I really enjoy Kingdom (especially when the animation is tolerable, as it was this week) but as I’ve mentioned before, there are times when it isn’t the easiest show to write about. There’s a WYSIWYG quality to it most of the time, but that’s really the case this week. It’s a strength of the show but doesn’t lend itself terribly well to blogging – when there’s nothing out there needing to be interpreted, it’s pretty much just a question of plot summary (shudder) and personal impressions. Since I refuse to rely on the former, that leaves me with the latter.
And really, with a show like Kingdom that doesn’t take too long, especially with an ep like this one. It was excellent in the way this show has to be to work – full of martial spirit, manic energy and straightforward GAR. Not coincidentally that pretty much describes its main character; Xin is quite a shounen archetype in many ways, but the stuff he pulled off this week raised the bar for the power of superhuman will. What subtlety the episode offered was in the politics of the situation. While 80,000 troops may seem like a lot, Changwenjun makes it clear that Jie Shi expected to have many more. In fact it’s very much as the “fat old man” says, the kingdom is full of people playing “wait and see” – they won’t choose sides until they’re sure who’s going to win (Game of Thrones’ “The Late Walder Frey” comes to mind here). Add in devious enigmas like Wang Qi and Lu Buewei – commanding 200,000 troops himself – and this rebellion is not as easy as Jie no doubt promised his pet Prince Cheng it would be.
The plan to infiltrate the Capitol is simple – pretend to be an army of mountain folk under Duan He’s command offering to lend their power to Cheng’s cause. Jie is tempted by the notion of the “Horse & Liquor” savages on his side, and knows the Mountain Folk well enough to know there are tens of thousands more where these came from – but he’s not a total fool. His precautions prove insufficient, though, when Xin blows his plan apart by leaping from a spear (after leaping from a spearman’s head) to the top of the insurmountable Red Turtle Gate. And you know Xin’s a true shounen badass by the fact that he took time out to trash talk about the enemy before he leapt all the way back down to the ground on the other side of the gate and started kicking ass.
Obviously the story is entering a new phase here – the battle is well and truly joined and everyone has something to fight for. I have the sense that Cheng’s rebellion is a paper tiger – Jie has built an army of sycophantic ministers whose loyalty it paper-thin, and who’ll jump ship at the first sign of trouble. I could be wrong but I expect Xin, Zheng and Duan He (helped by Diao’s nostril darts, of course) to mow down this group in relatively short order, with the real challenges to come after – when the likes of Lu Buwei and Wang Qi re-enter the fray. They’re the types that thrive or chaos, and I doubt they’ll see this as anything but an opportunity too good to pass up.