Kung Fu

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Emily Clark

TV Series Review

Three years ago, Nicky’s mom sent her to China’s Yunnan Province under the ruse of a “cultural tour.” Turns out, it was actually a matchmaking tour, intended to help Nicky find a Chinese husband.

So, Nicky ran, and she was taken in by Pei-Ling, the shifu (master) of a Shaolin monastery.

Pei-Ling became Nicky’s mentor and guide. She taught Nicky (and the other women taking shelter at the monastery) Shaolin kung fu, helping them each to forge her own path.

But that all changed one night when raiders attacked the monastery. The raiders’ leader, Zhilan, killed Pei-Ling for the sword of Liang Daiyu (a woman from Chinese myth who defended her entire village against raiders while the men were off at war). Legend has it the sword is one in a collection of eight enchanted by an ancient sorcerer. And anyone who possess all eight can unlock their powers. Naturally, these blades are not things you’d want falling into the wrong hands—like those of Zhilan.

Nicky wants to track down Zhilan, but everyone is too frightened to help. So, for now, Nicky will have to return home and figure out another way to avenge her shifu.

Home Bitter Home

When Nicky returns home, her dad and sister, Althea, are delighted to see her. Her mom and brother, Ryan, not so much.

For Ryan, it’s more about the fact that she was the only person who knew he was gay, and he felt abandoned. But Nicky’s mom’s reasons are a little more complex. She’s angry that her daughter was so ungrateful about the sacrifices she made. She’s also sad because she hadn’t heard from Nicky for three years: It  made her feel like Nicky had died.

But regardless of how willing (or unwilling) everyone is to welcome Nicky back, Nicky will still need to prove herself if she wants to protect her family and her community from Zhilan.

Kung Fu Values

Very loosely based on the 1970s show of the same name (and starring David Carradine), Kung Fu comes with the violence that you would expect from any martial arts-themed show. Occasionally we see blood and people die at the hands of bad guys. But for the most part, Nicky doles out justice without permanently harming anyone.

God’s name is misused a few times, but otherwise the show is free of foul language. It’s also free of sexual content, though we do encounter same-sex attracted characters and might see lips meeting in future episodes.

We also get an interesting peak into Chinese culture, which occasionally brings up myths and legends (not to mention some discussion about prejudices against people of Asian heritage).

And of course, there’s the Sword of Liang Daiyu. When Nicky first sees it, it glows. And when she touches it, it burns Chinese characters into her hand. She’s not sure what the enchanted swords will do in the right hands, but in the wrong ones, they’ll cause chaos and destruction.

Some families will want to avoid Kung Fu because of the violence and mythology. But for others, it could be an entertaining way of showing the “warrior woman” from a new cultural perspective.

Episode Reviews

Apr. 7, 2021: “Pilot”

After the monastery where she’s been studying kung fu is attacked, Nicky returns home to San Francisco to mend bonds with her family.

A monastery is set on fire by raiders. Women studying there fight back with kung fu, but a few die. One woman is killed with a sword. Nicky gets a nasty cut from the sword and is thrown off a cliff by the wielder, but she manages to catch herself and climb back up.

Nicky’s dad has a black eye when she first sees him, and she later finds him beaten up and bleeding in an alley. Nicky and her friend fight against thugs carrying weapons. Later, she takes down several other bad guys and knocks one unconscious with a metal pole. A family receives a death threat.

Ryan expresses displeasure at Nicky’s return because he is afraid she’ll leave again. He says he told their parents he was gay but that they were in denial. A couple kisses at their wedding.

We learn about a Chinese legend involving swords enchanted by a sorcerer. Chinese figures are burned into Nicky’s hand when she touches one of these swords. A girl says a fortune teller is coming to her wedding.

Nicky and her mom argue about why she ran away. Nicky imagines conversations with her dead shifu, but it appears these are only in her head. People drink alcohol. People lie. We hear about racial prejudice. We hear a few misuses of God’s name.

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Emily Clark
Emily Clark

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

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