Although many viewers might have anticipated Raven of the Inner Palace to be filled with suspense and intense court drama, the show's subtle yet elegant storytelling has placed a strong emphasis on both world-building and character development. The final episode explores Shouxue's development as a character in contrast to her solitary nature at the beginning of the series, reflecting the subdued tone of the entire series.
Shouxue must maintain an appropriate distance from everyone in her role as the Raven Consort, refraining from forming friendships or getting too close to anyone. She doesn't perform nighttime duties for the Emperor like other consorts, which particularly puts a barrier between her and the Emperor. At the beginning of the series, Shouxue's somber and distant demeanor accurately reflected her circumstances, but as her circle of friends grew and she gradually warmed to Emperor Gaojun, each episode forced her to reevaluate her feelings. The overarching conflicts in the series all point toward Shouxue's personal character growth as it also examines the kingdom's history and the significance of the Raven Consort's function; as a result, the series is more than just a supernatural court drama but also an investigation into humanity.
Jealousy and Attempted Betrayal Highlights Shouxue's Friendships
Shouxue is warned repeatedly about the Raven Consort's duty of social isolation as she draws nearer to the Emperor and those around her. Contrary to his outward appearance, Xue Yuyong chastises Shouxue in particular. However, Episode 13 reveals that the real motivations behind his cautions are more self-serving. To prevent Shouxue from being betrayed and killed by Yuyong, the Emperor and his eunuchs discover his involvement in planning the Owl's attempted assassination of Shouxue in time. Although Yuyong's actions might have been motivated by the Raven's mystical history, he admits that jealousy is the real reason behind them.
Yuyong believes that it is unfair that Shouxue is surrounded by people who care about her while Li Niang, Shouxue's predecessor and Yuyong's love, suffered in her position alone. Yuyong's attempted betrayal and jealousy highlight Shouxue's social growth, as he takes notice of the bonds that have flourished between Shouxue, Gaojun and those in Shouxue's court. While Yuyong believes that Li Niang had no one, Shouxue is surrounded by people who care for her. The contrast between Yuyong's jealousy and Shouxue's situation communicates the importance of humanity in a harsh and often lonely setting -- a theme that has been prevalent throughout the series.
Particularly Visible Between Shouxue and Gaojun Is Their Love
While romance has not been at the forefront of the series, affection has been subtly growing between Shouxue and Gaojun with each episode. Because of the terms of Raven Consort's role, Shouxue acts coldly toward Emperor Gaojun at the beginning of the series. However, because he is intrigued both by her role and who she is as a person, Gaojun continues to visit her, often providing assistance as she works to solve various ghost cases. Over time, Shouxue softens to Gaojun, even coming to cherish his gifts and accept his offer of friendship.
The development of their relationship is especially evident in Episode 13. Softness permeates their interactions throughout the entire episode. Gaojun even provides Shouxue with a wooden fish ornament to wear because he is aware of her concern that she might misplace the matching one he gave her in an earlier episode. Shouxue gladly accepts the chipped wood because Gaojun's tenderness has touched her. She nearly concedes that she will die when Yuyong kills her, but she tells Gaojun that his face appeared in her mind and that his words saved her. The two then engage in a touching exchange during which Shouxue tends to Gaojun's wound and expresses concern for his lack of sleep. The episode comes to a beautiful conclusion with a vision that exemplifies the beauty of their growing affection and friendship.
The quiet conclusion of the final episode of Raven of the Inner Palace explores the relationships Shouxue has formed while reflecting the understated tone of the entire series. Raven of the Inner Palace may not have ended with a bang. Although a second season has not yet been confirmed, fans of the show can read more of Shouxue's story in the light novels.