The end: Wu Ze Tian
The ending was kind of a dud for me. I kind of read about the ending beforehand, and actually had an elaborate ending in my mind that I liked so much more, so I hope that if I’m sharing my ideal ending, maybe you can replace that ending with the real ending in your mind. There was so much going on in history, that I really wished that they focused more on her being Wu Ze Tian, and making a historical drama, instead of creating filler episodes in the beginning of drama between concubines. Wu Ze Tian’s life after becoming Empress is dramatic enough – I really wish that they would focus on her alleged affairs, her murders, and certain rumours about her.
So the drama picks up from HeLan Ming Yue’s death. The Emperor yelled at Mei Niang for killing Ming Yue, and has the freaking audacity to say that “How could you? She was just a child!”. Oh my gosh Li Zhi, I’m glad you know, because you slept with her! You slept with a child! I can’t get over it. Mei Niang doesn’t explain herself, which really irks me. At this point in their relationship, it’s so muddled, it’s their only way to salvage their relationship. She doesn’t explain herself though, and he leaves angrily. I feel like he should trust her judgement as well because she’s never betrayed him all along. He always finds that every action she does has a good reason behind it, and she always prioritizes him first.
The Emperor even killed Li Yi Fu, for an unrelated reason, but because he suspected that Li Yi Fu was partially responsible for Ming Yue’s death. I really liked Li Yi Fu’s loyalty to Mei Niang throughout the drama so I was really sad that he died.
It’s not until a confession by a chancellor arises about how Mei Niang kept information away from Li Zhi. Mei Niang did not tell him that Ming Yue tried to kill her. The Emperor confronts her about all that information he just learned, and I’m not sure what it is – but her attitude towards him has changed. It’s because he stopped talking to her after Ming Yue’s death, and she was saddened by how weak his trust in her was. I would be too, after all she’s done for him, this is how he treats her after a death from another woman. He doesn’t trust her actions at all, after all these years.
As a result she says a lot of hurtful things to him – that she would have killed Ming Yue regardless, that maybe it was her that killed Li Hong, and that there hasn’t been one day that she hasn’t thought about Li Shi Min (the previous Emperor). Ouch. That’s Li Zhi’s weak spot. He’s always been overshadowed by his dad, and he always doubted Mei Niang’s love to him. It was really cruel for her to say that – and it kind of permanently damages a relationship. When you start wondering if they ended up resolving it… It flashes to many years later.
Like I want to murder someone at this point. After such a huge argument, there’s no resolution, no indication of how they’ve been all these years, and it just flashes to so many years later. Why is the argument even necessary? Just to make Mei Niang more of a victim? I don’t understand why she had to say such poisonous words – I would’ve much preferred them just resolving it like adults and moving on. Plus the make-up is god awful on Li Zhi. $49 million budget man, did they only spend it on the costumes?
Li Xian is introduced at this point and it really sets the tone of how spineless he is. He, being pushed by his wife and father-in-law, begs for the Empress to be buried with the Emperor when he dies so the Emperor won’t be lonely. The Empress is in great power of the courts still, and Li Xian feels threatened. What an unfilial son! What is happened down the gene pool? Planning against your own mother – no wonder she doesn’t trust you with country affairs.
Mei Niang finds out because she’s got eyes everywhere. Later on, she gets notified the Emperor is dying. Yes, the drama is moving at exponential rates at this point while we focused a bazillion episodes in the beginning on Xu Hui and the three fei’s in the beginning.
The producers even gave more of a lead-up to Pang Po Po’s death than Li Zhi’s. What even?!
Having only a few hours left, Li Zhi requests to see Mei Niang, and they have a very sweet grandma-grandpa couple time outside on the balcony. He tells her that all he ever wanted, was just to watch fireworks with her. So sweet.
Now I’m not trying to ruin a sweet moment, and I am really not trying to be a ‘debby downer’, but does it bug anyone else that we don’t know what happened after the argument? Did they just become sweet? But I mean, they have to see each other somehow right? Did they just have a ‘cold war’ with each other for many years just before his death? I have so many unanswered questions! And if they were going to end it off this way, why didn’t the producers just give us more couple scenes from the beginning? This was all I wanted!!! I admit, I didn’t cry during his death. At this point, I didn’t feel very attached to their relationship anymore, and didn’t feel like their love was sincere. There was too much mistrust and lying going on between them.
It was really sad when he died, but he died in his happiest moment in contentment with Mei Niang, so at least we were given that resolution.
Also I can’t look past his make-up.
The Emperor passes away. Bing Bing looks more gorgeous than ever being old (I think they cut down on the eye-make-up) and the silver/white dress she’s wearing is gorgeous with her headpiece. She mourns for him while suddenly, Li Xian attempts a coup against her. He fails because Mei Niang already had countermeasures in place (because she had heard about it already).
The Emperor’s original edict was for Mei Niang to support Li Xian in becoming a good Emperor. Li Xian was in power for officially 44 days, but because of his incompetence, laziness, and greediness, Mei Niang disposed him and took over. She gave herself the official title of Huang Di – Emperor. She was Emperor Wu – she even wore the golden color that was reserved for Emperors, along with the dragon on top. Again, I’m not rushing this summary but the last episode literally moved at the speed of a bullet train.
She had nearly half a decade of secret police and opposition, and spent at least five years as Empress Dowager before becoming Emperor – they decide to conveniently skip all of that. They even miss out the part about her other son, Li Dan – which was made Crown Prince during this time. I mean, I understand that it’s a drama, and sometimes things have to be cut to make it entertaining, but the drama lagged on fictional characters like Pang Po Po, Cheng Xing, and spent so much time on fictional events in the beginning that I think it’s inexcusable.
Finally we see the epic scene where the Empress becomes Wu ZeTian, and becomes Emperor Wu.
My beloved Rui An is an elderly man now <3. He’s my favourite character throughout this whole drama – so loyal and so thoughtful all along. If only the Emperor had his faithfulness to Mei Niang…
We finally see the scene that’s been advertised everywhere in trailers but unfortunately… well that’s it. It’s the finale. When you’re looking forward to something in a trailer, you’re excited to see what happens afterwards. For this, well, that’s it. Well, actually we are left with an incredibly corny and awkward scene of people that died from her life.
People suddenly turning towards the camera and posing accordingly to their personas, like Wei Fei is smirking while Li Ke is smiling. It was so cringe-worthy and corny. Why couldn’t they have just pulled out the different scenes from each character? I am positive that it would have made a bigger impact and tugged heartstrings even more.
Producers: “Well we are on the bullet-train express right now of moving the plot at an exponential rate since we spent too much time bickering in the beginning – no time for reminiscing now! Let’s just flash these characters quickly across the screen to hope for the best.”
15 years later, Li Xian plan another coup against Emperor Wu. Emperor Wu looks the exact same from 15 years earlier – just saying. Li Xian, being the spineless unfilial son that he is, fails at confronting his mother and runs away at the crucial moment. In the drama, the coup failed (but historically they ousted her) because of Li Xian’s incompetence. But, it’s been the loneliest 15 years for Mei Niang, and she was willing to step down from it.
I think the producers at this point were unwilling to position Mei Niang to have lost, and wrote it this way – but I think it’s pulling very far from the truth. It seems at every single corner, they’re rewriting history to create this illustration of a sacrificial Mary Sue heroine. To me, the rewriting has gotten very out of hand and unrealistic. I guess their whole screw up with Mei Niang’s first miscarriage set the tone.
In episode 60 and beyond, Mei Niang was said to be pregnant with Li Zhi’s child. The producers made it Li Shi Min, which is very historically untrue, so it was edited out. Since it’s voiceovers, it was easily recreated that it was Li Zhi’s child… which is even more historically untrue. Everyone was confused. I looked at the stats for my blog, and I found that some of my hits came from search terms “When did Mei Niang sleep with Li Zhi?”. The producers really rooked it in this drama with the history – either they made up too much stuff, or they didn’t cover important events.
I included these two screencaps from the coup because I was literally laughing out loud during this scene. $49 million USD that’s a huge production. HOW DID THEY HAVE THE BALLS TO ALLOW SUCH A FAKE MANNEQUIN HEAD INTO SUCH A SERIOUS SCENE?! The fake head up top looks even more fake on high definition and you can clearly see that it has no eyeballs or face. If you watch the scene live, you nearly feel embarrassed for the actor holding the head. How does it look like the guy on the bottom?
Intern: I mean, the General doesn’t have to carry a head into this scene… We can just cut it out. Our cameras are really high definition and you can clearly see that it’s a fake head.
Producers: No. It stays in the scene.
Intern: How about we just turn the head around so you can only see hair?
Lastly, we see one last costume from Bing Bing. She’s gotten fully old now. I must say the costume for this is very good. It does look very genuine. One thing that stuck with me was that she said that she had a dream where everyone she knew came to ‘get’ her, except her husband. I guess in her heart, her and Li Zhi’s problems were never resolved, and perhaps she’s convinced that he didn’t forgive her for certain things that she did.
But… But… the coup happened on February 22nd of 705, and she died on December 16th. In the span of 10 months she literally went from:
All I can say… is this:
How I read the drama would end was that it would go full circle. You would see a scene with her and her grandchild (above), and she would start talking about herself when she entered the palace at 13/14 years old. And we’d see this iconic scene again:
Sends chills down your spine doesn’t it? Well nope, they didn’t do that. They just ended it with Mei Niang talking to her grandchild to ask him to visit her more, and we are hit with this last shot:
It says that she was buried with Li Zhi with a tomb with no words. Now I am actually not sure if she requested for her tomb to be wordless with no name, or if it’s the chancellors who thought that she was a disgrace to the country as a female regent.
I felt like that this drama didn’t really reach my expectations because I was really interested in Wu ZeTian’s life, but it was filled with a lot of things that didn’t even happen in her life. Did Bing Bing just want to play a young character? I guess Wu ZeTian’s life really took off when she became Empress at 32 years old. If they just wanted to make a drama about concubine troubles, they should have just done so without the ‘Wu Ze Tian’ gimmick, because it made me expect so much more than a Mary Sue drama for the two-thirds of the episodes, and rushed through the important parts of her life at the very end. It was still a good watch as a drama, albeit still disappointing since I expected so much more. Other than the plot, I think the outfits, headpieces, and acting was done very well. My only complaint was probably the make-up and some props (like that mannequin head). I would definitely not rewatch this drama as I did with so many other ones.
Anyways – excited to move on to Lady and the Liar. Ten episodes are out already, and I’m pretty stoked on catching up to them.