The Imperial Coroner (2021) The Prince in Love

Spoilers for Episodes 19-25

There’s a lovely scene in Episode 22 between leads Jinyu and Chu Chu where she mulls over the injuries on the late Prince Consort’s body. Jinyu, having never met his father, is eager to know how his deceased father lived and suffered as the neighbourhood curiosity. As Chu Chu relates the story of Xiao Heng’s existence away from home living with the pain of his injuries, Jinyu grieves for the father he never knew. The two share not only an emotional bond but an unabashed physical closeness. In that room with no one else present, their dynamic is no longer that of coroner and prince. Nor master or servant. It is a man and a woman having a deep and meaningful moment. Status is rendered irrelevant as this emotional connection is further developed. In this situation they are confidants. There’s no hesitation or awkwardness between them as Chu Chu puts her arm around him in thoughtful consolation. Even before they confess their feelings to one another there’s a thread of empathy that marks their closeness. The normally lofty and confident figure of a prince is unusually vulnerable in front of the woman that he has growing feelings for. Chu Chu is the conduit to a past that’s out of reach. Increasingly she’s become an integral part of his present and future.

In an earlier incident after Chu Chu is rescued from her kidnapper, she lies feverishly unconscious and he’s sitting by her bedside holding her hand without any calculation to the proprieties of the day between an unmarried man and a woman. Even her adoptive brother notices the prince’s attentiveness. Later when Chu Chu wakes from a nightmare, she embraces him reflexively for fear that he will abandon her. Jinyu, not at all flustered by spontaneous gesture comforts her and reminds her that he will never leave her behind. They behave like two people who are already a couple or family, not like two people who work together to solve crimes or are merely allies in a cause. Long before the bolt of lightning hits, our prince has already taken a genuine liking to his beloved coroner. Despite his suspicions, despite himself.

In episode 23, His Highness suddenly proposes to a stunned Chu Chu who after confirming that Jinyu is really offering marriage, skedaddles out the door before he can get a definite yay or nay. It occurs to him afterwards that he has done something foolish and consults Jing Yi which to my mind is always a bad idea. He is told to woo his lady love first but that doesn’t end well either, leading to some comical moments in its wake.

His Highness Prince An is good at everything except courting. But then he gets the best advice from his brother Jinli who tells him sensibly to be himself and follow his heart. It’s the sort of advice I would have given because it’s obvious that Chu Chu more or less hero-worships him. She already likes everything about him in the context of their working together and beyond. There’s really no need for any hard sell on his part because she’s practically sold on the fact that he is man of her dreams.

It’s the kind of romance that has very little fanfare. In fact it has hardly any drama, push and pull or mind games. Some might find it too ordinary… others might find it boring. I, on the other hand, find it rather adorable. In fact, I’m inclined to think that it’s a breath of fresh air that the pair aren’t required to jump through the usual tropey hoops.

In an endearing moment in Episode 23 prior to Jinyu’s big declaration, the show juxtaposes the two of them pondering about whether to go or not to go. Fortifying herself with mandarins first she plucks up courage afterwards to apologize. He, on the other hand, desperately needs to get a brewing confession out of his system. Hilariously enough as he opens the door to his quarters, he finds her waiting outside with a bowl of medicine for him. There’s a bit of an obligatory dance before Jinyu gets to the point.

When they’re both trapped in a counterfeiter’s cave with little else to do, Jinyu comes to the realisation that she does care for him although he can’t understand why she isn’t willing to marry him. She demurs because she believes that he’s too good for a coroner like her. Anyway he says all the right things to allay her doubts. The so-called social barriers between them are nothing compared to a lifetime of regret of not spending it with the person they love. He poses a question that reiterates his original point: Is there a place for him in her heart? Without missing a beat she says that he occupies all of her heart. (Or it could be interpreted he has all of her heart)

I don’t suppose it’s beyond the pale to call this an office romance. Two people who work together (usually a supervisor and subordinate) gradually develop feelings for each other and become the butt of teasing and/or gossip from well-meaning colleagues. There might be minor obstacles along the way, perhaps the interference of another interested party but here there’s really little of that here. There’s little indecision between two resolute individuals who know exactly what they want when it’s right in front of them. Afterall, life is short… and unpredictable.

Do I think this romance is necessary in this drama? Well, it depends. Would this show be as good without it? Perhaps. But as long as the romance itself doesn’t interfere or is written in such a way as to interfere, I’m fine with having one. Does it add to the storytelling? Possibly. What it does for me is bring out another side to Jinyu, the superhero brainiac. His facial expressions when he’s seeking advice from others is a delight to behold. I dig that awkward teenage boy in love thing albeit all too briefly.

Why does he fall for Chu Chu? Well, as he himself says, she’s the best woman in the whole world. To have a woman so completely devoted to him without the asking must be highly attractive and Chu Chu’s guilelessness in the midst of lies and conspiracies, must add weight to the growing sense that he has to have this rare breed of a woman by his side.

More important than being smart, Jinyu is a good kid. Prince or not. Sure he commands men and is feared and respected by foes and allies alike. But he’s all too human and this brilliant paragon of many virtues can fall in love like us mere mortals. And like us mere mortals love can cause Jinyu to have all kinds of impulses that will lead him to do all kinds of things that he would never think about doing otherwise. The wonderful thing though is that Jinyu never loses his capacity for rational thought in all of this.