that “it’s not important what kind of man I like. Love can transcend gender.” Which is weird because I have no idea what that has to do with any of the questions asked. Still just recording it here for posterity, precisely because it was such a weird thing to say in light of the previous aside as well.
Anyway, getting back to the line of the Crown Prince’s questioning, the subtext quickly becomes pushed to the forefront when the Crown Prince flat out asks Zhang Peng who attracts girls more, he or the Ninth Prince (asks the man with five wives and a mistress)
(Danger Will Robinson!)
Zhang Peng tries to point out that he (in the role of Zhang Peng Peng) is already the Crown Prince’s consort so it’s a moot point. The Crown Prince says to treat tonight as an informal talk as if he wasn’t the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess wasn’t a consort.
(It’s a trap you fool!)
Short version, Zhang Peng goes for the carefree option. I think he’s talking about himself, the Crown Prince clearly thinks Zhang Peng is talking about the Ninth Prince and once again, Zhang Peng was thinking he was talking with one of his modern day drinking buddies as opposed to someone from a different era who has a hair trigger and literal powers of life and death over almost everyone, Zhang Peng included.
Zhang Peng almost immediately afterwards realizes he’s screwed up and to quote Whoopi Goldberg (ask your parents, kids) from the movie Ghost (again, ask your parents), “You in danger, girl.” So much for an informal chat, especially after the Crown Prince ominously told Zhang Peng he “chose wrong”. Interesting as it was supposedly meant to be a hypothetical exercise about two people who couldn’t possibly be real now, could they?
Cut to the final scenes where we see Zhang Peng has started to really get into the whole princess thing, ordering everyone about, dressing spectacularly just for casual homewear and engaging in recreational flower arranging and pruning. His place in the pecking order is quickly established when word comes by that the Crown Prince has been sent to inspect a military base in place of the emperor and wants the Crown Princess to join him. Nothing suspicious about that at all, is there?
Zhang Peng really doesn’t want to go but also really doesn’t have a choice. Apparently it seems since his arrival that he’s learned how to ride a horse. He also has another opportunity to break out his brothel creeping clothes for the trip. Somehow, I feel this trip is not going to end well.
A special note to finish this week’s synopsis off. A special shoutout to the actress playing Zhang Peng back in the past. There’s a lot of asides to the camera when she’s addressing the audience. The change in her expression combined with the overdub of the male actor’s voice who we saw playing Zhang Peng for all of 5 minutes at the start of the first episode really sells that there’s a man inside someone who everyone else sees as the Crown Princess.
Then there’s the Crown Prince. It may sound like we’re making fun of the fact he almost always seems to be carved from a block of granite (and those few times he’s not, it’s just a step up to a slightly less dense stone) but for starters, his countenance is quite terrifying. Appropriate for someone with absolute power over almost everyone.
Also, when Zhang Peng gives an answer he doesn’t want to hear, there’s a subtle shift in his countenance that I thought made it clear that he’s quite furious and just a bit jealous. It’s some top notch work here precisely because there’s so little movement that conveys this.
I really think there’s trouble on the horizon and I think we’re going to find out really soon into the next episode. I guess we’ll see you then.
This is as good a moment to stop for a moment and restate why this feature’s being done this way instead of the one post for close associates Puck (www.puckcomics.com) and Spying With Lana (www.spyingwithlana.com).
It’s probably the closest we’re all going to get to an Exiern TV series for now. I mean there’s a princess and everything, even if it’s as if the two main characters in Exiern got mashed into one in a sense. Also, there’s at least one regular reader of this feature who’s not only a regular reader but is actually just watching one episode a week to keep pace with the reviews. I know I suggested that as one possible way to experience this show, I never thought anyone would actually do it. Now I both have to see this through and be on time each week.
Still, however you watch it (be it weekly or all at once or somewhere in between), I hope you at least give a go to what I think is a genuinely funny show and uniquely to the reviews of it, something we can tie discussion of Exiern to as there’s certainly a lot in common. Could there also be discussion of some potential future developments in Exiern turning up here too? Well, for the answer to that question, you’d have to ask Scott… [Who hasn’t watched it yet. ~STH]
Anyway, on with the show. For today’s episode this is going to be split into “Before the Soccer match” and “Lead up to and After the Soccer Match”. Yes, that’s right. There’s going to be a soccer match.
Before the Soccer Match
Picking up from the end of the last episode, everyone turns up at the start of this one looking very pleased with themselves. Zhang Peng has a very vague memory of Lu Li carrying him to bed after he got blind drunk and is certain they finally did the deed. Well, as certain as he can be about a complete black hole in his memory.
This certainly does raise all sorts of unfortunate implications about people in a position of power forcing themselves on a subordinate who has no recourse and would never say no to anything regardless of what she personally thought. Yes, it was a different time back then but that’s kind of the point, it’s really something we’d prefer never have happened but failing that we at least want left back there.
However, for what it’s worth, Lu Li seems as happy as she’s ever been if not more so. Zhang Peng puts into action a few of his presumably best follow up moves, asking Lu Li, “When we go back, will we be able to continue this?” Even though he knows the theory (I don’t think anyone believes he just only watched a lot of Korean Drama), he’s not exactly sure what ‘this’ specifically is given he can’t remember at all. Still, Lu Li both seems happy and enthusiastically agrees, so it’s all good … right?
Cut to the Crown Prince facing Zhang Peng in his customary stony-faced silence. The big difference is that he’s sporting a huge hickey. Zhang Peng is incredibly pleased at this because it means another part of his plan is working. Having the Crown Prince away from him and having sex with his mistress and/or any of his other wives suits Zhang Peng just fine. Looks like all his plans are finally working after a string of (highly entertaining for us, anyway) spectacular failures.
So with things finally seemingly going his way, he decides to chill a bit with the Crown Prince, you know, just a couple of bros hanging out and trading tales of their respective conquests. Now if you’ve been paying any attention to the show so far, you’ll know this was a bad idea. However, you’ll also know that Zhang Peng’s not too smart so none of this is a surprise.
The Crown is getting both increasingly perplexed and confused at what he sees as the Crown Princess backsliding into talking gibberish again (the usual reaction everyone has to Future Talk) after seemingly making what he sees as progress in becoming more likeable and even bearable (unintended consequences as Zhang Peng was definitely trying to keep him as far away as possible all this time).
Things finally come to a head when Zhang Peng suggests that the Crown Prince and Prince Zhao are now truly brothers … you know because they’re both having sexual relations with Zhao’s Wife – or at least both have at one time or another. It would seem quite possible that Prince Zhao has been having a bit of a dry spell lately from what we’ve been seeing.
The Crown Prince yells at Zhang Peng to get out and that leaves Zhang Peng outside wondering what he’s done this time (once again, not too smart). We see a bit more of this society in action when we find Zhang Peng out on the roadside and find out that Lu Li was having to walk alongside the carriage.
This is where things get even worse for our main character. A brief heated conversation later, it turns out what actually happened was what I’m sure a lot of people suspected. The act of trying to repel the Crown Prince actually drew him closer and we find out that Zhang Peng didn’t have sex with Lu Li after all.
This is where Zhang Peng finally starts to remember. Turns out that we didn’t have a case of a power imbalance effectively leaving a subordinate in a position where they couldn’t deny a more powerful person’s wishes. Instead, it was a different troubling scenario where someone engaged in an activity that the other party couldn’t consent to.
Once again a different time but also once again, if we can’t have had it never happening, we really at least want to leave as far behind as possible. Certainly some situational irony in that inducing himself into a drunken panic about the possibility actually facilitated it happening as Zhang Peng was too drunk to be aware of what was going on, let alone fight it.
It especially didn’t help when Zhang Peng also remembers not only not fighting it but also not even lying back and thinking of England either. He just might have reciprocated a little bit. So, both the worst lesbian seduction attempt ever, and even if someone had unicorn privileges they’ve certainly lost them now if you know what I’m saying.
All things considered, Zhang Peng takes things fairly well. He only screams “Oh My God!” once, subsequent inarticulate screams are only about as loud as the time he found he’d lost his penis (I suppose he did get back in contact with one for a while, just not his … I’m terrible, aren’t I?) and finally, he only spends the next two days confined to bed vomiting.
He’s not queen (or its Chinese equivalent) yet bit he’s definitely ascended to drama queen status as he bemoans the horror of possibly having to repeat such actions as much as every 3 to 5 days. Not so great on the receiving end of such behavior is it? Yes, he deserved some sort of comeuppance for his conduct but all right thinking people don’t wish this on anyone who’s inebriated either.
Lead up to and After the Soccer Match
Well, things seem to have settled down in the next scene (at least Zhang Peng’s no longer in hysterics) where news comes in that there’s going to be a soccer match (quite a thematic segue, huh?) between a mixed collection of royals. Apparently it’s some kind of tradition. Not surprisingly at all, Zhang Peng tries to weasel out of it but they’re already way ahead of him by pre-emptively stating in the ‘invitation’ that saying you’re not well is unacceptable.
Then to seal the deal, the Crown Prince turns up in person to make sure Zhang Peng actually trains for the match. As far as he knows, the Crown Princess doesn’t have an athletic bone in her body. Zhang Peng is dragged off loudly protesting but to no avail.
Now I thought the way this was going to play out is that Zhang Peng was actually going to exhibit at least some skill not typically attributable to someone who’d spent a lifetime in the Royal Court but after the lead up seems to show that, it seems like he was more a legend in his own mind as he proceeds to repeatedly miss the ball entirely and dump himself on his backside over and over again. Watch this scene closely, though as there’s a really rare event, the Crown Prince oh so briefly cracks the faintest hint of a smile. It’s fleeting but it’s there.
OK, now we get to the match itself. At this point, I’m going to pause again to discuss the nature of the show. I wasn’t originally aware of this but for people in the know, apparently unlike a lot of Chinese dramas, this one had a really small budget (apparently $3 million spread across 36 episodes).
Apparently, such things as the costumes and footwear neither being historically accurate and also looking rather plain compared to their competing dramas and even looking like they’d been bought off the Chinese equivalent of ebay (probably because they were); everyone doing each other’s makeup and hair and countless other things to save money (apparently the same durian fruit gets recycled a lot in scenes) and there’s no more background actors than absolutely necessary (once again, seen the Emperor lately … or at all yet?).
The key point is that none of this matters if the story is engaging and in fact, apparently these facts such as corner-cutting and complete historical anachronisms have actually proven to be quite popular topics for discussion among the fans and part of what they like about the show. If anything, it’s all added to the appeal. It seems to have paid off as reportedly, the show made $1.5 million in profit and totaled 2.4 billion views for all episodes combined.
So, having said all that, I went from wondering if they’d had some version of soccer in past China to realizing that they mostly definitely weren’t aiming for anything remotely historically accurate. Any thoughts in that direction went out the window when I saw the actual soccer pitch.
Yes, it’s a soccer pitch. Complete with line markings and a synthetic surface. Zhang Peng even has a Nike swoosh symbol on his uniform. Yes, that’s right. They have uniforms. Very nice modern looking ones too.
So, how was the match then? Well, after a brief moment at the kickoff for both teams to pre-emptively beat the referee (might as well get the response to the inevitable disagreements out of the way upfront), Zhang Peng seems to have shown a sharp improvement from what we’ve seen.
I mean we did hear second-hand from the Crown Prince that he did eventually manage to connect with the ball but here he’s playing like someone with actual talent. OK, admittedly the first shot at goal that scored was the wrong goal but it’s early days yet.
He does get better during the course of the match right up to showing mastery of the slow motion Matrix-ing effect of hanging in midair for a seeming eternity before kicking the ball in (depressing to think that we’ll soon have to be saying ‘ask your parents’ about Matrix references to the youth of today, assuming that day hasn’t arrived already).
Anyway, everything seems to be going along swimmingly until as usual, Zhao’s Wife ruins everything by pulling her uniform apart on the field and trying to make it look like Zhang Peng did it. The match grinds to a halt as there’s accusations of uniform tampering and Red Card offences and all that.
At least the Ninth Prince (the other of the Crown Prince’s brothers that we’ve seen, remember him?) is being decent to Zhang Peng, the Crown Prince isn’t to anyone as he insists to Prince Zhao that he can’t carry his wife off the field after the worst stage diving you’ll see in any match outside a World Cup because apparently, Prince Zhao has hurt his hand. News to him but once again, he just stands there and takes it. I think when he eventually blows his stack, it’s not going to pretty at all.
Even the Empress is disgusted at this brazen behavior by the Crown Prince. There’s a reason why Open Secrets still have the word Secret in the title, you’re still expected to go through the motions. Zhang Peng protests to the Empress that he’s been wrongfully accused, the Crown Prince slaps Zhang Peng twice and tries to blame Zhang Peng for all this.
The Empress isn’t stupid (she is after all, the Empress) and tells the Crown Prince that Prince Zhao can handle his own wife. The Crown Prince storms off in a huff and everything’s back to normal with everyone hating each other again. Well, if there’s an upside to this whole mess, at least it looks like there’s not going to be any future expectations of the Crown Princess to have sex with the Crown Prince anytime soon, so yay for Zhang Peng, I guess?