It’s really starting to hit the fan now. As Cinemax’s Warrior heads towards the middle of its second season, the relationships are starting to fall apart, and new ones are developing. Season 2, Episode 4, titled, “If You Don’t See Blood, You didn’t Come to Play,” was light on action, but heavy on emotion, reinforcing that this show is really a drama focused series that just happens to also have some incredible martial arts. Spoilers below!
Reminder that my recaps are not in order of how the story was told in the episode, and instead I focus on the stories of the major players.
We have to start with the police since last episode ended with the Fung Hai trying to put a hit on Big Bill O’Hara and his family. Lee stands watch as Bill makes arrangements to have his family taken to safety. As they leave, Bill’s wife is furious and tells him not to look for them. After, Bill admits to Lee that he’s been working for the Fung Hai for 11 months and when they attacked Lee back in season 1, it was to send Bill a message. Lee’s not thrilled. Bill’s gambling addiction has truly cost him everyone he cares about. Kieran Bew was incredible in this episode and his emotional performance really makes you feel for Big Bill. I really didn’t expect to care for Bill when Warrior first started. What a great character arc he’s having.
Later, the San Francisco police are loading up to exact revenge of the Fung Hai, but Chao shows up telling Bill that the Fung Hai are expecting it and Zing is in hiding. Chao promises that if they wait 2 days, he can make sure Zing is not only present, but there will be proof to pin the Chinatown murders on him.
Lee is in a bad place and eventually ends up at Ah Toy’s brothel. She notices him and offers to take care of him, but she realizes what he really needs is some pain management and takes him to enjoy her other offering – opium. It’s kind of amazing how perfectly Ah Toy is able to play the role of helper and exploiter at the same time. Olivia Cheng is simply amazing as Ah Toy.
Sophie Mercer plays a big role in this episode, though little of it makes you care for her character. She and Leary get hot and heavy and then talk about whether he’s targeting Mercer Steel. He says it’s on their list, but because of the Hop Wei protection, it’s a low priority. Later, in some special interest action, Sophie argues with her sister Penny about the latter’s use of Chinese labor instead of Irish labor. Penny berates Sophie for being a spoiled brat with nothing to offer, causing Sophie to run to Leary to prove her wrong by helping him bomb her family business. That doesn’t sound like an absurdly stupid plan at all. Leary actually tries to talk her out of it, but she insists because…well because she’s a spoiled brat who got yelled at.
For most of the episode Leary is just the rough street dude that gets Sophie excited, but he has a great scene where he walks up to Mercer Steel to confront Ah Sahm. This is the first time the two have been face-to-face since the season 1 fight. They have a weighty exchange, where Leary tells Ah Sahm that this country is for Americans, and the Chinese will never be American. “You don’t belong here. Your kind never will,” Leary says. Ah Sahm tries to goad Leary into a rematch there on the street, but Leary walks away for the time being. Andrew Koji said in our interview that he and Dean Jagger, who plays Leary, are very close, and their personal chemistry really elevates their shared scenes.
Speaking of Koji, this episode is a bit of a reunion tour for Ah Sahm, who tells Penny Blake that he has big plans. The two finally have a brief moment of tenderness before they’re interrupted. It’s been almost strange how little chemistry Ah Sahm and Penny have had this season. While that’s somewhat intentional after last season’s fallout, I still don’t buy the two as a romantic couple.
The Hop Wei overall don’t do much in this episode, which might be the first time that’s the case in the whole series. We get a great scene where one of the fresh off the boat hachetmen is mocking Hong for his sexuality. Young Jun overhears this and laughs along for a moment, before bashing the guy’s head repeatedly on the table. “You f*ck with him, you’re f*cking with me!” Young Jun screams almost joyfully. That’s the only scene with Young Jun we get in this whole episode, which should be a sin, but it was possibly the best scene of the hour. Jason Tobin has some Joe Pesci in him.
Mai Ling is busy laying the foundation to prevent Buckley or anyone else from shutting her down. Li Yong sets up a meeting for her with a local Chinatown business in need of a loan. He had promised the business owner that a loan was possible, but instead Mai Ling decides to take 40% of the business. Yet again, Li Yong’s word and reputation are undermined by Mai Ling. I’m really dying to know what Chao’s secret plan is from last episode, but regardless, it’s clearly going to get ugly soon. Li Yong doesn’t punch anyone in the throat this episode, which automatically docs the episode some points. Later, Mai Ling reconnects with the investigator she hired as insurance against Buckley. He’s still working on it but teases that there are rumors of a compromising photo. I assume that has to do with the shoe-horned in scene we got last episode of Buckley giving a prostitute a bath.
Ah Toy finally comes face to face with Mai Ling during a martial arts demonstration that the two attend. Actresses Olivia Cheng and Dianne Doan are so close personally that I didn’t even realize that their respective characters hadn’t interacted until now. There’s clearly some subtext between the two, as Ah Toy attempts to leave before Mai Ling calls out to her. Mai Ling asks why Ah Toy didn’t greet her, wondering if Ah Toy thinks she’s too good for Mai Ling. Ah Toy takes a moment, but apologizes for any perceived slight and bows respectfully. Cheng and Doan look incredible in this scene as the costume department has really leveled up their looks, and much like Koji and Jagger, I think Cheng and Doan’s friendship greatly elevates this moment.
Later Chao comes to Ah Toy and asks for her help in setting up Zing. If he’s going to pin the Chinatown murders on Zing, he needs Ah Toy’s blade. This is a dangerous game he’s playing and Ah Toy knows it. There’s no chance this gambit actually pays off and you have to wonder if Zing’s going to take it out on both Chao and Ah Toy. Of course, I’m sure Zing has no idea that Ah Toy can hold her own in a fight and is also a card carrying member of the Chinese Avengers. Chao also asks Ah Toy to help him seemingly kidnap his daughter. That scene is quick and unclear, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon. Later, Ah Toy sends one of her girls to go live with Davenport, who apparently takes them to live and work on her property in Sonoma. Davenport invites Ah Toy to come see it as well so that she can see what other options are out there for women. There’s so much weird white savior and slavery subtext here that I’m a bit concerned at how this storyline will play out. At least both Ah Toy and Chao are enjoying much-deserved development this season and the two are incredible in every scene they share.
The episode ends with whiny Sophie leading Leary and his men through some secret tunnels so they can blow up Mercer Steel. Again, she’s going to literally blow up her family business because her big sister yelled at her. The men are intercepted by the Hop Wei guards, but Leary takes them out. The bloody fight shakes Sophie, who runs back home after the explosion and cries next to her sleeping sister.
The Drama – As I mentioned above, Warrior really is a drama focused show, and this episode is one of the prime examples. It was very light on action, but Hoon Lee, Kieran Bew, Olivia Cheng and the rest gave some fantastic performances. Everyone has plans this season and they’re all starting to come together. It’s going to be exciting to see which ones work out and which ones fall apart.
Sophie Mercer Storyline – This is no criticism of Celine Buckens, who plays Sophie Mercer, but I’m really unmoved by Sophie’s whole storyline. Maybe there’s a redemption arc coming, but so far she’s nothing more than a privileged, immature, and worst of all, annoying character who’s running after Leary for the excitement he represents. It’s really a toss up between Mercer and Buckley for the “Not You Again” award of the season.
The scene between Ah Sahm and Leary reminded me how Asian-Americans are facing increased racism during the COVID-19 pandemic. Leary tells Ah Sahm that no matter what they do, what kind of fancy clothes they wear, they’ll never be “American.” Sad how true that statement is in the eyes of some people even in 2020.
RATING – 3.5/5
Lots of drama but way too light on action for a show like Warrior.
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.