Picking up where the Kung Fu season 2 premiere left off, episode 2 sees Nicky and the gang race against time as Russell Tan moves in on Mia. Kerwin – Tan’s son, and Zhilan’s wounded lover struggles to accept his circumstances during a fraught family reunion. Read on for our review of “Year of the Tiger: Part 2.”
Kung Fu season 2 was listed as one of Subjectify Media’s most anticipated shows of 2022, and each week, Natalie and Nicky will be discussing the new Kung Fu episode and the ideas that it raises as a conversation rather than a traditional recap. Last Wednesday’s packed premiere introduced us to Nicky’s long-lost cousin Mia and showed us a bit of the new antagonist Russell Tan. We also caught up with Zhilan in a Chinese prison, and got a taste of the potential personal drama afflicting both Ryan and Althea. You can check out last week’s episode review below.
The premiere was the first half of a two-parter, and this week, we tie up some threads, get some initial answers, and set ourselves up for the rest of Kung Fu season 2. The official synopsis of “Year of the Tiger: Part 2” reads:
TAKING DOWN RUSSELL TAN — In the midst of Lunar New Year festivities in Chinatown, Nicky (Olivia Liang) tries to help her newly-discovered cousin Mia (guest star Vanessa Yao) understand her new reality. Meanwhile, as Nicky and Evan (Gavin Stenhouse) follow a lead involving one of Russell Tan’s (guest star Kee Chan) mercenaries, Henry (Eddie Liu) keeps an eye on Mia at the community center. Elsewhere, Ryan (Jon Prasida) meets Sebastian (guest star JB Tadena), Harmony Dumplings’ newest line cook and Kerwin (guest star Ludi Lin) is paid a surprise visit by his sister Juliette (guest star Annie Q.) Finally, Zhilan is forced to confront her past. Tzi Ma, Kheng Hua Tan, Shannon Dang, Tony Chung and Vanessa Kai also star. Joe Menendez directed the episode written by Ryan Johnson & Peter Lalayanis.
Keep reading for our reactions to Kung Fu season 2, episode 2 “Year of the Tiger: Part 2.”
‘Kung Fu’ season 2, episode 2 review in conversation
Natalie: “Year of the Tiger Part 2” seems to pick up right where “Part 1” left off. Our very first scene is still of the sisters in prison, Pei-Ling and Zhilan. But Zhilan’s arc this episode was very self contained, so we’ll come back to her after we handle Nicky and co. What were your first thoughts on this episode, as the close of a two parter? Or the two as a whole story?
Nichole: I think they were both so good. In terms of how they worked together, I think watching Nicky go from relatively carefree to feeling defeated was excellent. Like, a very believable arc in such a short time. I honestly couldn’t decide which episode I liked better, even though I tried to put some thought into it. I think we are really well set up for the rest of the season.
Natalie: I think I liked episode 2 the best, for a variety of reasons which we will discuss! So back at home, Mia is learning about the situation Nicky discovered with her mom — listening to the tapes all through the night. When we first discovered Mei-Xue’s tapes I never really thought to question who they were for. Now I’m wondering if I remembered wrong. Was Russell the first person who mentioned a cousin existing, or did you always suspect Mia existed? I guess I thought that the tapes were for… a general “you,” like the warrior who found them, non specific. But we obviously didn’t hear all they said, all the personal references.
Nichole: I didn’t suspect that Mia existed. I also assumed the tapes were for whoever the next warrior turned out to be, not necessarily for someone specific, although it makes more sense for them to be for her daughter. I’m so confused on what Mei-Xue’s long term plan was with Mia. Do you have thoughts about that?
Natalie: I definitely found it confusing that she apparently knew NOTHING and was made to never leave the cabin. She must have thought Mom was a doomsday prepper. It makes sense that she ran away, if from her perspective, she was being controlled by a potentially crazy or paranoid woman who just said WE ARE IN DANGER but nothing of why. I guess Mei-Xue was waiting until Mia was older? But then Mia ran, so she made the tapes?
Nichole: Mei-Xue’s not very sympathetic right now, so I hope we get some more backstory on what she was thinking. Mia is such a weird skittish colt!
Natalie: Skittish is right – her being visibly overwhelmed by the three Shens and Henry being like HIIIIII at breakfast was quite a lot! Nicky is being very kind to her so far, but between Mei-Li’s softness with her (the way she never was with Nicky) and the whole Henry bonding, OMG you’re the specialist one of a kind warrior guardian… how do you see Nicky and Mia getting along as we proceed?
Nichole: By the end of this episode, it has already been a pretty humbling experience for Nicky. Her whole “wholesome power of love” vibe got shut down pretty hard in addition to her physical injuries. She has to come at her relationship with Mia from a different direction. It’s less about Nicky’s innate specialness and more about being a leader and a guide, maybe?
Natalie: I think – and not to invoke Supernatural too much – but as it’s a common touch stone for us, like, family means different things to different people, and that’s so prevalent in that show – blood relation does not mean anything to some people the way it does to others. It doesn’t evoke an innate bond or a “just because” connection. “We’re family” is meaningless to someone who hasnt grown up caring about that at all, or longing for it, and this feels similar to that, in a way. And for people who “family” is a trump card for, like “but family!” it’s really hard for them to process that someone else just… doesn’t care about that the way they do.
Nichole: Right. Although I’m having trouble pinning Mia down. Is she rejecting Nicky because she really feels that way (we’re related, but we’re not family) or because she’s scared? Because she doesn’t want Nicky to be hurt because of her? Because she just doesn’t know how to open up to people? She’s a bit of a mystery to me right now.
Natalie: It could really depend on how far they go on her lack of socialization. It could be any of them.
Nichole: Yeah, and I feel like Vanessa Yao is giving us all of them in a crazy mix em up of emotions.
Natalie: It’s an interesting one, because she isn’t giving stereotypical raised by wolves unsocialised weirdo wacky tactless vibes. Her only influence is Mei-Xue, who I guess was both very quiet and zen but also very cautious.
Nichole: Yeah, except she does occasionally look like she’s one wrong move away from stuffing a crumpled up wad of paper into her mouth.
Natalie: *screams* It’s definitely unusual, and obviously I’m keen to see more. What did you think of her and Henry “bonding” on their day together? Just the dynamic, before we get to the info they learn.
Nichole: It was so cute. Henry was trying so hard. It had a very big brother/little sister feeling. He’s such an emotionally mature guy, so it was fun to see him a little bit at a loss. But of course he really is so sweet and sincere, it’s hard not to open up to him at least a little.
Natalie: You and I are very different people. I saw more chemistry there than with Evan.
Nichole: W I L D
Natalie: Henry is so addicted to cultural history, myth and information. It’s part of why he fell for Nicky. Mia is even MORE special and mysterious. Is this a turn on for him?
Nichole: WOW. I didn’t see that at all. He was just so big-brother-y to me.
Natalie: I could see it that way too, and I thought that at breakfast. “Guess you and I are hanging out today!” is very, like, babysitter. But as soon as they started working on the research, I was like oh dear, is she going to be the new shiny thing?
Nichole: Exactly. He was on babysitting duty, but he also is genuinely interested and wants to be helpful and, like you said, he can’t resist a mystery. But none of that equaled attraction in my eyes.
Natalie: Even if he wasn’t attracted, I’m still curious if Nicky will have issues with Mom and Henry both being like BUT MIA SO SPECIAL. Even if not romantic envy.
Nichole: I’m still worried about how hard Mei-Li is pushing the “protect Mia” angle and what that might mean for Nicky down the road.
Natalie: I dunno, a pretty boy telling a pretty girl that she’s one of a kind special even in a historical way feels like ship bait to me, but maybe we are both crazy. Again, I don’t know if she’s meant to be like, 18, or like, 24. We don’t know how long ago she ran away.
Nichole: I’m pretty good at seeing what I want to see and ignoring what I don’t and if there was a Henry/Mia/Nicky love triangle I would absolutely be challenging Bob to a duel, so…for now at least…I do not see it.
Natalie: Henry/Mia/Nicky/Evan love square.
Nichole: Who else can we jam in there? Nadia?
Natalie: Sure. The ghost of Simon Lau.
Nichole: Too soon.
Natalie: Another reason I thought Henry and Mia is because of the whole bonding over sexy crimes thing, and Mia being like how did Nicky (derogatory) end up with someone like you (affectionate)? You didn’t think anything of that?
Nichole: Still seemed very big bro to me!! Again, not to get all Supernatural about it but like Chrissy or Claire with Dean.
Natalie: Hahahah well it could still maybe be a one way thing, her liking him (as I think Chrissy did to Dean, though that was a way bigger age gap.)
Nichole: Yeah, she could have a crush for sure.
Natalie: A shout out to Henry’s baby lions is needed right about now.
Nichole: Sooo cute. And the way he was trying to show them off to Mia while she just stone cold ignored him.
Natalie: I wonder if Kung Fu will delve into Mia’s connection with, or lack thereof, to the Chinese culture and community that the Shen family is quite active in. But the information Henry was helping with is more crucial: she found a photo in her mom’s jacket of Mei-Xue and probably Daddy Mia, in his guardian necklace. Daddy was a panther. So Mia has a new obsession – finding out more about this. Henry rightly calls her turn-around of information suss, like- what happened between last night and today to make you suddenly all up on this? To her credit, she’s open about why.
Nichole: She very specifically doesn’t seem to want to open up to Nicky.
Natalie: Finding her father and what it means to have that Warrior/Guardian bloodline – if it means anything at all now that the weapons are gone and Biange is released – is valid. But yeah…. is it just that Henry was spending time with her and like, there, and Nicky hasn’t been around? Or was she maybe like… Nicky is too close? And also Nicky, not her, is the new generation warrior? Like “Mom thought it would be me but it’s not”? Though she did only learn that lore yesterday.
Nichole: I don’t think they even said anything to Mia like there’s only one in a generation. It almost feels like they are treating both Mia and Nicky as the warrior. I’m holding out hope that her father may be alive somewhere. It seems a little unlikely, but I do want it.
Natalie: We follow quite a few characters on Kung Fu from an individual point of view, in their own stories. Do you think we will follow Mia off on her own now? Or only follow Nicky looking for her or coming across her? Like, will we switch to Mia POV?
Nichole: If I had to guess, I’d say we won’t get a Mia POV until their paths cross again or she’s captured by Tan. She still feels a little larval, though, so maybe following her outside of Nicky’s sphere of influence would help clarify her character more. I don’t know. I think it could work either way.
Natalie: So running backwards to track Nicky through this whole incident that culminates in Mia breaking Nicky’s arm in the street. Henry is left watching over Mia while Nicky goes to work digging out the main drama of the episode: Russell Tan, and what he wanted with Mia. Which means working with Evan and Althea to head back into the San Francisco underworld. So basically there’s a lot of real estate chat that I didn’t entirely follow here until the end reveals why Russell was blowing up buildings. But ultimately, Nicky finds out that Tony Kang was helping Russell nab Mia and she cuts a deal with him. You help me get Tan, you get to rule the city again. How did you feel about her offering that deal to Kang?
Nichole: I loved that scene! Her negotiating with Tony was so good. And I think it was the first time we see Nicky speaking Mandarin, although I could be wrong about that. I think Nicky being willing to deal with Tony was practical given that she’s trying to take down a much larger opponent. I wonder if Tony will continue to be someone Nicky needs to deal with. It could present some long-term complications if she’s willing to work with him.
Natalie: Yeah, is it like, let him think this now, and I’ll get him later? Oddly enough I was like maybe she will turn him around and make him a sort of ally.
Nichole: Jinx! I was just about to say that. Maybe a little foreshadowing with the neighborhood kid from the first episode.
Natalie: Add him to the Love Pentagon.
Nichole: I’ll put him in the Love Pentagon, he’s cute. He seemed cuter this season? Maybe it was just his haircut and cool-guy clothes.
Natalie: How they style a character can definitely be a tool to help guide the audience how to feel about them (see Jamie Tartt’s new softer haircut in Ted Lasso season 2, or Kerwin’s look in this episode – like a visual empathy guide to help endear him) so it is possible Tony is going to be less of a convenient villain and more of a real person. We shall see. But I want to chat about Evan next. I am SO confused about the legality of all of this. He’s like… working ON the record to help Nicky OFF the record. They’re using legal and illegal means to get the info they need, like using illicit vigilantism in order to get Tan into a position where law enforcement can take him in.
Nichole: Also, is he just in charge of the cops?
Natalie: I feel confused about what the consequences are going to be for Evan, even if his boss wasn’t corrupt. With the cops, I guess he’s well known and liked, and he’s asking the officer “hey can you put someone on this” like a favor?I have no idea how legit or otherwise this all is.
Nichole: That’s how it has always felt before, but this episode it felt weirder for some reason.
Natalie: But ultimately you’ve got Evan doing the legit side, and Althea doing her hacking.
Nichole: I don’t see how Evan can stay at his job long term. It’s awfully convenient for Nicky, but it is starting to feel like too much rule breaking.
Natalie: It feels a bit strange to me too, I don’t understand if Evan is working in an official capacity or not, but I feel like for him, something’s gotta give. Maybe Evan and Althea can open a PI firm.
Nichole: YESSSSSSSSSS. You have found the answer.
Natalie: As of right now, with him getting intel from illegal sources knowingly, and calling it an anon tip? Maybe this is actually common in law enforcement. But I have no clue myself, and I’m lost, narratively, as to what bits of Evan helping are on the books for him, like yes I am doing this case on the record, and what bits are not.
Nichole: It feels mostly off the record right now, but I have no idea.
Natalie: Either way, Kang won’t incriminate his own gang in the Mia plot, but he gives them a lot of details about a Tan thing that he isn’t involved in, which is this construction company thing, and it turns out Tan has had his sights set on certain buildings in town over the years. And is blowing them up. All episode I was like why? Who gains? We do find out why at the end. But were you confused at all?
Nichole: I was confused about the buildings, and then I totally fell for the “Tan is going to blow up the building” angle. But I was almost more confused after we found out what happened. Is blowing things up really the best way to find ancient artifacts that you, theoretically, would like in one piece?
Natalie: Maybe it’s needed to get through years of concrete but… I don’t know. I definitely had no idea why he might blow up a building in the middle of a festival. He doesn’t really seem like a terrorist or anything. So why not wait until there are less people around? Causing a public explosion when your aim ISN’T to bomb the people is unnecessary drama that will have people on your back!
Nichole: I guess because he knew he was doing a localized explosion. No one outside seemed to notice.
Natalie: Yeah. Well, they discover the shreds of that plan and his history doing the same things elsewhere. We don’t know why until the end, but the research DOES get Althea in trouble at work. What did you make of the new confrontations at Loungr?
Nichole: MIXED MESSAGES!
Natalie: That woman makes me physically uncomfortable. No offense to the actress.
Nichole: I didn’t find her sinister at all in the first episode, but I was starting to think you were right about the nefarious motivations in this episode. Why was she so obsessed with Althea doing NOTHING? Side note: The inside of the nap pod was even more magical than I imagined.
Natalie: Her comment about doing a side gig on a work computer was totally valid tbh. But it was… there’s this underlying frantic aggression to that woman’s delivery. When she was like we’re all happy! I’m like you are not happy. I think I’m going deeper than I need to, as Althea seems to have quit so we may not see Loungr again.
Nichole: No, she’s not happy. Bye bye nap pod. I’ll miss you.
Natalie: I still back their lifestyle and I’m sure many of the younger people are legit fine with it (as was Nicky!) but something about Gwen, the boss, really had me on edge. The public confrontation with Althea and her turning to ask the others what they think? I HATE that. I hate that in an argument when someone turns to an uninvolved party as an audience and puts them on the spot, makes them give an opinion.
Nichole: Yeah, it was terrible. She seemed so determined to put Althea in a box. Like, I’m going nowhere so you can’t go anywhere either!
Natalie: But I couldn’t tell if she was just that angry at Althea – people get defensive when they’re like, something you think is good is actually shit or if there was a deeper, underlying issue. The thing is, the Loungr set is pretty extreme. I might be surprised they made something so elaborate for 2 episodes only, rather than returning to it all season.
Nichole: Perhaps I haven’t seen the last of my beloved nap pod.
Natalie: It would have been easy to build a slacker culture office less large in scope if it was only temporary… Or maybe they just hit up a real location that does operate like that and borrowed it. We shall see. Ultimately, Nicky finds out that Tan plans to get into the building in question via the next basement over, and she tracks things there.
Nichole: She really needs to stop running into extremely dangerous situations alone.
Natalie: Yeah. She’s been told. I guess it makes sense that they did a little underground bombing with the cover of fireworks. The boom would maybe not matter even if heard?
Nichole: Yeah, that probably explains the timing.
Natalie: It’s not how I would get to an artifact.
Nichole: Yeah, I’m no archeologist, but it didn’t seem great.
Natalie: But I guess if it was more like just blowing the doors off to a hidden space… I don’t even know. Either way, she witnesses an extraction of a piece of what we later learn is a bell, and we will come back to that, but ultimately… Russell’s on another quest! I said last year in my pilot review that the Weapons Quest reminded me of this old show T-Bag, a kids’ show where every season, the kid hero has to track this witch traveling through space and time and stop her collecting all 5 or 7 or 6 or whatever… parts of a powerful new mystery item, like Pearls of Wisdom, or the Sunstones of Montezuma, that need to be united for great power. Immediately, last year, Kung Fu made me think of this (complimentary) but how would you feel if Kung Fu season 2 is like oh, here’s another Mystical Artifact Quest?
Nichole: I’ve been a little lukewarm on Russell Tan, to be honest. He’s fine, but he hasn’t really captivated me as a villain. But the idea that he’s got some kind of plan to fuse the modern world and ancient magic is a hook for me. I don’t necessarily want them on another Mystical Artifact Quest, but I do love a good mystical artifact.
Natalie: It might be a little tropey, but I kind of love the idea of every season a new collector mission. I think I’m just stuck on T-Bag.
Nichole: I definitely wouldn’t hate it, but I don’t think that’s where they are going.
Natalie: But Nicky gets quite hurt, she gets hurt worse by Mia, and she feels emotionally crushed by Mia’s attitude. We discussed a little about Mia’s POV on that argument, but how about Nicky’s? Tell me about how Nicky made you feel in these scenes.
Nichole: I think it was a real blow to her ego on a lot of levels. We haven’t seen anything physically bother her yet this season, so getting hurt was a surprise. She’s also been very sure of herself in a way she wasn’t last season. She was convinced she could “fix things” for Mia because she has been fixing things. She probably needs to admit that she can’t control everything, especially other people. So, I was sad for her, but also feel like it was probably a lesson she needed to learn.
Natalie: So the most gentle and fun track of the episode was the time we spent at Harmony Dumplings. We conveniently shove Ryan in there because his role in the team this week is “cover Nicky’s shifts.” I’m a bit confused about where his doctor job is going – they said he was waiting to hear about a placement? I guess is that a hospital residency? But in the meantime, he’s plugging the hole that needs to be filled for the family while Nicky does hero shit. There were many cute things in this part, starting from the moment he walks in the door and finds his parents all flustered. Are you happy with how much time Kung Fu spends on more mundane, personal slice of life scenes?
Nichole: So happy. It is one of my favorite things about the show. I’m always impressed by how they manage to make those personal arcs feel just as valued as the bigger, mythic arcs. I just love the Shens so much and I want to know everything about their lives.
Natalie: So Jin, Mei-Li and Ryan all have mini arcs here. Mei -Li has been asked to feature on a news special about turning the audience around, and has these insecurities about flaunting her good fortune and basically owning their success. Accepting praise, or acknowledging the strengths they’ve had. What did you make of that attitude? It’s something many people struggle with, in different ways. Women, for one, and not just Chinese but many Asian (and other) cultures are really conscious about “tall poppy syndrome” in its various forms. It’s huge in Australia too actually, and it someone’s shocks me in America, how much the generalized US culture, especially white Americans, are willing to self advocate in a way that feels excessively egotistical to me.
Nichole: Lol, yeah, I mean, you know me, self-deprecating to a fault for sure, so I can relate. It felt like a lot of emphasis on how lucky they are, and how well things are going–to the point that I started to get nervous about it all crashing around them. Why keep pressing it over and over? But Mei-Li is so great and has so many facets. Stern, capable, sweet, flustered. I just love her a whole lot.
Natalie: She might be becoming my favorite. Jin and Ryan pumping her up was my favorite scene in the episode, in terms of Official Favorite Scenes. It feels like that since she’s revealed the truth about what she was carrying and what she ran from, she’s so much lighter, not so inherently tense and hard, and even her tough side is now also funny. It goes to show how the truth sets you free and all.
Nichole: Absolutely. I remember thinking, even from the pilot, that they must have more in store for her than what we were seeing and I’m so glad she’s become so much…more.
Natalie: So she does the interview and really blossoms when doing it, and it’s all very authentic and humble still. But there ends up being this sharper side to the success story, which is when Jin’s ex-lover comes in as UberEats driver.
Nichole: NATALIE. Please. I don’t even know if I’m “please, yes” or “please, no.”
Natalie: Sorry, the vibes were just… impeccable. As soon as he walked in, it felt like a long lost lover situation, especially reminiscing over painting calligraphy together.
Nichole: Jin was very soft.
Natalie: Oh let me help you with those… brush strokes…
Nichole: I’m screaming. But I read an upcoming episode description that included Jin helping him. I like the idea of Jin having his own quest. He’s been central to the heart of multiple plots, but he hasn’t had his own strong, stand-alone plot yet.
Natalie: There was such a fondness, but it turned sad because the guy, Frank, was like it’s awesome that you’re so successful! And then Jin realized Frank was picking up delivery work to help keep HIS dream business, this arts center, alive. That little bit of angst wasn’t resolved yet – it just had Jin thinking twice about what Mei-Li said, flaunting good fortune at all. It was a sting for him, so I am not surprised if he now finds a way to act. I’m joking about the ex-lover thing, but it did seem like… tropeishly framed that way. Jin might have had a bisexual fling once! We don’t know! If he’s returning, that makes sense, because it was quite a loaded moment, is all I’m saying.
Nichole: Let’s move on before the AO3 tag gets accidentally created.
Natalie: Okay, let’s discuss the AO3 tag you’d be more happy to create. Amidst all the parent stuff at Harmony, Ryan is put into the kitchen, under Sebastian’s supervision. And I have to admit… he’s kind of a hardass!
Nichole: He was such a hardass that he came off my suspicious list! I did like seeing Sebastian all competent and bossy in the kitchen though. Very sexy of him.
Natalie: Elaborate on the suspicious thing!
Nichole: Well, last episode he was so perfect. Perfect skills, perfect personality. So perfect it almost felt like it could have been an elaborate trap (I mean, not really, but you know). But this episode, he felt more real. I also liked that Ryan got a healthy dose of reality about his new crush. Better for them to start off on a more realistic foot. Like, oh, he’s not just this hot, mystery sex machine, he’s a real person who works in my parents’ restaurant and has his own interior life.
Natalie: Yeah. And the bossiness and shortness didn’t feel like a sexily domineering flirtation act either. Even if he does like Ryan, that felt like real no-nonsense slight impatience. Which makes some people very keen. I’m not usually into negging, but maybe it’s okay when Sebastian does it.
Nichole: Exactly, he was in the zone and he needed Ryan to step up. No time for flirting. At least at first.
Natalie: That being said, he also just put Ryan on a job he had no idea if Ryan could do, and I get that kitchens are really high pressure and for normal employees that’s expected, but you can set yourself back if you don’t distribute resources properly and put someone in a role they can’t do. Makes it harder in the long run, like when they fuck up and hurt themselves. Though I guess there is some expectation that the Shen kids can do all the basic kitchen roles if needed.
Nichole: That’s what I figured. Ryan said he was there to help and he has been working in the restaurant his whole life, so…
Natalie: It still felt a little off to me, not checking how to use Ryan the most efficiantly, but ultimately, the consequences were that Sebastian got to hold Ryan’s hand and other gay shit.
Nichole: Natalie. I died. I died and was dead from the hand holding and gazing into each other’s eyes. Sebastian got INSTANTLY cute and smiley after Ryan cut himself. It was a complete turn around. And I have 100% overthought everything about this scene.
Natalie: I have a MASSIVE gripe with it actually. Sebastian gave him a flesh coloured band-aid.
Nichole: Wait, why is that weird?
Natalie: That’s wrong for a kitchen. Kitchen workers use blue “chef” band-aids for cuts on the job, because it means they are easily identifiable if they fall off into the food. Standard food prep protocol.
Nichole: I did not know that. Get the prop department on the phone!
Natalie: I was gearing up for it too! I was like, oh, nice little thing here, the band aid’s gotta be blue. AND IT WASN’T. Sorry guys, I love you all but you let me down here. That flesh band aid could end up inside a roast duck and no one would know. Chef bandages are this universally similar deep bright blue. If you ever watch Great British Bake Off, you’ll spot people wearing them, but it’s nearly all over the world that does it. So there you go!
Nichole: I’ve learned something new.
Natalie: It’s blue because no food is blue. Unless you are making a heavily dyed cake
Nichole: It’s very smart! I feel like I should have known that.
Natalie: Anyway, I will somehow move on from this. Please continue.
Nichole: Okay, let me distract you with my thoughts! I was wondering if Sebastian is feeling a little weird about Ryan. Not only is he working for Ryan’s parents, Ryan is a doctor, which could feel intimidating or like Ryan might think he’s better than Sebastian? So, he could have been, maybe, putting him through his paces to make him prove himself a bit. But even if that wasn’t the case, I think seeing Ryan cut himself might have instantly brought Ryan down to a more relatable level. So, he was more willing to engage on the flirty level again. My favorite line was when Ryan admitted his knife skills were sub-par and Sebastian said, “Good thing you’ve got that doctor thing to fall back on.” Which is probably what made me wonder if Sebastian had been harboring some feelings of career imbalance between them, that he had decided to let go.
Natalie: It interested me too, though, because the level of Sebastian’s sort of tough-love flirting is something I feel is more commonly used on a cocky person to ground them. Like someone who’s acting like they’re all that, getting negged a bit, makes them go “oh hello.”
Nichole: But that moment right after…let me copy and paste my notes, so you can have a sense of how unhinged I was, “ARe ThYE GOiNG TO kISS?”
Natalie: But Ryan is so quiet, that it felt a bit overbearing to be that hard on him? But you’re right, it could be defensive. Or sometimes a quieter person also can respond to being riled up a bit, to draw them out. Fluster him!
Nichole: Overall it seemed to work, because it led to some very charged eye contact, broken only by Mei-Li. Poor Ryan, if cockblocking were a sport, Mei-Li would be MVP twice over. Which leads to the second thing I have been over-thinking. Was Sebastian offended by how quickly Ryan jerked away when Mei-Li came in? In my mind, that was a pretty normal reaction. They are at work after all. But I got the sense that Sebastian thought Ryan reacted that way because he didn’t want to be caught specifically with Sebastian. Again, maybe that feeling that Ryan wouldn’t want his mom to think he would date a cook? I don’t know. I’m maybe going too deep.
Natalie: These are all good thoughts. I still don’t know where this relationship is going. MY suspicion isn’t gone. It could also be that Sebastian is working extra hard because he really needs this job due to some secret reason, like, I don’t know, a hidden record, or immigration stuff, or a million other things. And is overcompensating at being like, really On It. There’s a lot to be analyzed for not much to go on, but it could also be that he doesn’t think much of the Shen kids for not committing to following in the family business, and finds their attitude on their shifts tedious – maybe that they’re not really committed, like he is, to food?
Nichole: We need more data. Which I want for science, not because I’m developing a massive crush on Sebastian. It’s definitely for science.
Natalie: Sebastian really breaks into a smile at Ryan’s doleful “I’m a much better dumpling crimper” (my favorite quote) – like he can’t help himself. That was nice.
Nichole: In my notes I rated that as a B- pick up line, but it did work on Sebastian, so maybe I need to give it an A.
Natalie: But before that, the harsh pace was quite genuine to me, like he didn’t have time to be polite, and there was also the back and forth of Ryan talking back to him about the knives. There was something in the “this is my turf, not your turf” for both of them – about Sebastian rearranging the family restaurant’s kitchen, in particular. Did you get any of that?
Nichole: I did. The tension and bickering felt very real. And it was probably heightened, on Ryan’s end at least, by wanting to be more impressive than he was.
Natalie: How do you suspect they’ll move forward?
Nichole: I don’t imagine things are going to move forward very quickly. As much as I’d like for them to get some good, quality interaction every episode, I think, based on all the other plots going on, that we are only going to be getting glimpses of this budding situation for a while. I hope I’m wrong, but there are just so many fish to fry right now that I don’t think we are getting a clear path forward any time soon. So probably just some more awkward interactions peppered throughout, at least for a few episodes. Look at me trying to keep my expectations low so I’m not disappointed. EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS AND TRUST ISSUES AHOY.
Natalie: Well, there’s another love story to keep me entertained in the meantime – a little less sweet, a little more stabby. I TOLD YOU HE STILL LOVED HER.
Nichole: Okay, you were absolutely right. She continues to be the sexy spiritual boss of him even after trying to murder him. But, let’s not gloss over Kerwin’s sexy workout temper tantrum. Apologies to Kerwin, who is obviously going through it, but I laughed so hard.
Natalie: Oh, I was screaming laughing, because immediately I was like “oh THAT’S who you are.” Nothing on this earth could have prepared me for our opening shot of Kerwin (my poor little meow meow.) He’s so mad! HE’S SO MAD THAT HE HAS TO LIFT WEIGHTS AND CHAINS ABOUT IT!
Nichole: Who doesn’t occasionally have to lift weights and chains about it!
Natalie: He’s so angry! Like a kitten. My new son. I feel sorry for his rehab nurse.
Nichole: It seemed like that wasn’t the first time she walked in on that scene. I also love his “I’m brooding and angry” beard and floppy hair. PERCEIVE MY REBELLION, FATHER.
Natalie: I was actually a little upset when he shaved later! But yes. he seems like a terrible patient. But then we enter Juliette: the evil sister. And immediately, from the second his face changes when he hears her voice, I was like oh, this is Zuko and Azula. No wonder he’s serving little meow meow. Now, you haven’t seen Avatar: the Last Airbender, but many of our readers will have – Prince Zuko is the show’s first antagonist who becomes a hero in the end, but he’s an antagonist because he defied his father (spoke back to him) and is sent on this like, quest to regain his honor, a quest that his dad knows is likely impossible. He banishes Zuko in part because he wants Zuko (too soft) out of the way, in order to favor his psychotic younger daughter Azula. Zuko’s story is maybe my favorite redemption arc for a character. He is in my top 10 fave characters ever as an individual, but his story is supremely well executed. So I’m projecting a lot of expectations onto Kerwin right now. Either way, the entire Kerwin and Juliette dynamic about being pitted against each other is definitely giving me Fire Nation Royals feelings.
Nichole: I found Juliette hard to figure out. I couldn’t suss out her motivation with Kerwin.
Natalie: In seriousness, Kerwin is not quite as sympathetic as Zuko (Zuko, being a 16 year old who was badly physically hurt by his father at age 13) and Juliette seems less actually insane than Azula, but we shall see. I can’t separate the idea. But there seemed to be some warmth there. At the moment, I would suspect any number of things – full annihilation of Kerwin at one end, Juliette being a lovely clever girl genuinely trying to get her and her brother out and take Dad down from within at the other. Your job is to binge all of ATLA by next week. It’s like, 60 episodes. Off you go.
Nichole: I do feel like I’m missing a huge swath of cultural literacy by not having seen it.
Natalie: We did it on Rewatchable! But watching and listening along would take a while. Eps of ATLA are only 20 mins and our podcasts are a lot longer. But it is one of the best stories ever told, and you should watch.
Nichole: Okay, I’m putting it on my list.
Natalie: Juliette… I got really, really angry about the dog. I was like Russell probably had the dog killed in the end. KERWIN LOVED THAT DOG. Get him a new dog.
Nichole: Maybe Zhilan can get him one to make up for the attempted murder. Juliette did seem to be genuinely trying to protect Kerwin from their father, but then at the end was goading him.
Natalie: Juliette – played by Annie Q – has a lot of notes to her performance. I can’t work out whether she is a) really ruthless and bad, b) happy to be a sort of pawn but not that bad, or c) really concerned and playing a long game ploy to get them out. Like is she ambitious, complacent, or covert rebellious? Could go a few ways.
Nichole: I could not figure it out. I’m not even sure what I want, to be honest. I would like her to be on Kerwin’s side though. Poor guy.
Natalie: What do you see for Kerwin next? He clearly is obsessed with Zhilan, in the sexy way. Because his cover story was all about how much he wanted to end her. Obviously a lie that we are meant to know was a lie. Would you respect a man who came crawling back after you stabbed him? Would respect matter if he looked like that and was that devoted?
Nichole: I was going to say, do I have to respect him? Is that absolutely necessary? I think Kerwin has some growing to do. Like you said, he doesn’t have a moral compass, only emotional loyalty. That’s no way to go through life, son. I’d like to see him and Zhilan trying to navigate their past.
Natalie: I actually love moral-free characters who act on emotional loyalty to the hero of a piece. But Zhilan isn’t quite that either. And yeah, eventually the influence of loving a hero rubs off on an amoral person. But again, Zhilan…
Nichole: Actually, I do have some faves like that too. But Zhilan isn’t really in a place to improve anyone’s morals.
Natalie: Who in particular?
Nichole: Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of Heaven Official’s Blessing. Where the main character is a former prince and fallen martial god and the person in love with him is a ghost king who has been pining for him for like 800 years since he was a human child rescued by prince during a parade.
Nichole: And everyone is like, “He’s so terrible. He’s so ruthless.” And our martial god is like, “He’s nice and he makes me feel fizzy all the time, what is happening?”
Natalie: I support them.
Nichole: #CoupleGoals. Also, nobody @ me about that terrible plot summary.
Natalie: I think Kerwin and Zhilan could have an interesting time, and it stands out to me that we are still following their POVs – especially Kerwin’s. Like, this is potentially a big character, at least for this season due to Russell’s plan to change the way that we see life as we know it or whatever. Even then, Juliette is slightly challenging him, like “are you going to make me and Kerwin play games about this?” She was quite catty to him. So was Kerwin actually – neither of them are cowed by Dad, at least not until a tantrum happens. They are both pretty openly bitchy to his face. Until, of course, discussion of Zhilan happens. How did you feel about that chat between the Tans over the lovely lady?
Nichole: I was surprised by how volatile Russell was about her. Is he also that worked up about Nicky? Juliette didn’t seem to have any personal investment outside of wanting Kerwin’s ties to her severed for good. She had a point about Kerwin. He didn’t make great decisions around Zhilan.
Natalie: Best case look for Tan, empathy wise, is that he’s that upset Kerwin still likes a girl who tried to kill him. BUT I DOUBT IT.
Nichole: Seems unlikely. Do you think Juliette was really the one to save Kerwin?
Natalie: That, I do not know. Could easily be the truth, could easily be a ploy. Right from the start, when he comes in to daddy’s office and they’re all like GO TO BED KERWIN, they seem to be sort of toying with him and not giving him autonomy. So they could be using him as a pawn somehow, which I am sure he suspects and feels edgy about.
Nichole: Hmmm. I find it hard to imagine they are working together to manipulate him. I almost feel like they have to separate agendas for Kerwin.
Natalie: Sorry, not together. I meant separately too. Each pushing him one way. When Juliette says “yeah, go to bed, K” it wasn’t a wink wink to Russell, it was more keeping Kerwin away.
Nichole: I felt like she was trying to protect him, but I don’t feel sure about it.
Natalie: Everyone in the Tan family knows that Kerwin’s excuse about wanting to get back at Zhilan for revenge was bullshit. right?
Nichole: Juliette does for sure. I’m not sure Russell is even capable of hearing it.
Natalie: I dunno, the whole “don’t worry, we’re killing her for you” seemed intended to torment him to me. It didn’t seem like DON’T WORRY DARLING SON, SHE WONT GET TO YOU AGAIN. But we don’t see his take on it in person.
Nichole: I think Russell is killing her for himself.
Natalie: It felt like “I’m cutting out your distractions and severing your ties” to me.
Nichole: How long will Kerwin think she’s dead, and will it change how he interacts with them?
Natalie: At first, I thought he might charter a plane to help bust her out. Or secretly be on the kill squad and work against them, Then, when she busted out alone, I thought he’d be waiting there and she would be like lol, too late. So if he’s just sitting at home accepting she’s been murdered.. I’d say that he will either outwardly continue to bristle, or start working from within, playing along, but with his own motive. He may discover then that Juliette is doing the same, because when he said, particularly, you are your fathers daughter, her face really did un-mask and fall a bit. That’s when she spoke about being the one to save him. I THINK I believe her.
Nichole: I do want there to be a kernel of good in there. She can still be a villain, but maybe just a soupçon of goodness.
Natalie: I actually just watched the scene again and I don’t think that she was goading him about her being killed. It turned from quite serious, but the cheerful “consider it a gift” is strained. I think the actress is playing a lot of notes, and I think that she’s trying to get herself and Kerwin out alive safely. And she might love Kerwin enough to want to save him from Zhilani, but that’s stretching. Either way, it could have all been said a lot meaner and it was more nuanced than that.
Nichole: It seemed like she got frustrated in the end and started trying a new tactic with him because he was being so difficult. Like, she had to reverse psychology him.
Natalie: Speaking of reverse psychology…. Big sister going in for that on little sister in the prison, don’t you think? So begins the whole Pei Ling and Zhilan ghost therapy.
Nichole: I’m going to melt into the floor just thinking about those scenes.
Natalie: As long as you can still type.
Nichole: Every note was perfect. They are perfect.
Natalie: Where are you now on “is Pei-Ling a real consciousness or a figment?”
Nichole: I think I’m in the same place. I don’t know. I still want her to be real in some way, but I don’t have any new clues to work with.
Natalie: I felt like maybe this week felt like more new information and independent thought, but Zhilan has a lot more Pei-Ling headcanon to draw from than we do, having known her forever. So it still could all be manifested.
Nichole: I guess we got our answer about how resistant Zhilan is going to be about therapy. The answer is Very.
Natalie: I’d actually forgotten that Pei Ling killed their father. So she sort of knows what coming to terms with things might take.
Nichole: I like to block that inconvenient fact out as much as possible.
Natalie: Because when we meet Pei-Ling with Nicky, while still alive, she was portrayed as capital G good, despite her past. So if it really is her, she knows best how to bring Zhilan back too. And yeah, apparently the answer is that hahaha no way babygirl you can’t be REDEEMED. Which is going to make Zhilan REDEEM FROM SPITE.
Nichole: HAHAHAHAHAHA. Pei-Ling was brutal though, “What you are now is worse than a failure.” Tell us how you really feel.
Natalie: The harshness is what made me suspect it is a Zhilan figment, her own perspective of herself. But still could go either way. Tell me about why you melted.
Nichole: First of all, Vanessa and Yvonne acted the hell out of every line. Zhilan still refuses to admit she regrets what she did, even though we’ve been watching her inner torment. When she punched the wall! And, like not to just quote the whole scene, but “Redemption for you? Perhaps in time, but first, Zhilan, you must decide if you want to live.” It just all stabbed me right in the heart. I was so emotional about the whole thing and that was before our beautiful murder goddess went on a weirdly redemptive feeling killing spree to break out of her literal and metaphorical prison.
Natalie: That was one of Kung Fu’s better action sequences so far.
Nichole: The fight scene was so beautifully choreographed. When Zhilan looks up at the bullies behind the door and just [continues murdering] I wanted to stand up and cheer. I guess I have a lot in common with Kerwin at this point, because I too am willing to overlook some murder in order to have more Zhilan.
Natalie: I am really invested in that love story. I think it will be so funny for her to be like “I tried to kill you” and he’s like “well, nobody’s perfect.”
Nichole: I would love that. He’s got it in him, I just know it.
Natalie: Not sure what their game plan will be for Zhilan next – carrying on taking down Tan? What if she thinks Kerwin is his daddy’s boy again?
Nichole: She thinks Kerwin is dead at the moment, so she’s going to have to find out he’s alive first.
Natalie: He definitely needs his own stance – not just follow here and there- to show that if he wants her, it’s a strong and autonomous choice.
Nichole: Yeah, we need to see some growth from Kerwin. Do you think she’ll follow Tan or Nicky to San Francisco? I am so ready for Zhilan and Nicky to see each other again. THE SPARKS.
Natalie: I’m ready for her to get back into some better clothes. How did you feel about killing the bully and leaving the pendant to burn? I get that it was to fake her own death, but…
Nichole: I really thought she was going to take it back.
Natalie: Yeah, me too, but I guess that like, On the Record, that necklace was in the inventory for Zhilan, so if they find a crispy body with the traces of the necklace… it’s more clearly “her.” The guards don’t know or care that it was stolen.
Nichole: I’m not sure what it means vis a vis her desire to atone. It feels like a strong statement that she is resisting Pei-Ling, even though Pei-Ling did obviously wake her up.
Natalie: I also wasn’t sure if it was also meant to symbolize cutting ties with the legacy. It could be as simple as “wish i didn’t have to, but the cover is too strong,” or it could be symbolic. I don’t know.
Nichole: Yeah, logically what you’re saying makes sense about the “proof”. But yeah, cutting ties with the legacy feels like rejecting Pei-Ling and therefore, what Pei-Ling is offering. God, when she steps out of the prison into the air. GORGEOUS.
Natalie: I truly don’t have a clue what’s next though! Next week’s synopsis mentions Nicky meeting up with Kerwin, but nothing about Zhilan in any upcoming press releases of episodes so far, so there’s a real element of mystery.
Nichole: I wonder what she’ll make of Kerwin’s situation. I guess we’ll find out.