Warrior season 2, episode 1 recap – “Learn to Endure or Hire a Bodyguard” still kicking

October 5, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
HBO, TV Recaps
3.5

Summary

“Learn to Endure or Hire a Bodyguard” kicks off the second season with mostly more of the same, but some hints that maybe we’re going to move in a slightly more fanciful direction.

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3.5

Summary

“Learn to Endure or Hire a Bodyguard” kicks off the second season with mostly more of the same, but some hints that maybe we’re going to move in a slightly more fanciful direction.

This recap of Warrior season 2, episode 1, “Learn to Endure or Hire a Bodyguard”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous season by clicking these words.


Well, of course, it opened with a fight scene.

Cinemax’s Bruce Lee-inspired original series Warrior is about fighting in ways that are obvious and ways that aren’t; it loves itself some fisticuffs just for the fun of it, but that very martial art-y idea of self-reflection and learning from one’s mistakes is threaded through most of the character and story development, too. This is probably why Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) keeps flashing back to his whooping at the hands of Li Yong (Joe Taslim) last season as he takes on his hulking opponent in the Barbary Coast Fight Pit. As his new manager Rosalita Vega (Maria-Elena Laas) reminds him, he isn’t fighting for money, since Hop Wei look after their own. What exactly he is fighting for is obvious to the audience, if not to Ah Sahm himself.

The problem with Warrior, which you can see a bit in “Learn to Endure or Hire a Bodyguard”, is that it sometimes wants the show to rest entirely on its fight sequences – and they’re not noteworthy enough to support it. They’re not bad, by any means, and in fact, they’re quite good, with nice wide angles and minimal cutting, but they’re not great in the way you sometimes feel they need to be. That might come with time, or the other bits of business might improve enough that you notice less. We’ll see.

But you can see how Warrior Season 2 is very much a direct continuation rather than any kind of reinvention, using the worldbuilding legwork of the freshman outing as a springboard for some more fanciful elaboration on the setting and style. New characters such as the aforementioned Rosalita and Sophie Mercer (Celine Buckens) are fun mostly for how they shake up established dynamics. We see the latter interact with Dylan Leary (Dean Jagger) and, most notably, Mayor Samuel Blake (Christian McKay) and his wife Penelope (Joanna Vanderham). Samuel is clearly driven mad by Sophie, but her youthful idealism, admittedly born of entitlement, is a promising character trait for shaking up the status quo.

That’s the theme of “Learn to Endure or Hire a Bodyguard”. The balance is a constant push-pull between making sure things stay the same to allow for change to be worked on behind the scenes. You see this with a strikingly-outfitted Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng) and Ah Sahm; the latter wants to take extracurricular vengeance on a new gang called the Teddy Boys, while the former is worried about the attention that’ll bring to their exploits and the price that’ll have to be paid for it. Idealism and pragmatism continue to be at war in this period San Francisco, although admittedly now it’s beginning to resemble a more fantastical version of history than the one you might read about in a book.

These changes are small and mostly cosmetic, but they give Warrior season 2, episode 1 a slightly different vibe than the first season. Those who’re more buttoned-up, like Ah Sahm and Bill O’Hara (Kieran Biew), are also stuck in place more; poor Bill is still working as Zing’s (Dustin Nguyen) debt collector, using money taken from him to buy steak for his family, which doesn’t go unremarked upon by his wife, Lucy (Emily Child). The more extravagant costuming of Ah Toy and Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) is representative of bigger, bolder positions, a metaphor for power. Ah Toy’s power is sexual, Mai Ling’s is more traditional – when she balls out by buying all the fruit from a vendor’s stand so his sick wife can go to the doctor, she’s making a point of wielding it for the good.

The midpoint fight scene, during which Ah Sahm, Ah Toy, and Lau (Jenny Umbhau) make mincemeat of the Teddy Boys while they attempt to lynch a Chinese man for no reason whatsoever beyond the usual race-related ones – he took their jobs! He raped their women! – is a better scrap than the Pit fights that bookend the episode. It plays more to Warrior’s strengths. It’s bloodier and crazier and lets Koji and Umbhau show off more without overuse of obvious “this is a stunt performer” shots. It also helps kick the plot into gear, since O’Hara and Lee confiscate Wang Chao’s (Hoon Lee) illegal weapon cache to try and force him into giving up the swordsman, which he later discusses with Ah Toy, not best pleased about matters. See? Push and pull. Everyone has a secret they need to be kept, that at least one other person knows.

This is a pretty teasing framework on which to build a second season, and this premiere, while not great on its own terms, gives off a sense of escalating chaos that suggests it’s teeing up much more exciting things to come. Some small development is made by the time we return to the Barbary Coast Fight Pit, where Ah Sahm wins more easily, and slightly opens up about his motivations to Rosalita; as he begins to understand what he’s looking for, he’s becoming more focused and dangerous. It isn’t a complicated metaphor, but it’s a nice way of tying the choreography into character development.

Here’s to hoping that the whole thing steps up a level as we get deeper into the season. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of potential here.


Thanks for reading our recap of Warrior season 2, episode 1, “Learn to Endure or Hire a Bodyguard”. For more recaps, reviews, and original features covering the world of entertainment, why not follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page?

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