Friday, October 2, 2020

REVIEW: 'Warrior' - Ah Sahm Finds Purpose as He Fights Alongside Ah Toy and Lai in 'Learn to Endure, or Hire a Bodyguard'

Cinemax's Warrior - Episode 2.01 "Learn to Endure, or Hire a Bodyguard"

Back with the Hop Wei, Ah Sahm spends his nights at the Barbary Coast fight pit, confronting a new anti-Chinese group, Teddy's Boys. While Ah Toy accuses him of just looking for another fight, an empowered Mai Ling worries about her brother's next steps. Bill finds it hard to break out of his role as enforcer for Zing. Penny is determined to continue running Mercer Steel, much to Blake's dismay. Chao offers Ah Sahm some advice for his future with Young Jun.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Cinemax's Warrior.

"Learn to Endure, or Hire a Bodyguard" was written by Jonathan Tropper and directed by Jonathan Tropper

Ah Sahm was a character without a clear purpose in the first season. He traveled from China to California in order to find his sister. He found someone new altogether. She didn't need him to rescue her. He built his life around the need to be the hero she deserved. And then, she gave the order to kill him. Sure, she was tormented throughout the season about how his presence would disrupt her plans. He saved her life and she saved his. They worked together on a couple of occasions. But they also stood on different sides in the conflict brewing in Chinatown. Mai Ling needed to exert her power in order to gain more notoriety and respect. She has seemingly accomplished that. She is still in dire straits because of the threat that comes from her partners in the Fung Hai. However, she believes she can manage all of these competing interests. Ah Sahm remains the wildcard in this whole mess. That is his function throughout the narrative. Because he doesn't have that core drive, that makes his actions unpredictable. He was a fighter who never lost. And then, he did. He is still alive. But now, it's clear that he is fighting largely to find the weakness within himself that allowed himself to fail before. He was fighting without a passion. He is still doing that. It's only later on that he realizes Vega - the woman who arranges the various fight nights for locals to compete in - can potentially help the tong expand into the local drug trade. This season also presents a stark difference in showing Ah Sahm actually fighting for something he believes in. He pushes Ah Toy and Lai to join him in killing members of an anti-Chinese group. He sees it as taking the fight to them and ensuring their hatred cannot spread even further in this area. Of course, it's ultimately a losing battle. Ah Sham and Ah Toy understand that they can't change hearts and minds to the point where the Chinese will be widely accepted in the area. They just have to fight in order to continue inspiring others to take action. And yet, Ah Toy and Lai's unique fighting style may ensure this endeavor is shut down before they can do much good. It's not the primary interest of Ah Toy either. She will go on the offensive when she sees how it could potentially benefit her. She has a knack for spotting rare talents. She knew that Ah Sahm and Lai were unique the moment she met them. She has a keen eye. She also recognizes just how precarious this fight has become for Chao. His life may be compromised because of the secrets he is being asked to keep for everyone in Chinatown. He is a powerful force in this area. And yet, he can succumb to the same pressure that everyone else in this world fears. All it takes is one push of strength from the white oppressors to completely destroy everything he has built. Constant consequences occur because of Ah Sahm's action. Now, he believes that he can take over the Hop Wei. He encourages the idea in Young Jun's mind while acknowledging that he lacks the patience to actually lead the tong. This may be nothing more than a disaster. Father Jun is also powerful in carefully maintaining relationships with key individuals. This area is still essentially a powder keg. It could explode at any moment. Ah Sahm has more of a vested interest in what happens next. He holds that personal responsibility. Penny does as well. Her sister is now living with her and she is running her father's business after his death. People are constantly threatening her to give into their demands and fall back in line with what's ladylike in this era. She exerts her intelligence even while knowing that the hatred for what's being done in this company may be too overwhelming. That connects her narrative thread thematically with what's happening elsewhere in Chinatown. However, it's still clear the show loves this sprawling ensemble in the hopes of telling a complicated story about the many conflicting interests high and low of this time period. And yet, it still feels like slightly too much is going on with too few characters the audience can invest in. However, it's still massively entertaining when it comes to the fight sequences. That makes this premiere entertaining even though it's clear that it is mostly setting the stage for combustive action to come later on.