Kung Fu season 2, episode 12 sees our heroes down to the wire in their race to stop Russell Tan. Surely Nicky will be able to save the day before an actual earthquake occurs? Read on for our review of “Alliance.”
Kung Fu season 2’s penultimate episode doesn’t stop being stressful for a single second. Grievances are put aside and new dynamics are explored when Nicky gathers her allies in an urgent mission to find Mia and stop Russell Tan from destroying San Francisco in his megalomaniacal goal for immortality. With access to much of Tan’s research, the pieces fall into place in terms of what Tan wants and where it’s going to happen, and preparations are made on every level, even for the dire circumstance of a natural disaster.
Like Nicky, we thought we were pretty much on top of the consequences of Russell Tan’s plan – the only question is whether they could stop him ringing the bell in time, now that he has all the pieces he needs. However, Nicky and Zhilan discover that the truth of what Russell has in mind is darker, more devastating and dangerous than we ever imagined: for Mia, and for Kerwin. It’s in this fraught place that Kung Fu leaves us hanging until next week and the grand finale.
The official synopsis of “Alliance” reads:
ALL HANDS ON DECK — With Russell Tan (guest star Kee Chan) on the verge of making his final move, Nicky (Olivia Liang) enlists all the help she can get in order to stop him before it’s too late. But when an unexpected discovery threatens to derail their efforts, the team will be forced to prepare for what may be a losing battle. Tzi Ma, Kheng Hua Tan, Shannon Dang, Jon Prasida, Eddie Liu, Gavin Stenhouse, Yvonne Chapman, Vanessa Kai and Tony Chung also star. Richard Speight, Jr. directed the episode written by Ryan Johnson & Peter Lalayanis.
Catch up with our conversation reviews so far, or keep reading as we deconstruct Kung Fu season 2, episode 12 “Alliance.”
‘Kung Fu’ season 2, episode 12 review in conversation
Natalie: Hi! Welcome to the worst day of my life. Well, Kung Fu related, anyway.
Nichole: Your babygirl!
Natalie: I can definitely say, whatever I was expecting, I wasn’t expecting THIS. Give him back.
Nichole: I should have been suspicious when he was so perfect and good and everything I want in this episode. They were buttering us up for devastation.
Natalie: I’d rather he was dead! How could Kung Fu do this to me? We’ve been so good to them.
Nichole: I mean, when they realized how important he was to us, they definitely should have called everyone back to Vancouver to change the ending. Is that so much to ask???
Natalie: But you’re right. The heroic focus episode — to remind people how much they love this person, before the untimely demise —- is a classic. So we have to go back to the beginning. Is this the first time an episode has ever opened on Kerwin?
Nichole: I think it is. Or at least this season. Again — setting us up for the fall.
Natalie: Certainly the first time opening on him as a badass hero.
Nichole: He was literally perfect.
Natalie: So he storms into the Tansion to confront his dad, and Russell does everything he can to get Kerwin on side. He’s gentle. He’s non-reactionary. He’s full of shit. He gives the world’s creepiest hug that made me viscerally upset.
Nichole: THAT HUG SENT ME INTO SHIVERS!
Natalie: It was ugly.
Nichole: Russell was wildly creepy the entire episode!
Natalie: I was going to do some check-ins with you, like, when do you think Kerwin knew for sure that this was all bullshit, how long was he playing the game for? But honestly I think it’s early, if not immediately, because I don’t think that hug ranked as okay, in any way, for him.
Nichole: I think he knew right away. His face during the hug was not a relieved face.
Natalie: Not comforting, not normal — definitely a reason to be suspicious. The utter worst!
Nichole: F-minus hug.
Natalie: I hate that feeling, like, “Well, I don’t know anything, I don’t know what the fuck DID actually happen, all I know is that whatever you say, the truth is probably the opposite.” His only thing to go off is “Dad is lying.” Fun.
Nichole: Kerwin should have gotten to kill him!!! It’s what our boy deserved.
Natalie: Ugh. I’m having a bad time. Okay, we’ll move on. Kerwin, my love, we will return! Team Shooby is panic-searching for Mia, because they know she’s likely still inside the Tansion. There was no sign of her when Kerwin arrived, but yeah, she’s being held, and with Mia on tap, it’s Quakin’ Time for Russell.
Nichole: I liked Ryan being the one to be like, “Maybe Zhilan knows something.” He’s sort of turning out to be the softie of the group.
Natalie: He’s going to whip up the waffle batter for her. Just you wait. Obviously that’s a hard pass from Nicky, and everyone’s, frankly, a bit snippy with each other. It’s a high stress situation.
Nichole: Henry was quite sharp!
Natalie: So was Althea. I get it, though. They all have a common goal, and it’s a very bad situation they’re stuck in.
Nichole: I thought the episode did a great job of really making you feel the pressure they were under. They never relaxed.
Natalie: Evan is doing the best, the coolest head, and I think that probably speaks to his professional experience being involved with like, high stakes crime scenes, or planning an ambush or whatever. So he suggests a plan that doesn’t endanger Nicky and the squad. Yay!!! But it involves cops. Boo!!!
Nichole: I guess we got our answer about Evan and his old job though.
Natalie: Yeah, Nicky questions this in terms of whether Evan should play it safe to get his job back, not call in favours that can blow up in his face… and he says he doesn’t care, he isn’t going to try to get his job back, he’s done. Good for him, but I want to know what he might do next and how he’s paying for his loft!
Nichole: Yeah, I keep panicking about him not having a job, and then I remind myself this is television. He will have plenty of money to survive until it is convenient storywise for money to become a problem.
Natalie: That is kindly, but frankly, reasoned. Like, yeah, that is definitely how it works on TV.
Nichole: It do be that way sometimes.
Natalie: So back to the Tansion, I think Kerwin, right at the start, he knew something was wrong, didn’t know the truth but knew this was all not right. I originally thought he was on the phone during Juliette’s killing, but I guess not. He’s more in the dark than that. But when he questions Russell further, I think you can see this conflict, like the more questions he asks… the more Russell says… the more he’s putting together like “Right well, it’s opposite day on this, and this, and this…”
Nichole: When Russell said, “Juliette died because of me” I yelled, “So true worstie” at my TV.
Natalie: But do you think there’s any point here where he wanted to believe this all isn’t true, wanted to just… be able to trust his dad? He has a few sighs of horror/disbelief, and I just feel like he’s so upset about this whole game.
Nichole: I do think he was conflicted. Not necessarily that he expected better from his father, but because he is overwhelmed and horrified at the scope of what Russell was willing to do.
Natalie: He really hardened up and came to his resolve when Russell is like “you and I can do what Juliette and I were going to do.” He closes his eyes, squares up, and is like, guess I’m doing this, going down this hole, to find out the truth.
Nichole: Yeah. There was really this sense that he was holding himself together.
Natalie: The next day, Evan’s SWAT plan fails, his “connection” judges the hell out of him, but he’s able to recover Juliette’s hidden phone.
Nichole: Big ACAB feels at that SWAT team guy berating Evan.
Natalie: Yeah, I feel like Kung Fu definitely is like, well, cops exist, but we aren’t going to make them helpful at all. I didn’t quite get the “rumors he didn’t want to believe” moment.
Nichole: Same with the rumors! But I guess that he was corrupt in some way?
Natalie: Yeah, that this was some weirdly motivated… thing. I don’t know. Anyway. Did you have any suspicions about how they may be able to use the phone? I really was only thinking that it was recording audio of Juliette’s death, or recording what Tan said to her, but that doesn’t seem to have been the actual factor that matters. Althea’s on the case.
Nichole: No! I was also fixated on the idea that the phone captured her death, not that they would have access to all of Juliette’s pilfered research.
Natalie: Still, useful.
Natalie: So there’s plenty of like, you know, the race to find Mia. Where did she go? Where is the bell? Where is the prime bell ringing spot? And Henry, somewhat reluctantly, calls in his dad to help. I guess we didn’t get an answer about what the hell was going on in that relationship after the jyu sha ritual they stopped. He fought for them! And they left him in the dust. Apparently they really didn’t like or forgive Yuen’s betrayal, and haven’t separated that from Daniel’s involvement. Henry is a bit on edge with Daniel about it. Danny has to tell him “hey, I’m definitely on your side, they kicked me out.” Is this how you expected Danny’s journey to be picked up again? We were both a bit weirded out by him just being left, before, lol.
Nichole: Right? If I’m 100% honest, I hadn’t really thought too much about how we’d get him back into the story. I was curious about how the Wan Zai were dealing with the fracture though, so I’m not totally surprised he got kicked out. A little disappointed though, because it does seem to put the Wan Zai more on the antagonist side of things.
Natalie: True. I wonder if they are generally shady, or if it’s just the Yuen of it all. Still not sure of her motive in all of this. She isn’t the top level leader, but they seem to have taken her side in all that. Maybe Henry and/or Danny, depending on his fate, will go about restoring the true purpose of the Wan Zai. But Henry isn’t super angry with Danny anyway. The scene where he suggests it to Nicky was preparing me for worse, and when he learns Danny has been excommunicated he’s definitely extra keen to have Daddy and Henry Time, brings Danny fully onto their team and jumps at the chance to help Danny with a potential plan to build a device to scramble the bell’s signal.
Nichole: Very sweet father/son bonding time. Again — suckering us in with sweetness so it was easier to stick the knife in later. CRUEL. I’m making a citizen’s arrest of every writer on the CW’s Kung Fu.
Natalie: Henry was pretty offended about the Wan Zai, so I wonder how he will respond to them later.
Nichole: It makes it hard to imagine him ever being involved with them.
Natalie: But yeah, both men at different moments were like hang on, we want to do this together… eager eager.
Nichole: It was really cute.
Natalie: “Do you wanna build a toaster…”
Nichole: “It doesn’t have to be a toaster!”
Natalie: I’m so sad!
Nichole: This was a truly great episode, but Full. Of. Bummers. Have we gotten to the part where Nadia is like, “Uh… Evan? Did you forget to tell me about the magic?”
Natalie: Yeah, it’s now.
Nichole: Because if we don’t get more Nadia next season, we riot.
Natalie: While they’re making the toaster, Evan has brought Nadia to Nicky’s house and apparently told her nothing. Until they start looking at geothermal maps. Evan doesn’t have a lot of game, does he?
Nichole: For a handsome guy, he really doesn’t seem to. He’s married to justice. “I’m sorry, Nadia, I didn’t notice your flirting because I’m too busy dedicating my life to my ex-girlfriend’s crime-fighting business.” Not a stellar technique.
Natalie: I do wonder how that will go, if they get together. If he will be forced to define his dedication to Nicky, clarify that it isn’t romantic obsession, but that yes, it’s a massive thing he’s in with her.
Nichole: It was very cute. They have my blessing. I know even Olivia has been like, “I think it’s weird that they’re still friends,” but, honestly, I love it and I don’t feel any kind of tension there, like, in terms of Evan wanting them to get back together or whatever. I’m very pro-Nicky/Evan BFF.
Natalie: Yeah, I agree, I think it’s just difficult to explain to an outsider. Though Nadia has been in the trenches now with them, so she’s poised to Get It.
Nichole: I think she is. Evan was just so clueless, though. Is he even into her?
Natalie: Yeah, the fact he “had no idea” says… he really wasn’t thinking of her like that?
Nichole: Possibly he’s just been so focused on other stuff it didn’t even occur to him? But now that the idea is planted… What’s not to love? She’s spunky, smart, brave, clever, super cute??? Also, as we eventually see, very polite!
Natalie: I think we will see more of her! I mean, she’s risked a lot for Evan. What did he think that was all about? Honour?
Nichole: She did say way back in the beginning of the season that she wanted to see Tan go down.
Natalie: Well, we are skipping ahead a bit but there are some great responses to Evan’s focus, we will come back to that. In the meantime, Dennis interrupts with a very inconvenient problem. At first, I was like, externally, writer wise — what the fuck? Like, what the fuck is this all about. Obviously by the end you see why they introduced this seeming wild card. But at first I was very, like, what.
Nichole: I hate that it probably going to fuck up Althea’s business though. I guess they might be able to figure out a way around it.
Natalie: They might be able to fix the problem and just tell no one they sent that warning. Live with the technical illegality of it. But in the moment he first called I was like… what?
Nichole: They made it seem like, sending this message made it inevitable that it would be exposed, but I guess nothing is set in stone. Side note: Dennis calling Althea “babe” is, like, my kryptonite. Have I ever been called babe? No. Have I ever wanted someone to call me babe? No. Do I get an unreasonable level of joy from Dennis saying “Babe” in different tones of voice, yes. End side note.
Natalie: Yeah. Well, what’s right and what is legal isn’t always the same thing. Kung Fu has been pushing on that point quietly for a bit. Would you like them to push harder?
Nichole: I think the app thing falls into the category of too much reality. I think that that push and pull between what is right and what is legal is interesting because it makes sense that they have to work so much outside of the system. But I’m not particularly interested in Althea going to prison, lol. I want them to be able to get away with all of these illegal things because they are the good guys. Don’t muddle this up with a clash with the law. This scene did give us a really iconic Althea line though. “See if Courtney can close the backdoor with a bandaid, I have to focus on saving the world.” Reverse “If the apocalypse comes, beep me” vibes.
Natalie: Given the issue with Chase Whatsit and Althea’s struggles to get investors… I did wonder if Dawn was a mole. Foul play.
Natalie: That could be how they get out of it, next season, or in the finale. And then all the investors will give Althea all the money. Proof of Chase’s evil deeds.
Nichole: I love that. You’re so smart.
Natalie: We haven’t had a resolution with Dad of Dennis yet either, so I feel like Chase is lurking.
Nichole: I hadn’t considered we might even have room to deal with that in only one more episode.
Natalie: Yeah, maybe not in full, but maybe touching back on it in advance of season 3.
Nichole: I don’t want us to slide past Jin showing up with the snacks and taking a moment to talk to Nicky. It really made me want more Jin/Nicky scenes. The first season implies they had a really special relationship and it has been pushed a bit to the background this season.
Natalie: Yeah, that’s true. Here, I liked that he was like… I believe in my magical daughter, but there needs to be a plan for a natural disaster if it happens. Can you consider that element please? But gently and kindly.
Nichole: It was a really nice moment.
Natalie: And Nicky says… we’re doing everything we can. No you’re not, girl.
Nichole: Mmmmhmmmmm. Okay, but before we get to that we’ve got one of the best Kerwin scenes of the episode! Russell absolutely doubling down on the creepy parent vibes. Natalie, he cries. Please talk to me in loving detail about Kerwin’s mental breakdown over the creepiest I love you ever uttered.
Natalie: Oh my God, okay. Like. The whole thing is very disturbing. It’s like… number one, Russell Tan is a fucking idiot for thinking Kerwin is following his every word. He is so wrapped up in himself. He thinks he knows Kerwin, but he doesn’t. So I find the idea of a parent having all these warped ideas about you, assuming they know you and your motivations, and getting it wrong in ways that are offensive to imagine — like, is that who you think I am? — really hard at the best of times. This was extra awful, but Kerwin has clearly convinced Russell he’s a good little follower because Russell is telling him everything, kind of. Given what we learn later in the episode, it brings a new light to making them compete. Right now, it’s like, who gets to be dad’s best friend forever? So… was the winner of the competition meant to be the one who… he wanted to kill? Become?
Nichole: I did get my wish of wanting to see Russell try to convince Kerwin to live with him forever.
Natalie: The loser walked free? Or was it the opposite? Like, nice way of showing love. I love you so much I want to sacrifice you. Hate the spare one, they can live as normal. How crazy is Russell? Is he just warped and manipulative? Or delusional? Does he think he loves them???
Nichole: I actually think all of the love talk was a lie. I don’t think he loved them even on a delusional ‘this is for the best’ level. I think he was really just an absolute piece of shit who was only in it for himself.
Natalie: I’m inclined to agree. He just needed them to feel it and comply. I think that’s why Kerwin cried, the hopelessness of hearing these words and like, processing how fully fucked it was, his whole life, all of it.
Nichole: Yeah, he was just trying to manipulate them with his idea of what being a loving parent looked like. Which wasn’t even a good facsimile.
Natalie: How long he strove, thinking he was the problem.
Natalie: Not good enough.
Nichole: IT WAS SO GOOD. I actually gasped at that tear.
Natalie: Coming to terms with that… But oh, man. He was so good, I love him so much. It felt so, so bad. I think going through the motions of being compliant, all the things he’s done either for or against his father… coming to terms with how useless it all was. When we first meet Kerwin, he’s fully against his dad. I still want to know how he broke off initially. But this is the climax of an arc that’s been going on for two seasons, with this sort of glorious anti-hero character who we only want good things for.
Nichole: I feel like when we first see him against his dad it is almost more knee-jerk. But this episode it was more like, “Oh, I was actually right about him.”
Natalie: Yeah, like I said there’s a lot of processing of the hugeness. I think that’s a very traumatic thing, being made to feel like you’re the one who’s got it all wrong for ages and you’re the lower person, you’re the one who failed… Like it is obviously very gaslight gatekeep girlboss of Russell.
Nichole: Ha. Very. Honestly we could probably talk about this for an absurd amount of time.
Natalie: Just the level of validation that is actually tragic validation and hard to believe. Doesn’t make you go, I was right! I’m great! I’m confident! It is just really, really miserable and head fucky.
Natalie: This is all really honestly so tough for my little crayon. That tear… like you said, we could discuss this for ages, but the enormity of the situation is really how depressing it is to finally come to terms with the fact that what you fought for so hard, this approval and love, it was never possible, you’ve wasted so much, you have the realization that this is just how it is. Accepting the things he cannot change, and it is so fucking hard, for anyone, in, let’s just call it what it is, an abusive relationship.
Nichole: Yes. There was just so much in that one stray teardrop. Like it just crystalised the whole history of their relationship.
Natalie: How brave and good he is for not faltering, not losing his head to make accusations, not calling any of this out, in order to save Mia. He could really go for it here, just… throw down, but one tear is all he gets for himself, before straightening up and sticking to his plan to trick his father and save Mia. This man does not deserve anything of what’s happened to him!
Nichole: No, and, I mean, he really ticked all my boxes with that move. Obviously we’ve been obsessed with him all season, but he managed to move it to another level with that. Just forcibly tamping down all that emotion so he could do the right thing. chef’s kiss!
Natalie: Angel. I would always pick him first from the crayola box.
Nichole: My heart can’t take it, Natalie. It’s almost like we watched him grow up this season. Like, he was very ‘teenage rebellion’ last season. Then ‘angry young man’ at the beginning of this season. Then he grew into himself. Then he put his ego aside to be someone better…
Natalie: He hasn’t been back around his dad for a while, I guess. Like, when he is with Zhi in season 1, he has been estranged and rebelling for a while. So getting dragged home… seeing it all with his new knowledge of the world…
Nichole: Then he FUCKING DIED.
Natalie: Shhh. He died at the end of season 1 as well, and he was FINE.
Nichole: Ha. Good point.
Natalie: But yeah, watching him come to terms with all of that about Russell definitely strengthened his convictions. And also made him very distressed, but he is selfless here. Which is so… weird but amazing. This Kerwin and the current iteration of Zhilan could have… quite a life. COME ON, Kung Fu, DON’T DO THIS TO ME. MIA NEEDS PARENTS.
Nichole: We could have had it all!
Natalie: Well, this must have been a rough transition for you, going from that perfect baby crying to Nicky crying at Pei-Ling!
Nichole: I cannot tell you how happy I was to see Pei-Ling. I really did wonder if maybe she was gone for good. I loved everything about this scene. First of all, you know how I love Nicky’s moments of vulnerability. And the way she just loses it. Like, she’s holding it together, but obviously shaky and then when Pei-Ling appears she gives herself permission to be vulnerable. The last time we saw Pei-Ling she wasn’t really Pei-Ling, so getting back MY Pei-Ling made me so happy.
Natalie: I do just need to say that this was very public in the living room. Somebody might walk in! Sorry, I won’t get over the whole talking to ghosts thing yet.
Nichole: Well, we still haven’t seen exactly how these conversations work from the outside.
Natalie: Yeah, maybe it is ALL in her head, her side too. But sure. I loved that this came after Nicky witnessing the direct impact on a “civilian,” Nadia, calling presumably a family member in warning.
Nichole: Yeah, I think that really shook her.
Natalie: Just the in-your-face cost.
Nichole: But Nicky trying to figure out where she’s going wrong. Like, “I’m doing it and it’s not working,” really broke my heart.
Natalie: What do you think it means that Pei-Ling shows up now? She “knows” Nicky has been haunted by Xiao, presumably — either she is a real spirit, or she is Nicky’s mind. Either version would be aware of Xiao. Why hasn’t she come before or why hasn’t Nicky conjured her?
Nichole: Ugh. I DON’T KNOW! Nicky asks “Is it really you?” and that threw me a bit for a loop.
Natalie: Yeah. That to me means that Pei-Ling is aware — again, that could mean either real ghost, or Nicky’s brain, because Nicky’s brain is aware of Xiao.
Nichole: Pei-Ling has to be at least a little real, right? RIGHT???
Natalie: So Pei-Ling seems aware of what’s been going down, and didn’t show up to say, “fuck that bitch for stealing my face, I am also still here,” again, either as a sentient ghost, or Nicky’s figment. But… maybe we will find out next week when we enter the realm.
Nichole: The logic of when she appears is still a bit fuzzy, although she does tend to appear when Nicky really needs her. I’m… I need that finale. I NEED IT. Anyway, Pei-Ling very gently points out that Nicky is leaving an important tool on the table. I loved Pei-Ling’s speech about Nicky and Zhilan. I think this is the first time Kung Fu comes out and says that Nicky and Zhilan are connected. BOUND BY DESTINY. BOUND BY BLOOD. I was cheering.
Natalie: Pei-Ling ships it.
Nichole: Ha. But, for real, if Zhilan dies next week (which I don’t think will happen, but…) I will also die and turn into a vengeful ghost.
Natalie: No way! Not unless Yvonne has asked to leave. Nicky shaking and crying from stress was very sad, but when she was like I’ve done everything, I was like NO YOU HAVEN’T, BE HONEST, and so obviously that is what Pei-Ling had to say as well. And to Nicky’s credit she was like “Sigh. Yeah.” She doesn’t fight it.
Nichole: No, she knew. But it’s not like I can blame her for thinking that Zhilan was a risk. I like the message of looking beyond the duality of good and evil. Like, it’s not that some things aren’t inherently evil, it’s just that everything is complicated. And context matters.
Natalie: Yeah, leaving aside the fact that Zhilan is not evil in ANY way.
Nichole: Well… She did do a lot of murders…
Natalie: I just feel like yeah, she killed Pei-Ling, but Pei is fine with it. So everyone else has to be fine with it. What did you think of the way she approached Zhilan? She was still kind of on edge, obviously didn’t make any apologies or reconciliations… But the practical approach seemed to work. She did say “I need you” very intensely.
Nichole: I loved how they did it. Not overly sentimental, but as you said, intense.
Natalie: Do you think Nicky will ever apologise for the monster comment? Feeling like maybe she should. But we shall see.
Nichole: Hmmm. We’ll see.
Natalie: Cutting back to the more stressful realities of the group, Mei-Li and Jin are concerned about the impending earthquake, and are heading up the prepping, trying to organize food and shelter without telling anyone else the truth. This sounds… so difficult honestly. It’s only a small group. I assume if it does happen, relief workers will step up, supplies etc will happen, but the advance prepping is just little Harmony Dumplings.
Nichole: I’m not going to lie, I was like, they are spending an awful lot of time planning for an earthquake that is SURELY not going to happen…
Natalie: Oh, you thought that it would be prevented? I was fairly sure the bell would get a bit rung. Maybe not the whole hog, but that something would start.
Nichole: I guess I should have known by now that every single elaborate plan they have had has failed to some degree, but I just didn’t think Kung Fu would be willing to actually level San Francisco!
Natalie: I’m sure it will be minimal in the end, but at least something will start! And people will be like wow, Jin, that was fast! It also just adds pressure to the secrecy. We know, we have this responsibility, what do we do to help? That comes back to Althea later, but you can tell Jin and Mei-Li want to speak out. But how do you even… do that?
Nichole: Is it going to be weird that they were so prepared? Maybe in the chaos no one will notice Harmony Dumplings had already stockpiled food? Or that the community center was so prepared with supplies and shelter?
Natalie: Yeah. It is super weird, but I doubt Kung Fu will say so. If I was like, Frank, or something, I would be like … how?
Nichole: But then if you connect that to Althea’s app and the warning… it doesn’t look great for the Shens? Not that it makes sense to blame someone for a natural disaster.
Natalie: I guess we will have to wait and see on that one. What matters is, they’re doing their best. And so is Sebastian.
Nichole: Don’t get me started. His hand. On Ryan’s chest. Staring into each other’s eyes. “I’d rather not lose you again.”
Natalie: Go ahead, don’t hold back.
Nichole: Please excuse me while I puke rainbows all over everything while levitating like a being who has just received enlightenment.
Natalie: Happy Pride! Hand on chest was okay, thumbing his chin while knuckle-caressing his neck was the real winner for me
Nichole: Oh god. Shhhhhh. It was a short little scene, but it packed a punch.
Natalie: Seb is rolling with being in the loop pretty well.
Nichole: I’m glad we got him in the loop before calamity struck.
Natalie: It neatly transitions from Ryan to Althea with a phone call about Tan’s research, due to cracking Juliette’s phone. Althea is a little too bubbly for natural disaster prepping, but she is getting the job done.
Nichole: Her cavalier attitude in her excitement about cracking the phone, reminded me of her epiphany when she realized she wanted to work for herself. Like, “Why do I like this better than my job?” “Because you’re helping people?” “No, that’s not it.” LOL.
Natalie: Research Ryan now has all of the ancient Xiao stuff Tan was working from, and Althea finds something that CAN burst her bubble the way an earthquake apparently can’t. Because Nicky brought a little friend home. It is finally happening!
Nichole: No waffles yet, but we’re getting there. How did seeing Zhilan in the house compare to your expectations?
Natalie: We started slow, but it built up to great things. Zhilan is very polite… in the bluntest way.
Nichole: There were some extremely good faces being made. I’ve gotta say, I do enjoy knowing where I stand with people, so I think I could vibe with Zhilan’s blunt demeanor.
Natalie: Althea recovers pretty fast, and they get to work on deconstructing the Tan resources, but the exchange of face with Zhilan and Althea when Althea says “You really think Tan would hurt his own daughter?” is… magical. Those two need a side quest.
Nichole: PERFECT — I could not have asked for more.
Natalie: ‘Someone Will Die — OF FUN’ energy.
Natalie: But yeah, Zhilan’s alternate points of view put them thinking in a new direction, she’s a valuable team member, and then along comes Evan and more faces are to be made. I mean. Come on now.
Nichole: That whole thing with Evan and Nadia had me thinking we need a slapstick comedy episode. Evan gently backing Nadia up after she tries to shake Zhilan’s hand. HOWLING.
Natalie: LET HER BE NICE TO HER. Zhilan would be a lot nicer if people didn’t buy her intimidation act. Nadia, no preconceptions, being friendly and nice. Just roll with it!
Nichole: Nadia could wear her down for sure.
Natalie: You made it weird, Evan!
Nichole: I mean, to be fair Zhilan didn’t seem to be receptive to the touching.
Natalie: No, that is true.
Nichole: And that’s Evan’s girlfriend, even though he doesn’t know it yet.
Natalie: Yeah, to be fair, maybe Zhilan shouldn’t be such a “Don’t you know who I am” bitch.
Natalie: Anyway, the mission is more important, so it’s impressive that everyone just jumps right in, everything on the table. And between the intel from the five of them, they put together an idea that yeah, the Tan side has I guess hinted at earlier, this Zindle tech company sale.
Nichole: Yes! I thought of you and all your questions about the emphasis on the Zindle campus.
Natalie: The good guys do all the spelling out for us — Tan wanted Zindle campus because it is one of the correct geothermal hot spots where the bell will work. He went in when the company was weak, and got the company for the building and the location. Sorry, Zindle employees. Juliette was feeding that plot in for us early, I knew it had to lead somewhere, and yeah, this is about right. Though it did seem a bit out of nowhere a few episodes ago. What did you think of this group scene to start with? Like, I found it quite interesting that it took these different factors, Zhilan’s suggestion, Evan’s knowledge, to get it done. It just goes to show, I guess.
Nichole: I loved having the big group together. It was fun to see some different dynamics at play.
Natalie: Definitely. And yet more to come!
Nichole: Obviously Henry and Daniel showing up leads to the best shot of the season.
Natalie: Duffel Bag POV BAG. All of Kung Fu needs to be shown from inside a duffle bag from now on.
Nichole: Also, bless this cast for being attractive even at that angle. Good work, guys.
Natalie: That’s truly a problem, yeah. Ridiculous! The Yan boys are so offended. So protective of their toaster.
Nichole: I really loved the idea of the toaster. It was a very good plan and they did a good job! Maybe they have to kill Daniel off because he and Henry together are too powerful.
Natalie: That’s unfair. But they are very funny and good. So they have this maybe plan to disrupt the bell if and when it rings, which means getting into the Zindle place, Althea hacky hacky hacky, Nicky, Zhilan, Evan fighty fighty, Yan boys toasty toasty. Nadia would like to help, but gets sent home.
Nichole: Protect Nadia at all costs.
Natalie: I guess the promise of an unexpected kiss was unexpected for one of the kissers. It was not unexpected for me! It was about the most expected! Of any possible potentials.
Nichole: I really appreciate that she saw her chance and she took it. You go girl.
Natalie: I enjoyed even Zhilan being like “really?”
Nichole: I was glad it was so unexpected for Evan though, because I said this before, he was not bringing the heat in that relationship, you know? So if that was him interested in someone, I’d be a little disappointed. I’m looking forward to the potential of him being all flustered about it next time he sees her.
Natalie: Okay, I have two questions for this. No, three. Two are silly, let’s do those first. Number 1: this was a big group scene, we had Nicky, Zhilan, Althea, Henry, Daniel, Evan and Nadia. Eddie chatted in your interview about how much fun that all was, but I ask you: you have the power to add ONE more regular player to this scene. Ryan, Seb, Mia, Mei-Li, Jin, Dennis, Kerwin. Who do you think would have been the best addition, just them, to this household scene?
Related: ‘Kung Fu’ star Eddie Liu on Henry’s relationships, the joys of working with a great team, and what to expect from the season 2 finale
Nichole: Oh. Wow. Okay. I did actually think at the time how I’d like to see Sebastian in a big group scene like that. But it’s hard to turn down Kerwin at this particular moment due to my current emotional state regarding his fate. But I need to know your thoughts on this as well.
Natalie: Well, Kerwin was doing an important other job at that moment, and his presence would also just totally change the approach. So while yes I want him there. I think maybe Mei-Li, for how much she would have cowed Zhilan?
Nichole: Oh, yeah, I would like to see the two of them together.
Natalie: Or Jin, to look at him vs Danny. in Fatherdom. But yeah, thinking about who would have had the best potential for good Zhilan stuff… Mei-Li. Though Dennis may have been Nadia 2.0 and totally funny and nice to her. Second Question: so this unexpected kiss, right? Maybe not so unexpected. What is the #1 actual unexpected kiss you could have got behind as a plot point maybe, even if it was potential for massive drama/cheating/conflict, but like, you could maybe see it?
Nichole: Okay, let’s think. Oh my god. I’m so bad at this. Okay. I can do it. If I’m trying to think of it from before I saw the episode it’s hard, because really Evan and Nadia was the only one I could think of at the time. Like, in terms of who could make an unexpected kiss sizzle, I was like, obviously Sebastian, so I was trying to think who he might, like, need to fake kiss for some weird plotty reason. But after the episode, maybe Mia and Kerwin, if Mia hadn’t been basically a corpse for most of the episode? Honestly, I’m so bad at this. It’s really hard for me to break up established couples in my mind. But, I know you must have a good one.
Natalie: Yeah, it’s Jin/Frank (if Jin went to warn him) or Evan/Nicky. I am okay with the storyline of it being like, genuinely over each other, but in the last few episodes we’ve had a few moments of Henry and Nicky being slightly not aligned and Evan being really supportive. You hate love triangles, but I definitely could maybe get behind the drama of this coming up again. Sorry.
Nichole: Yeah, I mean, I can see the appeal of the drama of it on some level, but it just doesn’t work for me emotionally. Although, never say never. I’m easily manipulated by television, so they could probably get me on board if they worked at it. It just has to make sense, and right now, at least, it doesn’t.
Natalie: It maybe could have. I don’t know. My third question is more legit. So Nadia kisses Evan — she’s clearly had these feelings for a while, and probably why she helped him. Evan, “I had no idea” Hartley though… I want your perspective on how you see this scenario in general. Not just for this couple, but like… how does one act when someone’s made a move and you haven’t even considered them like that? Shrug and say sure, why not? That seems unbalanced, feelings and investment wise. So, if you please, tell me about how people act in these circumstances, or should act? Or how you would like them to act? Long term feelings on one side, brand new information on the other. Of course sometimes in fiction it’s like oh of course i like you too i just didn’t realise, but like… bullshit. It’s not that I think it can’t work… just wondering your thoughts on it.
Nichole: Oh boy, have you come to the right place, because actually, that’s sort of how Aaron and I ended up together?
Natalie: Tell me everything. Well, everything you’re happy to publish.
Nichole: I think in the first place, we are missing some information on Nadia’s end. We don’t actually know how long she’s been nursing these feelings, it could be that they’ve grown as she’s seen how dedicated and noble he is.
Natalie: That’s true, it could be a burst of impulse now. But say it is longer term.
Nichole: So, when I met Aaron (at what was basically a summer camp for nerds, no surprise) I instantly fell madly in love with him. Like, literally looked at him and said, “I’m going to marry him.” Ridiculous. Impractical. Also, did I mention we were 16? Anyway, I was also at camp with several friends, one of whom was super hot and obviously she and Aaron were the ones everyone expected to get together. I was like, 3rd or 4th on the list of my friends one might actually expect to end up with the hottest nerd on the block.
Natalie: Supportive friends, LOL.
Nichole: But I bided my time until it was clear he and my super hot friend were not a good emotional match and then I was like, okay, my time has come. There was a small group of us and we were all really good friends. And this is something that it took a while for both Aaron and I to learn, but he’s not always super in-touch with his feelings, so he wasn’t pining away for me while I was pining for him, but then one day, OVER THE PHONE, I was like, and I kid you not, “I have more than platonic feelings for you.” And Aaron’s response was, and I kid you not, “My mom’s yelling at me, I have to go vacuum.”
Natalie: Happy anniversary, you two! I love you guys so much.
Nichole: But then he called me back a little bit later and was like, “Do you want to go out.” God, I can’t even believe how the kids did it back then. I feel like this is historical fiction. Anyway, he sort of backwards realized that he had been into me and we’ve been together for 34 years, so… it can work.
Natalie: Describe your feelings between the vacuum and the next call.
Nichole: Nervous? Bad? We were pretty good friends and I didn’t really want to mess that up even if he didn’t feel the same way. But I figured if I just acted super normal it would work out one way or the other. Fake it til you make it, as they say. But, honestly, “I have to vacuum.” Can you imagine? Anti-romance.
Natalie: How often does that come up? I feel like this is a ship meme. Which one of your OTP is “I have more than platonic feelings for you” and which one is “I have to vacuum.”
Nichole: LOL. Yeah, we still do bring it up from time to time because it is still pretty indicative of our personalities.
Natalie: So how would you like this to be handled, in a story, to make it feel good for Evan and Nadia to get together and balance their feels out? Evan: “I have to vacuum.”
Nichole: This is why I’d like to see him flustered about it next time he sees her. Like, “Oh, wait, I… she…” and then he has to reevaluate their whole relationship and try to figure out if 1. there might have been something there the whole time, but he was too focused on other things to deal with it or 2. he really wasn’t thinking about it because things were so serious and professional and now that he can think about it he has to figure out what he thinks. I think Gavin could really pull it off, acting-wise, to see that journey play out mostly internally, but we can see that he’s like that math equation-lady meme about it until it clicks.
Natalie: It would be nice to see Nicky bigging him up, all the Shens actually — This is Our Evan. He’s Good. I still want Evan backstory re: him being so ingrained with the Tans and Mei-Li etc. Every one of that family has LONG history with him, well over a decade, and I want to see something more of that. Nadia could be a good vehicle for that too maybe.
Nichole: Yeah. Like, how much of the story does Nadia know? Does she have any idea why he’s so tied in with the Shens? But, yeah, Mei-Li as basically Evan’s mom, making sure Nadia is good enough for her son.
Natalie: Mei Li has at least six kids now and if I get my way she’ll have eight. Add Zhi and Kerwin on top of Mia, Evan and Seb.
Nichole: One big happy family.
Natalie: Eight is lucky! So yes. Speaking of Kerwin, this is all very fun but in the meantime he and Mia are having a terrible time. While all this is going on, he’s been able to find her from where she’s handcuffed to a pipe. Just absolutely brilliant scenes, honestly, and I don’t know if Kung Fu was trying to trick us into thinking Kerwin was really loyal to Russell… maybe some people took it that way, but we know him better. What a prince he is.
Nichole: I would never doubt our angel. My notes were literally, “SUCH A HERO.”
Natalie: SO beautiful and noble and glorious. They’re both so great and smart too. Mia says something that really struck me hard.
Nichole: The way he doesn’t want to leave her and she’s like, “If you get caught you can’t help me!”
Natalie: Yes. So good. Like, it is just really brilliantly done. Like, “don’t blow your cover by facing off now.”
Nichole: They had a really sweet chemistry together. I know I suggested them as the unexpected kiss, but it was really more of a sibling vibe.
Natalie: Potentially sibling yes. I think he’s a little old for her, but Zhilan also seems to want to kiss her, so maybe she could be their sugar baby. Or just their literal child. I could take either.
Nichole: Maybe let’s go with their literal child.
Natalie: I DON’T KNOW HOW TO READ INTIMACY SOMETIMES, OKAY #ZHIMI FOREVER.
Nichole: Okay, but I’m getting upset about Kerwin all over again!
Natalie: I think them as her parents could be fun. But… gahhh.
Nichole: He was just so good this episode.
Natalie: Look, it’s very traditional to make a character’s last episode a really grand statement of their true self and their arc. And if this is Kerwin’s last episode — Ludi will be here in 13, but not as Kerwin… It showcased him, it gave really strong things to say about him. It proved who he is, and everyone will know it, because Mia will pass on what he did. It is following all the rules for a big special showcase swan song for a character.
Natalie: I mean, what was your reaction when Russell told us he didn’t want Mia to ring the bell? He instead wants to bathe in her blood for a different ritual.
Nichole: That actually made more sense to me, going backwards to the very beginning, because at first it seemed like he needed to kill her, then it sort of switched up to it seeming like she was more of a part of a ritual. But, yeah, at first I thought she was meant to die, so it made sense that it went back to that. Although, I didn’t see “bathing in blood” coming. That was a real ‘yikes’ moment for me.
Natalie: Really fun times. I definitely thought she was going to be sacrificed somehow, like, the ringing would kill her but… Things took a true twist as the Shoobies converge on the building and Kerwin tries to carry Mia out. She is so nearly dead. Nicky and everyone on the comms, Zhilan taking out that guard… Kerwin’s running out with Mia…
Nichole: Kerwin taking down the building security!
Natalie: Kerwin is the one who unlocks the doors for them, unknowingly… Yeah! And they JUST miss each other! All very stressful. Any highlights or one liners for you here?
Nichole: Ugh. It was all so good. I really loved Kerwin just scooping Mia up and trying to get out with her. And I mean obviously Zhilan’s, “good luck with the toaster,” gets top marks. But, if we include up to the point where Kerwin runs into Russell, I loved, loved, loved, “I’d rather burn in hell than spend an eternity with you.”
Natalie: He can’t go out like this! He just can’t!
Nichole: Yeah, I mean, no matter what happens to Russell in the next episode, like even if he is defeated, it just doesn’t seem fair that he WON at killing Kerwin. GIVE HIM BACK.
Natalie: Sometimes life just isn’t fair, even in stories. Sometimes fiction writers still want to deliver the whole shit just happens thing rather than narrative reward. And I get it, but like, IN THIS ECONOMY?
Nichole: Exactly. Please, my blorbos, they’re dying.
Natalie: As they’re moving through the building, they find Mia first. She’s so nearly dead.
Nichole: BUT she makes sure to let them know Kerwin tried to save her, which, I really appreciate her priorities.
Natalie: But she manages to tell Nicky that Kerwin saved her, and seeing Mia like that makes Zhilan real mad. Yeah.
Nichole: Zhilan is on the warpath!!!
Natalie: Then we get the bit that I think shocked us all. Ryan is reading the suspected research to Nicky on the phone at the same time Zhi is discovering the results, with what Zhi is looking at just a few seconds ahead, enough to confuse us. The truth of the Tan Plan comes into full relief. Yes, he needed his child, and he needed to sacrifice his child. In a gross-ass body swap.
Nichole: The way this whole part was edited — amazing.
Natalie: The worst thing about this for me is that this wasn’t vital to entering the realm to get eternal life. He just wanted to be immortal and hot.
Nichole: SO UPSETTING!!!
Natalie: This was the utter worst part, the selfishness, the reasoning. It wasn’t even necessary for his main plan. It was just cosmetic.
Nichole: In the words of Olivia Liang, “Russell, you crusty-ass bitch.”
Natalie: Zhilan discovers Russell’s crusty-ass corpse as we, via Ryan, learn all about what happened… though Zhi has no idea. I want to know who Russell briefed in performing this ritual on him and tased Kerwin, or whether he did it all himself and pulled his own sheet up before doing the final masking or whatever. Imagine handling this as an employee!
Nichole: Working for Russell Tan sounds like the worst on every level.
Natalie: I just… Kerwin walking out of the shadows all bloody and Not Kerwin… Zhilan is just seeing everyone she loves with inappropriate blood on them. And yeah, Krussell to his staff is like, just roll with it bitches.
Nichole: Okay, let’s talk about Russell in Kerwin’s body for a second, because, Kerwin and Zhilan were pretty evenly matched in a fight, and now you have Nicky and Zhilan, and yet Russell, who we have no information on being a physical fighter, working with an unfamiliar body and just knocking both Nicky and Zhilan around? Come on, now.
Natalie: Also, let me share what Yvonne told me about Zhiwin back in early April. “So what can we hope for with their love story?” “Well, you’ll definitely see another run in between the two lovebirds. However, I think it’s going to be very surprising to the audience. I think that’s all I can say without giving anything away, but we can expect them to meet again.” HA.
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: Jesus Christ. I forgot about that. Yvonne, please.
Nichole: It just goes to show you how hard it must be to do all of these interviews and not give anything away.
Natalie: Definitely… and she wasn’t wrong. I should talk about how good Ludi was at being Russell, but like, I’m in pain. “Boy depressingly good at acting.” There. And then Krussell starts to ring that damn bell. I just want to say that at this point in the episode, there is like, 6 minutes left to go, and about 5 more big things happen.
Nichole: SO MUCH HAPPENS.
Natalie: Althea learns over the phone that the bell has been rung and it is her job to warn the family that the earthquake is probably on its way. So she and Dennis try to prepare, and then, as mentioned, she decides to use her app privacy bug to warn the user base. It’s not a large percentage of SF, and maybe not all users are in SF, but it is a way to warn at least some people in a fakely legit way. I was quite surprised by this, mainly because I didn’t get why this app side plot was happening earlier. But then I was like ohhhhh…
Nichole: I’m still so ??? about how this is all going to play out next season. I guess I should stop worrying about it until after I’ve seen the finale.
Natalie: Then, the toaster seems to maybe be working, but Tan’s men shoot the toaster and then shoot Danny. Actually, the other way around. But we don’t see that Danny got hit til after.
Nichole: They really faked us out there. I was like, “HE GOT SHOT” and then I was like, “Oh, I must have seen that wrong.” And then I was like, “HE DID GET SHOT.”
Natalie: Yep. Took a bullet for Henry, literally, after they had a good little fight scene together. I’ve said before that Danny would be a good person to kill off, for like, impact but not someone we NEED… But honestly, I don’t want him to die. I was never expecting his role to be this extensive when we first saw him with Henry as like, the deadbeat dad.
Natalie: Thought it was a one and done, they pulled a twist, and it is this massive arc.
Nichole: If he dies, it’s really going to mess Henry up, I think.
Natalie: I think he will. They made Ryan survive a gunshot, I feel like Danny won’t. It’s in the gut, not good. SO many guns this season.
Nichole: Yeah. Someone has to take the “L” in the gun department.
Natalie: I think Danny works, narratively. But I am starting to like him and Henry as a pair a LOT.
Nichole: Yeah. This episode really cemented them as a good pair.
Natalie: Again, that’s the trick of it. They show us why it matters, to make it hit harder. Then, stupid Krussell tells Zhicky his whole plan. And just shreds Zhilan to bits. That’s when we learn how callous it really is, that it was just cosmetic, taking Kerwin.
Nichole: Terrible. Just terrible.
Natalie: Zhilan has so many feelings. WHY DID HE HAVE TO DIE? Girl, say it louder. It’s so messed up.
Nichole: So. Messed. Up.
Natalie: This from someone who killed him last year and all.
Nichole: How the turns table.
Natalie: But she calls Krussell a monster and I feel like maybe Nicky is rethinking using that word for Zhilan. Zhi doesn’t even rank compared to this. They fight Tan’s men together and Nicky says “I got you,” which is very sexy of her, but Krussell manages to play his little tune and then the bell glows and cracks and so, apparently, does the earth. THE END. So we are left with a pretty huge cliffhanger, which is horrible. I can imagine all sorts of options on the magical side of Kung Fu, like going into the realm, who we might see. some of that is in the teaser that aired after the episode. I’m almost prepared for anything on the magical side, right? But I am most curious or concerned about the mundane side, the civilian side in SF. If this quake does happen, what will that look like for season 3? Like, what is the impact of the real world here? It could be so messy, a long aftermath. Of course, that bell glowing and cracking could mean a few things. Yes, it all seems like everything worked… but maybe the crack is actually faulty? We have a fake replica bell and we have a maybe fake mallet. Maybe one of those two could be a wild card that means it doesn’t work so well? Everyone is separated right now too. Mei and Seb at the restaurant, Jin and Ryan at the shelter, Althea and Dennis at home, Nicky here, Evan and Mia at the hospital, I hope. So going into the finale when this all goes down… don’t natural disasters usually cut cell service? I think the finale will be pretty hectic, with a lack of communication between everyone. Which is worrying, you know? I really want Pei-Ling to finally talk to Zhilan and Nicky at the same time, I want Pei to fight Xiao, I want Zhilan to save Kerwin, and I want there not to be a full on earthquake that wrecks the real life of the city. Those are my wishes for the finale… What are your thoughts on it all right now?
Nichole: I have to agree on the natural disaster of it all. That has me quite worried. It is just logistically a lot if they destroy San Francisco. I’m hoping that you’re right and we don’t get a full-on quake for whatever reason. Because I’m not really prepared for a lot of human suffering on this fun CW show that I use as a refuge from reality, lol. I’m trying not to get my hopes up on the Pei-Ling situation, but I have to say that the stars are aligning. They’re definitely going into the magical realm. They’ve set up the idea of playing with life and death. They’ve set up that the consciousness of all the warriors and guardians are there. So, I feel 100% sure Pei-Ling has a role to play. And the odds that they actually manage to pull her out in some way have gone from zero — as my least practical Kung Fu wish — to something in the realm of possibility. Maybe 25%? I mean, it’s always been 100% in my heart, but now it feels so much closer that I have to actively tamp down my hopes. I want Kerwin saved, but I don’t see how. Is his consciousness also in the magical realm? If we knew that for sure I would give it better odds. The thought of living with Krussell as the villain next year is so upsetting. Ludi would be amazing, but it would be so hard to be reminded every week of how we lost Kerwin. Anyway. I’m ready for the finale NOW.
Natalie: The trailer showed us that Krussell, in the realm, sees Juliette. Could be her for real, or could be his mind, or could be Xiao. But if she is real, maybe Kerwin could be there too. Like… he can’t just be dead, his soul had to go somewhere if souls in Kung Fu are real.
Nichole: Kerwin, please come home!