Novoland: Eagle Flag: Episodes 1-2

Our original plan had been to provide full recaps for the episodes, but since English subs have come a lot faster than expected (YAY!), we will be using this as a discussion thread of sorts and will be sharing short recaps (this one isn’t as short as there’s a lot going on) along with our thoughts! We hope you join us!

We are still trying to figure out the structure, so if you have any suggestions (or questions on the drama/book/actors), feel free to let us know in the comments or on our CuriousCat (for Haoran specific questions, ask here).

For now, we will be going at the same pace as the English subbed vids on YouTube, so this will be for just episodes 1-2.

For those who may have missed it, I did a long, comprehensive introductory post to the drama, the books, and the Novoland universe in an earlier post here.

For these posts, I’m joined by my good friend @songzuers and we’ll be doing our best to help with the viewing experience. Also thank you to @xiaotoumings for her gorgeous tweets/caps! For more NEF updates, including subbed BTS vids, follow @eagleflag_intl!

EPISODE 1

Qingyang’s Northern Capital

In the Northern Land, the Zhenyan tribe, whose leader Longge Zhenhuang is accused of treachery against the ruling Qingyang tribe, is completely annihilated in a bloody battle, save for its surviving women, who are taken in as slaves, and a young boy called Asule.

It’s revealed to him that he is actually the youngest son, and heir, of Lv Song, Chief of the Qingyang tribe and ruler of the Northern Land. Born without a heartbeat, he was believed to be cursed from the moment he was born, and was sent away to be raised by Lv Song’s cousin, Longge Zhenhuang.

The physically weak and frail Asule is defiant to his biological father and his new title/responsibility at first, but realizes he must grow stronger if he wants to protect childhood friend Su Ma and the rest of the survivors of the Zhenyan tribe.

With the help of his father’s trusted friend Shahan (Da Hesa), who feels protective over the young crown prince, Asule is assigned two companions and a teacher, and begins his training in fighting. He is also given secret help by an old man that he meets in the dungeons.

Meanwhile, Lv Song is aware of the growing tension in his tribe as his four older sons covet the title of crown prince. Though he puts them off for the time being, adamant that the tribe stick to the tradition of naming the youngest son as heir, he recognizes the threat.

At the same time, his cousin’s recent betrayal reminds him of the dire state that the Northern Land is in due to lack of resources, and he asks Shahan to make a long trip to the prosperous Eastern Land to obtain food.

Time jump to two years later, and the talks are successful as General Tuoba Shanyue of Xia Tang returns with Shahan, delivering an abundance of food with the promise of more to come.

In exchange, Xiatang asks for two of the Northern Land’s treasures: 1) 5,000 members of their calvary to assist with Xiatang’s military needs, and 2) one of Qingyang’s princes, who would be sent to Xiatang for training and education, and eventual marriage to the Duke of Xiatang’s daughter. In other words, a human hostage to secure the alliance.

EPISODE 2

Lv Song leaves the decision up to General Tuoba Shanyue on which prince he wants, but does not bring Asule out to meet him, saying that the crown prince has poor health and is also considerably less skilled than his older brothers. He also brings the general and the Eastern Land guests to the local hunting ground, and explains a bit of the history. They make camp there for the night.

As night falls upon the campsite, Lv Song and his men find themselves surrounded by wolves, and decide to draw them away from the camp by riding out. However, that leaves Asule by himself, and as he wanders out of his tent, he encounters a gigantic, snarling white wolf. A terrified Asule stumbles and falls, and is only saved when his father arrives and intercepts.

However, the chief is quickly overwhelmed by the power of the white wolf, and as Asule watches his father struggle, in grave danger, it ignites a rage in him (similar to what we saw in episode 1), and he picks up a sword. He tells his father, “I have a sword, I can protect you,” and, fueled by a mysterious power that comes from within, he charges at the sword, killing it in one stroke. However, soon after, he collapses.

The crown prince’s health is in grave danger as he’s diagnosed with a terminal illness, and no doctor seems to be able to figure out a cure. Lv Song orders that the word be spread far and wide that he will generously reward anyone who is able to save Asule. Furious and desperate, he also makes a trip to the dungeons, as he’s figured out now who has been teaching Asule swordfighting.

We learn the identity of the old man – he’s the father of Lv Song, grandfather of Asule. He reveals what has been causing Asule’s powerful outbursts: Asule has inherited the Qingtong bloodline of his paternal side, the Pasu’er family. However, Lv Song is adamant that his son won’t go down the same path as his father did, but his father warns him, “No one can go against fate. Look at me, look at your father.”

Asule continues to lie in a coma for over a month, until one night, a murder of crows fly over the Northern Capital. As if enchanted, Asule gets up and walks away from the city, the crows cawing in the background. Lv Song and Shahan are alerted to the crown prince’s disappearance, and they ride out of the city, where they see a group of hooded figures, and Asule, around a campfire.

The leader of the group tells Lv Song that Asule does not have a terminal illness. The cause is the Qingtong bloodline running through his veins, which every few decades, will affect one child in the Pasu’er family and will turn them into an unstoppable, god-like warrior. The power of the bloodline is too much for a child at this stage in time to bear, so the cure is simple – to suppress it.

With Lv Song’s permission, the mysterious man starts his spell, and is soon able to cure Asule. He warns the Qingyang trio, however, that this is just a temporary cure, and that the age of 24 will be when his life is in grave danger again. The act also came at a price – one of the hooded students’ lives is sacrificed for the spell.

As Asule recovers, General Tuoba Shanyue has made his choice, and he asks Lv Song for the crown prince as the one they bring back with them to the Eastern Land. They, too, had heard of the rumors about the Qingtong bloodline and the crown prince’s mysterious power. Shahan is strongly against the decision, but Asule says calmly, “I want to do something for Qingyang,” and looks over at his father.

The father and son have a final heartfelt conversation, and Lv Song gives Asule a new Eastern Land name: Lv Guichen. He also has some words of wisdom for his youngest son, and a final goodbye, “This is enough for a man’s farewell. I won’t send you off tomorrow.”

As Asule leaves the Northern Capital with the Eastern Land group and Su Ma, Shahan sends him off with a song. They travel through many different (stunning) landscapes. The general decides to make camp on the outskirts of the Li Kingdom.

Asule and Su Ma have a sweet moment by the campfire, but it soon dissolves into a nightmare as Asule dreams of seeing Su Ma crying. As her tears fall on her hand, they become drops of blood. He also dreams of seeing a woman stabbing her horse continuously, and when he wakes up, the campsite is under a surprise attack.

It’s clear Asule is the target, and he is no match for the strong, fully armored enemy. Su Ma makes the ultimate sacrifice when she uses her body as a shield, and a young soldier protects them as a heartbroken Asule cradles her. She writes her name in his hand, hoping that he will always remember her.

The armored enemy recognizes the ring on the young soldier’s finger and identifies him as a member of the Tianqu organization. In turn, the soldier calls him out as a member of the Chenyue organization.

Asule is dragged away unwillingly from Su Ma’s body as the Xiatang group escapes. When the enemy gives chase, a hooded figure flies down from above and kills them. As he takes over the fight, he tells the young soldier, who seems to recognize him, to leave.

ADDITIONAL NOTES/THOUGHTS FROM THE RECAPPERS

liuhaoran_intl:

  • We got a lot of info in these two episodes – the production team made the decision to cram the entirety of the first book, which is all about Asule’s childhood in the Northern Land, into just two episodes. They told audiences during the preview screenings back in late May that they were afraid if they spent too long with Qingyang, the regular TV audience would tune out. So far, this seems to have been the right choice.
  • Because of this, the first two episodes don’t quite have the emotional buildup or full introduction to characters that we might’ve liked, and the editing is slightly disjointed (there is speculation these first two episodes is where content was cut), but almost everything packed in it is important for later. We’re even introduced to Tianqu and Chenyue, the secret organizations that will play a major role in the story.
  • For those who are curious about the opening scene: we don’t know the identity of the elderly man and the young boy, but the paper boats are a tradition of the people of Xia Tang. The paper boats seen in this scene in particular eature a line from a poem by a Xia Tang emperor who loved to write poetry. It’s a reference to the book.
  • Personal first impressions: Love, love, love, and I thought I could only be disappointed given how hyped I was for this drama. The sheer QUALITY – from the cinematography, to the costumes, to the sets. This was a drama that you can just tell had a huge budget, but they used it so well. The cinematography wasn’t just used to be visually pleasing, shots were framed and woven in well and contributed to the storytelling.
  • The music has been such a pleasant surprise – I expected it to be good, but it’s integrated so well. One problem for a lot of dramas lately is that the music tends to overpower the scene, or that it cuts off or comes in right at the wrong time, but the use of the score here was absolutely perfect. It added tremendously to the emotion or grandeur of a scene. Not only that, it also incorporated elements of tribal music that works so well for the Northern Land.
  • I mentioned on CC that I would’ve liked it if they had used a younger actor for Asule at least in the first episode and a half, and it was an opinion that was widespread online as Liu Haoran was essentially playing a child. However, people said later that they would’ve run into censorship issues as some of the scenes would have been considered too violent for a child actor, so it is what it is.
  • I actually quite liked the pacing of the first two episodes – it didn’t drag and was fast enough to keep the audience engaged and wondering what lies ahead. It was also straight forward enough to follow quite easily. The two relationships I loved in the books were also incredibly well executed – Asule and his father, Asule and Su Ma. Just in general, pleasantly surprised and super excited for what’s to come!

songzuers:

  • These first two episodes were really easy to follow despite the fast pacing, much of which can be credited to the cinematography. Conversations were packed with a lot of information, but were facilitated by smooth visual transitions within each dialogue.
  • A problem that some dramas seem to have is that they’ll use too many angles of a character within the same dialogue and it gets distracting, as though the camera’s jumped from one end of the room to another between cuts. Another is the overuse of unnecessarily wide angles to boast an expensive set. Eagle Flag suffers from neither of these.
  • I remember there being some concern over colour grading and CG backgrounds during the earlier post-production days, but these turned out to be unfounded! The CG renderings are practically indistinguishable from the physical set, and the colour treatment dramatises the scenes without diminishing their realism, making for a very visceral experience of the fantasy world.
  • Further contributing to the digestibility of the content is the language. It is direct, with a complexity that doesn’t rely on convolution or archaisms. Complex ideas rely on metaphor instead, and are strengthened by powerful and unpretentious line delivery. We see this in lines like, “If a lamb is to survive, it must become a wolf,” and “When leopards fight, they can only become food for vultures.”
  • Of course, the drama has its more lyrical moments, too! In fact, simple language actually serves to highlight the invocation of song in other settings. Lyrical chanting seems to charm the scene where Guichen is called out of his illness-induced slumber, and the outcry of the Qingyang tribe against Asule on the night of his birth is impassioned by its pithy verse and forceful rhythm. One is a call to life, the other a call of death — much like his two names.
  • At birth, he is named Asule, a gift of ‘longevity’ in the ancient Qingyang language. Before he leaves for the Eastern land and grows into independency, he is given the name Guichen, a reminder that “All things return to dust, nothing is exempt.” They represent a struggling of two destinies within him, as is the jostling between the human and the wolf.
  • It’s also interesting that later in the Eastern land, he entrusts Yu Ran and Ji Ye with the name Asule, his longevity. The friendship between the trio seems to be something that Asule clings to for the rest of his life, so it’ll be interesting to see if this holds significance beyond his trust in them! :))

Finally…just appreciating the beauty.

11 thoughts on “Novoland: Eagle Flag: Episodes 1-2

  1. In the novel, did they reveal later on why Lv Song imprisoned his own father in the dungeon? Also is Longge Qin Longge Zhenhuang daughter?

    1. The power of the Qingtong blood will slowly affect your sanity and self-control over time. He was imprisoned as he got more and more violent, unfortunately. And yes, Longge Qin is the daughter of Longge Zhenhuang!

  2. Actually, when I first watched without the English subtitle, it seems to be very rushed in editing and story line was disjointed. However, after the sub was out and I have re-watched the episode. My opinion had changed, the story line is perfectly well executed and keep me engaged for the entirely both eps. It’s not too dragged and I’m very satisfied with it. I also like how Haoran portrayed his character as it not too much or too dramatic. To sum up, I really like it so far so I hope that can keep the momentum till it ends.

  3. I love the father-son relationship. It’s different from Xiao Tingsheng – Xiao Pingjing relationship but you can clearly see how much he loves and cares about his youngest son. Aso I cried during their farewell meeting. A very manly farewell yet it tugs at my heartstrings ㅠㅠ

    1. It was really well done. I was iffy about it at first because they made him a lot sterner in the beginning, but the way it unfolded was absolutely beautiful!

  4. I have a lot of things I loved from the first two subbed episodes and but you guys have pretty much summarize it well. Believe it or not, I have watched the first two subbed episodes 3 times each and still find myself hooked and amazed each time!

    So here’s my first impression:

    – The opening credits and its music is really cool and gives me goosebumps. In fact, all the music implemented in the episodes were great and befitting.

    – The costumes is just so glorious and splendid especially Lv Song’s, Shahan’s and the armor costumes of the tribes from the grassland.

    – I was pleasantly surprised that songzuers share similar thoughts like I did on the camera works and the lines in the drama. Likewise, I love that they boast their stunning cinematography and sets in quite modest and natural way. The grandeur of the landscapes and sets are still there even without using too many different angles / long shot for one scene like commonly emphasized by some of the other dramas with noteworthy stunning cinematography.

    – It has a lot of great and beautiful dialogues. Every line seems like it’s written very thoughtfully. Aside from the two metaphor mentioned by songzuers, I also like the lines during the oath scene, assuming the translations were done accordingly.

    “You should use your blood to defend the kindness of your master”

    “Tieyan, Tieye
    Serve the master for once
    Serve the master for lifetime
    We will protect master’s life as if protecting ours
    If we live together, we die together”

    – One more, the point no. 5 “Of course, the drama has its more lyrical moments, too! In fact, simple language actually serves to highlight the invocation of song in other settings. Lyrical chanting seems to charm the scene where Guichen is called out of his illness-induced slumber, and the outcry of the Qingyang tribe against Asule on the night of his birth is impassioned by its pithy verse and forceful rhythm.” Am very much on the same page with you on this and I couldn’t have said it better! I’m envious of how eloquent you are with the way you were able to put what I also think into nicely composed words.

    – Another thing I like about the way NEF is filmed is how subtly they introduce / insert the Qinyang tradition in the background instead of making it into a full, extensive scene just for the purpose. The scenes in references are 1) Lv Song and Shahan having conversations about Eastland while the funeral of Longge Zhenhuang took place 2) Lv Song and General Tuoba Shanyue having conversations while the hunting took place. I like that they filmed two things at the same time, not only it saves screen time but also sometimes too much emphasis on tradition introduction can make the plot boring. I also love the natural shift of focus between the tradition scene and those having conversations.

    – Liu Haoran was pretty convincing as a weak and sickly prince. Despite his tall and healthy looking body, his face does manage to look like a scared and pitiful child that naturally activating the motherly instinct in me lol. Here, he wasn’t anything like the proud and carefree Xiao Pingjing from Nirvana In Fire 2. I also love the dynamic between Asule and Lv Song despite the limited emotional buildup between them.

    – Agree that some editing is slightly disjointed especially in terms of scenes transition but it didn’t really ruin the story or my watch experience. And the dramas have way more other awesome things I love about it that I can overlook the slight flaw. Quick-paced, good acting from everyone especially from the actor playing Lv Song. His magnetic presence and excellent line delivery is just so awesome that you can’t help admiring his character.

    Conclusion: I love the first two episodes and can only pray the plot continue to deliver and wouldn’t fall in the middle. It has aired up to 12 episodes and judging from Weibo comments, a lot of people are loving it thus far. The only regret is the Douban score which has been tainted by black water army and extreme book fans.

    Anyways, thank you very much for the recaps and sharing your thoughts! I enjoyed reading them and am looking forward to read your thoughts on the next batch of episodes.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome thoughts and for taking the time to read!

      – Songzuers is amazingly eloquent and THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS because when I tell her this she doesn’t believe me.

      – I was actually not that impressed with the CG opening last year when they first revealed it but with the music and credits it actually gives a very strong impression and builds up nicely!

      – We actually haven’t watched the english subbed eps yet, but the lines you translated sound AMAZING! Whoever’s doing the subbing for the Youtube channel is doing a fantastic job – it gets the point across while still keeping most of the beauty in the original language.

      – “Another thing I like about the way NEF is filmed is how subtly they introduce / insert the Qinyang tradition in the background instead of making it into a full, extensive scene just for the purpose. The scenes in references are 1) Lv Song and Shahan having conversations about Eastland while the funeral of Longge Zhenhuang took place 2) Lv Song and General Tuoba Shanyue having conversations while the hunting took place. I like that they filmed two things at the same time, not only it saves screen time but also sometimes too much emphasis on tradition introduction can make the plot boring. I also love the natural shift of focus between the tradition scene and those having conversations.” < ==== 100% on THIS!! I was trying to find a way to put this into words, and you totally nailed it. It's kind of like when we were in school and told to "show, not tell" in our essays - instead of showing us what the Qingyang traditions are, they integrate it into the scene and let it run int eh background BUT we get the message and feel even more captivated because there's so much to pay attention to. While the editing was choppy for some of the transitions, this part was done absolutely beautifully. - Yeah, that was our feel on it too! While the first two episodes definitely had flaws, there was so much good about it that it kind of covered it up. Word of mouth has been quite good, as you mentioned! Thanks again for taking the time to read and share your thoughts and insight - they were a blast to read! So sorry for the comments issue >.<

  5. Strange, I tried login using different gmail account to send my comment but it doesn’t seem to work. Wonder if it won’t appear until you approve. If you saw abundance of similar comments, reply to the latest one. Thanks!

  6. I have watched forty-one episodes to-date. The subs seemed to slow down recently. I would like to get to the end of the story. The music in the drama is very beautiful. I am glad there is no embarassing loud singing overpowering the actors’ performances. The flashbacks are not blatant, thank the gods. Some of the editing is weak, with scenes being juggled. The shaky camera is very annoying. The set designs are beautiful. Shanyang Pass looks like Gondor, and Red Teeth look like Urukai. Some costumes have the odd modern motif patterns. LOL XD

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