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'Kung Fu' 1.04 Review: Hand

I gotta HAND it to them, that was pretty good

Shannon Dang as Althea Shen. (Image: The CW)
(Image: © The CW)

Our Verdict

The best episode so far with character growth and fighting

For

  • 💥Every scene with Althea in it is great.
  • 💥It's so great to see Asian relationships.
  • 💥Kicking the martial arts up a notch.
  • 💥Nicky finally getting romance.

Against

  • 💥The lack of physical interaction between Ryan and Joe — just let them kiss.

This post contains spoilers for Kung Fu "Hand"
Check out our
last review here. 

When it comes to shows dealing with sexual assault, if the story is not in the right hands, it can be insensitive and very triggering. It is not an easy subject to talk about, especially for a show in its freshman year. In the previous episode, we learned that Althea (Shannon Dang) had been sexually assaulted by her former boss and refused to come forward with the information when probed by a reporter. Instead, she kept it all away from her family and fiancé, Dennis (Tony Chung). This week’s Kung Fu episode ‘Hand’ was one of the most entertaining yet heartbreaking episodes of television that completely broke me in the end. 

The episode was written by Kathryn Borel, who is familiar with the topic firsthand from her former job at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The subject was beautifully handled through the competent and brilliant writing and acting. It was completely heartbreaking to see Dang harboring this secret from everybody, including the man she’s set to marry, who is a complete dreamboat. During the Chinese tradition of the ‘Bride Price’, when confronted with the idea of a prenup from Dennis’ parents, Althea connected it to her self-worth, which is already stretched thin by the idea of her perpetrator getting away with assault. Her outburst was completely called for and yet still tragic. “I’ve been told I have nice curves for a Chinese girl,” Althea shouted. “Why am I negotiating? The object never has a say at what she’s worth.” Dang’s performance as Althea struggling to mask the pain when she was triggered by her pink jumpsuit and the text message from the reporter felt so raw and so real. When Althea revealed everything to Nicky (Olivia Liang) at the end of the episode, Borel’s words reflect the struggle that many women face when it comes to sexual assault and being paralyzed by self-doubt. “So he made a little mistake,” said Althea. “You can’t ruin someone’s reputation over a mistake.” Borel also captures the fear that many survivors feel when coming forward. It would make what happened to her all too real. “I know how that woman feels,” Althea said about the other woman he targeted. “I have the power to make her [and] others not feel so scared if I just spoke out, but I can’t. I can’t do it.” Borel also did right by Nicky, who would usually want to be the hero, by having her just listen to her sister. It just felt so cathartic as a viewer to have Althea talk and Nicky validate her feelings and not offer solutions.

Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen (Image: The CW)

(Image credit: The CW)

Aside from this topic, the rest of the story was also really great, which contained more romance, digging deeper into the mythical mystery, and more than one fight scene. As I said time and time again, the series is best when it focuses on the family. There was no character of the week for Nicky to save; instead, the episode focused on finding Zhilan (Yvonne Chapman) and the pieces she’s looking for. Nicky working with Henry (Eddie Liu), who we find out has a shady past, just revealed more of what we wanted for her--a legit love interest. Nicky and Henry act on their attraction after performing a heist together, which was pretty cute to watch Henry talk more Chinese history nerd knowledge. Nicky wasn’t the only one to earn a new boyfriend, as Ryan (Jon Prasida) was finally allowing himself to fall for someone. We did meet Joe (Bradley Gibson) last week, but it looks pretty serious now. I was a bit irked to not see them kiss, especially when Joe takes Ryan to another room for a romantic moment. The episode got to see a kiss between Nicky and Henry, so why didn’t we get one between Ryan and Joe? It’s okay to have two men kiss on television. It’s 2021. Come on, The CW.

As for the martial arts, Nicky battled a Kung Fu thief named Razor (Donald Sales) who works for the highest bidder. The two fought twice in the episode with the first time being two-against-one with Henry and Nicky fighting Razor. After Nicky and Henry track Razor down again, she challenges Razor to a fight for the mythical box that Zhilan is looking for. He agrees, but it really did feel a bit random for the reason for Razor to battle it out with Nicky to be “for honor”, but it was still entertaining. Razor giving out Kung Fu facts as he was fighting Nicky just reminded me of some men in martial arts class trying to explain each move they make to their fellow women students. It felt so satisfying watching Nicky dominate against the cocky antagonist. Of course, it was all for the scabbard that Zhilan is looking for, which Nicky entrusts it to Henry for safe-keeping, which symbolizes her trust in him.

All in all, it was a pretty good episode that had me going through the emotions of excitement towards Nicky and Henry’s journey towards the swords and each other to the irritation towards Ryan and Joe not kissing to the sadness of Althea’s story. I’m really looking forward to diving even more into the Shen siblings’ storylines next time.