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‘Kung Fu’ season 2, episode 9 in conversation: Mallets all the way down

In addition to a fancy masquerade gala, Kung Fu season 2, episode 9 gives us a cliffhanger worthy of the season finale. Luckily, with 4 more episodes to go, we have plenty of time to see it resolved, so we’re not biting our nails at all — we swear. Read on for our review of “The Enclave.”

As we head into the home stretch of season 2, Kung Fu continues to deliver unexpected twists. When we were given some feel-good resolution on Ryan and Sebastian’s relationship last week, we should have been prepared for major angst coming to balance it out — but we were not. The title of this week’s episode is “The Enclave” and we do learn a bit more about this new secret society — how racist they are for one — but the heart of the episode is with Mia and Ryan. As Mia struggles to decide who she needs to be in the wake of Nicky’s confession, Ryan pays the price.

The official synopsis of “The Enclave” reads:

INFILTRATING THE ENCLAVE — After uncovering an item that Russell Tan (guest star Kee Chan) is after, Nicky (Olivia Liang) enlists her entire family to help infiltrate the Enclave, a secret gathering of the world’s elite. Elsewhere, Nicky deals with the fallout of a secret she’s kept from Mia (guest star Vanessa Yao). Tzi Ma, Kheng Hua Tan, Shannon Dang, Jon Prasida, Eddie Liu, Gavin Stenhouse, and Yvonne Chapman also star. R.T. Thorne directed the episode written by Dan Hamamura.

Catch up with our conversation reviews so far, and keep reading for our fretful chat about the events of Kung Fu season 2, episode 9 “The Enclave.”

‘Kung Fu’ season 2, episode 9 review in conversation

Natalie: So, episode 9. Let’s not beat around the bush — how you feeling after that?

Nichole: Shocked? Betrayed? Speechless? MY BOY! I think I’ve mentioned that Ryan is my POV character, so I was quite literally shot through the heart. How are YOU feeling?

Natalie: Definitely really shocked. I’d heard something was coming, but I can safely say it wasn’t this that I was expecting. Let’s talk about “betrayed” for a second. Expound.

Nichole: Well, betrayed is a strong word, lol. But we’re 4 episodes away from the finale, where one might expect this sort of dramatic cliffhanger, so I was caught so off guard to have my sweet, innocent POV character so gravely injured at this point, even if I know logically that they are not killing Ryan off. Also, my first thought was, “I guess I was worried about the wrong boyfriend dying last week!” I think it was so surprising that my brain just spun through every emotion like the wheel of fortune spinner. CLICK CLICK CLICK.

Natalie: It really did surprise me, and up until that point I had been thinking he was having some really strong scenes! Great Ryan episode! Ultimately, I have to say, I don’t think he’s going to die. I would say 99.8% sure. It just isn’t that kind of show, and if he was going to die, he would just be dead, not end on a cliffhanger of him almost dying. We would see him just actually die. Unless Jon Prasida quit and wanted a quick exit!

Nichole: Well, this might be cheating, but I follow everyone’s social media closely enough to be pretty sure he was filming up until the end, so for my mental health, I’m just going to assume he is not dying. But also, for the story. I think you’re right. I just can’t see them killing off a Shen in this way.

Natalie: No. I was (possibly still am) expecting another death or two, but this really threw me for a loop. And to think that up until those final moments, I had, if you can believe it, actually been feeling kind of sorry for Russell Tan!

Nichole: GIRL. I was like, leave it to white billionaires to make me feel sorry for a murderer. It felt bad. We haven’t actually seen a lot of overt racism on Kung Fu and it felt… real bad. White men will really make you sympathize with a literal murderer rather than go to therapy.

Natalie: Truly, truly, truly. I was stunned at the emotion pulled out of me. But, in the words of a probably not-very-wise man… You’re probably wondering how I got into this situation. We need to go back to the beginning, but I will just say: RYAN CANNOT BE DEAD, and we MUST see Sad Sebastian next week, outing the relationship to Mei-Li in his grief.

Nichole: Give me those sweet, sweet tears, Sebastian. But also, do you think this is where he finds out about Nicky and he’s mad at her? I think in his situation I would be pretty pissed off at Nicky, at least at first. Like, dragging your decidedly un-superpowered brother into a dangerous situation with a potential time bomb as his partner? Not great, from a boyfriend perspective.

Natalie: Yeah. I think ultimately it’s a tricky situation. Seb does suspect Nicky, and may not think well of her dragging her innocent family into these crises. All season, Ryan has been like, I need more adventure! Helping Nicky will give me that! And now here we are.

Nichole: You know I was worried about Ryan and his quest for adventure earlier, but it looks like I was worried for the wrong reasons.

Natalie: I would say that the issue of extremely high risk thrill seeking would still count as the right reason here. I mean. He is doing his bit to help save the world, but… still this risk exists. We said early on, though, a LOT of guns this season!

Nichole: Yeah, they really laid the groundwork for someone getting shot!

Natalie: And yet! I’m like how could this… have possibly happened!

Nichole: It’s a bit like Sebastian’s manslaughter charge — it brings in an element of realism that I wasn’t prepared for.

Natalie: Good point, and also this is very much like, a real crime, with a witness, that you could pull Russell up for. The Shens could just deny all knowledge of the Inner Sanctum and be like “we are simply the caterers and your crazy guest shot our son!”

Nichole: This is how Russell Tan gets taken down.

Natalie: It would be one way to solve a problem. I think we have to go back to the beginning and work our way up to this.

Nichole: Ok, so back at the beginning Nicky and Henry are working out a couple of things. Thing one: looking through Naomi’s research has yielded the fact that Russell needs the mallet to ring the bell and The Enclave has the mallet, ergo, Russell needs to get into The Enclave and has been cozying up to Nathan Price to get an invite to the Inner Sanctum. Thing two: Nicky is still anxious about telling Mia the truth, and wants to wait until they have some good news to throw in with the bad news.

Natalie: Not the tactic I would use. To be quite honest. Sounds like she’s making an excuse.

Nichole: She says, “It could spin her out.” Which seemed like a very weak excuse.

Natalie: It could spin her out any time! Do you think she’s afraid of Mia?

Nichole: I didn’t think so. I really thought she was just anxious about how Mia would take it. But later, at the worst possible moment, she does admit she is afraid of what Mia could do. Maybe she’s not afraid the way Zhilan implies, but she obviously has some anxiety around Mia’s potential. Not to jump ahead, but she does end up having a good conversation with Mia about it that I thought she handled well, but then she blows it by putting Ryan on guard duty and letting Mia overhear her talking about how she’s afraid. Were you surprised by how smoothly the initial conversation went between Mia and Nicky?

Natalie: Very, actually. It was settled sooner than I imagined and Mia was more receptive.

Nichole: Yeah, I thought Mia was pretty rational about it. She didn’t even seem particularly mad at Nicky, which made the moment she overheard Nicky talking to Ryan so much worse, but even then she still seemed torn. Like, taking more onto herself than blaming Nicky.

Natalie: Why do you think they made that choice, rather than have that issue be a part of why she ran again?

Nichole: I don’t know. I really thought we were gearing up for Mia to get really angry at Nicky and make bad decisions because of that. There’s been such a flashing arrow on Nicky making a big mistake by not telling her. But, maybe making Mia more torn or anxious about herself vs angry at Nicky will lead Mia’s character to a different place. It takes the blame a little off of Nicky, which I was surprised at. I kind of feel like it is a big enough mistake that Nicky might need to go through shouldering that blame to reach the next level of understanding the depth of her responsibility. Obviously, by the end of the episode, Nicky’s definitely experiencing consequences for Mia’s actions, but it didn’t really feel like Nicky’s decision to wait to tell her really played into Mia making those choices.

Natalie: I do think that clearing the air earlier does knock down the melodrama a bit, which is only a good thing to me. Gives us more of a messy, human, shitshow, rather than penned dramatics. But it was an unexpected moment for sure, in an episode with quite a few of them.

Nichole: To backtrack a little bit again, they know The Enclave is having a super exclusive gala in 3 days and they come up with an elaborate plan to get in and replace the mallet with a replica. Which led us to a delightful side story where we got something you and I have both been wanting. What did you think of the reveal of Jin’s background in art restoration?

Natalie: Bringing both Jin and Mei-Li into the plan was yet another slightly unexpected moment for me, even though there’s not a lot of secrecy in the family regardless. I think more so than anything, imagining them hearing the full scope of the TanPlan must have been so bizarre. Like, oh, this is what the kids have been doing? Kind of stressful to see the full truth about!

Nichole: I was so excited to have them on the team and in such perfect ways! I’ve felt like Jin especially has been too far outside the bubble. I was really craving something more for him, so this was perfection. They both got to shine in their own expertise!

Natalie: We get to hear much more about Jin’s history in the art world, which honestly sounds like something they made up for season 2 as I remember nothing but common goals with Mei-Li in season 1, but I am okay with that haha.

Nichole: Yeah, it was probably retro-fitted, but it worked so well!

Natalie: I didn’t really have him down as “good enough craftsman to mock up an antique” but honestly if he does have those skills, he should look at career progression into like, film and television, set design and props! He could be the guy that makes the mallet in a more meta way.

Nichole: Mallets all the way down…

Natalie: For a moment, I misinterpreted the order of the plan and thought he would have to make the thing only after seeing the real one, like, in an hour. Thrilled it wasn’t that, to be frank.

Nichole: I was laughing a little bit at how specific he was able to make it just from the drawing in the book.

Natalie: I’m also kind of like “don’t make it too good! It needs to be a little off, different shape and different wood, so it doesn’t actually work!” “Do you REALLY need to cut up someone’s family heirloom for this?”

Nichole: RIGHT??? I think that scene more than anything made me sure the plan was actually going to work.

Natalie: That’s maybe the true tragedy of the episode: Jin destroying that man’s precious jacket for nothing. Ryan will live. There’s no coming back for the coat.

Nichole: “I believe by doing this, you’ll be helping to protect the community” Or not. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Part of me is still holding out hope that Nicky actually did make the switch.

Natalie: POV: You are Victor and an old acquaintance walks into your place and tells you that if he can cut silk out of your grandfather’s special jacket, you will help to save the community. I would be like… you are fucking crazy, man.

Nichole: It strained credulity, but honestly if Tzi Ma approached me and asked me for anything I’d probably be like, “Yes, please, whatever you need. Also, here’s my firstborn child.”

Natalie: Just the way he’s like “I need it,” so casually. I mean it clearly hurt him to ask, but…

Nichole: It’s the not even being able to tell him why he needs it for me. What must Victor have been thinking he needed it for?

Natalie: Yeah, that is what the killer is. The way he’s like… I need it and I need to cut it! Like, I am sorry, but when he’s like “I believe this can protect us” sounds, and I don’t mean to be awful, this is a really difficult situation especially for someone as non confrontational as Jin… But it sounds like, you know, he has some crazy religious belief that he is trying to ruin other people’s lives or jackets to uphold? Like it’s all well and good that you believe it, Jin! I would be so much more resistant, like oh, you want a bit of this jacket for what, some magic ritual? Honestly, if it was me, I would have felt compelled to tell Victor the whole truth with evidence, and he deserves an explanation after it’s all over. And yeah, I hope they double-swapped the mallets and the real one was the broken one, so the silk didn’t totally go to waste. But I doubt it.

Nichole: I’m just going to keep a tiny hope alive. Because everything about the episode really, really made me want to see the plan succeed.

Natalie: There are several huge prices paid, so… I see what you mean. Let’s go back a little to Jin’s talk with Henry, though, pre Victor silk-snatching. Jin speaks pretty emotionally about his non-existent American career in the art world, after having studied and finding some success in China. And he talks about the only place he could find any work was in kitchens. Obviously Mei-Li had a real passion, but how was it for you to look more fully at how potentially unfulfilled Jin has been the last 30 years? He says he has no regrets, but it’s kind of a sensitive issue.

Nichole: Jin reminds me a lot of my step-dad, who was a brilliant artist who ended up getting drafted and then getting a job at an auto plant to support his family. He worked that job for his whole adult life and retired from it. I think he would say the same thing — that he has no regrets. I love him for that, because he came out of the army with a high school education and limited choices and did what he could to build a good life for us. And he worked hard his whole life and found fulfillment in things outside his job. But when I got old enough to realize how really talented and brilliant he is, it did sting to think of the life he could have or should have had. But in the end I respect his choices and his “truth” which is that he doesn’t regret it and he’s happy with the life that has gotten him where he is and where we are. So, yeah, I felt a little bittersweet about it. I loved getting that glimpse inside what makes Jin tick though. I hope it’s not the last we hear of it.

Natalie: The whole foreign degree not being applicable or respected is a really common immigrant issue as well.

Nichole: Yeah, it’s such a real issue. Just all around one of my favorite parts of the episode. Except of course the fruitless destruction of the heirloom jacket. Should we segue into Mei-Li’s role in all of this?

Natalie: Yeah, let’s go back to her side of it.

Nichole: I love how surprised they are that she says yes right away. They really seemed to think she was going to take a lot of convincing.

Natalie: Were you surprised?

Nichole: I wasn’t really surprised she agreed. For the same reasons she gives for saying yes. She can be particular and a bit set in her ways, yes, but when it comes to the important things, she’s got the right priorities.

Natalie: I mean I just love her, she’s so great. Such a tough cookie. But she agrees to try and win the bid for the gala catering, which means having a sample tasted and approved by the director of cuisine. This is when Mei-Li loses her cool. God, I love her.

Nichole: I loved her whole journey making that one perfect bite. My only complaint — where was Sebastian? He could have reminded her that she already had what she needed.

Natalie: The awe and nerves about impressing this heroic food writer was a nice little side factor that I feel, like, could matter? Whether or not it is a plot point, it was a validation that had weight, you know? It was incidental, for the plot, but I liked that they made it matter.

Nichole: Her star is rising. I really felt it in my soul when that inside out dumpling wilted.

Natalie: The way she flourished the book at the girls and flustered around slamming bowls… the higher goal was lost to her focus on actually impressing this guy, and I found it sweet. But yeah, the failed specialty was a lot. Also, before that: one of my favorite montages. The parents prepping the crafts, and Tan researching his riddles with Juliette?

Nichole: Yes. The montages were really well done.

Natalie: Tan’s riddle research, and Nicky’s earlier assessment on what Tan will do with the earthquake — come in and take everything — still leaves me a bit at a loss regarding how Tan plans to make the most of this, like is it a looting thing? Is it a development thing? I still don’t get why he wants this, but never mind.

Nichole: Same. What is he taking? The city will be a mess.

Natalie: Resources? Land? Still very uncertain. Maybe we need to research how the robber barons may have gained after the real earthquake.

Nichole: It still feels like there has to be more. Even buying up cheap land — that feels like something that wouldn’t reap rewards for many, many years.

Natalie: Anyway, I feel like Roy Lorenzo is a somewhat innocent bystander in all of this, and I’m glad Mei-Li got her moment with him. Even if her 6-hour inside out dumpling was a bust.

Nichole: I love weird fancy food, so I was disappointed about the dumpling, but, of course, the point is that Harmony Dumplings is perfect the way it is, and I loved that validation for Mei-Li.

Natalie: I liked that when push came to shove, she was confident enough to just grab whatever the Wongs ordered and serve it up. I hope that their ultimate kind of, failure/running out on the job at the event doesn’t have bad consequences for the business though!

Nichole: Maybe the food portion of the evening was winding down anyway.

Natalie: We must hope that Harmony Dumplings maintains a good reputation after this. They’ve got enough to worry about.

Nichole: I didn’t even consider this possibility and I’m going to tuck it away and refuse to consider it. Nothing bad will happen to Harmony Dumplings. So they were all paired up at the gala and we got to see our new favorite duo, Althea and Evan. Dennis couldn’t come because he was busy playing Magic The Gathering, and I would definitely watch a spin off of Dennis doing different nerdy things each week. I know you enjoyed their vibes when we got to see them day-drinking together. How did you like getting to see some more of them working together?

Natalie: Really good. I feel like their long-term friendship is interesting to me, there’s a comfort level I kind of enjoy, but… It did cross my mind that I maybe want them to have an affair? I’m terrible.

Nichole: Natalie, no. But… they were very cute… BUT NO.

Natalie: Maybe Evan can just join the marriage. I still feel like I need to see how Nicky responds to Evan getting close to other people, and who better to test that boundary with? I mean they all looked very nice, which helped. We talked about Mia and Nicky’s emotional chat earlier, but we forgot to mention how it happened when they were trying on Althea’s formal gowns. How did you like everyone’s party clothes? Who had the best look?

Nichole: Oh boy. I think I liked Mia’s dress the best. It suited her so well. And I think it was seeing her in that dress after the contrast of how uncomfortable she felt in the first dress. But I also always love Nicky’s butt-kicking clothes. I mean, they all looked so good. I even loved Mei-Li’s catering uniform. She looked gorgeous! I do always think masks are hard to pull off and this was no exception. I would never survive an “eyes wide shut” type party because I could never take someone seriously, sexually speaking, if they were in a mask. Sexy in theory, pretty weird looking in practice.

Natalie: I liked Evan’s mask the best, actually. Dress wise, Mia looked so fresh and delicate and lovely, a really striking look. But yeah, Evan and Althea looked and acted great together and I’m into it.

Nichole: I particularly loved the bitcoin? crypto? fight they used as a distraction tactic. I feel like we might need to backtrack to Russell and Juliette using the manuscript to nail all the riddles for the initiation ceremony because it turns out that the Inner Sanctum was founded by racist white guys and 100 years didn’t change that. So Nathan Price’s plan was to use the invite to get business concessions from Tan and then keep any of the members from giving him access to the answers to the riddles. I feel like we’ve passed the point where any backstory could redeem the things Tan has done (so many murders of innocent people!). And I know we already mentioned it, but the racism was A Lot™️ in this one. Like, I was definitely rooting for Tan to beat their stupid test even though I didn’t in any way want him to succeed. So while Nicky and Henry are trying to replace the real mallet with the replica, Tan is blowing everyone’s mind in the initiation meeting by answering all the riddles correctly. What did you think of that whole scene?

Natalie: I definitely felt really upset at the way they were talking about Tan, like mocking him for being excited to be there and included, and might as well let him down now, and as if he would be truly one of them. Even though I knew Tan didn’t really care about that. And even though I know he is a bad guy. The actor did manage to carry a look of naive excitement that felt almost innocent when the leaders were gossiping about him. Seeing him all pleased to get in, juxtaposed with the way they were talking about him… no one SAID why he obviously wouldn’t be included, but I mean, it was loud.

Nichole: So loud.

Natalie: And I legitimately, genuinely felt sorry for him and protective of him. Despite… every other factor. Are we fucked in the head for this?

Nichole: I don’t know. It caused me so much cognitive dissonance! But, no. I don’t think we’re messed up because of those feelings. It’s bad no matter who it happens to. Also, that’s OUR villain. Only we can say bad (non-racist) things about him.

Natalie: I truly don’t want to live in a world where I’m rooting for a destructive, sociopath murderer due to systematic racism. But yeah. Fuck those guys.

Nichole: So Nicky is able to make the switch with the mallets (or at least it looks like she does), but not fast enough to get away, so she’s hidden behind the pedestal. Once Tan has his hands on the mallet he unveils his strategy — he has every members’ family under surveillance and he has the information to bring down Price in the manuscript — they have to let him go… or else. Instead, Price decides to start a fight and in the scuffle Nicky loses her hiding place. Tan puts two and two together and figures out that Nicky has switched the mallets. He destroys the one in his hand and takes the other from Nicky. We’ve touched on this a bit, but what was your initial reaction to this elaborate plan failing?

Natalie: Mostly just really, really upset about the silk jacket. But it got chaotic pretty fast, with all the different parties battling each other.

Nichole: The silk jacket is at the crux of my thoughts too. The plan really felt too big and too inclusive to fail. And they’ve had so many elaborate plans fail, or mostly fail. I really wanted this one to work. But, if you look at it, there is…maybe…some room for Nicky to have switched out when she realized she might get caught?

Natalie: I can’t say it crossed my mind, that she managed to switch them back. But I hope for the sake of the jacket… she did. The city too I guess. I’m also curious about the Enclave and their worship of the mallet and of Sloane. If what he did was so great, how come they aren’t so keen to replicate it, huh? Russell could have cut them in, a little.

Nichole: Does The Enclave even realize what the mallet is or what it could do?

Natalie: Maybe the Enclave DON’T know the true deal. That would be just like a weird rich person cult, worshiping some artifact cluelessly. Wake up to reality, gentlemen!

Nichole: Exactly. And Russell sort of accuses them of that. Telling them they’re like children. I really liked that part, lol. We’re almost back to where we started. Tan takes the mallet and flees while Nicky and Henry are in the middle of a huge fight. Nicky tells the team to get out, so Ryan and Mia are heading out when Mia sees Tan and hesitates. She follows Tan and Ryan follows her. Mia confronts Tan and he pulls a gun on her, but he and Mia both know he can’t kill her. Unfortunately, this is when Ryan catches up with her and Tan is just like, “Nope, but this one will do nicely. BOOM!” and just walks away! It was so no-nonsense!

Natalie: Earlier in the episode, Mia actually, quite shyly admits to Nicky that they could just kill Tan. Nicky’s response is obviously not really… pro that. It is such a shame that Nicky did manage to turn Mia around and get her on board with the whole — I believe in you, you are what you choose stuff… only to freak Mia out while gossiping to Ryan. Well, gossiping is flippant. But you know what I mean. And the knock-on effect… not good.

Nichole: Yeah, I think that is why Mia runs at the end. Like, she obviously feels terrible and is trying to help Ryan, but when she hears Nicky she panics. I can just imagine what she’s thinking. Nicky is afraid of me. She’s going to think I did this. This is my fault. RUN.

Natalie: What was the point of Tan shooting Ryan? Just a distraction?

Nichole: I think so, yeah. He just wanted to get away. I guess he wasn’t in a position to take Mia with him anyway. But he did seem so happy to see her. He’s a real mystery. What do you think is next for Mia?

Natalie: I assume Zhilan and Mia will team up to try and kill Tan. Regarding Mia ringing the bell for Tan, is that procedure meant to kill her? Like, it killed the other guy I think? Or maybe the quake did.

Nichole: Tan said at some point she was a sacrifice. So I assume she has to die, but I guess in some ritualistic way?

Natalie: I’m wondering if Mia has value to Tan beyond the bell ringing, for whatever reason. Is there a chance he was in love with her mom? Like this is a weird Snape scenario?

Nichole: Ugh. I don’t know. There was obviously some history there, but it didn’t feel romantic in any way. More like he respects the powers of the warriors and the guardians but sees his goals as above them? Like, you’re very cool, but I’m sorry, I still have to kill you? I feel like we are still missing some crucial information about Russell.

Natalie: I agree. I don’t get how he got involved in all this in the first place. You know who might be able to tell us?

Nichole: KERWIN.

Natalie: Kerwin. So, dream plot: Kerwin lives at Zhilan’s safehouse as her kept boy.

Nichole: Hearteyes.

Natalie: Kerwin explains everything to Mia and to us about his dad’s history and why he’s a megalomaniac. Kerwin and Mia become best friends. #kerwia trends on Twitter. Russell Tan accidentally kills himself with his stupid bell. Zhilan settles down. Everyone gets waffles.

Nichole: Wow. You’ve got it all wrapped up!

Natalie: Dennis teaches #kerwia how to play DnD. Season 3 is just a live recording of their campaign.


Natalie: I think they should hire me as a writer.

Nichole: I would approve of that hire!

Natalie: So I had a few bigger thoughts about this episode, specifically the Ryan situation. First of all, I wanted to get your thoughts on how you feel about this sort of storytelling move — the cliffhanger, life or death week to week kind of thing. In this case, I feel very, very sure he’s not dead, and I feel like most viewers will feel the same, because of the tone of Kung Fu and the sort of… the premise, the social contract of this show has made with the audience. So because I feel like we are all meant to trust that he’s not dead, I kind of don’t know what the point of an is he/isn’t he cliffhanger moment is. Maybe I’m not looking at things the right way. This isn’t exactly a criticism, it’s a trope I’m used to really, so I can take it in stride. I’ve watched plenty of shows where there’s like a big disaster and it’s who lives and dies — you know, many lives in the balance. And I’ve watched shows where it is clear that there are no promises of a happy and just ending. But I just don’t get that vibe from Kung Fu, and if someone was going to die for real, I think we would see it properly, and not be left in the balance. It would be a sad and confirmed moment. The cliffhanger is basically a promise to me that he is alive. But… thoughts?

Nichole: Well, I’ve felt pretty strongly for a lot of the season that Nicky needs to learn some lessons. Last season Nicky’s main conflict was reuniting with her family and handling this new responsibility. This season, on the surface, everything is great for Nicky. But, she’s really still so young and untested. So, what does she still have to learn, especially as she shoulders the responsibility of all of this power she has. And, maybe I’m making too much out of this mistake with Mia, but I think that, in this arc, we are seeing that Nicky can’t be sort of OK at this, she has to be MORE. A ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ type situation. She can’t just put off dealing with Mia because it makes her uncomfortable. Every week she is playing with life or death! Again… am I overthinking it? I don’t know, but the situation with Sebastian highlights that for me. We have to assume Sebastian wasn’t beating people up on the regular. Like, maybe he fought a normal amount for a guy in tough situations, but probably much less than Nicky on a daily basis, and yet, he accidentally killed someone and has had to live with some very real, devastating consequences. And here Nicky is, dealing with a potentially devastating consequence and SHE put Ryan in that situation in twofold ways. One, she brought him, with his regular skills into a potentially deadly encounter and two, she put him “in charge” of Mia, knowing Mia was struggling with her situation.

Related: ‘Kung Fu’ season 2, episode 8 in conversation: Sir, your house is there

So, all of this is to say that although I also don’t think Ryan is going to die, I think that the point is for Nicky to realize there are consequences for her mistakes here. She can’t be a superhero half way. Now. How do I feel about that? A little torn. I think that, going back to the tone of Kung Fu and the social contract… It’s been a relatively ‘light’ show, tonally. This isn’t a dark, gritty superhero show and I don’t want it to be. I want the non-super powered Shens in on the action. But I don’t want them to die! And I feel like, up until now, having them involved has been fun, but this, again, injects an element of reality that changes the perspective of having them involved in Nicky’s work. I know on some level, with a show like this, we probably have to be prepared for deaths at some point, but I feel like if we want to have the Shens involved with Nicky, they have to be off the table for death, otherwise it spoils a bit of the fun of the show. As much as I want Mia to survive this season, she, or even Zhilan (please, no) make more sense to kill off because they are ‘exceptional’ in their own ways. They are a part of the supernatural element of Kung Fu and that comes with a different set of rules and risks. And you suggested Daniel as a potential meaningful death that would be impactful. That makes sense to me too. He’s involved in this very fundamental way that carries more risks. If I have to worry that Althea or Ryan or Jin or Mei-Li are in peril every time they help Nicky, can I really relax and enjoy Kung Fu when it is in its lighter moments? Like, obviously, there’s always danger, but I think I need it to be a theoretical danger not a ‘oops we killed Althea this time’ type of danger. And I really don’t think Ryan is dying so it’s fine, but I hope it narratively has a big payoff because it should be a HUGE deal within the framework of what we’ve been presented with so far. Does that make sense?

Natalie: It does. I’m also wondering how you feel about the kind of veiled “well, bye!” social media stuff from the cast about Jon. I get that they’re just having fun, but people are fragile! And then I guess I’m wondering how you’d respond if he really did die.

Nichole: I think, from their perspective, and rightly so, there has to be a risk he is actually dying or what is the point? So playing with that a bit feels fair. And, I mean, you and I come from a fandom where we had a pretty weird relationship with characters dying, lol. Everything about Kung Fu and how people relate to it is much more tame and light, so it feels funny and cute to me. But, I also know how people can take that sort of thing so personally, especially in a ‘bury your gays’ kind of way, which, honestly, did not even occur to me until the next day. I think we put a lot of pressure on actors to take into account everyone’s reaction to everything they say and I don’t want this cast to feel stressed out by social media. I am taking those interactions in the way I assume they are intended, which is a teasing, light way, and we’re all going to know soon enough it was a joke. But… if he did die. Wow. I think I would feel pretty bad? It would feel a bit like, as you said, a betrayal of the social compact of the show. I can’t really even wrap my head around the possibility (sorry writers if that’s where you’re going).

Natalie: I think that just in terms of spoilers, acting like he’s gone for good is also a spoiler! Like if we are meant to wait and find out… But yeah, honestly, it is tame to me but you and I had a friend who’s been pretty scarred by other fandom stuff come to us asking about it, earlier, and I had to be like “Don’t worry about it. They know not what they do. This isn’t like that.” Because yeah, you can’t really apply one situation to another in terms of a dynamic with a fandom or a cast and yeah, some people might look at this with war wounds and be a bit reactionary about it. But knowing the Kung Fu cast, and the way they engage with fandom, and how they probably don’t have a lot of experience with nastier examples that we’ve seen… I know it’s all good on their end. But I get why some people might apply some skepticism or judgment to it as well, due to having been burnt before in various ways. All I can say is that I know these guys and gals definitely just want to have fun and be nice and play around!

Nichole: Yes. And I think the fact that saying he’s not coming back is a spoiler shows how they are joking. Because he wouldn’t spoil it if he really weren’t coming back. Which is then a spoiler in the other direction, so it’s complicated. Lol. But, yeah, everyone is bringing their own baggage to this. And, you know, we could be wrong! He could be dead! Or dead by the end of the next episode. But I honestly don’t think they would treat it so lightly if he were dead. It kind of only makes sense if they are just teasing us. Which I’m pretty sure they are!

Natalie: They’re also not actually SAYING things. It is just implied.

Nichole: I think we might have PTSD.

Natalie: Oh, we absolutely have PTSD.

Nichole: I’m sorry Kung Fu writers/cast/crew we’ve been in the fandom mines too long.

Natalie: Jon saying “To all the fans of @cw_kungfu I just wanna say you’re the best. Thank you for tuning in each week and for speaking so positively about the show. This experience has been unlike any other and I hope to see y’all again soon ❤️” He didn’t technically say, you know, anything.

Nichole: Yeah.

Natalie: I also don’t want to upset these angels by telling them “hey, don’t play around, because here are all the dire consequences of fandoms past, and here’s why people might think you’re being a dick” etc.

Nichole: Exactly. Honestly all of their social media stuff brings me so much joy. Fandom, please don’t squelch it! Because they’re so open and seemingly uncensored and I don’t want that to change.

Natalie: Sometimes fans in a contentious fandom do expect every actor ever to be highly educated in the sort of fandom drama that honestly, no one should have to be versed in if the world was sane. I do get both sides of it, honestly, but there’s a level of presumption sometimes in terms of what fans think actors might know that… well, I’ve seen it cause some chaos. Anyway. We’ll see you again soon, Jon. Like, next week.

Nichole: And to be fair, I haven’t really seen anything like that on twitter. I think that’s the benefit of having a kind of new fandom that hasn’t really coalesced into something firm yet. People seem to mostly be having fun with the speculation. Like, they’re upset about it, but in a normal dramatic story type way?

Natalie: That’s what I’m thinking too, I just also know a few people are uniquely paranoid. In general the world and fans can be really reactionary too, so I’m glad we aren’t having bury your gays rants. Knock on wood.

Nichole: *knock knock knock*

Natalie: Because honestly I do think Kung Fu, in terms of gay representation, is a really good one, and I think more queer people should check it out purely for the way Ryan’s presence and romantic arcs have been centred.

Nichole: Yes. For sure. And this situation actually gives us some more good relationship fodder to delve into with Ryan and Sebastian, so…

Natalie: What are you hoping to see next week?

Nichole: Ok, aside from Sebastian crying, which I’ve already mentioned, lol — I want to see Zhilan, Mia and Nicky all confronting each other. I know I keep hoping Zhilan is going to turn the corner and move to the good side and I keep getting disappointed, but I STILL WANT IT. So I’d like to see everyone clear the air a bit. Next week might be too soon for that though? I want the dramatic return of Kerwin. I want some kind of grappling with having the Shens involved with what Nicky is doing that doesn’t result in her shutting them out. I want Pei-Ling back. What about you?

Natalie: Gosh. All of that sounds good, but I really can’t stop thinking about how excited and proud Victor sounded when he thought Jin wanted the jacket for an exhibit. “We’d be happy to loan it out on display!” I, admittedly, am very focused on STUFF, tangible things, items. Permanent destruction of meaningful items really fucks me up. So I really need to know if his sacrifice was in vain. And if they can re-frame the coat so that it still looks good in the framed display.

Nichole: I was thinking about that too! Hopefully, he cut it strategically.

Natalie: I am sorry for being so mundane and fixated on this detail and I’m sure a thousand forms of therapy or self help would tell me to stop being so preoccupied by Things, that Items don’t matter. But honestly they matter to me and I was really affected by it!

Nichole: I don’t think of myself as particularly focused on things, but I really felt it too! I think we were meant to see it as a big deal and a huge ask. So I think it makes sense that it was so upsetting to you.

Natalie: So maybe, maybe we will find out that there was a second switch, and Tan has Jin’s mallet after all. I would also like to check in on how Dennis is doing, and what Evan’s plan is now that he seems to not want to chase his old job.

Nichole: Ah yes. Good points. We only have 4 episodes left and there are a lot of things up in the air!

Natalie: But I think everyone will be very focused on the whole Ryan bleeding from the chest problem. Say he lives — that’s a long term recovery wound, and Kung Fu tends to move pretty fast. Like each episode is a few days after the next, not jumps of weeks or more. Any chance we may jump further? Or maybe Jon actually had another commitment and is kind of not super involved for the rest of the season (though not dead).

Nichole: I think we have to move quickly because Tan has the mallet and presumably the gang needs to neutralize that sooner rather than later. I hope we see plenty of Ryan recuperating in his hospital bed, having deep conversations with his family and Sebastian about the nature of mortality.

Natalie: Apparently doctors make the worst patients.

Nichole: That would be fun.

Natalie: Until next time, then! Arrrrgh!

‘Kung Fu’ airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on The CW. Episodes stream free the next day on The CW site.