Having finished Eternal Love I am now watching this. Let me preface this with the following: my reviews are written as I watch the series so if you, the reader, are subject to my emotional outbursts and theorizing about what will happen next, I apologize in advance.
Madame Lhou/The Empress: A very ruthless woman. She has just killed her husband so that her son can be the emperor. She has been read morefeigning kindness to Ah Zhan but in actuality hates him because she hates his deceased mother who 'stole the empress position from her' and had a son, making it harder for her own child to be crown prince.
Ah Zhan/Prince Changguang: The son of the previous empress, and the one the emperor has been grooming for the throne.He has been leading the country for the past two years and is an expert in military affairs. He is the more legitimate son being the son of the first empress.
Prince Changshan: son of the current empress. He is ill and does not want the throne and believes his mother's plot to be ill advised since the people expect Ah Zhan to be emperor. Also, their state was built on military affairs and he has no military experience. He is the elder brother, but his mother was still a concubine when he was born.
Princes Xiao Huanyan: a princess from a fallen kingdom conquered by the Qi. Not sure if she is a hostage or a concubine. Young, pretty, and smart. Prince Changshan appears to be in love with her and she is his imperial consort (essentially a rank lower than empress) But my guess is she is in love with Ah Zhan. Described as having a temper.
Zhen'er/Lu Zhen: the daughter of a minister loyal to the previous empress. is said to be very cleverly. mother is dead. her stepmom seems jealous of her.
Zhu'er: Lu Zhen's half sister.
1.Our show opens up with the kind of sweeping scene seen in shows like The Virtuous Queen of Han: our leading lady is presumably about to receive the office of Prime Minister, and the narrator explains how she has overcome so much to become a legendary lady. It then goes back to the beginning of it all...
2.The emperor suffers some kind of attack while playing around with his harem girls. My impression of him is someone who likes to have a good time. The Empress arrives and immediately orders that the concubine serving him have her arms cut off (yes, you read right) illustrating immediately giving the audience an impression of a ruthless woman (and probably foreshadowing things to come)...She then prepares to take over the throne and place her son on it. She has her troops summoned, and it seems she is seeking to prevent the more capable son (and I believe our lead) from taking the throne. This comes at a convenient time as he is not in the capital but on his way back from inspecting the North Sea.
3.The empress is ready to crown her son as prince and her husband's body is not even cold. The ministers are divided between their loyalty to the empress and their loyalty to the emperor. Some are protesting her move.
4.The princess soaked the imperial robes in vinegar and left it out in the sun. Thus, when Prince Changshan wore it, it fell apart in front of the ministers, who took it as an omen from the heavens that he should not emperor. It delays his ascension.
5.On his way back, Ah Zhan is attacked (sorry, the boat he was on just fell apart so easily). Believed to be dead (not uncommon//many leaders drowned in rivers back in the day mainly because of their armor being so heavy) and is pronounced dead. Changshan is crowned emperor. As a show of gaining public support he lowers taxes by 3% and releases criminals. But in defiance of his mother he sends people to investigate his brother's death.
6.The empress is smart! She immediately sets up check points all over the capital to protect her son. She says she would rather kill an innocent person than let someone in i.e. Ah Zhan, if he is alive, or a supporter of the previous empress (she doesn't want to risk them leaving to gather an army).
7.Princess Xiao is out for revenge! Believing Ah Zhan dead, she plans to kill the current emperor and one by one destroy Empress Lou's bloodline so they have no descendants (which presumably is one of the worse kinds of revenge in this time period because you don't want your family name to die out). Just like Lou, who is letting her true colors come out (her vindictiveness) the princess has been suppressing her wrath and is ready to unleash it
8.It seems the Empress is pursing, I assume, 9 familial extermination. She is taking out everyone who challenged her son's ascension. The minister who loudly protested and his family are going to be beheaded because the porcelain he prepared is black and not green and considered an insult. Lu Zhen solves the mystery (can I just say she is cute...but looks like a 14 year old kid?). It seems the current mistress's brother was using mud from the river and pocketing the money, and they almost died lol (I won't lie I hate it when they use the stepmom of evil plot device, defending a family that is basically worthless I mean he almost got her killed and she defends him?)
Episode 1 has seen A TON of schemes. This is clearly going to be a palace drama with a lot of back stabbing. Understandably our lead will need to be smart to survive this scramble for power. She will be up against the powerful empress as well as a woman who is probs in love with the lead, and she has little support at home. Odds low for survival? Check. Attractive leads? Check. Ruthless Villains? Check. I am in.
I did not give it 10 because these are tropes we have all seen but at the moment there doesn't seem to be enough subtly or depth to make it unique. I gave it an 8 because I simply enjoy obstacles/ruthless women/fights for power. So that is my personal bias. The acting was only slightly above average. The costumes reflect the time period and make-up is a little over done but it reflects when it came out. (This is 2017 so 4 years ago)