“Guidance” splits its focus between Nicky and Zhilan, and a last-minute revelation upends a lot of what we thought we knew.
This recap of Kung Fu season 1, episode 7, “Guidance”, contains spoilers.
You’ll recall that the previous episode of Kung Fu left Nicky in rather dire straits, collapsed on the ground outside the gala sans dagger after being on the receiving end of a whooping from Zhilan. It’s Evan who finds her in “Guidance”, and in his car – Henry spots her being driven away – she tells him about Pei-Ling and her fears that perhaps she wasn’t who she thought she was. Evan takes her to his family’s for some R&R and a will-they-won’t-they moment that proves we’re not abandoning the Nicky>Evan>Henry love triangle any time soon.
Kung Fu episode 7 finds Nicky at her lowest point. She’s snooty to the apparition of Pei-Ling she previously found solace in, and she’s disillusioned with her mission of racing Zhilan to various mythological artifacts. Now seems as good a time as any, then, to delve into Zhilan herself, and “Guidance” explores her backstory somewhat, beginning when she arrives in Guizhou, China, and starts having flashbacks triggered by old belongings. In childhood, she was taken care of by Pei-Ling and her father, Yibo (Ron Yuan), who drew the same symbols on a piece of paper than eventually ended up being branded on Nicky’s hand. His faith in sickly Zhilan’s “strength” even while she’s ill is worrying but not entirely surprising.
Thanks to the beating she took, Nicky is to avoid any strenuous activity for a couple of weeks, which is a problem since she seems to get into fights everywhere she goes and has two men who can’t wait to train with her, so to speak. Case in point: Henry has a friend in need whose sister has been seduced by a weird kung fu guru named Master Drake (Gary Daniels), whose Shaolin school Nicky agrees to infiltrate since she’s not the type to sit around feeling sorry for herself.
This is all intercut with more scenes of Zhilan’s personal life and backstory, so “Guidance” takes a two-pronged approach to its lead and chief antagonist, highlighting the similarities – in background and personality – between them, their shared sense of determination and persistence, and so on, and so forth. It’s also a useful way to characterize Zhilan, ensuring we understand that she has a pretty understandable grievance with Pei-Ling.
Drake’s illegal operation is fun in how it points a finger at how predatory martial arts instructors can be, and how susceptible students can be to their ideas and the woo-woo notion that there are hidden schools of martial talent akin to magic that can be unlocked through training and, crucially, slavish devotion to one’s teacher, which is how you get hilarious real-life videos like that “no-touch” master who believed his own nonsense strongly enough to square off against a real fighter and got smacked around like he owed the guy money. But the entire subplot mostly exists to give an injured Nicky an excuse to imperil herself against the advice of everyone for the sake of the greater good, which is classic hero business. Meanwhile, classic villain business with Zhilan, who walls up her uncle to make him reveal the location of the items she’s looking for, particularly a scroll believed to contain the secret to all eight weapons which was sold by her uncle on the night her father died.
You won’t be surprised to learn that Nicky’s climactic face-off with Master Drake is intercut with visions of Pei-Ling and her monastery training, because that’s a classic device if there ever was one, as is the revelation that – dun dun dun! – Nicky is actually a descendent of the first woman warrior, Liang Daiyu, something that Mei-Li has tried to shield her from her entire life. This development means that Nicky is the rightful owner of one of the fabled weapons, which her aunt Mei-Xue, Mei-Li’s sister, ran off to seek years ago. She hasn’t been seen since, and the depth of Mei-Li’s control over Nicky’s life, which comes into more stark focus now than ever, causes Nicky to storm out, appalled and betrayed. Kung Fu season 1, episode 7 ends with Jin asking Mei-Li, “What have you done?”, which seems like a question that’ll probably take a while to answer.