Friday, October 9, 2020

REVIEW: 'Warrior' - Ah Sahm Makes a New Deal with Penny While Li Yong Feels Betrayed by Mai Ling in 'The Chinese Connection'

Cinemax's Warrior - Episode 2.02 "The Chinese Connection"

Ah Sahm and Young Jun search for a discreet place to hide their product after striking a deal with a new opium supplier. As Lee becomes dependent on laudanum, he and Bill continue to investigate the swordsman murders. Mai Ling sends Li Yong and Zing to deliver a message to a rival tong. Penny asks for Ah Sahm's help in protecting her factory. Sophie continues to pique Leary's interest. Ah Toy receives a visit from Nellie Davenport, a wealthy widow committed to ending the exploitation of Chinese women.

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 next episode of Cinemax's Warrior.

"The Chinese Connection" was written by Brad Kane and directed by David Petrarca

Which relationships remain solid and steady? At this point, it seems clear that the narrative is challenging some partnerships that were once beneficial to certain individuals. Mai Ling understands that her partners in the Fung Hai are dangerous and could threaten her control over the tong. And yet, she is still more than willing to use them to exert her influence throughout Chinatown. She needs all the major and minor players to know that she will enforce the drug trade and who is allowed to sell certain products. She has to act in a big way. She sees the priority in doing so. She can't hope for the best. She can't just wait for chaos to spill out onto the streets either. That's exactly what Buckley wants though. He wants violence because it helps sell the argument that the state needs the Exclusion Act. He is a huge proponent of that discriminatory action. He will do whatever it takes to ensure that it comes to pass. He doesn't care that Mai Ling is trying to succeed as the leader of a tong. He doesn't care who gets hurt in this war. He simply needs it to happen. Only now is Mai Ling realizing that she needs to hold leverage over him so he can't order her to do whatever he needs. She needs agency and control over what happens over her enterprises. She still relies on Buckley and the Fung Hai though. That runs the risk of pushing Li Yong further away from her. He sees the value in diplomacy over violence. He thinks it's necessary to talk things out once a problem comes up. Zing is along for the conversation though. He is there to ensure that it ends in death. That's what Mai Ling wants. It's how she can be perceived as strong. It's how she can continue to foster her dynamic with the Fung Hai. This is how she wants to lead. It takes Li Yong by surprise. He saw his bond with Mai Ling as a partnership. In reality, she is the one in control of the tong. Nothing is going to take that away from her. It's what she has fought for. It will simply continue to cause destruction for her personal relationships. Elsewhere, Ah Sahm is choosing to use Penny instead of trying to understand the struggle her family is currently going through. She is doing her best to step up and exert her own agency in the business community. She refuses to be intimidated by those who think it's not womanly for her to take over her father's business. She refuses to cower to physical threats from Leary and his men who demand work no matter what. She is also willing to make a deal with the Hop Wei in order to protect her business. This arrangement could have huge blowback for her because of her connection to the Mayor's office. Mayor Blake is constantly dismissing his wife. He sees her largely as a nuisance who counters the message he is suppose to be projecting as a politician. He never sees it as too big of a deal though. Moreover, Penny has made a deal with the Hop Wei through Ah Sahm. He and Young Jun are running their own side business. Father Jun doesn't know everything that is going on within his tong. He may have his suspicions. He continually has to talk to Ah Sahm and Young Jun about the patience necessary to succeed in this business. He knows they are ready to attack the Long Zii. They perceive him as being weak because he doesn't recognize the losing war in Chinatown. They may be right in that assumption. They could also be underestimating him and what he is capable of doing. Ah Sahm was already thrown out of the tong once. He was saved by his personal friendship with Young Jun. They encourage each other. But their new endeavor could endanger Penny's life. They are storing drugs at her warehouse. That's a tense reveal that shows Ah Sahm doesn't have the same love for her he once did. The season is still primarily setting up these conflicts. It wants to keep things complicated for the characters. They never know exactly who they can trust. That is abundantly clear in every corner of the story. Some parts of the world are still vastly more interesting than others. Plus, the show is still throwing in newcomers whose narrative purpose isn't all that engaging or necessary at the moment. That includes Penny's sister Sophie flirting with Leary and wealthy white woman Nellie Davenport potentially disrupting Ah Toy's brothel business. Expanding this world isn't inherently bad. It's fascinating to see a glimpse of another drug trade as introduced by Vega to Ah Sahm and Young Jun. And yet, these stories need to pay off as well. Right now, the narrative still demands a ton of patience with too many tangential characters and stories.