Kung Fu season 2, episode 10 had the fraught job of landing last week’s shocking cliffhanger. With Ryan fighting for his life, Nicky struggles with the guilt of putting her family in danger. The crisis tests Nicky’s support system and her dedication to her legacy. Read on for our review of “Destruction.”
Kung Fu season 2, episode 10 required a box of tissues to traverse. We got to live a bit with each Shen and watch the different ways their grief and anxiety played out over the course of the episode. Nicky’s isolation from her family (and briefly, Henry) was brutal and Olivia Liang did a fantastic job of making us feel her pain — whether or not we felt her culpability for the crisis. Last week, we demanded to see Sebastian tears in the upcoming episode, and we were not disappointed.
Sebastian’s emotional reaction to finding Ryan and his heartfelt confession put JB Tadena in a well-deserved spotlight and we are now looking forward to Sebastian’s new role as Mei-Li’s favorite child. Meanwhile Zhilan and Mia bonded in ways only two badly socialized weirdos can. The episode was emotional, start to finish, but was a good reset for the Shen family before they face down the final three episodes of the season together. Also, we think we might have finally cracked what Russell Tan is actually gunning for.
The official synopsis of “Destruction” reads:
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES — Nicky (Olivia Liang) is left reeling after a secret she’s kept hidden from her family leads to some tragic consequences. Meanwhile, Mia (guest star Vanessa Yao) teams up with an unexpected ally, and Nicky and Henry (Eddie Liu) find themselves at a crossroads in their relationship. Tzi Ma, Kheng Hua Tan, Shannon Dang, Jon Prasida, Gavin Stenhouse, Yvonne Chapman, Vanessa Kai and Tony Chung also star. Jeff Chan directed the episode written by Melissa Rundle.
Catch up with our Kung Fu season 2 coverage so far and keep reading for reactions to episode 10, “Destruction.”
‘Kung Fu’ season 2, episode 9 review in conversation
Nichole: To start us off, I’d just like to say, I regret ever having said Nicky needs to shoulder some of the responsibility for the Mia/Ryan situation. I would like to formally apologize both to fictional character Nicky Shen and real person Olivia Liang, because by 5 minutes into this episode I was emotionally destroyed and I deserve to be publicly castigated for wishing that on Nicky. Every time there was a shot of Nicky’s face I was like, “I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY, I DIDN’T MEAN IT! YOU’RE PERFECT. I LOVE YOU.”
Natalie: I’m actually kind of surprised to see you say that! I thought this is what you wanted. Maybe even what she deserved (Ryan does not deserve this though obviously.) But the level of raw angst involved — I was actually quite surprised that it was resolved within just this one episode.
Nichole: You’re not wrong! I did want it — but I guess only intellectually, lol. The reality of it was so painful! But, also good! I’m such a softie. I have a hard time seeing characters I love suffer. I was also surprised that the angst was wrapped up across the board so quickly, but also a little relieved. In particular I’m glad the Nicky/Henry stuff didn’t get dragged out too far.
Natalie: I actually think that Nicky got off the hook easy there, but we will get to that. I also didn’t think she was acting in a way that particularly helped herself in the hospital either.
Nichole: No, I mean, she was so undone. She’s used to being able to solve all of her problems and this was one she wasn’t in control of. She didn’t really know how to approach it.
Natalie: Offering all these ways she thought she could make it okay re: Mia and Tan when they were emotionally distraught about whether Ryan was even stable was… Very believable! But also a sign of a personality type I struggle with, so despite her distress, I was more on Mei-Li’s side of the reactions.
Nichole: She was in fixer mode. Sometimes you can’t fix something. You just have to sit with it. Althea wasn’t 100% wrong to send her home, because otherwise she and Mei-Li might have had a much bigger fight. But Olivia did such a good job. Like, her manic explanations of the way she could fix it… with that undertone of panic. Chef’s kiss.
Natalie: Blame is a really tricky thing, because it is like, what do you count as the start of the butterfly effect? Tan didn’t shoot Ryan because of Nicky’s secret knowledge about Mia. But he was in that place at that time due to that issue of Nicky’s. I think what kept me really thinking straight was the certainty that Ryan, the one with the gunshot wound, would not allow people to blame Nicky once he was awake. Like his opinion is the only one that really counts here and he would accept it.
Nichole: You’re right about blame. It’s so tricky. Even when I was talking about Nicky being in some ways responsible, it wasn’t really about blaming her, more about how she didn’t seem to have any sense that things could go wrong. Like, making sure everyone knows what they are getting into. Which, to be fair, she did tell Ryan the situation, so he knew what he was getting into. But obviously Mei-Li felt like they all should have known. But, really, knowing Russell Tan is going to be at the event was enough to make it a potential life or death risk.
Natalie: Yeah, ultimately Russell being willing to kill someone isn’t about the Mia secret. And if they’d been made at any time during the event… there may have been any number of risks. But I still feel that Mei-Li was pretty valid in shouting at Nicky that she didn’t tell them everything and all. Nicky is obviously already feeling terrible and blaming herself, but I don’t think that gives her a pass for being somewhat culpable in some way and having to weather others’ anger, and Ryan is Mei-Li’s little baby.
Nichole: I agree on an intellectual level, but my gut reaction was definitely to pick Nicky up and rock her like a baby and tell her everyone still loved her and it was all going to be ok.
Natalie: Ha, mine wasn’t at all. I didn’t feel sorry for her with Mei-Li — sorry Olivia. That’s not to do with the acting. I absolutely, completely believed her level of trauma for the situation, and I think there was a special level of realism to it as well, maybe the element of shock during when she cried and when she spoke. And the way she was looking into the middle distance or keeping her eyes down. Disbelief, blame, grief, it’s all there. There is plenty to feel sorry for her about, but this is a me problem, I’m that bitch who is like “Yeah, feel bad. Good. You should feel bad. Suffer!”
Nichole: But her face, Natalie!! I could literally tear up right now just thinking about it!
Natalie: I was happy to wait for a) Ryan to be fine, and b) Ryan to tell them it was fine, before she got to stop self flagellating, because I found Nicky’s imploring fixing attempts before Althea told her to leave intolerable. I would have said something way worse than what Mei-Li did. I think Nicky deserves to carry this, ultimately. Especially knowing that he will be okay in the end. I felt much worse for Althea. Having to Eldest Daughter her way around the hospital.
Nichole: Also, another very good performance. And her breakdown, with Dennis. I really felt that. I felt a lot of this episode very keenly, to be honest.
Natalie: That’s not to say that Olivia’s performance wasn’t outstanding — it was very real and raw, the constant misery and guilt, I felt it, I believed it. But at the end of the day that’s her lot to carry, because she is the one who put everyone in this position. I liked that Nicky had people in her corner, still, obviously not just Henry but crucially Evan. I definitely felt more in it with Nicky, more empathy, when she was sitting alone with her misery at Henry’s place. That was a more full-bodied reaction for me, I could almost taste in my own mouth how the cereal she was eating wouldn’t taste like anything, if that makes sense, and then ended up just starting to cry as soon as she saw Evan and getting a big hug. While Henry being there for her is important, I really liked that Evan had the right things to offer her here, the family history, his own love for Ryan, and all. His support, when others are blaming her, must have meant a lot. What did you think of Evan’s trip down memory lane regarding Ryan?
Nichole: I really, really love where Nicky and Evan’s relationship is. Even back last season, I was really for a BFF relationship between them rather than romantic. They have very strong BFF chemistry in my opinion. So I loved everything about that scene. The way she just fell into his arms and how he knows what she needs to hear, and doesn’t need anything from her. It was a lot and I loved it.
Natalie: I really like how much this season has continued to portray how long, and how well, Evan has been very close to this family. I still don’t know how I feel re Nicky and Evan. Part of me says they need another chance. Part of me says that maybe they never were truly meant to be romantic, they were just so close and that’s what they thought that must mean due to heteronormativity. Seeing Evan with Althea the past few weeks, and hearing him talk about Ryan, how “we” were all freaking out about his blood poisoning. He is in this family, and that just makes me want a flashback episode to teen babies… and also an exploration of Evan’s family if he has stuck so close to the Shens and was always at their place. Like, maybe his own family is less desirable. Maybe not, maybe they’re just boring.
Nichole: There have been a few things this season that have made me want a flashback episode!
Natalie: I also want an episode of Evan and Mei-Li or Jin, like delving into his role in their lives. We really have to remember that at the start of all this, Mei-Li seemed to have a long term quiet issue with Evan being white. And that Nicky was sent on a marriage trip.
Nichole: Yes. I want to know about the point where Mei-Li went from disapproving of him to liking him. It obviously happened while Nicky was gone. Maybe when he was still around after Nicky was gone, she was able to see him more clearly.
Natalie: That all seems so… out of place now. Maybe it is an idea that they had before they got a handle on the future growth of the characters as I can’t imagine Mei-Li being that prejudiced, and I can’t imagine Evan constantly being in the Shen home as one of the kids during high school if he didn’t feel welcome. So it is a bit of a question mark for me.
Nichole: It would be interesting to see more of that from Mei-Li’s perspective.
Natalie: But yeah, I’m keen to see more depth to his relationship with all the Shens, the history feels like it’s right there.
Nichole: There were a lot of interesting dynamics this episode — like just seeing how different pairings interact under stress. Jin in particular navigating Mei-Li’s anger at Nicky while managing his own anxiety and his relationship with Nicky was quiet, but really stood out to me.
Natalie: Yeah, I felt quite strongly about him as well. It felt like he didn’t disagree with his wife, but he didn’t necessarily want to express it so harshly. A lot of his expressions felt a little like “sorry, but she’s right” — ultimately one of their children is in critical condition, the feelings of another one of the kids doesn’t really matter right now compared to this.
Nichole: But I don’t think he ever would have exiled Nicky. I think he knew Mei-Li probably needed it, which is why he didn’t contradict it, but I don’t think he placed the blame on Nicky in the same way. That moment after he calls Nicky and has to compose himself before he goes back into the room. I just… I felt that so much. I’ve been in a lot of hospitals and at a lot of funerals where I just felt like I couldn’t let go even an inch otherwise I’d fall apart when other people needed me. It just went straight to the gut. But also, can we talk just a bit about Althea and Dennis? It’s not like their dynamic in the midst of this was surprising, but it was very sweet. They are a real comfort couple for me.
Natalie: When he arrives at the start and she totters over on her heels, he looks like a real romcom hero. Or maybe an action hero, that leather jacket is a bit Indiana Jones.
Nichole: He’s just so big. He envelops her.
Natalie: But my favorite moment of the episode was definitely when they’re getting snacks and Althea is venting to him about not having the space or really the strength to process her own distress so she’s keeping busy by managing everyone else, including fielding work issues — 12 employees is a lot! I thought it was like 5! But he’s just got his arms piled up with food and she’s so close to losing it so he just drops all the snacks on the floor to hug her.
Natalie: I felt it coming and it truly was everything I dreamed it would be in the few seconds before. What a man.
Nichole: Same. He was practically trembling with the need to comfort her. I love them so much. He also takes her phone and says he’s going to do her job while she is with her family. I kind of wondered if this might lead to them working together. One more small hospital issue — what did you think of Mei-Li saying she shouldn’t have ever let her family take such risks. Do you think that is going to have fallout moving forward?
Natalie: I really don’t know what the aftermath of this is going to be, honestly. Obviously there is peace, comfort and love by the end of the episode, but there could be some paranoid and reactionary stuff from her in the future. I also was thinking about how she doesn’t really know the extent of the violence Nicky is constantly involved in. The parents are in the loop conceptually, but if they saw stuff happening like the Tan house break-in, or anything like that… They might not be very chill with it.
Nichole: They must suspect to some degree, but you’re right. This brings it home in a very different way.
Natalie: Where do you stand in terms of comfort vs realism in a crisis? Jin says “he’ll be okay,” and Mei-Li says something like, stop saying that, we don’t know that, no one does. I think the episode shows us a good range of realistic responses, with Nicky, Althea, Jin and Mei-Li, but what did you feel most drawn to or represented by?
Nichole: I think in a crisis, I don’t really like false platitudes. I can usually appreciate where they are coming from. Like, most people say those things because they are at a loss and you want it to be true. But I probably take more comfort just in the acknowledgement that the situation is bad and it’s ok to feel bad. I probably felt most represented by Jin, because, like I said before, that moment where he has to pull himself together is something I’ve experienced a lot. To the point where for many years the only place I ever cried was alone in my car, because in my family’s time of greatest crisis it was the only place I was ever alone and so it was the only place I ever felt like I could let go. So, yeah, his reeling back his emotions so he could be the person they needed really resonated with me. I think Nicky’s kind of desperate panicking is probably more representative of me on the inside, or what it would look like if I did let myself go.
Natalie: As mentioned, I probably relate to Mei-Li, and I get really harsh and often angry if other people are upset at the same time as me, to the point where other people getting upset can make me cynical and cold. Unfortunately. It depends on the scenario. I think when trying to help others when I’m not also in the distressed party, I lean towards both fixing and telling people why it’s okay but not in a baseless way, probably more in a logical, practical way, like, here are the ways to fix it or the reasons or the way out. Often possibly when people don’t want to take proactive action… With Nicky’s fixing, what bothered me is that her promises didn’t have anything to do with saving Ryan’s life, they weren’t about actually fixing the Ryan problem. I think that’s why I found them grating.
Nichole: Yeah, the guilt is driving her pretty hard at that point.
Natalie: However, I definitely can be a pragmatic fixer when people don’t want to fix — just usually about addressing the actual circumstance at hand. I also sometimes have issues with the platitudes while also understanding the hope or prayer or whatever in them. Positive thinking vs not just realism but attention to detail. I sometimes worry that saying something will all be okay makes people gloss over problems that might need attention and could actually make a difference. Not that Jin and Mei-Li can help Ryan’s medical condition themselves, but ongoing assurances that everything will be okay might mean people don’t catch things that can make bigger problems… like… the complacency of it? Though that isn’t quite what is happening here.
Nichole: No, but I hear what you’re saying. There is never one right way to deal with a crisis.
Natalie: Mei-Li was definitely blaming herself for being complacent though. In terms of this happening at all. And I do wonder how she’s going to act moving forward, and how much control she can actually exert over her adult children, and what she would do if they don’t obey her. Because it’s like all she can do is cut them off, which wouldn’t make her feel any less upset if they got hurt. If she feels like she was too controlling before and then let loose too far the other way leading to this…
Nichole: They are adults, so it is a bit out of her hands, and she’s obviously not going to cut them off. Maybe she’s going to get even more involved so she always knows what is going down.
Natalie: Yeah, like I said before, I don’t know how to predict how she will respond to Nicky’s “career” moving forward, even if things are okay by the end of this ep. But it’s kind of like — get on board or let the city get destroyed… I’m thinking of Joyce Summers being like “well can you simply STOP being the slayer, I don’t think you should do that any more,” which was not an approach i particularly liked, it was very dismissive. I can’t really imagine a similar angle here.
Nichole: Exactly. In the end, what Nicky is doing is important and Mei-Li knows that in her heart!
Natalie: Okay. Now we can talk about the part at the hospital we’ve all been waiting for. Go on.
Nichole: AAAHHHHHAAAA. Sebastian showing up was everything I wanted. I just… when he walked in and saw Ryan and couldn’t speak. So good. And Mei-Li just watching him watch Ryan. And then he kind of pulls himself together to try to play it cool, but Mei-Li KNEW. She KNEW. It was so good. I was melting.
Natalie: It was a LOT more understated than I expected. Not in a bad way. Like the almost complete lack of dialogue. The realization, from Mei-Li, and her frankly near-joyous approval. The way she also just tells Jin with a look.
Natalie: Strangely, knowing Sebastian is with Ryan seems to be the only thing that really comforts Mei-Li and pulls her out of her own hole. Sebastian might be her favorite child.
Nichole: YES. I was like, she’s going to be such a good mom to her new son. I really love Sebastian and Mei-Li’s relationship.
Natalie: I assume Althea called him? Or maybe he just got to work and the staff were aware of the family news.
Nichole: I wondered who it was and Althea is the likeliest candidate. As you said, she was in eldest child mode.
Natalie: It has been overnight and a day, so seems like he only found out, and rushed there, but I think either Althea called him specifically, or the Harmony staff were generally informed by Althea about the owners absence. Either way, he comes literally running. I have no idea what he expected, if he thought he would catch Ryan alone, or if he knew he was going to have to explain… it actually almost felt like he didn’t think at all, because as soon as he gets there and is asked why are you here… he’s like “Oh wow, I look kind of crazy and inappropriate.”
Nichole: Yeah. It felt like he wasn’t thinking at all — just desperate to get there.
Natalie: Like he shakes himself back into reality and is like “oh damn.” He doesn’t know how to explain. About why he’s trying not to cry and all.
Nichole: I know I’ve developed a real unexpected JB Tadena fixation, but I just love a man trying and failing to suppress his emotions.
Natalie: I was definitely expecting this reveal to be more, like, melodramatic, but I really loved the way it was almost totally non verbal between Sebastian and Mei-Li. His face after she told him she belonged there with them. #Meibastian rise.
Natalie: So they kind of made you wait for Sebastian, right? He doesn’t rush in until around halfway through the episode. Were you getting impatient for it, or did you get distracted by all the other issues?
Nichole: Yeah, I started to wonder if we were going to see him at all!
Natalie: Me too, actually. Right before we got him I was like… maybe we’ve misjudged this in terms of narrative expectation.
Nichole: I was trying to be fair about it. There was a lot going on.
Natalie: It opened on the hospital interior and I was basically like, in the split second before the doors open and show him, if it’s not now it isn’t happening. But it was him. Like they stretched it to breaking, tension wise, and I was very much like, okay this has to be it right? So yeah, they made you work for it.
Nichole: It was better that way, because I was also a bit breathless when he ran in.
Natalie: After that first opening scene with his arrival, the episode leaves the hospital for the rest of the day and follows two other tracks. By the time we come back to see how Ryan is doing, it’s night time and Sebastian is sitting on the bed saying all his gay little feelings. While the Shens are “sleeping.”
Nichole: Pouring his heart out! “Sleeping” – I was like, welp, I guess if she didn’t have the full picture, Mei-Li’s about to get it!
Natalie: Once again, the healing power of gay love saves the day.
Nichole: That hand squeeze.
Natalie: Did you expect that level of… depth of feeling for Sebastian at this point?
Nichole: I was a bit surprised that we got an “I love you” already. Surprised, but not mad about it!
Natalie: I feel like we need more scenes of them in their relationship honestly! Like when they’re chilling at home and what they connect about that isn’t sex or manslaughter.
Nichole: Sex and manslaughter can take up the bulk of a relationship!
Natalie: Their chemistry is great but the last big scene we got with them was about how they don’t really know each other deeply, and while they choose to commit to going deeper together, we haven’t got to see what that looks like. I need some domesticity. Maybe I just want it.
Nichole: I want it too. But maybe we’ll have to settle for Sebastian being more in on all the plots.
Natalie: Well, I think Mei-Li is going to make sure he’s included in all family moments from now on, like Henry and Dennis. I enjoyed Mei-Li hanging off of Sebastian’s shoulders peering at Ryan.
Nichole: SO CUTE! They already have such a good relationship, so this is just a new element.
Natalie: That’s her favorite child, and her second-favorite child is waking up!
Natalie: What do you think of the live-tweet reveal that Mei-Li originally found out in 2.08?
Nichole: I screamed! I have to know how that went down.
Natalie: It’s hard to say how it might have gone, right? Like it probably had its own merits, but is maybe more hard hitting here? It doesn’t sound like there was ever any question that Mei-Li would be less than happy about it.
Nichole: I love how it turned out here, so I can’t complain about it getting cut, but I am very curious about it and I definitely want it on the DVD extras.
Natalie: Ryan is pretty calm about everything when he wakes, just as Evan promised, but we will save most of that for when Nicky comes back from her mission and reunites with everyone at the hospital. Now, I was expecting a side plot to the shooting drama with Zhilan and Mia, right? I expected to follow them this episode. I wasn’t expecting there to be a third plot though. Or rather second, as we will talk about that one before Zhilan and Mia.
Nichole: It was a pretty big one!
Natalie: Yeah. I wasn’t expecting Henry to leave Nicky behind so early on, but apparently the whole bell-disarming chant plan is go. Good timing, Danny.
Nichole: I was so torn when Henry left. One the one hand, saving all of San Francisco, on the other, kind of a bad time to leave your girlfriend in distress.
Natalie: Daniel and Yuen have yet another argument about Henry being involved, and apparently the Wan Zai also have tabs on Mia and the hybrid threat. More and more I think Daniel is doomed, that he’s going to die protecting Henry or something. This plot is getting much more focus than I ever imagined.
Nichole: Sorry, Daniel, it was good knowing you.
Natalie: It will probably be a good death.
Nichole: I was surprised the Wan Zai knew about Mia.
Natalie: I didn’t really think about whether I was surprised or not I guess. On the one hand they’ve been shown to be out of the loop a little. On the other hand, Yuen clearly has something weird going on. I’m still not ruling out a connection to Tan.
Nichole: Yuen is on my shit list.
Natalie: What did you think when you heard that the plan would suck all power from the jyu sa, including the Warrior bloodline power? Basically everything that’s connected to their magic. Given this is how they began… obviously there’s plenty of discussion about that from Nicky in a little bit… But when Henry learned the information from Daniel and then relayed it to Nicky?
Nichole: From the perspective of someone watching Kung Fu, I was very much like, “No, you can’t do that!” But from the perspective of thinking that this is a way to save San Francisco from Russell Tan without hurting anyone, it did seem like she had to do it. Of course, Nicky isn’t looking at it as weighing things logically, she sees a way to escape the guilt and responsibility she’s feeling, and she thinks she’ll be giving Mia a normal life. So, even though it is a potentially logical solution, it didn’t feel like Nicky was choosing it for the right reasons. And shout-out to Olivia’s performance there, calling the legacy a curse and a burden, I was weeping.
Natalie: Yeah, I guess my question here is… do you think she would have had a different response had they not had the background of Ryan being hurt? Obviously she wouldn’t have been as bitter or said the curse thing. But outside of that tone — how do you think this might have gone if the same circumstance happened before the shooting?
Nichole: I think she would have struggled with it more. I think she still might have decided to do it, but she wouldn’t have been happy about it. It would have felt more like she was making a big sacrifice to save the world.
Natalie: Obviously world saving comes first, but did it cross your mind at all that Nicky is also like… making this call on behalf of 15 other families. I don’t think it was the wrong call, but it did flash through my mind!
Nichole: I didn’t think about it at first, but I did somewhere in the middle.
Natalie: She mentions the weapons being destroyed so it’s now pointless, so that’s one angle, but given the bloodlines were created much earlier, we don’t really know the true purpose of it still.
Nichole: It’s not really clear if any of the other families are even still aware of their lineage.
Natalie: What was the difference between the warriors and guardians before the weapons? Because there is a difference, otherwise the hybrid wouldn’t be an issue.
Nichole: That was one of my questions from the original Jyu Sa episode.
Natalie: I also don’t know how they’ve avoided hybrids before, if warriors and guardians work so closely.
Nichole: And how do they even know??
Natalie: It reminds me a bit of your Wheel of Time mate Lan and his job guarding the Aes Sedai. Surely, surely many of them fuck.
Nichole: You’re going to derail me thinking about Lan fucking. I have to keep my head in the game.
Natalie: But you see my point.
Nichole: I do.
Natalie: Anyway, Nicky is apparently happy to make this call on behalf of everyone else, which is fine. But Xiao isn’t too happy about that. She appeared earlier to taunt Nicky about her failures. What a gleeful delivery on “I sensed your turmoil.” But she tells Nicky that the power stripping ritual will kill Mia… even though she wants Mia dead herself. I get that her primary goal here — to make Nicky not remove jyu sa power from the world — is in her own best interests. If it goes, she goes, and her legacy that she is proud of, all the other families, it ends. Fair call, I see that motivation. But when she said the thing about Mia, did you believe her? Or did you think she was making it up to appeal to the reasoning that would change Nicky’s mind?
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Nichole: I wasn’t sure what to think. I was leaning towards her telling the truth, even though the exact rationale didn’t make that much sense to me. When she says something like, “I want Mia dead, but not like this,” I couldn’t tell if she was just saying I want her dead, but not if it means I die, or if she meant, I want her dead, but not this particular horrific death.
Natalie: Yeah, that’s a good point. I did believe her, and honestly, the “not like this” did read as empathetic to me.
Nichole: That’s how I read it too, but I couldn’t make it make sense with Xiao’s character thus far.
Natalie: She’s a weird one, because on one hand, she clearly loves power and does Villian Face. But on the other hand, was she truly evil, or is she just a bitchy person with a Lawful Good concern about Mia? Like, she is Nicky’s enemy because she is gunning for something Nicky doesn’t want — killing Mia due to the threat she presents. Does that make her objectively The Enemy? No question she’s a mean snarky bitch but… Do you know what I mean?
Nichole: I do know! What were her original intentions? What are the warriors and guardians meant to be doing now? Is it automatically disqualifying when you cook up a grand scheme to live forever?
Natalie: Yeah, is the living forever incidental or a main goal? Like a nice side effect she’s grown accustomed to? Or I will find a way to carry on through this power lineage. Anyway, no sign of Pei-Ling to give us a hand.
Nichole: I miss Pei-Ling.
Natalie: So after speaking to Xiao, Nicky meets Henry with a whole new attitude about the ritual. When the couple were last together, just an hour or so ago, Nicky was determined to do it, and Henry was the one questioning, from the moment he revealed the past, about whether she should go ahead with it. So she gets this intel from Xiao and then as soon as she sees Henry, she tries to pull the plug, and opens with “I don’t trust your father.”
Nichole: Bad opening salvo.
Natalie: I can think of about a dozen better ways to open that conversation to bring Henry around to believing the shady source that is Xiao. This was the worst option. The episode is called “Destruction” though so maybe Nicky doesn’t care about burning it all down.
Nichole: I thought it was pretty uncharacteristic of her. But I guess it set the tone for Henry to bring up his frustrations.
Natalie: Nicky is not in the best place, obviously, so she isn’t playing nice. She’s very rigid and looks irrational. And she starts by attacking Henry’s dad, who we all know isn’t actually to blame. There are just so many ways to… sorry, for a lack of a better word, manipulate him into being on board instead of creating conflict. Like softball him in?
Nichole: I was trying to remember if Nicky really knows Daniel vs Yuen? Like, from the viewer perspective, we know Daniel isn’t the untrustworthy one. But does Nicky?
Natalie: No, she doesn’t, it is a fair call on her part. It is just how we perceive it. But like, let me role play this for a second… “Hi Henry, while I was getting the jyu sa, I had a vision of Xiao again. I know that she seems evil and definitely wants Mia dead, and that’s exactly why I believe her — she told me that the way we’re planning to do wont depower Mia the way it will depower me. It will actually apparently kill her, due to the way her existence is tied to jyu sa energy. I didn’t believe her at first either and challenged it, but ultimately this is a scenario where she has no reason to lie. She admitted she wants Mia dead, but “not like this.” I’m not 100% on-board with her, but I’m worried enough to have big doubts. Do you think the Wan Zai are aware of this factor? Do you think they know about Mia at all, or do they just not realize there’s someone out there this could kill?” I get that Nicky is running on fumes, right. And obviously for the narrative, her approach was the worst possible opening and led to this fight.
Nichole: We are not getting Nicky at her best this episode. She’s sad and scared and guilt ridden. And missing most of her support system.
Natalie: Being like “I’ve made my decision, don’t question me” is a pretty domineering attitude even in a relationship that has a power structure, say parent and child. Inside a romantic relationship it is kind of a red flag. I don’t blame Henry!
Nichole: Yeah, she was way too in her own head about it! Henry wasn’t wrong. But also, the timing did suck. I mean, I realize Nicky started it, but… The fight was particularly difficult for me because it took one of the things I like so much about Henry and turned it upside down. I love that Henry is such a good partner, but lets Nicky lead.
Natalie: I don’t think it was unfair of him though. I love that he has no issue with that in terms of physical power and stuff, as he says. But… I don’t think it’s so much about equal power in decision making that matters, as like… not being spoken to like a subordinate. Especially when it’s to do with a resource he’s bringing to the table.
Nichole: Yeah, it was totally fair! In this instance I think she was out of line, but the issues it brings up then potentially inch into some other interactions that I have enjoyed!
Natalie: The timing sucks, but like he says, it’s never a good time.
Nichole: Like, Nicky is always making decisions that put her in danger and Henry doesn’t like it, but he says his peace and doesn’t push. Are those interactions bothering him?
Natalie: I mean, the best I can say about the issue of a power dynamic is that it doesn’t at all feel gender based. Just human autonomy based.
Nichole: I think it was a very human fight. Like, in spite of Nicky’s opening line feeling wrong, what they fought about felt very real, which I think is hard to do with a couple that has been as in sync as they have. And again, I get that Nicky set them down the wrong path, but I still really felt for her. I was such a mess over Nicky the whole episode.
Natalie: It’s okay. She gets to take a nice nap next.
Nichole: Who doesn’t welcome a nice drugged stupor when you’ve had the kind of day she’s had.
Natalie: I know I do, and I have the prescriptions to prove it. I definitely wasn’t expecting a blowdart situation right in the hallway though.
Nichole: No. That took me by surprise. I think I actually laughed out loud because, like, wtf, Yuen? And the way Nicky’s like “Yuen?” and then just drops. The way it was shot was actually very funny.
Natalie: This is the kind of thing that makes me think she’s a Tan. So melodramatic.
Nichole: Ha. But is she working against him?
Natalie: Yeah, could be!
Nichole: Maybe she was Raymond’s fiancé.
Nichole: Maybe whatever weird chemical situation killed Pei-Ling and Zhilan’s mom actually killed Raymond too. And so now Yuen is aligned against Russell.
Natalie: just feel like they went to the same villian school. So let’s see. Once Henry and Nicky are trapped together and learn that Yuen did kind of betray their trust in a big way, and stole the jyu sa… okay. So this is the one part of all this I have a slight issue with. Bear with me on this. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about how they handled it. I have a particular distaste for when I feel someone’s bad behavior is excused because the factual element of their introduction to the bad behavior was proven right. I have no idea if that makes sense, how I’ve said it. But I don’t think that Nicky is absolved of either her controlling behavior or the further accusations from Henry, in that fight, just because she was technically right about the Wan Zai hiding something. And I’m not sure if I feel like Kung Fu is saying that or not. Ultimately, she’s long-term right! Her reasons for pulling the plug were correct! But it isn’t that simple for me. Is this making any sense?
Nichole: Well, one of the things I liked about it was that first they find themselves in this desperate situation and they are able to put the fight on hold in order to deal with it. They’re a good team even under these circumstances. But I don’t think them being able to do that, at that point, was sweeping the fight under the rug. I guess the question is, do you feel like their talk in the car, where Nicky admits Henry was right and apologizes was enough?
Natalie: I think so.
Nichole: Personally, I liked the resolution on an emotional level, but I’m not sure there was a really clear action plan for how to be less controlling in crisis situations.
Natalie: I just wasn’t sure where we were going, whether the narrative was going to tell us that Henry was out of line because the facts were in Nicky’s favor. Because to me the facts and the handling are very different things. And in the middle I was a bit shaky on what they were trying to say about that.
Nichole: Yeah, I think the story ended up falling on the side of Nicky needs to let other people in and not take all the responsibility on herself because she’s not infallible.
Natalie: I also think we are looking at a warped, dark, funhouse mirror of their issues here in terms of Danny and Yuen.
Nichole: Oh. Interesting.
Natalie: Like Yuen in power and Daniel thinking he’s in the loop but isn’t, and the level of dismissive control. So it’s like a do and do not do example between the two couples.
Natalie: If they are a couple, which I still think they are. But as partners on missions there is a strong parallel.
Nichole: Yeah, it works even if they aren’t a couple.
Natalie: Yuen blows off Daniel’s concerns and when they start doing the ritual, we definitely see Mia, off with Zhilan, affected by the power being sucked away, but Nicky and Henry are able to get there in time to interrupt.
Nichole: Which is where we get a really outstanding exchange between Henry and Daniel. Daniel is like, “We don’t have to fight.” And Henry says, “Sorry, Dad, I think we do.” And I don’t know why, but I loved it so much.
Natalie: Daniel is still a bit stuck on what is going on and pretty confused until Yuen sneaks up on Nicky with a knife!
Nichole: I loved that he protected Nicky against Yuen! Probably another mark in the Daniel is going to die column, though, huh?
Natalie: He dead.
Nichole: Poor Henry.
Natalie: I think it’ll be a good death that likely doesn’t cause any rifts between Henry and Nicky like I worried it might, but may send Henry on a new path.
Nichole: Thanks to Daniel’s intervention, Nicky is able to smash the jyu sa with a rock, which stops the ritual. I thought it was funny that Nicky and Henry, after the briefest of interactions with Daniel, just walk off leaving Daniel and Yuen in this fairly awkward situation. Like — this is your mess to clean up, peace out.
Natalie: Do you have any further thoughts on the jyu sa ritual being a no go? This season has been an ongoing parade of failed options.
Nichole: So many failed plans!
Natalie: Melting the original bell, they built a new one. Trying to intercept the jyu sa. The mallet. Now this! The cost of each of those missions has been high and keeps getting higher.
Nichole: I wonder if the jyu sa will be a bit like kryptonite. If this ritual can be done at any point, there’s always a risk, isn’t there? It’s not like it’s easy to get, but we know Zhilan has one and obviously the bell is littered with them.
Natalie: I have no idea, it definitely could be an ongoing issue, not just the extraction ritual but the ear bleed song too.
Nichole: Yeah. It would be weird if they just went away completely.
Natalie: We only have three episodes left and none of these problems are any closer to being solved. Henry and Nicky, as you said before, at least do find some resolution after a very fraught day.
Nichole: Thank goodness.
Natalie: And you feel good about that? I’m curious how they’ll counter for that brewing issue moving forward.
Nichole: I do feel good about it. I like Nicky and Henry together! I think we might get some interesting new dynamics now that they’ve had this little fight. Maybe Nicky will lean too far the other way for a bit.
Natalie: This crossed my mind too, and that’s something I’m not too keen on, I don’t want there to be like a bad consequence of her countering for Henry that leads us back to a concession of power or something. I don’t think that would be the case, but a slight concern. Again, I don’t want circumstantial events to lead to changes in how people treat each other.
Nichole: Yeah, I don’t think we would get a bad consequence from it, maybe just a bit of a learning curve on when she needs to make decisions and when she needs to be open to other people’s opinions.
Natalie: Finally, as a reward for resolving their issues, Nicky gets the call that Ryan is awake and okay. When she gets back to the hospital Ryan has full control of the situation and has totally changed the family’s tone. How did you feel about his and Nicky’s conversation and how he sort of made people follow his lead on blame or worry or whatever?
Nichole: Well, you obviously saw it coming, that Ryan would be the one to calm everyone down, but I didn’t really clock that before he started talking. I was relieved that he didn’t blame Mia. I think that is good motivation for everyone to keep fighting for her. He was awfully casual about having been shot though. Ryan, please have some self-preservation. I wish we could have seen Sebastian’s reaction to getting filled in on Nicky’s whole situation.
Natalie: Me too! I thought that would be a more dramatic moment. But I guess explaining why he was in a position to get shot… But yeah what he said about Mia was the most interesting to me. Right before she freaked out, before things went mad, she was talking to him, and talking about the potential of what happens after Russell. She was like “Will I still have a place with you?” And Ryan was like, Mia, of course… But that’s when things got cut off. So for me, when Ryan was being the king of the castle from his bed and telling people how to feel, I was thinking about that, like that he had this insight into Mia’s personal fears that he hadn’t yet been able to tell people about due to being unconscious.
Related: ‘Kung Fu’ star Vanessa Yao traces Mia’s journey so far: grief, guilt and inhabiting the ‘grey area’ between Nicky and Zhilan
Nichole: I hope he conveyed it properly, because I have a feeling Mia is not coming home easily.
Natalie: He seems to have a new level of protectiveness and love for Mia, which is a nice thing. But he might have to fight Zhilan for her.
Nichole: Someone is getting attached!
Natalie: Such weird vibes.
Nichole: Zhilan was a mess this episode! She was like, half showing off for Mia and half trying to awkwardly comfort her. It was like brand new emotion day chez Zhilan.
Natalie: I could not work out if this was sisterly, sexual or what. But she definitely feels bonded to her real fast. In a way that made me be like… wow. Girl, get it together.
Nichole: It was confusing!
Natalie: The first scene, the whole ladies choice with the guns, that felt sexy right?
Nichole: So much of it felt like showing off to me, which could be kind of a “sexy look at me” kind of thing, but I originally interpreted more like, “I, a totally functional human who obviously has many friends and knows how to be normal, am being very normal about this right now.”
Natalie: I like how at the very start when Mia is sad, Zhilan visibly rolls her eyes.
Nichole: And then when it doesn’t land at all, she very unconvincingly switches tactics. She just seemed so confused about how to be normal.
Natalie: And tries to be comforting in a really put-on way. But as it goes on, she becomes more genuinely enamored with Mia and with protecting her.
Nichole: Yes. She slowly sort of realizes, “Wait… I care… about this… human who is not me???”
Natalie: Fake it till you make it, babe. I have questions about why Mia needs a gun to kill Tan, I thought her chaos powers were meant to kill him. Once again we haven’t really seen what these powers can do in action.
Nichole: I definitely thought Mia was going to kill him the old fashioned way, because we haven’t really seen anything except fighting skill from Mia.
Natalie: But anyway they plan to ambush Tan, so we see some of Tan’s side as the ambushee before we go back to Zhilan, and this is actually where a few things clicked into place for me. We see Russell and Juliette, and Juliette is once again pushing to know the real plan. She is focused on material elements, once Russell levels up, she gets the Tan company as CEO, she’s still fixed on real world aims, and is trying to get Daddy to not burn bridges with corporate allies, to take this meeting with this search engine mogul, right? Tan does not care about this at all. Apparently he acquired that business only to get to the land under the campus, where presumably a bit of the bell was buried or something else he wants is still buried. He does not care about any business elements. He cares about cradling a picture of his dead son Raymond, and things clicked into place for me.
Nichole: Sidenote — Juliette seemed so annoyed at finding him cradling that picture.
Natalie: This is either 100% correct or like the most laughable theory ever, but I think the aim of all this for Russell is to somehow raise the dead.
Nichole: I love this. Go on.
Natalie: I feel like necromancy is afoot. I feel like the quake is either an incidental consequence of some sort of power element he needs to direct when the bell rings, to raise Raymond for the dead, or the quake is a demolition hammer he needs to expose some deeper buried artifact or resource to move forward with raising Raymond from the dead. They KEEP not spelling out the aim of the quake. Juliette keeps asking. Even in this episode, she asks and he’s like fine, I’ll finally tell you. But he doesn’t tell US.
Nichole: I really, really love this as a theory. Like, it’s a bit beyond where they’ve gone on magical elements, but Russell is just unhinged enough to try it.
Natalie: They keep withholding information about the goal of this plan, and I think either the power caused by the bellquake is the key, or there’s something under the city he wants, but this is the aim. Could be something going back to biange, because he was chasing that last season. So yeah, I feel like this might be… the madness in his method so to speak. And that he’s told Juliette now, off screen, and when #zhimi torture her next week, we will learn this from her.
Nichole: Oh! Good point!
Natalie: I’ve wondered about the dead son a few times this season, he’s been peppered in a lot, but for some reason this week I was like “oh, I’ve got it.”
Nichole: Yeah, Russell holding that picture was a lot.
Natalie: Last season, we had this element with biange where, before Nicky knew a lot about the mythology, her angle hunting the weapons was, it doesn’t matter if the power is real, it matters that Zhilan believes it is real, and what she’s doing because of that. Same thing could be said here. Can the dead be raised in Kung Fu’s lore? Maybe not. But it doesn’t matter, if Russell believes it and is willing to destroy things to try it.
Nichole: It makes so much sense! It’s wild, but also feels right.
Natalie: I wonder if Raymond was also evil. Raymond only died 6 years ago, but the stories about pitting Zhilan and Juliette against each other in childhood tells me that a) Tan was always kind of evil, and b) Raymond was either a lot older or maybe sick for ages. I don’t think Tan is like a nice guy who turned evil because his son died.
Nichole: Yeah, I agree. Russell was obviously at least morally dubious if not straight up evil in Kerwin’s childhood.
Natalie: Anyway, that’s my theory.
Nichole: It’s a good one! I can’t wait to see if it pans out!
Natalie: Russell is ready to grab Mia, and Juliette is concerned with the company’s reputation regarding this acquisition, which Russell does not give a hoot about. Given he wants the land under the campus, that tells me there’s more stuff to dig up or maybe that’s where the bell needs to be rung. But in terms of What Juliette’s Deal Is. What do you think of her having this more mundane business focus — Authentic, naive concerns? Stalling?
Nichole: It was a little weird. Like, she knows about all of this stuff and that’s her big worry? It made me wonder if it was a cover for something else.
Natalie: Me too.
Nichole: I don’t know exactly what though.
Natalie: That’s why I say stalling. I think it’s maybe an act. Like she is trying to play innocent, play the game, make her father play the part of this all being not-crazy. Then backing him into a corner to get more of the crazy to come out. Like pushing on these business interests because he has to keep up appearances to her? And finding the breaking point.
Nichole: Do you think she’s not a true believer?
Natalie: My most generous theory for Juliette is that she knows Russell is crazy and is doing her best to stop him by playing his game. But I really don’t know. She’s not stupid.
Nichole: No. There is something going on.
Natalie: The way she’s pushing on these above board business interests feels like she wants him to snap and say like… Your little company doesn’t matter because the city will be a hole and we might all die. Like she’s persistently sticking to above board normalcy in a way that feels like pressure and manipulation. I think we might see a lot more about that in episode 11.
Nichole: Fingers crossed.
Natalie: What about when Zhilan says she has eyes on Tan? Obviously that isn’t Juliette, I don’t think the double cross is that deep.
Nichole: I wondered about that! Did that mean spies or just like electronic surveillance?
Natalie: Do you think she trusts hired goons, or does Kerwin have allies in the household and she’s working with Kerwin?
Nichole: I want it to be Kerwin.
Natalie: Obviously. It’s been too long, I’m getting upset.
Nichole: He’s gotta be back soon! I can’t believe we only have 3 episodes left!
Natalie: Next week’s synopsis includes the line, “Zhilan (Yvonne Chapman) makes a surprising discovery about Russell Tan’s (guest star Kee Chan) plan.”
Nichole: Zombies are surprising!
Natalie: Surprising to her could just be the quake. Surprising to US… Yeah, he’s raising the dead.
Nichole: Maybe he could raise Pei-Ling for me.
Natalie: Nicky might like that, maybe this is a good plan after all. Add Simon Lau to the list. Kerwin can apologize to him very nicely and get him a robe.
Nichole: Everything is coming up zombies.
Natalie: Anyway, Zhilan has eyes, digital or otherwise, on Tan, and decides to train Mia instead for when Mia inevitably gets ambushed. What did you think of Zhilan basically just calmly walking out of Mia’s grasp when fighting, just like, very cool.
Nichole: There is a much different vibe when they spar than when Nicky and Mia spar.
Natalie: Yeah, because it has weird a power dynamic and a slightly sexual energy. Mia with a knife to Zhilan’s throat = Izzy Hands crying in joy when Ed makes him eat his own toe on Our Flag Means Death?
Nichole: HAHAHAHAAHAHA. Nailed it.
Natalie: Look I’m sorry but I had to do it to ’em.
Nichole: Zhilan definitely loves it.
Natalie: Yeah, she is giving big step on me vibes. In a mentoring way. Which is wild! I never thought I would see Zhilan trying to impress anyone.
Nichole: It felt so weird!
Natalie: She’s trying to teach and affirm Mia, for sure, but she also has this element of like, wanting to almost… serve Mia. Like maybe Mia is a princess and she’s the knight.
Nichole: Mmmm. Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. But like, Mia’s princess job is murdering people.
Natalie: So she can go both protective and like… also kind of lower herself a little and show off for Mia or want Mia to be on top. Ahem. Maybe this is a hybrid thing? If Zhilan is so dedicated to the lore of the bloodlines, maybe Mia is like her Jesus.
Nichole: That could be it. Or I keep coming back to Zhilan just not knowing how to interact in a genuine way with someone. She had Kerwin, but she sort of always knew she would betray him. And so this is her fumbling toward a real relationship — whatever form that takes — and she’s just sort of giddy with it.
Natalie: Oh yeah, I am absolutely not discounting that as a factor of any of this. She’s a freak.
Nichole: 7 days a week.
Natalie: So they plan to catch Tan on the road, presumably to this meeting? But they get Juliette instead.
Nichole: Juliette’s petulant face in the car made me laugh.
Natalie: Cannot believe Zhilan literally said “watch this,” by the way. So blatant.
Nichole: SHOW OFF!
Natalie: Mia did not seem to enjoy watching it very much.
Nichole: No she did not. But she seems to change her tune at the end.
Natalie: This is all going down while the Wan Zai are ritualling, so Zhilan ultimately lets Juliette escape in favor of petting Mia’s face. Who is this woman? #notmyzhilan Kidding, I love it.
Nichole: She honestly seemed surprised at herself for staying and for the gentle caressing.
Natalie: Again, like when the jyu sa were activated prior, we see Zhilan (and Nicky) slightly affected by the power, but Mia severely affected. It doesn’t seem like Xiao was bluffing. It might have pulled her apart.
Nichole: It was taking Mia out.
Natalie: And Zhilan experienced the magic of friendship or something. She definitely sounds surprised at her own choice. Definitely. And so does Mia!
Nichole: Yep. But not disappointed. Mia gazes at her so lovingly.
Natalie: Moving forward, I definitely think that even if Mia reconciles with the Shens, she’s going to be like, “You have to be nice to my other friend, Zhilan.” Like Nicky and Zhilan have to stay together for the kids or whatever.
Nichole: “If I’m going to live with you, my weird feral cat is coming too.”
Natalie: Yeah. Delightful. In reality, I’m always a bit upset when like, a friend of yours remains friends with someone you hate or who has wronged you. Like, pick a side. But in dramatic storytelling I enjoy it, haha. Like I enjoy the idea of Zhilan and Nicky being forced to tolerate Mia loving each of them.
Related: ‘Kung Fu’ star Yvonne Chapman says Zhilan won’t lose all her bite even as she and Nicky find common ground in season 2
Nichole: Yes. I need something to make Zhilan and Nicky spend more time together.
Natalie: So one thing I hate is sacks over heads, it gives me terrible execution/lynching/Children of Men vibes. Didn’t like to see Mia so closely involved with that.
Nichole: Juliette didn’t like it either!
Natalie: No. They tracked her down eventually and stole her away to their dungeon, and she is not very happy about it.
Nichole: She’s going to be SO BITCHY next week.
Natalie: Mia seems all in on the whole torture plan, which, eugh, but I’m really hoping that next week we get a LOT of Tanswers. Due to this situation.
Nichole: I don’t think anyone is going to end up torturing anyone, because Juliette is too clever.
Natalie: Zhilan seems happy to see Mia committing to the bit. At least someone’s happy.
Natalie: I’ve given my prediction already for the information to be revealed… you got any other theories or ideas? Either complementary or oppositional to mine?
Nichole: Not really. Right now I feel like I’m just along for the ride! I do hope we get some Pei-Ling/Zhilan interaction. Maybe Mia has softened her up and Pei-Ling can bring her over to the mostly good side. A girl can dream, anyway.
Natalie: Especially if Juliette tells them “I’m working against Dad, you fucking morons, why do you think I saved Kerwin?” Need him to be a part of this, his babygirlism can only help this scenario. Do you think next week’s episode can pack in even more plot than this one?
Nichole: Knowing Kung Fu, they’ll introduce a brand new villain next week.
Natalie: It’s definitely possible, what with season 3 coming so soon! The set-up for next season could already be on the way!
Nichole: Big season 3 news! Kung Fu is back in the Fall rather than mid-season!
Natalie: We have to get through season 2 before we can consider season 3, and right now I still really can’t predict how this season will end. Aside from zombies.
Nichole: [fade out on zombies]