Episode 3 of The Ghost Bride begins with Li Lan experiencing another nightmare, this time involving her Father. In the morning she looks over him while telling Amah she doesn’t have feelings for Tian Bai anymore. He arrives with Isabel and there’s a tense atmosphere that hangs over the room. Tian Bai tries to clear the air and while he does, Er Lang is found talking to a dog outside.
Amah continues to struggle with her burnt arm, sensing that Tian Ching is taunting her, while Er Lang continues to try and help Li Lan get to the bottom of the murder. Our protagonist turns her attention to Sim, one of the servants who worked for the family. It turns out she was fired for stealing but she didn’t actually steal anything and they find a shared common interest in disliking Er Lang and his magic tricks.
While Er Lang tries to reconcile with Sim later that day, Li Lan heads off with Tian Bai in search of a girl called Fang who may hold some clues to the murder. When their horse becomes spooked and hurries off on its own en-route, Li Lan and Tian Bai are stranded until Er Lang arrives and offers to help. They refuse though and instead manage to get a lift to the village from a local. As they arrive, the duo speak to Fang where they learn more about Tian Ching’s past.
While cracks form in Isabel and Tian Bai’s relationship back home, Mr Won saves Amah from the ghost of Tian Ching and winds up hurt in the process. When Li Lan heads home she sees his cuts firsthand and its here he tells her that he sees ghosts too. That evening, Li Lan and Er Lang head out to the gambling den together where upbeat hip-hop accompanies them as they see Yan Hong sitting and gambling. As a fight breaks out inside with Er Lang, Li Lan sneaks outside and is subsequently drugged and knocked out on the ground.
When she wakes up, she finds herself in the ghostly world full of horrific mutilated corpses and face to face with Tian Ching himself. It turns out she’s now in the realm between life and death and it’s here we see the ox-headed guards for the first time. She also learns about the black vein that claims its victims and as Li Lan crawls over to Tian Ching she pleads with him to save her Father. As a pop song closes out the episode, Li Lan agrees to marry him in exchange for saving Li Lan’s Father.
The late inclusion of the after-life is a saving grace in this episode in a tonally jarring and questionable set-up for the after-life to be explored. Large parts of the story have been distorted here and while I understand this has been done to mix things up, the biggest hook with The Ghost Bride was the inclusion of the after-life and how naturally it was explored across the first half of the book.
The biggest issue here though comes from the musical score. The questionable inclusion of hip-hop and modern J-Pop feels at odds with the world which is otherwise really nicely designed and chock full of neat costume and production choices. With the after-life finally looking like it’ll be explored next episode, The Ghost Bride leaves things on a tantalizing note after a couple of slow episodes.
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