Kung Fu 1×13 Review: “Transformation”

Transformation Kung Fu

Kung Fu season 1 comes to an end with “Transformation”, an episode that is heavy on the character development but lighter on the action than I anticipated, considering it contains a confrontation that the entire season has led up to.

“Transformation”, as a season finale, felt a little anticlimactic, primarily because, as I mentioned before, there isn’t as much action as I expected. By the time anyone wields the mystical weapons, the power has been leached out of them, and they seem to be worse than regular weapons. (They break so easily!) After spending the entire season watching Zhilan and Nicky race to track all of the weapons down, they are made useless rather quickly. All of the power of Biange has been absorbed by Nicky and Zhilan.

Nicky’s storied rematch with Zhilan also did not have the oomph I expected. Nicky was willing to release her Biange energy while Zhilan was desperate to keep hers, which gave Nicky the tactical advantage and allowed her to finally be victorious. I am over the moon to see Nicky defeat Zhilan, and for a while their fight did have the physics-defying moves that were teased in the promo, but in the end, Nicky won so handily that I was disappointed.

I feel like that’s weird. The fight itself may not have been emotional, but the way Nicky carried herself was. She had so much power but she still had a grace and elegance in her moves. She finally knows her destiny and has accepted it; she has become the person she was meant to be. Zhilan has beaten her every time they’ve fought this season, and Nicky was able to win without breaking a sweat. That is a very meaningful moment and it should not be discounted just because I wanted something with a little more pizzazz.

I suppose the fight, or lack thereof, was meant to emphasize how Biange is neither good nor evil; like anything else, it depends on the person. Zhilan wanted power, while Nicky wanted to keep her family safe. Theoretically, both of them should have been able to utilize the power in the same way, but in the end, only Nicky was able to tap into it, and only because she didn’t want it and was willing to let it go. I would assume Zhilan didn’t understand it the way Nicky did.

Could someone explain it to me? Is that something we’re going to learn about in season 2? The energy imbued in the weapons was taken from the Earth, and Nicky somehow was able to release it back to where it came from. What I don’t know is what that means. At the end of “Transformation”, we see the Biange blossom blooming from the sidewalk in San Francisco, which means that the energy has spread that far. And Nicky told Ryan that she felt “different”, implying that some of the energy may still be within her.

“Biange” means change, and not all change is bad. After Nicky and Zhilan absorb the energy, they are taken to a world where “Biange never happened” – Nicky never went to China, and Kerwin is still alive. (Of course, Kerwin is still alive, but we didn’t learn that bombshell until the end of the episode!)

There were a lot of changes that could have been undone for Pei-Ling to make her point, but I suspect that those two are the ones that were chosen because of the positive impact they had on Nicky and Zhilan. Nicky’s experience in China gave her a place where she truly felt like she belonged, and I think the same is true of Zhilan’s relationship with Kerwin. But whereas Nicky’s choice led to her changing her life for the better, Zhilan ultimately sacrificed that sense of belonging for power.

Transformation Kung Fu

Kung Fu has always been about choosing your own path, and “Transformation” is all about that. Nicky releasing the energy back into the Earth is her looking at the two options given to her – destroy Biange or wield the sword – and deciding to go her own way. Nicky has been essentially doing that all season, so it’s no real surprise she would do that in the finale. Nicky has grown a lot, but when it comes to her making her own destiny, she has been remarkably consistent.

You know that meme, “Maybe [blank] was the friends we made along the way”? That actually seems to be the case with Kung Fu. Maybe Biange was the friends Nicky made along the way. She is able to succeed because of all the help she gets from the people around her – from her family, from Henry, from her sisters at the monastery. She has worked hard to forge and maintain these relationships, and they came through for her when she needed them. (Althea even abandoned her own tea ceremony!)

What “Transformation” did was set up season 2. I started speculating about where the show would go after last week, but hesitated to guess too much before the finale, because I wasn’t sure what the status of the weapons would be. Little did I know that the weapons would be taken completely out of the equation! … Or so we think.

I mentioned last week that they seemed to be purposely being coy about Russell Tan, and it turns out it’s for good reason. Tan is one hundred percent being set up as the big bad for next season. It’s very odd that with how much he knew about the weapons – he knew about Ziqi and has for months – he had only been able to acquire a few of them. It makes me wonder what his connection to Zhilan was – had they partnered up and Zhilan betrayed him? I’m dying to know more.

Whatever is going on with Tan will also give Evan something to do, as he discovered that Tan has been tossing money all over San Francisco buying up property and bribing influential people. Just what is he planning? What does he know about Biange? And how will what Nicky did with the energy affect Tan’s plans?

We also learned in “Transformation” that Mei-Xue had a daughter, who Tan believes may be the key to everything. (What is “everything”? No idea.) Will she be an ally for Nicky, or an enemy?

All in all, I really enjoyed season 1 of Kung Fu and am really looking forward to seeing where they take the show in season 2.

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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