“Silence” turns Nicky into a vigilante as the overarching narrative takes a back seat, and her family situation becomes even more complicated.
This recap of Kung Fu season 1, episode 2, “Silence”, contains spoilers.
Of all the things I was expecting from Kung Fu after its surprisingly good pilot, morphing into a case-of-the-week vigilante drama wasn’t exactly at the top of the list. Not that there’s any real sense that this is what Kung Fu will actually be long-term, but it’s certainly what “Silence” was, almost to the degree that I forgot about the overarching plot altogether until Nicky made a major breakthrough in it.
At least the family drama isn’t neglected – not entirely, anyway. Kung Fu episode 2 opens with Nicky besieged by dreams, one of which includes her family being so nice to her that it’s immediately suspicious. Of course, in reality, we know that her tiger mother has been far from welcoming, and “Silence” runs with that idea; we also know, thanks to the other dream, that Nicky simply can’t move on from her quest to find Zhilan after what happened at the monastery. This is what leads her to be sat on a bench at 6 am waiting for Evan to jog by – not at all like a “creepy stalker ex-girlfriend”, as she insists – and also what will undoubtedly complicate her efforts at re-entering a complex family from which she has been absent for several years.
And the family is more complex now than it perhaps ever was. Althea is making wedding preparations. And Jin might be dying, for all he knows, since he refuses to attend his routine check-ups. This would be a lot to handle even if Nicky wasn’t also concerned with Zhilan’s mysterious pendant – which she draws entirely from memory and shows to Henry at the Community Centre – and the fact her own martial training is falling by the wayside because of all this sleuthing.
Kung Fu episode 2 makes a point of how difficult it is for Nicky to train, or center herself, given all the chaos around her. While trying on dresses with Althea, she has to worry about not just her sister getting married but being able to cover the stab wound from the monastery attack – and there’s no doubt that Althea’s suspicious private call hints at further trouble to come, which Nicky will no doubt have to sort out. When she can find a minute to get some reps in, she ends up intervening in what looks like a robbery – a man, armed with a gun, harassing a girl. Nicky disarms the guy smoothly, but the girl flees, leaving behind enough belongings for Nicky to trace her to a homeless shelter where she learns that the girl’s name is Ronda (Amanda Fix) and that the gun was to scare off her mother Carmen’s (Debbie Podowski) abusive boyfriend Derek (Link Baker).
Ronda and Carmen have been at the mercy of Derek ever since they were forced to move in with him following Carmen being laid off due to injury, and he immediately started controlling all their finances. When Ronda confronted him he threw her out, simple as that, and Nicky is naturally touched enough by the story that she’s willing to not only impart some aged kung fu wisdom but take her back to the Shen house.
Between taste-testing cakes, arguing over who told who what, Althea’s cybersecurity expertise, and the fact that Nicky was a pre-law student and not just an expert in face-punching, the Shen household is a warren of plot contrivances, but thankfully everyone involved remains personable enough for this to not be too much of a detriment. Nicky puts together an action plan for Ronda and Carmen, which is to temporarily turf Derek out of his own apartment so that they can square away some legal matters and file a restraining order against him – she (literally) twists Derek’s arm into agreeing to the terms, but before there’s a chance to make them official, he clears out Carmen’s bank account and tries to gamble it all away on underground poker.
The backroom poker game is the setting for the Big Action Sequence™ of Kung Fu season 1, episode 2 since Nicky rolls in trying to alert the staff to the fact that Derek is playing with stolen money and has to fight off the goons who try to escort her out when nobody cares. It’s a solid sequence, all things considered, and it has the intended effect of scaring Derek into playing ball. But it also leaves Jin high and dry, since he was hoping to continue his game of Go with Nicky that has been in progress since before she left. He kept the board out for a good while, according to Mei-Li, and then one day just put it away without a word. To make amends, Nicky starts a new game with him the next morning, symbolic of a fresh start and the fact she’ll be sticking around from now on.
The development of the overarching plot feels like a bit of an afterthought in “Silence”, but with help from Evan and Henry, Nicky discovers that Zhilan and Pei-Ling were sisters, members of one of the bloodlines tasked with protecting the eight fancy-pants mythological weapons, of which the sword was one. She’s headed to Singapore, to track down a professor named Winston Chau, who is an expert in such matters. I wonder where we’re going next week?