Friday, August 9, 2019

REVIEW: 'Wu Assassins' - Kai Begins His Training and Receives a Vision of What's to Come in 'Misspent Youth'

Netflix's Wu Assassins - Episode 1.02 "Misspent Youth"

As Kai begins his Wu Assassin training, more mundane concerns find him turning to Lu Xin for a favor. Jenny prepares for her exacting parents to visit.

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 next episode of Netflix's Wu Assassins.

"Misspent Youth" was written by Cameron Litvack and directed by Stephen Fung

Kai Jin's training as the Wu Assassin seems a little simplistic. It's mostly just Ying Ying telling him what he is now capable of doing simply because the monks now living within him can perform when the time comes for it. There is some importance of mental clarity and accepting this position. And yet, Kai remains very skeptical about it all and pushes back against the suggestion that he needs to be a killer in order to restore balance to the world. He doesn't see himself as having that instinct. Ying Ying counters that he actually does. Sure, that's complicated by the idea that the Wu Assassin is chosen by whomever is pure of heart. It should be a larger conversation about whether someone like that should be fine with becoming a killer. Or perhaps Ying Ying and the history of Wu have grown accustomed to this way being the only way to ensure the future of their cause. She confesses that Kai will be the last Wu Assassin. She doesn't really explain why. Instead, she mostly just tells him that he has to grow impenetrable to the elements. That doesn't really amount to much in a tangible way though. He is doing all of this training in the alternate dimension that exists outside of space and time. Is he going to have these same abilities when he is back in the real world facing these threats? Will he have the clarity that he can prevail despite coming against these powers of the elements? It's all very unclear. There needs to be clean lines between what's him and what's the monks that take over. The show is also hoping to propel the story forward with that prophetic dream that could show what is to come. Kai doesn't know how to make sense of most of it. He sees Uncle Six with powers and Jenny seeming like she has to make a similar decision. Meanwhile, Lu Xin and Tommy are dead for various reasons. And most importantly, CG sacrifices herself for Kai. That's startling because Kai barely knows who she is. They take a ride together to a local junkyard. She explains how she entered this criminal lifestyle because of her father. Of course, the audience is aware that she's actually an undercover cop trying to prevent a gang war from breaking out between Uncle Six and McCullough. Lu Xin has connections to both which may be what ultimately gets him killed. That all seems intriguing. But again, it feels like the plot moving things around in a way that teases big developments to come without truly investing in the characters to make this moments actually land. The show seems to suggest that watching Jenny die is the action that allows Kai to become a killer. That plays into an unfortunate and problematic stereotype. Yes, Jenny is seen as a skilled fighter as well here when she rescues Tommy from a gang he owes money to. And yet, Kai's journey as a hero seems to present her as the woman he has a crush on but can't be with because of the responsibilities that come from being the Wu Assassin. Those personal feelings will ultimately cost him in the long run. That's not a new idea nor is the show doing anything different with it. It's somewhat the same narrative when it comes to CG as well. Kai hasn't had romantic tension with her just yet. But it's suppose to be a big deal when she sacrifices her life for him. That's unexpected and proves that something more is clearly going on. But that could also indicate how receiving this vision forces a connection to be made when otherwise Kai probably wouldn't have thought too much about her. So again, it's the narrative forcing these characters together in ways that seem clunky and expositional without truly feeling like the characters themselves have agency over any of their situations. That's unfortunate now and could become very problematic later on.