Warrior Season 3’s penultimate episode is heartbreaking. This season, the writers have created a story filled with emotional moments, with regret, with revenge, and with resilience. Across the series, each episode digs deeper into each character, their relationships with others, and their growth. Opening with a dramatic fight between Lai (Jenny Umbhau) and Strickland (Adam Rayner), the episode lets you know the pain that the characters are in for over the course of Warrior Season 3 Episode 9, “All of Death is a Going Home.”
Expertly crafted, as a series, Warrior never uses violence and fight sequences for shock and awe. Instead, it opts to use action sequences as an extension of emotional journeys and dialogue between characters. Last episode, we saw Bill fight for the Irish while Yi Long fought to protect the woman he loves but, in doing so, sacrificed a part of himself—a last act of love. And this episode we see Lai attempt to get her revenge on Strickland, only to be left on Nellie’s doorstep. Warrior Season 3 Episode 9 is about death, trauma, and the way everyone handles it.
Whether it’s Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng) breaking down after she cleans Lai’s body, Hong (Chen Tang) experiencing a PTSD episode when he’s hit on by cops in the gay club that Marcel (Telly Leung) sings at, Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) showing her fear of Li Yong despite the fact that he killed his friend for her, or Young Jun (Jason Tobin) giving his father the agency he requests, every bit of this episode is about loss. We see characters lose their loved ones, and we see how that loss and trauma never leave.
Trying to review Warrior Season 3 Episode 9 is a hard task, due in large part to how many stories are evolving within the larger narrative. Mai Ling is one element of the episode, as she deals with the fallout from working behind Li Yong’s back and watching him kill his best friend. In Episode 8, he holds Kong Pak in the water, pained, as Mai Ling stares with tears in her eyes. He protected her, but he gave up a part of himself in the process, knowing his hand was forced by his now-wife.
The fallout of that is that Mai Ling isn’t naive. She knows what she asked of her husband. She knows how much pain he carried, and in that, she’s afraid of him. When Li Yong realizes that despite his devotion, Mai Ling doesn’t trust him, it’s a moment that burns any bridge they had running between them. A small moment in a large episode, it’s sure to impact Mai Ling all the way through the end of the season. She is alone. Truly alone for the first time.
Additionally, we see Hong and Marcel’s relationship come under stress. While the two have always been from separate worlds with different understandings of the people around them, they’ve made it work. In a sea of terrible ends for love stories in Warrior, Marcel and Hong represented joy—down to watching Hong excitedly talk to Young Jun about his boyfriend in the past few episodes. That is until it becomes clear that the gay bar created for everyone to escape doesn’t mean much when you see white men who abuse you being treated as harmless and oppressed.
It’s a moment that highlights how even spaces of joy for those who are marginalized in more than one way can be painful when Hong attempts to fight a white cop who has abused the people of China Town. While both Marcel and Hong are Asian, Marcel has moved from city to city with a found family in a space that accepts him. Hong has fought for his life in the midst of racist attacks and police violence, which often overlap. Warrior often speaks to the present, even as a period piece, and the importance of intersectionality in queer spaces is one way it’s done here in Season 3.
Even with these two emotional beats, Warrior Season 3 Episode 9 goes even deeper as death comes to Ah Toy and Young Jun’s doors. Individually, Olivia Cheng and Jason Tobin have been powerhouses of emotion this season. Two stoic characters who project strength to hold their power, peaking behind the curtain at their vulnerabilities, have always had an impact on the series. But in Warrior Season 3, Ah Toy, specifically, has had everything ripped from her.
In this episode, Ah Toy’s losses conclude with the loss of Lai. In a moment that is much like watching a mother lose her child, it’s painful to see and hear Olivia Cheng’s performance. As a character, there is no one else who has been beaten, aggrieved, or traumatized as much as Ah Toy has been. Cheng’s performance as Ah Toy is Emmy-worthy this season, with a depth and sadness that moves behind her eyes and the slight movements and twinges of pain as she holds Lai and processes yet another loss.
I’m of two minds in this situation. Ah Toy has endured too much and had too much taken from her that, as a character, I question the choices to put one of the female leads through this much. That said, the weight that Ah Toy carries is one that fits the time period. She is the least protected. She’s a madame, a woman, and Chinese. She is moving through the world, as are her girls, even more disadvantaged than the men around her, and even Mai Ling who is protected by her Tong—up until now, at least.
Finally, Jason Tobin as Young Jun delivers a tremendous performance, his best of the series. Last episode, Father Jun’s dementia became more untenable. It’s a process of deterioration that is hard to watch, and that’s what has been captured in the last few episodes as Young Jun cares for his father. He sits with him, tries to keep him safe, and the last episode even put his life on the line in order to settle the man he wants respect and love from.
In this episode, Father Jun asks his son to do the unthinkable—take his life. It’s a stark moment, one where Jun shows his love for his father in the only way that he knows how. Young Jun voices that he’s always wanted his father’s respect, not his power. And now is his moment to get it, by allowing his father to die with agency. Father Jun came to the US after growing up in poverty and was able to die a man of his own making, beholden to no one.
It’s an emotional choice and an emotional exchange that allows Young Jun to finally close out his insecurities and to finally feel like he’s the leader of the Hop Wei. Not because his dad has passed away, but because he finally had his father’s respect. Tobin’s performance is one that is immensely somber but in the latter parts of the episode, one that is at peace. It’s a duality that has resonated through the character across the series, and to see it capped off here is a choice that adds a delicate and intimate narrative beauty for Season 3.
As its penultimate episode, Warrior Season 3 Episode 9 is one of the best that the series has ever aired. It’s thoughtful and heartbreaking. It’s also a culmination of love and choices made over the series, resentments, and struggles all bound into one moment.
“All of Death is a Going Home” is a testament to the ability of the showrunners and writers to create a series that captures the heart of characters to balance large moments of action and genre. In this one episode, there is a funeral, we see relationships end, ta game-changing explosion, and a fast-paced sword fight. There is a little bit of everything that makes Warrior tremendous as a series: emotion, fight choreography, and everything in between.
Warrior Season 3 Episode 9 is streaming now on MAX, with new episodes every Thursday.
Warrior Season 3 Episode 9 — "All of Death is a Going Home"
As its penultimate episode, Warrior Season 3 Episode 9 is one of the best that the series has ever aired. It’s thoughtful and heartbreaking. It’s also a culmination of love and choices made over the series, resentments and struggles all bound into one moment.