Originally on Cinemax for its first two seasons, Warrior is back, and the only thing that has changed is that it has MAX Original in front of it. A martial arts Western based on the writings of Bruce Lee, the series is set in 19th Century Chinatown. Having come to the United States to find his sister, Ah Sahm is now the right-hand man to a Tong leader, hiding his betrayals in the process and trying to defend his Tong’s turf. Last season saw a bloody riot between the Hop Wei and the Long Zii, the two strongest Tongs, which only stopped when the two sides joined together to fight the police and mob of white people looking to burn Chinatown to the ground after the mayor of San Francisco was assassinated. Warrior Season 3 Episode 1, “Exactly the Wrong Time to Get Proud,” takes place in the chaos and increasing racist oppression after the riot with the white politicians seeing Chinatown as a danger to be disposed of and the Irish factory workers seeing them as the reason for their plight, San Francisco is an increasingly dangerous place for Chinese people.
Warrior Season 3 Episode 1 opens up with a bloody bang. Carrying clear influence from It Comes at Night, a score that beats in sync with the fierce pace of the fighters’ bodies, the Hop Wei and the Long Zii open up the season with the action greatness that has become synonymous with Warrior. Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) opens the season, only for the others to join. Immediately showcasing Joe Taslim, Andrew Koji, and Jason Tobin is a bold pacing that kicks so much ass in just one five minutes segment. With elements of the Shaw Brothers, Bruce Lee, and the look and music of Western, I can not describe to you how perfect the opening of Season 3 is. Additionally, with the introduction of the police yet again, it’s clear that as much as the turd war between the two gans will continue, the Ducks (in-series slang for the White people who live in the area surrounding Chinatown) remain the largest enemy.
The crackdown on Chinatown is a result of the Turf War between the Tongs, but at the same time, the Tongs are reacting to the already dire situation that the people of Chinatown are living in. While Bill (Kieran Bew) is bringing a level head to the racist cops looking to open fire on the Chinese people they see as nothing more than menaces. This growing threat from outside of Chinatown forces the high number of Tongs, including the Tong run by Kong Pak (Mark Dacascos) to join forces with the strongest, which for now, remains Mai Ling’s (Dianne Doan) Long Zii in the aftermath of her husband’s death.
At the same time, Young Jun (Tobin) is wrestling with the shadow of his father and the erosion of his authority in a Chinatown shuttered and gutted by the Duck’s restrictions. Unification done in order to survive is a central theme in Warrior Season 3 Episode 1, and sure to grow. Especially as the Irish union-building and its violent aggression toward the citizens of Chinatown, blaming them for the union-busting efforts and capitalist politics, there is a circling happening around Chinatown and Warrior Season 3 Episode 1 builds a tension that will twist until it pops at the end of the season.
Back again is the stellar use of language that switches from Mandarin Chinese in front of the Ducks into English in the actors’ usual speaking voices when they’re alone with their community, and of course the accented English when they’re speaking English to white people outside of Chinatown. Warrior has always captured the complexity of identity through language and experience, especially where first-generation Young Jun is concerned. This season, it embraces it even more as we see Chinatown encroached on by the Ducks.
Chao (Hoon Lee) is a nexus of power and weaponry in this episode and ultimately the way he moves through the world, not accepted by the white people he sells weapons to or the Tongs he does, his calmness in harrowing circumstances is well-manicured with a rage burning behind his eyes. It’s a dance he’s doing and the air of uncertainty that is hanging around his role in the story leaves questions for Warrior Season 3 that you want from a premiere episode.
As a premiere episode, Warrior Season 3 Episode 1 takes the time to reintroduce the characters to the audience. But one of the most shaking reintroductions is Mai Ling’s interactions with white women. While Chao and Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng) speak with accents, Mai Ling doesn’t. She has power within the Tongs as a leader, she works with white men to gain power and influence, and now, with the white women, she’s able to sell her story belittling herself to them, ultimately controlling them. While the Hop Wei are focused on taking control of Chinatown, Mai Ling has her eyes set outside of the area and is playing to the prejudice of white upper-class women in order to use them to her own ends.
Warrior Season 3 Episode 1 is as perfect as a season opener can get. “Exactly the Wrong Time to Get Proud” showcases the ways that the series has embodied the Western genre and the martial arts grindhouse so thoroughly that it has become the standard in both genres in the television medium. If you watched the series before Season 3, you know the standard bearer the series became, but to have it come back after two years, it’s beautiful to see it back.
Warrior Season 3 Episodes 1 – 4 are streaming now on MAX.
Warrior Season 3 Episode 1 — "Exactly the Wrong Time to Get Proud"
Warrrior Season 3 Episode 1 is as perfect as a season opener can get. “The Wrong Time to Get Proud” showcases the ways that the series has embodied the Western genre and the martial arts grindhouse so thoroughly that it has become the standard in both genres in the television medium.