Thursday, May 27, 2021

REVIEW: 'Kung Fu' - Nicky Learns More About Her Lineage While Zhilan Contends With Her Past in 'Guidance'

The CW's Kung Fu - Episode 1.07 "Guidance"

After learning some devastating news about Pei-Ling, Nicky attempts to keep herself distracted by offering to help a young woman in need. Zhilan confronts her past. Mei-Lei makes a startling confession.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 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 The CW's Kung Fu.

"Guidance" was written by Ryan Johnson & Peter Lalayanis and directed by Michael Goi

This drama has established itself as part silly action adventure searching for a bunch of mystical artifacts that could reshape power in the world and part episodic female empowerment anthem. Now, it's still struggling to find the perfect balance between the overarching story ambitions and its episodic interests. For example, this episode has a lot going on. It explores the backstory of Pei-Ling and Zhilan. That's necessary after Nicky is told that Pei-Ling killed their father and unjustly stole the sword. But it also details Nicky's own lineage and the truth behind her mother trying to control her entire life. And on top of that, Nicky is trying to take down a corrupt Shaolin studio taking advantage of its students in order to profit off of illegal fights broadcast online. That final plot point asserts that Nicky may not be skilled enough to defeat Zhilan but she is certainly capable of taking down plenty of people boasting of their power and superiority in San Francisco. The episodic plot interests are more often than not the stories with the least nuance and dimension to them. Nicky and Henry are brought into this story by a man concerned about his sister who has suddenly cut off all ties to him. The story sets up the expectation that these siblings belong together. That relationship is seen as loving and encouraging. Them finding their paths in life would surely value the two remaining close. And yet, that's mostly just inferred and meant to be accepted. The more pressing issue is Nicky's injuries possibly hindering her in the ring. She is thrown into a match with the master. He needs to take her down so she'll stop presenting as a viable leader with an opposing ideology to his students. She is wounded. Ryan tells her it will take a month to heal. That's only if she takes it easy for a few weeks. She doesn't do that. Instead, she is fighting once more. She is doing so in order to protect a woman in need. That's one of the most central lessons her shifu taught her. She must always be willing to extend a hand and intervene when a woman is in danger. She has the strength and courage to do so. She has found her path. It's ultimately easy for her to succeed as well. She just needs to remember Pei-Ling telling her to judge her as a teacher based on the evolution of her student's emotional journey. Pei-Ling has the awareness to remove her ego from this determination. She still lives in pain and grief. She hopes to inspire the next generation of warriors. Nicky has been inspired by her for a long time. She carries forward her personal mission. She doubts herself now because she doubts the human behind her shifu. In reality, Nicky already has a connect to the ancient warriors of China. Her family is the rightful owners of the sword. She must pick up and carry that burden. That potentially explains why she was burned and left marked with the insignia of this weapon. She feels a connection that compels her forward. Meanwhile, Zhilan is motivated out of vengeance. Pei-Ling killed their father on accident. She always had complete clarity about protecting the sword. And yet, it's clear the story that was told to her as passed down by the generations was a lie. It was taken from another. And now, Zhilan is inflicting that same pain on more families that have so much respect for the legacies of those who came before them. She is even willing to turn against her own family. She feels betrayed by anyone willing to engage with Pei-Ling on a human level. Zhilan is blinded in a way. But she is also powerful. She has the resources to assemble these weapons. She remains unstoppable. Meanwhile, Nicky is engaging in stories both big and small. Her world is rocked in many ways. She has support within her family. And yet, her mother has been lying to her all along. Meanwhile, Henry wants to take a step back because he sees Nicky yearning for Evan as well. It's all complicated. It feels typical of a CW drama. The execution remains watchable. The show has the opportunity to gain more clarity and confidence in itself. Right now, it's seeing what works. Sometimes, the personal examinations of morality on display in an episodic adventure entertain in a more satisfying way than the silly quest for weapons. Sometimes, the more personal conflicts sting because the audience has come to better understand these characters. Both of those elements should be operating more consistently and confidently. That's within the realm of possibility. The show isn't quite there yet. It has improved though.