The Flower in Prison, Episodes 28 & 29

TL;DR: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a second lead lady kidnap her romantic rival before. Huh.  Also, fake plagues for everyone!

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So Shin-hye and her second lead lady snubbed romantic feelings have been a slow-building plot point. While I have enjoyed her and her mother’s interactions over those feelings (aw, Evil Mommy will ruin the boy who broke your heart, don’t you worry), I am a little less pleased at how predictable they’ve been overall. First, the pining, then the lurking and the following, then the leaping to conclusions that the Rival must be to blame over the loss of her beloved’s affections, etc.

The kidnapping via armed thugs was a new twist, I’ll give her that.

I’m sorry, Shin-hye, Ji-hun broke off your engagement for good reasons: your father had Ji-hun’s grandfather (and Ok-nyeo’s mentor) murdered. It really had nothing to do with you. Ji-hun would have happily entered into a political marriage with you if, you know, his prospective in-laws hadn’t been behind the annihilation of his biological family. Oh, and your half-brother’s involvement in his adoptive father’s death didn’t help matters, either.

(Wait, have Shin-hye and Tae-won even interacted yet?)

Honestly, I’m hoping that Shin-hye gets to find out the real reason Ji-hun broke it off with her. I’d be interested in seeing if that would allow her a shot at redemption and/or joining the good guys against her parents. I’m not going to bet on that, though—not many second lead ladies get to come back to the light once they’ve been violent with a rival. Still, I’m rooting for you.

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The bulk of these two episodes centered on Nan-jung’s fabricated plague, our good guys’ attempts to figure out what the hell is going on, and the fallout of the plague hysteria. I have to say, it got really boring, really quickly, to watch characters run back and forth going hey! did u know there’s a plague? it’s all over the city and no1 knows??? We could have done without at least half of those notifications, for the record—maybe then I would actually have believed that hysteria was sweeping through the capital. As it was, watching practically every significant cast member get notified of this crisis really undercut the whole “crisis” feel.

That said, it was pretty neat to see how different organizations reacted to news of the plague, from the Jeonokseo releasing petty criminals and isolating any sick prisoners to police putting the “originating” village under quarantine to the king being forced to undergo a ritual to appease the people, because clearly if there’s a plague, the king’s loss of virtue has brought curses upon his kingdom and he must rectify that by sacrificing and praying and staying in his room.

I’m tempted to be annoyed that our heroes couldn’t get solid proof of the plague’s non-plague-y-ness earlier, but to be fair, if they acted like it wasn’t a plague and it was a plague, that would have been way worse. Your caution was warranted, and I guess I’ll just aim my frustration at the bad guys for poisoning livestock and innocent citizens and profiteering from the chaos they had created.

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Hang on a second—I can aim a lot of my frustration toward Tae-won. I was so happy that Ok-nyeo pulled away from him after the wrist grab and that she told him off. Sorry, Tae-won, you don’t get to call her cold and demand that she ought to be know you better when you’re actively colluding with the enemy, causing harm all on your own, and engaging in the exact same thought processes, tactics, and actions as the ultimate evil. Plus, you doubled or tripled tax rates on your merchants. Dude, what did you expect? No one likes it when taxes get raised, especially not when it’s just a way to line evil people’s pockets. I’m glad you spent basically the entirety of episode twenty-nine moping about that conversation because you need a hard course correction soon if you’re going to redeem yourself to my satisfaction before the end of the show.

(For the record, I am also side-eyeing Ji-hun and Ok-nyeo in their quest to buy out/take over as many of the smaller trade companies as possible. *hurls modern economic theory at them*)

There are a lot of smaller pieces moving around in these episodes, from more spies being planted to a (long overdue) leadership shakeup at the Jeonokseo. Despite that, it feels like we’ve finally established footing for the next major story arc. Let’s see where it takes us.

By the Numbers

  • Wrist grabs: 1
  • Fight scenes: 4
  • Manufactured plagues: 1
  • Dramatic desk clearings: 1
  • Bechdel Test: 27 episodes passed

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