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Love Like the Galaxy (2022) Episodes 33-34 Ramblings
It used to be said a lot more that behind every great man, there’s a great woman. Here however, Ling Buyi achieved acclaim long before he ever crossed paths with Cheng Shaoshang. Indeed, if anything, he’s the actual brains that anticipates and cleans up after Shaoshang who was invariably playing with fire in the “tiger seals” incident. In this high stakes matter, involving national security and the crown prince, Niaoniao rushes in where the more discerning would have been far more circumspect. Her petty pyrrhic successes can’t even begin to compare. A while back Zisheng announced to the world he was determined to marry her and one reason being that she is “great in her love and great in her hate”. (Literally in the Chinese: “dares to love and dares to hate”) In all likelihood the ever astute Zisheng knows the woman he loves better than she knows herself… and most definitely better than she knows him. Shaoshang is utterly devoted to the people who are good to her, a wonderful quality that can be too easily exploited by all kinds of people who ultimately prioritize their own well-being over hers. Luckily her enemies (so far) haven’t thought her significant enough to bother with such trivialities as observing her at close quarters before acting against her even if her allies might exploit her goodwill for their own ends.
The more we’re given insight into the crown prince, the more it’s obvious that he’s really not emperor material. As far as I can tell, he has failed the test of leadership multiple times already. He certainly doesn’t have the wherewithal to run a country. In fact, he’s not someone who should even be allowed to run a bingo event. Benevolence doesn’t immediately disqualify him from the top job but indecision does… and the inability to make the hard calls. It isn’t that he’s too nice that his leadership is constantly being called into question by Zisheng et al but the fact that he can’t make truly tough decisions with an eye on the entire forest is what will in all probability bring his downfall. Having genuine family attachments is not a bad thing in principle but the head of state (as Zisheng reminds him) has other pressing considerations to weigh up. The lives of hundreds of thousands and even millions are in his hand. If the crown prince can’t even handle the security of the tiger seals under his own roof, then it’s hard to see him securing his throne from would-be usurpers without bloodshed. The fact too that he takes the advice of his consort feels like a harbinger of some kind of calamity. Surely it has to be a tad suspicious that Consort Chu is far too eager to involve Niaoniao in something she in all honesty shouldn’t be. Regardless of what Niaoniao says about her reluctance to be Zisheng’s bride, she’s drawn to danger like a moth to a flame. Someone with this much righteous fervour and energy is always in search of some kind of validation in a challenge of this nature. If she’s not too careful and doesn’t learn a lesson from this incident, she might end up being a useful idiot for vested interests.
Whether the crown prince’s consort is someone that’s just a misguided and desperate wife looking for attention or she’s got a more sinister agenda is not a pressing concern at this point. Shaoshang might be capable of a lot for someone of her age but she’s not the most politically savvy where it comes to palace shenanigans. Apart from that, the consort is not exactly endowed with a plentiful supply of discretion. Nevertheless, the crown prince’s main mistake was listening to her terrible advice in the first place.
All of this only reinforces Zisheng’s misgivings about her interference in palace happenings. Clearly Niaoniao is in over her head with the tiger seals incident. The neglected love starved child has plenty of love to give but it’s the giving part that matters most… and consequences be damned. In her mind, it’s better than not doing anything especially when the life of her beloved empress’ oldest son hangs in the balance. This is not to say that offers of help shouldn’t be made but she shouldn’t be taking matters into her own hands, gambling with her life in a foolhardy rescue effort without exploring other avenues in consultation with others ie. Zisheng.
While trust issues have caused misunderstandings, the more difficult problem goes to the core of how Niaoniao defines her relationship with Zisheng. This has always been the nub of the problem. It’s not his commitment or sincerity that’s ever in question. Or even the fact that he may be a bit of a control freak. All that is moot when Niaoniao is still largely groping around in the dark trying to work out what this impending marriage should look like. Her conversation with Qiqi and Yangyang indicates that only too well. She doesn’t have the toolkit by which to assess her seemingly complex dynamic with Zisheng. Qiqi simplifies it for her and in reality, it’s not that complicated. Gratitude can be the foundation for love but in the end it has to blossom into deep mutual affection. This harkens back to what Mother said about there being no perfect man and there will inevitably be aspects of our spouses that will rub us the wrong way. Expectations too will have to be managed. We all know this instinctively but even though we strenuously resist being controlled by others, we have no qualms trying to control our environment, our loved ones and more importantly, our spouses. This is what Yuanyi was trying to tell her. Niaoniao was taking advantage of Zisheng’s love for her with all the push and pull. She has been (consciously or unconsciously) making him dance to her tune and when he shows even the slightest bit of resistance to her schemes, she’s irritated. A’Yao was easier to control because he didn’t put much stock in his own abilities. Zisheng, however is a different class of mammal entirely. He has far more experience, strong opinions and is high on the competence scale. He’s survived many battles and far wiser than most. Niaoniao doesn’t appreciate him intruding in her choices unless she approves of his interventions such as when he saves her life voluntarily.
An almighty clash was bound to happen.
This is not a peculiarly Shaoshang problem. We are fallen creatures living in a fallen world. Control is the way we deal with the unknown. Control is how we deal with the unpredictable, unruly elements of life. To expedite matters, the instinct is to control the narrative, the discourse at the expense of others if necessary. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong — what matters is who is in control of telling the story and how that story is told. This is why the word “consensus” is repeatedly weaponized to shut down genuine public discourse.
I’ve become accustomed to tv empresses and consorts jumping at each other’s throats that I have to blink twice when the emperor’s two wives are in accord with one another in an unusual display of royal consensus. Yes, they’re gleefully ganging up on Consort Ruyang but anybody who roots for the leads probably thinks that her expulsion from royal affairs has been long overdue. Nobody likes bullies even if they submit to their antics for short-term reprieve. The eagerness expressed by her husband, the emperor’s uncle, to take her out of the equation is hilarious although not wholly unexpected. Scuttling her off to the nunnery to reflect on her errant ways is an interesting exit strategy to inflict on a woman who has made it her lifelong mission to grandstand at every opportunity. Her over-inflated view of self and her position in the royal family is the reason why even her own long-suffering husband can’t wait to see the back of “Get thee to a nunnery” Consort Ruyang.
The show is certainly doing its bit to promote lifelong monogamy which hasn’t been the norm for much of history until those pesky Christians came along. The shaming of the Lady Chengyuan over her adultery and betrayal is rather persistent all throughout. To the point of embarrassment if you ask me. A wiser woman would probably stay out of sight and under the radar but she keeps popping up like a wack-a-mole almost as if she’s begging for a smackdown. With her track record she can’t be accused of being a wise woman although there’s a certain amount of thick skin and cunning needed to be this brazen. Furthermore she was at least for a time shrewd enough to cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship with Consort Ruyang but in a furious battle of clout, the man or woman who has the top royal heavyweights in their corner is the winner that takes all.
The regard of the emperor for Zisheng never ceases to amaze. It is a great honour to Zisheng and Niaoniao that he and his wives show up personally not only to deal with troublesome gatecrashers but to celebrate their engagement. The division of labour in the royal household is always entertaining to watch especially from the front row. His Majesty sagely stands back and allows his beloved consort free rein to quarrel openly with irksome relatives while he silently gives approval to the proceedings by feigning neutrality. He knows better than to get between two angry women. It’s a delightful bit of family theatre (with echoes of The Bard) that is reminiscent of the Cheng household’s inter-generational capers. Equally amusing are the engaged couple taking a backseat, smirking in the background letting Consort Yue take centrestage with His Majesty and Prince Ruyang as the support act chiming in to achieve a thrilling conclusion to Consort Ruyang’s interfering days.
The engagement banquet also denotes a shift in Niaoniao’s thinking about Zisheng’s interventions using his clout/power. It serves as a contrast to another public occasion where he stood up for her at A’Yao and Zhaojun’s wedding. There she was resentful of his interference but here she’s quietly chuffed to see her future husband use his prestige via his adoptive parents as they come to offer their support as representatives of Zisheng’s side of the family.
Despite everything I’ve said about Niaoniao, there’s very little doubt in my mind that Zisheng has found himself a good wife. He has always known what he is getting himself into so there’s certainly no regrets on his part in his efforts to accommodate her after a clumsy start. Shaoshang is a courageous loyal young woman with lofty thoughts befitting a man of his calibre and ambition. Now that she’s come to the realisation that he’s just about as good as it gets, her commitment to him (just like all her other loves) will be equally resolute to the end. Moreover it is my view that whatever she thinks right now about her role as Zisheng’s future wife, being with Zisheng is the best place for someone like her with so much potential to be far more than what she is right now. The disadvantages aside, by virtue of being with an open-minded fellow like him with immense resources at his fingertips, the sky’s the absolute limit in terms of exploring her interests and talents.
Afterall, behind every great woman, is a great man.
This line, if memory serves, comes from Agatha Christie’s Nemesis in another context but I thought it was fitting to use it here since it has a nice ring to it.