After three episodes of setup, the dominoes have begun to fall in Warrior Season 3. The Secret Service has closed in on the Hop Wei, Ah Toy is reeling from losing her life with Nellie, and Mai Ling is pursuing business in the Pond with the increasing threat of loss. In Warrior Season 3 Episode 4, “In Chinatown, No One Thinks About Forever,” our main cast is thrown into hopelessness over what little power they’ve cultivated in Chinatown being ripped from them by Captain Atwood and his police force or other dangerous businessmen or their petty wives. This episode triggers a snowball of events, and it’s thrilling but terrifying to see how the characters’ fates will unfold.
Warrior Season 3 Episode 4 is gutting. Olivia Cheng’s performance as Ah Toy is a firey kind of anger that only comes from pain. She dons her extravagant gowns like armor, taking her place back as a madame but more secure than ever that she can not trust others to protect herself or the women in her community. She is all they have. It’s heartbreaking to see Ah Toy cut off a part of herself, cut off the love she feels for Nellie, but in it, we circle back to the core of the series as we see what each of our main characters sacrifices for survival. They have to survive and, in doing so, aren’t allowed to thrive.
Ah Toy is dealing with a specific type of grief that comes hand in hand with guilt for seeking a life away from her make-up and brothel. She puts on a new face, hiding the bruises on her face and neck. She becomes the Ah Toy she tried to abandon after burying the girls she wanted to save. She can’t allow herself to break, so she rebuilds in the only way she knows how. Working is the only way to push through grief; cladding herself in the armor of beauty she had left behind is the only way to move forward. A thick coat of foundation hiding the pain.
There are elements to Ah Toy’s progression in Warrior Season 3’s story that may seem undue. Still, when you remember that in Westens, revenge after tragedy is almost always the motive, the concerns settle themselves. Cheng is a force as Ah Toy, heartbreaking and strong in one go. After all, “In Chinatown, No One Thinks About Forever.”
While Ah Toy is attempting to hold strong while her world has crumbled, Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) is finally using the skills she’s built up working with the men of the Tongs in the walls of a Duck home. Not to be without fight choreography in an episode, Warrior Season 3 Episode 4 uses a sparring match between Li Yong (Joe Taslim) and Kong Pak (Mark Dacascos) to launch a deeper emotional connection between Mai Ling and Li Yong. Although Mai Ling isn’t in the scene, these included pieces of dialogue allow Li Yong to grow into something more than just a bodyguard but a man deeply concerned with a woman he loves and respects. But his worry foreshadows the increasing danger that Mai Ling thinks she can handle but truly won’t be able to since the Ducks hold all of the power. It’s a reminder that both her gender and her race strip Mai Ling of power she was sure she would never lose.
While the last episode ended with Ah Toy’s life in Sinoma destroyed, this episode’s ending sequences bring trouble to Hop Wei’s doorstep. Holding their dury in, Young Jun (Jason Tobin) instructs the Hop Wei to do nothing but bears the brunt of the assault himself with his irreverence for the new racist police captain. He carries the pain so the trigger-happy cops who came with Atwood (Neels Clasen) don’t hurt his men. Humiliation is throughout this episode. Whether it’s Young Jun being beaten by Atwood while his men watch or Mai Ling fending off the advances of a man who she is supposed to use to gain power, it’s all bad, which makes Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) dishing out violence in a chokepoint of an alleyway all the more satisfying.
Warrior Season 3 has had a fantastic narrative as of right now, and I’ve commented on it in each of the episodes. But what should also be praised is the series’ ability to seamlessly work in large action sequences that keep the martial arts heart of the Western series intact. Nothing feels forced into a mold. Instead, the showrunners, writers, and directors understand how violence can be used to tell a story and how it can be used to speak as much as to show a fight.
In all the somberness of Warrior Season 3 Episode 4, there is also more time with Hong (Chen Tang) as he explores what is essentially a gay bar in San Francisco outside of Chinatown. He gets to see queer intimacy as welcomed and enjoyed in a way that gives him the freedom he doesn’t have in Chinaworn. It’s a small element of the episode but carries a huge weight. There is a push and pull between wanting to be safe in Chinatown, realizing that you won’t be, and longing for something more. This tension between who you are and where you live, or where you have been forced to live and under what circumstances, has been central to Warrior as a series. And this season, there is an increased focus on gender and orientation that allows characters to remove their armor and show a tenderness that helps make them dynamic.
Warrior continues to be a gold standard in storytelling and action. Still, after two gutting endings back to back, as a member of the audience, I’m questioning how much more pain I’ll have to witness before our characters get justice and revenge. But I’m strapped in for this ride and not going anywhere.
Warrior Season 3 Episode 4 is streaming now on HBO Max, with new episodes every Thursday.
Warrior Season 3 Episode 4 — "In Chinatown, No One Thinks About Forever"
Warrior continues to be a gold standard in storytelling and action. Still, after two gutting endings back to back, as a member of the audience, I’m questioning how much more pain I’ll have to witness before our characters get justice and revenge.