Kung Fu 1×08 Review: “Destiny”

Destiny Kung Fu
Pictured: Jon Prasida as Ryan — Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Despite the mythic title, “Destiny” is less about the overarching quest for the ancient weapons and more about the importance of maintaining strong familial bonds. We don’t move the plot forward all that much, but this episode features some key character moments, some of which I’ve been waiting for all season.

“Destiny” revolves mainly around Althea’s bachelorette party and her future sister-in-law, Chloe, who has flown in from Hong Kong for the upcoming wedding. While Nicky and Henry try to stop Chloe from getting swept up in her former friends’ illegal activities, Althea confronts Dennis’s mother, and Ryan and Jin have a heart-to-heart that’s a long time coming.

In this episode, virtually everything ties together, with both the A and B plots revolving around family secrets, and what can happen to relationships when people aren’t honest with each other. Chloe’s criminal past is unknown to those closest to her, Mei-Li’s long-held secret may destroy her marriage, Dennis is still in the dark about the NDA Althea signed. Some of these are resolved by the end, and some of them are still left open for (hopefully) future resolution.

I very much like how they tied Mei-Li keeping such a huge family secret in with Ryan being in the closet. Ryan, even after finding out that his mother hid this knowledge from them all their lives, is much more willing to cut Mei-Li some slack than Nicky or Jin because he understands what it’s like to keep something so huge a secret. He talks about living a lie, and how eventually your life becomes the lie, because it’s easier and less frightening to do that. If you remember, in the pilot, Ryan tells Nicky that his parents know that he is gay, but the family has virtually ignored it since he came out.

The scene between Jin and Ryan, where Jin apologizes for not saying more after Ryan came out, legitimately made me tear up. This moment, in 2021, is a reminder to parents that even if you think it doesn’t matter what your child’s sexuality is, coming out is still a big deal to most people. There are enough posts on the Am I The A**hole subreddit about parents who either didn’t react at all or were dismissive when their child came out to them to show that being anything other than straight is still a scary thought for many queer people. Gay marriage was only legalized nationally in 2015, and there are still plenty of people who hold anti-LGBTQ+ opinions. Look no further than current legislation in this country to see what queer people have to deal with and understand that even if you don’t think it’s a big deal, it’s still very much a big deal.

As I hop off my soapbox, I still want to talk about this scene in “Destiny”. This scene, airing in an episode at the start of Pride Month, is a lovely moment between father and son, with Jin asking belated questions like is Ryan happy? Is he seeing someone? Questions that Jin is just now realizing he should have asked a long time ago. Jin also gives his approval over Ryan’s boyfriend, and I am still hoping that we’ll at some point get an official “meet the boyfriend” scene where Joe comes over for dinner or something.

Destiny Kung Fu
Pictured (L-R): Tzi Ma as Jin Shen and Kheng Hua Tan as Mei-Li Shen — Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Jin spends most of the episode angry at Mei-Li, not solely for keeping this secret, but that her keeping this secret led to him not being able to be the best parent he could be to Nicky, which he no doubt partially blames for Nicky running away for three years. It’s likely that realization that reminds him of how he failed Ryan as well.

Mei-Li’s family secret was preventing Nicky from realizing her true self. Nicky mentioned last week about having been pushed away from martial arts at a young age – not to mention being encouraged to break up with Evan – and talks about how that prevented her from really knowing who she was and how she fit in. This implies that Mei-Li was successful at guiding Nicky away from her destiny, which then implies that Jin either helped or at least did not object.

I understand Jin’s anger here, although it does rely heavily on the notion of destiny and how much stock you put into that as an actual concept. Of course, in a show about mythical weapons, I assume you’re meant to just roll with the punches. But then, he does explain to Nicky that he actually found her at the monastery in China, but she looked like she belonged there, so he left without making contact and never told anyone he had seen her. This is something that he probably only truly recognizes in retrospect, now knowing about Mei-Li’s family history.

In the end, it’s Nicky, who originally agreed to let him take as much time as he needed, who convinces her father to come back. I do like that Nicky had been so accepting of giving Jin space, because oftentimes there is a lot of emphasis on forgiving family because of this notion that “family” is something that should be upheld at all costs, even when they do something terrible. But Nicky knows that her mother truly loves her, and that she had good intentions to do what she did, which is why Nicky forgives her mother for lying to her, but insists that it’s time that the lies stop. Mei-Li agrees, giving Nicky a box that contains everything she knows about her sister and their family history.

Destiny Kung Fu
Pictured: Olivia Liang as Nicky — Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

I would imagine that Nicky gains perspective on her family drama when confronted with the Soong family drama, which involves Chloe going along with her friends’ bling ring crime spree because they were essentially blackmailing her. When Chloe worries about how her mother is going to react to Chloe potentially tarnishing the family name, Nicky seems convinced that Diana will be more concerned about Chloe herself than any impact this may have, which seems a big leap for Nicky to make, seeing as how she literally just met Chloe that night and has only met Diana a few times. Nicky could have been projecting here, but Diana’s reaction does seem to indicate that Nicky was right.

Nicky’s righteous anger lasting only a single episode seems a little hard to swallow, but Kung Fu has been very good at not letting arguments like this get dragged out over multiple episodes, which can get very frustrating. And Nicky did just witness another family where an overbearing mother was simply trying to protect her daughter. Communication is heavily emphasized in “Destiny”, with Nicky going to her mother and her father and having honest conversations. I love how this show makes sure that people sit down and talk things out rather than just ignoring the issues and moving on for the sake of plot.

However, communication does not seem to be an aspect of whatever is going on with Nicky and Henry, or Nicky and Evan (who is suddenly having issues with his girlfriend). Nicky’s first impulse, on finding out that her mother lied to her, was to go to Evan. This could be because of their history, or it could be because she felt that she couldn’t go to Henry, given that he asked if they could pause whatever was going on in their relationship. She tells Evan about her family secret, but not Henry, even though Henry is the one who has been actively helping her hunt down the weapons. Perhaps she told him at some point during the evening as they ran around trying to help Chloe, but it’s not clear whether or not Henry knows.

I appreciate that Henry and Nicky are able to continue their shenanigans while taking a break from the romance, and that Henry insists that he still considers them friends. I hope this is something that is actually dealt with in a timely fashion, because I cannot stand love triangles, but Nicky does seem legitimately confused about her feelings and isn’t really being given the time to sort through them with everything else going on.

Before I end this review, I have to talk about Althea and Dennis in “Destiny”. Dennis, first of all, playing Dungeons & Dragons for his bachelor party is amazing. I love Dennis, and I really hope this isn’t going to turn into a “too good to be true” thing, because he and Althea together are great. With Nicky’s romantic life in basic shambles, it’s nice that the other relationships on this show are so fantastic.

Althea has an empowering moment in “Destiny” where she stands up to Dennis’s mother about how she has always felt that Diana didn’t consider her “good enough” for Dennis. Althea worried the entire episode about putting on a sophisticated front for Diana, especially after her outburst at dinner a few episodes ago over the Soongs wanting her to sign a prenup. I was really proud of Althea for having the courage to go, “This is me and I’m marrying your son, deal with it”. I also appreciate that Diana acknowledged that Althea was not who she was expecting to have as a daughter-in-law, but that Dennis loves her and that’s all that matters. Yay, healthy relationships!

What did you think of “Destiny”?

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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