“There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Novoland: Eagle Flag continues to enthrall, and episode 6 was the trio’s “troll” moment (for any Harry Potter fans), as songzuers aptly pointed out to me in our chat. Thank you also to @xiaotoumings as we borrowed her caps/tweets again!
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. We are deviating quite a bit from the books in the story ahead though, so use it mostly as a guideline!
For more NEF updates, including subbed BTS vids, follow @eagleflag_intl!
Our handy dandy character chart (Eastern Land only) for those who are trying to keep track of character relationships as well.
Yu Ran is furious about being tricked into an arranged marriage with the crown prince of the Qingyang tribe, and takes her anger out on her aunt, who reminds her that they have a responsibility to avenge and restore their nation (the Winged tribe). Yu Ran won’t listen though, and storms off to see Lv Guichen, asking him to dissolve the engagement. He’s more familiar with her temperament by now, and is both amused by and agreeable to her request.
We are introduced to the Li Kingdom, where their frustrated crown prince is venting to his teacher – Lei Bicheng, the mysterious figure who temporarily cured Asule, who also happens to be the adviser for the ruler of Li Kingdom. It turns out that the Li crown prince is responsible for the surprise attack on Asule during his journey to Xiatang, a decision that both his teacher and father chastise him for.
Lei Bicheng later meets with Ying Wuyi, ruler of the Li Kingdom. Ying Wuyi reminds Lei Bicheng that he took him in because he was touched by his desire to help him conquer the land, but that instead, over the last few years, Lei Bicheng has been developing the strength of the Chenyue organization (read: cult) and created the Chiya army. Ying Wuyi expresses his displeasure with what he sees as underhanded tactics, and is also wary about the influence Lei Bicheng holds over his son.
Back in Xia Tang, we learn more about the Chiya army – they are people, but bred to feel no pain and are as ferocious as beasts. Lv Guichen throws up upon his introduction to one, and Baili Jinghong sighs over the young crown prince’s weakness. Lv Guichen returns to his room and studies his knife, thinking about the attack and Su Ma’s sacrifice. Meanwhile, the Li Kingdom’s army of Chiya inches closer to Xia Tang.
We move to the capital of the ruling Yin Empire now (Li and Xia Tang are both technically part of it), where it quickly becomes clear that the young emperor is just a puppet. The true ruler is his aunt, the shrewd Grand Princess Bai, who orders that Baili Jinghong be responsible for protecting the borders as the threat of Ying Wuyi grows.
Back in Xia Tang, the martial arts tournament will be beginning soon, and Ji Ye’s father reveals to his wife that he plans to use Ji Ye to weaken the opponents, knowing his older son’s desire to win at all odds. Once the enemy is tired out, the younger son will go in and win the glory for the Ji family. Outside, Ji Ye eavesdrops, hurt and disappointed.
Lv Guichen seeks out Su Shunqing, asking if it’d be possible to leave the palace and explore the city for the Ghost Festival. Due to the threat on his life that still lingers out there, Su Shunqing resists at first, but caves when she sees the disappointment on the young crown prince’s face.
Yu Ran is out playing again, and ends up getting in trouble again when she tricks Leiyun Zhengke. Ji Ye interferes and helps her, effectively betraying his master, and the two end up on the run.
As Su Shunqing takes Lv Guichen around the lively Nanhuai city, she explains to him the history of the Ghost Festival. Su Shunqing sees through the young crown prince’s lingering sadness, and the two have a short conversation on loss and letting go, as Lv Guichen thinks about Su Ma and Longge Qin. As they walk through the crowded streets, a dark shadow follows them – and Lv Guichen takes note.
Ji Ye exposes his vulnerability to Yu Ran as he explains why he was wiling to be a lackey for Leiyun Zhengke – he wants to join the military, to make a name for himself. “I don’t want to die without anyone knowing my name.” Touched, Yu Ran takes him to a temple to make wishes to the gods there, but they end up leaving when his prayers don’t seem effective. Meanwhile, Su Shunqing brings Lv Guichen to the gorgeous Ghost Market.
Simultaneously, Yi Tianzhan is meeting someone, and he asks the novels’ famous slogan and the secret greeting of the Tianqu organization, “Tie jia yi ran zai? (Is the armor still here?)” And General Xi Yan of Xia Tang makes his entrance for the first time in the drama as he responds, “The armor is still here.”
Yi Tianzhan calls out Xi Yan for his reluctance to take part in the Tianqu cause, while Xi Yan reminds him that since the Tianqu organization was persecuted by the royal family, they are scattered and lost. No one dares to reveal their identity anymore. He also states, “If I can safeguard this city, my life won’t be of naught.”
At that moment, Xi Yan sees Su Shunqing leading Lv Guichen through the crowds and becomes distracted. Yi Tianzhan sees through him and reminds him that as warriors of Tianqu, it’s their responsibility to deal with the Chenyue forces when they emerge.
Su Shunqing takes Lv Guichen to the temples to make their wishes, but are interpreted by Xi Yan. He makes a subtle confession to Su Shunqing right in front of Lv Guichen, and by Su Shunqing’s gentle defection, it’s clear this isn’t the first time.
Meanwhile, Yu Ran and Ji Ye are hanging out on a roof drinking as they watch the fireworks. Ji Ye shares his desire to win the marital arts tournament, despite knowing what his father planned. This way, he can earn the opportunity to enter the palace to study, and change his destiny.
Meanwhile, Su Shunqing and Lv Guichen are attacked by a group of street performers, and we see the other side of the gentle officer as she kills several of the assassins with one move. As Lv Guichen stands by the side, he notices the Chiya lingering in the shadows. General Xi Yan joins the fight, and it isn’t long before they notice Lv Guichen has disappeared. Su Shunqing rushes off to find him, while Yi Tianzhan helps Xi Yan dispatch the rest.
The Chiya soldier finally corners Lv Guichen, but it isn’t long before we learn that this was all intentional – from the beginning, Lv Guichen left the palace with the intention of being bait so that he could avenge Su Ma. He is no match for the Chiya though, but his desperation and determination is clear.
Yu Ran and Ji Ye stumble across the scene, and without hesitation, join the fight. However, the Chiya proves immensely difficult to kill, and it takes a Herculean effort from all three youngsters – and teamwork – to finally slay the monster. It’s a turning point in the three’s relationship, but there is no time to dwell on it as Su Shunqing gets close, so Ji Ye and Yu Ran take off.
Su Shunqing instantly realizes that she was used when she sees the dead Chiya by the blood-covered young crown prince’s side, but she softens as she reminds him that Nanhuai city is incredibly large. Even though he’s lost his friends, he can also make new ones. As they make their way back, Lv Guichen drops to his knees and cries out to Su Ma, “Asule has avenged you!”
Back in his room, Lv Guichen imagines that he sees Su Ma again. He tells her that he’s avenged her, and apologizes for not being able to protect her as the tears fall.
Su Shunqing reports to Baili Jinghong what had happened, and the Xia Tang ruler realizes for the first time that there is more to the Qingyang crown prince than he had thought. He orders that she continues to win his trust.
Yu Ran visits Lv Guichen, curious about the person they had killed the night before. Lv Guichen explains why he had to avenge Su Ma, and she lightens the mood by teasing him. And eventually, she gets a laugh out of him.
Preparations for the tournament between the Qingyang and Xia Tang warriors are underway, and Ji Ye’s father pretends that he’s equally concerned for both sons as he reminds him of their brotherhood. Ji Ye returns to the temples that Yu Ran had brought him to before, and once again begs the gods for a sign that he will be one day be a great warrior like his ancestors. However, his prayers seem to continue to go unanswered.
Additional notes/thoughts from the recappers
- Let’s talk about that revenge scene because thus far, it’s probably been my favorite individual scene in the drama. This was an original subplot (not existent in the books) and it was powerful in many different ways. One, it showed us that Lv Guichen might be gentle and kind, but he’s very intelligent, and the fact that he planned this out, even fooling the sharp Su Shunqing, reveals the potential of his character. He never forgot about Su Ma, nor the need to avenge her, no matter how scared he was, or how limited he was physically. Two, this was the moment that will forever bind the trio – you can’t get a better bonding experience than killing something that won’t die together. The two of them jumped in to help without hesitation, without knowing what was even going on. And three, the development of the sweet relationship between Su Shunqing and Lv Guichen. While she’s understandably a little miffed at first that she was used and tricked, she is understanding and reminds him that he doesn’t have to feel lonely. Also, this was really well shot – despite the rain and darkness, we were able to see the progression of events and the action sequence very clearly (AND THE MUSIC – this drama continues to be fantastic at the use of the score) while still maintaining the emotional impact of the scene.
- We are seeing Haoran’s growth right in front of our eyes and honestly it’s such a pleasure to watch. He’s still great at what he’s always been good at, but he’s learning to add more layers and complexity to his acting now, and the emotions that he showed in the revenge scene were contagious. But even more so, I loved the scene afterwards as he imagines seeing Su Ma again and apologizing to her. I felt the depth of Guichen’s loneliness, his pain, and sorrow in this scene. Also, maybe it’s just me, but while I feel like Haoran’s always been pretty good at expressing emotions through his eyes, it seems to have gone up a notch in this drama? I also love the way that he is immersed in a scene even when he’s not the one in the spotlight, like the scene with Xi Yan and Su Shunqing. You can see clearly the moment Lv Guichen realizes what was going on and it was very sweet.
- The Ji Ye and Yu Ran friendship development has been really well done and it was so wonderful to see them bond and Ji Ye come out of his shell. The line about “It’s okay, my hands aren’t clean either” was such a great one and the moment was very touching. You could see Ji Ye feeling warmth that he has never felt from another human being in his life. We also see a gentler, compassionate side of Yu Ran as she shows emotional support for both boys when they are down.
- My favorite NEF CP officially made their entrance in these episodes (Xi Yan and Su Shunqing), and it’s setting the stage well for their complicated and impossible relationship. It’s implied here already, but as Yi Tianzhan points out, the reason why Xi Yan decided to stay in Nanhuai is to watch over Su Shunqing and stay by her side, even from a distance (I LOVE THEM SO MUCH). Also, the scene with third wheel Lv Guichen was both quietly hilarious but poignant – a nice touch by the director.
- I love how quickly Ji Ye is warming up to Yu Ran, and how he can’t help defend her even though he’s supposed to be working for Leiyun. Wasn’t really expecting to fully understand the attraction between these two characters even though promotions have obviously been setting them up as a couple, but the script handles their relationship in such a natural, playful manner that I’m beginning to enjoy watching them together.
- Nanhuai City is such a treat to wander through, I love that we are introduced to the sights of the city through the character’s eyes as part of the ongoing narrative. The city feels so intimate and familiar somehow, and it pulls you into what’s going on.
- Zhang Xiaobo’s direction is a gift! I usually have trouble keeping track of what’s going on in fight scenes in other shows because of messy direction, but Zhang Xiaobo’s visual cues are clear and striking — the fast pace in this drama isn’t a problem because he knows exactly what he needs in a scene, and no time is wasted fumbling for it.
- The music in this drama is breathtaking. From the uneasy tones of intrigue as Ji Ye declares his defiant ambitions against fate, to the swelling song of victory washing over you in the moment they drive the Chiya solider into the spear. The music directs your emotions in favour of the young heroes and the quest of each one.
- Haoran’s acting is so sincere and unabashed in its portrayal of Guichen’s emotions and it really endears you to the character. Light dawns in Haoran’s eyes in so many different ways; a cajoling brightness in dealing with a tantrum-throwing Yu Ran, a kind glint in coming to understand the relationship between Su Shunqing and General Xi, a victorious moonlight in having avenged Su Ma. It’s thrilling to watch a young actor clearly absorbed in and enthralled by his craft. (liuhaoran_intl: I didn’t make her write this!)