On the eve of an auspicious ceremony, Marco searches for the culprit behind the assassination attempt on Kublai Khan – even as a new one takes shape.
“White Moon” starts with a flashback to the battle that wiped out the majority of the Bayaut Tribe, save for Kokachin – or so we thought. The flashback reveals the truth: the real Blue Princess committed ritual suicide rather than be taken prisoner by Kublai Khan, and her servant Nergui put on the royal robes and passed herself as Kokachin to save herself from being slaughtered. So this is the big secret “Kokachin” is paying Tulga to keep silent!
Marco Polo sees his father and uncle off as they leave the city, likely to their own deaths because they no longer have the protection of the Khan. Niccolò, though, remains suspiciously cheerful and tells his son “we will meet again,” so I doubt he’ll die offscreen. Byamba meets up with Marco to continue their little almost-murder investigation. They run into a sassy Khutulun as she rides through the gates, and she forces Marco to escort her to Kublai, probably to make things as awkward for him as possible. She is fantastic and I love her. Thankfully we’ll be seeing a lot more of Khutulun, since she’s been sent by her father Kaidu to be the Khan’s personal protector.
Kublai, meanwhile, is still keeping the discovery of the assassination orders and map of his private quarters a secret from his wife and son. Prince Jingim senses something’s off, which means he’ll probably be doing some private investigating of his own. Empress Chabi brings Khutulun along on a tour of the city to watch the White Moon Festival preparations.
Marco is, predictably, making a nuisance of himself by demanding answers from Kokachin. Um, where do you get off, dude? Almost being murdered does not mean you automatically get answers as to why you were almost murdered! At least ask nicely. Please and thank you’s work wonders. New Fave Kokachin expertly dodges most of Marco’s questions then manipulates Marco into taking care of Tulga for her. When he confronts Tulga he finds out that Kokachin has also promised marriage to Tulga, who is in love with her.
Marco and Byamba finally get back to their murder investigation by following their lead to Sanga’s family’s place. Sanga’s family is obviously not happy to see Marco, but they’re still very helpful; as Byamba confirms the handwriting sample, Sanga’s wife tells Marco that Sanga used to ride to Kochkor, the village near the Hashsashin hideout, to collect taxes. Come to think of it… Ahmad is the one who always dealt with Sanga’s tax collecting, right? What if he wasn’t reporting Sanga for stealing, but to eliminate a loose thread in his Assassinate The Khan plan?
Kokachin, bless her, talks politics with Empress Chabi as they walk the streets of Cambulac, putting her personal knowledge of the minds of a ruler’s subjects to use as she talks about stamping out the root of a people’s suffering rather than temporarily easing the pain. And with that, this episode actually passes the Bechdel Test.
Speaking of pain, contender for Asshole of the Year Jia Sidao continues to bind his niece Ling Ling’s feet uncaring of the pain he’s causing. Empress Dowager judges him for doing so, but doesn’t order him to stop – can’t she do that, as a stand-in for her child Emperor son? Or if it has to come from the mouth of the Emperor himself, can’t she get the toddler to order Jia to stop hurting his playmate? I have no idea how these things work, obviously, I just want poor Ling Ling to stop hurting and for Jia Sidao to fall off a steep cliff and into a giant vat of acid.
Jia sends his sister’s friend, Jing Fei, to Cambulac with a message for Mei Lin to become his assassin. Empress Dowager, meanwhile, meets with the Dynastic Council and they decide to dismiss Jia Sidao as Chancellor. I would be pleased about this but I’m too worried about what Jia’s going to do to Ling Ling, or the little baby Emperor, or to the Empress’ new champion Fang Zhen who will be taking Jia’s place in the council, or to the Empress herself.
When Marco and Byamba question Ahmad about Sanga, Ahmad points a finger at Yusuf, the man who had Sanga killed. Yusuf, in turn, explains that he has no real motive for trying to assassinate Kublai. In another scene, it’s revealed that Yusuf is already in Kublai’s trusted inner circle of People Who Probably Did Not Try To Kill Me, and that Kublai was using Yusuf to see if Marco could be guilty. Yusuf doesn’t suspect Marco anymore but urges Kublai to kill anyone he doesn’t trust just to be safe – advice that could come back to haunt him.
Khutulun and a gloriously shirtless Byamba spar while talking about how weak and useless Marco is, and it’s fantastic. Byamba asks Khutulun if she wants him to win – knowing that her hand in marriage has been promised to anyone who can defeat her – and Khutulun laughs. I already ship it, guys. I already ship it so much.
Kublai’s getting his sex on while Mei Lin prepares for her big assassination by painting poison on her lips. When Mei Lin goes in for a kiss, Empress Chabi turns Mei Lin onto another concubine, and the poison kills that poor woman instead. How did she know?!
In her desperation to protect her daughter, Mei Lin attempts another assassination during the White Moon Festival by making a suicide run at Kublai, fighting her way through scores of soldiers. Empress Chabi shoots her down with a bow and arrow.
Kublai: Khutulun dressed as a warrior or a lady?
Chabi: The former.
Kublai: [laughing] I love that girl.
Byamba: I worry when you call me ‘brother’ instead of ‘bastard.’ It precedes a request.
Empress Dowager: It is a powerful man who injures little children.
Hundred Eyes: Untrue by an inch, untrue by a mile.
Khutulun: The world is not kind to the weak and the guileless.
Jingim: And so today, you risk yourself?
Kublai: I fulfill my duty. Rally my people, to inspire your strength.
Jingim: Am I such a burden?
Kublai: You’re my son.