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.