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Series / Kung Fu (2021)

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Kung Fu is a 2021 TV drama that reimagines the original Kung Fu series (and to an extent, to Kung Fu: The Legend Continues) that starred David Carradine by updating the setting from the Old West to the 21st century and setting to the city of San Francisco.

The show is produced by Christina M. Kim, Ed Spielman (who also produced the original Kung Fu series), Greg Berlanti, Martin Gero, and Sarah Schechter. It stars Olivia Liang, Kheng Hua Tan, Tzi Ma, Shannon Dang, Eddie Liu, Jon Prasida, Gavin Stenhouse and Vanessa Kai. It airs on the The CW, and the first episode aired on April 7, 2021.

While on a trip to China, Chinese-American college student Nicky Shen disappeared from public life and retreated to Yunnan Province, where she trained in a Shaolin monastery. When Pei-Ling Zhang, Nicky's Shaolin mentor, was killed by mysterious forces under an unknown criminal named Zhilan, Nicky decides to come back to San Francisco to reconnect with her family and the city's Chinatown community. Seeing what happened to her father after he was nearly killed by Triad 49ers, Nicky decided to put her fighting skills and Shaolin values to good use to defend Chinatown and take on criminals and other bad guys.


Kung-Fu provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: In "Destiny", Althea wears her old cheerleader uniform at her bachelorette party. Shannon Dang was once a cheerleader for the Rams.
  • Ancestral Weapon: The sword of Liang Daiyu was passed down to Pei-Ling through a family of guardians meant to protect it. It's also revealed that Nicky and Mei-Li are the actual descendants of Liang Daiyu and the guardians are just watching over the sword until it can be returned to them.
  • Asian and Nerdy: All three of the Shen siblings qualify. Nicky was a law student before she dropped out to find herself, and was known for having excellent grades in school. Althea is a Techno Wizard when it comes to computers. And Ryan is a medical student.
  • Brand X: The web browser used is Zindle. And the Wikipedia version is called Zindlepedia.
  • Advertisement:
  • Cain and Abel: "Silence" reveals that Zhilan and Pei-Ling were sisters. This was hinted at in the first episode where Pei-Ling tells Nicky she is not the only one with a difficult family. Pei-Ling was Nicky's heroic mentor, and Zhilan the series' main antagonist, who killed her in the opener to steal an ancient sword.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Simon Lau appears to be a self-absorbed pop star brushing off the legends of the weapon and only caring for his own hide. When Zhilan wants his weapons (a spiked ball on a chain), Simon seems ready to give it to her...and instead begins to expertly use it against her as he's been training with it since he was five years old.
  • The Dreaded:
    • "Pilot" mentions a businessman named Tony Kang, who's said to be a prominent businessman with ties to the Triads and Tongs. Rightfully so as Chinatown residents dread hearing his name. And it takes the Shen siblings asking around for two 49ers to go after them as an example.
    • Chinese law enforcement are so scared of Zhilan and her Biange group that when Nicky asks about her, they kick her out.
  • Engineered Public Confession: How Nicky defeats the Corrupt Corporate Executive Villain of the Week at the end of "Patience."
  • Evil Wears Black: Zhilan and her group of bandits wear black when they attack the monastery in the pilot episode.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In "Isolation", Nicky finds the grave of her aunt, who lived alone in the mountains, and wonders, "Who buried you?" Cut to "Transformation", in which Russell Tan reveals Mei Xue had a secret daughter, showing said daughter at her mother's grave.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: The sword stolen from China is said to date back to ancient times and was made by a Chinese shaman. Its use was made prominent in the Tang Dynasty. It's said that it's one of eight enchanted weapons that have gone missing and assembling all eight is said to bring out an incredible power called "Biange."
  • History Repeats: Discussed in "Sacrifice."
    • Mei-Li kept the secret of her warrior heritage from Nicky, which ended up driving Nicky away for three years. Mei-Li's mother kept her own knowledge of their warrior heritage a secret as well, which drove her older daughter Mei Xue to search for answers, never to return. Mei-Li invokes this to convince Po Po to tell Nicky all she knows.
    • Likewise, Nicky realizes the burden of the sword's legacy and the threat of Biange keeps revisiting each generation of her family, and the only way to stop the cycle is to face it and end it.
  • Hollywood Law: In "Sacrifice", Nicky decides to travel to China within a day's time to stop Zhilan. In real life, an American citizen can't just hop the next plane to China (or many other foreign countries) on a whim; they need a visa from the foreign country's government first, a process that typically takes weeks.
  • I Am Spartacus: In "Sanctuary" there's a variation when Joe is about to get arrested for allegedly inciting a riot. Everyone else there claims they've incited riot too. This confuses and delays the cops long enough to uncover a video showing he did no such thing, so they leave.
  • I Have No Son!: Nicky's mom's reaction to seeing her daughter for the first time in three years.
  • In Name Only: While the series shares the same name and basic premise (a Shaolin monk fighting for justice) as the 1972 series, almost everything else about it is different, from the main character's gender and backstory to the time period it's set in.
  • Informed Attribute: In "Isolation", Evan mentions Nikki's awesome woodsmanship skills. A few minutes later, Nikki is confronted by a snarling wolf, and runs from it.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Wearing evening or formal wear does absolutely nothing to hamper Nicky's fighting ability.
  • Light Is Not Good:
    • Zhilan wears a very elegant white outfit in "Rage".
    • Master Drake is introduced wearing white and presents himself as a wise martial arts master. In reality, he is crook who is manipulating his students into participating in illegal fights which he is profiting from.
  • Loan Shark: Tony Kang is involved in many criminal activities. This is the one that brings him into conflict with Nicky.
  • Love Triangle: It looks early on like there might be one between Nicky, her former boyfriend Evan, and her new friend Henry. But Nicky realizes in "Choice" that she wants to be with Henry.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Mei-Li disapproved of Nicky's relationship with the white Evan and sent her on a matchmaking trip to China to find her a Chinese husband. When Nicky found out, she ran away and joined the monastery.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Nicky and Henry end up having spontaneous sex in a library, which she gets teasing comments about later.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • One of the first shots is a grasshopper in a cage, a reference to Master Po's nickname for Caine.
    • Similar to Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Nicky stays in China to train in Yunnan Province at a Shaolin monastery. The monastery Nicky lived/trained in was also destroyed in a fire, albeit due to an armed criminal.
    • Nicky's hesitation to believe in anything supernatural is likely based on Peter Caine's unwillingness to believe in the supernatural after Kwai Chang Caine reunited with Peter.
  • Not So Different:
    • Mei-Li is angry at Nicky for running away to China against her wishes. Nicky later learns that Mei-Li came to the US against her own parents' wishes.
    • In "Guidance", Nicky encounters Master Drake, a martial arts teacher who manipulates his students into unregulated cage fights due to their cult-like admiration of him. She wonders if her own devotion to Pei-Ling, taking her side in a conflict she barely understands, makes her any different.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: Zig-zagged. The sword of Liang Daiyu burns Nicky when she tries to hold it, despite Nicky being a direct descendant of Liang Daiyu. It does not appear to burn Zhilan. The markings from Nicky's burn, however, reveal the location of the Forge, suggesting that Nicky was meant to find and wield Biange.
  • Outlaw Couple: Zhilan and Kerwin work together to steal some of the weapons from Kerwin's father, among other illegal acts.
  • Police Are Useless: Zigzagged. Althea and Ryan tell Nicky that her idea of going to the SFPD is not going to work since the Triads and Tongs will likely have an informant within the force. In the season finale, however, the family and Evan are able to get the police to arrest Zhilan's agents who have staked out the Shen house.
  • Power Glows: Anything infused with Biange energy, from the weapons to Nicky and Zhilan, glows bright green.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Master Drake's dojo uniform is black and red. He is the Villain of the Week in "Guidance".
  • Relationship Chart: Nicky and Henry make a chart to keep track of Zhilan and the artifacts related to it.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Dennis' sister Chloe is a reluctant member of what Nicky calls a "bling ring".
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: In "Destiny", Nicky's father reveals he secretly went to China and saw her training and thus has known all along about her being a warrior.
  • Sibling Team: Nicky's siblings help Shen in her fight to help people in San Francisco and occasionally out of the city to take on criminals and other types of bad guys.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Nicky stays in San Francisco to reconnect with her family and her community after leaving China. At the same time, she hunts for Zhilan and learns about the sword she stole.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Silence" reveals that Pei-Ling and Zhilan were sisters.
    • "Rage" has Zhilan nab the dagger from Nicky in public. The latter tries to stop her, but is knocked out in the fight.
    • "Guidance" reveals the source of Zhilan's grudge against Pei-Ling. When they were children, their father tried to sell the sword to pay for Zhilan's medicine. Pei-Ling tried to stop him. When they argued over the sword, Pei-Ling accidentally stabbed him and ran away. It's also revealed that Nicky is a descendant of Liang Daiyu, the sword's original owner, and she has a long-lost aunt obsessed with the sword.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Armed criminals have no problem hurting or trying to kill Nicky if they need her out of their way.
  • Wuxia: Two rivals battling it out over a sacred sword? Practically a wuxia touchstone.

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