Kung Fu – Season 1 Episode 1 Recap & Review


Episode 1 of Kung-Fu begins with a good old fashioned dollop of exposition. In other words, welcome to CW’s brand new show. Nicky Shen is our protagonist and she’s been living in Yunnan Province for 3 years.

She decides to ditch town, especially with her Mum trying to get her to marry. Well, Nicky manages to stowaway on a truck and makes her way to Pei-Ling who runs the local monastery. In fact, this monastery seems to be exclusively for women to hone their skills. Nicky’s mentor tells her she needs to make peace with her family, setting up a spiritual journey to come.

That night, raiders attack the monastery. Nicky and the other girls fight back, desperate to find Pei-Ling. Instead, their leader runs into the fearsome Zhilan, who happens to be the leader of this pack. Fighting against her Shifu, Pei-Ling falls to Zhilan’s sword. In her dying breath, she tells Nicky she needs to stop her (Zhilan.)

Nicky confronts the villainous mistress but it’s all too much. She kicks Nicky off the edge of the cliff and walks away. Thankfully Nicky survives by holding onto the ledge and making it back to safety.

Defeated, Nicky returns to San Francisco after a fruitless search for Zhilan. Her Father is pretty happy to see her and Althea, Nicky’s sister, is on the verge of getting married to mathlete Dennis. Mei-Li meanwhile, is not happy about seeing her daughter. As she so eloquently puts it, “My daughter died 3 years back.”

Nicky shows up to see her ex Evan, using the same key he gave her 3 years back. She apologizes for her absence but gets straight to the point. She wants to use Evan’s connections to try and find Zhilan. Only, this hits a serious roadblock when Evan’s girlfriend Sabine shows up.

Walking off alone and defeated, Nicky heads down a back alley where she finds her Father has been assaulted. Thankfully they rush him into hospital where he awakens after surgery. Nicky immediately believes this is connected to Zhilan and sets to work trying to figure out how. Well, as we soon find out, Nicky’s Father is actually at the mercy of loan sharks who need him to pay up in 72 hours or be forced to hand over the restaurant.

Nicky’s investigation leads her to a boy (possible future love interest?) called Henry, where Nicky engages in some light banter and flirting. She mentions the sword, which apparently has a long history dating back to an ancient dynasty. However, Nicky holding the sword did leave an engraving in her hand which could be the clue she needs to figuring out what’s going on.

Nicky starts asking around the community, specifically in Cindy’s shop about her ties to the crime boss Tony Kang, the man whom Nicky’s Father owes money too. This soon culminates in a brawl out in the street, as Nicky and Henry work together to take the two goons out.

Back home, Mei-Li finds out and immediately berates her daughter. As she walks away silently, Nicky throws out a pretty inappropriate joke, destroying any built up tension.

Cindy eventually shows up and agrees to help, prompting the gang to start knuckling down and working together. Evan believes they should call the authorities but the rest of the team think they should handle this themselves.

Nicky figures out where Tony’s base of operations is located and heads there with the gang. A big fight with a seriously cheesy pop song ensues, as Nicky and co. saves the day just as the police show up.

With the case solved for now, Nicky heads home to celebrate. Well, Henry shows up with more news surrounding the sword. Apparently legend has it that if someone can collect all 8 ancient weapons then their powers will be unlocked and become all-powerful. Nicky believes this is her destiny and sets to work thwarting Zhilan’s threat before it’s too late.

The Episode Review

Anything with the “CW” branding on has a certain reputation for being cheesy, cringy and cookie cutter quality. There are a few rare exceptions of course, but Kung-Fu is not one of them.

The show not only brushes over true Asian culture and authenticity, it actually slaps it straight in the face with some generic teen pop songs for fight sequences on both sides of the globe.

Generally pilot episodes tend to go all out to entice people in and hook viewers but if this is a sign of things to come, it doesn’t look good. In a time where we’ve had Warrior, Cobra Kai and Wu Assassins, Kung-Fu is a really poor, pale attempt at cashing in on the martial arts craze.

CW shows do generally tend to have a low bar but even by CW standards, this one doesn’t have a lot to go on. Hopefully it can pick up over the coming weeks, and the ancient weapons hook definitely has some promise. Beyond that though, this is generic and below-average at best.

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Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!


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