Kung Fu has returned to the CW as part of the network’s fall schedule, with this week’s season 3 premiere picking up a few months after the wreckage of that massive earthquake. Read on for our conversation review of “Shifu.”
After an unusually short wait, Kung Fu season 3 has arrived! A mere four months ago, we left the Shen family dealing with the fallout of several major crises. Last season, Russell Tan was on a quest to achieve immortality, stealing his son’s (perfect) body along the way. In spite of their best efforts, the Shoobies were not able to stop him from ringing his magical bell. The major earthquake Tan caused in San Francisco was just a byproduct of his desire to open a portal to the magical realm where he could steal the source of power for the magical bloodlines. While there, Zhilan sacrificed herself to deny Tan the immortality he craved and to allow Nicky and Mia to escape.
Back at home, Harmony Dumplings was still standing, but barely. All of Mei-Li’s hard work and success, lost in an instant. Althea, who exploited a privacy vulnerability in her new app to warn the city about the earthquake, was left wondering if she would go to prison, in spite of the fact that her intervention saved lives. Dennis continued to be very disowned and now jobless along with Althea.
In the wake of his father’s death, Henry decided to upend his life to discover his father’s secrets, leaving Nicky high, dry and single, because, evidently, he forgot FaceTime exists. It was a heavy blow for a couple that had been rock-solid all season. Leaving Nicky alone in the wake of her failure to save San Francisco felt doubly harsh. Henry’s timing continues to be — not great.
As if all of this didn’t leave us enough threads to pick up, the last scene of season 2 gave us a very real Pei-Ling walking through Golden Gate Park in a storm, naked except for a magical necklace that seems like it might be up to no good.
At the end of last season, we had some hopes and dreams for Kung Fu season 3. Nichole was looking forward to Sebastian getting more involved with the Shoobies, and hoping Althea would stay out of jail, while Natalie was looking for more impact regarding the biange unleashment of season 1, as well as hoping we would see more of Dennis’ conflict with his father. We both agreed Nicky could use some success to boost morale! Will we get what we wanted? There’s only one way to find out.
The official synopsis of “Shifu” reads:
A CRIME WAVE IN CHINATOWN AND A MYSTERIOUS VIGILANTE — As the Shen’s prepare for Harmony Dumplings’ grand reopening, they learn that they have become the latest victims of a crime wave that has hit their Chinatown community. As Nicky (Olivia Liang) and the team prepare to take matters into their own hands, a run-in with a vigilante named Bo (guest star Ben Levin) leaves Nicky wondering who this mysterious stranger in her city is. Elsewhere, following the legal fallout from her app, Althea (Shannon Dang) and Dennis (Tony Chung) move back in with Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan) and Jin (Tzi Ma), and Ryan (Jon Prasida) and Sebastian (JB Tadena) adjust to living together, while juggling their busy schedules. Finally, the unexpected arrival of someone from Nicky’s past rocks her to her core. Eddie Liu, Gavin Stenhouse and Vanessa Kai also star. David Grossman directed the episode written by Christina M. Kim & Robert Berens.
Catch up on all of our season 2 reviews right here, and carry on below for our reactions to Kung Fu season 3, episode 1 “Shifu.”
‘Kung Fu’ season 3, episode 1 review in conversation
Natalie: So… We’re back! It feels so soon. I know that, back in the day, we used to follow a 22 episode season of network TV that ended in May and returned in October, but this feels really, really sudden to me. I mean, Kung Fu season 2 did end mid JUNE, not mid May, and is re-airing the first week of October, not the middle… but… It’s been so long since fall TV mattered to me! That schedule honestly feels like another life at this point, given streaming, shortened season orders, and COVID delays. I can’t imagine what the season 2 to season 3 turnaround felt like for the actual Kung Fu writers and then the cast, going back into production so fast. Is it blowing your mind?
Nichole: It is. I feel a little guilty we’re getting a new season so soon! It does feel like a lot of work for the writers and the cast and crew! (Guilty but gleeful) I don’t know what I would do if a show I liked had 22 episodes now? I’d feel like a glutton.
Natalie: It is honestly… I don’t even know what I would do. I’m having trauma flashbacks to covering Glee on Hypable every week without screeners… In my time zone… these long, 4000 word essays — our chats are long, but I am talking like a structured piece, post episode, the night of or morning after… for 22 terrible weeks a year.
Nichole: I’d never survive.
Natalie: Nevertheless, we are here and hopefully not too much of a toll has been taken on our friends over at Kung Fu for bringing the show back to us so early. It’s been almost four months for us which, as it happens, is the amount of time that is meant to have passed in San Francisco since the earthquake. We are rejoining the story four months down the line in the wake of everything that has happened and that recovery period. We left Kung Fu season 2 in kind of a mess. Not a lot of closure for anyone, except Mia, really. Some people were left in a positive place, like Ryan and Seb, and Evan, but I’d say overall it’s not a net win for the group as a whole. What were you most concerned about going in? In terms of what was left hanging, or left in bad shape in the Kung Fu season 2 finale?
Nichole: I think I was most worried about Althea. Her situation just felt wildly unfair. I mean, I didn’t really think they were going to send her to jail, but she’s my fluffy marshmallow and I want her to girlboss her way to victory.
Natalie: Yeah, we never really touched base with Dennis’s dad again or his mom, so with Althea’s app and her company going under, it did seem like they as a couple would really be set back in their journey.
Nichole: Their whole financial situation is a mystery to me. Presumably, that house belonged to Dennis, but I guess not, judging from where we find them this season.
Natalie: Maybe it was on a mortgage they could no longer pay, so they had to sell it on? But yeah. The show obviously gives us a round up of everyone’s situation since that time, so we can go through all the personal situations over a big family meal at Harmony Dumplings. Gang’s all here.
Nichole: I love that for us.
Natalie: All our fave ships — Althennis, Evadia, Meibastian…
Nichole: I have come over to the Meibastian side. You can’t hurt me with that anymore. The pull is too irresistible.
Natalie: So theoretically. Just theoretically. If someone was bisexual, which we think Sebastian is — would love that to be confirmed on screen this season, but yeah — and they decided to pursue ethical polyamory, would it be wrong to date someone and also date their mom, providing, you know, the dates were kept seperate?
Nichole: Okay, I can only handle it if I firmly compartmentalize “Rybastian” and “Meibastian” — no mixing.
Natalie: Obviously no mixing! They could work out a schedule.
Nichole: I feel like a robot on overload. YES NO YES NO KABOOM.
Natalie: Because Jin obviously has his boyfriend… I mean, I feel it could work. Look, I am sorry. This isn’t House of the Dragon. Carrying on — the family dinner does allow us to see the state of things for each person. They are meeting at Harmony Dumplings for a weekly dinner while the restaurant is still under repair, a sort of pot luck thing and these family meal scenes really do feel like the heart of Kung Fu so I’m not surprised to get one almost immediately. But I guess we should get into each person’s current scenario and current issues before tackling what new hero-style challenges are afoot for the Shoobies. For Althea and Dennis, we get a bit of an update over dinner regarding Althea’s potential charges. Evan and Nadia don’t seem to think it’s going to be too much of an issue. Is this wishful thinking? Do you think this will get bad?
Nichole: I don’t think it is wishful thinking in terms of, like, going to jail. But Althea seems to be throwing herself into a new app, and I think the consequences could be that she can’t make apps anymore. Is that something a judge can decree? I don’t know, it just seems like the logical consequence. I hate that though. Althea is obviously struggling with where to put all of her energy and I I hate to see something she is so good at taken away from her. But… maybe there is something she’s more suited for in her future. Maybe she will join Evan’s new practice as his PI. We’ve talked about what a good team-up they are before.
Natalie: I think that would be really great — I’m not sure if his new firm is a PI firm or just a legal firm but I definitely think this would be a great direction. We learn quickly that Althea and Dennis are living back at the family home due to money troubles and that there are a few interesting bits of friction there. Like you said, Althea is doing this new app called Matron which is about digitizing the needs of the home by logging things as you go, which could work for some but… maybe it’s easier to just do the thing not log it and do it later? I don’t know. It sounds like trying to create a Smart Home for people who have dumb-homes.
Nichole: Jin and Mei-Li are definitely not into it.
Natalie: I think you could be right about the possibility of Althea not being able to develop something else and put it on the market, I also think there are other things she should probably not be doing while being assessed for criminal activity. Like hacking. Which we will get to.
Nichole: I feel like Althea facing consequences for this app thing, given all the other sus stuff she does is like Sebastian going to jail for pretty much exactly what Nicky does every week.
Natalie: Oh man, don’t remind me. I think that point is interesting, though, in terms of Sebastian really NOT getting involved in the crime fighting element, which again, that’s for the plotty bit. But I have thoughts there. Like you said Althea is really having issues with what to do and seems to have gotten into her head about this annoying app, while Dennis is working two jobs, driving for Fake Uber and being a busboy at that one apothecary bar they always go to. I am still gunning for Depressed Dennis reconnecting with his scary mommy, but how are you feeling about his vibe this season?
Nichole: He’s so cute, Natalie. I love him so much. I am a little worried that he’s over-extending himself. I think an implosion could be building.
Natalie: Of his penis! I am so sorry. Sorry, Tony. Sorry, everyone. I do take this man’s potential capacity for mental health representation very, very, seriously as I said last season. But still. There is that.
Nichole: His vibe is so comforting, like when he makes Althea that drink at the end of the episode. But I definitely worry about who is taking care of him!
Natalie: Who would you like to see reach out to him, if it does come down to that? Jin?
Nichole: Oh, Jin is good. It feels like that could be a really powerful dad moment, especially given the situation with his own dad. But maybe after they move out of the house.
Natalie: I think with Dennis, I don’t feel like I know his own ambition outside of Wife Guy.
Nichole: Exactly, he even makes a comment about how this life is better!
Natalie: I really don’t think we know anything about his own career ambition, if he has any — and it’s okay if he doesn’t, I think it’s okay to not be driven by achievement at work, it’s cool to me if his decision is that it just isn’t important to him. Though of course they need money, there isn’t shame in just doing a job that doesn’t make you want to die in order to fund your lifestyle buying little dolls to paint.
Nichole: Yeah, ideally for me Althea is the successful one and he’s her househusband.
Natalie: I think it would be cute if he found a niche in like, some sort of geek culture job, some little thing where he got to play around. But yeah, presumably Althea is not doing some secondary job for money right now so he is carrying all of that. And they can’t even bone about it.
Nichole: That scene. I was dying. The zoom in on Jin’s face in that picture. PERFECTION.
Natalie: THE ZOOM IN.
Nichole: Literal laugh out loud.
Natalie: It isn’t the kind of humor I expect from this show, which I think is why it got me real bad.
Nichole: Kung Fu is so good at mixing the humor and the drama and I think that is what keeps it so engaging. All of the emotions make sense and there is a full range.
Natalie: It looks like there is a fair amount of personal household drama that might go down this season, the sort of friction with that couple and the parents… Maybe some friction about Seb and Ryan living together? Adjusting to being live-in partners? Are you keen for the personal drama of all of this to have its own arcs this season?
Nichole: 100% I love that stuff. The show is so good at giving everyone personal stakes.
Natalie: I don’t know if I’m particularly going to buy the teased drama of “oh no, Ryan is a slob.”
Nichole: I’m curious if the Ryan/Sebastian stuff will become friction. The implication is there, but there was such a sweetness to Sebastian picking up Ryan’s stuff when he came home. Maybe I say this as a slob whose husband does pick up after me…
Natalie: Yeah I mean it was a MINOR mess, really. I am so much worse, although I don’t leave my jacket on the floor, that’s weird. I would at least sling it over a chair. I would be interested to see how they handle this, if it’s a traditional sort of consideration argument, or if it is more subversive and maybe more about like the principles of handling executive dysfunction or ADHD, like implementing systems that flow automatically for the person, like… if someone always dumps their bag in the hall… put a stand there for it rather than being like, no, it goes over HERE. Ryan has very valid reasons for being too tired to think! But the tease from Althea seemed flippant. And yes, Seb clearing up was very sweet and loving, but maybe it will get old?
Nichole: It definitely could. I guess I kind of hope they subvert it and it actually isn’t a point of contention between them.
Natalie: Yeah, me too. Wouldn’t it be interesting for people to be like… “But doesn’t it annoy you when…” and Seb is like nope, “Genuinely does not bother me to do it, I have no value judgment about this.” Don’t you find that people get frustrated when someone has an answer like that? Like sometimes people cannot handle someone else being chill about something they would not be chill about.
Nichole: For sure. As an aside, I felt like Ryan’s shoe shelves were a little nod to JP’s real-life shoe obsession.
Natalie: Seb has his own arc through the episode tied to Mei-Li, regarding the stakes of Harmony Dumplings. But it turns out he’s had to take work at a shitty diner while Harmony is renovated. This surprised me a little, the fact he’s hanging out and helping paint I assumed was in his role as employee. But it isn’t, its in his role as Mei-Li’s fave son/boytoy.
Nichole: Ugh. I loved that. Such a good moment to see more about Sebastian’s dedication to Mei-Li and also her guilt at worrying about the future of Harmony Dumplings. It really grounded Mei-Li’s decision at the end of the episode, when it’s obviously something most viewers would not be rooting for.
Natalie: The Harmony plot is more tied to the thick of the adventure so we can come back to those stakes in more detail as we search for the missing stove. But before then, we’ve got to catch up with Nicky. Nicky seems to finally have a job that is somewhat relevant to her skills — she’s taken Henry’s old role as a martial arts teacher at the Chinese community center. She teaches various classes, which I think we saw a bit of in the finale. That’s fine. That’s probably a good choice for her. But living in Henry’s apartment???
Nichole: It’s rent-controlled!
Natalie: I get that it’s a good practicality, they didn’t want to let that space go — and I say that about Henry and Nicky, and about Kung Fu production losing the set.
Nichole: It’s such a good apartment!
Natalie: But it isn’t a great situation headspace wise. I’m hoping what happens is that she and Althea swap. We know Nicky lived at home comfortably without the current friction Althea has and there would be less baggage for Althea and Dennis to live in the loft.
Nichole: Althea and Dennis would be very cute in that space, but I think Nicky needs to live on her own!
Natalie: I don’t know, I think it would be more practical at this point for them to swap just in terms of utilitarian needs in the family and the available spaces.
Nichole: But also, will Henry take it when he comes back?
Natalie: I assume so, but it would be temporary for whoever was there. I mean she’s obviously struggling, as the family dinner implies. She is sitting there not only with both siblings partnered up but with her ex and his new girlfriend. And her dad is like “Oh, all my kids, and their partners, so lovely.”
Nichole: Shout out to Nadia for bagging that oblivious man! I love that Althea’s life motto seems to be, “Let’s make awkward situations more awkward!” Nicky very obviously would just like to pretend everything is fine and that Jin’s comment doesn’t bother her, but Althea makes sure to draw a big arrow directly to Nicky.
Natalie: Yeah that really did make it worse. I’m still not certain why they had to break up, like unless he had no idea what his future will be and thought he may not come back.
Nichole: Don’t get me started. Absolutely unforgivable. As someone who was long-distance overseas when you had to PAY for long-distance calls and we were broke as fuck!
Natalie: But I think we are in an interesting place right now for Nicky, and the Kung Fu writers would be remiss if they didn’t lean into the Evan friendship/history here, because Henry is doing to Nicky what Nicky did to Evan.
Nichole: OHHHHH. Why did I not even think of that?
Natalie: And he and Nicky were together for like, 8 years or something.
Nichole: Very good point.
Natalie: What Nicky is suffering right now is what she did to her partner and to her family. So I wonder if she is feeling that on top of the blame for not stopping the earthquake.
Nichole: Ouch. I wonder if the show will make that explicit. It doesn’t feel like it is headed in that direction.
Natalie:Well like I said they’d be remiss not to. So if they’re still writing season 3, you guys can have that one for free. The karmic payback of Nicky going off the grid.
Nichole: Yeah, absolutely so parallel.
Natalie: Nicky dumps an extremely startling sort of meltdown about it on Althea, which is valid and I feel like very visceral in terms of how she’s been struggling every night crying herself to sleep and all — this comes up more when Althea is being flippant about her new love interest. But we do get a conversation about just how absolutely this fucked her up.
Nichole: It was a good little peek at all the things Nicky is repressing.
Natalie: And yeah I mean, it is what she did. I’m surprised Althea didn’t say so in the moment aside from the fact it would be insensitive. But Althea could have been like, “yeah this is why I put trackers on everyone’s phones.”
Nichole: Although, Nicky did keep in touch at least. They all knew where she was. Unlike Henry. I literally can’t believe he hasn’t even sent an “I’m alive” message.
Natalie: I just think its interesting if we can say like oh this is unforgivable with this premise in mind of Nicky doing it. It isn’t like Nicky was constantly in touch. They heard she went to the monetary then that was it. She could have died in the interim.
Nichole: Nicky did it before we knew her. Henry did it after we were attached.
Natalie: Yeah I know but I’m a rigid person who doesn’t believe in double standards. Should we talk about Henry at the moment? Because he is actually in the episode. Did this surprise you?
Nichole: I didn’t know if we would see him right away. I thought we might keep an air of mystery about it for an episode or 2. I have some questions about his whole deal. Why didn’t the pirates just dump his body and take the ring? They were ready to murder him and then he was like, “I have this very valuable item I’ll give you if you change course and don’t murder me.” But, they could have just been like, “Thanks, we’ll murder you and take it anyway.”
Natalie: I don’t know if they were fully pirates. They might have been, but they may just have been shipping people who didn’t really want to do crimes. Even if they did do some crime, not everyone actually does murders.
Nichole: They looked ready to do a crime after that poker game! I guess it could have been an empty threat.
Natalie: But yeah, I mean of all the places to find him, I didn’t expect to see him gambling poker on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea, trying to get to Cyprus.
Nichole: I guess my second question is what do we think is mindset is about Nicky. The way he stared longingly at that ring at the end, made me think that HE thinks he’s going to go back and Nicky will be waiting for him. But if that is the case, why hasn’t he communicated with her at all!
Natalie: Well, it could be about Nicky, it could be about his mom, given his new perspective on his dads love story with his mom and his Wan Zai duty.
Nichole: I guess. I just feel like the obvious assumption to make is that he’s thinking about eventually giving it to Nicky. But it’s all up in the air. I’m glad he wasn’t murdered by pirates anyway.
Natalie: I wonder what in the Wan Zai records led him to Cyprus — Something relating to Greek God power? And I wonder how well Vancouver can stand in for the Med.
Nichole: Yeah, that’s a tough job for Vancouver.
Natalie: We will have to wait to find out more about what Henry is up to, but I didn’t expect to see him AT ALL for several episodes, so I guess this a way to let us know that this is all about a plot journey for him, not a way of getting rid of Eddie 🤣
Nichole: Yeah, it was good to have a little peek at him, even though we learned basically nothing.
Natalie: Just keeping us in the loop that Henry is still part of the story and that breaking him and Nicky up is an on screen drama choice not a cast availability choice. They did that specially for you, that break up. You love romantic drama so much.
Nichole: lolololololol. It’s funny though, because I’m not mad about it. And I’m not stressed about all the heavy PR about Bo and the possibility that maybe Nicky and Henry won’t get back together. I am very Team Nicky, so I just want her to have a good time and find herself. I couldn’t even take their breakup seriously at first. And then I was like, well, it doesn’t matter because they’ll end up back together. And now I’m like, I don’t know, that was a pretty dick move on Henry’s part, so let’s keep the door open.
Natalie: Now the bulk of the plot is regarding issues that once again affect the situation at Harmony Dumplings. They’re meant to re-open in two weeks but they don’t have a working stove (secretly serving take out chicken is one thing, but how does Mei-Li expect the gang to believe she fried it without a stove?) and the one on order is stolen! I don’t know what it takes to get an industrial stove but the idea that there’s none to be had in the city is odd to me, but sure we can go with Supply Chain Issues. And apparently all over town, vans are getting robbed and goods taken from drivers. Something something taking advantage of the earthquake chaos. And this news comes over family meal, so it’s time for Phones At The Table.
Nichole: It was such a small little bit, but I loved that interaction so much. It’s like this throwback to the fact that Mei-Li is very traditional in some ways even though she has become more flexible. And the delivery was just so funny.
Natalie: It was really, really funny. Once again I’m like… oh my God so much crime and now you’re making Nadia get involved when she just got through the last dodgy boss! Seb has a record! Althea is waiting to be charged! Stop doing illegal shit! Just crowdfund a stove and hire a trailer and go pick one up from out of state!
Nichole: That would have been a very different episode, LOL.
Natalie: ACAB, but right now maybe you need to stay out of trouble so just report the issue and go get a different stove! But no. We have to go full Shooby vigilante mode. Taking the law into our own hands. As a family.
Nichole: What’s a little crime between friends!
Natalie: Next thing you know, they are on the ground and Nicky has found the stolen truck and the people responsible, as Althea and Ryan keep watch. Not necessarily the two people I would have taken — I might have gone for Evan and Seb, people who know how to handle themselves in danger — but this choice does make for some great humour, “Bandits. Incoming.”
Nichole: I have no words for Ryan and Althea this episode. Natalie, the two of them were like an old time Hollywood comedy team.
Natalie: It is… so funny. I actually think the fact that it’s NOT Seb is interesting. Like, he hasn’t been involved in a lot of action since that time he revealed his fighting skills. I wonder if that’s a character choice, that he really, really wants to avoid any scenarios that could turn violent, either because of his record or because of the trauma of accidentally killing someone.
Nichole: I would love for us to get the answer to that. I want to know more about my son.
Natalie: However, the siblings aren’t totally defenceless. Talk me through your response to the bad guy catching Althea in the car and all that followed.
Nichole: When that guy tapped on the window, I actually got a little…mad? I was like, Althea shouldn’t be right there where she could get hurt!
Natalie: Nothing could have prepared for me for Althea to kick him like that at the same time as squeaking in terror.
Nichole: So funny. Maybe because of the big drama of last season with Ryan getting shot, I suppose we are seeing that Ryan and Althea aren’t totally defenseless. But I was still a little bit like, please, they are just little guys.
Natalie: Yeah, they definitely aren’t the MOST equipped. I wonder what conversations in the last 4 months have happened, like if Nicky was reluctant to let them. Ryan and Althea are very pleased with their success at beating up that one guy, meanwhile Nicky is handling like six guys… with some help.
Nichole: Some help, indeed. I don’t exactly know what I expected with Bo, but he’s so squishy. I just want to squish him. They keep referring to him as a “bad boy” but I’m definitely like, “HE’S BABY!”
Natalie: I mean… yeah. I’m pretty into it, not going to lie. He has nice hair. It’s worth pointing out to our readers that neither of us watched Legacies or anything to do with Vampire Diaries so are not familiar with Ben Levin (or Olivia) from there. However we did know in advance that they are friends and I mean this dynamic was instantly pretty interesting. I didn’t get bad boy vibes at all. I found him to be very grounded with no slickness or artifice to him.
Nichole: A lot of chemistry. Same! I just cannot suspect him of anything nefarious. Like, not that there might not be something dark in his past, but he doesn’t seem dark.
Natalie: I mean, we know Henry had his whole life of crime history and honestly the reveal about that felt shadier than anything to do with Bo. And Henry is a cupcake.
Nichole: Nicky could not get a break this episode though, between Althea needling her about Henry until she had a breakdown and then Ryan and Althea double-teaming to make sure she escaped no Bo encounter with her dignity in tact.
Natalie: Truly — Miss Usually Works Alone. What did you think about the fact Bo seems to have heard of her? Like “I’m Nicky Shen” “Oh, that makes sense.”
Nichole: Well, it tracks a bit with last season’s opener, where those petty criminals knew her too. So, it seems like her scope is widening a bit and she’s known a bit further afield. Also as a sort of amateur vigilante it makes sense that he might be more in the know than the average person.
Natalie: True but I want to know the underground gossip.
Nichole: That would make an excellent episode. Nicky Shen from the criminals’ perspective (that one’s also free, guys).
Natalie: @Bob Berens — do a “Storyteller” style episode. With Bo, I think that he’s actually just… a really interesting actor here in Ben Levin. He’s very serious, but not in like a brooding way. He is a bit of an old soul maybe.
Nichole: Yes. I was really impressed with him!
Natalie: There’s something about him that just feels very no bullshit. In a kind of unique way.
Nichole: There was one moment in particular where I was just like, “Oh, I really like this actor, specifically” but we’ll get to that a bit later.
Natalie: This feels weird to say, but he feels more like a real person than a character archetype, already. This isn’t meant as an insult to the others, but Kung Fu is a CW show, its a bit soapy and tropey at times which is fine. There are lines where its definitely like “this is a TV show delivery.” Most TV is like that. But this guy feels like a real person walked in off the street into fiction, for some reason. Am I nuts?
Nichole: I totally know what you mean. Which I think is part why the flavor of what he was bringing as an actor in this later scene with Ryan and Althea was so interesting. Ryan and Althea were so “comedy duo” all episode, in the best possible way, and then playing off of his more subtle vibe was so good. I also think that made his interactions with Nicky feel really relaxing? I don’t know how to explain it. They had a very natural chemistry, so in spite of Nicky’s continued sibling-induced humiliation in front of him, I always felt like he was very open and available to her in whatever way she presented herself.
Natalie: He is definitely like, I feel very comfortable with him. He is very self-possessed. I would let him take the reins and trust him to handle my shit.
Nichole: Yes! The moment where he does just that felt right.
Natalie: Are you surprised to let him into your heart so quick?
Nichole: I am! You and I were so paranoid about every new character last season, that I expected to be dubious. But I was like, “Okay, into my pocket you go,” immediately.
Natalie: No suspicions like you had with Seb!
Nichole: No! Although Maybe that will come back to bite me in the butt. But, while I do anticipate there is more than meets the eye, I can’t think of him as a potential ‘bad guy.’ Fingers crossed.
Natalie: I think Bo just has a very soothing voice. Really smooth, a bit commanding. I’m like yes sir, whatever you say sir. I’m listening. The voice combined with a really cute face and that nice floppy hair is a lot of fun for me.
Nichole: Ha! I’m having another reaction, which is that, yes, he’s very handsome, like, very, very handsome, but I feel like he’s a teenager. A smart, capable teenager, but he definitely feels young to me. I don’t think I can even objectify him properly.
Natalie: He does feel very young to me too.
Nichole: I’m like, “Oh, Sylvia brought home a friend.”
Natalie: I was like maybe he’s meant to be younger than Nicky? But dude, he is 34 (the actor.)
Nichole: I don’t understand how that is possible!!
Natalie: It’s true. I actually did wonder if this is meant to be a Younger Man, but the boy is born in 1987.
Natalie: I guess we will have to wait and see what kind of age he is playing, but I do get you that he feels a little young. He did to me too, but those are the real life facts.
Nichole: Some people just look young for a long time. My sister is nearly 30 and we checked her into a hotel with us as our child.
Natalie: He is around 6 years older than Olivia in real life. I doubt that’s the age gap intended here — they did play like, high schoolers together. But long story short I can and will be objectifying him. Step on me daddy, et cetera.
Nichole: I really want that for you. I will appreciate it vicariously.
Natalie: Re: youthful looks, my friend in the UK used to get a child’s train ticket (school kids under 16) until she was around 28. She has almost a full neck and arm of tattoos but she would wear a hoodie zipped up and try to pass for a school teenager. This is to avoid paying full fare into London from her town. She never got questioned.
Nichole: Yeah, my sister is frequently mistaken for a teenager. She came to the beach with us and some 15 year old boy tried to pick her up and she was like, “I’m 28 years old!”
Natalie: Oh no.
Nichole: I wish I had been there.
Natalie: So weird.
Nichole: Her retelling of it was hysterical.
Natalie: Well, regardless of canonical age, Nicky definitely thinks Bo is kind of interesting and gets all smiley and stuff, a little flustered.
Nichole: They are playing it really well. It feels just right for, “I’m interested a little bit against my will.” Olivia is such a gifted actress and I love it when she gets a chance to do a bit of the humor.
Natalie: Always a fun time when they get to do some fake internet stuff — but turns out Bo is a bit of an online celebrity. Oakland Vigilante is “kinda hot” — is he? Nicky didn’t notice. Much.
Nichole: Very believable, Nicky.
Natalie: We talked a bit about the state of things for Nicky and her, well, grief over losing Henry. This sort of breakdown startled me. It felt like… very believable but also shocking. The fact that Althea bears down about Nicky’s lack of life and the mental damage of living in Henry’s apartment does tell me Nicky needs to get out of there. But what did you make of this in the moment? Its quite a roller-coaster. Like I said before, we have to keep in mind that this is what Nicky did to the others.. but still.
Nichole: It hit pretty close to home actually. I feel like in my real life, I sometimes find myself swallowing down a lot of emotion in order to keep things functional for the people around me, or, more honestly, for myself to avoid dealing with big emotions. So, the idea that she could be working very hard to keep up this charade for her family felt real. And that if you hit too hard at that facade it will crumble, also felt, maybe, too real LOL.
Natalie: I feel like you know… yeah, maybe she was starting to recover and not be so messed up over it all but it doesn’t mean that she’s going to want another relationship when pushed. Like pushing this point is going to stir it up.
Nichole: Yeah, she’s a still a bit too vulnerable to want to deal with that at the moment. Or so she thinks.
Natalie: Anyway this does re-focus Althea on stalking Bo for work not pleasure. And they do manage to get a lead on him via his work as a barista. Althea hacks their employment records faster than it would take me to type the URL of the website which is stretching my limits slightly, surely you’d need to find the page they use for payroll software and it would take a little longer but… never mind, he’s at the door.
Nichole: I laughed so hard. Althea just letting Nicky go on and on while staring at Bo behind her was so much. They way they kept that gag going… I just really appreciated it. And Bo, like you said, he’s so calm. He doesn’t try to take advantage of her awkwardness even a little bit! Although I did appreciate his little dig at Althea snooping through his employment records. He’s not a doormat.
Natalie: There’s just something about him. Like, yeah. He has this interesting gravitas, like I said, very self possessed. But let’s talk about the fact a lawyer was looking for him (Evan) and it made him nervous. I like that his choice in that circumstance was just to find Nicky before they stalked him. Straight and to the point.
Nichole: Yeah, again, it makes it hard to be suspicious that he himself is bad. There’s definitely something he doesn’t necessarily want Nicky to know, but I don’t think he has evil intentions.
Natalie: I have a couple of suspicions. Not sure, but we will see.
Nichole: LAY THEM OUT.
Natalie: Not yet. Anyway, he has some information about the guys they fought — he recognised that there were rival gangs working the same job, which is weird, and gives the suspicion of course that a third party is involved, and despite Althea promising not to carry on with setting Nicky up, she drags Ryan out the door, stealing the loved up couple snap of Nicky and Henry on the way, so Nicky and Bo can bond. Thoughts on this rapid turn around regarding meddling?
Nichole: I think she felt bad about berating and pushing Nicky, not the meddling per se. And he got her hacker seal of approval immediately, so what’s a sister supposed to do, not meddle?
Natalie: Yes! Not meddle! What did you think about the fact that apparently Bo is good at everything? Fighting, hacking, etc.
Nichole: Okay, that was a little suspicious. And also makes a mean latte? Come on. I think this brings up a good point though. Bo didn’t “save” Nicky, but he did help. Where do you think he is power-wise compared to Nicky? Nicky obviously has the extra juice, but it was hard to tell if he was evenly matched with her. I mean, he shouldn’t be. But it wasn’t obvious to me. I just don’t think your average no-power vigilante could wander into a multiple-gang involved crime in progress and expect to win.
Natalie: I have no idea. He doesn’t seem like a reckless person either. His fighting style is brutal. Not so much martial arts. Really serious closed-fist brawling. A bit wild. But yeah, I mean, what is he doing vigilating?
Nichole: What did he say about if he was always spying on criminals, “Not always. Sometimes.” It did make me laugh.
Natalie: Look. Clearly something is going on. Clearly we will find out. But you’re right. Last season I was like… OMG who what… like “I must know the deal.” But this guy… I’m like sure, daddy. I trust you. We’re cool.
Nichole: I feel like your obsession with calling this guy daddy makes you my grandchild, LOL.
Natalie: He has lulled me into a deep sense of complacency.
Nichole: But yeah, same.
Natalie: Not in a bad way. Just like this… Mmm yeah all good.
Nichole: Yes, exactly.
Natalie: Watch them totally dump me on my ass.
Nichole: Right? We might end up so wrong.
Natalie: Well, when they go to visit the gang guy and trade backstories, we get the first clue of his life, which is that when Nicky talks about her history and Pei-Ling, he says he had a mentor once, too. He moved around a lot as a kid and his mentor taught him to fight back and fight bullies. I don’t know how this would work but my first thought in all this was — I think his mentor is Zhilan.
Nichole: I have no idea how that would work either, but it is GENIUS. Where would that put it in Zhilan’s timeline though?
Natalie: It depends but I’m thinking like when he was a kid and she was a teenager. I don’t know when she came to America but…
Nichole: It didn’t seem like she was in America at all until she came chasing the weapons and Tan. Like, I got the feeling all of her history was in China. But I could be wrong.
Natalie: She could have been back and forth. Look, it’s very likely I am wrong, but I don’t know. I like the idea of Zhilan thinking she’s on the side of good and being against bullies.
Nichole: I think it would be really interesting with Zhilan coming back. Like, to see this totally different side to her past, which up until now we associate entirely with revenge and evil.
Natalie: We do know she always sort of thought she was the little guy fighting the big bad. For her own sense of justice. And we know how soft she went for Mia.
Nichole: Yeah, there is potential there for her to have had that kind of relationship in the past. I’d love to see it.
Natalie: Look I’ve had some whack theories. I still think Sebastian being Wan Zai made sense!
Nichole: That was a good one.
Natalie: Well, Bo’s noble quest seems to charm Nicky anyway and she loves Zhilan now so if this is his big secret she’d probably just be like “awwww.”
Nichole: True. Okay, there were two Bo moments that really stood out to me, and the first one was on this excursion together. They track down one of the bandits (sic) and Bo is in the process of roughing the guy up by messing with his already dislocated shoulder, and when Nicky gets a bit uncomfortable, he switches seamlessly to popping his shoulder back in. Bo’s little realization that he was going too far and his “feel better?” was so charming I could die.
Natalie: So he can do medicine too. Covering Nicky, Althea and Ryan’s roles.
Nichole: He’s a one man band.
Natalie: Maybe he’s some sort of mythical creature who mimics powers.
Nichole: I think you’ve nailed it.
Natalie: Obviously. It was interesting to see him right at the center of the Shoobies, working with Althea while Dennis served tea. Why is Ryan so spicy about him “fitting right in?”
Nichole: Ryan has some insecurities and he has only recently felt more confident in his role helping Nicky, so it makes sense to me that he’d be all, “who is this new guy who thinks he can just swoop in and be perfect.”
Natalie: But he wanted to help find him before! I don’t know. Ryan’s an odd duck.
Nichole: Let Ryan be fickle and jealous of someone stealing his sisters’ attention! He and Althea are there bonding over taking out this one guy and now Althea’s ignoring him and hacking with her new bestie? Finding him to be Nicky’s boyfriend is different from finding him to be a part of the Shoobies.
Natalie: I mean is it? Surely it comes with the job.
Nichole: Sure, but Ryan’s allowed to be weird about it first.
Natalie: Fine, fine. What’s with the look from Bo when Evan pulls Nicky aside?
Nichole: Such a good question. He was practically biting his nails. He seemed nervous that Evan was there to tell Nicky something specifically about Bo. So there must be some dirt to dig up, but they’ve already done the boyfriend with a surprise criminal past…twice…so I don’t think that’s it.
Natalie: Maybe… God. I don’t know. Maybe he knows about Pei-Ling. Maybe this Pei is a clone and Vanessa Kai’s body contains many multiple personalities and one of them was his mentor. Maybe he knows everything about Nicky and her life and knows what Evan is actually there to say.
Nichole: SLOW DOWN THERE. Okay, but how much did you like it when Nicky came back all distracted and troubled and he was all take charge, “You go, we’ll be fine.”
Natalie: He’s still weird about Evan in that moment. I do seriously now wonder if he’s across what’s going on. But yeah. Do you want to follow Nicky now? Or follow Daddy?
Nichole: I think maybe follow through with Daddy first. I need to take a shower after typing that sentence.
Natalie: Yo, Ben Levin, if I’m making it weird just say so, because I am 100% sure you’re going to hear about this soon enough.
Nichole: Occupational hazard. Am I talking about you or him? We’ll never know.
Natalie: Listen, Ryan’s griping continues when Bo tells them to hang back. Maybe he misses Henry. Althea doesn’t mind, though.
Nichole: No, she was sold as soon has he was a knowledgeable hacker. This scene with the three of them working together probably did more to sell me on Bo, and Ben, than anything else. Because I think it is a challenge to walk into a dynamic that is so well established and not only fit in, but take the lead in a way that is not obnoxious (in spite of Ryan’s feelings) and really sell it.
Natalie: Yeah, this man does not really seem to have any sort of ego at play, yet is so confident.
Nichole: Ideal man, tbh.
Natalie: The fact he’s sent off, day 1, with the siblings and just becomes this fundamental player so fast is such a strange choice. Yet it is working.
Nichole: It is working! I felt zero resistance to the idea. It was just, yes, of course.
Natalie: I don’t really follow how he got into the warehouse without setting off the tripwire. Different door? Either way Ryan should have done what he was told.
Nichole: He went in through the flaps not the door. He came in from, like behind the boxes and Althea and Ryan came in through the door. And, yes, Ryan needs to learn to control his impulses. This is how you get dead again, Ryan! Is that what you want?
Natalie: If he hasn’t learned his lesson this time… To Bo’s immense credit he does not blow up at Ryan. He’s a bigger man than me.
Nichole: He stays so calm! Another point in his favor. The dynamic here was so fun. He’s just super focused on problem-solving while Althea and Ryan kind of flail, but stick around to try to figure it out. You get the sense Bo has spent a lot of time working with the circumstances he’s given.
Natalie: Them all standing around googling the bomb was a lot of fun and weirdlly true to life.
Nichole: That red wire reveal. Natalie, I laughed so hard every time I watched it. It never got old. Ryan’s face. It was all so good.
Natalie: For me it was the utter lack of irony saying kablamo-guy aloud.
Nichole: Ha. Yes. Very good. Okay, so when googling doesn’t work, Bo goes with vibes. How’d you feel about that?
Natalie: Honestly, I have no idea.
Nichole: Well, I’ve said before how I feel about our hero having a sixth sense and just knowing the right thing to do, so this fell a little bit into that for me.
Natalie: I think the big question for me is why the fuck there was a bomb — Ryan’s point stands. Was this a trap? To lure Nicky and blow her up? Like there is an unsolved mystery here. Who is paying rival gangs to work as a team to put this all together? Is it about the goods at all?
Nichole: It feels like it might be about economically destroying Chinatown specifically? I wonder if it will tie into the investors and the Harmony Dumplings plot. But, just a tiny jump backward, my other Bo moment was right after he diffused the bomb. His reaction was so real. Like not cocky or proud, just like bone-deep relief. I really liked that bit.
Natalie: Yeah, he kind of walks away and takes a minute. He’s very interesting.
Nichole: Yeah, even if he and Nicky don’t end up together, I hope we keep him.
Natalie: Is this the last we see of him in the episode? We see the sibs go home to get laid.
Nichole: Pfff. Finally.
Natalie: But I think we leave Bo there.
Nichole: Yeah, that’s the last we see of him.
Natalie: Ultimately they’re — I assume — able to get the oven back for Harmony Dumplings and get things back on track for reopening, but Mei-Li decides to meet with the investors anyway, thinking that the idea of getting back on their feet alone just isn’t enough. The conversation with her boyfriend really shook her I think.
Nichole: Definitely. She is trying to think beyond her ego.
Natalie: When she kind of tests the waters — are you stable financially without this job? And Seb is like, pfft who cares id walk through fire for you Mei-Li, just literally go light a fire for me and I’ll prove it right now. His dedication makes her feel concerned.
Nichole: The look on Mei-Li’s face. I knew then that she was going to call those investors.
Natalie: Got to provide for her sexiest child. I’m sorry, I’m making it so weird.
Nichole: LOL. Maybe it’s the writers’ fault for making it weird.
Natalie: So we are getting this investment plot line with people looking to buy in. How do you think this is going to go? A positive partnership? A source of concern?
Nichole: I can’t envision a scenario in which a corporate buyout is held out as morally superior to a family owned business. So, maybe it is okay for a while, but I can’t see it working long term. Obviously, this is where Kim is coming in eventually, and so I WANT it to be good, because I want Carrie and Mei-Li to be BEST friends, but I just feel friction in my bones.
Natalie: I can’t see Kim going full villian but… I could be wrong. It could be a situation where ultimately it’s a rough ride to come to terms with each other but eventually successful?
Nichole: Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe Kim is not evil, but a business woman, and she’s there to make money! Which causes friction, but whenever we find out what this deal with the gangs is, she’ll realize people are more important than money??? We’ll see.
Natalie: Maybe she’s just evil which is upsetting to me but also like I don’t get how that would be a season long heavily featured plot. There has to be some complexity here. And if she wants to make money she clearly values Mei-Li’s product.
Nichole: Yeah. There’s room for partnership, but I just think in the end Harmony Dumplings has to be Mei-Li’s.
Natalie: Okay. We have to talk about Pei-Ling now.
Nichole: Yes. My beloved. Very upset to see her still living that feral cat life 4 months in. What has she been eating? Where did she get her clothes? So upsetting.
Natalie: It’s all kind of troubling.
Nichole: The fact that she is just aimlessly existing, seemingly without a goal, is odd. Unless, she has two modes, a Xiao mode, where she’s pursuing some kind of agenda, and then a Pei-Ling mode where she’s sort of lost and vacant because of trauma. It was upsetting watching them fight. More upsetting than watching Nicky and Xiao fight, because even if Xiao is in there, I didn’t get the sense that there was any kind of consciousness during that fight — short of an instinctual fight or flight reaction.
Natalie: And a third mode where she’s neither and Vanessa is a vessel for all sorts of things. Yeah, I mean, even without any attachment to Pei-Ling, the fight was quite rough just in terms of this being a very animalistic person who is reacting in panic.
Nichole: Nicky really pulling out the Dean Winchester special, “My love can save someone who is not themselves.”
Natalie: Tried and tested.
Nichole: Then Nicky takes her home and tucks her into bed. What did you make of how Pei-Ling described what she remembered? Like, was she describing crossing over from the realm? Does she have any memories of living in the park?
Natalie: It really seems odd that she has nothing from 4 months. Was she just like base functioning? Didn’t know who she was?
Nichole: It seems like she was just this reactive shell! But, I assume we’ll get more information as we move forward. And of course, we get 2 suspicious reveals. One, that Nicky recognized one of Xiao’s moves, and two — that amulet.
Natalie: I mean how did you feel about her reuniting so tenderly with Nicky though?
Nichole: I love that, of course. I want our Pei-Ling back and I want her and Nicky to be able to have a close, supportive relationship. I know there’s a danger there, of course. I do think Xiao is involved and obviously the amulet is… something. But I’m just so thrilled to see Vanessa playing a character in a real body that other characters can see!!
Natalie: It must have been tough to kind of hold out for that role. Like hanging around as a ghost for 2 years…
Nichole: Worth the wait! Did we miss anything?
Natalie: Well, not a single mention of Zhilan. How do you think she’s going to play into things here?
Nichole: If the amulet connects Pei-Ling/Xiao to the realm in some way, I guess there could be a connection there that could lead to getting her out? But also, Zhilan is pretty self-sufficient, she may just bust her way out without anyone the wiser. What are your thoughts?
Natalie: I miss Kerwin.
Nichole: God, what if he was still in the realm too and they’ve been holding out on us?
Natalie: I don’t know. He’s probably dead but I’m not going to get over it.
Nichole: Anything is possible.
Natalie: Ben Levin is the same age as Ludi Lin. How does that make you feel? Daddy and babygirl.
Nichole: Oh god.
Natalie: Now I’m just trying to fuck with you. Or am I…
Nichole: Please. I can’t.
Natalie: Please, somebody stop me.
Nichole: My mind is still blown at Ben’s age. I’m not sure I can recover. Okay, well, another thing that we accidentally skipped over — I’d like to shout out JB’s nips in their first appearance on Kung Fu!
Natalie: Oh lord, we’re really in it now. Really? He hasn’t been shirtless?
Nichole: I don’t feel like there’s been a good reason for him to be shirtless yet. We really saw him mostly at Harmony Dumplings.
Natalie: Well, good for him. Welcome, nipples. He also got to have a little Filipino food moment with Nadia in recognition of their shared background which I thought was cool for something primarily anchored in Chinese culture.
Nichole: SO CUTE. I love that we get so many different kinds of connections between people.
Natalie: Obviously Kung Fu is very focused on the Asian American experience but they’re really doing the work to differentiate those cultures, even like the Hong Kong aspect with Dennis and various other things. They’re not trying to umbrella cover it. And I actually read an interview with Ben Levin about this role, regarding how it used to be like, all Asian actors would go for any Asian role even when it really wasn’t even ethnically close to their own background, because of the landscape of the industry. Levin is actually mixed race, which I wonder if will factor in at all too.
Nichole: I feel like they are really good at using what the actors bring to the show, so I wouldn’t be surprised.
Natalie: So right now, what’s your prediction on a kiss? How many episodes?
Nichole: Wow. Pulling out the big guns. Hmm. I am going to predict that if we get a #No kiss it will actually be after Henry comes back. So, maybe 4? 5? Is that too long?
Natalie: I was going to say 3 or 4.
Nichole: I think, narratively speaking, Bo has to be a major temptation for her. And I think it would have more oomph if she kisses him AFTER she knows Henry is alive and also possibly knows he is still in love with her and wants her back. Like, she’s making a real choice in the moment, even if it’s not her permanent choice.
Natalie: This is presuming that Bo wants Nicky. Do we have a reason to believe he is interested?
Nichole: I mean, have you seen her? But, I guess you’re right.
Natalie: He could have other priorities! LOL if she chased him and he was like sorry, no.
Natalie: Ah, well, there’s always Henry.
Natalie: Sorry Eddie. We love you buddy. I guess we should leave it there before I do any more damage.
Nichole: Until next week, anyway.