Kung Fu had me invested from the very first episode, but I like to think I’m relatively easy to please. “Patience” has improved on everything that was introduced in the pilot; the fight scenes are still sparse, but the interpersonal dynamics are fantastic, and the mystery is starting to unravel.
Trigger Warning: This review of Kung Fu 1×03 “Patience” contains discussions of sexual assault.
“Patience” ups the ante on the Zhilan situation. As we saw at the end of last week, she abducted Professor Chau, perhaps the only expert on the weapons in the world. This week, she tortures him for information. He eventually reveals the location of the shuāng gōu (a pair of hook swords), which he believes to be too dangerous to retrieve. Not for Zhilan, who takes the opportunity to poison Chau before trotting off to Dubai and adding a new weapon to her collection.
Chau’s abduction and subsequent interrogation say a lot about Zhilan, and not just in the information we learned (like that her family name is Zhang or that her father was murdered). For example, she must be psychic, because she somehow learned about Chau’s “secret research” (how secret could it be, honestly?) and that despite his public disavowal, he actually does believe that the weapons are real. She also is unbelievably ruthless, to make it look as though she were perhaps sparing Chau, only to poison his coffee and leave him to die alone in her majestically opulent headquarters.
I find it very interesting that as a descendant of one of the guardian families, she must seek the help of an outsider to learn more information. I’d say that that was intentional, so that none of the families could attempt to combine the weapons, but then Zhilan didn’t know about the scabbard, either. Is the legend so diluted that even the descendants themselves consider them the be legends?
Speaking of, what are the odds that the key Henry and Nicky find at the end of the episode lead to the scabbard?
Something I appreciate about “Patience” is that it shows that even after the strides Nicky made last week in reconnecting with her family, this isn’t going to be an easy road. Her family, particularly Ryan, are still hurt by her actions. As the episode title says, Nicky needs to be a bit more patient; she’s anxious to go back to the way things were and hasn’t yet come to terms with the fact they are different people now. I like how they slipped in that one of their favorite restaurants closed as a way to signal to Nicky that things have changed.
A big thing that has changed is that Ryan is dating! No idea if the charming man he was with when Nicky crashed their date is a boyfriend (given the level of affection, I’m inclined to think yes), but I do hope we’ll be seeing more of him, because I liked him. (Also, keeping Joe around will give Kung Fu an opportunity to explore what Jin and Mei-Li will do when they literally cannot ignore their son’s sexuality.)
Yes, my speculation that Kung Fu would follow a case-of-the-week format, with Nicky helping a different person every week, seems to be accurate. This week, she comes to the aid of Faye, a factory worker for San Francisco’s hottest new streetwear brand. I really appreciate the timeliness of this storyline, because unionizing – and certain groups’ aversion to it – is an important part of history and society. Especially in the wake of the pandemic, where the lowest-paid employees are the ones who were deemed “essential” to keep the country running while everything else shut down, I think this is a necessary story to tell.
“You’ve been sticking up for everyone else,” Nicky tells Faye. “It’s time someone stuck up for you.” That’s a powerful statement for a person who will sometimes set herself on fire to keep other people warm. I feel like this is a common trait among women, who are often taught that our needs and desires are lesser. I would suspect, with how Asian cultures emphasize community over the individual, that it’s amplified in Chinese women.
“Patience” also reveals to us the mysterious caller that has been repeatedly contacting Althea and scaring her. It’s not a stalker but a reporter, anxious for Althea to tell her story. They don’t come out and say exactly what happened, but from context clues it looks as though Althea was sexually assaulted or even raped by her former boss. She hasn’t told anyone what happened – not her family, not her fiancé. The reporter tries to convince Althea to come forward in order to spare any future women from suffering through what she had to, but Althea is adamant that she just wants to be left alone.
On the one hand, considering the uptick in anti-Asian violence, and the sexual violence in particular Asian women endure after decades of being fetishized by Westerners, I think this Althea storyline could be very well done and shine a light on a very serious problem in America. On the other hand, I’m extremely tired of sexual assault as a plotline. I just wish writers could come up with different things for women to endure.
On the other hand, yes, thank you, Kung Fu, for giving Althea this kind of heavy storyline to balance her relatively bubbly personality. It gives Shannon Dang the chance to show more range. Althea is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters.
After last week’s episode where I humbly requested more Henry, “Patience” delivered. Not only did we open with an excellent training scene, featuring flirty fighting banter (my favorite kind), Henry joined Nicky on her exploits this week, revealing that he has even more hidden depths than originally anticipated. I don’t for a second believe that his coy response of, “YouTube”, when she asked him how he learned to jimmy locks with a pocket knife, is the truth. I suspect that there is something secret in his past, and it looks like Evan agrees with me.
What I am not really a fan of – at least not yet – is the male posturing between Henry and Evan. Both men approached their interaction as if they were meeting a rival for Nicky’s heart, neglecting to consider a) neither had any evidence that the other was interested in her romantically (unless there is some secret guy code I’m not aware of) and b) it doesn’t matter what they think, only how Nicky feels. I absolutely detest love triangles; that’s another trope I wish writers would try to avoid more often.
But then, I did enjoy Henry’s quip that he just wanted to know where Evan bought his suit.
The cinematography in “Patience” is sublime. I particularly enjoyed the scene at the beginning where Zhilan spun Chau around in the chair and we saw the scene from above. That bit actually made me a bit dizzy! I also like how they continue to have Pei-Ling appear in reflections before she materializes before Nicky. I wonder how much of this is in Nicky’s head and whether or not she’s actually holding these conversations out loud.
The past two episodes have been a little light on the fight scenes for a show literally named after a fighting style, but what we have gotten has been pretty great. Henry and Nicky’s training session featured some supreme taunts as well as Nicky completely taking Henry down, and she expertly disarmed and dispatched the hitman who came after her. No doubt the fighting will ramp up the closer we get to the climax; the closer Nicky gets to Zhilan, the more people will likely come after her.
What I do like is that we are seeing how Nicky’s training influences other aspects of her life as well. Kung fu isn’t all about fighting (although seeing her punch through a door was impressive), and Nicky’s flashbacks as well as her, I guess, hallucinations of Pei-Ling continually remind her of the wisdom handed down from her Shifu.
What did you all think of “Patience”?
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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