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Series / Wu Assassins

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Wu Assassins is a supernatural martial arts crime drama series from Netflix set In San Francisco’s Chinatown, written by John Wirth (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles; Falling Skies) who is also acting as showrunner for the series.

It stars martial artist and fight choreographer Iko Uwais (The Raid and the sequel) as Kai Jin, an aspiring chef who becomes the latest Wu Assassin, last in a line of Chosen Ones who must round up the powers of an ancient triad and restore balance once again. In the process he teams up with homicide detective Christine "C.G." Gavin (Katheryn Winnick), an undercover cop caught in the middle of a gang war that’s breaking out in Chinatown, to unravel the ancient mystery and take down supernatural assassins.

The series also stars Byron Mann as Uncle Six, leader of the Triad and Kai's stepfather; Lewis Tan as Lu Xin Lee, Kai's oldest friend who runs a car theft ring for the Triad; Tommy Flanagan as Alec McCullough, an international crime boss with a mysterious interest in San Francisco’s Chinatown; Li Jun Li as Jenny Wah, a Chinese-American restaurateur and Kai's friend; Lawrence Kao as Tommy Wah, Jenny's brother; and Celia Au as Ying Ying, Kai's teacher. Mark Dacascos recurs as a monk who disguises Kai's identity, as do JuJu Chan as the skilled assassin Zan and Tzi Ma as Kai's kind neighbor Mr. Young.

The show premiered on August 8, 2019.

A feature-length film, Fistful Of Vengeance, which will serve as the sequel, was announced in February 2021. Iko Uwais, Lewis Tan, JuJu Chan, and Lawrence Kao will reprise their roles, joined by Pearl Thusi, Francesca Torney, Jason Tobin, Rhatha Pongam, and Simon Kuke. It will be released on February 17, 2022.

Previews: Preview Clip #1, Trailer

Wu Assassins contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: The show has loads of them.
    • Inspector C.G. Gavin is a formidable hand-to-hand fighter.
    • Jenny Wah is a restaurateur who moonlights as underground fighter.
    • Zan, Uncle Six's bodyguard, kicks some serious ass when the situation calls for it.
  • The Adjectival Man: McCullough is often referred to simply as "The Scotsman".
  • Ambiguous Syntax: The show's title doesn't make it readily apparent if the titular characters are Wus who work as assassins, or people who kill Wus. The show clarifies that the Assassins' mission is to kill beings known as "Wu Warlords".
  • Antagonist in Mourning: Alec McCullough has been mourning the deaths of his wife and son for five hundred years due to his immortality. He's the Big Bad.
  • Archnemesis Dad: The Wu Warlord of Fire that Kai Jin must kill is his own adoptive father.
    • But then it gets subverted when Six willingly gives up his powers and joins Jin's side against the other Warlords.
  • Armed Legs: When she attacks the police station, Zan's stiletto heels have actual stilettos hidden inside that she can use to stab people in the neck.
  • Arrow Catch: In the first episode Kai Jin catches a throwing knife in mid-air before it hits Mr. Young in the head.
  • Badass Normal: Lu Xin. He's got no powers or special training from magical monks, but he can go toe to toe with the best with or without weapons. It's only against supernatural abilities from the Wu Warlords that he can't defend against.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Played with, as the characters usually gets the stuffing beat out of them and this results in large amounts of blood... until the next scene where none of them usually has more than a few token cuts or dainty bruises. Particularly noticeable with the female characters.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kai manages to gain all five of the Wu Jing without necessarily having to kill all of their respective Warlords, save the world, and rescue CG, Jenny, and Tommy, but must deal with the loss of his adoptive father, the fact that his killer is still running free and likely in command of the Triads, and the fact that he unecessarily killed Alec in cold blood, thus negating his earlier emphasis that he's not a murderer. Plus, it's implied that his days as Wu Assassin are far from over.
  • Brought Down to Normal: All the Wu's, and Kai himself, when they are transported to the Dao in the season 1 finale. As such, both Kai and McCullough don't have their powers during their final fight.
  • Captured on Purpose: Done by CG as she allows herself to be arrested stealing a car so she can meet her police contact.
  • Cassandra Truth: When arrested by the cops, Tommy tells them completely about the war of superpowered beings, which, of course, they don't believe...until the station comes under attack.
  • The Chosen One: When the Wu Warlords appeared in Ancient China, 1,000 monks sacrificed themselves to empower a Chosen One to fight against them. This Chosen One is known as the Wu Assassin.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Beautifully done as Uncle Six and Zan face off, taking off their jackets, Six getting into a fighting stance...and Zan just shoots him in the leg, smirking on how he honestly expected a fair fight.
  • Disability Immunity: The Metal Wu can possess the bodies of people thanks to the iron in their blood. When he does so to CG, he gloats in a mindscape on his control of her. At which point, CG smirks that she just happens to be anemic which means she can reassert control and leave the Wu the one locked up in his own mind.
    CG: You should have paid more attention in chemistry class.
  • Discount Lesbians: The Metal Wu is technically a man named Gideon, in a relationship with the Water Wu, a woman. However, since he can essentially possess other people, he's currently in a female form. The Water Wu still gives him (her?) a rather intense kiss. Tommy, even though he's bleeding out, can't help but be interested.
  • Dislikes the New Guy: Inspector Gavin only just transferred to San Francisco from Bayside, and some of her new colleagues are very dismissive of her and doubt her skills.
  • Elemental Powers: Wu powers are based on the Chinese elementals: fire, earth, water, metal, and wood.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Even before receiving the Wu Assassin power, Kai is an excellent fighter.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Almost every single named character displays martial arts skills in combat, to varying degrees of proficiency. And since most of them are Asian-American, this doubles as All Asians Know Martial Arts.
  • Fair Cop: Inspector Gavin, the detective who goes undercover in Lu Xin's crew, is astonishingly attractive.
  • Fallen Hero: McCullough is a former Wu Assassin who became the Wood Wu.
  • Food Porn: Kai is a damn good chef, and every time he is preparing food the camera delights in closeups of the succulent dishes he is preparing.
  • Genre Savvy: One of the first things CG does when she and Jenny double-team Zan is to relieve Zan of her literal Combat Stilettos. Given Zan's fighting prowress without them, it merely evens the odds for CG and Jenny more than it puts Zan at any measurable disadvantage, but its a very wise move nonetheless.
  • Grand Theft Me: One of the powers of the Metal Wu.
  • Healing Factor: One of the powers of the Wood Wu, and the main reason why this Wu is considered the most difficult to kill.
  • Healing Hands: One of the powers of the Wood Wu. This is why McCullough decided to take this power after killing the last Wood Wu; in hopes of using it to bring his wife and son back from the death.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Once Six learns that Kai is the Wu Assassin, he willingly gives up the Fire Wu and afterwars, he and Kai take steps a proper father-son bond.
  • Hope Spot: In what appears to be a textbook Karma Houdini, Alec gets to be reunited with his family in the past, but due to his 21st century dress and mannerisms, they barely recognize him at first. And then he's killed by Kai before he has a chance to properly reconnect with them.
  • How We Got Here: The very first episode of the series shows Kai fighting a dozen mooks in an apartment building and saving Mr. Young. The episode then flashes back to "Yesterday" and shows how he got in that situation.
    • Several of the following episodes employ this format as well to varying extents.
  • I Never Told You My Name: When an Assassin possesses a cop to aid a raid on a police station, CG has gotten herself arrested as part of her undercover assignment. The "cop" urges her to go, calling her Christine. At first going with, CG hits her with a taser as the cop shouldn't know her by anything but her cover name. Interestingly, she never calls the Assassin out on the mistake.
  • Job Title: Wu Assassins, assassins being the operative word describing a job.
  • Legacy of the Chosen: Kai Jin is only the last in a line of Chosen Ones, who receives the power of the monks in the present day to become the Wu Assassin. There have been 999 Wu Assassins before him.
  • Life Energy: Centuries ago 1,000 monk sacrificed themselves so that their life energy would empower the Wu Assassin.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Zan removes one of Jenny's pumps after knocking her out in their first fight and discards it some feet away, presumably to hamper Jenny if she gets up and tries to come after her. In a later brawl, CG does the same to Zan and considering they were literally Combat Stilettos, it proves to be a wise move.
  • Mob War: The SFPD is determined to prevent a organized crime war between the local Tongs and McCullough's organization that is coming from Europe to muscle in on Chinatown.
  • No Body Left Behind: After being killed, the Earth Wu's body crumbles into dust.
  • Oh, Crap!: In their first fight, Uncle Six attempts to incinerate Kai, who promptly deflects the fire. Six is clearly shocked and disturbed that his go-to tactic has been nullified so easily.
  • Papa Wolf: While it's hidden beneath the tough face he needs to put on as a triad leader, Uncle Six truly is concerned with Kai's well-being and it's lethally stupid for anyone to think of harming Kai in Six's territory.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Uncle Six scoffs at the idea that a woman could run the Triads. This, along with his Heel–Face Turn, ends up costing him his life.
    • Averted by McCullough, who seems to have a pretty decent respect for Chinese culture.
  • Really 700 Years Old: McCullough, thanks to the powers of the Wood Wu.
  • Refusal of the Call: When first bestowed with the powers of the Wu Assassin, Kai Jin objected that he was just a chef, and tried to wash his hands of the whole thing. He fails rather spectacularly.
  • Secret Identity: Played with. The powers of the Wu Assassin include a nifty trick to help maintain the real identity of the Assassin a secret: anyone who looks at Kai Jin will see the face of one of the monks whose life-force empower him. It isn't immediately clear if this is achieved through Voluntary Shapeshifting or Glamour. Despite this, within the first few episodes Kai's identity is revealed to the Wu Warlords.
  • Sequel Hook: Ying Yang shows up amidst an earthquake at the restaurant to tell Kai that the world still needs the Wu Assassin.
  • The Starscream: Zan proves to be one for Uncle Six. Dissatisfied with his him willingly giving up his Fire Wu powers and not naming her as his successor to run the Triads, she teams up with McCullough to merge their gangs, stages a coup against Uncle Six, and ultimately executes him.
  • Super Mob Boss: Uncle Six has badass martial arts skills, pyrokinesis and is a high-ranking Triad boss.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Jenny Wah may be a badass Action Girl, but Zan is a professional criminal and the personal enforcer of the head of the Triad, which she's been a part of since age 13. The first two times they fight Jenny gets brutally pummeled into a bloody pulp. The third time, it takes Jenn and CG double-teaming Zan to finally defeat her.
      • Regarding the third fight, it realistically takes Zan several minutes to succumb to CG's chokehold and she's still fighting through every single one.
    • Uncle Six thinks he can fight Zan for control of the Triad, but she just shoots him in the knee with a gun and later executes him by shooting him in the head.
  • Taken for Granite: The Earth Wu has the power to do this to other people. He is seen turning his last victim to stone after supposedly letting her go, and after the deed we see several petrified bodies of his previous victims. He also tries this with Kai during their fight, but Kai's own powers allow him to counter it.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: In addition to being a Wu Warlord, Kai Jin's adoptive father is also the head of the Triads in the San Francisco Chinatown.
  • The Unfought: Kai never actually gets to fight the Metal and Water Wus. Instead, their powers are stripped off them when they are transported to the Dao.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Metal Wu's powers work by taking over all the metals in the human body. Iron, Calcium, Copper etc. If a person's body is low in those elements, if they are anemic for example, it leaves his control weak and open to a counter attack.
  • Who Are You?: In the first episode Mr. Young says this when he sees Kai Jin catch a knife mid-air that was about to kill him.