Kingdom 2 – 26

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As crucibles go, war is about as merciless as they come.

Kingdom is all about the measure of a man – and woman – it seems to me.  Generals, kings, merchants and thieves take the measure of each other, and battle takes the measure of all of them.  The ultimate, it seems, is to be deemed worthy of a place on history – something we, with the benefit of time, know many of the names in this series achieved.  On the field of battle, knowing the nature of your opponent is critical – and underestimating them is liable to prove fatal.

We didn’t have much CGI to speak of in this episode, a welcome break, but I take limited pleasure in that because the ep itself was a break from the relentless battles of the last several.  It strikes me that war anime are quite a bit like sports anime if you look at them from the proper angle – inevitably before the big game, you have a build-up episode (Giant Killing had my personal all-time favorite) where everyone takes stock of their circumstances and their mental condition and goes to whatever place they need to in order to ready themselves for what’s ahead.  And this was definitely that episode for Kingdom.

The first crucial moment here occurred when Wang Jian made his choice: despite having the advantage in numbers and terrain and a chance at Lian Po’s head, he chose to retreat when Lian Po presented himself.  In Wang’s own words, “I’m only interested in battles I’m certain to win.”  If that doesn’t sit well, it shouldn’t – it’s a highly dubious attitude for a general – and the picture Lian Po draws of Wang Jian is a complicated one.  He compares his strategic genius to Bai Qi, the greatest of Qin’s Six Great Generals (even greater than Wang Qi), a man who it seems usually got the better of Lian Po.  And indeed, Wang Jian again proves himself incredibly resourceful and possessed of great foresight – he’s built a stronghold for himself on a natural fortress, a castle-like hill where his men have set up seemingly impenetrable defenses.

It doesn’t end there, though.  Both Lian Po and Jian Lan have seen the truth of the matter – Wang Jian fancies himself as the center of the world, placing his own welfare above that of the army as a whole.  And just like that, Lian Po dismisses him as a rival – despite his genius, he’s not worthy of the title, because he’s not a men other men will fight to the death for.  He may be safe in his natural keep, but he’s useless to the rest of the Qin army there – and Lian leaves Jian Lan to watch over Wang Jian and keep him bottled up while he prepares to take the head of his “mediocre old rival”.  In this, Wang Jian’s character seems quite different from that of Wang Ben – which may be why we’ve seen no indication of a relationship between the two.

The same cannot be said of Meng Ao and Meng Tian, who seem very close.  After the latter is scolded (and punched) by two of Meng Ao’s subordinates for his reckless attack against Lun Hu, Meng Ao calls him in for a “Grandpa and Grandson” talk.  It’s hard to escape the notion that for all his skill at spotting talent and ability to get the best out of people Meng Ao is simply too nice for his job, but the old man seems to sense that his time of reckoning has come.  His old nemesis is staring across the battlefield at him, his right-arm has been taken out of the battle (in truth, he’s taken himself out of it) and the time may have come when the White Elder can no longer rely on the ability of his subordinates, but must face Lian Po using his own strength.

As for Xin, he’s severely wounded – cut to the bone multiple times – and he’s not the only one, as Qian Lei is hiding a serious wound in her side.  She’s scraped together a mystical healing balm (there’s always a mystical healing balm) but she spares none for herself – perhaps an admission that it’s Xin’s welfare that matters most to the future survival of the Feixin Force.  They sleep together (you wish) in his tent, though all that’s left of her in the moment is a blood stain, and it’s clear that a very deep bond has grown between the two of them.  As strong as Xin has become and as powerful as Qian Lei has always been, they’re never more like the children they still are than when they’re bantering and bickering between them.

Every indication is that next week is going to be the big one – or the start of it, at the very least.  I suspect the thief is going to prove more trustworthy and valuable to Meng Ao than the military scion, and that Lun Hu (now reduced to one usable sword arm) and Xin are going to face each other one final time.  The sense of occasion is heightened by a seemingly extraneous (and brief) check-in with Zheng and Xian (she survived after all).  They’re checking out each other’s bodies in Zheng’s bed (you wish), and bonding over their respective war wounds – and romantic partnerships have been founded on a whole lot less than that.  I think, in the end, Zheng was interested in Xian all along and simply incapable of expressing it any other way than through the awkward and mostly silent visits he commander her to make to his bedchamber, but those trivialities seem irrelevant now after what she’s been through on his behalf.

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  1. e

    Ah these last two days. First we counted abs – Kil's got an 8-pack btw – , now we're counting scars ( and SHE LIVES! Beta [politics] battle couple, on! Aaaah this show ).
    I tend to like calm before the storm episodes and this one delivered. Also because – mystical balm or no balm – a bit of Lei makes everything better. For others that is. She's not bleeding anymore come morning apparently but still… Mah girl D,: .
    Some closeups still managed to look a bit off model – especially after Xin wakes up – in spite of being a quiet episode. But hey the content was good.
    And we even got a glimpse of Jian Lan's eye. Does not look blind. Maybe the scrunched with permafurrowed brow face means he's simply constipated.

  2. t

    "We didn't have much CGI to speak of in this episode, a welcome break"
    that's because this ep wasn't focused on an actual fight. otherwise, we would have seen plenty, as I fear will be next ep.

    I think Wang Jian did the right decision. even with the advantage, fighting unintentionally face to face with Lian Po (Renpa), must be too difficult. the result is also unknown even with the advantages. besides, why not if he had such a backup plan that surprised even Renpa.
    but sure, that dismisses him as a rival. not only as a rival. why would a man in his caliber is still simply a vice-general?and here is the reason. Wang Jian, in essence, doesn't willing to take risks. something that general must have. Renpa has a flame in his heart for fighting against the strongest, so as Wang Qi and of course, our main hero, Xin.
    it seems Wang Jian is more to the side of a strategist rather than a full true general.
    that's why Renpa lost his interest. THO it can be very intriguing since Wang Jian is on par with Qin's strongest 6-generals.

    a truly magnificent war, but it must come to an end. we are entering next week toward the so called "final day". everyone is prepared and it's very intriguing to see how this finale clash between armies in the entire field gonna come to an end.
    very intriguing kingdom. very!

  3. Well, yeah – that's why I said I didn't take much comfort from the lack of CGI.

    Wang Jian made the wrong decision because his job should be to do whatever gives the Qin army the best chance to win the war. He had the advantage of the terrain and numbers, and with Lian Po present he could effectively have ended the war right there. Taking himself out of the equation hurts the Qin army – it's just self-preservation.

    Wang Jian is George McClellan with better strategic sense.

  4. t

    I don't know…even with the advantages he had, he won't achieve anything major enough. only more soldiers of both sides being killed..but in terms of "battle achievement" it won't be anything special enough…
    not to mention we are talking about LIan Po (Renpa) and his other general…it's too much risk for nothing….

  5. Potentially devastating the enemy army and taking out their supreme commender isn't major enough?

  6. t

    like hell he would be able to take this easily those 2 full-time general..even if he was in a winning position, I doubt he would be able to kill them.
    besides, Renpa was ready for a fight, so he must have something under his sleeve.

    and it's only part of the army. only the wing. and I don't think it's all of the wing's army..

  7. In my view, you're completely missing the point here. Lian Po is right – if you'll only fight when you're sure to win, you have no business calling yourself a general. Because you can't win easily is not a reason not to fight. Assuming you except the premise of war in concept (and of course it's a horrible thing, but this is a historical fiction we're talking about) Wang Jian is unfit to lead an army. Which is exactly why he's never risen above his current rank despite being the head of the most prominent military dynasty in Qin, and his acknowledged strategic genius.

  8. t

    I agree with that point. I even mentioned that as well, above in the 1st comment.
    Wang Jian won't be able to call himself a general unless he is taking some risks and is willing to have some face-to-face fights even when the result is unknown for 100%.

    However, in the current circumstances, I can understand why he chose not to fight such a fight even when he had some advantages.

  9. Well, we can agree to disagree on this one (there's also the matter of the way he used Bi – and his 5000 troops – as a decoy, and then left them to die). I just don't see how effectively taking himself out of the battle by hiding on a mountain is anything but naked self-preservation.

  10. t

    well, I think we can agree there are advantages and disadvantages for this. that applies to almost any decision, especially a one of in war.
    whether the advantages are better than disadvantages and what would happen if he were to stay and fight?I guess we'll never know for sure. that's why we can't know for sure he chose right or wrong. he simply chose, that's the meaning of a general who always have to face a dilemma – you made a decision. does it necessary means he made a mistake?sometimes it's quite clear, but in this case, I am afraid it doesn't so much clear.

    but it sure nice to discuss about it.
    Thanks (:

  11. G

    Could Zheng marry a servant girl? Does he have to marry a upper class lady?

  12. e

    Uhm… marriage has been a political and welfare weapon first and foremost. Unless our dear servant girl turns out to belong to a powerful family or Zheng reaches a point he can act as he pleases and disregard marrige alliances she'll reach King's favourite /1st concubine/secondary wife official status at best I think.
    Or we could stretch it and picture her as Queen dowager if she – still a concubine – gives him a son and that son survives as the only heir of the kingdom. Hence she gets a title/status upgrade via mothering Zheng's only heir…

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