First of all, I really didn’t intend for this to go unresponed to for so long, I’m really sorry. I’ve been sick for the past few weeks, and still am, so I haven’t really had the energy to do much. Therefore this will probably be a bit messily put, and sorry in advance if I forget something. This is definitely one way to interpret the scene. The thing that really does it for me though, and I realise this is something people will interpret differently, is Zhiwei’s general body language. For me, there’s just so little that suggests sleeping with Ning Yi is something she wants to do under these circumstances; she’s borderline glaring for half the scene, which Ning Yi even comments on, „Then why do you look so sad.“ The closest she gets to giving verbal consent is the „You finally gave me a reason not to run away. I don’t need to think about whether I should be with you or not.“ line, and that can be taken in a number of ways. He also didn’t push her after she brought up the Dacheng subjects, he pushed him on the bed after she said the „you gave me a reason not to run away“ thing. Either way, there really was no reason for Ning Yi to be so aggressive. Oh, my bad then. But honestly, I’d say that’s worse in terms of writing, because then we aren’t given any on-screen reason what made him change his mind. Helian Zheng iirc didn’t get very much screentime in the Dayue arc after all, so while it would be reasonable to presume he would come to gradually fear more for Zhiwei’s safety when she was a captive in Dayue, we don’t actually get confirmation on that. Correct me if I’m wrong though, I definitely could be misremembering things. And while I’d agree that Zhiwei wasn’t the best candidate to lead the army, Helian Zheng still must have given his consent to it as the king. Ehh, honestly, a lot of series’ have problems like this, so I’d probably just say it’s not so well thought out worldbuilding. It’s mentioned a few of times in the earlier episodes when Helian Zheng first appeared that Jinshi is more gender egalitarian, but when the plot does go to Jinshi what we’re told and what we’re shown just doesn’t match up. It’s relatively common that when shows/books/games tries to portray a society without sexism, homophobia, racism and etc, it still ends up (in big and small ways) portraying a racist, homophobic patriarchy. Even if the intention is there, it all comes back to poor execution, and tbh I think that’s what happened here. And yeah, the crossbow / pretend to kill Zhiwei plot was stupid. I did phrase it poorly, but I don’t have an inherent problem with Zhiwei ending up commiting suicide, narratively speaking. I do think that Zhiwei commiting suicide is a more realistic ending for the series, even if it is of course very tragic. And I totally get what you’re saying about feeling responsible about the deaths of the people around her, and being a problem for Ning Yi as emperor (personally, I thought that was one of the things in the later episodes that the series managed to better get across). The main problem I have with it is the way it was all done and - at least in some ways - what led up to it. I don’t know if this is strictly true in terms of screentime, but when I was watching the last 20-25 episodes it definitely felt like Zhiwei was being more and more sidelined in favour of Ning Yi, and while that is partly understandable because of his scheming with the Jinshi/Dayue people, it does come at the cost of Zhiwei general character development after losing her family. Ultimately, I just feel like we should have seen more of her viewpoint. Mingying and Feng Hao’s deaths, and being betrayed by her country and people she thought she could trust (Xin Ziyan and Ning Shizeng) were a big turning point in Zhiwei’s life and arc, and the effect that had on her just wasn’t focused on enough. It’s not so much that the ending itself bothered me. This was ultimately what I meant by that I felt like that the writing post episode 54 was not well executed, and that it was like Zhiwei changed archetypes. At the same time, reading my original post, this really didn’t come across well. My bad, I hope this is clearer. Honestly, looking back on what I wrote, I’m kinda grossed out by what I said, about Zhiwei „losing her intelligence“, becoming passive, etc. I’m sorry if anyone took offense to to that, it’s really not an ok thing to say. I’ve been depressed myself, so in retrospect I should have caught onto that sooner. When it comes to Zhangsun Hong, I don’t think it’s strange at all that she ended up bonding with a person like him - with her feeling guilty about Mingying and Feng Hao’s death, and probably yearning to have relatives or a family of her own - but I do find it weird that she wasn’t more wary of him in the beginning. I might have to rewatch some of the episodes, but considering how much Zhiwei has been betrayed and generally screwed over over the course of the series, it was a bit odd to see how she took the information he gave her almost face value. Does she even question his identity as being her biological brother or a prince of Dacheng? But again, it's been a while since I've rewatched the series, and I've been sick a while so I could be misremembering things. Also, yeah I have watched two of the documentaries on youtube. One was an interview with Ni Ni about Zhiwei, the other about Ning Yi. You're right, they're great! Yeah, I read she was made a general of Tiansheng (somehow... I just assumed they’d changed her character/backstory for the show. I’ve seen people who’s said to have read the books say she came from a military family in Tiansheng) Anyways, what I read was that she lost a battle or something, and then was raped and murdered. Nice to know it wasn't like that in the books, but now Im also glad the book plot wasn't in the show. Jinshi people are mentioned to be like that? Huh, unless this was mentioned in the short-documentaries on youtube, I completely missed that. The book ending sounds way better, then. I also thought the show could have handled the unification plot better. Can't imagine Ning Yi becoming allies with Jinshi in the show, seeing as he killed their king. Even if he covered it up, Helian Zheng still died on Tiansheng land. Wouldn't be surprised if he pissed off some Dayue people too, and the Dayue king might even think he had a part in killing Jin Siyu. What, no. What gave you that impression?
I just finished the series so most of this is just going to be brainstorming, but for my own part I'm really having difficulty looking past the last few episodes (but especially from ep 64 and outwards), because apart from being rushed as hell, they also for me almost completely ruined the characters? Zhiwei and Ning Yi's romance is one of the few I've actually been engaged in ever, because for the first 54 episodes or so their entire relationship is based on a mutual trust and respect. And while both the Jinshi and Dayue arcs weren't the best written in terms of romance, that never really changed, but in the last 10 episodes he shows he have no regard for Zhiwei's autonomy. "If you don't show yourself and marry me, I'll kill your followers", basically forcing her to join his harem when she makes it clear that she does not want to, and then being outright angry when Zhiwei isn't thrilled about sleeping with him. Ning Yi had a good handful of lines in the last 4~ episodes or so that sounded straight out of The King's Woman. And I know I'm being dramatic here, but that is such a betrayal of Ning Yi's character. Ning Yi is constantly shown earlier on to be one of the least sexist, abusive, and bigoted character in the entire series, and this is just throw out the window. There are plenty of "subtle", not-as-obvious sexists throughout the series, like Ning Cheng and Ziyan, but Ning Yi doesn't fit that bill. One of his closest and most trusted aides is a woman forced into prostitution, and he's never shown to judge or think lesser of Zhuyin because of that. Ning Yi is shown to take genuine and unashamed joy in doing "women's work", even if it serves as a cover, and he never, ever thinks lesser of Zhiwei being a scholar/intellectual/chancellor/warrior/etc because she is a woman. His refusal to work together with Shaoning is entirely because of her character, not because she is a young girl. And of course, he isn't an outright chauvanist/misogynist either, like the Crown Prince, Chang Hai, or Qiu Mingying. Zhiwei shows far more signs of internalized misogyny (a good deal thanks to Mingying, which is why i mention her above) than Ning Yi ever does of male chauvinism. Nearly all of the imperial children are shown to beat and abuse their servants; the absolute worst physical punishment Ning Yi ever gives Ning Cheng is ordering him to "kneel and never get up" when he more or less makes light of Zhiwei being set for execution the following day. To say that he would coerce Zhiwei into sleeping with him goes against everything the character has stood and fought for throughout the entire series. It's one of the worst character assassinations I have ever seen. What is equally disappointing is that almost the exact same thing happened to Helian Zheng, even if it is to a lesser degree. From near the moment Zhiwei came to Jinshi, Helian Zheng did always make it clear that whatever she choose to do would be her decision alone. Yes, he would try to make her happy and forget about Ning Yi, yes he would be sad if she would choose to leave, but it would ultimately be up to her what to do with her own life. But then he has two conversations with a bald guy and suddenly he believes he is entitled to have her as his wife? He says blatanly sexist things that is completely out of character? For me it also seemed to break the worldbuilding quite a bit, since Jinshi after all is supposed to be a lot more gender egalitarian than Tiansheng, so Zheng's reaction that Zhiwei should "be like other women" and "leave her problems to her husband" and borderline forcing her to come back to Jinshi seemed very out of place. When it comes to Zhiwei... I really don't know what to say. It was really disappointing seeing how she ended up, I really loved her character in the first 52~ episodes. After she went to Jinshi was almost like she lost her intelligence; she became extremely passive, and she had nothing of the cheekiness and boldness that was present in the earlier episodes. It's of course entirely normal and expected that she developed depression/etc after watching Mingying and Feng Hao die, but for me I didn't feel it was really well executed (no pun intended). Ni Ni's acting was amazing throughout - definitely no complains there - but the actual writing for Zhiwei 2/3's in I felt was just lackluster. I actually think how she reacted to seeing strangers and loved ones die and how she reacted to and progressed from that afterwards was a lot better written in the first part of TRoP. For me, Zhiwei didn't have any actual growth overall from the Jinshi arc and onwards, it was almost like she just changed archetypes. Also, the (extremely) rushed nature of the last 10-15 episodes just made her suicide seem almost strange - though that could also be a problem of the weird editing in the last episode. But tbh, many plot lines in the final arc was strange bc of the episodes being rushed. It definitely would have been a lot better having the 100 episodes instead. Other things that really sucked: - Hua Qiong's uneccessary and nonsensical death. I get that she didn't have Jin Siyu in her line of sight, but killing her off served absolutely no purpose. Also, her death isn't even noticed by anyone?? She and Zhiwei are supposed to be sisters, but Zhiwei doesn't even get to react to her death, let alone mourn her. I mean, it's a kinder fate than she had in the books, but that's really not saying much. -It's really the same with Shaoning's death. Sure, her murder set of a string of events but her death is only mourned for a few scenes, and it never really reaches a conclusion. Ning Qi isn't even revealed as her murderer - it's all a bit disappointing, imo. -The pacing of the Jinshi and Dayue arcs was just really weird. The whole Jinshi thing was set up for relatively many episodes, but the arc was so underwhelming and short and imo just really dull. I just couldn't care for the majority of the Jinshi characters, as they were given no proper amount of time to develop, while also having some of the poorest actors in the series. Meidou was particuraly bad, she was basically a walking cliche. The whole rape plot in general was kinda gross and unesseccary. The Dayue arc had the opposite problem, being very long with very little happening. For me it felt kinda like the entire arc was one big conversation, while the actual.... action happened off-screen. Plus, the amnesia storyline was uneeded and very convoluted. It made the underwater kiss scene feel out of place and underwhelming.