Recap: The prodigal daughter returns in season 1 of ‘Kung Fu’, episode 1 “Pilot”
Kung Fu, The New CW Series, is an action-packed family drama that’s an original and refreshing take on the martial arts genre. Created by Christina M. Kim (Lost) and Robert Berens (Supernatural), the series presents a perfect lead in Olivia Liang, who anchors the series with a mixture of heart and stubbornness that is endearing. The supporting cast is equally strong, with legendary actor Tzi Ma as his father Jin and Eddie Liu as new flame Henry among the highlights. The pilot features some great character moments and action sequences that promise an exciting first season for a groundbreaking show.
The episode opens with Nicky introducing herself to the audience in a fight montage. She explains that for three years she has been in a monastery in China, hiding from the twinning trip her mother sent her. She stopped talking to her family when she realized that the ‘culture trip’ was just an excuse to pair her up, and after running she was saved by Pei-Ling, who leads the team. of all-female warriors who train at the monastery.
Pei-Ling mentors Nicky, teaching her everything she needs to know about fighting. But ultimately, she urges Nicky to make peace with her family and return home. She explains that she too has had a difficult family life and that she doesn’t want Nicky to make the mistakes she made. That night, the monastery is set on fire as the looters come after the warriors. In a brilliant action streak, the women fight them off as Nicky desperately tries to get to Pei-Ling. As the fight rages on, Pei-Ling faces off against Zhilan, the leader of the raiders, and someone she seems to recognize. Zhilan invalidates Pei-Ling and steals a mysterious sword. As Nicky finally reaches Pei-Ling, Zhilan stabs Pei-Ling and disappears. As Nicky sobs, Pei-Ling begs her to retrieve the sword and dies. Nicky chases after Zhilan and the two fight. Nicky briefly holds the sword and it makes a noise in his hand before Zhilan takes it back. As Nicky finds herself on the edge of a cliff, Zhilan pushes her away. Nicky holds on and we move on to the title card.
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Nicky says she tried to find Zhilan, but couldn’t. Eventually, she returns home to San Francisco, following her mentor’s final advice. At home, her father Jin opens the door. He instantly folds her into his arms, crying as he says he missed her. He has a black eye, which he attributes to a fall. He informs her that his sister Althea is getting married. Althea arrives and is delighted to see Nicky as well. It turns out that Althea is marrying Dennis, the “high school mathlete,” who looks very different than Nicky remembers. Ryan, their brother, seems more suspicious than the others of Nicky’s return. Their mother Mei-Li comes in, and seeing Nicky, she says, “My daughter died three years ago,” before going out. Althea quipped: “Well, it turned out better than I thought.” Mei-Li tells Nicky that she sacrificed everything for Nicky and wants to know why she wouldn’t have said something if she was so miserable. Nicky says angrily that it was a mistake to come home before leaving the room. Jin tells Nicky that he will talk to Mei-Li and that she should meet them at the family restaurant later.
Nicky goes to see Evan, her ex-boyfriend whom she left behind three years ago. She said she needed her family’s space and their expectations. Evan asks her if she is okay, overcoming her initial anger. She tells him all about Pei-Ling, including that she mentioned that “Biange” was involved. Nicky thinks this is part of a Triad gang and mentions that Evan could use his connections as a Deputy District Attorney to help find the killer. Evan is upset that she’s trying to use her connections, but she reassures him that she’s not just there for that reason. She says she shouldn’t have let her mother separate them when another woman enters. Sabine is Evan’s new girlfriend, a fact that seems to surprise Nicky.
Nicky is walking along the waterfront that night. Pei-Ling’s ghost speaks to her, telling her that it was right for her to come home. Nicky disagrees, saying her mission is to find Zhilan and the sword. Pei-Ling tells her that healing the rift with her family is the way to find the answers she’s looking for. In the alley in front of her father’s restaurant, she sees two thieves beating her father. She walks over to him, screaming for help as they walk away.
At the hospital, the doctor tells the family that Jin is fine but is resting. Nicky asks Althea and Ryan what’s really going on. Ryan tells her that she can’t just decide to care after being away for three years and leaves, Althea getting rid of her because everyone is tired. Althea firmly tells Nicky to stay with her. Nicky goes to the Chinese Community Center to find Ryan the next day, telling him they need to talk. While chatting, they run into Henry, a friend of Ryan’s who instantly catches Nicky’s attention. An old woman in Henry’s Tai Chi class instantly assumes that Henry and Nicky are a couple, which embarrasses them both. Henry says he wants to know more about Nicky’s time in China since he was doing his Masters in Chinese Art History, but Ryan tries to end that friendship immediately by saying, “Well, she doesn’t. probably won’t be here very long. ” Nicky assures Henry that she is very interested in talking before following Ryan.
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Ryan tells Nicky that everything fell apart after he left. Their perfect family image was shattered, and their mother in particular took the trouble. Ryan says without her he lost his ally. She asks if they know he’s gay, and Ryan says he dated them a year ago. He says their mother claims it never happened while their father never talks about it. Nicky apologizes for letting him down and they kiss. Nicky goes to see Henry and she explains what happened in China.
She tells Henry that the sword is the source of the female shaolin (according to Pei-Ling) and that an ancient power lives there. Henry heard about it: it’s Liang Daiyu’s sword. He is shocked that he still survived. Liang Daiyu was an ancient warrior who trained female raiders to fight in war. Nicky says the sword burned her when it hit it, but Zhilan didn’t, and that she needs to know Zhilan’s whereabouts now. Henry looks at the burn on Nicky’s hand, which is shaped like ancient figures. Henry says he will examine what the symbols mean and that he also agrees to keep this a secret.
Back at the hospital, Nicky goes to see Jin. She asks him to tell her what’s really going on and Mei-Li enters. She says the rents went up, and so did the expenses, so she took out a loan from Tony Kang without telling Jin. Tony was their best client, but he was more dangerous than they thought. Two months ago, Jin had confronted him as the debt hit $ 100,000. Jin says they have 72 hours to pay, otherwise Tony and his buddies will kill him and take back possession of the restaurant.
Althea and Ryan are incredulous when Nicky tells them that she wants to try to negotiate a deal with Tony or surrender to Evan. Althea points out that other people in Chinatown have to go through the same thing, and Nicky tells them that they have to go see the others and build a business themselves. She knows their community will trust them more than Evan, which leads Althea to sarcastically note that “this is one of the few times that not being white is an advantage.” The siblings, along with Henry, walk around Chinatown to interview witnesses. Everyone is reluctant to talk, and Pei-Ling seems to Nicky to push her not to give up.
Henry tells Nicky that he has discovered that the sword is one of the eight weapons with ancient powers and that it will work for its rightful owner. Nicky hates to think Zhilan is her rightful owner, and Althea interrupts her. She says the owner of a local dollar store never reported a recent break-in to police after asking friends and family for loans. Nicky goes to talk to him while the others wait. She tells the owner that they have to fight, but the owner is too scared. Outside, a hired jerk pulls a knife at Ryan, and Nicky sees it. Her training begins, she easily sends off one of the men as Henry skillfully fights the other, showing he has his own skills. The neighborhood watches Nicky and Henry defeat their opponents.
Ryan and Althea are excited about Nicky’s skills as Nicky asks them not to tell their parents. Mei-Li is angry that Nicky endangered them by asking around, but Nicky yells that it’s his insistence on secrets that puts them in danger, not Nicky. Mei-Li tells Nicky that her own relationship with her parents was strained, but that she would never run away and betray them. Nicky doesn’t care that she was raised to go to Harvard and be what Mei-Li wanted her to be, and Mei-Li never thought about what that kind of pressure would do on Nicky. Before Mei-Li can respond, Althea tells her that Cindy, the store owner, is downstairs. She wants to help after seeing Nicky shoot Tony’s men down.
Cindy and Nicky surrender to Evan with their evidence. Evan says they still need more to take on someone so powerful. He says they have classified documents that might be enough, but they are all in Chinese and their only translator is overwhelmed. Nicky says her family could translate them, and Evan notes that the documents are evidence. Their case could be dismissed and Evan could lose his job. But he relents, telling her that she has to keep them with her life.
At home, Althea, Ryan, Evan, and Nicky search for evidence. Althea hacks into Tony’s bank account as Ryan laughs at Evan’s reaction, noting that Althea is “more than a pretty face.” They realize that something big is happening on the docks, and Evan wants to call an anonymous tip and get the police involved. Ryan claims Tony paid the police and they can’t trust them. The family visits Jin, who is released that night. Ryan is missing, and when Althea follows Ryan, they realize he’s taken matters into his own hands and made his way to the docks.
Nicky chases after him and they both hide. After taking a few pictures, Tony spots them and his men start to turn. Nicky fights them all while Ryan chases Tony, who starts shooting Ryan. Nicky tells Ryan to stay back and she fights Tony solo. Tony hits Nicky and she remembers losing Pei-Ling. At this point, she gets up and fights, shooting Tony down as Ryan watches in shock at Nicky’s almost supernatural abilities.
At Althea and Dennis’ banquet, Jin and Mei-Li tell Nicky that she should stay with them. The family mends their fight and the karaoke begins as Nicky goes looking for Henry. He tells her that he knows why Zhilan stole the sword. If someone collects all eight weapons, they are unstoppable. Henry says she must seek out the other weapons, which are prophesied to bring destruction in the wrong hands. Nicky realizes that was what she was supposed to do at the time of the credits.
Kung Fu airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.