The Magical Paper
Despite saving Er Lang from the spirits, Episode 5 of The Ghost Bride begins with the black mark spreading over Li Lan’s arm as she realizes she’s running out of time. However, Tian Ching is also running out of time too as his payment is late and a strange spiritual being throws him across the room after he writes something on a magical piece of paper. As he picks up the pen, he furiously writes out “thank you for understanding” while Er Lang watches this unfold in the shadows.
Meanwhile, Li Lan’s Father runs into a strange tribal lady in the alleyway and immediately grows suspicious when he finds a rag labelled “west river”. At the same time, back at the Lim household Madame Lim continues to burn books as an offering.
Li Lan is requested to meet with Tian Ching where he asks outright whether she left the mansion. She tells him she didn’t, of course, but her insolence causes him to behead one of the ox-headed guards. Outside, Er Lang talks to her about the strange writing and implores her to watch over Tian Ching. However, waiting in her room is her Mother who returns, which the geisha immediately proclaims she’ll tell Tian Ching about. However, Li Lan manages to convince the guard otherwise and when it floats out the room, she embraces her Mother.
Together, they decide to try and get to the bottom of what’s going on, leading Li Lan into Tian Ching’s study where she writes “I’d like to meet you in the storeroom” on the paper. However, Tian Ching returns home where she stands waiting for him, distracting him for long enough while her Mother and Er Lang lurk in the shadows. Er Lang berates her for acting impulsively when they’re alone and goes on to talk about an impossible decision he had to make all those years ago as a Heavenly Guard. Questioning her own ability in the face of this lesson, Li Lan’s Mother guides her and tells her daughter that Er Lang cares about her.
Back in the real world, Li Lan’s Father and Tian Bai team up together and try to figure out who the rag belongs to. As they sift through the various belongings of the different servants, they unfortunately find out that Fu Mei is the one responsible for murdering Tian Ching. While she begs him, he brushes aside her pleas and has her imprisoned.
After revealing the truth to Madame Lim, Li Lan’s Father berates her for encouraging Li Lan to take up the offer of an afterlife marriage. That evening, Li Lan’s party gets underway as Er Lang tails a suspicious character wearing green shoes who happens to be Li Lan’s judge. Only, he’s ambushed by a female judge who snatches the knife from him and unfortunately knocks him out. Things go from bad to worse too when Li Lan is shown Er Lang tied up and captured in the basement. When the room clears, Li Lan tries to save Er Lang but finds herself captured too as the door is left wide open for the finale.
With some lovely visuals at the end and some really imaginative elements added to the after life, the second half to this series has felt far better in terms of pacing and urgency, even if it does deviate wildly from the book. If you’ve made it this far, the episode rewards your patience with some nice drama late on around some big plot reveals. The actual murderer is different here too compared to the original tale and this makes this twist all the more interesting. If you can accept this is a completely different interpretation of the original material there is enjoyment to be had here but big book fans may be left disappointed by the way this has been adapted.
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