Kung Fu season 2 is here, and for our hero Nicky Shen, the looming other shoe just dropped. Meanwhile, her mortal enemy Zhilan is not thriving in prison. Read on for our review of “Year of the Tiger: Part 1.”
Subjectify listed Kung Fu season 2 as one of our most anticipated shows of 2022, and rather than a traditional recap, each week, Subjectify writers Natalie and Nicky will be discussing the new episode and the questions and theories it raises as a conversation. Before we get into the chat, here’s a little refresher about where Kung Fu left off at the end of its well-received first season.
Kung Fu is a present-day adaptation of the 1970s show of the same name starring David Carradine. The premise of the original is still a part of the reboot’s framework: a young person who studied at a Shaolin monastery in China returns to the United States in order to face up to some family drama, and they end up using their martial arts skills and sense of social justice to operate as a vigilante hero. The reboot was developed by Christina M. Kim, and Kim is joined by Supernatural EP Robert Berens as co-showrunner.
Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen leads a primarily Asian ensemble cast to tell the story of a heroine who, in season 1, had to balance solving a mythical mystery that led her straight to the woman who killed her Shaolin mentor with attempting to the repair the delicate family dynamic that was upset when she dropped out of college and ran away, all while doing what she can to help her community fight back against the organized crime threatening the Chinese-American San Francisco neighborhood that she grew up in.
In season 1 we watched Nicky reunite with her family after three years of estrangement after she ran away to a Shaolin monastery to escape a matchmaking trip planned by her mother. We followed along as she slowly learned about Biange, a powerful transformative energy, and how it was to be unleashed when eight mysterious weapons, in which the power is stored, are reunited. The weapons were passed down through generations amongst eight Guardian families, and the Guardians were charged with finding the Warrior families destined to wield each weapon.
Nicky’s own family heritage tied her closely to Biange, as the Warrior lineage bonded her to initial weapon she encountered, a sword. By the end of the season, the weapons were destroyed, the Biange energy was released back into the earth (the consequences of which are still unknown), Nicky had acquired a boyfriend and her family has united, with all of their many secrets out in the open (as far as we know!) and are all heading into season 2 ready to support Nicky as she continue to fight for justice in her community. Kung Fu season 1 is currently streaming on HBO Max.
The official synopsis of “Year of the Tiger: Part 1” reads:
FAMILY MATTERS — With the Lunar New Year around the corner, a more confident and grounded Nicky (Olivia Liang) finds herself in a great place in her relationship with Henry (Eddie Liu) and with her family. However, when a break-in at the Shen residence leaves her shaken, Nicky, with the help of Evan (Gavin Stenhouse), begins to suspect that Russell Tan (guest star Kee Chan) may be involved. Elsewhere, as Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan) and Jin (Tzi Ma) prepare for the New Year at Harmony Dumplings, Althea (Shannon Dang) begins to question whether she made the right decision re-entering the workforce. Finally, an unexpected visitor at the Shen’s New Year’s Eve dinner rocks the family to their core. Jon Prasida, Tony Chung, Vanessa Kai and Yvonne Chapman also star. Joe Menendez directed the episode written by Christina M. Kim & Robert Berens.
Read on for our reactions to Kung Fu season 2, episode 1 “Year of the Tiger: Part 1.”
‘Kung Fu’ season 2, episode 1 review in conversation
Natalie: Kung Fu season 2 is finally here! But before we get into the events of the season 2 premiere, let’s talk about what to potentially expect from the structure – or perhaps, what we expected before now? The season 1 finale had some new information revealed, some minor cliffhangers, to be sure, but ultimately the initial story of Nicky Shen coming into herself was quite neatly completed. The quest, the weapons all found, returning Biange to the Earth, Zhilan arrested, Nicky heading home for more family time and local vigilantism. Now, be ruthless – if Kung Fu had only gotten one season, would you have felt satisfied with where we said goodbye to the Shens?
Nichole: I think it felt like they worked hard to make it a satisfying ending just in case we did have to say goodbye to the Shens. It was almost too good, because in order to move on to season 2, they had to introduce some “surprise” plot points that left me a bit anxious about what their plan was.
Natalie: That’s true. Strictly story-wise, do you like it when shows do that? Do you appreciate it when each season ends with some closure and a sort of safe landing place (whether it’s literally safe or not, but story-safe) a potential “save point”?
Nichole: I think in this case I was pretty happy with the things that were wrapped up. I was glad the love triangle was sorted out, for one. I was glad to see Zhilan finally take an L. But I felt a little adrift by the fact that one interpretation of the way it ended was that Nicky was going back to ‘normal’. And that felt like a bit of a let down. Even though the door was left open that something was still different.
Natalie: I felt like the finale was very neat, and I agree with the reasoning. If that’s all we got, you can imagine Nicky going on with her life, presumably imbued by some new powers, but everyone’s alive, relatively safe, we know what the near future looks like. It would have worked for me, because if she’d struck out on a new path and we didn’t get to see it, I would have too many questions. I actually like both styles – Buffy did quite strictly chaptered seasons with a big bad and a finish point every year. Our old friend Supernatural, for example, always ended with a cliffhanger, the seasons all merged into one big story. Though, they often knew by their finales whether they were renewed or not. There are some shows that just got cut off in the worst places because they assumed they’d come back – or took the gamble, played a game of dare – and are just stuck, frustratingly, forever. But luckily, that isn’t a concern here for Kung Fu as they are back! I know exactly what you mean about the new information feeling shoehorned in. It isn’t that I don’t think they planned it, it’s just a consequence of trying to make the main story tight and complete (which it is.) I don’t know if I expected the initial quest to actually all get completed during the first season, but seeing as it did, the first big thing that can expect is the effect of Biange being loose in the world. A level of power being returned to the earth – what’s that going to affect? Biange is transformation, and the world needs it. Is this like the Force coming back?
There’s a secondary antagonist, Russell Tan, who will step up into the big bad shoes, it seems, and of course, the somewhat random but interesting existence of a cousin, who’s meant to be even more special than Nicky – allegedly the daughter of a warrior AND a guardian. The season 2 premiere certainly touches on all of these new stories in varying degrees. However, the first thing we see in the premiere is Nicky doing casual crime fighting back home in San Francisco, all while working for Harmony Dumplings. It’s six months later, and this seems routine. So my first question is: how do you feel about where Nicky is at when we see her again, and especially, how do you feel about the fact that everyone important to her knows about everything? The parents and all. The phone call with Mei-Li really reminded me that Kung Fu isn’t a show where the hero’s secret powers are an extra challenge as they lie to the people they love.
Nichole: I loved the idea of Nicky as a vigilante auntie garnering a reputation in the neighborhood. The fact that she was doing it while on a soup delivery made it all the more hysterical to me. There was a real sense that she’s happy and loose in a way we didn’t get to see in season 1. The crime fighting she’s doing doesn’t scare her or even make her break a sweat. I love the fact that everyone important to Nicky knows what is going on. Even the music they are dancing to pressed that theme. One of the lyrics was, “Baby, you’re not dancing on your own,” and I thought it was a really nice call back to Zhilan telling Nicky that her connections were her weakness, when they are obviously her strength. Big Scooby-gang vibes.
Natalie: I enjoyed her connection to the neighborhood shown by the recognition of one of the naughty boys. A good bit of ACAB intervention as well, if you don’t mind me saying so. Nicky Shen being ashamed of you is so much more effective. There’s a fair bit of exposition, with her voiceover and the gang’s meet-up chat (Althea has a new job and it isn’t perfect, Ryan is now officially a doctor and a slut) but we sort of know where everyone is, and it’s a solid and adorable group.
Nichole: Ryan being a slut is my favorite new development!
Natalie: I could have done without “sex-shaming.” Just say slut-shaming, the reclamation of the vulgarity is the point. But maybe you can’t say slut on the CW.
Nichole: During the dancing scene I definitely felt like we were getting the message, “Enjoy this because shit is about to go down.” Like, it’s been 6 months of mostly normal life for Nicky-hanging out with her boyfriend, her friends, her family, with just some light vigilante work on the side, and now it’s time for things to get real.
Natalie: I’m kind of sad we didn’t see Dennis getting told the truth about Nicky, but given that he’s in the know, I love his involvement in the later scenes. And then Evan’s back as well! And I’m still gunning for a threesome.
Nichole: I mean–when she dragged both boys on to the dance floor I was chanting “OT3! OT3!” I appreciate that Henry and Evan got a chance to bond last season and now can be friends without any weird macho bullshit.
Natalie: It’s complicated, but it also doesn’t have to be. I’m uncertain if Evan still loves Nicky. He does seem deeply dedicated to spending his time at work going over the cases she’s involved with, but it does seem to have legitimacy to it outside of personal bias. I’m not sure if his work friend is a potential romance, but they seem to be wrapped up in some corruption regardless, or rather, working against it. What do you want from Evan at this point?
Nichole: I like Evan as the best friend. Invested in Nicky, but because he loves her not because he’s still in love with her and that is the vibe that I’m getting from his character. He’s very justice oriented, so now that he is aware of these things because of Nicky, he’s not going to let them go. I’m very interested to see if he’s getting a love interest this season. Nadia is the obvious choice, but then we have a new contender as well, but I should probably wait to talk more about that.
Natalie: I kind of want him to go good guy dark, like Wesley on Angel. Which… potentially your love interest idea could help with? Evan sees a lot of action later in the episode, so there’s more to say about him. He certainly has a big role to play in Nicky’s life and in Kung Fu in general. Another slice of life moment – sort of a comedy moment – was a glimpse at Althea’s new job. Loungr. How did this environment make you feel?
Nichole: GIRL! I was ready to go to work at Loungr. Get me to the nap pod, STAT. I understand it’s not the right place for Althea, but please, god, someone give me permission to nap at work. I am curious if the job is going to play a big part in Althea’s arc this season or if it is just there to show us she’s dissatisfied professionally.
Natalie: So I have a theory or two about the job, but first of all: SAME. I have, like, no ambition. I would LOVE to land a job where the brief is like, keep up appearances and slack off. I would absolutely be totally fine with leaning into this environment. That’s why I need to give them kudos for the amount of white rage I felt when that boss lady was speaking. I would have happily murdered her with a ping pong paddle for Althea’s sake. There was SUCH a weird tension – maybe I wouldn’t do so well after all, if the people had such a careless attitude about life in general. Also 20% of users getting an error is massive, lol. But like, in theory, best case scenario? I would enjoy that opportunity. However. For Althea…. I have a few thoughts.
Nichole: I have to know your thoughts about the job!
Natalie: First of all, I do think this is to show us her drive and dissatisfaction. It could be that simple. She’s thrilled, later, to do some hacking. Maybe this is about her discovering her true calling doing some more sensitive work, in like, I don’t know… defense? Cybersecurity? For a good cause? Like something non-commercial, something really proactive as a career. A literal keyboard warrior. But. I was also like – what if that laissez faire attitude isn’t just a joke? Maybe the place is a front? Online money laundering? Something to do with the big bad. Or maybe it’s about Althea herself – she left her old job in a way that was not seen as good, broke her NDA and may have become a little unhireable or seen as a liability. Maybe the fact that she was placed here is somehow not innocent. I don’t know, but that’s what I’ve got so far.
Nichole: I would love to see it be something bigger like that. One of the things Kung Fu has done so well is to give us stakes for all of the characters, not just Nicky. That would be an interesting way to involve Althea from a different direction that just Nicky’s super-hacker.
Natalie: Speaking of secret sinister motives. I hate to say this. Sebastian?
Nichole: OH MY GOD. He’s too perfect, right? But before we go there, can we talk about the scene where Ryan first sees him and the camera caresses JB Tadena like a Beyonce video? I lost rational thought. The inside of my brain was just buzzing, “HOT BOY IN THE KITCHEN!” Maybe his flaw is simply that he is going to refuse to rail Ryan into next week.
Natalie: I ADORED him, and I hope it’s really just that simple. Just that this is how we meet Ryan’s new bae. But it’s very convenient! He’s sure done a lot of stuff! All over the world! What if he’s a plant from Russell Tan? OH, WHAT IF HE’S A PLANT BUT HE FALLS FOR RYAN ANYWAY AND CHANGES SIDES? With so much conflict at play – and with Russell Tan, it seems like systematic conflict – we need a good “dating the enemy/henchman turns good” arc on Kung Fu.
Nichole: Why did I not even think he might be a plant from Russell Tan? Now I can never un-think it. I was rooting for Kerwin/Zhilan bringing out the best in each other with the power of love, but that didn’t pan out so well. Maybe I’m getting a second chance with Ryan and Sebastian.
Natalie: I have questions about those two, our side baes. Do you want to talk about them now, or after the main San Francisco plot?
Nichole: Let’s save them.
Natalie: Okay, sure. We’ll keep an eye on Sebastian, I suppose. I don’t even know! I don’t think he was framed PARTICULARLY suspiciously – it isn’t one of those things where you’re meant to know that something shady is going on. But hmmmm.
Nichole: I agree, there was no reason to suspect him except that he was exactly what they needed, exactly when they needed it.
Natalie: Maybe we are just mean and bitter women with emotional problems.
Nichole: That seems like a possibility. Right away I was like, “Can I get attached to him? I don’t want this to end with me crying bitter tears over his betrayal.”
Natalie: The season 2 premiere all leads up to the family dinner on Lunar New Year – Nicky’s first at home in ages, it seems – but it packs a lot of somewhat chaotic action into the middle of the episode, as things escalate quite quickly! All of those new elements from the finale come into play – the first being Biange, it seems. We still don’t know what might occur because of it, what sort of mystical or supernatural things may pop up, if any, but we do know that Nicky is changed from it. She and Ryan have been monitoring her body and abilities, and she is even more of a superhero now. Do you like that?
Nichole: I do! I like a chosen one narrative and it’s hard to be the chosen one if you don’t have some kick behind it. I also loved Ryan being interested in it from a professional standpoint. How many doctors get to study a superhero? I’m still curious about which parts of her ability are her birthright and which are from her brush with Biange. It doesn’t sound like Ryan was monitoring her last season.
Natalie: No, he wasn’t. I guess it’s down to Nicky and what she knows about herself. But I’d say there’s definitely meant to have been a change. We haven’t seen any more extreme moves, flying jumps and stuff yet, but I’m sure it’s coming soon enough. As Henry and Nicky say, they have been waiting for the other shoe to drop, since finishing things in China. Whether that’s to do with her powers, or retaliation. And of course the other two things are connected. Russell Tan is very much our big bad, and the mysterious cousin is very much in town. Tan has Sasha, a sexy assassin, on the trail of the cousin, and the episode is slightly red-herringy about who exactly broke into the house, or who is after who. Maybe red herring isn’t the right word. It was obviously meant to be the cousin, who we later learn is called Mia, but Nicky and co spend time thinking it was Sasha? I guess we’re meant to know something they don’t, due to narrative devices.
Nichole: I actually really liked the fake out even though I knew we were being faked out. I think it was because Nicky also knew something didn’t feel right about it being Sasha, but was going along with the theory. I figured if Nicky could go along with it so could I. It made the reveal better somehow, even though I literally knew it was the cousin as soon as they fought. Do you think we’ll see more of Sasha? She seemed like a one-off to me.
Natalie: I’m not sure. If Mia wants revenge, maybe. I think it’s interesting that Nicky was going at it from the assumption that she was the target. She wasn’t. How do you feel about the idea Mia might be more “special” than her? Not that I think Nicky was arrogant to think she was the target or anything. It was just the wrong angle, as they say.
Nichole: The existence of the mystery cousin was my biggest worry post-finale. I’m not a huge fan of “Surprise, you’ve invested all your time in this hero, but we’ve got a spare!” The way Tan describes her as “the most special” also got on my nerves. Nicky is our hero, dammit. But, having actually met her, I feel more inclined to like her. It’s a little ridiculous for me to get mad that Mia might be more special than Nicky, but I did have some unkind feelings about it. Most of my fears were assuaged by the episode though. I think I’m excited for Nicky to explore their relationship now.
Natalie: I’m always pretty weak for like, a badly socialized weirdo, so I’m keen for that from Vanessa Yao now that we’ve met her.
Nichole: I keep describing her as a feral baby.
Natalie: Like, never been in society aside from being homeless in New York? I hope she’s super, super weird.
Nichole: Fingers crossed.
Natalie: You’ve got some feelings about her proper introduction at Evan’s Secret Subterfuge cabin. Talk me through your reaction to properly meeting Mia.
Nichole: Well, I think with Evan’s boss questioning his relationship with Nadia, I felt like Kung Fu was making sure we were thinking about his relationship status. Nadia, even last year, was a sort of obvious potential love-interest, but frankly, I don’t think there is much chemistry there and it feels purposeful. I fully believe those two could sell us on romance if that was in the cards, but there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to go there. Then BAM, Mia flys in and knocks him out and ties him up–it just had undeniable meet-cute vibes. He’s trying to be so rational and she’s smashing up his cabin. It’s certainly a memorable way to start a relationship. Basically, I know Mia is practically in larval state compared to Evan, so it’s a little weird, but it would help tie Evan more securely into the family. I don’t even know if I’m for it – it just jumped out at me in a way I was not expecting.
Natalie: That’s fair. I’m not anti age-gap, they’re probably both in their twenties? But Mia is so unsocialised that it’s hard to even compare it to anything. It also may throw up complicated possessive feelings for Nicky. Would you enjoy that drama?
Nichole: I really don’t enjoy love triangle plots in general and the only reason I liked the Henry/Evan/Nicky plot last season was because Henry and Evan were both so emotionally mature that they knew better to fight over Nicky like it was somehow their decision who she ended up with. So, no, I wouldn’t enjoy a drawn out jealousy storyline for Nicky, but I wouldn’t mind her taking a minute to be like, “Okay, this feels weird.” I think that would be a natural reaction, but one I’d want to see her rise above. I was also pretty anti Nicky + romance last season, so it is very weird that the minute we were introduced to Mia I was like “Is this a love-interest.” Extremely out of character for me.
Natalie: I have to say that didn’t occur to me at all. I didn’t see the Evan/Mia idea automatically!
Nichole: I could be way off base!
Natalie: But I have enjoyed the whole feral creature learning to person in many other guises before, so why not? She does seem quite polite and all. I mean, raised off the grid, but by a very self possessed woman obviously. The one thing I was a bit confused about is that Duke, the guy on the phone, the guy the gang met… Do you think he is meant to have known about Mia? How long did he know Mei-Xue? He’s not her father, is he? Basically: who’s the daddy? He’s meant to be a guardian. Someone back in China?
Nichole: I feel like Duke should have known about her, but didn’t seem to. Maybe he met Mei-Xue after Mia ran away. I was trying to remember if we were supposed to know who the dad is and I don’t think we’ve gotten any hints. Could it be Tan?
Natalie: It’s not impossible. I would prefer that she was related to the lovely dead Simon Lau. But we have seven other warrior families and 8 guardian families to potentially meet some day.
Nichole: Yeah, it doesn’t feel quite right on a gut level, but it might explain why he knows so much and is so obsessed. Poor dead Simon Lau. I loved him. That one hurt.
Natalie: Tan would be very neat, and bring everyone even closer, but I don’t think so. And yes, Simon’s death was truly incredible. Like, it sucked, but it was a great episode that truly made the stakes feel high. Great character, very impactful for one episode.
Nichole: Hard agree. We’re also supposed to be meeting Tan’s daughter this season too, so it would be a bit much if Mia was also his daughter.
Natalie: I’m not sure if the Tans are even guardians, but I may be mistaken. Or not known to be? Otherwise Kerwin and Zhilan would have bonded more as equals and not her being the sexy spiritual boss of him.
Nichole: “Sexy spiritual boss of him” – yes. I don’t think the Tans are known to be attached, but I can’t remember how Russell Tan found out about the weapons.
Natalie: Either way, everyone seems happy to have Mia in the inner circle, and she seems happy enough about it too. I’m keen for conversations between her and Mei-Li. That could also be an interesting sort of jealousy element or interpersonal conflict – Mama connecting to her niece and bonding over her sister – a place where her own daughters can’t connect. I don’t know why I am so fixated on jealousy. But I assume there will be bumps.
Nichole: That ties into something I thought might have some significance, which is at the end Mei-Li telling Nicky she has to protect Mia no matter what. It was said and received in a very “of course” way, but it could come back to haunt Nicky at some point when choices have to be made.
Natalie: Yes, and that could mean a lot of things, but it actually ties nicely into a small point I wanted to raise: guns. Evan shooting the tires out with a rifle? Sexy
Nichole: SEXY. Nicky handing him the gun. Very good.
Natalie: But Nicky pulls a gun on Sasha, and both the boys are like GASP. NICKY. to see it. and she doesnt like it either, and hands the pistol to evan too.
Nichole: I loved that.
Natalie: It isn’t her style of violence, and it was very different to see Evan with a gun than Nicky
Nichole: I loved that she was willing to point the gun at her, but didn’t like it. And I loved the acting in the moment of her handing the gun over. It was subtle but so good.
Natalie: So I wonder if Nicky will have to do some sort of level of violence she isn’t comfortable with, if it was foreshadowing
Nichole: Interesting. That definitely hadn’t occurred to me, but it does feel right.
Natalie: I don’t particularly want her like, severely traumatized by a cold blooded killing or something, but I wonder if she might be put into a tight spot.
Nichole: That feels like it has a lot of potential.
Natalie: I’m not sure if her fights are meant to have killed anyone yet. Do you know?
Nichole: I don’t think we have seen her kill anyone for sure. Just a lot of unconscious people.
Natalie: That seems right. Obviously, several other stars of Kung Fu have very much killed people. Speaking of those hotties, it looks like Kerwin and Zhilan are both sticking around and it looks like we’re meant to feel a little sorry for both of them. Are you glad we are keeping them?
Nichole: I’m thrilled! Yvonne Chapman can absolutely do it all and I would have been heartbroken if Zhilan’s story were over. Last season, I desperately wanted a redemption arc for her, but seeing her so meek is actually surprisingly upsetting. Zhilan was so terrible to Kerwin when I think he genuinely loved her. It was such a betrayal. It makes me wonder if Zhilan is going to get better (less evil), but Kerwin is going to get worse.
Natalie: She did claim to be in love with him as well, but I guess let’s handle him first. What we see of Kerwin isn’t too much. He’s alive, has been on life support and moved back to the USA. His dad is keeping him, and the most we see is him angry and addled, waking up. He doesn’t seem to be happy to be stuck with his father. In fact, he seems furious. We don’t have much to go on yet, but I was wondering if you think he will be a rogue agent in all of this – against EVERYONE. Or whether he will still want to be with Zhilan, or what? His path seems unpredictable to me.
Nichole: I don’t know! I think off the heels of Zhilan’s betrayal, he might find himself more inclined to cooperate with his father, at least in the short-term, but I can’t see him just falling neatly in line all season. Will he be bent on revenge against Zhilan or does he still love her or both? They had such fiery chemistry that I can’t wait for them to meet again even if it is as enemies.
Natalie: Kerwin is not someone so far who has seemed to have any inherent moral compass, only emotional loyalty. He really hates Daddy, and I’m keen to see if that outweighs the feeling of potential betrayal from having his throat cut. I’d also kind of be into it if he was like it would take more than you cutting my throat to get rid of me, and still be crazy about her. Either way, it would have been easy to dispose of him, actually kill him, in season 1. So they must have a pretty solid plan for him if they kept the actor around. There will be a point to all this for him, I guess!
Nichole: I hope so. I have a feeling Zhilan is really going to be going through it this season and Kerwin is one of the few people she betrayed who is still around to make her feel terrible.
Natalie: Though if he wants to take down his father and Zhilan, that could put him on NICKY’S side also.
Nichole: I think Zhilan is going to be an uneasy ally with Nicky!
Natalie: Well, me too, but that’s the big question. You wanted Zhilan to have a redemption arc, and so do I, I suppose. TV is good at sweeping things under the rug though, like softening and redeeming characters who, in real life, have done absolutely unforgivable things. Often it happens with supernatural or magical people, like vampires and demons. The scope of their murdery crimes sort of all fades into the background and you might end up loving them and hand waving the past. It’s the way of media – redemption arcs that do work on screen but won’t fly in real life. But Zhilan is just a young woman who has done some truly, truly bad cold blooded murders. How do you feel about TV redemption for characters who have done, in full awareness of their actions, really quite evil things? On a wider scale.
Nichole: I am not normally into redemption arcs for people who have proven over and over again that they are knowingly making evil decisions with no remorse. I don’t know why I have such a soft spot for Zhilan, who was given opportunity after opportunity to change last season and clearly refused. While they did lay some good childhood trauma groundwork for me to latch onto, in the end I probably have to admit that my main reason is that Yvonne is ridiculously charismatic and I love her. I’m not proud to be a hypocrite, but here we are.
Natalie: It made me sad to see her without her nice clothes, so I want to see her out of prison just for that. But she’s not having a good time at all. She is, as you said, meek. Being kept in solitary and other prisoners acting like that’s a privilege (and maybe it is, or maybe it really is about the threat level.) She stands out as different, literally, her outfit is yellow – not a standard prisoner. But even the guards are in the pocket of the prison’s gang leader. How did it feel to see Z bullied by a bunch of inmates?
Nichole: It felt terrible! The moment she grabbed that bully’s wrist, I thought, “Yes, here we go!” and then she just dropped it. Girl, you can commit a little violence as a treat. But for real, it was unsettling to see her looking truly repentant in the way I was dying for last season, but for it to feel so bad to watch. I either wanted to grab her out of prison and put her in my pocket or watch her go on a wild killing spree to escape jail.
Natalie: Her role in the scope of the weapons, even though they’re gone now, or the connection to Biange, or merely her family legacy, still means a lot to her. She still wore her guardian necklace proudly and now they’ve gone and stolen it!
Nichole: BULLIES! I was so mad. Can’t this serial murderer have one good thing?
Natalie: She can have a ghost sister. Is that a good thing?
Nichole: Pei-Ling my beloved. Anything that gets us more Pei-Ling is a positive plot development in my book. Literally the first time she was on screen, I was like, “Oh no, I have a crush,” and that feeling has not abated. I like that we are getting to see her interact with someone besides Nicky from the beyond. The how and why of it is still a mystery and I’d love to get some clarity on that.
Natalie: Now, I don’t know if Biange has done something to strengthen the spirit connection or what, but Pei-Ling in the finale, when she saw Nicky, felt much more… real. Not like an echo or memory. In season 1, when we saw Pei-Ling, she didn’t give Nicky new information. She was just in Nicky’s imagination, I think – like a source of comfort. I don’t think she was really there, or that it was her own consciousness. Just a device to keep her memory close to Nicky. The finale was different though. And now.. This…. Ultimately, is she real? An independent consciousness? Or is this Zhilan, doing the work for herself to face up to her past?
Nichole: I agree that the finale felt different. Maybe she’ll continue to get more real, until she’s real enough to be back among the living. That would fulfill number one on my impractical Kung Fu wishlist.
Natalie: Whether this is a real Pei-Ling or a figment of Zhilan may affect how I feel about Zhilan’s redemption. Not because she might be ‘alive’ again, therefore fixing one of Zhilan’s crimes, but more what it means for Zhilan’s mind. If she is a figment, it’s going to be interesting to compare like, now NickyPei treated Nicky- the way Nicky portrayed her to herself… and the way ZhiPei will treat Zhilan. Like if it is actually Zhilan doing it to herself, if that makes sense. Either way, I feel there’s a difference between Pei-Ling being real and forcing Zhi to come to terms with things, or Zhilan’s consciousness being the driving factor of her facing up. I’m not sure one is worse or better or more interesting, but the two options come from sort of different places, and mean different things to me. I hope Kung Fu season 2 makes it clear which one it is- real ghost Pei or Zhi’s imagination.
Nichole: On the one hand, I think it is psychologically interesting to have her be a manifestation of Zhilan’s remorse, but on the other hand, I like the magical element and the potential that she is real in some way. Also, will Nicky keep seeing her as well? Is there potential for them both to see her at the same time? Not if she’s a manifestation of Zhilan’s psyche, obviously, but if she’s not.
Natalie: If she IS a manifestation to both, we might see two Pei-Lings who act very differently based on the way each woman sees her and remembers her.
Nichole: That is breaking my brain a bit to think about.
Natalie: Could be interesting for Vanessa Kai to play as well.
Nichole: She already had a different vibe with Zhilan than she did last season with Nicky. A bit more stern, if still kind.
Natalie: Well, maybe we are overthinking that. Maybe it will become clear as to what her deal is soon. But either way, she’s here because it’s time for Zhi to go through some sort of process to come to terms with what she’s done. She’s ready, apparently. I have no idea what this will look like. If this is “real,” like magically real, it could involve some mental journeys, maybe, like going to a place in her mind and having her redemption quest internally? Or this could be the start of an action filled real journey
Nichole: How is she getting out of prison, though, is my real question.
Natalie: Hmmmmm. I do think she will have to lay the smack down. Do you think she will be resistant to the Pei-Ling process? Her sister came to her at this low point and does seem to want to help her heal. Maybe the whole thing will be like tut tut, no killing, sister! Simply killing them is easy and wrong. Figure something else out. And Zhi being all frustrated like groan… but this is so much faster..
Nichole: I think she’ll be resistant because she’s obviously afraid of the depth of her feelings. Will she break out because she finds out what is up with Russel Tan?
Natalie: I have no idea how she would get that news. This is why I’m like “Maybe Kerwin is coming running back to her.” Or maybe, thanks to Biange, she and Nicky have a psychic bond now.
Nichole: Or, is it possible Nicky might need something from her?
Natalie: Nicky will love that. Reluctantly tied to Zhilan, either magically or not.
Nichole: I certainly don’t hate it.
Natalie: Speaking back to that whole redemption thing, even if we as the audience are being asked to pity her, can you see/would you want Nicky and her to ever be close? I feel like I could see Pei-Ling trying to put them in a get along shirt and Nicky being like but she killed you!
Nichole: Yes. Absolutely. They have the potential for such a deep connection. I know it is asking a lot for Nicky to forgive her, but I think the journey to get there would be amazing. Zhilan was essentially family-less and Nicky is family personified. Zhilan needs the acceptance of family and Nicky needs more people who understand her history.
Natalie: It will be interesting to see how that goes and how long it potentially might take. Kung Fu has a lot of characters to serve, and the season 2 premiere packed a lot in. Were there any other particular moments you wanted to discuss or highlight?
Nichole: I think we’ve touched on everything I had in my notes. Except that I LOVED Althea and Dennis calling each other Pebbles and Bam Bam. They are just so delightful.
Natalie: That was very cute. I’m keen to see what happens with Dennis as he’s brought into the fold. Though I’m perfectly fine with a supportive himbo hubby as well.
Nichole: I remember last season I was also worried he was too perfect. Maybe I can relax about Sebastian since Dennis just turned out to be really a sweet, supportive himbo.
Natalie: Wow, you suspected Dennis??
Nichole: He just seemed too perfect! I obviously have a problem.
Natalie: You have trust issues. I did not suspect Dennis at any point, lol. May I remind you of the costumed DnD?
Nichole: It was pre-DnD. I got over it pretty quickly.
Natalie: Alright. Well, we shall let Dennis himbo in peace.
Now, for this episode, give me your favorite scene and favorite quote.
Nichole: The Ryan-Sebastian meet cute was my favorite scene. The way the camera just ate JB Tadena up! I love Ryan so much and I’m so proud of him for getting his freak on. He deserves it. Mei-Li just completely missing Ryan’s blatant ogling of her potential employee and then chiding, “What? You’re not even athletic.” RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE CUTE BOY. Mama, no! It just tickled me in all the right ways. My favorite quote was probably from Mei-Li at the end of the episode, when she was telling Nicky that Mia was family and that she had to protect her. It just felt big and important and like it is probably a theme for the season. Your turn!
Natalie: So despite suspicions, my favorite scene was also Sebastian. It was the interview with Mei-Li when she just longsufferingly hands him the daikon and is like “What’s this?” I think Mei-Li is my favorite character now. In the last couple of episodes of s1, post the discovery of her sister’s cabin i think. Since she stopped fighting Nicky, and stood up to her own mother. Kheng has been great all through, acting wise, but she started out a little adversarial. Now, I just adore her and find her so funny. So that interview about the daikon and Sebastian’s patience and the way he handled being put on the spot. The way he exceeded expectations is still suspicious though!
Nichole: I think it’s interesting that Sebastian was in both of our favorite scenes. I have such high hopes for him!
Natalie: My favorite quote was a one liner near the start, when Evan is reporting back on his digging — “Just ordinary billionaire shady.”
Nichole: Yes. So good. The delivery was also hysterical.
Natalie: Also “Who are you?” “That’s kind of a deep question.”
Nichole: I actually love Evan so much more than I expected to before season 1 started.
Natalie: I think he’s pretty fantastic. They’re making him work hard to be worth his weight and he is really great.
Nichole: He really is.
Natalie: Well, that’s about it. Any predictions for next week?
Nichole: I don’t know if I have any predictions, just hopes. I am dying for Zhilan to get out of prison. I want Mia and Mei-Li to get to know each other. I’d love for Nicky to have a vision of Pei-Ling. I don’t know. Everything is just wide-open potential at this point!
Natalie: All good! This is a two-parter — “Year of the Tiger: Part 1” and “Year of the Tiger: Part 2”, so I can expect some of the big questions to be answered immediately, I think, landed in the two parter, rather than being a season long thing. I’m just not sure which ones! Until next week, I suppose!
Nichole: I can’t wait!