Kingdom 2 – 25

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As Harry Caray used to say, the big possums walk late…

The motif for this episode was definitely chess.  It’s not coincidental that military strategists have historically been good chess players, or that the game itself draws so heavily on the phraseology and indeed mindset of war (and the reverse is also true, actually) – the type of thinking involved is not at all dissimilar.  But we rarely see the connection demonstrated so directly as it was in this episode of Kingdom.  An Asian mind might be taken to thoughts of Go or Shogi, but a Westerner like me goes directly to the 64 squares.

This side of the battlefield is the last to get any major attention from the narrative, but it quickly becomes the center of the Kingdom universe.  When we last left it, Wang Jian had just given Bi a field promotion to 5000-man Sucker General, with orders to lure Wei’s Jian Yan into an enclosed valley with only one narrow escape route.  I mentioned death flags for My Man Bi last week, but one way or another it was certainly clear that Wang Jian wasn’t playing his entire hand with that move.  He’s the supposed conventional half of Meng Ao’s vice-general team, the scion of the elite military family, but it’s clear from the way he presents himself that Wang Jian is not a conventional thinker.

One of the common elements of chess is of course to sacrifice pieces – sometimes even highly valuable pieces – as part of a cleverly-laid trap for the enemy.  So what came about here wasn’t a total surprise by any means, though Bi certainly didn’t see it coming.  “He’ll make a good decoy” Wang Jian says of Bi – and that’s exactly and only what Bi is to him.  The name of the game on this side of the battlefield is how many moves you’re capable of thinking ahead – and when Jian Yan’s reinforcements appear from out of nowhere and seize the high ground that Bi was so reluctant to give up (as good generals always are) it appears he’s pulled off the gambit that will finally raise Bi’s death flag for good.

That’s when things start to get really convoluted – one might almost say comically, as there is a bit of vaudeville to the way each side keeps popping up and trumping the other – but these things have happened historically when the truly great minds meet in battle.  The next to spring the trap is Wang Jian, who reveals that he’s been playing his own gambit and an astonishingly clever one, too – from the very beginning his battle with Jian Yan has been an effort to hide his true strength, and to manoeuvre the center of the action to the part of the board he’s prepared.  In fact Wang has stashed much of the strength from his disappearing headquarters forces in close proximity to the canyon, waiting only for the moment to use them.  The most interesting part of this sequence comes as Wang Jian offers Jian Yan a chance to surrender and swear fealty to him – an offer it never seems likely he’s going to take, even before he looses an arrow at Wang Jian like a fart in his general direction, a gesture that seems like the last derisive act of a man who’s accepted that he’s about to die.

My read on this is that Jian Yan was genuinely surprised that Lian Po showed up when he did – I got the sense that he was genuinely upset with himself for being outsmarted by Wang Jian, and impressed with the way it was done.  Either way, the big dog has finally entered the fray – the biggest name in this war and maybe the greatest general in the world now that Wang Qi is no longer in it.  Rather than a quadruple-bluff to trump Wang Jian’s triple-bluff, I think Lian Po improvised this – he sensed what Wang Jian was doing and jumped into the fray, perhaps sooner than he’d intended.  But he’s lost one of his Four Kings and very nearly another in Lun Hu, and he may have simply decided he didn’t have the luxury of sitting back and planning strategy any longer.  One can assume Lian Po wouldn’t personally step onto the battlefield unless one of two things were true, and probably both – the situation is desperate, or he thinks he can strike a decisive blow for his side.  The preliminaries are definitely over – it’s time for the main event.

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  1. t

    quite funny an ep like that is called "double bluff". more like a sequence of never-ending bluffs XD
    but I guess that's how it is, if you wanna win the war, you have to manipulate your opponent, Kanki did that great against two of the four kings (which one of them is dead by now :P)
    it was actually nice to see kingdom focuses again not only in Xin and the rest of the main force, but on the sides as well. after all, Meng's true military power is thanks to them, so we must see them.

    now the real fun begins, with Renpa (Lian Po) is on the front lines. a true leader ahead of the soldiers can truly makes a difference.
    god, this is intriguing. Kingdom 2 do it much more better than the previous full-time sequence in the last third of S1.

  2. t

    I just remember I wanted to say something about kingdom, regardless to this specific ep.
    I was talking with some people, discussing what is the "ED of the year" (a lot of great songs for both OP and ED in terms of audio and video this year, SnK is a runner I guess), and I must say I am rooting for kingdom S2, 2nd ED for the "ED of year".
    the video is looking great and the song "exit" by the sketchbook sounds just great, I can listen to this all day. they also did the 1st ED this season.
    they are great, really.

    I guess we will see the polls for year-review very soon… 😛

  3. R

    Talking about OP/ED, I still like the ED of RDG the best. The second ED of Watamote, Musou Renka by Velvet,Kodhy, is also a favourite of mine. You know, we really have lots of choices this year, and I also like SSY's Wareta Ringo by Risa Taneda, Psycho Pass' Namae no nai Kaibutsu by EGOIST, Uchouten Kazoku's Uchōten Jinsei by milktub, Gin no Saji's Hello Especially by Sukima Switch, and both the OP and ED of Kyousogiga. Well, it's pretty personal, I guess, when it comes to favourite OP/ED.

  4. R

    It's pretty funny when Wang Qi wasn't quite acknowledged by his clan since he's not from the main branch, but it looks like to me that Wang Jian isn't in the same league of Wang Qi and Lian Po.

  5. Unless he has one more trump card up his sleeve that he hasn't played yet. At the very least, he seems to have pantsed one of Lian Po's 4 Heavenly Kings pretty thoroughly.

  6. R

    That's true — he totally planned things out to corner Jian Yan, and that was brilliant. He looked pretty shocked though when Lian Po used the same trick and showed up at the end. Well, I'm just glad that Bi didn't get killed.

    I remember you mentioned way back in season 1 that this show kind of glorifies war, and that aspect does carry into season 2. It's not that it's right, but it's a different era, and I really like the vast variety of war tactics shown here. We saw both the grander plans in season 1 and the more grassroots approach this season. The other interesting thing about Kingdom is all the different leadership styles. With Lian Po getting into the game, things will definitely get hyped up. I'm really keen on finding out what's next.

  7. U

    we have yet to see what wang Jian(ousen) is really capable of.All we know so far is that he may be one of the most strategic generals and hes great at build forts

  8. e

    As any seemengly destined for greatness character in this universe our three young wolves could catch the Lian Po Effect at a distance even in the middle of fighting. Great General Spirit-dar!

    Bi gets to live at least until next week. Hooray for now. And if my eyes aren't playing tricks on me in the preview we got a glimpse of Palace Maiden. She lives! More hooray. Unless it's a flashback. Relatedly: a small return to the Palace. Palace focus lives too!

    If Jian-of-the-perpetually-closed-slit-eyes with his last line to Jian-of-the-perpetually-open-blood-red-eyes was NOT alluding to or surprised by Lian Po's appereance he was pretty good at concealing it.

  9. R

    "Jian-of-the-perpetually-closed-slit-eyes" — lol, I was wondering if he's actually blind. I don't think we've seen he opened his eyes once, do we?

  10. e

    Provided he's not blind that's one possible hint for me he was expecting Lian Po to appear like he did. Otherwise he would have opened his eyes as per the animanga rule 'thou shall not reveal your irises unless circumstances are DAT BAD' :p. Bonus points if dem eyes turn out to be golden…
    While we're at it: Lun Hu I'm watching out for you too X,D.

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