Kung Fu season 2, episode 5 “Reunion” features, well, more than one important reunion, as Nicky and Zhilan both close in on the missing Mia, and Mia closes in on her long-lost father. Read on for our review of “Reunion.”
A crucial beat of “Reunion” was the realisation, for Nicky, that Zhilan is still alive, and for the first time, the two are united in their goal and find themselves needing to work together. We were able to preview this week’s episode of Kung Fu with Yvonne Chapman, who, aside from being very nice about these conversation reviews of ours, shared some of her thoughts on the potential of growth in Zhilan and Nicky’s relationship.
“This season, you really see that come to heads because we’re even more aligned in what we want to do,” Chapman explained in regards to Nicky and Zhilan sharing the formative influence of Pei-Ling. “We both want to take Russell Tan down, though we have very, very different methods of doing so. It’s almost inevitable that the two of us would have to come together at some point to realize that we need each other’s help in order to reach this common goal. We just need to find common ground on how that’s going to be done because we have different methodologies.”
“So I think that’s really where the fun comes in, because you see these two women who are both kickass, who have the skills and the technology to do what it is that they need to do, but have very different approaches. And to me, that’s the exciting part because you get to see how they navigate through those differences together.”
The official synopsis of “Reunion” reads:
THE RACE TO FIND MIA — After receiving a new clue that could lead to Mia’s (guest star Vanessa Yao) whereabouts, Nicky (Olivia Liang) and Henry (Eddie Liu) race to find her before Russell Tan’s forces do. Meanwhile, Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan) is tested when a new restaurant opens nearby, and Althea (Shannon Dang) continues to struggle with the challenges of work. Tzi Ma, Jon Prasida, Gavin Stenhouse, Tony Chung, Vanessa Kai and Yvonne Chapman also star. David Grossman directed the episode written by A.C. Allen
Keep reading for our chat about the events of Kung Fu season 2, episode 5 “Reunion.”
‘Kung Fu’ season 2, episode 5 review in conversation
Nichole: We start out this week’s episode with another big family group scene. Althea, Dennis, Mama, Baba, Nicky, Henry and Evan (arriving late) have all gathered to help research the whereabouts of Mia’s dad, John Liu. Meanwhile, Ryan is at the community center hacking hospital records for them. I didn’t follow the exact research trajectory because I was a little distracted by Dennis in that vest. Did you?
Natalie: Did I get distracted by Dennis in the vest? Yes. Ahem. No, I vaguely did follow the research, though some of it wasn’t clear to me in terms of how they know this guy is in the USA. I guess there were certain details in the Tan directory, but why not have his actual residence listed? Tan obviously knows it, because he had a guy there!
Nichole: Yeah, I think I was just like, “This is vaguely unrealistic, but I’m going with the flow.”
Natalie: I mean it did the job. They had some information and they were using it to narrow down possible John Lius. I enjoyed the whole family getting in on the project, the murder board, and the dialect disparity and stuff.
Nichole: Yes, I loved the little detail of passing the phone around to try to find a language that the John Liu on the other end of the phone might speak. Also, after over a year of trying to teach myself Mandarin, I finally understood a sentence in the wild, which was Mei-Li’s extremely simple, short sentence, but still, we take our small victories where we can. Evan arrives and talks a big game about accepting the consequences of his actions, but then immediately embroils Nadia in a new illegal activity. As a person with thoughts about Evan’s “means to an end” philosophy, what did you make of that?
Natalie: The whole Evan situation has escalated quickly. My first question was — are Henry and Nicky going to be charged or something? Evan deleted the footage, so for the official channels, that implicates Henry and Nicky even more. Nicky didn’t seem worried about that at all!
Nichole: I didn’t even think about that! Maybe it’s part of the stalemate Evan and his boss are in vis a vis illegal activity.
Natalie: Regarding Nadia, my thoughts were “Well, I guess Evan’s going to bring her down with him then.” The fact that he was like “It’s okay, this time it won’t be me taking the risk!” and then cutting to Nadia quaking in her boots… poor girl.
Nichole: I know, right? Evan, no! It did give Nadia an excuse to shine though. She was so funny.
Natalie: Nothing could have prepared me for her cover story when she got caught!
Nichole: Perfect. A+. No notes.
Natalie: And Evan heard all of that, live on the line!
Nichole: I loved the callback to the boss’s suspicion about Evan and Nadia dating. Nadia was thinking on her feet!
Natalie: I wonder if he was like “Wow she came up with that fast… Wait, has she considered sending me nudes before?”
Nichole: Lying about sending a boy nudes is the new meet-cute.
Natalie: Do you think that her risk-taking makes her more appealing to him? Will she be the woman he tenderly gets to cherish or deliver whatever stable and non-violent romance he needs?
Nichole: I do think he probably has a competence kink, that may stem directly from Nicky. So maybe it’s more being good at something than the risk-taking itself. Or, possibly, that’s me. Because I’m now a Nadia-stan.
Natalie: One more thing to ponder about Evan and Nadia and the DA – I feel like this is more leading to “DA has to go down, Evan comes in as the hero” rather than Evan being Batman Forever. But there isn’t much to go on yet.
Nichole: It doesn’t seem sustainable to have a corrupt DA.
Natalie: I mean, no.
Nichole: Also, presumably, Evan needs an income. Lol.
Natalie: I’m curious to see where that will go next, and how much focus it will have.
Nichole: The end result of the research is that they have enough information for Nicky and Henry to head out on a road trip to find Mia and/or Mia’s dad. But before we jump to that, I thought we could address a couple of the other episode tracks. Do you want to start with Mei-Li and Melody Dumplings or Althea and her work problems?
Natalie: I think maybe we should look at Mei-Li, because there’s a thread that she’s struggling a bit while working the restaurant without Jin, while also focusing on Mia being missing. Nicky and Henry drop her off on their way out of town and there’s a little moment when Nicky says she feels like she’s failed Mei-Li in terms of protecting Mia. This was an idea you’ve brought up a few times, so before we get into the restaurant’s issues, did that moment inspire any new feelings in you? Did you feel like that was sort of the landing point of that promise, and Mei-Li’s assurance? Or do you think that whole promise will still have a bigger consequence?
Nichole: It did make my ears perk up! I think it de-escalated it in my mind. I think Mei-Li’s reassurance took down the threat level of Nicky doing something dumb in order to keep that promise. It’s not like I think that’s not going to be something Nicky is still carrying, but a lot of this episode felt like Nicky accepting that she can’t be who she thinks she should be to/for Mia, including have sole responsibility for her safety.
Natalie: I agree re: the de-escalation, totally. And I guess this episode de-escalated my concern about Sebastian too… Though I admit, when I caught him peering over at Mei-Li, spying on her slight meltdown, I was like oh, he’s not a Tan plant, he’s a Melody Dumplings plant. A mole.
Nichole: NATALIE, NO!
Natalie: I’m sorry, Sebastian. I just can’t let it be that simple.
Nichole: Mei-Li is so upset she wants Evan to help her press charges! After Evan gently informed her it was rude, but not illegal, I really appreciated Sebastian’s role of supportive son-in-law, I mean employee.
Natalie: I mean, this was a very cute yet stressful problem. When she was talking to Evan, I was like “Oh honey, I don’t think that is a thing…” and he summarizes it well. It’s not fair, but it isn’t criminal. Melody Dumplings – half the wait time! Look, I am sorry, but I really did suspect Sebastian again for a second — until he came over to talk to her, and this was really a great vibe. They have good chemistry and in another project someone should cast them as lovers. I am so sorry.
Nichole: Look, it would work. Do not be sorry. They do have good chemistry. I’ve been anticipating the Mei-Li/Sebastian bonding and it was every bit as good as I was hoping for.
Natalie: I will stop accusing him of being nefarious, but I will hang onto the possibility that he was formerly nefarious.
Nichole: This was a really excellent episode for JB Tadena. Every scene with him was gold. He’s a very good actor on top of being just generally good looking and charming.
Natalie: Ryan pays the restaurant a visit today as well, and that really showed me another side of Sebastian too.
Nichole: Should we get right into that or save it?
Natalie: Get into it — it’s connected. Sebastian’s motive for the stuff with Ryan is because of the stuff with Mei-Li. It is one thread, his arc this episode.
Nichole: Okay, so Ryan bops through the kitchen, he and Sebastian have a pretty neutral interaction, but then Ryan thinks for a second and just straight up addresses the elephant in the room, which is that things have been weird between them. Ryan’s “You’ve been standoffish, I’ve been awkward as hell,” is a contender for quote of the episode. But Ryan doesn’t let Sebastian get a word in edgewise and Sebastian seems taken aback by the whole conversation. Ryan’s like, “I get it, it was just a moment, no big. It’s cool.” And Sebastian is just standing there shellshocked, obviously wanting to interject something and Ryan sort of runs over him with his assurances and then flees. Were you surprised Ryan decided to (sort of) face this head on?
Natalie: My main takeaway is that I think he really wrong-footed Sebastian in a way that almost felt like “putting him in his place.” Or putting him down. It came with too much conviction, like especially at the end, his assurance didn’t feel like “I’m trying to make this okay,” it came across like ordering Sebastian this wasn’t going to happen.
Nichole: Huh. I saw it more as self-preservation.
Natalie: Oh, to be clear I don’t think Ryan meant it that way. I just think it’s how Sebastian took it.
Nichole: Yeah, I can see that. He was so unable to respond to the whole vibe.
Natalie: He looked and vibed very… down, like the stable boy being told by the prince that he shouldn’t cast aspersions.
Nichole: The way he was like, “It’s cool?”
Natalie: Ryan was maybe a bit too firm, like all the way into “I’m uninterested and don’t you dare.” Again, obviously not his real meaning.
Nichole: Yeah, Ryan was definitely over-compensating.
Natalie: For Ryan it seemed the opposite — he was so sure that Sebastian was not interested that he was just assuring Sebastian that it was fine that Sebastian wasn’t keen. Oh, boys.
Nichole: But, in the end I think Sebastian understood that what Ryan was really saying was that he felt like Sebastian was the one putting the brakes on the situation and he was willing to accept that.
Natalie: Yeah, their later scene definitely indicates that he got that – he either realizes in their kitchen chat or realizes later, as it’s addressed in their last scene. But given the factor that “stands between” Ryan and Sebastian is Mei-Li… it’s one of the loveliest, most genuine beats of the season, the growing devotion of Sebastian to his Chef. That’s what kicks off the chat with Ryan — Sebastian checks in on Mei-Li — and another note from Ryan’s whole diatribe is mentioning that it looks like Sebastian will be sticking around for a while. This is a small thing, but it’s part of Sebastian’s motivation about Ryan, right? We see that when they clear things up. But to hammer it home, we get an amazing scene of Sebastian and Mei-Li properly interacting where we see what a great relationship they’ve grown.
Nichole: I love, love, love how Sebastian respects Mei-Li. Not just like she’s a great person, but professionally he admires her and considers her the best. What does he say, “If you weren’t beating the competition they wouldn’t be coming after you.” They way they dissect the enemy dumplings that Sebastian brought to taste test is so charming. They work so well together.
Natalie: They truly have a great captain/first mate relationship. And the taste-test set up as well, the framing of it, the breaking of the chopsticks.
Nichole: Yes. And it’s another example of a man following the lead of a woman, which is something Kung Fu does so well and so subtly.
Natalie: It was one of the best moments of the season so far for me. And I’ve said before: there’s a passion that Mei-Li has for the nature of food that — while her kids love eating — maybe it isn’t something they share on that deep creative level. Whereas Sebastian does.
Nichole: Sebastian validates that part of her life in a way her kids don’t. I know I say this every time, but the way Kung Fu handles what would be minor side characters on most other shows, and these non-magical, grounded plot points, is exemplary. They always have the weight and respect they deserve in spite of not being a part of the myth arc.
Natalie: Ultimately the “solution” to Melody Dumplings is to just… not engage and let them exist, knowing that Harmony is superior. Sebastian helped give Mei-Li the reassurance she needed to not be worried about competitors, and Mei-Li gave Sebastian some valuable assurance of his own, about how welcome his help and support has been. And that seems to really hammer home the point of his issue with Ryan — it’s almost like he is trying to choose between Mei-Li and Ryan. Look, I said that maybe JB and Kheng should play lovers in another project, but honestly even in Kung Fu… if Ryan wasn’t around, I would be shipping it. “They can’t hold a candle to you. You, chef, you’re the secret sauce.” There is no way for this not to sound like… sexy. It’s so intense! Sorry Ryan, I can’t commit to you because I might be hot for your mom. And I mean… he would be valid. Sorry.
Nichole: Also, I think JB has the Jensen Ackles problem. He’s just very charismatic, so everything looks like chemistry.
Natalie: Yeah, I do think that’s the issue, like he could have chemistry with a table lamp.
Natalie: But this was the end result. Though that being said, when Mei Li praised him, there was a shot of him looking young and in quiet pride of her approval, like a small boy. They made him more vulnerable and with a more open face when she praised him, and also when he admitted his worries to Ryan. It literally made him look younger — and again, Jensen was great at that when dealing with Mary, for example. JB is a very interesting actor. And eminently shippable.
Nichole: Yeah. He was so good in this episode. Every single look was something. And later, Sebastian asks Ryan to join him at a bar. Sebastian admits to Ryan that, yes, they did have a moment, and no that’s not all it was, but he doesn’t want to risk the life he’s building at Harmony Dumplings, under Mei-Li’s leadership by getting involved with the boss’s son (didn’t you call that at some point?) and the Ryan…Ryan…The noises I made were not human. My husband literally came to check on me. You might have to talk about this part or it will just be incoherent keysmash from me.
Natalie: I mean, Ryan wasn’t very respectful of Sebastian’s boundaries and his choice to prioritize his career. I don’t know if I approve. 😝
Nichole: I had the same thought to be honest, but it was overridden by KISS KISS KISS. I’ve justified it by telling myself that Ryan knows his mom well enough to know that she would never retaliate towards Sebastian for any relationship foolishness.
Natalie: Yeah, my other question is… does he think Mei-Li wouldn’t like them being together? Or like, if they broke up, is that the worry?
Nichole: It wasn’t super clear to me. It seemed like more generalized, “I’ve finally got my life going the way I want it” anxiety.
Natalie: Or simply “I don’t want her to think of me like that” or something about professionalism? Do you think they’re going to keep it a secret?
Nichole: If I had to pick, I’d say he’s worried that if things between him and Ryan get messy, Mei-Li would get rid of him. I think they will keep it a secret from Mei-Li, at least for a bit. Ryan seemed like he planned to tell Althea later. I hope that keeping it a secret doesn’t backfire. That doesn’t necessarily seem like a direction Kung Fu would go. It’s more likely that they’ll try to keep it a secret and Mei-Li will be like, “I’ve known for ages.”
Natalie: Yeah, I don’t see this becoming angsty, but we shall have to wait and see.
Nichole: OH WAIT! Most important detail! Ryan asked directly, “Why so hot and cold?” I almost fell out of my chair. Ryan is literally me.
Natalie: You were picking up what they’ve been putting down.
Nichole: So, Althea’s work day is a comedy of errors. She’s struggling to fit all of her employees in her living room. The electricity of their San Francisco Victorian is not meant to power a tech startup, which results in an extended power outage. And I was surprised to discover Althea actually didn’t have an app idea yet. What are all of these ladies working on? I guess that explains why we didn’t know what her app did.
Natalie: I was less than impressed with her for that honestly, but I will admit that I have NO idea if this is normal or not in the industry.
Nichole: Same. She needs an office and she needs a killer app idea and Jin and Frank provide both. What did you think about tying our story back into what Jin and Frank have been doing at the art collective?
Natalie: I feel good about it, though it doesn’t actually explain any progress with the art collective itself – more just the fact that there was a space to rent. I was more interested in Jin fixing the electricity and their little meaningful chat – and the fact that Althea wouldn’t take a loan from Dennis’s parents. I definitely am someone who does not believe in self sufficiency – if money is on offer, take it. It’s weird to me to be so hung up on getting by alone when resources are available. Just take the money, especially when you have like eight employees to pay.
Nichole: Also, Dennis has money too?
Natalie: She won’t accept a loan, she hasn’t committed to a choice to build an app – it feels to me like she’s too underprepared to be paying all those womens wages.
Nichole: I guess that’s what her 401k is going toward.
Natalie: Dennis has his parents’ money. I don’t even know what Dennis’s job is.
Nichole: Something that requires a 3-piece suit, evidently.
Natalie: The point is, if money is available to you, take it, and if you feel you need to pay it back, pay it back with pride when you can and a thoughtful gift on top. Don’t suffer needlessly. It sucks that many people DON’T have that option and aren’t able to start passion projects due to not having easy money to do so. But that doesn’t mean if you do have the option, you shouldn’t take it.
Nichole: I am in agreement with that!
Natalie: I have both borrowed and lent thousands of dollars within personal relationships and I don’t see any stigma with it, but it’s a common issue for people I suppose.
Nichole: People are weird about money.
Natalie: Luckily, she’s found a way to move forward on her terms, but I would have taken the loan. Without any shame or guilt.
Nichole: It might make more sense if Dennis’s parents were worse people, but so far they are a bit stuffy, but not terrible.
Natalie: Do you think we might get a plot where Jin pops his head in too much and hovers?
Nichole: Oh man. I would love that. Jin is such a perfect dad, but that would fall right in line with that actually! And Althea is really struggling to assert herself appropriately as a boss, so that could be an emotional complication for her. What did you think of the app, I think she called it, “I know someone”
Natalie: I think it’s a cool idea that basically is akin to the only reason I have Facebook anymore – community groups for resources, tool loans, and stuff like that. Like I am in many local groups for Pay it Forward freebie items, or trades, or recommendations – including basically everything she mentioned. Like does anyone know a trans-friendly doctor who isn’t fatphobic, would anyone want to trade dog walking, does anyone know any after school jobs going for teenagers, can anyone help me with a vehicle for a furniture pick up. If I could do that on an app that everyone adopted instead of Facebook… that would be cool.
Nichole: Yeah, I guess we’ll have to wait and see if Althea can change the world one neighbor at a time.
Natalie: Her outfit this episode was like, fantastically early 90s Renaissance or something too. The white and pastel denim combo.. Wow. Kung Fu has a fun wardrobe.
Nichole: The wardrobe is so good and so perfect for each character. Althea is a standout, obviously, but I love how sensible Nicky’s clothes always are. But back to our mythic drama–Mia manages through her own research to find her dad and shows up unannounced at his house. What was your initial impression of Mia’s dad?
Natalie: Hmmmm. Honestly, this is unkind, but the word that comes to mind was ineffectual. There are some big logistical question marks here, that I think Kung Fu will gloss over and make us accept — if the Tans, Mia, and Zhilan all were able to find this guy, why did the Shen family have to do all that research, like why wasn’t more data in the Tan database — but putting that aside, when Mia shows up… he’s very passive, I guess.
Nichole: Yeah, I didn’t immediately sense what was coming, but I was surprised that I didn’t love him. I was thinking, I’m so primed to like him, why don’t I? He was giving off vaguely untrustworthy vibes from the start, in spite of the fact that he was saying all the right things. Why do you think he told her so much of his story, the fact that he was the Crossbow’s guardian, for example, when he knew he was going to betray her? Did he want to tell or was he just using it to get her to let her guard down?
Natalie: That is the question. I really don’t know. It’s complicated. I wasn’t expecting the betrayal, but in retrospect it makes sense and I have more to say about what the goal of that was, but… okay, so. I think he was probably very torn. I think he felt like he had no other option than to hand her over, but that he still did care – about Mie-Xue, if not about the daughter he never met – and he wanted to use the one chance he had to say a little of how he felt, and get his secrets out, despite the upcoming circumstance. It’s interesting that he literally tells her that she would be a target and that this was their aim to protect Mia. Maybe he told her these things just in case Mia was able to escape and move forward. Like wanted to at least tell her the truth, the information and his feelings. However, none of this is meant to be an excuse. What he did was weak, and it shocked me.
Nichole: Up until this point everyone associated with being a warrior or a guardian has been such a badass that it was shocking!
Natalie: It did speak to me a little in terms of the guardian’s passion for their duty, though, like it actually seemed like failing to protect the Crossbow was a bigger motivator for him than Mia herself.
Nichole: Oh. Good point.
Natalie: When he talked about trying to track it down again. It reminded me a little of Simon Lau’s passion, though obviously he was a perfect angel. One thing that might have motivated John to spill his true feelings despite the betrayal is the fact that allegedly he split up with his girlfriend and daughter, and chose to stay away, in order to protect them and keep them safe. The fact that it didn’t work — that Tan still killed Mei-Xue and found Mia — is kind of like… well, it’s like they had a life wasted. The efforts were wasted. He suffered the separation just to have the same end results. That must have like, really sucked. And possibly sent him into a bad place – again, not that it’s an excuse.
Nichole: It certainly would be a reason for him to be sure that if he didn’t turn over Mia his new family truly was in danger.
Natalie: What did you think of the mention of Mei-Xue being buried and Mia asking if he did it? That obviously someone who cared, did it? I keep coming back to Duke – like it feels like we, as the audience, know the answer to that? Maybe not… But I feel like Mia is seeking an answer about things back at her home, like that we might pick up again?
Nichole: Duke is the logical answer, but I don’t think it’s right. I think there must be someone else. I think there is more to learn there.
Natalie: Yeah, It’s set up like that there’s a piece of the puzzle missing, another player. Just wondering if you felt that too.
Nichole: Yes. It stuck out, the emphasis with how she said it. I was thinking we’re probably getting more information on that at some point. But here, he eventually stabs her in the neck to incapacitate her and he drives her to Tan’s men. His parting speech, I think, was an interesting stop on our way to Mia’s understanding of her place in Nicky’s family. She says to her dad, “You’re the only real family I have left.” But in the end we find out Russell Tan killed Mei-Xue and her dad is like, “I have a “real” family to protect, I don’t know you.” Whereas the Shens were ready to risk it all for her unconditionally. I was sad that her dad betrayed her, but I liked it as a way to move Mia towards a different understanding of family. I know they are literally all family, but it had a bit of a Supernatural “family don’t end in blood” feel to it. Essentially, actions are more important than blood and Nicky, and really all of the Shens have already shown Mia what they are willing to do for her. Were you disappointed John Liu just got to walk back to his “real” life after such a betrayal?
Natalie: I definitely agree that the aim of this narratively was to make Mia reframe that family element, 100% that was what the point was, but the fact that John Liu was able to just move on… feels unfinished too. Like, if Tan’s men had killed him at the airfield, that would be one thing, but the fact that there’s this guy out there who will always be Mia’s father and always be the Panther guardian and having him have failed this way.. maybe we will forget all about him, but I don’t know. He will always be there if Kung Fu needs him to play a part, and if Mia becomes more of a main character, maybe a reconciliation or reckoning with him would be in the cards. What would you want?
Nichole: He wasn’t compelling enough for me to be actively craving a reckoning, but I think the writers could do it in such a way that they would make it compelling. You’re right, though, it does feel unfinished.
Natalie: Sometimes, people are disappointing. Mei-Li might have a few words for him, that could be a fun meeting.
Nichole: She would read him the riot act for sure. I guess John Liu’s ultimate fate is something we’ll have to wait to find out. So, back to the Nicky and Henry road trip. They stop for gas and we get a brief Pei-Ling scene while Nicky is pumping gas (side note: how many women do we see pumping gas on television? I was unreasonably delighted by it). Pei-Ling basically tells Nicky she needs to learn from her mistakes, be flexible and adapt. Nicky was surprised to see her. Why do you think she appeared now and does this move the scale for you on Pei-Ling as psychological manifestation vs biange fueled apparition?
Natalie: I don’t drive, so I’ve never filled up a car, so I can’t say I’ve noticed it! I did hear that in some states in the USA people aren’t allowed to pump their own gas and I thought Oregon was one of them, so let’s assume they were still in Northern California. Re: Pei-Ling… I’ve been thinking about this.
Nichole: I’m ready!!!
Natalie: Admittedly, we didn’t see every scrap of mentorship Nicky got from Pei-Ling in her three years at the monastery. These thoughts could easily be teachings that Nicky has heard before, rifling through her memories and the different practices and, almost the therapy that she underwent in her training. It could easily just still be Nicky’s psyche. However. It did feel a little different to me from last season, when it was definitely just Nicky’s mind. Something about the level of conversation, and – it’s not that Pei-Ling had new information or anything, but just something about the level of engagement. I don’t know, it felt a bit more Force Ghost. I truly don’t know if this is something we are even meant to be questioning.
Nichole: I agree! I think part of it was how surprised Nicky was to see her too. Nicky’s obviously been struggling with some issues around her own methods and her relationships to others, so it’s not like it doesn’t make sense that she might conjure up her mentor, but it felt different.
Natalie: We haven’t yet seen the results of Biange being released or how that magic or power has begun to change the world. Our friend reminded me the other day, because she was catching up on the season 1 finale, that one of those Power Flowers grew in San Francisco behind Nicky, as she went on her way around the city. We haven’t felt the impact of that new level of earthly power at all yet – aside from the quick look at Nicky’s own powers changing – but maybe Pei-Ling is tied to that too. Like we said, in the season 1 finale, the interactions with Pei-Ling felt realer – actually spiritual, in that strange space. We still aren’t sure about Zhilan and Pei-Ling reality wise either. Maybe we will only get the answer if Pei-Ling appears to both Nicky and Zhilan together and they’re both like “You can see her? I thought she was in my mind as a memory!”
Nichole: I’m dying for that, actually! I want it! So we finally got our Nicky/Zhilan reunion and it was as fraught as could be expected. There was a lot going on, including some elements you originally predicted might come from seeing more Zhilan/Pei-Ling together. What was your highlight of their interaction?
Natalie: Honestly, there were quite a few. First of all, I wasn’t sure (until this episode) whether Zhilan planned to protect Mia or kill her – how she planned to keep her out of Tan’s hands – but I really loved when Nicky said, you know, we’ll protect Mia and Zhilan scoffs, like “nice job you’ve done so far.” It made me believe that Zhilan does actually want to be Mia’s bodyguard, and it cut Nicky deep. I also liked that Nicky and Zhilan aren’t automatically trying to kill each other just on sight – that they get quite practical, both of them. Like Zhilan being like run along, you aren’t gonna help me torture this guy, and Nicky admitting to Henry that she doesn’t know how to get rid of her without a fight.
Nichole: I loved Nicky’s presumably Pei-Ling inspired ‘flexibility’ in threatening that guy with unleashing Zhilan on him.
Natalie: The questionable ethics of Nicky forcing Zhilan not to torture the guy, but being happy to use the fear of Zhilan’s torturing to get him to talk. Like, it was very good cop bad cop, and funny.
Nichole: I loved it. I also loved Zhilan and Henry upstairs alone. Like, we only see a tiny, tiny piece of their interaction but somehow it spoke volumes. After Nicky gets the info from Tan’s lookout, Nicky volunteers Henry to stay behind to keep an eye on him to keep Zhilan from killing him because he’s a “loose end.” I’m never going to stop being impressed by how Henry isn’t afraid to object to Nicky’s plans, but always supports her after she hears him out. What a perfect man.
Natalie: My main takeaway there was Zhilan being equally happy to kill the goon or not kill him. Like, she would kill him because he is a bother, but logistically it’s fine for Henry to watch him too, and so she’s like sure, that also works.
Nichole: Yes. She’s mission driven. The killing is just part of getting the job done.
Natalie: I still think Nicky owed Zhilan the truth about how she got the guy to talk. Zhilan might be proud of Nicky’s ruthlessness and willingness to emotionally terrorise for the cause.
Nichole: Or be secretly pleased, but call her a hypocrite.
Natalie: Here’s my question – did Nicky ride on the back of Zhilan’s bike the whole way to the airfield?
Nichole: I’m going to have to say an enthusiastic yes.
Natalie: ROBBED OF THAT FOOTAGE.
Nichole: ROBBED. Their negotiating how to go in and get Mia was also delightful.
Natalie: I loved Zhilan being like “sure, I like a challenge” when Nicky is like, no killing.
Nichole: It was perfect.
Natalie: She just doesn’t give a fuck.
Nichole: They agree that once they find her, they’ll let Mia choose who she wants to go with. Zhilan seems to think Nicky is confident Mia will choose her, but she doesn’t know about the last time Nicky and Mia saw each other. Do you think Nicky was sure?
Natalie: It was the best possible bargain in the moment. But no, I doubt she was sure — or if she was, she wasn’t thinking straight, because for all Mia knows, Zhilan is a neutral ally whereas Nicky is someone she has issues with. I guess she believed in taking a chance on a new approach with Mia, but it was definitely a gamble. But I definitely was excited about the prospect, because that was what I predicted — the possibility of Mia being like “Friendship ended with Nicky, Zhilan is my best friend now.”
Nichole: Yes, things did look like they were heading that way for a while! But before we get there, Nicky and Zhilan fighting together was just so good. I was particularly taken by the shot where everyone is standing back up around them and they are back to back. That’s what I want for them all the time. Of course, Zhilan chose the very moment I was writing love songs to their partnership to sneak off to rescue Mia first, leaving Nicky fighting alone. She gets to Mia and there were real, “Come with me if you want to live” vibes. Zhilan runs off with Mia, doesn’t tell Nicky and doesn’t tell Mia that Nicky is there too. Mia did seem a little, infatuated might be a strong word, but impressed with Zhilan. Did you think we were about to have it all?
Natalie: I definitely was expecting that new duo to stick together for longer than just part of this episode. We’ll talk more about the resolution in a minute, but yeah. I thought that the resolution of Nicky and Mia would come later, and that Mia would stick with Zhilan for a couple of episodes.
Natalie: When Zhilan gets Mia out, the thing that struck me the hardest was Zhilan saying “I don’t know anything about you… I just hate Tan” That honesty – the candidness about not having any like, preconceived ties to Mia – that was what seemed to sell Mia on her. And that seems important. Like she trusts that more than she trusts Nicky being like FAMILY. That really tracked for me, in terms of Mia’s way of relating to the Shens – this is a more practical thing to trust. I was surprised that Zhilan told her the full sob story and offered a revenge partnership. She wanted to make Mia her little sidekick.
Nichole: A part of the more open and vulnerable, but still ruthless Zhilan. But Nicky catches up with them because of her nifty trick of attaching Henry’s watch to Zhilan’s bike and tracking her. Nicky tells Mia the truth, and Zhilan agrees, saying she’ll always do whatever it takes. And in this case what it takes is a knock down drag out fight with Nicky, which Mia puts an end to. Did you know she was rejecting Zhilan right away? I didn’t realize until Mia flung her into the wall.
Natalie: I really wasn’t sure what Mia was going to choose! How much she’d decided to trust Zhilan. I guess Nicky showing up, and Mia processing that Nicky had been a part of her rescue and putting in that effort, spun her feelings around quickly.
Nichole: When she said, “I want to go,” I didn’t know who that was directed at. I thought at first it was her saying to Zhilan, please stop fighting and let’s just go.
Natalie: She did step in when Zhilan pulled a knife, so maybe that level of violence was too much for her as well. Like she saw that Zhilan was ready to escalate to killing Nicky without a thought.
Nichole: Yes, and Zhilan did a bad thing. She deserves to experience some consequences, but also, I felt so sorry for her when Mia rejected her. Someone give that woman a hug. There are two wolves inside of me, etc.
Natalie: For five minutes she thought she might have a little buddy.
Nichole: You just made it worse.
Natalie: She’s all alone.
Nichole: It’s really sad.
Natalie: No waffles for Zhilan.
Nichole: Maybe she’ll get waffles when she learns to stop killing everyone. Maybe the problem is that she doesn’t realize she could have waffles if she stopped killing everyone. Maybe Nicky could make her one of those behavior reward charts.
Natalie: Can you actually imagine her sitting down to just like warmly socialize… in a house… with normal people. She would be so awkward.
Nichole: I’d like to see her and Kerwin in the Shen home. The mind boggles. I feel like Nicky’s doing a good job of learning from her mistakes this season. She’s not really making the same mistake twice. It was good to see her giving Mia some space and asking what she wanted rather than pushing her to accept help.
Natalie: Yeah — taking it slower and saying that she understands that it doesn’t feel that way for Mia, rather than just assuming her catch-all family attitude will work. Re: Kerwin and Zhilan at the Shens, they can come over when Kerwin and Dennis are BFFs. Part of it will be the whole “upper class rich people are aliens” vibes, and part of it will be “we don’t stab people for convenience” vibes, and it will put Zhilan totally on the back foot and be wonderful.
Nichole: Mia looked so young when she asked if they were mad at her. It was very endearing.
Natalie: Yeah – Mia definitely felt like someone who had gotten in over her head and maybe had some regrets about just flying off the handle. I also liked her little moment with Henry, and I feel like as Mia gets more secure at home, there is still space for her to have a comedic crush on him.
Nichole: I wondered how you took that moment!! When they get home and Mei-Li and Jin have prepared a beautiful breakfast and everyone acts like Mia has always been a part of the family, it was so beautiful. I cried. For real. Mia’s smile made me so happy. Everything felt so settled that I was immediately like, hmmm, next week must be a painful one.
Natalie: Yeah, my note for that scene was “Mia adapting to the comfort and normalcy of unconditional love.” She’s nervy – and we also must remember that she’s been so isolated, even big groups of well meaning people might be a lot for her. But how can you be afraid of SNUNCH?
Nichole: She’s definitely in good hands. Anything else we need to hit?
Natalie: Just that this episode was all basically one very long day for the family, through the night to the next morning and the prospect of it makes me so tired! A big day.
Nichole: I hadn’t put that together!
Natalie: Yeah — I tracked it via Althea’s clothes, lol. Any predictions or hopes for next week?
Nichole: I don’t have any predictions, but I miss Kerwin.
Natalie: I miss Kerwin too. I hope he’s okay. Keeping up with his fitness and his crying. You know, normal stuff.
Nichole: Normal unhinged rich person stuff.
Natalie: Be safe Kerwin! Come back to us soon!