Previously, on Marco Polo: “White Moon“
Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before: a Venetian I and a blind Chinese monk walk into the enemy’s stronghold to assassinate the Cricket Minister…
The cold open for this week’s episode was a flashback to Jia Sidao and Mei Lin’s childhood.
We learn that they both grew up in such abject poverty that Mei Lin had to resort to whoring herself in order to feed them both. If the child prostitution wasn’t enough to make you cringe, consider the fact that a young Sidao would hide beneath the floorboards of their home and watch his sister work. If that hasn’t made you cringe yet then consider the fact that “Sunflower” is a nickname given to Mei Lin by one of her regular customers— the same nickname that Sidao calls her daughter Ling Ling. Suddenly her brother’s threats take on an even more sinister tone if they weren’t already so.
Cut to the present day following last week’s cliffhanger we find Mei Lin being interrogated by Kublai in front of his entire court. She reveals everything: that she is Sidao’s sister who was sent to infiltrate the royal court and was recently given a new mission to assassinate Empress Chabi to spark an all-out war between the Mongols and the Song Empire. Mei Lin then pleads for mercy on behalf of the life of her daughter Ling Ling now held hostage. She even goes so bold as to appeal to Empress Chabi’s sympathy as a mother. Chabi is outraged and even holds a blade to Mei Lin’s throat. But in the end, Mei Lin is spared and handed to Ahmed for further questioning.
Despite Kublai’s initial plans to ready his army and march on the Song stronghold, Chabi’s wise and measured counsel leads him to consider an alternate route. He orders Marco to accompany Hundred Eyes into Xianjiang to assassinate Jia Sidao.
And we’re off to the races.
Marco and Hundred Eyes’ mission, although peppered with interesting banter between the two men, requires a willful suspension of disbelief in order to believe everything that occurs in their end of the episode. I mean, seriously? Quite possibly the ONLY white man in all of China is going on a stealth mission with a blind Daoist monk? Red Flag! Red Flag! They shouldn’t have been able to stroll into Xianjiang as easily as they did. They should’ve been taken aside at every street corner in the city and interrogated by guards. Did they arouse so much as a single cocked eyebrow? Nope. The gods of the writer’s breakroom are ever in your favor, gentlemen.
In the Song Court, Jia Sidao scrambles to muster what little power he has left before completely handing over all control to the Dowager Empress after the Boy Emperor’s coronation. Mei Lin’s friend Jing Fei returns with news from Cambulac of the results of The attempt on Chabi’s life. She lies on behalf of Ling Ling and her captured friend.Though Sidao appears to have his reservations, the Dowager Empress has almost successfully taken away all his power at court so a more imminent threat is in need of being handled immediately.
Hundred Eyes infiltrates the Song Palace with Jing Fei’s help on the day of the coronation while Marco waits outside with horses for their escape. Interestingly enough, an emissary sent by the Song Empress to negotiate with Sidao is actually an assassin tasked with murdering him during the coronation ceremony. In a wonderfully choreographed scene a three-way battle occurs between Sidao and his two would-be killers. Unfortunately Hundred Eyes’ presence only allows Sidao the necessary distraction needed to dispatch the Song Assassin before focusing his efforts on the blind monk. Having lost his momentum especially with the arrival of Sidao’s men, Hundred Eyes flees to rendezvous with Marco. Outside the city Jing Fei awaits with Mei Lin’s daughter whose care she entrusts to Marco and Hundred Eyes.
In the episode’s final moments, Jia Sidao storms into the throne room covered in blood his face a study in contempt. The failed attempt at his life is all the pretense he needs to and reclaims his position as Chancellor and wrestle more power away from the Song Empress. The drums of war beat louder and louder from here on out.