*This article contains spoilers for the entirely of Warrior Season 1, and Season 2, Eps. 1-4*
“An attack on one of our policemen, in his own home, no less, is an attack on all of us – an attack on law and order itself.” – Mayor Samuel Blake
“If You Don’t See Blood, You Didn’t Come To Play,” is a great example of how to use a historic genre narrative to examine contemporary issues. Perhaps only coincidentally, given how long it usually takes for a television season to be outlined and broken, let alone shot, the fallout of Sergeant Bill O’Hara’s (Kieran Bew) brutal home invasion plays out almost like a hypocrisy-laden, outraged inverse of the in-home killing of Breonna Taylor. The Fung Hai gang have assaulted an officer of the good and just – no matter the circumstances, the “slant eyes” must pay for the crime – as they have slighted those who keep the city safe from immigrant lowlifes.
Chao (Hoon Lee), of course, already seems entirely informed of the situation the next morning, peacefully sitting at Big Bill’s desk, ready with his glad-handing sympathies. Chao is politically savvy enough to see what retaliation might do to the city, and, subsequently, all the industries lining his pockets, urging the department to stand down on their strike back. Bill flips him the bird, essentially, but the stubborn wax is suddenly cleared from the Sergeant’s ears after Chao tells a little white lie: he has evidence Fung Hai leader, Zing (Dustin Nguyen), is the Chinese Sword Killer they’ve long been after. Obviously, audiences (and Bill) know this is more than embellishment, but, were it to be perceived as true by the public, it’d sure be convenient for all parties involved. Chao leverages his “evidence” against the contraband weapons confiscated by the Chinatown squad. Towards the end of the episode, Chao approaches Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng) to help him sell the story by planting her sword and I can’t wait to see how the plan unfolds (probably far from smoothly, but I could seriously watch Hoon Lee eat rice all day and still find it interesting).
Bill finds that local legislators, as well as his superiors, don’t feel the same way about holding back on attacking the Tong though, Buckley (Langley Kirkwood), in particular, reminding Mayor Blake (Christian McKay) that he owes allegiance and favors to certain senators and constituents, and that his stance on the rising immigrant issue is imperative to re-election. This leads Blake to give a statement denouncing the entire race following the home invasion (which includes the quote at the top of the article), spouting about the minority group taking advantage of the country’s “good will.” Blake then instructs Penny (Joanna Vanderham) to cease her business arrangement with the Hop Wei, but the politician’s wife (in name only) counters that, by doing so, he will be losing a whole lot more money than the trouble is worth, having pursued legal council to prevent just such a happening.
At the same time the other member of our bureaucratic White household, Sophie (Celine Buckens), oddly has the biggest arc of the episode (much to this writer’s exasperated chagrin). After Bill sees his family off for protection at the beginning of the hour, the episode takes us on a date to the Banshee, Dylan Leary’s fight-ring pub. Sophie has brought an educated suitor who played Rugby at university for a night out on the town, the clean-cut lad confused as to why she’s chosen this particular establishment. Its no question to the viewer though: she wants to see a cock measuring contest. Watching the bloody bout, her date abhorred by the lack of regulations/ non-existence of a referee, Leary berates and intimates the academic. So, rightfully, he leaves, realizing, Sophie only took him there to validate how much of a “man” the real dude she’s courting is. Cut to the Skinemax scene “Warrior” set up when the characters first laid eyes on one another (in other words, they finally fuck).
Part of my frustration with this storyline is how separate it feels from the agenda of the overall show. Buckens’ presence playing more like a spoiled CW brat than someone actually of the period. There may be some purpose/agenda behind this, as even Leary notes what a “mighty high opinion of herself” she has. There’s also a stand-off between the privileged sister’s about what it means to actually accomplish something in the world rather than live a life of entitlement – so there’s a feminist undertone but the handling has been weirdly concerning. Everything every character says and observes about Sophie’s selfish behavior reads as accurate, and it seems the ending of this episode is meant to acts as some kind of wake up call for her after being shaken by violent trauma. Her tagging along the bootlegging operation with Leary was not going to end well. I wonder where this goes given how much time has been spent investing us in her. Was all this just so she could turn against Leary down the line; further enraging the labor organizer who feels he’s become an outcast in his own country (even though he too hails from across the sea)? After the additional stare down between Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) and Leary (which I will circle back to towards the end of the recap), I remain highly skeptical of Sophie’s prominence in the series.
On the flip side, Ms. Nellie Davenport (Miranda Raison), has become more compelling with each passing hour (although, I am concerned with how much material the show can stuff into its 6 remaining episodes). The highly educated woman makes a trip to Ah Toy’s business, and we learn that she not only speaks Chinese (maybe the only White character to do so, thus far) but her personal venture involves working to build a future for Chinese women in Sonoma Valley. Ah Toy (who has been fairly absent this season) is, at first, cynically dismissive of the ideological notion, but Ms. Davenport persuades her to pay her operation a visit, to see what kind of life she has made for the type of women that usually, inevitably, fall into her line of work, thankless sex work.
Ah Toy also comes face to face with Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) for (surprisingly) the first time in this episode – an hour that features no fewer than 4 classic Western feeling stand-offs. Mai Ling continues to be overly generous with her investment opportunities, forcing her way into partnerships with a laundry business in Chinatown. Essentially, she’s taking over the operation of small business owners in order to expand her Tong reach. “We are warriors, not washers,” Li Yong (Joe Taslim) tells her, disapprovingly, “We are whatever we need to be to survive,” is her response, having lost enough that she will never accept having nothing again. When Ah Toy doesn’t bow out of respect, she is called out by the gang leader, seeding an eventual showdown.
That brings us to Ah Sahm and Leary, who finally introduce themselves to each other, face to face, following their sooty foundry tussle in the first season’s finale. Leary is scoping out Penny’s Steel factory, looking for any sign of weakness. Of course, the pair of fighters each do their share of posturing, Leary reminding him that they have unfinished business to attend to and a rematch is coming. Considering how drawn out their rivalry has become, I expect the rematch won’t occur until the finale, the two sibling love interests somehow wrapped up in their bareknuckle quarrel.
Prior to this exchange Ah Sahm has a close encounter in Penny inside the factory, amusingly shifting into a faux broken-English accent when a white worker walks in on their conversation. Like his feud with Leary, I don’t expect their relationship to fully rekindle until the back end of the season (one of the most frustrating telegraphed things about modern TV); the writers keep reminding us not to forget about how important they really are to each other. Outside the above developments, other actions of note in the episode includes a scene where Young Jun’s (Jason Tobin) crew berate the new hatchet man Hong (Chen Tang) over his choice of sexual partners. Young Jun disciplines the ignorant bullies, as fucking with the reputation of one man equates to fucking with the Hop Wei itself. The hour concludes with Officer Richard Lee giving in to his painful opioid addiction, finding his way to a pipe and pillow in the back of Ah Toy’s establishment. Rosalita Vega (Maria Elena Laas) is absent from all the shifty proceedings this week, but I expect her prominence to start rising soon, as the show has to be inching closer to the martial arts tournament previously mentioned, “If You Don’t See Blood, You Didn’t Come To Play,” foreshadowing it further with a bō staff street performer during the Mai Ling/Ah Toy exchange.
*NEW EPISODES OF WARRIOR AIR FRIDAYS @ 10 PM EST ON CINEMAX*