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Kingdom 5 – 09

That was certainly a cracker of an episode, no two ways about it.  Even in battle politics is always simmering on the back burner, and my eyes never strayed too far from that pot even as the front burner was boiling over.  Of course it’s war, and survival trumps such concerns in the moment.  But when you consider why a man like Xin is fighting in a place like this, the implications of what we see can’t be overestimated in their importance.

Qian Lei did indeed arrive just in time – the real reinforcements the Fei Xin needed, Huan Yi’s worthless promises be damned.  She was much the worse for wear, and apologized to Xin with the excuse that she’d been sleeping.  Wounded as she is she gathers her squadron around her and pledges to fight off Liu Dong  (who she’s clearly tied to by fate) so that Xin can make a clean run at Qing She.  In truth this whole exercise is for naught if Xin is unable to take the enemy commander’s head, so he’s hardly in a position to refuse.  But he sure isn’t happy about it.

Qing She is arrogant right to the end (and once we get the origin flashback, it’s clear this is going to be the end for him).  Xin gets a little more help – Huan Yi’s exchange officer Na Gui inserts himself in the battle in an attempt to cut off Qing She’s path of retreat.  And Xin all but literally takes the Fei Xin on his back and pushes forward.  Qing She may taunt Xin that he and Li Mu were concerned with what Xin would become, not what he was – but Xin has been underestimated for his entire life.  Wang Yi is a high bar to hold himself up to – a magnificent bastard among magnificent bastards – but if you’re going to lead by inspiration, you can’t aim low.

Qian Lei’s battle with Liu Dong is exceptionally well written, making it clear that in his eyes Liu Dong is unquestionably the good guy here.  She feels empathy with him, clearly, even if she has no choice but to kill him.  She returns his Liyan idol to him along with a promise (which I’m not sure she’s in a position to keep) that Liyan won’t suffer the usual fate of a conquered land.  Xin fights his way through to a clear shot at Qing She, who proves himself to be no easy target when forced to take up the sword himself.  But we all know how this is going to turn out in the end.

The aftermath of this is a fascinating one.  The reality is that there’s always a morale advantage among the troops of the place being invaded – they’re fighting to protect their homes.  And in Ji Hui they still have a profoundly inspirational leader.  It’s his challenge to convince Jin Mao, Qing She’s adjutant, that this war isn’t over – that it can’t be over, with the stakes as high as they are.  With the Fei Xin fleeing the enraged Qing She army into the forest and the hilly nature of the terrain, only a very few on either side know that Qing She has fallen.  As long as Ji Hui and Jin Mao can keep a lid on that information, they might still regroup rather than retreat.

And then we have the long game of all this, the politics.  Xin has accomplished the greatest feat of Heiyong, slaying the feared enemy high commander.  Huan Yi, one suspects, will not have been planning for Xin to be the one to do this.  In fact he had little directly to do with this great success at all, and I would assume he sees Xin as a rival in the climb up the Qin military hierarchy.  I don’t think he – or Na Gui, who witnessed it – can be trusted to report the truth of the matter.  Zheng will believe Xin of course – but king or no, his direct control over the military is limited.  This is the greatest achievement of Xin’s military career and potentially the key to his biggest rise yet, but enemies don’t always march under the flag of the enemy.

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