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‘Kung Fu’ Premiere recap: Nicky Shen Stops Running and Finds Her Power

‘Kung Fu’, Episode 1×01, “Pilot” aired on April 7, 2021

“I’m a Warrior!” Sorry! The hook for that song has been echoing in my head for days as we’ve counted down to the premiere of this much anticipated series. Nicky and portrayer, Olivia Liang, both step into their power tonight’s premiere episode in the biggest way possible. The new series takes an old fan-favorite show and sets to right an old wrong by centering this series around our badass female protagonist, Nicky Shen and her community. The show’s arrival is timely and empowering given the recent horrifying attacks on the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

The series boasts a strong cast, fantastic fight scenes, and a mystery that pulls you in from the very beginning. If you haven’t watched the series premiere yet, stop reading right now and go watch. Otherwise, read on for this full episode recap of 1×01, “Pilot”.

Realigning Broken Connections

Three years ago, Nicky was on the path of her mother’s dreams. She was one month shy of graduating from Harvard and unknowingly on a matchmaking tour of China. That’s right! Her very involved mother disapproved of the guy Nicky happened to be in loved with and thought it was totally cool to set our girl up. This turned out to be the last straw. Up to that point, Nicky had spent her entire young life following the path set by her mother, Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan).

Nicky makes a run for it and finds a place of peace in a Shaolin monastery with mentor, Pei-Ling (Vanessa Kai). Three years have gone by and Nicky has become a skilled fighter under Pei-Ling’s guidance, but she’s still running away from the mess she left behind. 

You must find peace with your family.

Not long after that conversation with Pei-Ling, the older woman is murdered by an assassin. Nicky initially gives chase wanting to avenge her mentor and retrieve a stolen sword with some interesting properties. What was up with the sword reacting to Nicky’s touch? The hilt burns symbols into the young fighter’s palm. 

Missed You…Maybe?

Her search for answers lead her back to the life she left behind. It immediately becomes apparent that while Nicky spent the last few years trying to find herself, life moved on without her. She pays a visit to her old love, Evan (Gavin Stenhouse). Sure she asks for his help to find her Pei-Ling’s killer, but she also apologizes for just dropping out of his life. Sure she sent a letter telling him that she needed time to find herself, but she gives him a look that makes it seem as if she’s still interested. Of course his new girlfriend arrives right then. Guess, Nicky won’t be just letting herself using the hide-a-key anymore. There are no bitter exes here though and it’s apparent that Evan is close to Nicky and her siblings. High school and college boyfriend before her break? 

Kung Fu — “Pilot” — Image Number: KF101a_0555r.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Jon Prasida as Ryan Shen, Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen and Eddie Liu as Henry Yan — Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Personally, I’m already shipping Nicky with history buff and Tai Chi instructor, Henry (Eddie Liu). We’ll get back to him in a bit. First, let’s talk family reunions. Reconnecting with her family gets a lot more complicated than her initial contact with her former bae. Her dad, portrayed by the amazing Tzi Ma is all too happy to welcome his daughter home. Her sister, Althea (Shannon Dang) is over the moon that her big sis is back and right in time for wedding festivities. It’s her Mom and brother, Ryan (Jon Prasida) who appeared most hurt by Nicky going “Ghost” for 3 years. 

Sure, Ryan rejecting that hug had to hurt, but Mom with the “my daughter died three years ago” bit was brutal. Althea immediately won my heart and devotion with her response that Mom’s reaction could’ve been worse. Nicky briefly confronts her mother about her controlling ways. Mei-Li wants to know why her daughter never said anything if she felt so miserable about her life. The conversation doesn’t end well and Nicky runs away. Again.

Some Kind of Trouble

She doesn’t go far this time around and it doesn’t take long before Nicky realizes that her community is facing a huge problem. She arrives at the family restaurant and finds her father being assaulted. This is after she saw him with a bruised eye that he excused by saying he fell off a ladder. She finds out that her father is being harassed due to a loan her mother took out from local Triad member,  Tony Kang. The restaurant was in trouble and they needed the money.

Now Kang has doubled their debt and the family has days to pay up or Kang’s men will kill Mr. Shen and take over the restaurant. Nicky teams up with her siblings and Henry to find out other business owners in the community are facing the same situation with Kang. Enter Kang’s thugs and Nicky’s siblings get a front row seat to see the badass moves Nicky picked up during her time at the monastery. 

Henry comes in with an assist, but Nicky has the situation more than handled. Seeing the young woman facedown Kang’s men, one of the shop owners agrees to come forward to help build a case against the crime boss for money laundering. The Shen siblings use their collective skills to hack into Kang’s bank accounts and take down Kang by episode’s end.

Walking on Air

Sure, he’s adorable and a badass fighter, but Henry’s super helpful when it comes to helping Nicky learn more about the sword taken from the monastery. He also tries to help her decipher the ancient dialect now burned into her palm after she touched the glowing hilt of the sword. Henry thinks the sword may be connected to Liang Diayu and tells her that the sword was thought to have magical properties.

Kung Fu — “Pilot” — Image Number: KF101a_0361r.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Eddie Liu as Henry Yan and Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen — Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Is it possible that the sword caused that moment Ryan witnesses where he thinks Nicky’s killer finishing move was her literally walking on air? She dismisses the whole thing and says she was able to execute the move from years of practice. 

By episode’s end, Nicky remains on the hunt for Pei-Ling’s killer, but she seems to have found a measure of peace after years of running away from her family. Nicky makes peace with Ryan and Mei-Li. Nicky explains that she wanted to figure out her own path.  Mei-Li asks her daughter to move back home and we’ve come a long way from her saying her daughter was basically dead to her. That is progress.

What did you think of tonight’s series premiere? Which familial bond pulled at you the most? Are you more down for new love (Team Henry) or that first love (Team Evan)? How badass were those fight scenes? How do you think Pei-Ling was connected to her murderer. She did mention her own past of pain, anger, and regret. I’m so in for this season and more. Hit the comments with your favorite lines and moments.

Favorite Lines of the Night:

“Don’t waste time. He won’t be gold forever.” – Tai Chi lady/Captain of Henry/Nicky ship.

“I live for this stuff”– Henry

“You make the path that you live”– Pei-Ling


Kung Fu airs Wednesdays at 8/7C



Cort Robinson

A lover of words and moving pictures, I'm a fangirl from way back. Seriously—I grew up watching Daytime TV from my granny's knee. It was Knots Landing over Dynasty, and BtVS over pretty much everything else. I watch entirely too much television and am quite happy sitting in an empty movie theater on a rainy day. And if we’re talking bromances, there's no bromance quite like the Winchesters. Cort has been writing since she can remember and podcasting for nearly 10 years with @bradzb. Be sure to check us out our "Brad and Cort Talk" interviews and recaps. Also, join in the conversation over at our "Brad and Cort Talk" FB group.

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