So let’s get this recap started.Aside from the scenes showing Lu Zhen attending court, the story actually begins here:
We see the “father King” enjoying some leisurely fun with his concubine and we all know that this scene never bodes well, for anyone. As it is, within moments we see that he has outlived his purpose for the series and the writers have removed him from the plot. His death marks the turning point and beginning of the story.
It is from his death that we learn of enemy number 1. The Queen Mother, evil incarnate that she is, is the reason that all evil occurs in this drama. Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but you’ll understand as you watch.
Not even moments after his death, and she has plans in motion to have her birth son, Gao Yan, coronated as the next King, much to his annoyance and outrage. He believes that he isn’t suitable for the throne and that it should wait until his brother, half-brother, Gao Zhan returns.
Isn’t it just convenient that the King dies while the most likely to ascend isn’t even in the palace.
Enter, Gao Zhan *insert fangirl squealing*:
This is one handsome crown prince and he had me swooning every time he appeared on screen. Definitely not good for my image (my family now thinks I’m crazy).
Against his better judgement, Gao Yan’s mother has pushed him to accept the throne. She even manages to convince the ministers that he is the most suitable even though everyone knows Gao Zhan was the next in line.
Now here is where it gets interesting. CG is used to great effect in a very subtle way. This next scene plays on the olden way superstitions and we learn a little bit about the new King’s, Queen.
So on the day of his coronation, Gao Yan appears majestically in his red King’s robe and sits on the throne to the quiet glee of his mother. Things get interesting when not moments later, his robe starts to smoke. It starts to smoke like it’s about to self-combust, which if you think about it is pretty funny and ironic. Considering he never wanted to be King anyway.
Now let me clarify that this drama has not an ounce of the mystical or fantastical in it, which means that SOMEONE is responsible for the smoking robes.
Meet the King’s first wife, Xiao Huan Yun, known as Xiao Gui Fei:
Let me tell you, this woman is scarrryyyy~~ and scary smart too, unless it comes to matters of the heart. We learn that she is the reason for Gao Yan’s smoking coronation and we learn why later on this episode.
Now struggles for the throne would not be complete without at least ONE assassination attempt. We soon find that Gao Zhan is trying to hurry home across a lake on a verrry~~~ slow boat before he is attacked. By a group of men in black, who were hiding in the water. Cliche much?
He does manage to escape though so fear not. His devilishly handsome mug will keep appearing for quite a long time.
Back at the palace, Gao Yan has just given Huan Yuan the Empress’ Seal. If you watch his mother closely, you’ll notice that she’s none too happy about this development.
Although watching Gao Yan’s face, I get the feeling he knows EXACTLY what his mother has been up to and her plans to manipulate the court as well. Just how far he’s willing to allow her to act of her own accord…well I guess we will just have to wait and see.
Now we finally get to the part that matters, meeting our heroine.
The scene changes to that of the Lu household where we see that Master Lu is a potter and he’s in the middle of an exchange that looks to be going badly. All his ceramics have turned black and his buyer is NOT happy. You may also note that the “mother” looks hell evil and that her daughter (in purple) seems to be very very naive.
Then enters a fierce and confident girl, Lu Zhen, bringing with her new ceramics that have been made in their kiln that is no longer black.
It seems that Lu Zhen has managed to find a way to restore the kiln to provide the ceramics that the Lu family are famed for. Everyone then goes to the kiln to inspect the new wares. Here we get a glimpse of Lu Zhen’s affinity for pottery, an affinity that eventually leads her to become the most powerful female in court and in the land.
It is at the kiln that we glimpse the “mother’s” disdain for Lu Zhen’s abilities. Not long after we learn that Lu Zhen’s “mother” is actually her step-mother and that the mother’s brother has been embezzling money from the family accounts. Her father is outraged and has the books handed to Lu Zhen. Whether it’s because of the scheming brother’s way or because he acknowledges her ability with the family business or a mix of both, I’m not too sure. To the step-mother it really doesn’t matter. Lu Zhen is a threat to her livelihood and one, that her brother points out, must be taken out while still possible.
I’m a bit of a period drama fanatic so this scratches an itch that I’ve been having for a while now, especially after Dae Jeung Geum and Dong Yi. Episode 1 is a bit slow moving, but without a proper background, a well-written story can never develop, no matter the prowess of the actors. So if you can bear with it, it will be entirely worth it.
Now there are a few things I have omitted here, such as the love lines and other goodie and badies but that’s just because you should watch the episode to see how it plays out.
The costumes are wonderful, although I question the bright neon yellow and blue of the palace maids. Although it does serve to differentiate them quite well from the nobility. Now the headpieces….they are interesting I must admit. It certainly isn’t a style I see very often in Chinese dramas but in a way, it fits the story and setting more so than other styles.
One thing you’ll note about this series is that every scene is played out in a relatively enclosed space. Very rarely will it be in the open, always either in court or a room of a house. I guess this helps to emphasise the interaction of the characters without distraction but it also means that you only see the same few “settings” the entire series, which does get rather tedious.
I definitely recommend you start watching this series, you certainly won’t regret it. I know some people have tried to and dropped it a few episodes in. The only thing I can say is that if you hate intricate plot lines or simple, pure main characters, then DON’T watch. Lu Zhen can’t scheme to save her life and she’s too honest. About the biggest lie she tells isn’t really a lie at all.