Friday, August 9, 2019

REVIEW: 'Wu Assassins' - Kai Jin Receives New Powers and Responsibilities as the Wu Assassin in 'Drunken Watermelon'

Netflix's Wu Assassins - Episode 1.01 "Drunken Watermelon"

A botched restaurant order makes Kai a target of Triad members, who are unaware of his family connections - and his new status as the Wu Assassin.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Netflix's Wu Assassins.

"Drunken Watermelon" was written by John Wirth and directed by Stephen Fung

Well-choreographed and directed fight scenes can actually carry a lot of narrative burden as a show figures out who its characters are and why the audience should care about what's going on. Wu Assassins opens with Kai Jin fighting members of the Chinese Triad and proving to the audience immediately that he possesses powers that may be supernatural. The rest of the premiere then attempts to explain how a simple chef with aspirations to run a food truck business also happens to be this great martial artist. It's a very clunky and expositional premiere. One where the audience may not have a strong hold on what exactly is happening in this world. It's just important to note that there is a brewing conflict that is bound to create a high body count in San Francisco's Chinatown. Of course, there are two distinct threats happening as well. One is an actual gang war where an outsider from Europe is trying to push in on the territory controlled by the Chinese Triad. The other features mystical powers that control the elements and could actually end the world. Kai Jin is caught up in both of these conflicts. He runs afoul of the Triad simply because of an error over including peanuts in one of his dishes. That's the inciting incident that sets so much of the plot into motion. It's minor and trivial. Plus, the people targeting him are apparently oblivious to the fact that he is the son of their leader, Uncle Six. Sure, father and son are estranged with Kai Jin wanting nothing from the man who claims to have given him everything he has ever achieved. But it still seems like a connection that people should be aware of. But it's also bound to be a conflict that is further exaggerated because they appear to be on differing sides when it comes to the war over the elements. It randomly seems like Kai Jin is given the powers of the Wu Assassin. It seems like a baffling accident that immediately changes his whole life. He seemed perfectly capable of taking on the Triad when several of them tried to jump him when he was all alone in his food truck. But these new powers present as something that can only enhance his skills. And yes, the show articulates that it's actually him calling upon a thousand monks who gave their lives in order to combat this looming threat. Uncle Six presents as one of the people who has been corrupted by the powers of this world. He has no reservations about killing. He is perfectly able to do so as the gang leader needing to send a message to his new competition. That's his outward persona that everyone understands and fears. He has that stellar aim with a gun. But he can also burn people to dust with the powers that he wields. That is his more private and sinister self. The show may be setting up a conversation about morality. Kai Jin doesn't want to kill in order to maintain balance in the universe. His new advisor, Ying Ying, seems like a broken record already in telling him that's the only way that this war can be fought. It's the responsibility of the Wu Assassin even though Kai Jin didn't have any choice in the matter. He's just now expected to be a killer. That should be a big deal. Instead, he is quickly thrown into a confrontation and must save the neighbor he is close with. That cements his embrace of the Wu Assassin identity. It's the kind of confidence that proves that he can handle this role and actually wishes to use these powers for good. The show just needs to do a better job at explaining things - especially when the narrative also asks the audience to care about gang entanglements that have nothing to do so far with these mystic abilities.