What to Watch Verdict
Although we do get some great family moments, the side story is kind of boring and unnecessary.
💥Tzi Ma's sweet performance as a father desperate to reconnect with his daughter.
💥More Althea scenes.
💥The fighting at the gambling parlor was pretty cool.
💥Rhonda and her mother's story - I just did not care enough about them.
💥I actually felt some emotion towards Team Evan after seeing how close he had become with Mei-Li.
This post contains spoilers for Kung Fu "Silence"
Check out our last review here.
At the end of the Kung Fu pilot, Nicky feels like she now knows her purpose in life - to protect her family and the community and to avenge Pei-Ling’s death by finding her murderer, Zhilian. Of course, Nicky must also mend her relationship with her family after being gone for three years. The episode opens up with Nicky (Olivia Liang) having breakfast with her family and is greeted with a lavish Chinese breakfast, including her favorite porridge that her mother is making in the kitchen. It feels normal again to have the family all together laughing and making plans around Nicky. Althea (Shannon Dang) wants Nicky to go bridesmaids dress shopping. Ryan (Jon Prasida) demands Nicky plays basketball with her like they used to. Jin (Tzi Ma) wants to take Nicky fishing. And, her mother, Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan) wants to introduce Nicky to a lawyer friend for a potential internship at his law firm. Nicky interrupts them and tells them she doesn’t want to go to law school anymore. Her family are all oddly supportive, especially her mother, leading Nicky to wonder what’s going on. Suddenly, smoke comes out from the kitchen from the porridge being burned. As Nicky runs towards the smoke, she finds herself back at the temple as Pei-Ling (Vanessa Kai) is being killed by Zhilian (Yvonne Chapman). Nicky screams and tries to stop Zhilian, but is knocked to the ground. Zhilian tells Nicky that she will never be strong enough to wield the sword and proceeds to stab her. Nicky then wakes up from what was a nightmare.
Cut to Nicky waiting for Evan (Gavin Stenhouse) as he is running his usual morning route, a routine he’s been doing since they dated. To cut the awkward tension between the two, she asks if there were any leads on Zhilian, but he hasn’t been able to find any so far. Sensing something is wrong, Evan asks if she’s okay, which results in her telling him about her dream. Evan advises that Nicky talk to her family about her concerns and to spend more time with them.
Nicky returns home to find her parents in a hurry to leave for work with Ryan trying to convince their dad to go to the clinic for a check-up visit. Ryan asks Nicky to talk some sense into dad about his check-up since Jin typically listens to Nicky. Althea rushes Ryan out of the house to run some bridal errands and tells Nicky that she must meet her at the bridal shop to try on bridesmaids dresses and cake tasting later in the day. Overwhelmed by the chaotic rush by her family, Nicky goes to her room to meditate and try to remember more details about Zhilian. As she closes her eyes, she remembers the battle between her and Zhilian and zooms in on the pendant on Zhilian’s neck. She opens her eyes and proceeds to draw the image in her booklet which resembles some type of crane.
As Henry (Eddie Liu) is finishing up his Tai Chi class, Nicky approaches him with the drawing of Zhilian’s pendant. He tells her he could look into it and to meet him later at the library. As she begins to leave, he asks if she has trained since she’s come home. She tells him she hasn’t because it makes her think about her deceased mentor. He offers her the use of the studio if she ever wants to train. She thinks about it for a second but receives a text message from Althea reminding her of their bridesmaid dress appointment.
During the bridesmaid dress fitting, Althea receives a threatening call where she tells the caller to not contact her again. Concerned by Althea’s tone on the call, Nicky asks Althea about the call. Althea shrugs it off as a nagging wedding vendor. As Althea is adjusting the dress on Nicky, Althea sees Nicky’s battle scar on her shoulder, which results in Nicky telling Althea everything that happened at the monastery. Althea doesn’t think it’s a good idea to find Zhilian, but Nicky brushes her comment off because Althea doesn’t understand what Nicky is going through. Feeling insulted by that comment, Althea leaves, but still expects Nicky to go to the cake tasting later that day. I did appreciate that the series gave Althea a little bit more dialogue and a mystery around her life, because she’s been one of the biggest draws for me in the series. Probably the most relatable character who closely follows her family’s traditions, but also maintains a close bond with her siblings and actually asks questions rather than expect the attention to be on her (especially when it really should be on her since she IS the one getting married).
At the restaurant, Mei-Li is surprised at how Jin could easily forgive their daughter for leaving them. She tells him not to get his hopes up on Nicky’s return. He tells Mei-Li that they should be happy that Nicky chose to return home.
With nowhere to go before the cake tasting, Nicky walks around the park and decides to train there. As she begins her poses, she remembers her time at the monastery training with Pei-Ling and the other warriors. She then drifts off back to Pei-Ling’s death and the fight with Zhilian, which causes her to stumble. As Nicky regains her balance, she notices a man and a girl arguing over a gun. The man ends up holding the gun, which causes Nicky to intervene, causing the gun to fall to the ground. The girl then grabs the gun and runs off. Nicky finds the girl's wallet on the ground. Nicky returns home and looks through her book of drawings and remembers a moment in her training with Pei-Ling and the advice Pei-Ling gave Nicky about how fear was holding her back. Pei-Ling tells Nicky to not be afraid.
Nicky goes to the family restaurant to find Evan waiting for his weekly take-out order. Nicky proceeds to tell him about the situation with the girl and the gun. Evan tells Nicky that he’ll contact a close friend of his in the police department to take a statement from Nicky about the girl and let the police do their job. Suddenly, Mei-Li appears with Evan’s order, causing Nicky to be a bit annoyed with Mei-Li and Evan’s newfound friendship. Just as Nicky leaves to meet with Henry at the library, Jin stops her to set up a rematch for their standing game of Go, a Chinese strategy game. Nicky tells them they’ll play it when she returns home.
While at the library, Henry and Nicky comb through volumes of books to find out more about Zhilian’s pendant. Waiting for Evan’s police friend to call her, Nicky tells Henry about the situation with the girl at the park and shows him the girl’s wallet, which had no clues of who or where this girl could be. Henry recognizes a wristband in the wallet for a homeless shelter nearby. Instead of picking up the call from the cop, Nicky proceeds to check out the homeless shelter.
She finds the girl waiting in line at the homeless shelter. The girl sees Nicky and begins to run for it towards the alley. Trapped at a dead end, the girl points the gun at Nicky, but Nicky is able to talk her down. The girl’s name is Rhonda and she took the gun to scare off her mother’s abusive boyfriend, Derek. Derek had been controlling Rhonda’s mother finances and kicked Rhonda out on the streets. She was hoping to use the gun to scare Derek off. Nicky notices she is running late to Althea’s cake tasting, so she offers Rhonda some advice and to come along to Nicky’s house to grab some food.
Back at the house, while Ryan and Nicky are tasting different wedding cakes, Ryan asks Nicky if she spoke to dad about his check-up which Nicky replies she did not. Ryan proceeds to make a comment about Nicky being too busy trying to find Zhilian. Nicky is shocked Althea told Ryan, but not surprised given their family closeness. The siblings are interrupted by Rhonda who expressed interest in a piece of cake. Nicky ends up telling Althea and Ryan about Rhonda’s situation. Ryan and Althea tell Nicky that there are programs that could help Rhonda and her mother and that Nicky should use what she learned from being pre-law.
Nicky and Rhonda visit Rhonda’s mother when Derek is not home, with Nicky offering to help Rhonda’s family to get out of this situation. As Nicky begins to give them advice on what to do, Derek returns home and threatens Rhonda. Nicky intervenes by twisting Derek’s arm, causing him to leave in defeat.
After going over with Rhonda and her mother on what to do, including filing a restraining order against Derek, Nicky returns home late to find her father sleeping on the couch with the Go game ready. Mei-Li tells Nicky that Jin waited for Nicky all night and proceeds to tell her daughter that Jin always had hope that their daughter would return home to them. Mei-Li reveals to Nicky that she knows the truth that Nicky really had nowhere else to go, which Nicky doesn’t deny. Nicky then receives a call from Rhonda who is panicking because Derek took all her mother’s life’s savings. Mei-Li tells her daughter to go, which Nicky does leave to help Rhonda.
When Nicky shows up at Rhonda's place, Rhonda reveals to Nicky that Derek took everything and plans to kick them out of the apartment. Nicky tells them that the district attorney will make sure to get all their money from Derek, but Rhonda’s mother tells them that it may be too late since Derek is a gambling addict. Desperate to find Derek, Nicky calls Althea to help hack into Derek’s laptop which they had. With Derek being a really basic guy, Althea is able to guess his password based on the knowledge Rhonda’s mother shared. Derek is going to a gambling parlor tonight with Rhonda’s mother’s life savings. Nicky heads to the parlor to stop Derek, but is stopped by security who tells her only players are allowed to enter. She tells the gambling manager that Derek is playing with stolen money, but they let Derek play anyway with him losing his hand and the money. As Nicky is being ushered out of the parlor, she begins fighting and easily beats the security guys, resulting in the manager allowing Nicky to take the money back. She then tells Derek that he has to leave Rhonda and her mother alone or else, suggesting that she would come for him if the cops did not. The fight scenes were pretty cool. Nicky got to show off her actual martial arts skills without the flashy slow-motion emphasis like the last episode.
Nicky returns home and meditates in her room. She imagines being back at the monastery and placing a flower on her mentor’s tombstone. She then imagines Pei-Ling sitting in front of her. Nicky tells her she is no longer afraid to grieve for her and finally has some clarity, which allows her to feel closer to Pei-Ling. Nicky doesn’t know how to stop Zhilian without Pei-Ling, but Pei-Ling tells Nicky it will take practice to truly figure it out herself.
The next morning, Jin is greeted by Nicky with the Go game in front of her. She tells her father that it’s time to start a fresh new game, but he says the game could go on for days. In a sweet moment between the two, she tells him it’s fine because she’s not going anywhere. Later in the day, Evan receives a call from Nicky where she updates him on Rhonda’s situation. He provides her with his own update on Zhilian, who is heading to Singapore, and that Pei-Ling and Zhilian were sisters. The scene then flashes back to the previous episode where Pei-Ling tells Nicky, “You think you’re the only one with a difficult family?” Nicky then finds Henry who has found information on the crane pendant. It’s one of eight representing the bloodline of the eight mythical protectors of the weapons. Pei-Ling and Zhilian’s bloodline are one of the families of protectors. Dr. Winston Chau, who studied these mythical weapons, happens to be a visiting professor at Berkeley, but he’s currently giving a lecture in Singapore. Nicky realizes that’s why Zhilian went to Singapore. Cut to Singapore, Zhilian meets Dr. Chau.
As much as I liked Nicky from the pilot, it’s quite annoying to see how selfish she is being more concerned about people that she does not know rather than her own family. She’s so involved in trying to fix Rhonda's situation that Nicky doesn’t see the trouble Althea is dealing with and Jin’s desperation to spend quality time with Nicky. I understand the series is having Nicky deal with a new situation each week to showcase Nicky’s newfound purpose in helping people, but the show really doesn’t need to have that because the Shen family are interesting enough by themselves. The series’ greatest strength is the Shen family and their relationship with each other and the problems that arise regarding the family. I’m more interested in the family dynamics rather than a random stranger’s home situation. As much as I liked the fight scenes between Nicky and the gambling parlor security team, I didn’t care much about the people Nicky was helping. I really hope the next episode will give us more of the family rather than people we will probably never see again.
Laura Sirikul is a freelance writer, researcher, and managing editor of The Nerds of Color. Throughout her career, she has written for Nerd Reactor, What To Watch, Nerdist, IGN, Movie View Magazine, Red Carpet Report, Mental Floss, Trek News, The Hollywood Reporter, Character Media, Bitch Media, and many other outlets. She has been on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Nerdist's Fangirls, and many other news shows. For almost ten years, she has covered film and television extensively along with in-depth interviews with major studios such as Disney, WB, and FOX. She is also a member of the Asian American Journalist Association and the Hollywood Critics Association. Apart from addressing topics covering film and television, Laura is a strong advocate for social awareness for the underrepresented in the entertainment industry.