“John Chinaman” showcases much better writing in another hour of Cinemax’s consistently improving show.
This Warrior Season 1 Episode 3 recap for the episode titled “John Chinaman” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
My consistent complaint about Cinemax’s Warrior thus far has been the writing, which despite stellar action, a murky sense of place and intriguing sociopolitical commentary has continued to deflate the show a little bit, preventing its messages from sticking and its drama from truly compelling. Not long into “John Chinaman”, the third episode, I was struck by certain noticeable differences in how characters were getting their points across, and a quick trip to IMDb revealed a new name in the show’s credits. Far be it from me to attribute the success of the episode to one individual, but it’s a bit of a coincidence, don’t you think?
Either way, I’m thankful for it. “John Chinaman” dealt with the fallout of Ah Sahm’s arrest and subsequent trial for assaulting random Irishmen, showing the ripples of it affecting not just Ah Sahm but also the Hop Wei tong, the Irish, the police, and Mai Ling. While it spared time for some fisticuffs here and there, the bulk of the episode was devoted to really expanding on the brewing racially-motivated conflict between the Irish and the Chinese, with Leary solidifying himself as a true villain, burning the home of a witness who refused to testify against Ah Sahm with his family still inside. (Of course, the witness failed to testify because Mai Ling and her goons had already threatened the very same family; being married to an Irishman in 1878 San Francisco is dangerous business.)
Father Jun — an excellent Perry Yung — arrived during Ah Sahm’s post-release celebrations to remind him of his loyalties to the tong, after a surprising bit of camaraderie between Ah Sahm and Big Bill ensured he was able to escape the courthouse without suffering the wrath of the mob who were raging about the verdict. And of course, the sexual chemistry continued to build between Ah Sahm and Penelope Blake.
“John Chinaman” sees Warrior not just becoming more confident in its themes and ideas, but also more capable of expressing them forcefully and clearly. It was the best episode yet of a thus far above-average first season, and hopefully a sign of even greater things to come.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.