Kung Fu season 1, episode 4 recap – a helping “Hand”

April 29, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Weekly TV
4

Summary

“Hand” delivers the best scene of Kung Fu thus far, as the CW show continues to quietly solidify itself as one of the better shows airing right now.

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4

Summary

“Hand” delivers the best scene of Kung Fu thus far, as the CW show continues to quietly solidify itself as one of the better shows airing right now.

This recap of Kung Fu season 1, episode 4, “Hand”, contains spoilers.


On paper, Kung Fu sounds ridiculous. It’s about a super-smart Ivy League law student who becomes an expert fighter in a windswept mountain monastery and finds herself embroiled in a quest to reunite magical weapons from Chinese mythology. It’s on the CW. This hardly seems like fertile territory for genuinely affecting character drama, and yet here we are with “Hand”, which honestly put a bit of a lump in my throat thanks to the performances of the Shen sisters, Nicky and Althea.

Each week, and really Kung Fu episode 4 is no different, the overarching plot tends to fall by the wayside in favor of more immediate matters, most of them involving the Shen family or some vulnerable San Fran citizen. Case in point: Nicky still needs to figure out the use of the mysterious key that she found in the hidden box in Professor Chau’s office last week, but most attention is focused on an upcoming dinner that Jin, Mei-Li, Althea, and Dennis are to have with Dennis’s wealthy, snooty parents, Diana (Françoise Yip) and Alfred (Ronin Wong).

The significance of the dinner in “Hand” is basically Althea’s self-worth made literal; it’ll determine her “bride price”, which is to say how much money Dennis’s parents will pay for their marriage. It’s a pretty grim practice and it reveals itself as such about as you’d expect, but Althea’s rationalization and justification of this is as much to convince herself as it is a skeptical Nicky, who is predictably down on the idea but has no compunctions about the Western tradition of stalking Henry on social media.

Speaking of Henry, he has news of the key, or at least a box with the same markings referenced in an old Chinese fairytale, and reverse image-searching allows them to trace the puzzle box to an out-of-town hedge-fund manager who has apparently left his home, and the box, unattended. Henry is rather weirdly keen on his breaking and entering idea, which will come up again shortly, but Nicky agrees to go along. Unfortunately, though, one of Zhilan’s goons is a step ahead and swipes the box before they can get a look inside it.

So, anyway, about Henry. Evan, of all people, reveals to Althea in Kung Fu episode 4 that he has previous for – wait for it – breaking and entering and has spent time in juvie, news that he gives her while Henry is suspiciously meeting alone with an “old friend” of his named Randall (Peter Dewhurst). Of course, since we’re doing the whole love triangle thing, Nicky gets a bit annoyed with Evan for his interfering, but she also takes what he says on board and promptly spies Henry exchanging a sculpture he stole from Travers’ house for information about the box. That information points them in the direction of compulsive gambler Razor (Donald Sales), who stole the puzzle box and is having it delivered by courier to his home. Since things are a bit testy between Nicky and Henry by the time they get there, Nicky decides to cut out the middle-man and just offer to fight Razor for a peek inside the box, giving “Hand” its obligatory Big Fight Scene™ and also revealing that the box contains the scabbard for the sword that Zhilan stole from Pei-Ling.

With the mission a success and Nicky’s hand healed by the scabbard’s power, she’s able to hash things out with Henry, who rather inelegantly delivers most of his backstory, which is the usual thing – he was born poor and fell in with the wrong crowd, but he was “saved”, so to speak, by his burgeoning fascination with Chinese history. It’s a compelling enough story that Nicky leans in for a kiss, and there we have it, folks – Nicky has chosen her man. For now, anyway.

Elsewhere in Kung Fu season 1, episode 4, things aren’t looking too great for Althea. She has the dinner to worry about, obviously, but the small matter of her boss being exposed as a sexual abuser hasn’t gone away. When Bridget Ross (Patricia Pemberton) calls to tell her that another employee is willing to go on the record, she thinks she’s off the hook, but no such luck. The story doesn’t run. And to make matters worse, Dennis’s parents rather uncouthly bring up their desire for a prenup, which nobody present, least of all Dennis, is happy about. It’s all too much for Althea, who goes on a tremendous rant at the dinner table and then unburdens herself to Nicky in the best scene of the series so far. Her description of her own abuse, how she felt after, and how she still feels now knowing that the responsibility of exposing her abuser might still rest with her, is heart-breaking stuff. It might have a great line in swords and magic and mythology, but Kung Fu is quietly emerging as one of the better family dramas anywhere on television.

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