The weight of history hangs heavily over every major arc in Kingdom. It’s the story of young men trying to secure their place in it, and old men watching their place in it slip into the past. There’s really a sad sort of vicious cycle that hangs over what happens here – youngsters like Xin and Tian fighting their way forward trying to make a name for themselves as merchants of death, knowing (but perhaps not thinking about, thanks to their youth) that their ultimate reward, even if they reach the pinnacle of their vocation, will be either to die in defeat like Wang Qi or lay down their lance in defeat like Lian Po. But that’s war for you.
In a funny sort of way it’s Meng Ao who seems to have the most universal perspective here, perhaps because he less than anyone else at the center of this war doesn’t seem to have much of an ego. There was an awful lot of talking going on atop that mountain, surely way more than there’d be time for in any real battle, but for the purposes of dramatic license it was certainly effective. In truth, the real war wasn’t even happening on that hill, dramatic as it was – it was playing out between the Vice-generals, and the same one who had the upper hand at the beginning had it at the end.
I have no issues with the way the final battle on the mountain played out. I would never expect Xin to back down, even against the likes of Lian Po, even if he’s seriously injured. But likewise, I wouldn’t expect him to be able to do more at this stage than barely survive, and that’s exactly what happened. The dramatic climax here was no doubt when Xin produced Lun Hu’s sword as the proof that he’d taken the General’s head (though not literally) – which enraged the Great Deva, yes, but also commanded his attention in a way nothing else during that battle had.
Meng Ao indeed had the essence of the moment figured out. He knew why Lian Po had really entered the battle again, seeking some answers in the wake of Wang Qi’s death. And the White Elder used this as leverage to save Xin’s life when Lian Po was just about to end it, revealing that Xin had been present at Wang Qi’s death and now held his lance. The fundamental disconnect is apparent here – Lian Po could care less about the State of Wei, this is strictly a personal battle for him. And for this reason he thinks nothing of throwing over the battle when it becomes clear what’s happened at the Wei headquarters, where he’s left his doomed puppet Bai Giuxi in charge.
We still don’t know where Bi is of course, of why he and his 5000 men were shown a few eps ago – but it appears the decisive moment was Huan Ji outflanking Jie Zifang yet again. Jie seemed to have perfect timing in arriving at Meng Ao’s HQ, but in truth it was only because he’d given up looking for Huan Ji. The thief-general had led Jie into the mountains and slipped out the back way with 4000 men, knowing the Wei HQ would be lightly defended. The attack on the enemy king doesn’t always come from the obvious place on the board, but checkmate is checkmate. It certainly seems that Huan Ji has left his competitor Vice-general Wang Jian in the dust, though I wonder if that cruel streak of his will eventually return to bite him.
I’m going to be very interested to see how the aftermath of all this plays out. Lian Po surrendering is no surprise – he’s got no horse in this race now and no reason to keep fighting. Does Meng Ao simply allow he and his men to leave? I wouldn’t think Lian Po values his own life much at this point – the news of Wang Qi’s final moments seems to have resigned him to the fact that even he cannot fight time – but I likewise can’t see Meng Ao executing him either. And then there’t the matter of who might now become the new Great General of Qin, as this is surely Meng Ao’s final battle even if he survives his wounds. It might seemingly have been Meng Wu, but Zheng might not be so thrilled with that notion given that he’s one of Lu Buewei’s inner circle. But can a common thief turned general like Huan Ji truly rise to the very top of the Qin army, no matter his brilliant successes in battle?