This Warrior review contains spoilers.
Warrior Episode 2
Okay, so maybe I sounded a bit displeased in my review for the pilot episode of Warrior last week. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the show; quite the contrary, actually. I just wasn’t too impressed with “The Itchy Onion”, especially as an introduction to the antiquated yet surprisingly edgy world of San Francisco during the Tong Wars. After watching through some of the episodes provided by the nice folks at Cinemax, I can safely say that, yes, Warrior is a pretty damn good show.
Why? It’s got balls. The balls to tackle big, scary social problems like racism, classism, and plenty other -isms that are guaranteed to trigger most people; the balls to stage slick fight choreography that looks and feels realistic and grounded in reality rather than rehearsed and full of wire stunts; anxqd, last but not least, the balls to be cocky as hell about it. That, folks, is impressive, and worth tuning in for.
Last time, I compared Warrior to Into the Badlands, which has set a high bar for martial arts action programming on this modern TV landscape. But it’s unfair to compare the two, so I take that back. The more I think about it, the more I realize Into the Badlands is clearly wuxia-influenced, which puts the show in a different league altogether. Warrior is not inspired by wuxia at all, so it must be judged on its own merits. If this sounds rudimentary, well, it probably is. But I wanted to take the time to clarify my thoughts in public so I can continue to view Warrior as a fresh experience.
I’m not, however, taking back what I said about the gratuitious moments that this show rubs in your face, just because it can (or, worse, because it wants to keep your attention.) For me, this cheapens the heavy subject matter Warrior has the guts to take on. It’s just plain crude. Dollar store Game of Thrones crude.
For example, during a crime scene investigation, the character of Richard Lee (played by Tom Weston-Jones) starts playing with the corpse’s entrails in a close-up shot, just because he’s, uh, “quirky” like that. It’s like Tom Green directed an episode of Criminal Minds — I can’t take it seriously. All dignity is thrown out the window for a few lingering shots of some dude amusing himself with the dark brown contents of someone’s intestines. Sure, the special effects are great, but moments like this catapult Warrior into the shallow end of the guilty pleasure pool where, if it’s not careful, the show will slowly drown itself over time.
So, yes, Warrior is pornographic. It overcompensates for its lack of money shots and full-frontal nudity with blood and guts. At times, it’s like watching a video compilation of graphic horror movie deaths that someone randomly uploaded to PornHub. Other times, it’s a riveting period drama that praises the underdog and gives the world a cathartic place to vent social injustices that isn’t Twitter. Obviously, I prefer to latter side of the show to the former. But you can’t have your yin without your yang, now can you?
Though it may not sound like it, I did enjoy “There’s No China in the Bible” a lot more than “The Itchy Onion”. It’s a step in the right direction, narratively and thematically speaking. It moves the plot forward, or starts giving it a recognizable shape, at least.
This episode throws Ah Sahm into the thick of things almost immediately as he takes a stand against a couple of drunk white guys that attack new character Penelope Blake (Joanna Vanderham) and her Chinese “man servant” as they walk down a street in broad daylight. Despite Penelope’s protests (isn’t that fun to say out loud?) — and her status as the mayor’s wife — Ah Sahm is incarcerated and scheduled to be put on trial for his perceived crime against the white men who stirred shit up in the first place.
It may be a mile away right now, but Penelope and Ah Sahm are obviously Warrior‘s power couple. Their emotional connection is destined to become the core of the show’s scrappy, immature heart. For one, it echoes the interracial relationship between Bruce Lee and his wife Linda Lee Caldwell. And two, Penelope as a character practically drips Victorian era self-righteousness and compassion in every scene she’s in. It’s laid on a bit thick at first, but Vanderham has the grace (not to mention the acting chops) to win us over, and she clearly good chemistry with Andre Koji.
And yet…well, I know this isn’t intentional, but making the only female white character (so far) the beacon of sugar, spice, and everything nice in the world does a slight disservice to the show’s passionate messages about racial inequality.
True, only two episodes have aired at the time of this writing, but so far, pretty much all of the Asian female characters have been portrayed as duplicitous “dragon lady” prostitutes. I’m not trying to be the equal representation police here, nor is it my place to be taking on such role. But it would be nice to see this remedied over the course of the first season because it seems to clash with Warrior’s strongest principles.
Anyway. Back to the blood, guts, and dry humping.