「自殺か他殺か」 (Jisatsu ka Tasatsu ka)
“Suicide or Murder?”
I laughed so hard when Mao Mao response to the body was immediately “It’s a good thing it’s winter, the body’s still in good shape”. Of course, I’d expect nothing less from her. In spite of her not having the best of bedside manners, she does genuinely care about others, stopping short of naming Jinshi’s friend’s murderer out of pity, not wanting to be the one who got him punished, seeing as it was an accident. Just like with the previous case of the attempted poisoning/hazing of the little princess, should Mao Mao have just let the culprit go, knowing who it is? It seems like sometimes she takes a traditional form of pursuing justice and other times (more often than not), just totally disregards it. Personally, I think it makes her a more engrossing character because she’s not easy to figure out and because she doesn’t play along with the “good detective” who pursues and punishes evil.
I found that first murder super intriguing (not that the second one was any less so). The man’s desensitization to the taste of salt and dying from salt overdose via jealous courtiers who kept slipping salt in his drink- a lot of science there, and cleverly done.
The writing in a way, teases us- Mao Mao drops enough tantalizing hints so we know how the murder happened, but we never learn the who. Nor do we see it wrapped up neatly with justice served. Many of the incidents end that way. We do have the chemical burn case that keeps cropping up (with the major development that ties it to Ah-Duo’s household), but it sits there in the background, really and doesn’t take up much of the episode’s run time, more like an “Oh by the way” kind of thing. I like it like that, though. For me, the “how” is engaging enough, I don’t mind not seeing the “who” or getting it all wrapped up. Sometimes it’s a refreshing change to do the fuck away with the bow.
I find it interesting that her dad/teacher instructed her not to touch dead bodies. Initially, I thought it was out of concern for purity reasons or diseases from dead bodies. However, it turns out it was out of concern that Mao Mao, given her thirst for knowledge and experimentation, would start digging up dead bodies, which says a lot about her thirst for knowledge regardless of commonly held societal morals. Though I imagine if Mao Mao had taken to digging up dead bodies, medical science in China would have advanced even faster (not that I condone grave robbing).
It was rather astute of the creator to connect the earlier dancing concubine case with the current one, it shows a cohesiveness on the whole. Unfortunately, this time, there is a dead body to show for it- that of a serving girl who supposedly killed herself by throwing herself over the wall (which was already a rumor going around about the river outside being filled with women who did as such). Mao Mao is not wholly convinced it’s a suicide- with her foot binding, there was no way she could have scaled the wall herself.
The young woman’s death plunges Mao Mao into deep reflection. For someone not phased by dead bodies, this corpse seems to impact her pretty deeply, Mao Mao imagining herself in the victim’s shoes. Things take a heavy turn when she turns it upon herself, envisioning how she’d like to die. While it visibly upsets Jinshi (and how could it not, given how head over heels he appears to be for her now), she’s got a point. Practically speaking, she is disposable in the eyes of the court, even if she is no longer so in the eyes of Jinshi. However, given how capable Mao Mao is not to mention having someone powerful on her side like Jinshi, I think she might just turn out ok in the end and not need plan poison.