Marco finds his fate in the hands of Kublai yet again, while behind the walls of Xiangyang, Chancellor Sidao sets his sights on regaining power.
Because my binge-watch of this show is coming to a close and I’ve just now realized that I, unbelievably, haven’t personally made a swimming pool game reference yet, here’s one for you now: If you scream “Maaaarco” anywhere inside Cambulac chances are you’ll hear a faint and desperate “Polo” coming from one of Kublai’s dungeon cells, because that is where our ill-fated “hero” has been thrown after his “betrayal.” Man, that is a lot of quotation marks.
Kublai is furious, obviously. Just a few hours after talking to his wife about the cost of war and leadership, he finds out his armies were slaughtered, that he walked right into the highly obvious trap because of his favoritism for Marco, and had to beat a hasty and – in his eyes – cowardly retreat to prevent more deaths. He gives Marco a chance to speak to defend himself but can’t seem to even look at, much less talk to Marco, while Ahmad and Jingim exuberantly disparage Marco’s character (Marco was caught wearing a cross reading “All kings shall fall before him” around his neck, honestly Marco).
Really, though, this is the most I’ve liked Marco in all of these nine episodes: chained up and destined for death but proud, staring Kublai in the eye and refusing to beg for his life.
Jia Sidao, meanwhile, is his usual awful, creepy self, having cremated poor Jing Fei after she killed herself last episode, and displaying her remains on his wall of human remains in ornate vases. WHY DO YOU HAVE A WALL LIKE THAT, JIA. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU. Interior decorating choices aside, Jia’s going to need to do some political manuvering, because the Seven Families are coming to the city to pay tribute to the boy Emperor – the Emperor Jia’s kept caged so he could play warmonger.
He tries asking for Empress Dowager’s support in his quest to storm Cambulac and retake its lands for the Song, to which the Empress says “Not only no, but fuck no.” Jia shoots her. With a giant gun. I mean, I saw her death coming, but I really did not see it coming like that. It actually startled a laugh out of me, after which I felt appropriately horrible about myself.
Empress Chabi visits Kokachin to offer a gift and her condolences over Za Bing’s death. There’s a moment where we think she knows the truth of Kokachin’s identity (Chabi is certainly clever enough, having sensed something off about Mei Lin from the start, and she always chooses her words carefully so throwing “fraud” into a casual conversation has got to be more than just the writers trying to freak us out) and another moment where she reads Kokachin’s feelings for Marco, but eventually Chabi leaves Kokachin alone.
Prince Jingim visits Maaaarco in his cell in the final hours before his execution and tells him a story about hunting down a great beast in his youth. Hundred Eyes goes to Kublai to beg for Marco’s life, putting his own life on the line to vouch for Marco. Elsewhere, Kokachin bursts into tears while getting fitted for her engaged-to-the-prince outfit, whips the cloth off, and tries to go to the Ministry of Justice to… also vouch for Marco. Um, why is everyone Team Marco to the point of endangering themselves? I’m beginning to warm up to the guy after previous episodes of irrelevancy and blandness, but c’mon now. Anyway, their efforts don’t matter; Kublai orders guards to take Hundred Eyes away, while Empress Chabi has ordered guards to keep Kokachin in.
Chabi bonds with Ling Ling to try and get more information about Mei Lin, which is how she finds out about Mei Lin being the late Song Emperor’s concubine. Chabi lets Mei Lin see Ling Ling one last time, telling her that her daughter will remain safe so long as Mei Lin does as Chabi says. Poor, sweet Mei Lin.
In a strange dreamlike sequence that I can’t tell if it actually happened or not (when did Marco and Hundred Eyes suddenly gain telepathic powers? Is Hundred Eyes also gifted in The Way of the Legilimens? If Marco is just hallucinating again, then I’m glad he’s doing it without the naked women this time), Marco confers with Hundred Eyes, who tells him to offer Kublai something worth more than his life.
“Something” ends up being war plans. Marco summons Yusuf to his cell and gives him a history lesson on Alexander the Great and The Siege of Tyre, and suggests building catapult engines – trebuchets – to finally scale the walls of Xiangyang. Yusuf brings this idea to Kublai, but Kublai doesn’t want to hear it.
After successfully murdering Empress Dowager, Jia Sidao goes to her son and begins his manipulation of the boy. Meanwhile, Kokachin tries to kill herself but is unable to. Later she’s seen clutching at her stomach in pain as she stands at her balcony. Is she lovesick or pregnant?! I am going to scream if she is pregnant with Marco’s baby. Scream. (I feel I should clarify: I will be screaming from unhappineess, not joy.)
As dawn approaches, Yusuf confesses to hiring the assassins and conspiring with Jia Sidao, wanting Kublai to give up his attack on Xiangyang out of fear that if he succeeds, he will continue to conquer other, far-reaching lands. He knows Kublai will never give up, but he cannot support further war, which is why he’s offering his resignation in this dramatic fashion. Yusuf even throws in a bid to spare Marco in his speech (again with the Team Marco, y’all need to calm down before you start making fanclub T-Shirts). Kublai knows Yusuf didn’t do any of it, but with Yusuf standing by his false confession, Kublai has no choice but to have him arrested and executed. Rest in peace, Yusuf. I liked you and I never thought you were ugly. Rest in peace.
Marco: Respectfully, Khan, we reap what we sow.
Marco: It seems my end is guaranteed no matter what words I sound.
Jingim: In our culture, your first hunt, as in many things in life, is a very lonely enterprise… What do you think is the most vital trait for a hunter to possess? …Patience. Patience to ensure that true aim finds the true target.
Empress Dowager: Stop tinkering with that and look at me. There is nothing you might say or do. Ever.
Ahmed: Her mother’s like a wounded animal, desperate for kindness.
Chabi: One which will lick your hand simply to get a taste before biting.
Ahmed: Some men pay good coin for such pleasures.
Chabi: I wonder sometimes about that mind of yours.
Yusuf: What made you cease your attempts at escape? Was it her? …Under the circumstances, you need not hold your tongue.
Marco: Partially. Significantly. But not entirely.
Marco: I’m not afraid to die, but I’m terrified to do so while branded a traitor.
Yusuf: Be it betrayal by my hands or by my heart, I am guilty.
Kublai:What do you want from me? I cannot [give up Xiangyang.] I should hide behind my wall? Take pleasure in the present state? While away my days and bury myself here when they’re done.
Yusuf: Where is the fault in that? How many lands must be reaped? How many vaults must be filled and young spirits extinguished?
Yusuf: You are released from this prison, but I am truly free.