Kung Fu season 3 episode 2 juggles a lot of different threads — like, a lot — and includes a guest star we’ve long been anticipating as well as one we were totally blindsided by. Read on for our conversation review of “Risk.”
Kung Fu’s second episode of season 3 establishes the upcoming trajectories of most major characters for foreseeable future. With the help of seemingly sympathetic restaurant investor Carrie (Kim Rhodes) Mei-Li may have found a way to move Harmony forward that she can live with, and Jin may have an opportunity to get more involved in community outreach by stepping into a local government campaign. But most central to the drama is Althea, who’s handed a cruel and unusual computer-related punishment from the DA and then is forced to put her skills to the ultimate (and perhaps final) test when she is kidnapped by Max DeVeer (Seamus Dever) the man who’s been intentionally creating discord in Chinatown.
Nicky ricochets between uncovering DeVeer’s motives (and rescuing Althea) and helping Pei-Ling to acclimate as Ryan’s research gets to the bottom of what, exactly, may have brought her shifu back to the land of the living. In storylines separated from the main source of action in San Francisco, Henry takes further steps towards his mysterious destiny and Zhilan journeying across the barren remnants of the spirit realm, makes a new alliance with a dead guardian who she sent to the afterlife herself – the popstar Simon Lau (Michael Bow.)
The official synopsis of “Risk” reads:
KIM RHODES GUEST STARS — When someone from Nicky’s (Olivia Liang) past shows up unexpectedly, she reaches out to Ryan (Jon Prasida) for help uncovering why. Jin (Tzi Ma) takes on the Chinatown Council, while Evan (Gavin Stenhouse) and Althea (Shannon Dang) investigate what may be behind the city’s recent rise in crime. Finally, Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan) meets with Carrie (guest star Kim Rhodes), the representative of a restaurant investment group, and Henry’s (Eddie Liu) globetrotting search brings him to one of his father’s former allies. Tony Chung, Vanessa Kai and Yvonne Chapman also star. Geoff Shotz directed the episode written by Dan Hamamura.
Catch up on all of our Kung Fu reviews right here, and carry on below for our reactions to Kung Fu season 3, episode 2 “Risk.”
‘Kung Fu’ season 3, episode 2 review in conversation
Natalie: Well, Kung Fu season 3, episode 2 contained about a million plot points and a lot of surprises. Off the back of the premiere we knew we were going to be dealing with Nicky and Pei-Ling, and we knew that we were going to see Mei-Li deal with investors for the restaurant. Beyond that, this episode had a million things, plenty of them isolated as their own mini plots, then one big overarching plot that involves several mini plots within it. This is a large ensemble cast, but I’m always surprised how many different threads an episode can fit in. This felt like a LOT.
Nichole: I don’t know how the episodes don’t feel more rushed!
Natalie: Let’s start on the firm, solid ground and work our way up to the most unhinged in terms of side plots. We knew Mei-Li was going to meet investors for Harmony Dumplings. We knew Kim Rhodes, of Supernatural / Wayward Sisters fame, is playing the role of one of these investors and is going to be a recurring character in Mei-Li’s story. Did we catch the name of her colleague at all?
Nichole: Carrie and Neil. I had to make sure I remembered Neil’s name so I could appropriately curse that guy out.
Natalie: They’ve got different attitudes, to say the least. Now the first meeting had me wishing I knew more about how any of this worked because honestly I have no idea how a company like this works, when it buys a share in a restaurant. I have no idea if changing suppliers or restaffing is normal, but that seems like some pretty key elements to why the product is the product they want to invest in. Like… how the food is made? Or do you think it’s more like, they don’t care about a dip in quality due to relying on an existing success level that implies that customers would, at least for a while, come back to buy, even if there’s a drop in quality? I don’t know how any of this works, but I didn’t understand why they’d make those changes. Like, what is the product they’re buying?
Nichole: Business is bad and dumb.
Nichole: They want to buy the restaurant, lower the quality and charge people more for it, wring it dry and then dump it. I mean, maybe not, exactly like that, but that happens so much when a smaller company is bought out. It’s like a short term money making scheme and who cares about the long term?
Natalie: I am happily unaware of anything to do with that world, but I now understand why Mei-Li was concerned about control. What was your impression of the first meeting and the details brought to the table?
Nichole: Well, Neil’s an asshole. That’s pretty clear. He really gave a worst case scenario in laying out the deal. Nothing about it was appealing. Like — we’ll change everything and make it worse!
Natalie: He’s like, “A restaurant called Harmony Dumplings technically will exist. Yay!”
Nichole: LOL. I like how Jin was just like, “We’re done.” I wish I could channel that energy in my everyday life.
Natalie: What did you think of Kim during that first meeting though?
Nichole: Okay, after last week’s refusal to suspect Bo of anything, it is clear that is because I was saving up all my suspicion for Carrie. I want her to be good so, so bad. I want her and Mei-Li to be BEST friends. I want her on Kung Fu forever. But… I am worried. I am worried this whole investor thing is tied to the overarching evil plot and I’m worried Carrie is the Trojan Horse getting snuck in under Mei-Li’s armor. To be fair, there wasn’t too much to suspect at the first meeting. It’s a little good cop bad cop, but Neil is so bad that Jin and Mei-Li kick them out before we can see any good cop. I’m sorry, Kim — PLEASE DON’T BE EVIL.
Natalie: Yeah. I have some thoughts about this too. It is really, really hard for me to judge this rationally. It’s very hard for me to dissect motivation because I’m just like… that vocal tone, right there, when she says “I’ve eaten your food,” is how I know Kim in real life would say something to emphasize sincerity or emotion! Stuff that wasn’t necessarily even a part of Jody, but stuff I know about her as a person! I’m not sure I remember a moment like that before because obviously I’ve spoken to a lot of actors or know their real personalities, but Kim is different. I am like, the worst person to judge here. But. She’s like basically SAID “Be warned, this is a very different character.” On social media! She’s played quite harsh characters before though, like on Criminal Minds. But this one is confusing.
Nichole: I think this one is purposefully tricky!
Natalie: You’d know Bob would make sure it was a pithy role.
Nichole: I think we are supposed to be lulled into a false sense of security. My only question is, how bad will it be? Like, surface level bad, where she and Mei-Li fight over control or BAD bad like involved with whoever the big bad this season is.
Natalie: Could it be that she’s an unknowing Trojan Horse?
Nichole: I think that is a possibility.
Natalie: Maybe she does believe in what she’s saying but realizes too late she’s on the bad guy side? And has fucked Harmony over?
Nichole: Yeah, I think I said something like that last week. Like, maybe in the end, she’ll realize she’s on the wrong side. Even if she ends up hardcore evil, it’s so nice to have Kim on my TV screen again.
Natalie: I think during the first meeting with Neil, her suggestions, like digitized bookkeeping and outsourced payroll, “we will do the admin,” are good ideas, and she keeps glancing at Neil when he says stuff that’s more pushy or condescending. Like dude, be more good-faith, or respectful. But this absolutely could be a planned good cop bad cop act. She just seems sincere because it’s Kim and I love her.
Nichole: Honestly. It’s very possible I’m projecting because I just want to be prepared emotionally. If I just let myself LOVE this character and then I’m betrayed? Brutal.
Natalie: I think there’s also the element of like, in TV, when something is shady, and like I’ve said, Kung Fu is kind of soapy, not in a bad way… They sort of telegraph black hats. Like a shot of someone’s Grinch smile when they’ve gotten away with something, you know what I mean?
Nichole: I do. And there wasn’t any of that.
Natalie: There’s a language to it, a convention to how you show things. And her discomfort at his approach seemed genuine. They could just be doing something less overt and not playing by those rules of telegraphing and setting up a harsher, more genuine betrayal, but that wouldn’t massively be in line with Kung Fu‘s tone. I don’t know. It’s Kim! She seemed nice! Kim would never hurt me!
Nichole: But what if she does, Natalie? What if she does? Get inside my emotion protecting fort with me.
Natalie: When she comes to speak to Mei-Li alone, I mean.. This is very stressful!
Nichole: She said all the right things!!! They could be BEST FRIENDS.
Natalie: A Kim, Mei-Li, Pei-Ling team up.
Nichole: It’s too much.
Natalie: Well, she looks very pretty and I like her coat.
Nichole: She does look so good.
Natalie: When she comes to talk to Mei-Li, I mean it seems we have two options. 1) She’s 100% in earnest. 2) It’s fake and they really, really want this business enough to set up this ploy, which means they either see immense value in it, or want to fuck it over specifically. If it’s 1, 2 could still be true but she’s an unwitting party to it and encouraged to help bring Mei-Li on board, but is more innocent. I feel like it’s delusional to assume that this plot line will be like, “the only way is up” conflict free.
Nichole: It could also be 1 but we’ll still see friction in the day to day running of Harmony Dumplings that will put them at odds. So like a softer conflict. Rather than my worst case scenario — Kim Rhodes is this season’s big bad.
Natalie: Look, I can see them doing that. Just given Bob’s value of her as an actor.
Nichole: She could do it for sure.
Natalie: Like I said I have no idea of negotiations in business but… it feels like if the company was willing to make those concessions they’d offer them straight up? They’d sugar coat stuff and be like “now we value you and how you do things, we will let you pick the staff and suggest suppliers.” Like, if they’re willing to go there, why not open with that? What is business?
Natalie: I don’t know how any of this works. But Kim tipping them off about things they could push for, I had no reason to think that wasn’t authentic because I don’t understand why that wouldn’t have been the deal initially offered. I guess there’s a squeezing every drop element, like “our way we get the most profit so it’s our preferred deal, but only really stupid people go for that, so we are prepared to accept THIS margin if people know to ask. And we’d rather have this margin than not at all, so we’ll drop some hints…” I don’t know. I don’t want to deal with Business.
Nichole: Same. The end result is — it works, but, we are led to believe, at least, with Mei-Li still having enough control to keep Harmony Dumplings’ soul.
Natalie: And a knowing look from Kim to Mei-Li that they’re on the same side.
Nichole: I was hoping for a wink, but a girl can’t have everything.
Natalie: Now, the Harmony plot is at least tied to the family but does stay sort of self-contained… for now anyway. Who knows, there are some things revealed in the wider story that may be connected to the general undermining of San Francisco small businesses post-earthquake. But we have two entirely separate POV tracks to follow as well, that are their own little side adventures. One of them follows on from last week — Henry. Before we get into the details, I want to ask you about this choice for him in general. When they did this in the finale I assumed that he would be gone for a while, that maybe Eddie was taking a break. He’s not. He’s here as a series regular so far in every episode. He may miss one or two sure, but he’s really right here as an individual carrying his own story. It’s not that I don’t think he’s a strong enough character to do that, but why do you think this is happening? Just that thought he needed his own thing, his own autonomy? Or what?
Nichole: I’m not sure, but I think if the long-term plan is for Henry and Nicky to be together, I think it makes some sense to put some stress on the relationship. It was pretty ideal last season, which makes this feel a bit more egregious, but ultimately I think the goal might be to give Henry some stakes besides “Nicky’s boyfriend.” And, again, assuming they end up back together, it is good for them to have weathered a challenge.
Natalie: Yeah. It’s definitely just not what I expected — I thought they were writing to a scheduling need and turns out no, this is simply a plot choice. Henry following up on his father’s quest. Which is fine! Just a bit surprising to me.
Nichole: It’s pretty cool to have a secondary mythic thing happening to not the main character.
Natalie: I have SO many thoughts about this element. So it’s interesting. Henry goes knocking on the door of an old friend of Danny. And it’s one of those unusual incidents where when a guy tries to kill you, it’s proof he’s a GOOD guy who can be trusted!
Nichole: Happens to me every day.
Natalie: Because he thinks Henry is a fraud and is trying to protect Danny’s secret. However, it did confuse me at first. Before things were explained, were you worried? First he’s making tea, then he’s pulling a knife.
Nichole: I had a moment of fear for sure.
Natalie: And then a GUN! Escalating. This is all because Henry mentioned si nan, the compass that Danny was looking for. Clearly this is a big secret. So for a few moments you don’t know if this man, Grant, is someone who maybe broke ties with Danny and is an enemy or whatever. It turns out that he is in fact a loyal friend and doesn’t trust Henry’s interest — thinks he’s posing or lying, I guess. Because Danny never mentioned a son.
Nichole: I know that is probably because Danny was protecting Henry, but that did make me a little mad.
Natalie: “He kept a lot of secrets.” I mean Henry doesn’t seem too happy either. He showed up kind of expecting to be known by Grant. I have to ask — this whole “Sorry I didn’t tell you who you were” thing to Henry. In the finale, like I said, I definitely thought that was a retroactive apology. Not new information. Like “sorry I didn’t bring you into the Wan Zai, and tell the truth about my duty which would become your duty, sorry I didn’t tell you the truth about our family,” kind of in a Men of Letters legacy way. It is clear that it is NOT that. As the episode goes on we see that Henry does seem to have some special fated magical role much like Nicky and the sword. How do you feel about him being a magical prince or whatever? Just in general, that he is seeking this apparent fated destiny or role — “who he is”?
Nichole: I don’t know. I feel like I’m reserving judgment a bit. If you had asked me “Do you want Henry to be descended from magic space princes?” or whatever, I would have said no, but I’m invested in Henry and I am curious about what is going on with him.
Natalie: I’m curious to know about Kung Fu‘s process for researching lore and things like that. I have no idea if the explainer here is accurate in detail, or if there is a particular si nan story — we did find out a little about their general existence via research — but in spirit, the idea of mythology, legends, gods, and stuff like that being transmuted across cultures… that feels generally accurate to how story traveled when the world started traveling by sea and land. There are similar stories and myths in different cultures that may have been carried over and then sort of made relevant to the setting.
Nichole: Yeah, I love that.
Natalie: So while Danny and Grant thought the si nan was a Chinese legend, it turns out it may not have been. Henry cites that element from Danny going to Ireland last year — China’s not the only place with magic. While I don’t think Kung Fu should divert too much from Chinese culture as a core premise, I would be keen for small, accurate explorations of traditional magic and lore from other cultures. There is a lot to choose from.
Nichole: Yeah, and I think it’s cool to see how cultures bleed into each other. We aren’t each in an enclosed box.
Natalie: In this case they do some… translating? Or look for similar lore elsewhere? And they end up in Iceland. We have no idea how long this journey took on their end, Henry’s timeline vs Nicky’s, but Henry has clearly spent a long time traveling China and then got to Cyprus via boat. Not sure why he didn’t just take a plane unless he had no money but… I want to say he spent a fair while with Grant working out the trip to Iceland. I don’t think they just figured it out that weekend. So we can assume by the time they get to Iceland they’re kind of bonded?
Nichole: They seem to be. Henry and his new father figure! So great for him and not at all a precursor to tragedy.
Natalie: The collection they’re viewing may be located in Iceland, but the artifacts are apparently from Thailand.
Natalie: And apparently the compass has chosen Henry as its person. Any theories? One single theory? Grant maybe had one, but then he got shot in the head.
Nichole: I DON’T KNOW! “It’s reacting to you.” The “you” seemed pretty specific. But why? WHY? Is it something about his bloodline? Is it like Thor’s hammer and it senses his worth? Is it the 357th person that picks it up? I don’t know.
Natalie: I think it’s got to be bloodline, given the “who you are” thing. He’s Prince Henry. Of… Space Compass.
Nichole: That sounds correct.
Natalie: Anyway, Henry is now alone again. With his elegant turtleneck and fancy haircut. Despite the fact he’s on the road as a rough explorer they’re really making him look older and more mature. Regal, one might say.
Nichole: You are really going for ‘prince’ aren’t you? And, I mean, I get it. You’re not wrong.
Natalie: Yes. Any thoughts on what might be next for him?
Nichole: Well, he’s on the run now. And we know Nicky joins him in the next episode, so I feel like by the end of the next episode we’ll have at least a clue of where they are going with this. Hopefully, he comes back to San Francisco with Nicky to figure out what is going on.
Natalie: I mean, more on “Nicky” later. Well, before WE return to San Francisco, there’s one more individual arc of a main character to cover. Our reintroduction to Zhilan is actually brought on, framing wise, by Pei-Ling’s meditations, but I think we can cover the way Pei reacts to her sister in her part. So it’s time to talk about the reality of Zhilan now. The last we saw she was getting smushed as the Realm caved in, and now she’s in a barren land that is apparently the… post-apocalyptic leftovers.
Nichole: I’m so curious about this new realm. It’s so terrible and all the warrior and guardian spirits were thrown there with no idea what was going on. Unpleasant.
Natalie: What do you think of her whole… look?
Nichole: I actually had to double-take it because they did such a good job giving it a Mad Max vibe that I thought she was in some kind of new outfit, but it’s just the tatters of her outfit from last season. I was, uh, very into it.
Natalie: That poor coat. So there’s some other players around who immediately set the stage for Zhilan. She thought she was alone but she sees the First Hybrid, Suyin, who is not an enemy, get taken down by a big masked dude with a blade that just dissolves her. Zhilan’s warning is too late. I had NO idea what was going on here.
Nichole: I was so excited to see Suyin! And then so bummed about the instant death.
Natalie: Why does this realm have a villian? Where did he come from?
Nichole: It’s such a mystery! Did this place exist before and they all got thrown into it? Did the destruction of the realm create it?
Natalie: They really drag it out, showing us him approaching then Zhilan pulled to safety by a Mystery Hand. Talk me through your process here.
Nichole: Okay, I did think it was Kerwin at first. I was prepared to shout at you until you woke up, but I kept my cool. And while I wanted Kerwin, I can’t say I’m disappointed with who it actually was. My husband was sitting next to me and when we got the reveal I made such a noise and looked over at him with this face like I don’t even know what, and he just goes, “What is wrong with you?” LOL.
Natalie: So I think I was so addled because I actually was like — Is Mask Guy Kerwin??
Nichole: Oh, interesting.
Natalie: Then the hand, I was like, is THAT Kerwin for a split second. And then somehow in my gut I knew who it was right before they pulled back to his face. MY KING! The one, the only, international Chinese K-Pop Sensation, The Ghost of Simon Lau!
Nichole: POOR. DEAD. SIMON. LAU.
Natalie: They did this for me personally, I know it.
Nichole: Amazing. A+ work, writers. You’ll see your rewards in the afterlife.
Natalie: Look, it makes sense. You put Zhilan in the Spirit Afterlife, and you need her to interact with people. Pei is no longer there, who else do we know? Mia’s dad? Pei and Zhi’s mother… Mei-Xue. Who else? But Simon is the best choice. He was such a good character for a one episode guest star, there’s a lot to mine there with his duty for the bloodline plus pursuing his own life as a celebrity. He had a really distinct character vibe. A confidence but also a sense of gravity that’s just different. I did not expect to see him again but I love that they thought he was a strong enough character to focus a new story around! And of course Zhilan killed him, so who else to make her face up to?
Nichole: He’s perfect. Our perfect, bitchy son. And, honestly, every line was gold. I just wanted to eat every bit of his dialogue directly out of his mouth with a spoon.
Natalie: I looooooove him. I hope he’s here all season.
Nichole: Please. This can’t be one and done.
Natalie: My only complaint is that he can’t come back to life. He’s too famous, he can’t just re-enter society.
Nichole: He could blend!
Natalie: But I would take a Simon spin-off. Him finding out how his fandom reacted to his death… tragic. He could grow a beard and just look kind of like that dead pop star.
Nichole: Exactly. Nothing is off the table. You hear me, writers? NOTHING.
Natalie: We’ve already dealt with Zhilan making amends with someone she thought she killed, but I’m okay with this being a trend. Kerwin, Simon, Pei-Ling…
Nichole: Yeah, she has quite a list to get through.
Natalie: I think the way Simon responds to her is so fabulous. He has no interest in making it easy and she is pretty cowed by it. Even when she tries to apologize he pushes her. But yeah, the way he speaks, words and tone… he’s an individual, alright. I want to be best friends with him.
Nichole: Yes. He’s so angry and funny and pissy. I just love him.
Natalie: The sarcastic “Nature abhors a vacuum” got to me.
Nichole: His “Disappointing” to finding out she sacrificed herself instead of getting murdered. Chef’s kiss.
Natalie: And pushing her to admit to killing him, not just glossing over it. She has no power here and she knows it and I think that’s a good place for her to be. The show is definitely putting her through it to make her a great hero.
Nichole: She’s got to claw her way out of this literal and emotional abyss.
Natalie: When he explains where they are, though, in this new void containing the spirits, the implication is that the world collapsed and so the spirits went elsewhere. I’m surprised that they still exist and weren’t dissolved along with it. This means that someone has to reinstate a new realm for the spirits somehow. This is now a problem that needs solving. And why the hell is there a Spirit Harvester there picking them off? Did this place exist before?
Nichole: Okay, did you notice how the Harvester said that they were “prolonging their salvation”? I want to know more about what the Harvester thinks is happening.
Natalie: It’s Kerwin, I’m telling you.
Nichole: I do love that. Very much.
Natalie: So now Zhilan has two boys to kiss because I maybe want her to kiss Simon a bit. They had some emotional music going on in their big I Don’t Trust You scene…
Nichole: Simon is obviously coming around to her, but I don’t see him coming around that much.
Natalie: You never know. I am sure he will be in more episodes. He’s got that camp of people banded together and it feels like Zhilan has now earned her place there.
Nichole: I was all ready for Zhilan to get out of there, but now I want it to take longer so we can keep Simon.
Natalie: Even if she gets out, like I said, there’s now a duty to restore the realm somehow, that I assume she, Nicky and Pei will do.
Nichole: Fingers crossed.
Natalie: Of course, the whole deal with Zhilan and the Harvester not being able to kill her… Even if Simon doesn’t like her, having her around to protect them could be useful. Send her out to fight and not die.
Nichole: Well, I think she could still die, just not from any nick of the blade.
Natalie: Well, less risk then. Not like the threat they’re under. Zhilan gets the big heroic fight scene and saves Simon, but she’s kind of bummed out when he says “Maybe your sacrifice didn’t take.” Like, “Awwww I tried so hard to be noble.”
Nichole: Now she has to figure out how to move forward. Much harder!
Natalie: He doesn’t frame it very nicely and I’m okay for him to bully her for a while, LOL. But the whole situation — she came into the realm alive, as a physical whole body, and she seems to be really still alive, so is wounded but not vanished. “Sorry to say it, but I don’t think you’re dead.” I mean at this point I have no clue what the Harvester’s deal is, but maybe he is a “good guy”? Maybe the blade sends them on to the good new realm? Or maybe he’s an evangelical nutjob.
Nichole: It would be wild for us to be led down the road to think he’s evil and then he’s really just sending them back somewhere nice.
Natalie: It sounds like the kind of nice thing Kerwin would do — “Let me help you!” *runs after them waving giant sword* Where it leaves off, it definitely feels like Zhilan will now be welcomed back to Simon’s camp. Do you have any thoughts on what you’d like to see there? People from different eras? Mia’s parents? Like what do you think this might offer, if it does happen?
Nichole: I would have liked to see Suyin! But I guess Zhilan’s mom, so they could have a do-over of that disastrous conversation.
Natalie: That was really weird and I’m still not sure about if it was real or Xiao influenced so some clarity there would be good.
Natalie: At this point I am figuring Simon will be around till Zhi gets free, which I hope is a while because… Simon. I can’t believe he’s here!
Nichole: A gift. For you.
Natalie: Never shutting up about him in the past recaps truly paid off.
Nichole: I told you just had to want it and be unhinged enough!
Natalie: What else should I do with this power…
Nichole: The (fictional world of Kung Fu) is your oyster.
Natalie: I’ll have to think about it. I mean you got Pei-Ling back to life.
Nichole: We are too powerful.
Natalie: So let’s talk about Pei-Ling’s return. What do you think about her engaging with the real world after all this time and getting to say words on her own rather than just recite memorable teachings? Seeing her dressed normally and trying to work out what happened? Very much on the back foot.
Nichole: I am so happy to have her back, obviously, but I feel greedy because this episode I was just like, “Okay, time to let Pei-Ling out of this dark apartment and into the world!” I mean, I realize she’s traumatized and therefore maybe not fit for large crowds yet, but I will be excited to see her around new people! I was excited to see her gradually seem more comfortable this episode. Not to jump ahead, but her last scene was really like, “Okay, here’s my Pei-Ling!” I love her.
Natalie: She seems pretty shaky to start with. I mean, at this point you’re assuming it’s her and not an act, right?
Nichole: I know Xiao is involved somehow, but I have to believe this is our Pei-Ling and not an elaborate ruse.
Natalie: I agree. I think the Zhilan of it all is interesting. When they meditate to try and tap into the memory of the last moments in the realm, there is a lot of concern for her about Zhilan. Like, if this is really Pei, and her real soul doesn’t know anything that happened since she died… She knows Zhilan killed her, right? But she knows nothing of Zhilan and Nicky’s relationship since that point.
Nichole: I guess it depends on if there was some element of her soul in Nicky’s manifestations. Or if she died and went to the realm, but Nicky was just projecting.
Natalie: Well, either way my takeaway was that she was extremely concerned and panicked about her baby sister to the point of borderline accusing Nicky about her. Borderline. But like Nicky! What happened to Zhilan! A hair away from “Why Didn’t You Save Her.”
Nichole: It did sound that way a bit, but I don’t think it was meant to be accusatory, just giving us the information that Pei-Ling still cares about Zhilan in spite of everything. Or, I guess that there is an off chance she doesn’t remember Zhilan killed her. But I don’t think so.
Natalie: Yeah, it certainly hammered that point home. The caring, that is.
Nichole: Yes. God, the way I’m tingling for that reunion.
Natalie: You said you want to let her out of the apartment… any thoughts on why Nicky didn’t take her to the family home when she goes to work the issue with the siblings?
Nichole: I think Nicky is still nervous and doesn’t want to tell Pei-Ling about the Xiao situation. I’m not sure when she is going to learn the “don’t keep secrets from people” lesson, but the Winchesters didn’t learn it in 15 seasons, so I guess I shouldn’t assume it is a learnable lesson. But it does feel a bit weird that Pei-Ling is shut away in that apartment while Nicky is off doing whatever she’s doing. Again, I’m trying to remind myself that she is also recovering from a major trauma, so maybe she’s not super excited to throw herself into the world.
Natalie: We know she’ll be out and about soon! But I wonder what she was doing there. Googling stuff? Looking up listings for trucks?
Nichole: NEW TRUCK NEW TRUCK. Although, I wouldn’t want to drive a pick up truck around San Francisco.
Natalie: Conveniently Nicky has two plots and two siblings so she puts one on each plot research wise, but we will stick with Nicky and Ryan on Pei before circling back to Nicky and Althea on the bomb. Ryan is going over the research he got from the Tans, about Xiao’s various experiments, and because apparently her old client, the emperor, didn’t want to kill his own child, she came up with an alternative that involved resurrection after death. Apparently she is a “traveler” who can pop between realms and was going to head on into the afterlife to make his spirit flesh.
Nichole: That was some new tantalizing information.
Natalie: Yes — the idea that people can do this, and that this is maybe how Xiao got access to things that gave her power. She popped in and was able to channel source magic due to her other gift. Nicky, like all of us, is like “what’s with the necklace,” so that’s a starting point for Ryan. But… have we heard about this emperor before? Is he important?
Nichole: We heard about the emperor last season. He was the one sponsoring Xiao’s research.
Natalie: Okay, so can you imagine that conversation? “Your Imperial Majesty, I have cracked it. Immortality. Nailed it to the wall. All you have to do is kill your kid and take over their life force, then you’ll be young and hot forever.”
Nichole: Record Scratch. The emperor looks directly at the camera. “You’re probably wondering how I got here…”
Natalie: Instead of immediately locking up this child killer, he gives her more money to go back to the drawing board.
Nichole: When immortality is your goal you go with the tools you’ve got.
Natalie: “Okay, Your Imperial Majesty, this time I’ve really got it. First of all, you have to die normally.” “Seems counterproductive but go on…” “After you die, I’ll walk into the afterlife…” “You can do that?” “Yeah it’s a whole thing don’t worry about it.” “Alright, then what?” “Well, I find you in the afterlife, make you put on this necklace that binds your life force to me? Then I just walk on out carrying you. Or you walk out carrying me. Someone’s in someone, is what I’m saying.” “Weird, but fine. How do we become two individuals once I’m back on Earth?” “To be determined…”
Nichole: I am sure I’ve read that fic.
Natalie: It’s giving DeanBenny in Purgatory vibes.
Natalie: Anyway, I really don’t know the logistics here. We obviously don’t know Xiao’s real body, but right now they’ve said she needed a body to exit the realm. Pei-Ling’s physical body is presumably burnt or buried in China… You know what? I don’t get it. Point is, she’s got the necklace, someone’s attached to someone. I still think the necklace maybe is the force of the realm, the last remaining piece of that source crystal? Maybe Zhi and Simon are inside the necklace like a petri dish.
Nichole: I really do believe we’ve seen Pei-Ling acting under her own will, so is Xiao in the necklace, unable to free herself until…
Natalie: Well, was Pei-Ling pushing Nicky to destroy the necklace maybe… an agenda? Sorry to potentially spoil that very emotional conversation for you.
Nichole: That was a good conversation, and if it was driven by Xiao, I’ll be grr argh.
Natalie: Okay, let’s pretend it wasn’t. What about it stuck out to you the most as good?
Nichole: Pei-Ling is slowly becoming more herself, or so it seems to me. Since she’s come back she’s been so freaked out and traumatized with these big gaps in her memory that Nicky has been the ‘shifu’ in the relationship. Helping her, coaxing her forward. But here we get Pei-Ling starting to piece things together on her own and make choices and have her own agency. She’s able to connect to Nicky in the way she has in the past, which is providing a strong moral center around which to make a decision. I loved her re-emerging as the shifu that Nicky had learned so much from and I loved her as the strong, grounded human who has principles she tries to live by even at a theoretical cost to herself. So, I want/need that to actually be her.
Natalie: Her logic about being someone Nicky would protect, as a vehicle for Xiao to use, is fairly sound.
Nichole: Yes. That was pretty potent.
Natalie: Nicky and Pei still have a lot of catching up to do, going all the way back to the chance meeting – she’s the guardian and Nicky is the Warrior? Of the same weapon? Is this even a coincidence that they met? How much of that original mythology matters, what did Pei-Ling know? Was her spirit really there with Nicky, sentient? All these things to rehash for Nicky and now it’s like actually she might just die or dissolve when we do this.
Nichole: I really appreciated that Nicky was able to, in spite of hating it, agree to Pei-Ling’s plan. Nicky wants to know all of those things, but she also just wants her shifu to BE there. Her wibbily-eyed nod to Pei-Ling when she finally agrees — my heart.
Natalie: And then we are left hanging! They smash it and we do not learn what the result was!
Nichole: That didn’t feel good! Do not like how they don’t address it except in the most breezy way. They have FOR SURE created a bigger problem.
Natalie: So let’s talk about what we do know. Bo makes his crush known in the other plot, a little earlier in the episode, and after Nicky leaves that crisis to come back to Pei-Ling, she rejoins Bo at the bar, says her friend is feeling much better, and eats his face.
Nichole: Consensual face eating is my new band name.
Natalie: “Breezy” is an understatement.
Nichole: Yeah, as soon as she was like [handwave], “Everything’s great” I was like, “Viewer, things are not great.”
Natalie: My immediate reaction to everything about this scene was that this is NOT Nicky and that Xiao is now in Nicky. We know Pei-Ling or at least Vanessa has not dropped dead. She is in future episodes. So I didn’t think the necklace smashing was the end. But this… this is not Nicky.
Nichole: When you first mentioned that idea, that Xiao was in Nicky my heart sank because I found it so viscerally upsetting that I was like, “Of course.” But that was not my gut reaction to that scene at all, so I’m holding out hope that you are wrong about that.
Natalie: What was yours?
Nichole: I had a different take on Nicky feeling slightly off, which is that she has just had two major victories. She saved Althea (spoilers,) she thinks Pei-Ling is going to be fine and now she is ready to move forward. Like enough of the pieces have come back together for her that she’s ready to stop living in the past. So I just saw it as Nicky going for it. Here’s this cute boy who likes me. He’s helped me save my family twice! Why can’t I just have something good now.
Natalie: It was the way she said Pei-Ling was feeling much better, combined with not seeing the result of the pendant smash. If we had seen the result and it was like oh she’s alive she’s okay and a disbelieving happy hug. Then she’d bounced in like this? Sure. This though… it’s extremely suss to me.
Nichole: Don’t get me wrong, I was suspicious as hell about the pendant smash and cut. But I just think the weight on how fine everything is is meant to be a clue things are not fine, separate from the Bo issue. But, your theory absolutely hit me square in the chest as a very realistic and devastating possibility. It makes so much sense and is good in an evil sort of way. I just don’t want it. LOL.
Natalie: Look, fair enough. But it’s about time we saw Nicky struggle with a possession or something! After all the Mia stuff… anyway, I assume we will find out the deal with Evil Nicky soon, it can’t exactly fester.
Nichole: Next up: Pei-Ling in the daylight!
Natalie: We know she meets Mei-Li… that could be tense. Mei-Li is past Nicky running away but facing the “new mom” that caused Nicky to stay away could bring up some pain. Or they could be besties. I don’t see their world views as super aligned though.
Nichole: I think it could go either way, but I guess what I am hoping for is that talking with her might give Mei-Li some insight into what Nicky was going through when she left, or some comfort that when Nicky ran she found someone who could support her and help make her stronger? I think as a mom, I always appreciate other adults in my child’s life. I recognize I can’t really be all the things Sylvia needs, so when someone else is willing to step up and forge that relationship, it is really meaningful to me.
Natalie: It will be interesting, for sure. I can’t see it turning into a big fight or anything, but its complicated. Who else would you like to see Pei talk to?
Nichole: I think she and Ryan could have a very funny relationship, because he’s so flippant and quick. A total opposite way of interacting with the world. And for purely selfish, bisexual reasons, I’d like to see her and Sebastian stand next to each other.
Natalie: I wonder if she might have a thing or two to offer Althea about going off the grid…
Nichole: Maybe she’ll teach her to meditate.
Natalie: I can see that going badly but also kind of maybe… there’s an angle there, funnily enough. Nicky and Pei are able to meditate traditionally — sitting quietly. Some people can’t do that. They just can’t do it. I feel like Althea’s energy maybe can’t manage it. However, it doesn’t mean those people can’t reach a meditative state. Often their meditation zone is from repeated physical activity. Not like yoga, but maybe running… or martial arts. Like not an active fight, but a repeated pattern of moves, on the count of breaths. Pei-Ling and Nicky teaching Althea patterns of kung fu for her mental health.. could be fun.
Nichole: And I would like for her to have more tools since she keeps getting almost shot!
Natalie: Let’s circle back to the 5th and 6th and 7th plots of this episode. Althea, Dennis, Nicky, Bo, Evan and Jin all are mixed up in a strangely interconnected issue that ties into the Chinatown drama. And it all begins with Althea’s punishment. Banned from the internet for a year.
Nichole: That doesn’t even feel feasible in today’s society!
Natalie: It is… a little silly. Your idea of being banned from developing software was more reasonable, like she can’t work in that industry. I think the idea here is that this woman is a skilled hacker and they know that so they don’t want her anywhere on the internet but it still… it’s not possible to monitor! Like who’s watching her! Can’t she just use Dennis’s computer?
Nichole: Right, I was like, hang out at Evan’s office to hack! Also, having a phone is just basic safety? Will she have to get a flip phone?
Natalie: Yeah like can’t they set her up with like… Okay, so some phones and computers that belong to a government agency they’re not enabled for Open Internet. They’ve got set things that can be installed. They could give her one of those? Look. It’s a very simplistic way of including a hurdle for her skills. And a reason to keep Bo around.
Nichole: I’m curious what their goal is for Althea’s character arc. What is she learning from this?
Natalie: It feels a bit like when Supernatural takes Cas’s grace away because him having powers made the stakes too low. Like if they want him around on cases with the boys, he can’t be a one stop fix it situation.
Nichole: That’s a good analogy.
Natalie: Except that annoyed me because I did not give a fuck about how they killed the monster so I appreciated the end run when he was there just blasting people. Anyway, Kung Fu season 3 seems to really be leaning into like, this is her identity and she doesn’t feel she has value without it.
Nichole: But… she can’t text Bamm-Bamm!
Natalie: I feel relatively sure that you can get cell phone plans with no data, just calls and SMS. Like she has to have a phone! It doesn’t even have to be a flip phone! It can just be a cell phone with no data plan!
Nichole: It would have to be unable to connect to wifi too!
Natalie: Look, I don’t know. This is very unorthodox. I feel like I don’t think the DA can actually do this. Nevertheless, she doesn’t really want to tell people about it, so when Nicky sends her off to work with Evan about the whole who set the bomb problem… She wants to hang on to that last chance to be a genius. No Bos allowed.
Nichole: She’s going out in her own blaze of glory.
Natalie: I said before — now we know why Bo was conveniently a good hacker too. They need him to fill the void!
Nichole: Do you think Althea will sit over his shoulder and micro-manage? Or will she remove herself from temptation?
Natalie: God, I don’t know. I feel like this can’t be sustained all season. She’s going to break the rule sooner or later
Nichole: Yeah, a full year does not feel sustainable.
Natalie: The next part of this story, sort of, pivots to Jin at a town hall with a local council member, a guy he’s clearly known since he was a boy. Anthony. He’s under some stress from the community.
Nichole: And Jin! Jin really lets him have it!
Natalie: There is a plot within a plot here, because Jin and Anthony are kind of their own story but we learn that it is all connected later. But yeah, what did you make of that moment for Jin standing up to challenge the work being done?
Nichole: Well, I automatically assumed we shouldn’t like Anthony! He must be corrupt! A problem! Bad at his job! Jin wouldn’t whip up the mob against a perfectly good boy trying his best!
Natalie: It’s much more complicated than that, and the public doesn’t always understand or even believe, the weird red tape or complexities of local government. But you’re right. It definitely is set up in that way.
Nichole: Yeah, I was glad to see my expectations overturned like that. I think it was a good little device.
Natalie: Jin looks even a little guilty as the room picks up on yelling at the kid, but yeah, ultimately relief packages were promised that can’t be delivered and this boy is taking the hit for it. Now Jin has another kid to take care of. That’s like his seventh or something.
Nichole: Pfff. He’s everyone’s dad.
Natalie: The reason we are seeing this, though, is a lot to do with the ringleader of the latest drama. I have to admit I don’t follow this massively well, regarding what his role is, or where the profit is, but Max DeVeer is a disaster security consultant. The thing that’s tripping me up is that Evan says he was a mercenary before “going legit.” This is legit???
Natalie: Maybe we are meant to assume there’s a gap here from legitimate back to shady. But… let me see if I’ve got this right. He’s hired to get planted into a location with instability, make things look worse than they are, in order for people to want more security, meaning the security company is hired and profits from it. Including manufacturing a crime wave, those thefts? Just to make people feel like stuff is worse than it is.
Nichole: I mean, I think technically he’s just supposed to go into the area and look for ways to profit, not actually manufacture the situation. That’s where it goes from legit to shady. But, yeah, he’s creating instability for his client to capitalize on. People can always make money in a natural disaster.
Natalie: Well, Evan says he doesn’t just assess, he stokes. Maybe that part is like… wink wink nudge nudge. Like that’s what they’re really paying him for, but no one will admit it.
Nichole: Yeah, I think so. I mean, what he is actually doing is not legit by any stretch of the word.
Natalie: No. And we see him in action… back at the town hall meeting. He’s in the audience, and the pieces fall into place. The crowd is urging Anthony to support this new ordinance that would involve more security. Presumably his clients.
Nichole: That smarmy smile.
Natalie: He’s there to witness the mood of the crowd and this one woman really keeps making a scene and puts a target on Nicky! That she’s the person keeping Chinatown safe.
Nichole: “That Shen girl.”
Natalie: Not ideal. I have to say, before we get too far ahead… when Althea was called into Evan’s office in her first scene I did think for a hot second that he would be offering her a job rather than talking about her case. I’m still a little disappointed, but I like his new office set and hope we get back there a lot.
Natalie: Very noir with the shop front and blinds.
Nichole: And his newspaper, LOL.
Natalie: And I’m still shipping Althevan a bit. Dennis can watch. The whole Bug/Pebbles thing got me.
Nichole: I am just very into Althea and Evan as BFFs. I don’t need more than that.
Natalie: They’re such good bros and I want them to kiss about it. Taunting Althea with her pet name from her husband felt weirdly sexy to me.
Nichole: Look, no one can ever love Althea as good as Dennis can.
Natalie: Yeah, I’m not excluding Dennis. He can tell Evan how to proceed.
Nichole: Dennis can absolutely not do that. He does not have it in him.
Natalie: No, you’re right. He would flounder in that role.
Nichole: No offense, Dennis, you’re perfect. But, no.
Natalie: Look, I’ll figure out a dynamic that works for them. Later. But still, bros.
Nichole: Okay, I’m waiting with bated breath.
Natalie: I do have a feeling Max is taking his tactics into his own hands because if he was “legit” hired for assessments… he’d probably not got the okay to blow people up. This guy is a psycho.
Nichole: I did not like him at all. He gave me the major creeps.
Natalie: They say the dealings with Delta, the main firm that will profit from the funding package being voted on for private securities, is kept clean. So yeah, we assume that his tactics whether the Delta people know them or not, are of his own devising and the Shoobies are aiming to pin down Max as a rogue criminal pretending to be legit, rather than Delta for working with him. I have no idea how any of this works but more falls into place when Jin stays back to talk to Anthony about that same ordinance and why he won’t vote for it. Turns out Anthony IS a good boy!
Nichole: Trying his best!
Natalie: This whole plot is actually pretty complicated, it took me a couple of watches to sort of tease out how the pieces were connected, who did what and who’s paying who. But. Anthony knows that ordinance is shady, so does Jin, an unexpected pivot to Jin in Politics! As soon as Jin challenged the kid I was like… “Is Jin going to run for office???”
Natalie: And I don’t know if he will, if the deal will be like actually you should be the candidate, or if he will just be a great supporter. But how about that!
Nichole: I love it! I think it will finally make what Jin is doing for the community more concrete. It has been pretty nebulous. I like the idea of seeing him in action more specifically.
Natalie: Jin for Mayor! Maybe.
Nichole: I’d vote for him!
Natalie: But truly this is what I meant about a plot within a plot, you know!
Nichole: Plots all the way down.
Natalie: Back to the whole hacking Max side of it, I’m yet to understand how they keep getting away with “sending illegally gotten files to the DA as evidence.” Maybe this is a thing in crime. Like, a blind eye to anon sources. But given the DA knows how close Evan is to the Shens and what is up with Althea this is surely going to look suspicious when Nadia keeps getting these miraculous sources.
Nichole: Maybe the DA is just happy to be getting great intel.
Natalie: So she shouldn’t ban Althea from the internet! LOL. Anyway, they find the connections they need regarding payments and stuff enough to get Max investigated and Nicky leaves them to it by telling Althea they’d be lost without her skills. Between that and her earlier meltdown about the whole cornerstone of her career and only thing she’s good at…
Natalie: How is losing this actually going to impact Althea mentally?
Nichole: I don’t know. We’ve already seen her depressed in her sweats binge eating ice-cream. I think it will be a different reaction this time. Like maybe she will be putting in the work to love all of herself!
Natalie: Also like… what does the DA expect her to do for work? What job can she do without the internet? I guess she can work in the restaurant
Nichole: Can she take online orders???? The punishment is too broad.
Natalie: Look, I guess we will see. In the meantime she’s got a kidnapping to get to! What was your response when Max showed up at the bar?
Nichole: Uh oh. He’s got the wrong Shen girl.
Natalie: Me too! Wrong Shen! Wrong Shen!
Nichole: And also, frustrated Althea is being threatened at gunpoint two episodes in a row.
Natalie: It turns out that he actually had exactly the Shen he wanted because he forces Althea to hack back into the system and wipe the evidence she sent and what follows is Bo and Dennis sort of trying to beat her in a hacking race. It’s wild!
Nichole: I loved everything about how they were trying to understand Althea from a distance. Really a good scene for Dennis to shine too.
Natalie: The whole digital communication, like Althea can tell they’re in the system and lowering the security so they can find her? What a shame Max doesn’t know anything about the computer system…
Nichole: Although he gets suspicious so easily. He was actually one of the more upsetting villains to be honest. There was something very real about his lack of morals.
Natalie: For some reason Althea and Dennis working against each other like that really got to me, like when Althea was forced to cooperate and not try and let them in. When he says she got around me… weirdly crushing!
Nichole: It was so good. Really well done. I was a little surprised that Althea cooperated. I thought she might find a way around it.
Natalie: I mean, she had to hope at that point that they got the location, but this is two very serious “This is it I’m dead” headspaces in two days. There are impacts from that kind of thing, living through that especially over and over. Being on the edge of like, okay, time to die.
Nichole: Maybe it does make having to stay off the internet for a year seem like small potatoes.
Natalie: Well, Nicky and Bo manage to come in and distract the guys for her to sneak away, and then of course corners Max when Max once again tries to shoot Althea.
Nichole: He better go to prison for a long time.
Natalie: This is enough to have him arrested even though it’s not for the stuff they wanted to arrest him for, which I hope works out… does this mean that the sort of delay in recovery of Chinatown will stop and now it will progress for real? Without manufactured hurdles?
Nichole: I don’t know. Max isn’t the ultimate villain. Corporate greed is. So, I think there’s probably something shady about the bigger corporation that hired him.
Natalie: Yes, you’re right. He’s just a side effect. And then like the episode’s 19th plot…. Bo. He dropped everything, ran out of work, to help Nicky. Why? Because it’s a life or death situation? Nah. Because he has a crush.
Nichole: “I like you.” I don’t know if it is the most pure motivation, but it gets the job done.
Natalie: It’s kind of intense! “Anything you need, I’m here!” You’ve known each other for two days! Sure, die for her.
Nichole: LOL. Teens AMIRITE?
Natalie: You mean, mature men don’t beat around the bush or play games. Seriously though, I don’t know. I think there has to be something here about him like he knows about her from afar or something. Clearly some bigger picture secret?
Nichole: Yeah, there has to be something there.
Natalie: Any clue?
Nichole: Nothing very meaty. Something about his mentor maybe and some intersecting relationship? Or maybe he’s just been studying her so he can be a better vigilante? I don’t have any good ideas.
Natalie: No. And like we said, now they’re kissing! Earlier than we scheduled. And possibly nefariously.
Nichole: Yeah, they got right to it. Hopefully not nefariously, but maybe.
Natalie: Whatever will Prince Henry think?
Nichole: The jealousy is coming. Hopefully soon!
Natalie: Maybe they will fight each other. That would be weird.
Nichole: What? Fisticuffs? Sorry. I’m very tired.
Natalie: We shall see. Next time! Maybe.