「幽霊騒動」 (Yūrei Sōdō)
“The Unsettling Matter of the Spirit”
Just in time for Halloween, a good old fashioned ghost story. A ghost who dances on the walls is making the buzz around the palace. Such rumors only catch MaoMao’s attention once you put medicine into the mix, Jinshi namedropping “sleepwalking”. Mao Mao somehow (reluctantly) agrees to find a remedy for somnambulism.
When Jinshi’s servant asks Mao Mao to not look at Jinshi like a bug, I got really annoyed. Yeah, I get it, he’s a loyal servant to Master Jinshi and all that. But Jinshi has done nothing to deserve Mao Mao’s respect. Sure, he got her the palace job, but he frequently makes advances on her and invades her personal space. It took a hilarious turn, when the servant was asking- not to make his master feel better, but rather to stop him from feeling too glittery. Jinshi’s one weird dude if he delights in being treated like an insect. But I guess it’s a change of pace after all the palace ladies going gaw gaw over him.
This series wavers between immersing you in the “cool!” factor of whatever the mystery of the ep is and then splashing cold water on you, with ever present reminders of the less pleasanter aspects of palace life that gets hidden beneath the gold and gilt. First off, we had Mao Mao offhandedly mentioning the rumor that the river contained the bodies of concubines who tried to escape. Then, we have Concubine Fuyou, preparing to become a prize for some honorable military officer. These women are treated as expendables, political toys. Upon making a mistake during her first showing at the palace, Fuyou gets rejected, and kept in a corner for the past few years, until the emperor sees fit to use her as a trophy.
The nightly apparition turns out not to be an actual spirit, but Fuyou sleepwalking. That catches Mao Mao’s attention, reminding her of a similar case at the brothel, where the woman faked sleepwalking in order to marry her love at an affordable price. From that, Mao Mao shrewdly concludes that this might be the case here, and keeps mum, since it is all just speculation anyway (and perhaps out of consideration for the couple, should her conjecture be correct).
Initially going into this, this was not the ending I was expecting, but in a good way. That last scene of the two childhood friends-turned-lovers was beautiful. In a series dealing with poison and murder, you probably won’t be getting too many happy ever afters, so I was happy this pair found theirs. The comparison of Fuyou to a cotton rose was rather poetic too.
It was rather sad to hear Lady Gyokuyou remark that she wished she could have an ending like Fuyou’s. That scene at the end where Gyokuyou is melancholically contemplating on her bed (presumably about the emperor and her vs Fuyou and Fuyou’s husband), only for the man of her thoughts to appear in person- not for a declaration of love but for a request of service from Mao Mao, was wow. That long moment of silence said everything on Gyokuyou’s part without needing to say anything at all.