I have just finished watching 36 episodes of The Legend of White Snake (2019) that totaled up to 27 hours of TV entertainment. The first post is a review, with no spoiler. If you are interested to read my thoughts on its ending, read on. Spoiler alert!
White Snake 2019 has a complex event that leads to an interesting ending. Now, is it a happy ending? If I could borrow a repeated response from Fahai the Buddhist Monk, that would be a Yes and No (which my boss at work would have hated it).
It is a sad ending in the sense that Suzhen the White Snake gets locked up inside Leifeng Pagoda for what could have been at least 20 years. To Suzhen the 1,000 years old white snake spirit, 20 years seems fleeting. But she can’t see her husband Xu Xian during that time, also missing out on her child’s upbringing. That punishment of her seems pretty harsh, though still better than being executed by the gods.
More so for Xu Xian the Physician and his mortal and short life, not able to see his wife for two decades, also missing out on his son’s upbringing while busy curing people for free in order to seek redemption for his wife’s sin.
But in the spirit of reincarnation – which is the theme of White Snake 2019 – two decades or more may well be a sand inside an hour glass. Because there is the next life to look forward to. When these people believe in eternity and especially eternal love, missing out two decades in this lifetime doesn’t seem that bad.
Let’s not forget that Suzhen who was so close to immortality through 1,000 years of ‘cultivation’ with progress unknown even as the credit rolls.
The happy ending though, is that the family gets to reunite after two decades or so, which is possibly the best ending given the pretty terrible circumstances as Xu Xian was so close to be toasted together with Mind Demon inside the temple.
Before we agree that this is possibly be the best ending, let’s look at some of the alternatives.
Alternative Ending #1 – Just Walk Away
Upon receiving the elixir that trapped the Mind Demon, Xu Xian the Physician could have just passed that to Fahai the Buddhist Monk and walked away. Let the guys with supernatural power deal with the problem. And if Mind Demon is going to turn into a Prime Evil (like in Diablo games), let the gods deal with the situation. After all, did it not take the god of lightning one single strike to take out Mind Demon without killing the host in the actual ending?
Xu Xian could have followed his wife Suzhen the White Snake and retire happily in Emei Mountain raising their son Xu Shilin. He probably wouldn’t be able to play as a hero for a brief moment, nor his wife as a villain for a brief moment.
But alas! Since Xu Xian is a dude with big heart (and a pure heart according to the show), he wouldn’t have been able to walk away from saving the city, which ironically as his wife tried to save him, wiped out the city.
Alternative Ending #2 – Xu Xian Gets Toasted with Mind Demon
This could be rather tragic, though Xu Xian could have died a hero for those who know his true intention (read: just a handful). It would also be rather painful for us to watch Suzhen witnessing her husband getting toasted by some holy fire from Emei Mountain with her power being restrained by the Monk her “own good” (what could have been a few more days to immortality).
And since Suzhen the White Snake was pregnant with a deity reincarnate, let’s skip the alternative ending of her getting sacrificed instead.
Alternative Ending #3 – Mind Demon Gets Defeated by Snakes and Monk Combo Plus the Heavenly Army
That would have been my favorite ending. Suzhen the White Snake manages to overcome the influence of Mind Demon just before the flood hits the city. Heaven and Earth join forces to defeat Mind Demon a.k.a. Prime Evil. And a truly happy ending.
I guess this ending would have displeased the purists as it deviates from the original story too much without mentioning Leifeng Pagoda. I honestly don’t care. Maybe Guanyin can reward the two snake spirits to study at the pagoda and accelerate their path to enlightenment.
In the End, Almost Everyone is At Fault But One Takes the Punishment
From Suzhen the White Snake’s perspective, after going through so much to save her husband so many times, the final act is a no-brainer. Just that this time around, it is a bit hard to justify, when innocent lives are lost (and restored by the goddess). Hence, all down to the flood. Let’s break that down.
The idea comes from Jingsong the Golden Mouse, who by the way gives up yet another mysterious heavenly relic to restore Xiaoqing the Green Snake’s 500 years of cultivation, which she lost during a fight with Fahai the Monk. Jingsong’s plan was to threaten Fahai with the flood so that Fahai would give up toasting Xu Xian the Physician.
Xiaoqing the Green Snake is the one who steals the water token from the dragon god of the eastern sea, passes it to Suzhen, and strongly encourages her to use the token to call forth the flood. For lack of a better word, she is the accomplice.
Fahai the Monk does not give up toasting White Snake’s husband knowing very well that innocent lives will be lost. He has stopped in the past given similar situations. Why does he not this time around? The Monk has decided that sacrificing the city is justified when he could have stopped the ritual. I still don’t get why Fahai has to restain White Snake’s power when Mind Demon is at large and White Snake has demonstrated time and time again her power has proven to be useful. This Monk makes bad decisions.
Xu Xian the Physician should have shared his plan with his wife, especially when time and time again his wife the White Snake has managed to think of a solution of saving people, even saving the same person multiple times. But he goes ahead with his plan with full knowledge that his wife will certainly intervene.
Let’s not forget Suzhen the White Snake angered by the crowd’s lack of empathy is under the influence of Mind Demon when calling forth the flood. In the end, almost everyone is at fault but one takes the punishment.
To close off these ending afterthoughts with a bit of lightheartedness, I would just blame the Mind Demon, which by the way, has been vanquished by the god of lightning (Thor!) all thanks to the White Snake calling in the flood.
That One Question Unanswered
With this type of fantasy story genre, I am often flexible when it comes to whether or not a plot is believable. So long as it is consistent with reasonable support by Chinese culture or beliefs. For example, Suzhen does not participate in Jin Ruyi’s funeral nor visit Ruyi’s gravestone. It is because according to Chinese culture, pregnant women should avoid such events.
There is however one question unanswered. Ruyi towards the end of her own story line was alone, with no friend nor servant. Let’s just be a bit open minded and accept the part about her being able to throw her body into the furnace that is smaller than her. I mean, she was possessed. She could do ‘stuffs’.
But who then delivered the elixir from the furnace inside a cave that very few knew when no one even knew the existence of such elixir in the first place to Xu Xian’s home? Together with Ryui’s dress gifted by Xu Xian at the mid autumn festival?
It can only be supernatural.