Kung Fu season 3, episode 8 was the show’s mid-season finale and it pulled no punches. Literally. Read on for our review of “Betrayal.”
“Betrayal” picks up right where we left off in episode 7 — with chaos in the Shen family kitchen. We experience the aftermath of Xiao’s possession of Pei-Ling and her attack on Mei-Li through the ringing in Nicky’s ears as she puts the unwelcome pieces of the puzzle together and realizes Bo has betrayed them.
Throughout the episode we learn Bo’s backstory: tragic (Nichole) and/or pathetic (Natalie.) While we watch Bo struggle to come to terms with Xiao’s behavior, Nicky’s anger continues to grow as she learns more about Bo’s betrayal, leading to a violent confrontation that shakes Nicky to the core.
Several questions are left unanswered — the fate of Jin’s political career, Sebastian’s whereabouts, Bo’s chances of survival — but the question we can’t stop thinking about is: What is in Mei-Li’s blood?
The official synopsis of “Betrayal” reads:
BO’S PAST — Following an incident involving her parents, Nicky (Olivia Liang) stumbles upon a devastating secret. Elsewhere, Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan) gets creative at the restaurant, and Bo (guest star Ben Levin) faces demons from his past. Dean Lim directed the episode written by Michael Deigh.
Catch up on all of our season 3 reviews right here, and read on for our reactions to the Kung Fu season 3 mid-season finale, episode 8 “Betrayal.”
‘Kung Fu’ season 3, episode 8 review in conversation
Natalie: Picking up right where we left off, with Nicky discovering the attack on her mother, she’s not feeling great! Not great at all!
Nichole: THE RINGING.
Natalie: Yes, I was going to say straight off, the focus here is on her headspace more than the events. We can see and hear what’s going on in the background, Ryan helping Mei-Li, Henry showing up and so on, but the aim here is more about Nicky’s mind spinning and processing as she comes to terms with the situation.
Nichole: I really loved how they did it. You really feel like you are WITH Nicky.
Natalie: Given the circumstances as the episode progressed, it really feels like something inside her snaps here, because she becomes pretty instantly aware of her own failings regarding Bo. So her drive is powered by betrayal (duh) but also disbelief and fury at herself and blame and just a lot of negative feelings rather than righteous justice. The Dark Nicky Rises.
Nichole: I think they’ve been hinting at the idea of Nicky going dark and I really didn’t know how I would feel about it, but the way everything comes together here, I found it very believable.
Natalie: What kind of things do you think were hints so far?
Nichole: Well, mostly it’s external. I feel like Olivia has said in some interviews that we’d see what Nicky was willing to do this season. Or how far she was willing to go.
Natalie: Hmmmm. I’m not sure what all of this is going to mean for her, but one thing about Nicky is that, while she is obviously good, she’s quite… rigid. You may not agree, but for example with Zhilan, Nicky has some fixed ideas of Good Guys Who Would Never Do That And Bad Guys I Will Never Trust…
Nichole: I don’t think you’re wrong.
Natalie: And so learning about Bo, I think that could have really broken something in her. She does get there pretty much straight away, like she instantly feels like it must have been him. I wonder if that’s just due to the sword situation or if she suddenly started feeling like things didn’t add up. It’s also a bad sign when Nicky decides to handle everything alone and not get help.
Nichole: She gets so hyper focused.
Natalie: Luckily, Henry shows up — can’t remember if he was invited for dinner — but by the time Zhilan gets there with her wine, Nicky is long gone. I’m so upset that every time there’s a hint of Zhilan making friends it gets ruined. Checking her hair in the door!
Nichole: I thought of you when she did that! She was so cute. It was heartbreaking.
Natalie: They are cockblocking me from my needs.
Nichole: But they make sure to dangle it in front of you real good first.
Natalie: Of course as soon as she sees the scene she knows that the worst has happened, and we sort of get a cut between her arrival and presumably the end of Henry explaining. But the family discusses the one thing this episode doesn’t answer — Mei-Li’s special blood. What’s in her blood, Nichole?
Nichole: I was so relieved she brought it up!!
Natalie: What’s in her blood? Tell me!
Nichole: I don’t know!!!
Natalie: Tell me about the blood!!!
Nichole: IT IS RED AND TASTES GOOD EVIDENTLY?
Natalie: Ew. Well, Zhilan basically bounces as soon as she learns the situation, presumably to go off on her own hunt while Nicky is heading to confront Bo. He obviously leaves before Nicky arrives — got to save that confrontation — but we do get a first proper look at his history and duty with Mommy. Did this dynamic satisfy your backstory needs?
Nichole: I don’t want to brag, but I did nail it.
Natalie: I have some very uncharitable feelings about his situation.
Nichole: I was so pleased. I really felt like they did a good job of really showing how she has manipulated him.
Natalie: Yeah, this did not make me have pity for him.
Nichole: I figured it wasn’t going to be enough for you to change your mind.
Natalie: I’m like, that little child shouldn’t be so weak and stupid.
Nichole: Natalie. Please. He’s a child.
Natalie: That child was an idiot. The one thing I wasn’t sure about was the soul plan. Like, whether Xiao was genuinely planning to save the souls and put them in a new “heaven” realm.
Nichole: I don’t think so. I think she was always just planning to use them for herself.
Natalie: No no, I got that by the end. But throughout the episode, I was on the fence about her motive there.
Nichole: You’re so hard on that baby, but you are giving Xiao the benefit of the doubt, lol.
Natalie: But I was correct in that Bo the Harvester was like “let me help you!” to the souls. If he survives maybe his new motive will be to free them.
Nichole: I hope so. He needs to redeem himself.
Natalie: Xiao has always seemed to care about the bloodlines and the source realm. None of her back story makes sense as individual selfishness. So the end reveal of that was a bit surprising to me, but not massively. Anyway, in their first chat, I was happy to be right about “let me help you!”
Nichole: Yes. You called that right at the beginning.
Natalie: How hard is it for him to be like “not playing any more” though? Like, “you owe me” — so what? She can’t do anything to you. Just say no!
Nichole: It’s childhood trauma!
Natalie: That’s no excuse! I plan to shame and bully that little boy thoroughly. Strap in.
Nichole: I’m not going to survive. I can’t believe Kung Fu season 3 is tearing us apart like this.
Natalie: I’ve come to the conclusion, this episode, that Bo is like… actually stupid? Given the stuff in their later conversation. But anyway, it turns out that the traveler needs a thingamajig macguffin in order to do the traveling, and so Xiao needs Bo to fetch hers. Well, we don’t know what it is when she asks for it, we just know that there’s another final task for him. He does seem pretty reluctant to carry on with this whole situation.
Nichole: He has finally clued in that Xiao is not the person he thought she was. But he’s still not quite sure.
Natalie: I just don’t find blind loyalty very sexy.
Nichole: I wouldn’t say I find it sexy, but I do appreciate that childhood trauma can make you do dumb things even when you are an adult. And I like a man who realizes how badly he fucked up after the fact.
Natalie: I still can’t deal with the wibbly voice. Anyway, when Nicky ransacks his place… it felt like she hadn’t done the maths that he’s the Harvester yet, which I get. There’s not a lot of time or energy for logistical thinking in the scenario. But discovering the Harvester costume really beats her down a second time.
Nichole: That really took her out.
Natalie: Maybe she sort of was hoping that she was wrong about Bo being responsible. But yeah, upsetting. How do you feel about Henry and Nicky kind of partnering up again? When he comes over to Bo’s apartment… he’s quite gentle about it all.
Nichole: I liked it. I liked how she puts him in charge of her parents. Like, she just knows she can trust him. Their relationship has a lot of potential even if they don’t end up romantically involved again (which, who am I kidding, they probably will.)
Natalie: I think it felt very… unconditional love, yeah. Like he absolutely could have also taken this moment to gloat or snipe or anything else, even internally, even just for a second. But he doesn’t, he’s just fully supportive.
Nichole: Yeah, Henry feels more like his old self. He was really out of sorts, obviously, at the beginning of the season. He has managed to find all the emotional intelligence he lost at the end of last season. That was always what I loved about him, so I’m glad to have that Henry back.
Natalie: I think Henry taking that culpability, the whole “we both gave him the blade” did help to balance Nicky out, at least momentarily. But again I have to give the most credit to him not just using the moment to be like NYAH NYAH. Especially because he has kind of bore down on some moments like “LET’S DISCUSS” at inappropriate times before.
Nichole: For sure. He really has his head back on straight.
Natalie: Were you surprised that Bo’s whole life is effectively fake? Everything but his first name. I don’t totally understand why he needed that much cover in his day to day life honestly. What’s he been up to before now?
Nichole: I would have been more surprised if we had found that out earlier, but by the time we reached this point, it seemed likely that he wasn’t there as “himself.”
Natalie: But why not? Who is “himself”?
Nichole: We don’t really find out if he’s been helping her with other tasks over the years. He might not have a real identity. If he never made it home…
Natalie: I don’t think he was missing from his family for that long! I assumed he got back as a child.
Nichole: Maybe he’s just been rootless all these years. I don’t think it was clear if he got back or not.
Natalie: No, it’s actually not very clear, but I don’t see why any of it meant he needs a fake identity unless, yeah, he was a lost child with no paperwork. Unsure.
Nichole: But since he clearly doesn’t seem to have a relationship with his family…
Natalie: Maybe we’ll find out more later. In the meantime, ALTHEA TOUCHED THE COMPUTER!
Nichole: I am still so dumbfounded by how Evan is so unwilling to break the letter of the law, but very willing to break the spirit of it… How is it different for Evan to be her hands?
Natalie: No one is going to know if she’s the one sitting in front of the screen! Unless they’ve got cameras in her house! Which will then see her aiding and abetting! It is SUCH a weird line!
Nichole: SO WEIRD.
Natalie: Look, we’re never going to be okay with this bananas side plot. But through convoluted means, they track Bo to “their” library, which could probably have been a good place to look anyway due to the fact that Xiao-Ling was living in the building.
Nichole: I was so surprised he was there. I actually loved that bit. It’s a big risk to try to figure out the truth.
Natalie: Before we hit the Tragic Backstory, how surprised were you to see him looking up Russell Tan?
Nichole: More surprised than I probably should have been.
Natalie: It was quite a neat little twist in how it came out, like the end result of it is pretty simple and makes perfect sense. But I was like oh hey! What’s he doing here!
Nichole: Yeah. Exactly.
Natalie: I’ve got to say, Bo scampering as soon as he saw Nicky was an admission of guilt that kind of shocked me. I thought he might try to cover, or convince her otherwise.
Nichole: I think he was still too confused. He couldn’t wholeheartedly say, “I was wrong” yet. But he also couldn’t lie to her anymore.
Natalie: Shout out to the old lady apparently totally unfazed at a man teleporting in front of her. She just kept shelving those books like a champ.
Nichole: I think we are supposed to believe he disappeared before she saw him, but I like the idea that she’s just completely unfazed.
Natalie: She was looking right at him! Now, for all Henry took the high road about blaming Nicky, Zhilan did not. But I enjoyed that. It felt justified. She seems so tired and sad about Pei-Ling. And she’s so like… I don’t care, why are you telling me this, and then… “Oh Nicky, you dumb bitch.”
Nichole: I liked that she started angry, but that they diffused it. I was worried that Zhilan would get all angry and refuse to help Nicky or let Nicky help her.
Natalie: Yeah, it’s just only for a moment. Nicky just taking it and agreeing helped, I think. And then Zhilan is pretty excited for Nicky to take off the kid gloves. Like “finally I can work with this woman!”
Nichole: I feel like they are going to come out of this as real friends. Like, they both understand each other better now.
Natalie: I hope so. The pieces start coming together in a fairly neat and simple way when they discover Xiao needs to regain her traveling totem, the hu shen fu that she asked Bo to find for her at the start, the job she needs doing. And it makes sense that Russell might have picked up that collectors item, so Bo’s research clicks into place. It’s a race to the totem, with Nadia offering to sneak some SFPD files that show the location of Tan’s various assets. That’s the start of a little emotional subplot that was discussed in my chat with Gavin Stenhouse, about whether there will be conflict involving Nadia’s ties to the system… More to come on that.
Nichole: I’m worried about Nadia.
Natalie: So is Evan, but it isn’t like he wasn’t doing the same. Why shouldn’t she do a little crime?
Nichole: Because she’s a cupcake. She’s too sweet for jail.
Natalie: That is prejudice against cupcakes. They can do vigilante crime!
Nichole: I think it’s prejudice in favor of cupcakes. I don’t want them in jail!!
Natalie: I don’t know, I can see it going to a place of like, too much protectiveness in a way that sort of interferes with her autonomy. We will see.
Nichole: I can see that. I just don’t want anything bad to happen to her.
Natalie: I feel sure that it will. But let’s go back to the tragic baby Bo backstory, and I say that loosely because I don’t feel soft about it at all. What I do think is well done is the structure. We are discussing this slightly out of order, putting chunks of plot together, but how it actually runs in the episode is sort of cutting between scenes as the gang learns information about the totems and how they are imbued with personal feelings and power from the traveler, a meaningful object, and we see as the scenes cut back and away that obviously this means that Bo’s totem, after all this time, is the action figure he had with him when he traveled accidentally.
Nichole: I feel very soft and sad about it.
Natalie: This is nicely done. Or it’s a cheap trick to infantilize and create sympathy for a shitty adult man. And I won’t be moved by it. You’re too weak.
Nichole: Guilty as charged.
Natalie: Going back to the beginning of Baby Bo’s flashbacks and how he basically transported from his play area to a post-apocalyptic town closely matched to the make-believe game he was playing… he meets Xiao there and I have plenty of questions of how she found him.
Nichole: Me too.
Natalie: And also how many realms there are. This is obviously a realm with modern human society gone bad. Stay with me now — here’s how KungFuNatural can still win. This is clearly a universe with many layers. They say realms, I say AUs. Maybe the Nicky Shen universe and the Winchester universe are two separate layers with different magics in them, but in the same multiverse. And they could just step through one of those rifts into the world of Supernatural… Anywho, it just got me thinking about how many layers or realms there are in the Kung Fu universe that aren’t just spirit places or a Heaven kind of place. Other active AUs. That is the implication here.
Nichole: Keep those boys away from the Shens. Lol. I am curious if all of these realms are going to come into play more specifically in how all of this works out. Or is it incidental?
Natalie: Focusing on Xiao… was she just looking for other travelers to help do her bidding? I don’t understand how she got him.
Nichole: I don’t know. Did she really hear him like she said? Like, she makes it sound like she came to rescue him, but that is, pardon my french, bullshit.
Natalie: It’s possible that she came to him, yeah.
Nichole: I think if she heard him and came it was because she saw him as a potential tool.
Natalie: She seems nice enough at first, but when we see Bo looking at his little doll and remembering, it turns out her lessons for helping Bo are pretty harsh. Pretty much off the bat.
Nichole: So manipulative! Bad mom. BAD.
Natalie: We don’t know how long Bo was there or if he did manage to jump back home and like, be with his family while also meeting Xiao in the long run… but look. I am meant to have sympathy for this little kid but truly I’m just like “hey, have you tried growing a spine and just not being groomed?”
Nichole: Natalie. I can’t. He’s a tiny child, lost and alone!
Nichole: He can hear monsters that he can’t see and doesn’t have any food. He’s dirty and bleeding!
Natalie: We’d all be better off if he had just died as a kid in there. I was, to say the least, unmoved. I was a very stubborn child and I would never have put up with this from Xiao.
Nichole: I feel like we are at the opposite poles of how we relate to this trauma.
Natalie: But also this is fiction and we know Bo sucks, so I am extremely like, “should have been less pathetic.”
Nichole: I… don’t think Bo sucks. He doesn’t have all the information! Or he didn’t.
Natalie: Nah, he sucks and I wish Nicky had actually killed him this episode. Aside from that probably being bad for her.
Nichole: He trusted this woman because she emotionally manipulated him when he was at his most vulnerable!
Natalie: He should simply have been less weak-minded and not been emotionally manipulated.
Nichole: Well, would that we could all just be less weak-minded and not be emotionally manipulated.
Natalie: Yeah, I am speaking from a bit of experience here that I am not sure is appropriate for a Kung Fu recap, but I was physically and emotionally abused as a child and did not internalize any of it as my fault or rush to placate the person or change my behavior to suit them. I knew it was their fault and that they sucked. I never blamed myself, or tried to change.
Nichole: I was going to say, I feel like your trauma survival makes you uniquely suited to hate this arc.
Natalie: But I mean, I guess I wasn’t trapped in a realm of monsters. I would have just eaten the grass though. No problem food wise. Mmmmm, grass.
Nichole: I know you would have. You would have totally survived on pure stubbornness. “Bitch, you’re back? Get fucked.” lol.
Natalie: I do feel like I want to know more about what happened to Bo after he did manage to travel. Like it seems implied he never went home. What realms has he been in? Maybe if he ends up allying with Nicky we will learn this.
Nichole: I hope so. I feel like they can’t bring us this far and then leave us hanging. I want to know more about the middle bit.
Natalie: So ultimately we really have no idea what his life has been like between childhood — the age of what, seven? I don’t know what sizes children come in — and four months ago. But we assume he’s mostly been living in our world/a world on our level of development due to various skills he has, like hacking. If Xiao was teaching him to travel and he successfully does it, I have to assume he does… get home. But maybe then she visits him at various points. I don’t know.
Nichole: I feel like Xiao would have discouraged him from going back to his family, if she could have managed to draw it out long enough.
Natalie: I’m still a bit stuck on why he needed a fake identity if he isn’t a real world criminal and only does like, secret traveler stuff. But again, maybe he will explain all of this later.
Nichole: I do want more Bo, so I hope so.
Natalie: I can see Xiao trying to stop him having other bonds, but I do think her harshness is just her personality and not necessarily frustration that he isn’t being groomed fast enough, because when he’s failing to get it and she’s all like, “get up, try harder…” Him mastering it that very second is hardly something that can help her. He is a child. I think she’s just pissed off by incompetence. If she was actually trying to manipulate him at that point, she would be sweeter to him. It’s going to be years before he is useful, so her harshness in the moment just seemed like she’s a bitch.
Nichole: I can’t disagree with that. I do think we see in this episode that she has a limited budget for niceness and abandons it as soon as it isn’t useful.
Natalie: Yeah, putting on the act seems very difficult for her. She just is a harsh person. I’m still stuck on whether she was ultimately, in the beginning, a good person who was sort of enslaved or abused by the emperor, or if she was a megalomaniac and the emperor knew she was a massive danger. In terms of when she was doing experiments and creating the bloodlines, was she acting under duress? Or was it an excuse to do gleeful evils.
Nichole: It’s so unclear! I’m voting for if not gleeful evils, then at least still pretty into the evils. I don’t think we’ve seen a ton of evidence for her being a good person who was manipulated, short of Pei-Ling feeling sorry for her being trapped in that cage.
Natalie: Yeah, I mean the stuff last season about the emperor wanting her to find a way to create eternal life… Did he force her into those experiments and doing them broke her, then he chickened out and didn’t want to kill his kid? Or did he look for someone willing to do the worst? No idea. Anyway, I really can’t predict what might happen aside from the fact that the various spirits should rightfully get back into some sort of afterlife realm if that’s the way things are meant to go for them. And they need Xiao for that.
Nichole: And I need Pei-Ling back.
Natalie: There is that.
Nichole: I think we can all agree my needs are the most important thing for the Kung Fu universe.
Natalie: That seems accurate, yeah. But I think Nicky would agree with you.
Nichole: The Nickys are in agreement.
Natalie: Back in the real world Nicky is not willing, at this point, and for the rest of the episode really, to consider the fact that Bo might be a victim, she rejects or doesn’t care about Althea’s suggestion that he was manipulated, and is just pretty harsh and unforgiving with both him and herself. She’s on board with the whole “small child simply shouldn’t be so weak” mindset. No, I know, I know, she probably will be if she finds out the truth.
Nichole: This was a brutal episode for Nicky. And it really hits coming and going because it’s hard to watch her go so hard on him and herself and then the aftermath is going to be brutal as well.
Natalie: I think the whole slaughtering spirits element is pretty key, in that Bo thought he was saving them from the wasteland. I do hope they find a way to release them. Mainly because I want more Simon.
Nichole: Yes. Exactly. I don’t like the way he went out. I need him to be at peace.
Natalie: I feel like the shape of things is slightly within reach, in that they need to team up against Xiao to in some way release the spirits and find them a new home. I don’t know what that means for Xiao, if she will be the baddie or if there will be empathy in her story against the emperor or what… And of course what key Mei-Li holds. She’s already of the bloodline family, but what the hell else is it?
Nichole: I’m dying. That is the thing I’m really stuck on.
Natalie: Me too.
Nichole: What is it?????
Natalie: I just can’t deal!
Nichole: We have to put it out of our minds for two months.
Natalie: That is very annoying. Nadia managed to pull off her little job well enough and no one aside from Evan was very concerned about it.
Nichole: That can’t be good.
Natalie: I’m sure things will escalate for her, risks she’s willing to take.
Nichole: Nadia, NO.
Natalie: For now… she’s okay.
Nichole: And she seems to have managed to get them some unexpected information that is finally going to start pulling this security business into focus.
Natalie: That discovery didn’t shock me too much. I think it was more like Evan and co catching up to what I already assumed. But if someone discovered Nadia stole the file… not great.
Nichole: Feels bad.
Natalie: In terms of chasing Bo, once again Nicky is not willing to listen to or cooperate with others. Henry, Zhilan and Nicky should be a really powerful team but she is just not interested. Once again, she is rude to Zhilan in a way she would never speak to one of her friends, like about unlocking the door. I keep feeling like her behavior is in some way uniting Henry and Zhilan.
Nichole: It does feel that way a bit. I think she was pretty rude to everyone, though, to be honest. It’s not her finest hour. She probably needed to sit down and meditate or something.
Natalie: I feel like it could get to a point with Zhilan in particular where people might all group together and be like “hey, Nicky, take it easy, Zhilan is our friend now” — and she’s going to be upset that other people like and accept her because she is just so anti Zhilan. But in this circumstance it was more about her own issues, not her Zhilan bigotry. Either way she isn’t a lot of fun. What do you think about her sort of… violent response? Like Henry’s “Nicky, No,” about punching their way out of being caught by security. It seems like she is sort of leaning into violence for convenience… and more so later of course.
Nichole: It’s all definitely coming from a bad place and not in line with how she’s been living her life since she went to the monastery. Like, emotions are leading her all the way. Her mind is the anti-quiet.
Natalie: I mean they’ve done this before, though, knocked out innocent people just doing their jobs. Henry must have sensed it was kind of different. Like don’t just start punching people because you’re mad.
Nichole: They are in a police building where there will certainly be consequences for her actions. I thought Henry’s reaction was more about location than reason, although I’m sure he also had qualms on that front too.
Natalie: Yeah I guess so — like “this is not the way we get out of this,” for many reasons.
Nichole: Maybe the season ends with everyone in jail.
Natalie: Just a wide panning shot of all these adjoining cells… Well, their fight means they’re too late anyway, because Bo already got the item he needed plus some bonus material and it’s time for a little confrontation between them at last. I still think his flashback to Xiao and being like “yes I’ll obey you forever” is very silly, he is an adult, he could simply… change his mind… But in terms of the gang catching him in the act, how did this measure up as a first confrontation?
Nichole: I don’t want to say it was a letdown, because that’s not what I mean, but it wasn’t as climactic as it could have been. But I guess we were saving all of that for Nicky & Bo’s final scene.
Natalie: I guess they did hold back some, but Bo could have just vanished immediately. He didn’t have to talk to them at all. Again, planting this clue that Xiao was saving the souls and that they just don’t understand her genius. I feel like I could relate to Zhilan being like “you’re a fool” because yeah, you’re an idiot, Bo. Except for the part that as we discussed, I was unsure about the promise to release the souls, to channel them through to a new place. That felt like it could be true to me.
Nichole: It felt like it could be true to Bo too, but I didn’t ever think she was up to any good.
Natalie: Like I said, I felt like her attachment to the bloodlines felt like she could have wanted to protect or honor them. I didn’t predict her being selfish here, it felt very much like it could have been the plan. I didn’t see why not.
Nichole: I think once we knew she was Bo’s shifu, I felt like she was going to be all bad. But I see the logic in what you’re saying.
Natalie: I guess the question is why did Bo stay to talk to Nicky rather than instantly travel? I mean for plot reasons it’s so doubt can be sown. But emotionally? Do you think he saw something in the book while still in the storage locker? Or just had his soft little Nicky feelings getting conflicted? Wants to explain himself to her or something?
Nichole: I think he does want to explain himself. He is conflicted at this point, but doesn’t quite have all the pieces to push him over to lose faith in Xiao. He just wants his girlfriend to like his mom! Is that so wrong?
Natalie: I feel like you know my answer to that.
Nichole: I think I could hazard a guess.
Natalie: He’s already spent however long working with Nicky and seeing that her team thinks Xiao is evil. He isn’t thinking for himself. He is weak as hell and I hope he falls off a bridge. Okay, how about the final flashback? When he’s a grown ass, slightly dirty man? I’ll allow him to live long enough for him to explain the plot to me, in terms of like… is this the first time they’ve met since he was a kid? Was it just a few days when he was young and then this? Or have they visited in other places and this is just the first time they are meeting here because she’s cashing in the favor?
Nichole: I wish I knew the answer. He seems a bit surprised to see her.
Natalie: Still very much like “Could have said no, she was really mean to you.”‘
Nichole: I find it hard to believe she hasn’t seen him since he was young. I feel like she would want a contact in the outside world.
Natalie: Yeah, it doesn’t seem right to me that they haven’t been in contact. Maybe it’s just visiting here in this place is a symbolic gesture.
Nichole: Or maybe they were in consistent contact before, but for whatever reason there has been a gap. Maybe she’d been busy with Nicky.
Natalie: Yeah, on and off makes sense to me. Anyway I guess the freight train was a diversion because Xiao-Ling is very much back in the Bay Area.
Nichole: I was curious if it was a diversion or if she went to do something specific and then came back.
Natalie: I have to say, I kind of laughed aloud in surprise in terms of him asking was I just a pawn, and her straight up being like, “Yeah.”
Nichole: YES! I was like, wow, we are not wasting any time.
Natalie: It just startled me. Kid, she was never very nice to you in the beginning, don’t you remember? Maybe she’s been nice to him since. Who knows? Not us.
Nichole: I am guessing neutral which he has internalized as nice. But, yeah, the minute he’s of no use, buh-bye.
Natalie: I also kind of a tiny little bit felt on her side… Not morally, okay, please understand. But when he was like… “What about Nicky… you pushed us together…” so on and so forth… And she’s like, “Dude, no I didn’t. That was your own stupid self. It was only after you made those dumbass choices that I manipulated her trust in you.” I was like… she’s right. Bo definitely took a basic order too far because he made assumptions about what Xiao wanted, I guess. Like “Oh, Shifu is good! Nicky must be good too! We are all in this together!” You know what happens when you assume, Bo.
Nichole: You do kind of get the feeling Xiao only made a cursory effort to pretend to be good and Bo did most of the mental work on that on his own.
Natalie: Yep. I, myself, give fairly literal step-by-step instructions so it does annoy me if like… Okay, for example, “Can you put these clothes in the washing machine?” To me, that literally means “Put them in the washer as a receptacle. More may be added later or I may need to set a certain cycle.” It doesn’t mean, “Put the detergent in and run the wash.” It literally means the clothes in the tub part, not any further implications. Bo ran that full load of laundry when he only was asked to put some shirts in the washer. And he ran it on the wrong heat and rinse cycle. It’s a mess.
Nichole: This is an amazing analogy.
Natalie: So Xiao being like “yeah, I didn’t ask you to do any of that…” I did agree. But I guess it says something about her personality that she’s not conflicted about messing him around. She maintained this Shifu mentorship for ages without catching any real feelings.
Nichole: Very girlboss of her.
Natalie: Bo, eventually, does to the absolute least to try to stop her getting at the totem because he’s finally convinced. Well done. Go king, give us nothing.
Nichole: I knew he would try to do something, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be enough.
Natalie: In terms of Xiao and Bo meeting in person, did you feel like there was anything different to Vanessa Kai’s performance vs when she was doing Xiao last season? What are the threads that tie Xiao together in the performances? Or to Jennifer Khoe’s performance?
Nichole: It did feel a little different to me. I wasn’t sure if that was just because it was a bit of a different type of scene than we have seen Vanessa do as her, less openly confrontational, at least at first. There was a lot of Khoe’s performance in there, or maybe they’ve influenced each other back and forth, but I actually could see where she might have drawn a bit from JB’s version. The scene did remind me a bit of the scene between JB and Ben where JB chucks the axe at his head. Just that practical “I don’t have time for your emotions” energy.
Natalie: It’s kind of interesting to me that she didn’t keep trying to manipulate him or make up lies, even just in terms of getting the totem. Like play on his investment in her even more, like “we’ve been bonded for so long, you’ve known this girl 3 weeks” or whatever. I think she’s a bit cracked, to be honest. She doesn’t make the most logical decisions.
Nichole: Considering her history, being a bit insane seems like the logical outcome.
Natalie: Yeah I think that’s fair. Now remind me. Do we know her aim? She has her body and her traveling power. Do we know what she actually wants to do?
Nichole: I don’t think we have a clear larger aim. I was thinking it was really about wanting her freedom more than world domination, but I could be wrong.
Natalie: Just at the expense of Pei-Ling.
Nichole: And all the souls.
Natalie: Nicky seemed to have some fears, of the “you don’t know what she’d do with that kind of power” type. And I really don’t know either.
Nichole: She’s definitely a threat. But it’s not clear if she has a plan of any kind.
Natalie: One thing I’ll say about Xiao is that I have never had a clue about her motive.
Natalie: But I guess we will find out now that she’s off on her travels.
Nichole: Do you think there is any chance the Xiao stuff will end up intersecting with the security stuff? I don’t really think so, but it feels weird that they’re so separate.
Natalie: I have no idea. I feel like it could intersect incidentally, or she might do something that sort of blows it all up in their faces… I can’t see her having a calculated plot related to it all. Like “oh, her aim is to take advantage of the zero crime initiative.” I don’t think Xiao is familiar with security cameras and the modern police state.
Nichole: Yeah, no.
Natalie: For this, we’ll need to wait to find out. But for Nicky, she sees Xiao vanish with her stuff and I guess she assumes Bo gave it to her. It made me think a lot about how much motive or action and how we view them as right and wrong in story depends on us as the audience catching the right moment to show why someone is redeemable, or has misunderstood someone’s actions, or whatever. Like, if Bo hadn’t made to grab the backpack before Xiao, people would be much less sympathetic. We know he changed his mind and tried. Nicky doesn’t know that. But she also saw Xiao victoriously vanish.
Nichole: I thought his body language was so distraught, but Nicky couldn’t see any of that.
Natalie: If she had come in and Xiao was no longer there, her laying into Bo would have been totally crazy. Just purely based on assumption. But what she saw looked to her like Bo giving it to Xiao. It was still kind of crazy, but the little moments create the sort of narrative she’s followed. Or for us as an audience, we see why she thought that, and therefore it’s more acceptable and not totally unforgivable of her to retaliate. However, we are definitely meant to think it’s pretty wild.
Natalie: I think Bo’s body language is similar to what we saw of him before, in that it could be read as “I feel bad for doing this to you, but Xiao matters more.” But to be frank I don’t think Nicky was giving a fuck about interpreting that.
Nichole: No, she wasn’t giving a fuck about much. Except how angry she was.
Natalie: This is a level of violence that we know is not righteous or principled. It’s aggressive and for the sake of punishing him, and herself.
Nichole: She has knocked people all they way out while dealing less damage. The point of it was the damage.
Natalie: I feel like knocking his head on that stone counter should have killed him to be honest. Did you feel like this dark Nicky leaning into her violence was coming for a while?
Nichole: I don’t know that I felt it necessarily in Nicky’s actions. I feel like there were a few instances where she did something slightly outside of her normal lane (although I can’t remember any at the moment), but I wouldn’t say I’ve interpreted her as flirting with her dark side. But, I can see how the overarching story has been hinting that maybe sometimes you “have to” do things you don’t want to do? Like with Jin and Anthony — Jin doesn’t want to play dirty, but we are being pushed to think he might be justified (although I don’t think he would be justified ultimately), or with Nadia taking the file. Like, we are seeing an escalation in what our heroes might need to/be willing to do.
Natalie: I see those other examples as more of an escalation while thinking they’re doing good. Nicky it felt like she broke. And stopped caring really. And that I can see coming I think in terms of… people who get used to having a level of power, the burden of it, and all. Getting used to solving things with violence, even efficient martial arts violence. Subconsciously brewing this connection between brain and fists. So it means that when she loses sight of things or loses control, it’s almost an automatic link to get violent. That’s why I brought up the earlier moment with the security, the Nicky No. Sure, this isn’t the time and place for subtlety reasons, but to me it was also like, Nicky is leaping fairly quickly into just punching her way out of things. Maybe more than before.
Nichole: Do you think she stopped caring? It felt more like she broke and cared too much. Like, she is used to being in control of everything and now she’s not and she’s taking that control back through violence.
Natalie: Well, stopped caring about being good and righteous.
Nichole: Yeah, that makes sense.
Natalie: Which happens when you care too much and then all that care goes to waste. I think she’s been harshening up for a while, I think dealing with Pei-Ling and Zhilan has been hard on her for a start, Henry too, Bo was meant to be the good, nice thing unattached to any former baggage or resentment. Uncomplicated.
Nichole: There was such a light, naïve kind of sweetness to her relationship with him. It’s a real kick in the teeth.
Natalie: She sure did kick in his teeth.
Nichole: With her fist.
Natalie: So leaving aside “did you see it coming,” how did you feel watching her go to town like that?
Nichole: Wow. Not great. Not great at all. It’s hard to watch a character you love make a terrible mistake, and not just a mistake that is hurting someone else, but one that you know is going to rebound back onto them. I think with Nicky it’s hard because she was the golden child, or whatever, and then she rebelled, but even that rebellion had a higher purpose. So to see her break in this way and know that when she comes back to herself she’s going to have to deal with this knowledge that she has this capacity for violence (specific, angry violence) inside of her. Whew. It was a lot.
Natalie: I think I said this earlier, but although I have no sympathy for child Bo myself, the shot of his hand opening on his totem is objectively very effective in terms of painting the picture.
Natalie: Nicky seeing that and sort of doing the math that his whole deal is from a childhood attachment… I don’t like the idea of infantilising the ethics and responsibilities of an adult man by saying he’s just a little boy… But I get what they were going for.
Nichole: It got me though. It got me. I guess I was the target audience for that, because it did hit me in a subconscious sweet spot.
Natalie: He’s 34 years old.
Nichole: NOW! c h i l d h o o d t r a u m a .
Natalie: Look, it clearly brings Nicky back to earth.
Nichole: Right before literal murder.
Natalie: Excuse me, assisted suicide. He consented.
Nichole: Practically begged for it!
Natalie: Rude of her not to, really.
Nichole: Did she just leave him on the floor? Do you think she called 911?
Natalie: Henry and Zhilan got him. Like this isn’t shown, but I think Nicky ran out of there crying and they couldn’t stop her. I imagine that she fled the scene and went home and they immediately went up and got his full story. Because she ditched them in the stairwell of his building, and then in the episode they go up and find him. We don’t see them cross paths so maybe she went out a different way, but they definitely find him barely alive. Henry assumes Xiao did it, but Zhilan says I don’t think so, like she knows the little monk finally snapped.
Nichole: Oh right. Do you think Nicky and Zhilan will have a bonding moment over how you come to terms with terrible things you’ve done?
Natalie: I dunno. I think with this, Zhilan is just like, “Good for her.” She did say earlier, no kid gloves. This doesn’t count as the type of terrible Zhilan would feel guilty over.
Nichole: Maybe, but Zhilan’s violence always served a purpose. A fucked up purpose, but a purpose. This was really different.
Natalie: Maybe, but earlier they were like no kid gloves! He’s gonna pay!
Natalie: Anyway I assume those two will get the story from him while Nicky cries for days or whatever.
Nichole: Maybe washes her hands on infinite loop. Nicky’s Lady Macbeth arc.
Natalie: That story ended so well for all involved!
Nichole: To be fair, things are looking a little grim.
Natalie: So aside from the last moment with Jin, which was kind of emotional to see, the turning back to clinging to that kind of comfort from her father. I wasn’t expecting that her actions and behavior would be something used to smear Jin’s legitimacy in his political battle. Especially when his other daughter has a record for digital crime.
Nichole: It’s all getting too real.
Natalie: But how did that whole ending moment with the phone call and cuddle feel for you before we cycle back to why Jin even got that call?
Nichole: I think we’ve been lacking good Jin/Nicky content. In season 1 we find out that they were always particularly close before she left and I feel like we’ve missed that a bit this season. So I really appreciated Jin being the one to find her in that mess. And his unconditional love is probably what she needed right then. But I had a hard time really enjoying it the way I wanted to because of the call. Like, Jin can love her all he wants, but shit is about to hit the fan and she just more or less proved the haters correct.
Natalie: Any idea for where this is going for either of them now?
Nichole: I don’t know. I certainly don’t want Jin to get his hands dirty fighting with Anthony, but Anthony deserves it. I have this fear of the whole town turning on Nicky. I think I mentioned at one point how I’m happy to sort of handwave certain unbelievable elements of a tv show as long as the tv show is consistent about it. And this is one of those things. The idea that Nicky has been out there being a vigilante and everyone in the neighborhood just kind of accepts it and it’s not a big issue. Well, now suddenly it’s a big issue. So I’m a little bit /looks directly at the camera/ about it.
Natalie: Yeah, I’m kinda curious about the sources of Anthony’s story. But earlier in the season we heard people at the town hall discussing her. Maybe the people won’t stand for it and will respond to the advertisements with like “no, we love that violent little Shen girl.”
Nichole: That killer’s on our side!
Natalie: But I think right now Nicky’s response, both for Jin’s sake and her own… I feel like we will see her totally pull back. Refuse to engage with any of it. Just total lack of participation.
Nichole: Yeah, she won’t trust herself.
Natalie: And I think that means Zhilan will step up to lead the Shoobies. Which will be… interesting.
Nichole: I do think Zhilan will try to talk some sense into her though. Like, Zhilan has had pretty much this exact experience. And she did hide from it for a while in prison.
Natalie: With Kerwin? If this means conversations about Kerwin and then resurrection of Kerwin then I support that.
Nichole: Ha. Well, I meant in general realizing that her “revenge” was wrong. But, yes, let’s get Kerwin in there.
Natalie: I feel like Zhilan has different layers to what she thinks is right and wrong about her past. I don’t think this event is in any way comparable to killing Pei. But it might be comparable to cutting Kerwin’s throat
Nichole: No matter how we slice it, I just want some bonding.
Natalie: I think Zhilan has a big role to play going forward now. But looking at Anthony, are we saying irredeemable now? What a bizarre approach.
Nichole: Anthony was such an asshole this episode, even before the threat.
Natalie: Childish in some ways. I don’t know if this is normal in politics to show up like that, but it feels childish. Like he’s wounded by Jin and now is trying to shame him.
Nichole: Did not like. Do you think there’s still a chance we learn something sympathetic? I feel like even if his drug deal or whatever was under duress to protect his family, his behavior now is bad and he’s bad.
Natalie: I agree but also don’t want Jin to actually become a politician. Even his nice advisor was encouraging leaks and mud slinging as a part of how it all works. I don’t think it’s in any way realistic to see Jin win as, like, a pure and innocent politician. It’s too blue-sky. The nature of the beast is so… not him.
Nichole: I agree, but I also don’t see where his story can go. Like, do we give him all of this struggle for no reason? There’s got to be a satisfying conclusion to it and “say no to politics” doesn’t feel like it.
Natalie: Maybe Jin and Anthony can have a conversation and Anthony will cry like a little boy and Jin will hug him and then support his candidacy again but as a Jiminy Cricket guy.
Nichole: I can see it, but Anthony better make those tears convincing.
Natalie: I think what got to me the worst is that Anthony was “right” — in terms of showing Jin up, it is clear Jin doesn’t know how to run the city. I can’t see a solution here right now. I do think Anthony is being petty and erratic which also feels unfit. But Jin does not know the job.
Nichole: There is not much to like about the situation. The one redeeming quality of Jin getting into politics is the idea that he can help his community, but this made it clear that he might not be successful.
Nichole: I guess that’s the feeling we’re supposed to have at the end of a mid-season finale, but I don’t like it!
Natalie: Can we at least have some peace and satisfaction over at Harmony Dumplings? No! Of course not! Fucking Kim!
Nichole: I did love the battle of the wills though. Mei-Li is my hero.
Natalie: Earlier in the season I wondered if Carrie’s hard lines were something to do with her own personal standards or even a control measure, like the results she needed to produce to make herself look good, or just for the sheer sake of control. I think I even said, maybe if they went around her and asked someone else, the thing in question would be fine. What Corporate would or wouldn’t agree to. And here you go.
Natalie: I do not think Carrie is happy about Mei-Li going around her, for whatever reason. Power issues, the margin not being tight enough for her own personal work targets… She is pissed. The end result there was not grudging respect.
Nichole: It felt like war.
Natalie: Do you think this could end up with you know, a higher up being like “Sebastian is no problem! That woman just didn’t like him.”
Nichole: I think it could be, but I still have this feeling like Harmony cannot stay under corporate control. And the solution to getting Sebastian back feels more related to that. But, I could be wrong. Maybe the best we can hope for is a less involved corporate overlord.
Natalie: Yeah, like we may find out that there is a lot more freedom to be had and it’s just Carrie trying to have some sort of control that makes her look good. But I really don’t know.
Nichole: Mei-Li won this one, but I wonder how it will escalate.
Natalie: I liked the part where she was inspired by Sebastian. Her and Ryan weepily bonding over their lost love.
Nichole: Such a big influence even while he’s gone. Ryan was so sad. Sebastian better be in the next episode or I’m going to riot.
Natalie: That’s your one requirement for the mid-season premiere?
Nichole: I might have a few others, but I want that one.
Natalie: My one requirement is to know what makes Mei-Li’s blood so tasty.
Nichole: I want to know that too, but I feel like we might have to wait.
Natalie: The last few episodes have all taken place over just a few days of time. Do you think the mid-season jump will have a time gap of days, weeks, months? Or nothing?
Nichole: We’re right in the middle of so many things! I think I’d be disappointed in a big time jump. I feel like we have to pick right up where we left off because of Anthony’s threat.
Natalie: Yeah, you could be right though I’ve seen some surprising jumps before. However it’s likely they’ll stay frozen in time while the break is on.
Nichole: I wonder who we’ll open on. Jin and Nicky are in the most distress.
Natalie: Hmmm. I could see an opening on Xiao. Doing whatever she does. Her point of view.
Nichole: Mmmm. I’d like to see that.
Natalie: We will just have to wait many, many weeks to find out.