Two body language pause-rewind-play-pause-rewind-play scenes there are, nay three that wear out the remote buttons: swordplay in ep 16, river castigation in 19, and 能否今天不走了 in 31 (which subtitles render as Can you stay? Is it?) Here's where it goes all wrong: or here's where it's seen to go all wrong: and it's all in the eyes looking away and the heads turning in the wrong direction.
Said it before, will say again: Gou Jian does what Gou Jian's been doing since his son died- what he absolutely must so he and his country can survive. He unthinkingly expects the others to understand that and do it too, and he's wrong. They can't. But here's the thing: he doesn't blame them for not backing him as they should. That makes my blood run a little cold. No more tantrums about 'He regards Us not! We won't take him back even if he comes!' or 'You know the edict! How dare you defy it!' No more expectations of those closest to him. He's kind, he apologizes, he comes to make it up with them. Kings don't do that. Pre-Wu Gou Jian never did that. He bellowed and occasionally left Ya Yu in tears, and ultimately it made no difference to their understanding. But now the best that any of them can do is damage control, because none of it is any good any more.
And the laugh. The little warm paternal chuckle. When did he acquire The Laugh? because I hate it as much as Fu Chai's smarmy version of same.
Ya Yu and Fan Li aren't well-served by the subtitles, I admit. I don't know if it matters. The reasons Ya Yu tried to set Xi Shi free aren't anything she will, or maybe even can, explain to Gou Jian, so we're left with tatemae: I didn't think, I should have thought. (Really? She didn't think about the political fall-out of refusing Fu Chai when he sends his very own general?)
Fan Li OTOH just comes off dweeby. Subtitles have him all tied into knots about his disgrace and how he can't take it. (Also he needs to learn how to fake better. 'You had an accomplice!!' 'Yeah, a couple of maids, the royal grooms, and a guard at the gate. What of it?' is what you say, not guilty shifty eyes and clearly meditating Do I rat on the queen?) Possibly this is a cultural thing. Defying kings to keep the woman you love is fine by us; defying them because them taking the woman you love hurts your honour is something we haven't done for centuries; yelling about your honour to the woman you love when she comes to say good-bye to you is unforgivable; and saying it to the King who's come later to console you isn't much better.
Happy Days in Wu proves only that the guys from that area really are the ancestors of the Japanese. You wanna sing a patriotic song of the homeland, talk about the rabbits running in the mountains.
Ep 34-- for once a scene with Shi Mai that's subtle and nuanced. (He's shown as having aged too.) The play of the eyes, esp Gou Jian's as he quietly prevaricates to his old servant and enemy about Why encourage the people to have children. He's getting tired-- that's why the prevarication isn't as smooth and seamless as it used to be.
Though dammit, sometimes I wonder about that second scriptwriter. His particular brand of Dumb seems to be catching. Oh we have a famine, what to do, what to do? Ah, Shimai has the answer, we'll borrow grain from Wu! A solution that's clearly too complicated for Gou Jian to think up himself. But how will we pay the grain back, oh what to do, what to do? We'll wait till we have a good harvest! (no shit, really?) but we won't pay it back then, no no, we stall and wait till Wu has a famine and then we send them the grain, and maybe they'll be able to use it and maybe they won't. Because a) Wu will inevitably have a famine and b) Wu certainly won't send their armies to get the grain back from us before then, oh no no.
But all this pales before the scene when the retainers come to Wen Zhong and say Look we have a famine and people streaming into the city, you must close the gates at once. You're only thinking of yourself, says Wen Zhong, why don't you guys share the grain you have? Hey! says Ye Yong, I never thought of that, what a brilliant idea, I can give you a 1000 bushels! Yeah, and I can give you 500! Hey, I have *10* thousand to spare! yeah let's do it!
Sometimes these Yueites sound like the denser of Terry Pratchett's Watch.
Tang Li is not at all attractive. Even Zheng Dan grows on me but Tang Li is all teeth and can opener chin.
And I can still feel sorry for Gou Jian (I do feel sorry for Gou Jian: rock and a hard place, that man) lighting the way for Fan Li back from Wu, except that Fan Li doesn't come.