Kung Fu 1×04 Review: “Hand”

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Pictured (L-R): Olivia Liang as Nicky — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

In “Hand”, Nicky and Henry piece together a little more about the mystery of the weapons, and Ryan and Althea deal with different issues in their respective relationships.

Trigger Warning: This review of Kung Fu 1×04 “Hand” contains discussions of sexual assault.

My suspicions that Henry has some kind of secret past turned out to be true. In “Hand”, we learn that he has a criminal record, although from the looks of the documents Evan was sent, most of it is from when he was a juvenile. I’ll be sitting here trying to think of what he could possibly have been involved in that required learning kung fu, lock picking, and how to get past a security system, that also results in meeting sketchy men in abandoned buildings in the woods.

Side note: I find it very hard to believe someone as wealthy as Travers, with all those priceless antiquities, doesn’t have a better security system. They literally just strolled right up to his house. Now, props to the writers for not having them immediately guess his code (kudos on the baby powder trick, every single budding thief is taking notes), but still. That was a little too easy.

When Evan calls Nicky to tell her about Henry’s record, she is initially upset at his presumption. Nonetheless, she has known Evan for a long time, and while it sounds like jealousy, I can tell there is genuine concern in his actions, even if it’s unethical. So Nicky goes to check on Henry as he meets his random contact and catches him passing over an object he took from the house – an object he had expressed anger at finding in a rich white guy’s house, considering China has been trying to get it back for a long time.

Regardless, I love Henry. I loved the shade he threw about white people having a “passion” for collecting artifacts from other (non-white) cultures. He’s sassy and I can’t get enough.

Nicky confronting Henry over the information she’s learned results in their first real conflict of the show. Until now they’ve each been blithely going along with whatever the other has planned. Let’s break into this guy’s office! Let’s break into this guy’s house! Tra-la-la, no concerns about the illegal behavior, it’s just cool to spend time together. But Henry is obviously hurt by Nicky’s seeming lack of trust in him, even if she wasn’t the one who asked Evan to do a background check.

I believe I’ve previously mentioned that there’s a distinct lack of fight scenes in a show named Kung Fu, but “Hand” gave us two scenes… Although, I don’t know if you can count the first one, since I could barely see it. I understand there was a reason why it happened in the dark, but seriously, did it have to be in the dark? And the final fight, where Nicky bets the contents of the box on her victory, was a little anticlimactic. However, I did get the sense that it was meant to remind us about Nicky’s strange burst of power from the pilot, which as of yet hasn’t returned.

Be still my little shipper heart, because there was a kiss! At the end of “Hand”, Henry tells Nicky that he grew up very poor and as a result fell in with a bad crowd. (Because of the skills he picked up, I’m going to assume it was the Foot.) He talks about how one of his Chinese history classes in college opened his eyes to the world, and how much he believes that history should belong to everyone. He is such a history nerd, and I’m here for it. Nicky is understandably overwhelmed by his passionate defense of education and knowledge and they kiss.

I liked how sweet and chaste their first kiss was. Oftentimes a first kiss quickly devolves into something passionate and hungry, but these are two people who still know very little about each other when it comes down to it, so I appreciate that they are taking things slow.

Also, hey, turns out I was right that the key ended up leading to the scabbard, which now they have and Zhilan does not. And it turns out the scabbard has, like, magical healing qualities, because Nicky complained of pain in her hand earlier in the episode that disappears as soon as she touched the scabbard.

Ryan’s boyfriend has returned! We are very starved for good queer rep on television, so I really appreciate that they had Joe come back. Ryan is obviously disappointed that his parents are essentially ignoring the fact that he’s gay, and a boyfriend will go a long way towards forcing them to acknowledge his sexuality. It would have been super easy for Kung Fu to trot out a date for one episode and be like, “Look, see, Ryan’s totally gay, now let’s never speak about it again.”

But, no, we actually get a repeat date, one where the term “gayby” is used, to my everlasting delight, and Ryan admits that he’s new to being in a relationship so he’s not going to be good at it. Luckily, Joe is as sweet as he is smooth (that stethoscope moment? yes, please), so I expect that he’ll be around for a while. There absolutely needs to be an episode where he gets introduced to the family. How do we make this happen?

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Pictured (L-R): Tony Chung as Dennis Soong — Photo: The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Also in the “awesome significant other” category is Althea’s fiancé. It’s so refreshing to have a show with multiple people in relationships and those relationships are all healthy. I feel like a lot of times writers insert ridiculous drama into relationships in order to have tension and conflict in a show. I suspect that’s why infidelity and love triangles are such common tropes, because it’s easy drama.

But in the case of Althea, the conflict is from Dennis’s parents who, despite having lavished Althea with fancy gifts presumably for as long as they’ve been together, want her to sign a prenup before the wedding. Massive points in Dennis’s favor that he is just as upset about this as Althea, and that he reassures and comforts her after she has an outburst at dinner in “Hand”.

I really like what this episode did for Althea. She is such an upbeat person normally that I loved her getting the opportunity to basically go on a rant. And while her speech about trying to determine how much she was worth as a bride was fantastic, in the end, it wasn’t really about the prenup, it was about her trauma over what happened with her boss.

“Hand” had some absolutely amazing sisterly scenes with Nicky and Althea. The biggest is that Althea admitted to Nicky that she was assaulted by her boss, which I’ll discuss in a bit, but we also got a lovely scene of Althea teasing Nicky about her crush on Henry and how she’s basically cyber-stalking his thirst trap of an Instagram. That was such a sibling moment, with Althea just nonchalantly scrolling through her sister’s phone and making fun of her.

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Pictured (L-R): Olivia Liang as Nicky and Shannon Dang as Althea — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Getting back to Althea’s assault, I mentioned last week that despite how much I hate sexual assault as a plot, I can appreciate what Kung Fu is trying to do. That’s why I liked how Althea explained to Nicky what happened. So many times people get victim blame-y, making comments like how she must have been asking for it or why didn’t she know or she’s just overreacting.

Althea’s story shows just how easy it is to overlook massive boundary issues because they initially seem small. It’s “easy” to ignore comments because it’s not really hurting anybody. The thing is, these things escalate. And a person who does it once is likely to do it again if they never get any pushback.

Then you have a situation like Althea’s, where she explains that she never came forward because it was just a mistake and she shouldn’t ruin his life over a mistake, which says so much about rape culture in this country. Transposing two numbers is a mistake. Mixing up teaspoon and tablespoon when cooking is a mistake. Lewd comments aren’t a mistake. Sexual assault isn’t a mistake.

I think Kung Fu is doing a good job of showing just how hard it is for victims to come forward. You can tell that Althea has been socialized to accept poor behavior from her boss because she brushes off his comments. Also, as he’s in a position of power over her, she worries about falling out of his “good graces” and possibly being penalized at work. She also talks about how scared she is to come forward, and how relieved she feels that someone else was willing to come forward – then how guilty she is that she feels relieved.

Of course, now that Nicky knows what happened to Althea, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before she takes the law into her own hands.

What did you think of “Hand”?

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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