How would you rate episode 6 of
The Apothecary Diaries ?
Community score: 4.6
Oh, the many meanings of hairpins! While Gyokuyou’s ladies-in-waiting are just dying for Maomao to care about the ~secret~ meanings (and she truly couldn’t care less), we still get three distinctly different motives behind the three pins she racks up between this week and last. Lihaku, the dog-like young officer, is just trying to spread the love, not necessarily because he’s a lady’s man, but because he doesn’t seem to want anyone to feel left out. As Maomao says, it’s a participation trophy. Lihua, on the other hand, gives Maomao a hairpin as a means of showing that the apothecary has a place in her employ at any time, should she want it. While it could also be read as Lihua thumbing her nose at Gyokuyou, it feels more likely that she’s just making her gratitude known to the woman who saved her life and helped her get back in the emperor’s good graces. And finally, Jinshi’s hairpin is most likely a marker of protection. After hearing her story last week, his horror at her motives for putting on freckles and deliberately downplaying her appearance, his impulsive gift could be read as romantic, but is more likely a way of showing that she has his support – because as we’re reminded this week, the Inner Palace is a dangerous place.
The form that danger takes is varied, as the introduction of Lishu shows. Despite only being fourteen, this is her second stint as a consort: horrifyingly enough, she did her first at age nine, when she was consort to the previous emperor. What was a nine-year-old doing in such a sexual position? While it could be taken as mere politics (and they likely did play a role), the more disturbing answer is that the old emperor liked his women young – as in he liked them to be little girls. When Maomao notes that the empress dowager looks very youthful, her fellow lady-in-waiting whispers about the age the woman was when she gave birth to the present emperor, and Maomao’s reaction says a lot. Pair that with Lishu’s age during her prior time in the Inner Palace and that adds up to something very disturbing. If Lishu got away from the palace without incident, she was very lucky indeed, and her behavior may stem less from being an unpleasant person and more from trauma.
Whatever her reasons, it’s plain to see that her ladies-in-waiting don’t seem to care for her much. Her youth may play a part in that, but from their whispered conversations, it looks more like they find her spoiled and annoying. Is that a reason to make her eat something she’s allergic to? Absolutely not, but it doesn’t seem like most people are fully aware of food allergies and how dangerous they can be; people don’t always consider them valid now. (Source: my mother is very allergic to strawberries and mangoes, and people have flat-out refused to believe her, thinking she just doesn’t like them.) The problem is that her ladies’ apparent vendetta gets in the way of the poisoned soup Maomao identifies because at least one of Lihua’s dishes was exchanged with Gyokuyou’s earlier in the banquet. Was the intended victim the mother of the emperor’s only child? Or the young consort who doesn’t seem to get along with many people?
Either way, it points to a larger problem within the palace. Lihua’s ladies acted out of misguided but good intentions when they held onto and used the arsenic makeup, but is the same true for Lishu’s? She’s perhaps an easier target than Lihua or Gyokuyou (we don’t know much about Ah-duo yet), but what would the motive be? Even Jinshi doesn’t seem sure; he just knows that Maomao dying herself because of her borderline creepy love of sexy poisons would probably gum up his investigations. The plot is thickening, but what thickener they’re using could determine how things play out from here.
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