The Apothecary Diaries episode 4 delved deeper into the journey of the talented young Maomao as she adapts to her new role in the royal palace. The comedic beats and serious moments seamlessly carry over from the first three episodes of the series. We also witness an unseen side of Maomao as she deals with the failures of Lady Lihua’s attendants, making this one of the most intense and shocking episodes yet.
At the start of the episode, Maomao is surprised to find that her skills are needed for more than just checking food for poison. The emperor himself has ordered her to oversee Lady Lihua who has fallen ill presumably due to mourning over the recent loss of her infant from episode one. However, Lady Lihua’s attendants, or the ladies-in-waiting, treat Maomao with disrespect given her social standing. This is where we see one of the episode’s running gags — Maomao getting tossed out of Lady Lihua’s quarters and cartoonishly bouncing on the floor with a deadpanned expression. Maomao is quite a serious and relaxed character so it’s amusing to see her animated and presented in this way, especially since this happens three times throughout episode four.
While we don’t know the extent of Maomao’s personal goals and dreams, (other than of course wanting to return to her relaxing village life with her father) we can recognize that when she is given a command under the emperor, she commits herself to the job. Up until now, we have witnessed Maomao dutifully obeying orders and using respectful language when addressing her superiors. However, deep down, she may secretly make a sarcastic comment or display a subtle hint of annoyance. We see Maomao lose her cool and become unhinged in a particular scene concerning Lady Lihua’s attendants.
Maomao finally gets the chance to take a close look at Lady Lihua to observe her condition, and the situation is more dire than she initially thought. What is truly astounding in The Apothecary Diaries episode 4 is that Lady Lihua’s face is mysteriously concealed with a layer of white makeup, strikingly reminiscent of the very same powder that tragically claimed her infant’s life in the first episode. To the astonishment of viewers, Maomao fearlessly slaps the attendant who confesses to using this makeup with the intention of enhancing Lady Lihua’s beauty.
This is the first time we see Maomao stand up to her superiors in such a violent, yet justified way. Maomao makes it ruthlessly known to the attendant how foolish she is for carelessly worrying about Lady Lihua’s appearance over her health. This is where we see a side of Maomao that is aggressive and risky, and it makes me excited to see what else is to come from her in future episodes.
After a long two months that go by in seconds within the episode, Lady Lihua is back on her feet and recovering quickly. We see her have a change of heart towards Maomao — one of gratitude for saving her life. Maomao’s accomplishment in curing Lady Lihua is bound to garner attention within the palace and we’re sure to see where this leads in episode five. After another well-paced, beautifully animated episode, I’m only looking forward to more.
The next episode of The Apothecary Diaries will be on November 5th. Until then, you can also check out what’s been happening in the world of 16Bit Sensation: Another Layer, another series in the Fall 2023 season.
Images via Crunchyroll
©Natsu Hyuga, Shufunutomo / “Kusuriya no Hitorigoto” Production Committee