John Chinaman – Boy this one is not a doozy to talk about. First off, the term Chinaman did not start as a negative term before the 1870’s. It was used for Chinese immigrants in America as a form of identity. Whereas adding John as a prefix, it was given by Census takers at the time when getting the identities of various new Chinese immigrants who would not give their names. Thus they were named John Chinaman which is a way of saying John Doe.
It was around the 1870’s, the term Chinaman became a derogatory term as the Workingman’s Party were fed up with losing their jobs to Chinese immigrants and leading to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.
Episode 3 starts with Byron Mercer (Penny’s father), approached by Leary to discuss Mercer’s company acquiring the construction of the railway of San Francisco. Byron sees Leary’s attempt at intimidation, only to resolving it by striking a deal with Leary by hiring his workers.
Picking up now with Ah Sahm in court for the assault of the two Irishmen from Episode 2, and the court also plans to put the murder of the two workers from Episode 1 on him. With the lack of evidence and only the testimony of the two Irishmen, Ah Sahm awaits his court date while Leary makes a deal with O’Hara to deal with Ah Sahm.
While in Chinatown, Mai Ling starts to oversee Long Zi’s business dealings due to his old age and she is informed by Li Yong that her brother has been arrested, prompting her to go pay a visit to the assaulted Irishmen. She threatens their family’s lives if they testify against Ah Sahm.
Before the trial, O’Hara brings in 3 new prisoners into Ah Sahm’s cell to take care of him. The plan backfires as Ah Sahm is left standing with O’Hara returning and exchanging words of ethics with him.
With Penny, Leary, and O’Hara awaiting the verdict and the testimony nowhere in sight, Ah Sahm is released and the crowd is crying injustice. O’Hara helps Ah Sahm sneak out of the courthouse, and greeted by Wang Chao who informs him about Mai Ling paying for his bail and to leave Chinatown.
Ah Sahm is welcomed back harshly by Father Jun, to the point by beating him as punishment for disrespecting their gang and going into the duck pond. But rejoicing is still to be had which Ah Sahm then receives payment by Penny for helping her and Jacob.
Episode 3 ends with Leary setting the two Irishmen’s home on fire for failing to testify.
So, where to begin this time, the episode starts off a subplot that has been mentioned in previous episodes of Penny’s father Byron obtaining a big San Francisco job that is now the huge transportation system of the city. And it is immediately approached by Leary to be promised of the hiring of his men. Now this will come back to play but this does lay the ground work of the rest of the season and into season 2 because this is one of the instance of the series really introducing one of many sub plots that either have a resolution or an unsatisfying conclusion. We’ll get to that when it comes to it.
But Episode 3 really does weave the subplots of what the first two episodes have introduced into a very stable narrative that builds the Warrior world with all the characters and what part they play within it’s world.
The trial of Ah Sahm on how one crime he is on the stand for and also trying to pin the murder of the other men from Episode 1, which brings the main focus of the racism and small progression of one scene between Ah Sahm and O’Hara. Now this is a scene where I can say “if only it were that easy.” But in reality, it isn’t.
After O’Hara sends Leary’s men in, only to be incapacitated right after. O’Hara is shocked by the fact that Ah Sahm can speak English and did not give his testimony of the crime. Ah Sahm immediately responds that “The only reason I am in here, is my skin is a different color than yours. You know that it is, just like you know it’s the reason you’ll convict me.” O’Hara is speechless but understanding as he starts questioning his choices even with how he handled the situation.
After the trial, there is another moment where O’Hara and Ah Sahm are sitting on the same bench. O’Hara shows his concern and worry for a fellow human being as he tells Ah Sahm of a way to escape away from the crowd. It is a nice moment that shows O’Hara has compassion and respect for human life regardless of race. As O’Hara is a police officer in that time and how his mind is only the job, it took this one time to show his piece of humanity for once. And it is these small moments in the series that show how certain character’s arcs grow and progress. Something that slowly the world is trying to do.
Mai Ling taking the mantle of her husband Long Zi is one of the small sub plots that will take center stage within this season. As it shows she is a capable business woman like Ah Toy. With her motivation still not prevalent, her backstory enough when she was a warlord’s wife has brought her to this point that she can take the reins with Li Yong. It is noted that in episode 2 on how Long Zi had an inside man on how the political side is dealing with Chinese as it turns out to be Assistant Mayor Buckley. With Mai Ling taking over, she and Buckley working together helps shape how the political side and how Chinatown will progress under their terms.
When the news is brought to her about Ah Sahm, she still chooses to help her brother as it is mentioned in episode 1 and as you will see how this family quarrel culminates. It is by this time that only Li Yong and Ah Toy know that Mai Ling and Ah Sahm are siblings. This will build up.
Penny goes far to help Ah Sahm as she approaches his lawyer Phillip, which reveals there is a small romantic history between the two. And in turn, there is a distance as she married Mayor Blake and he is not happy with defending a foreigner. Even without her plea, Ah Sahm is freed but she still wants to pay him back. This causes her to send Jacob to pay him a monetary reward which Ah Sahm returns back to Penny… in person.
Now the handling of this romantic sub-plot, surprisingly isn’t one of those a man saves a woman and they fall for each other within an hour of the run time and boom they are in love. This somehow subverts that tired cliché where Penny tries to brush Ah Sahm away from her home but Ah Sahm is intrigued by her on why she chose to help him.
As stated before with the series has a lot of Bruce Lee homages with his life/philosophies/films, this is where I question whether or not if Penny written in his original treatment or even a female character that is white. And as we know Bruce Lee married Linda Emery, and having an interracial relationship or marriage before 1964 was not allowed due to the Jim Crow Law. (Thank you Accented Cinema for the tidbit). So bringing this up is it a homage or it is part of the original treatment? We won’t know.
The main matter is how the scene really shows how Penny was wrong on judging Ah Sahm’s character and how Ah Sahm was wrong on judging Penny being like every other White person he has encountered. This conversation brings them to how they show an interest in each other but Ah Sahm leaves Penny in wonder.
As far as Episode 3 goes, this episode kicks the series off by laying the foundation of season 1 and also 2 with the sub-plots coming into full view for the audience and where the series will go from there.