'Kung Fu' 1.09 review: Isolation

Isolation ups the drama, but downplays the 'Kung Fu'

Kung Fu -- "Isolation" -- Image Number: KF109fg_0001r.jpg -- Pictured: Yvonne Chapman as Zhilan -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved
(Image: © The CW)

What to Watch Verdict

Lots of character development and emotions being played out, but lacking in the actual kung fu


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    💥Beautiful performances by Olivia Liang, Kheng Hua Tan, and Shannon Dang.

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    💥More character development for the Shen women.


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    💥The one fight scene was a bit disappointing.

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    💥Some plot holes that need to be answered.

 This post contains spoilers for Kung Fu "Isolation"
Check out our last review

It feels like a long break between episodes, but this episode heralding the return of Kung Fu was well worth it. There were so many moments throughout the episode where I found myself screaming in either delight or sadness. From the sexual chemistry between Zhilan (Yvonne Chapman) and Kerwin (Ludi Lin) to Mei-Li’s (Kheng Hua Tan) grief over her missing sister, Kung Fu really stepped it up in the emotions department. 

We last saw Nicky (Olivia Liang) finding out about her Aunt Mei-Xi and her journey to find the missing sword. With her team of sleuths aka Henry (Eddie Liu) and Evan (Gavin Stenhouse), who we find out broke up with Sabine, Nicky is able to figure out what town her aunt was last seen in. Fortunately, and coincidentally, it was within driving distance in Canada, just north of Washington. It made a lot of sense for Nicky to go on this journey alone in the woods to her aunt’s home, which looked pretty well kept for someone who was found to be dead for a few years. I’m surprised Nicky didn’t stay longer to see who was the person who kept the place nice and neat, especially since there were more than just old photos of Mei-Xi’s past. There was a photo of a young man, which looked fairly new, on the bookshelf. Also, who buried her aunt and kept her grave well-tended? Also, it’s 2021. Four years ago was just 2017, which no longer sold tapes and tape recorders, and digital recording was accessible and way easier. But I’m just going to ignore those details and claim that Mei-Xi may have been stuck in the ‘80s since she was so secluded. 

Kung Fu -- "Isolation" -- Image Number: KF109a_0151r.jpg -- Pictured: Vanessa Kai as Pei-Ling Zhang -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

(Image credit: The CW)

I did appreciate the journey for Nicky and how she brought closure for her mother. Someone please give Tan all the flowers for her performance. I felt the pain as she struggled to describe the kind of person her big sister was. Even in the end, when Nicky revealed what happened to Mei-Xi, I didn’t need words to feel the grief as Nicky held onto her mother as she wept. Then adding Althea’s (Shannon Dang) tears as she revealed to Dennis (Tony Chung) about her sexual assault just threw me into a loop. Liang, Tan, and Dang’s performances were the highlight for the episode, especially as they were dealing with their own traumas. As much as I hate the focus to be on trauma and grief, the actors did their part in having the audience feel their struggle as well. I just hope we do see more joy from them.

As for the others, it did feel a bit awkward to have both Henry and Evan join Nicky on her adventure, but it was also great to see them bond. I understand it’s to make it more challenging for the fans of the series for Nicky to choose between the two, but it doesn’t make it less awkward. I like that Henry and Evan both have strong feelings for Nicky, but in the end, it is up to her. It’ll just be heartbreaking to watch because the series makes both of the guys very likeable. Of course, Nicky could choose herself in the end and leave the two in the dust because she’s got a destiny to fill.

Kung Fu -- "Isolation" -- Image Number: KF109fg_0002r.jpg -- Pictured: Ludi Lin as Kerwin -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

(Image credit: The CW)

When Kerwin was first introduced, I was excited to see him paired with Zhilan as the two are extremely attractive, rich villains. It’s surprising to see Zhilan so easily bed the billionaire heir and not end up stabbing him in the back like a praying mantis killing her mate. It’ll be interesting to see how they both will peel the layers--pun intended--off each other and how they will work as a team. Both cannot be trusted, but it’s incredibly sexy to watch them interact.

Kung Fu -- "Isolation" -- Pictured (L-R): Eddie Liu as Henry Yan and Gavin Stenhouse as Evan Hartley -- Photo: The CW

(Image credit: The CW)

The fight scene this week was pretty weak as we only saw Nicky, Henry, and Evan brawl with a couple of drunk men at a bar. I wish we got to see more of Nicky’s moves, especially with the pool stick. It would have been also nice to see Zhilan and Kerwin playfully fight as it would make sense for them with all that pent-up aggression. Hopefully we will see that next week.

Overall, the episode was great in character development for the Shen women. But the series is also called Kung Fu, so I do hope to see more skill shown as the series goes on. I don’t need a large number of fights, but if they’re going to have fights, make them count.

Laura Sirikul

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.