This Warrior review contains spoilers.
Warrior Season 2 Episode 5
The episode opens with Li Yong (Joe Taslim) doing some shirtless Kung Fu but the scene is too short to determine what style he is doing. Perhaps it’s something just made up for Warrior. Taslim’s background is in in Judo, not Kung Fu, but that doesn’t matter. He looks great doing whatever he’s doing and it’s a promising opening for this episode.
The previous two episodes lacked enough Kung Fu to satisfy dedicated Bruce Lee fans. Fortunately, this episode makes up for that and then some. It’s the strongest episode in Season 2 so far, both dramatically and choreographically.
It’s a rough one for Penny (Joanna Vanderham) as her world collapses. As she inspects the devastation of Mercer Steel after Leary’s (Dean Jagger) terrorist bombing, she asks Jacob (Kenneth Fok) “What is that terrible smell?” It’s a line that betrays naivete about opium. Opium is derived from poppy seed pod sap and it has a distinctive floral smell like fine perfume. Warrior can be forgiven for the oversight because its exceedingly rare to find opium on the streets anymore. Nowadays, it’s much more profitable to synthesize it into pharmaceutical opiates or heroin.
Nevertheless, Penny’s comment allows Jacob to reveal that the offensive odor is opium, exposing Ah Sahm’s (Andrew Koji) deception. The betrayal cuts deep and later, when Ah Sahm comes to survey the damage for himself, Penny threatens to scream, knowing full well that it would be the end of Ah Sahm because of racial profiling. Their relationship has soured tragically since their affair in Season 1. Later, the Mayor (Christian McKay) inspects the damage too. He’s lawyered up and lets Penny know that late delivery negates the Cable Car contract. Penny begs the Mayor, but he says he’ll be happy to see her at home.
In more opium developments, Lee (Tom Weston-Jones) stumbles into SFPD looking awful after his first puffs of opium, just as O’Hara (Kieran Bew) and the force prepare to take revenge on the Fung Hai for the raid on his home. O’Hara orders Lee to be straight for the raid that night. Meanwhile, Flannagan (David Butler) pays a visit to Leary, implying that he knows Leary is behind the bombings. He tells him to stop but Leary stands his ground, reversing blame to the politicians who drove his people to such desperate measures.
Warrior Wine and Women
Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng) visits Nellie’s (Miranda Raison) Sonoma winery (a journey which would take days to get to from Chinatown without the Bay bridges, none of which were erected at the time when Warrior is set). Nevertheless, it’s a pleasant break from the oppressive ghetto sets of Warrior’s Chinatown. Seeing the beautiful refuge that Nellie has built, Ah Toy gets misty, remembering her grandmother growing tomatoes.
This, like the bridges, is historically awkward because tomatoes are a New World crop. They came into China a little over a century ago. Warrior is set around a century and a half ago, so while it is possible that Ah Toy’s grandmother farmed tomatoes in China at that time, it’s unlikely. Nellie finds Ah Toy who escaped to the cask room. She gives her a taste of her wine, makes her move and they start snogging. Wait…what? It’s a great ‘didn’t see that one coming’ moment for Warrior, exactly the sort of soap operatic twist that makes for good TV. Where this might lead is anyone’s guess.
The Raid Redemption
Chao’s (Hoon Lee) plan to set up Zing (Dustin Nguyen) and the Fung Hai comes to pass and it’s a delicious bit of ultraviolence. With the SFPD waiting for his signal outside, Chao delivers Zing’s blades as promised, with two of Chao’s delivery men being Long Zii in disguise. One is Li Yong. Zing gets suspicious when Chao refuses to be overpaid, and his men restrain Chao and force him to drink mare’s milk. Meanwhile, the Long Zii men kill some Fung Hai so Li Yong can plant Ah Toy’s sword. But the bodies are discovered, and the gig is up. Unleash the mayhem. Li Yong starts methodically taking out Fung Hai men on a staircase. All bloody hell breaks loose with lots of stabbing through the head and a brutal eye gouge.
Chao, who has been suffering a beating at the hands of the Fung Hai, has something up his sleeve. It’s the James West style Wild Wild West sleeve derringer mechanism he showed off way back in Episode 4 “The White Mountain” Why the Fung Hai didn’t feel those when they were holding down Chao’s arms is anyone’s guess but it delivers a great kill line when Chao reveals that he has not just one, but two, one up each sleeve. The gunshots signal the cops and they come charging in, guns blazing. The Fung Hai attempt to beat them back with long knives and arrows, but they’re no match for O’Hara’s shotgun, Lee’s revolver, and the rest of the SFPD’s firepower.
Then it happens – the fight that martial arts fans have been eagerly awaiting – Li Yong versus Zing.
Nguyen and Taslim are the two most prominent martial arts stars on the show. Nguyen had made it as an actor long before he showed off his martial talent. Ironically, his first martial role was in a Levi’s commercial where he spoofed Bruce Lee. Since then, he starred in some groundbreaking Vietnamese martial arts films like The Rebel and Once Upon a Time in Vietnam (which he also wrote and directed) as well as Justin Lin’s hilarious Finishing the Game where he played an actor aspiring to replace Bruce Lee and finish Game of Death.
Taslim exploded into the martial arts movie genre with The Raid: Redemption and has delivered another great fight film in The Night Comes for Us. He’ll be starring in the upcoming reboot of Mortal Kombat. But despite Nguyen’s previous experience as a Bruce Lee clone, it’s Taslim who does the Chinese boxing shuffle in a nod to the Little Dragon in their match up.
And the duel is worth the wait.
Nguyen and Taslim know how to sell punches and they create a vicious showdown the likes of which is seldom seen on TV. Props must be given to the Second Unit director Brett Chan and his team for choreographing a dynamic and satisfying fight between these two titans of the martial arts. This is one of the best fight scenes that Warrior has delivered so far. There’s also a nice call back to Episode 3 when Li Yong drops the line “Be thankful for your pain. It means you’re still alive.”
O’Hara shoots Zing in the shoulder to disarm him as he wields Ah Toy’s sword. He covertly plants a murder victim’s watch, arousing some suspicion from Lee. But the trap is sprung. Zing is busted the bloody sword in his red hand. Chao’s plan seems to have worked. Later Chao takes his daughter Hannah (Selena Teles-Fernandes) from her prostitute mom and delivers her to Nellie. His near-death experience at the hands of the Fung Hai made him rethink his life. He realizes that his daughter looks white enough to have a chance. Nellie promises to find her a good home.
Back at the Hop Wei, Young Jun is freaking out about the lost opium and Ah Sahm is desperately looking for some way to replenish their supply. Hong pledges his allegiance to them both after cleverly discerning what the issue is through some observation and deduction. The three drink over it in a promising union for future episodes. Ah Sahm goes to Ah Toy for a loan and reveals his plans for the future of the Hop Wei. Ah Toy rejects him and tells him not to meddle anymore.
The episode ends back in the Barbary Coast Fight Pit where Ah Sahm is beating down a dreadlocked fighter in dramatic slow motion during the rain. It’s an homage shot to The Grandmaster which opened with a slow-motion rain fight that so many shows have emulated since. After the fight, Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) shows up and tries to reconcile with Ah Sahm. She’s still upset about catching Li Yong patching himself up after fighting Zing and realizing that he moved without her consent. However, Ah Sahm is still angry about when Mai Ling ordered his death, so he promises to destroy everything his sister has done. She leaves in tears.
And to think, the whole reason Ah Sahm came to America was to find his sister. Ah Sahm and Mai Ling have the worse sibling rivalry ever.
After Mai Ling leaves, Vega (Maria-Elena Laas) wonders if she’s Ah Sahm’s lover. Ah Sahm brushes her off but then remembers her offer for a bigger fight purse in some international fight arena. Could this be the solution to redeem the lost opium? It’s a promise of more ultraviolence in an upcoming episode. We can only hope.