After the previous episode’s heist comedy of errors, “Guidance” returns to the show’s relatively standard person-in-need-of-the-week (PINOTW) format with Nicky investigating a shady Shaolin school that chews up its students and spits them out. We also get a little context for the bombshell that Zhilan dropped on Nicky at the end of “Rage”, just in time to get blindsided by a whole new bombshell.
Zhilan told Nicky that Pei-Ling killed their father, but in “Guidance”, we see that his death was an accident. He wanted to sell the sword, Pei-Ling thought that was a bad idea, they fought over it, and he ended up stabbed. Zhilan, just a child, saw the scene and misinterpreted it, refusing to leave with Zhilan when she begged her sister to flee. And it seems that Zhilan’s obsession with the sword started as a way to punish her sister for her actions.
But however it started, it has grown much larger than that now. She returns to her childhood home (still in remarkably good condition, considering) searching for a notebook and a scroll. The writing on the scroll resembles the writing the sword pommel burned onto Nicky’s hand. When she realizes her uncle promised Pei-Ling to keep her away from all of that, she threatens to kill him unless he reveals the location of the scroll. Ironic that Zhilan has been angry about Pei-Ling causing their father’s death and yet she is completely cavalier about killing family.
It makes you wonder what happened to Zhilan after their father’s death. Was she secretly researching the weapons the entire time, or was it Pei-Ling’s visit that kickstarted everything? And why did Pei-Ling visit when she did?
“Guidance” had yet more reveals in store for us. Mei-Li, seeing through Nicky’s super obvious lies, follows her to the Shaolin school she’s investigating and witness Nicky’s fight against Master Drake. After, Mei-Li confronts Nicky and says that they are descended from Liang Daiyu, who if you remember from the pilot was the original wielder of the sword. In fact, Mei-Li’s sister was similarly obsessed with the sword and apparently was killed because of it.
Nicky is understandably blindsided by this declaration, but in retrospect, it makes so much sense. It’s why the sword pommel burned writing onto her palm despite being completely smooth. It explains those brief glimpses of extra power that we’ve seen from her, like her fight against Tony Kang in the pilot. It might even explain why she was drawn to Pei-Ling’s truck, of all places, when she was running away from the matchmaking trip. Nicky’s obsession with the weapons is more than just honoring a promise to Pei-Ling; it’s her destiny.
The PINOTW subplot is a relatively simple case this week and almost felt superfluous because of it. Presumably, the only reason they had this case at all was to give Nicky an excuse to need to fight so aggressively and a way for her mother to witness it, and this could have been accomplished in a myriad of other ways. The focus was on Zhilan’s flashbacks and the Liang Daiyu reveal, but the side plot could have been much more interesting and it just wasn’t.
The Shaolin school plot is almost laughable in its simplicity; when Phoebe’s brother claimed that she had given all of her money to Drake, my immediate assumption was that it was a cult. It certainly seemed to be heading in that direction, especially with the whole spiel about a special ascension. But instead, it was something as ordinary as a secret livestream that broadcast the school’s fights, which while being incredibly scummy and illegal, is still practically innocuous compared to the other cases this season. And it was so easy to take him down, because apparently, all it took was him losing one fight for his students to recognize that he was a fraud and peace out.
Nicky has made a lot of bone-headed decisions this season on Kung Fu, but “Guidance” is really chock full of them. Noping out of the gala after getting her butt kicked by Zhilan, fighting in a cage match with bruised ribs and other injuries, lying to her mother, conveniently forgetting things to tell Henry… I understand that she is dealing with a heavy emotional blow in addition to physical ones, but she is needlessly endangering her life and risking her relationships with her loved ones.
This is good character-wise, because it shows that Nicky is woefully unprepared to deal with the burden she has placed on herself, and it’s important to have flawed protagonists who make mistakes, but it’s incredibly frustrating to watch. Miscommunication as a plot device has never been a favorite of mine, and watching Nicky just refuse to talk to anyone about important things is starting to get a little annoying.
For the most part, Nicky’s dumb choices have more or less worked out. Every week, the person she wants to help ends up in a better situation than they started thanks to her involvement. Even with sneaking around and lying, her friends and family are largely more concerned than angry.
But in “Guidance”, things finally start to catch up with her when Henry admits he saw her leave with Evan and that he wants to pause whatever their relationship is – not that they’ve ever actually discussed it. If she had had an actual conversation with him about what happened, he might have felt differently, but he isn’t wrong that it seems like she still has feelings for Evan, nor is he wrong for wanting to distance himself from that for the time being.
However, it isn’t the secrets that Nicky’s been keeping that cause the biggest argument of “Guidance”; it’s the secrets her mother’s been keeping. Nicky accuses Mei-Li of lying to her, which isn’t necessarily the case. Simply not mentioning that your family is descended from an ancient warrior isn’t quite the same as lying. But Nicky’s accusations of control and manipulation are different. She has always felt like an outsider, and she’s felt drawn to martial arts her entire life, and her mother actively steered her away from these pursuits in a misguided attempt to protect her the way she couldn’t protect her sister.
What did you all think of “Guidance”?
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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