This Warrior review contains spoilers.
Warrior Season 2 Episode 4
The title of this episode comes from Sophie’s (Celine Buckens) date. Spencer (Russell Crous) comes from the upper class and he’s trying to court Sophie in an upper-class way, but she’s is having none of that. She brings him to the Banshee to slam some drinks, and coyly asks him about his athleticism. Spencer says he plays rugby and Sophie feigns being impressed by the roughness of the sport, egging him to say, “If you don’t see blood, you didn’t come to play.” Then she takes him to the back-alley bare-knuckle matches behind the Banshee, to show him some fresh blood. It’s one of only two scenes that get bloody in this episode, that that’s just not enough.
This episode, like the previous one, fails to deliver much Kung Fu action. There’s a central street demo, which will be discussed later, and two fights: the first being this bare-knuckle match and the second being towards the end of the episode. Not one of the lead actors shows any Kung Fu fighting.
Lee (Tom Weston-Jones) punches O’Hara (Kieran Bew) when he discovers he’s been working for the Fung Hai for months. It’s right after O’Hara gets his wife (who is terribly upset about having to kill someone, even though it was self-defense) and kids out of San Francisco in the wake of the previous episode’s attack. But it’s just a punch, not a flying kick or even some Kung Fu fist combination. A Kung Fu attack would not have been appropriate coming from Lee, but this show is coming from Bruce Lee, so copious Kung Fu is expected. In fact, it is demanded, especially from a cast with such martial firepower.
Andrew Koji (Ah Sahm), Olivia Cheng (Ah Toy), Jason Tobin (Young Jun), and Dianne Doan (Mai Ling) have all demonstrated they can handle a decent Kung Fu fight. Joe Taslim (Li Yong) and Dustin Nguyen (Zing) are veteran action stars with several exemplary martial arts films already under their belts. Hong (Chen Tang) and Lai (Jenny Umbhau) have shown their skills too and fans are eager to see more of them. Sure, sure, drama is important for context but let these actors fight. Unleash them. Bruce Lee fans want Kung Fu. We want blood.
A Chinese Laundry and Some Street Kung Fu
Li Yong brings Mai Ling to a Chinese laundry looking for a loan (as if taking a loan from a Tong is ever that good of an idea). Mai Ling buys out the laundry as a safety net, a legal business for when the Tongs go sour. Li Yong, still suspicious of the intentions of his boss and lover, says “We are warriors, not washers.”
It’s another nod to history. That old stereotype of the Chinese laundry comes from this period when Warrior is set. Racism drove Chinese immigrants into the laundry business. Laundry work was demanding manual labor prior to washing machines but was deemed unmanly by Westerners.
However, even this lowly avenue of employment was inevitably sullied by racial injustice. In 1880, San Francisco had some 320 laundries, two thirds of which were Chinese run. The city approved an ordinance that laundries in wooden buildings required a permit. No permits were granted to any Chinese. Only one non-Chinese owner was denied. Two years later, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed further oppressing the Chinese. This point in history has been looming large as an imminent threat in Warrior with several mentions of it from Buckley (Langely Kirkwood) and the Mayor (Christian McKay).
After buying out the laundry, Mai Ling and Ah Toy cross paths at a Kung Fu street demo. It’s the only Kung Fu in this episode. Kung Fu masters have worked as street buskers for centuries, so Warrior makes another solid historical nod.
However ironically, the demo is from a monk-like character clad in white robes doing a modern Wushu staff form. While the skyward shot of the monk doing a slow-motion barrel-roll framed by the Chinatown alley roofs is stylish, monks generally don’t wear white. A shaven pate implies that this is a Buddhist monk and their robes are traditionally saffron or grey. In Chinese culture, white is a funerary color.
To really nitpick the scene, modern Wushu didn’t exist back then. It’s modern. This is the style that Jet Li does, an acrobatic sport that China has been pushing to get into the Olympics. The earliest date for the creation of modern Wushu would be the founding of the People’s Republic of China in in 1949. Nevertheless, if that’s all the Kung Fu this episode is going to show, it just must be appreciated for what it is.
Mai Ling and Ah Toy have their own little showdown, a duel of fashion. Season 2 continues to amplify the costumes of both actresses. While everyone else is period, they’ve earned elaborate steampunk attire. It’s a Chinatown standoff and Mai Ling gets Ah Toy to bow to her. A Kung Fu duel might have been nice here but inappropriate to the storyline as Ah Toy is keeping her skills covert.
Back at the brothel, Nellie (Miranda Raison) visits Ah Toy to pick up one of the women to take to her vineyard sanctuary in Sonoma. She invites Ah Toy to visit on the next morning (presumably the next episode). In the days of Warrior, a trip to Sonoma would have taken a long time. Today, it’s a six-hour trip one-way by bike (the closest analog to the speed of a horse-drawn carriage on a maps app) and that’s using the Golden Gate Bridge.
However, the Golden Gate Bridge wasn’t open until 1937, decades after when Warrior is set. Without the bridges, a traveler from SF to Sonoma would have to take the long way around the bay. Even a ferry would take a long time. It’s more nitpicking but for anyone in the SF Bay Area, it sticks out as painfully inaccurate.
It’s Hard to Be a Cop in Chinatown
As the police arm up to take revenge on the Fung Hai after their attack on O’Hara’s home, Chao (Hoon Lee) cuts with a plan. He tells O’Hara that the Fung Hai is anticipating reprisal and have set a trap and that Zing is in hiding. Chao asks O’Hara to get the cops to stand down for two days so he can set up a counter trap. In exchange, Chao wants his stock of police-confiscated weapons returned. O’Hara complies.
This doesn’t go down well at City Hall where Buckley continues to stoke anti-Chinese sentiment. In a nod to today’s politics, the Mayor offers O’Hara his “thoughts and prayers” and respects O’Hara’s request for more time, despite Buckley’s protests. The Mayor calls him out on it and the two start to oppose each other politically.
Later, Lee visits Ah Toy’s place. He finds relief to his chronic pain in her opium den and Chao, watchful as always, spies this. Chao pulls Ah Toy to enlist her in his plan, taking Ah Toy’s sword to plant on Zing. This will implicate him as the swordsman murderer, removing any suspicion off Ah Toy and putting Zing on the run. It’s a promising plan for future episodes.
Sibling Rivalry Gets Explosive
Back at the mayoral mansion, Blake tries to pull the cable car contract from Mercer Steel. Historically, the cable cars were developed by several competing private companies so the mayoral office probably wouldn’t be holding those steel contracts, but that’s more nitpicking. Fortunately, Penny (Joanna Vanderham) lawyered up and informs her husband that the city is contractually bound to pay even more if they break the contract.
Penny’s bad night continues when she gets in it with her sister. After Sophie ditched Spencer, she hooked up with Leary for some Skinemax action.
Afterwards, Sophie sees Leary distributing soup for the hungry, and is swayed to his cause. She notices that Mercer Steel is not on Leary’s terrorist bombing target map. Leary says it’s because he knows Penny has hired protection, but Sophie hopes that it is for her sake. When Sophie returns to the mayoral mansion, she confronts Penny about hiring Chinese instead of Irish. Still fuming over her confrontation with Blake, she yells at Sophie pointing out how entitled she is.
Sophie runs to Leary and tells him about a secret tunnel into Mercer Steel. She leads Leary’s terrorist cell into the factory, but the Hop Wei discover them, and a fight ensues. It’s a dark warehouse fight, brutish and shadowy, but Leary and his squad are not Kung Fu fighters and the Hop Wei hatchet men are nameless thugs who are just there to die at the hands of the Irish.
It’s another disappointing fight scene, one that could be seen in any action show, not worthy of the Bruce Lee legacy. However, the mission is successful. Leary blows up Mercer Steel and Sophie goes home to Penny, wracked with guilt for what she has done. As a concluding scene, it sets up next episode where the repercussions will come to light.
The Way of the Dragon
Despite the lack of Kung Fu, this episode has one good nod to Bruce Lee. In an earlier scene, one of the hatchet men ridicules Hong for being homosexual as the Hop Wei Tong men have breakfast. Hong has plenty of witty comebacks, but Young Jun comes to his defense. He joins in with the chiding to get close to Hong’s unsuspecting detractor, and then slams his head into the table. The whole Tong jumps out of their chairs, but Ah Sahm checks them by wagging his finger. It’s a distinctively Bruce Lee gesture, just like what he did to the Mob Boss in The Way of the Dragon.
Warrior has been good about dropping such clever Easter eggs, subtle homages that only true Bruce fans notice. But if Warrior really wants to keep those fans happy, for the next episode, show more Kung Fu. Show more blood.