This Warrior review contains spoilers.
Warrior Season 2 Episode 7
This episode picks up right where the last one left off – Young Jun (Jason Tobin), Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji), and Hong (Chen Tang) return from their successful mission to face Father Jun’s (Perry Young) wrath.
The Jun father-son relationship has been trying since the beginning, and it comes to a head when Father Jun blackballs his son from the Hop Wei with a ritual to ‘burn’ him out. Hop Wei members show their loyalty with branded forearms, so Father Jun burns out Young Jun’s brand with what appears to be the flat side of red-hot sword tip.
It’s a brutal ritual and bothersome to anyone who knows swords. No one ever does this. Swords are heat treated so getting one red hot like that would spoil the temper of the blade. In Warrior’s defense, all we get is the tip so it might not be a sword at all. Maybe it’s a special sword-tip-shaped branding iron just for burning out blackballed members of the Hop Wei Tong.
Nevertheless, the ritual leaves Father Jun feeling unsatisfied, so he orders the Hop Wei to kill the threesome. But Ah Sahm says his piece in defense of Young Jun’s actions and sways the tong to their side. They all stand down as Young Jun tells his father that “We are honoring your long years of leadership and celebrating your retirement,” and then takes the chair as the head of the Hop Wei. It’s a significant role change, something we’ve been waiting for since Warrior began.
Later the Juns have a heart to heart. Father Jun tells his son to kill him because that’s the way power is transferred in the tong, and even offers to do it himself, implying again the Young Jun is too wimpy. But he refuses patricide, claiming he wants to keep his father’s wisdom. Instead, he puts him under constant guard, which is good because Father Jun is too interesting of a character to kill off just yet.
Prostitutes, Cops, Politicians and the Weapon Dealer
Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng) and Nellie (Miranda Raison) get it on in Ah Toy’s bordello, and the irony of their tryst location isn’t lost on either of them. In a moment of post-coital bliss, Ah Toy opens up to Nellie, revealing her tragic backstory. Her husband was a silk vendor who was murdered on the boat when they were travelling to America, forcing Ah Toy to become the captain’s concubine to save herself from being passed around by the whole ship’s crew. She confides in Nellie that she has 200 hectares of land outside of Chinatown but because she’s Chinese, she’s had to hide her ownership using her token white real estate partner, Patterson (Frank Rautenbach). Nellie suggests that she take over as Ah Toy’s Caucasian partner and shares her frustration with one particularly nasty group of sex traffickers who run a sadistic rival brothel. Ah Toy asks Nellie to show her where they are on a map.
In court, O’Hara (Kieran Bew) testifies against Zing (Dustin Nguyen). Zing is sentenced to be hanged at San Quentin. San Quentin is California’s oldest prison, established in 1852. It lies north of San Francisco, only 20 miles away by the Golden Gate bridge, but much farther in the time that Warrior is set because the bridge didn’t open until 1937. Nevertheless, it’s a timely and appropriate reference. Although Warrior is fictional, it reverently references a tumultuous time in American history with ample liberties taken.
After the trial, Leary (Dean Jagger) corners O’Hara and calls him out on rumors he’s heard about him working for Zing, but O’Hara covers quickly by saying that it was a ruse so he could get closer to his target. Later, Mayor Blake (Christian McKay) honors O’Hara and the Chinatown police squad for catching the swordsman. After that, it’s Buckley’s (Langley Kirkwood) turn to corner Leary after the speeches. Knowing Leary has the Irish vote, he tries to sway him into politics.
Leary returns to the Banshee and boxes some poor bloke in the back alley. Sophie (Celine Buckens) shows up and breaks Leary’s focus, so his opponent connects with some good punches. But Leary gathers his composure and knocks his opponent out, then runs to Sophie. She regrets the Mercer bombing. Leary mentions his chat with Buckley, and Sophie also encourages him into politics because she realizes he has the Irish vote too.
Ah Sahm places an order for a lot hatchets and other weapons with Chao (Hoon Lee). Chao comments on Young Jun usurping the Hop Wei, insinuating that Ah Sahm had a bigger hand in it that he claims. After noticing Chao’s injuries, Ah Sahm counters by implying Chao had a hand in Zing’s bust, knowing full well it was all a set up. Ah Toy is the real swordswoman and Ah Sahm joined her for some of the revenge murders. Chao dodges the question like always, claiming his father said, “Wait by the river and the bodies will come floating by.” Ah Sahm retorts by saying Sun Tzu said this but this is a common mistake.
The real quote comes from a mistranslation of Confucius. While observing a river, Confucius said “Time is like this, no matter day or night.” However, the characters he used for “time” can also mean ‘corpse’ and over time, the translation became misconstrued in English. Whether that mistranslation goes as far back as the period when Warrior is set is unknown, but the quote is bandied about in martial circles for years and is commonly attributed to Sun Tzu or as some samurai wisdom.
Slicing Up Sex Traffickers
Ah Toy and Lai (Jenny Umbhau) raid a dirty brothel where the girls are kept in a dungeon filled ankle-deep water. It’s one of those sets that looks cool but is too absurd. Why would you keep prostitutes in standing water? Not only would that be a petri dish for disease in an already unhealthy environment, given San Francisco weather, there’s no way that would be anything but freezing cold.
Nevertheless, it’s the big dose of Kung Fu for this episode so we won’t quibble. It’s a lot of shadowing sword play where both Ah Toy and Lai get to shine as they slice and dice the sex traffickers. Much of it is shot from a bird’s eye view, giving an artsy angle to a very carnal and sanguineous battle. Lai tortures one of the traffickers before killing him which gives Ah Toy pause.
Later, Ah Toy visits Nellie’s winery refuge to deliver the women she and Lai rescued. She leaves Lai there too. It’s a major bummer. This better not be the end of Lai. Umbhau is a talented martial artist and brings some much-needed genuine Kung Fu action to Warrior. Hopefully, this won’t be her final appearance in the show, but the scene has the feeling as if she’s being written out for a few episodes.
The next day, O’Hara and his squad find the bodies and realize it’s death by sword. The cop that was first on the scene offers to keep his mouth shut if O’Hara recommends him for a promotion. O’Hara consents and he and his men clean the mess up and hide the evidence that would blow their framing of Zing. But Lee (Tom Weston-Jones) has his suspicions too. When he returns the incriminating stolen watch that O’Hara planted on Zing to Timmon’s widow (Michelle Douglas), she reveals that O’Hara had been there before the raid. Lee realizes that O’Hara poached the watch.
After Ah Toy tells Patterson that she’s transferring ownership of her properties, he goes to confess to a Priest (Lawrence Joffe). But the Priest is dirty. He takes an offering from Patterson through the confessional window, revealing that his hand is conspicuously missing a finger. The Priest sends Patterson to a slaughterhouse to meet two brutish butchers who are now presumably hired to exact revenge for Patterson. The death of Ah Toy would transfer her properties to him, and he’s already used them for investment collateral. Butcher hitmen sound very promising.
The Body Comes Floating By
Mayor Blake is called out in a Gentleman’s Club by Merriweather (Andre Jacobs) about Penny’s (Joanna Vanderham) use of Chinese labor. He is caught unaware that Penny had approached Merriweather earlier about a deal for Mercer Steel. Mercer is supplying steel for Merriweather’s buildings. The Panic of ’73 is brought up which places the time period of Warrior within the early years of the Great Depression. Blake’s loss of face at the club sets up an unbelievably bad night for Penny.
Leary walks Sophie near to home and before they part, Penny sees them together. When Sophie comes in, she and Penny argue and Penny kicks her out of the house. Then Blake comes home drunk and starts fighting with Penny about the Merriweather deal. He claims it will jeopardize his plans to become governor. Penny tells him to divorce her. Their fight gets physical. Sophie rushes to defend her sister but both women are overpowered by Blake. Straddling Penny, Blake starts choking her out.
This was oddly foreshadowed in this episode by an earlier sex scene where Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) plays some dominance strangulation games with Li Yong (Joe Taslim). As Penny starts to lose consciousness, she is rescued by Jacob (Kenneth Fok), who strikes Blake in the back of the head with a fire iron. With a good chunk of his skull taken out, the Mayor looks dead. It’s a grisly end to a despicable politician, but one well deserved, and the survivors are left to clean up the mess.