Discover more from The Urban Lily Talks Tropes
Love Like The Galaxy (2022) Episodes 19-20 Ramblings
There’s a strong underlying thought that runs through the most recent episodes: What was meant to be, will be again. Indeed everything has to return to the way it was. The marriage agreement between the Chengs and the Lous is… in effect, a disruption or the result of wrong choices. And it takes a very terrible tragedy in order for that course correction occur— an insurrection and the death of a loyal military family. Human beings cannot defy the will of heaven — there are costs to bear.
In Episode 15 at the dinner party, a comment is made by Ling Buyi in response to Huangfu Yi’s story about his doomed betrothal. “If heaven isn’t fair, people should follow their own fate. If heaven is fair, it won’t separate lovers.” Before he makes the second half of that declaration he looks expectantly at Niaoniao and slams his drinking bowl down on the table. He was certain of one thing then: Cheng Shaoshang is the only woman he will ever love but he can’t understand why she’s marrying another especially a mismatch like Lou Yao. Zisheng is a man with multiple agendas. He is out for revenge on those who were responsible for the massacre of his maternal uncle and the people of Gu City. He is also in love with Niaoniao and in none-too-subtle ways has been putting himself forward as a viable suitor for her affections. By Episode 19 he is ready to bid her farewell with the expectation that if he returns from the battlefield triumphant, they will only be strangers each going their own way. If he can’t be with her, he will at least ensure that her future with her new husband will have prospects.
This however is not how it all unfolds. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The mind of a man plans his way, but God directs his steps. A month later, the battle against Prince Yong is won, Zisheng returns victorious and his fellow general Wu brings the heroic General He’s last request to the royal court. The late General He wants a renewal of the marriage agreement between his daughter He Zhaojun and Lou Yao to protect his far-too-young successor, the family’s assets and future. This puts a number of parties in a troubling predicament, not least the young marrieds-to-be.
Ling Zisheng’s comment at that dinner party comes back to haunt us all. “If heaven is fair, lovers won’t be separated.” It begged the question then, it begs the question now. Who may these lovers be?
To those in attendance at the dinner, they were thinking about themselves and the status quo. Niaoniao peered over to look at the vapid A’Yao putting on his best empty stare completely oblivious to the reverberating implications of what was said. Unfortunately they land everywhere else except in his direction.
According to the writer, A’Yao’s presence in Niaoniao’s life is not entirely a mistake. Their dynamic supposedly made him stronger, so everyone says more than once (although the difference to me is barely discernible). They make good friends but not lovers. Their mistake was to confuse goodwill and admiration for love. They were never lovers and Niaoniao’s path always lay elsewhere. Apparently the Emperor was right. In what on hindsight was a tirade tinged with irony, he never spoke a truer word than what he did that day. That infernal Heir-Apparent Xiao broke up a couple (He Zhaojun and Lou Yao) that should have been and in effect separated another couple that should have been. That’s why Xiao gets the chop in the end. He is a loathsome reprehensible creature that had the audacity to defy the will of heaven by not only conspiring insurrection but snatching another man’s wife thereby causing another to lose his. The death of Xiao that we witness firsthand restores everything. He is no longer a variable of that equation. The interloper has been unceremoniously disposed of. Long live the emperor.
Apparently heaven is fair to Ling Zisheng. It pities him at least. While the dissolution of the marriage agreement between the Chengs and the Lous will be painful and messy, he will get his moment after all. Why should he, who has given the best of his life to king and country, have to watch and protect his beloved woman become someone else’s wife? Then there’s also the darkness in his soul that seeks bloody vengeance. No wonder the emperor wants him married and off the battlefield. The love of a good woman might take his mind off the darkness . Or be precisely what the doctor ordered.
In the previous two episodes, the second chamber of the Lou household were heartily congratulating themselves that the family had acquired a great daughter-in-law. She’s good for A’Yao and for the second chamber in general. Things were looking up. But what strikes me is that no one thinks of whether A’Yao and the Lou family are good for Niaoniao. Everyone knows that Cheng Shaoshang is intelligent, courageous and strong so she will protect A’Yao. She’s even put her hand up to do so. But no one asks the question: Who will protect her?
Except Zisheng. And Mother, Yuanyi.
Zisheng has seen her at her most vulnerable. Twice he comes to her aid and says those reassuring words: 别怕,我来了 (“Don’t be afraid. I’ve come” or if you like it with a more poetic ring “Never fear, I am here”). The first time at the hunting lodge outside of Hua County and the second at the end of Episode 20. Regardless of how courageous and strong she is, she is still a woman with very comparatively little status who cannot rely on her indecisive fiancé/ husband-to-be who gave it little thought. Of course A’Yao is hardly the thinking type. In a collectivist, status conscious society, it is irresponsible for a man to marry a woman without consideration as to how he would protect her from the changing tide of circumstances. And now, he really has no power to stave off a marriage to He Zhaojun except to mutter now and again… “I won’t agree to its dissolution”. He might be resolute but he has no real power to combat opposing forces. It becomes an empty promise if he has no power to carry it through. Even his older, intellectually superior brother can’t stand up to their uncle when push comes to shove. It’s not A’Yao’s fault that he’s in a weak position at home. But it is his fault rushing into matrimony with Shaoshang when he doesn’t have any transactional power even within his family to make promises that he hopes to keep.
Yuan Shen, though ridiculously pubescent in matters of the heart, is perceptive on worldly matters. In a way he’s a lot like her. What he said to Shaoshang in the carriage is probably right. Cynical but mostly right on the money. She is marrying A’Yao because he is easy to control and also it’s her chance for a bit of freedom away from both families. Note that she doesn’t really deny the charges and to her credit, looks slightly guilty. But in reality A’Yao is not an ideal solution but a trade-off. I don’t doubt that she pities him. Of course she does because he is an underdog just like her.
I don’t hold to the perspective that if it weren’t for these evil people that A’Yao and Shaoshang would have been possible. I think the whole point of the last few episodes, is proof that that’s not true. A’Yao can’t even do a proper escape out of his residence without falling off the ladder. It’s a metaphor for his lot in life and a joke at his expense. I can’t even call their relationship puppy love because it assumes that there’s even an iota of infatuation on her part.
It’s also Mother to the rescue and it’s not hard to see where those firebrand traits come from. When Yuanyi entered the Lou household, she was raring for a fight and got one. I have no complaints about the confrontation because it’s true that the Lou family down to A’Yao had not given a thought to Niaoniao’s reputation. Niaoniao on the other hand, is very considerate of A’Yao’s feelings. She clearly pities A’Yao because she notes that he has to marry someone he doesn’t want to while she however, is only unable to marry the person she wants to. Frankly, it doesn’t sound like a woman in love to me.
Niaoniao talks the talk about protecting A’Yao but it’s clear that she can barely protect herself as well. A person can only survive on their wits in that nepotistic world for only so far. All scheming aside, her plan to marry A’Yao sadly was always dependant on the good will of others rather than having actual bargaining power.
All this reminds of Colonel Fitzwilliam from Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy’s cousin and what he said about Darcy being the eldest son having the luxury of marrying whomever he wanted but he, being the second son of an earl, who had become accustomed to a particular lifestyle, had to marry with money in mind.
It is telling that then when Niaoniao tags along with He Zhaojun as she personally witnesses the execution of Heir-Apparent Xiao, it is the very busy Zisheng that fronts up to protect her not A’Yao, the official fiance. “别怕,我来了” (Don’t be afraid, I’ve come) is a becoming a motif and clarion cry for what Ling Zisheng is prepared to do for the woman he loves.
Thanks for reading The Urban Lily Talks Tropes! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.