Here we are and we are going to get real. This episode is a hard one to watch, as it came out on Bruce Lee’s birthday but also released after one specific death that occurred in May 25, 2020.
(Spoilers are ahead as we are going deep into the shit now.)
The San Francisco Chinatown riot happened in 1877, lasting for two days. As the series have used real historical events as inspiration, this one is the stepping stone that made the Chinese Exclusion Act possible.
The Workingman’s Party of the United States of America held a rally on July 23, 1877. Speaking about the unemployment and potential resolutions that were needed, city hall granted the rally but police were stationed in case of a potential riot.
Chairman James D’Arcy spoke that it was not an “Anti-Coolie meeting” but 200 in the rally chose to make it the main subject. The 200 were refused, choosing to attack a passing Chinese worker, carrying the assault into Chinatown.
For 2 nights, over 20 laundry businesses, 4 deaths and $100,000 of property damages, Chinatown suffered. It was halted by the police, state militia and 1000 members of the vigilance committee.
After that, Workingmen’s Party member Denis Kearney started his own organization known as the Workingmen’s Trade and Labor Union of San Francisco. Which later became the Workingmen’s Party of California where he served as president, promoting with the slogan “The Chinese must go!”
This spread throughout the United States, culminating to the termination of importing Chinese workers which slowly led to the Chinese Exclusion Act. See how this is relevant now?
How the Asian hate has been around since then and becoming more predominant now since the beginning of the pandemic. With the Asian community experiencing extreme forms of racism and discrimination, including violence to the elderly.
This is half of what went into the episode, while the other half gets even more real. The imagery where you see the people of Chinatown being attacked, it is the reality of what the Asian community and the Chinese are actually experiencing.
From the business owners being killed, to a child beside her parents’ bodies as the chaos happens around her. This happens in the first half of the episode and what started this riot, was the hanging of a Chinese character.
This is the hardest to watch because it definitely puts us back to May 25th, 2020. I am not denying the deaths of Breoanna Taylor, Daniel Prude, Rayshard Brooks, Eric Garner and others meant nothing, I am not saying that. George Floyd’s death was the one that went viral for the world to see.
It was the one death that finally exposed what the Black community goes through. As the Black community fought so hard to be heard, it took this one recorded death for people to rally and be heard.
The only problem is there are those who chose to rally, took it to the far. Now there are those who protest peacefully, and those who protest violently thinking it’s part of the cause. Those who protest and riot in the name of the cause, create more problems than solutions.
Why I bring this up? Again, this season was shot in 2019 and aired in 2020 right after these events. The way this episode frames the killing, it is exactly like the event. As we the audience first saw it, we couldn’t do anything to stop it. That’s why this is hard episode to watch.
This episode was released on Bruce Lee’s birthday, with the title referencing his last film. Is there something lighter than the first half of the episode? You can bet Ah Sahm does a great homage to the man himself, bringing all the emotions you feel while viewing, to a sense of bittersweet joy.
This episode is one of my favorites because it did not hold back. And this is the episode I state to new viewers, this is a perfect reflection, of what is happening now. Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
The episodes returns to the night where Mayor Blake strangles Penny. Jacob came to her aid, and she tries to reason with him that he will be fine. Jacob tells her the reality of the situation, causing Penny to give him some money, helping him flee San Francisco.
Jacob stops in Chinatown to say goodbye to his mother. The next day, he is spotted and chased down by the police. He finally finds shelter, only to be found by Wang Chao.
Jacob ask Chao to help him escape but he refuses. Jacob offers Penny’s money and Chao sneaks him out via coffin. While traveling in coffin, the carriage is stopped by O’Hara and his men.
Lee questions O’Hara on finding Jacob, revealing the information came from Buckley. Causing a further rift of distrust, O’Hara, Lee and other officers place Jacob in a wagon, escorting him to station.
Wang Chao watches with Mai Ling, feeling guilty for giving Jacob up. She consoles him as she states Chinatown would suffer for the crime. The police convoy is stopped near the Banshee pub by Tully and the rest of the Irish Workingmen.
Tully and the Irish beat down the O’Hara and his men, dragging Jacob out of the wagon, beating him also. Jacob pleads for his life, as they proceed to lynch him. Leary notices the commotion, saving O’Hara.
Sophie rushes out, trying to reach Jacob, only to be pushed down by the mob and watches Jacob die. She is saved by Leary, coming to the realization that the incident couldn’t be stopped. Leary tells Sophie to leave as she will never understand.
Tully leads the Irishmen into Chinatown, destroying everything and everyone in their way. O’Hara chooses to wait for back up but Lee follows pursuit. O’Hara orders the rest of the men to follow.
Wang Chao and Mai Ling discuss what needed to be done, only to hear the chaos approaching. They run to Ah Toy’s for shelter, met by her bodyguard, they find Ah Toy near death from her encounter.
Mai Ling offers to aid Ah Toy while Wang Chao and the bodyguard protect the brothel. As Mai Ling tends to Ah Toy’s wounds, they find they’re not different as they both come from shattered pasts, putting their differences aside.
Sophie returns home to Penny, accepting the reality they live in. Lee fights Tully among the chaos and kills him. As the riot spreads, Ah Sahm, Young Jun and Hong gather the Hop Wei. Li Young and the Long Zi join them, standing side by side.
The two Tongs charge at the Irishmen, fighting back for Chinatown. The riot ends when the police reinforcements arrive, the Irishmen retreat to the Banshee.
Later in the evening, Ah Sahm, Young Jun, Hong and other Hop Wei approach the Banshee. Protected by O’Hara, Ah Sahm tells him they’re retrieving Jacob. O’Hara and the Irishmen watch the Hop Wei bring down the body as Leary approaches. Ah Sahm and Leary stare each other down, knowing they will fight each other.
This was not an easy re-watch, especially with what is happening now. Usually there would be a theme but this is a continuation from the previous review.
Sophie and Penny’s realization of the way the world works. Both have the notion that the law will be fair to every ethnic community but not understanding it is not. Ah Sahm, Jacob and Leary stated to these women that it doesn’t work the same way for everyone.
Sophie finally realizes this when Leary didn’t stop Tully and the others. He tried telling the police and Buckley but no one listened. He gave her a wake-up call of wanting to be part of his world but she’ll always see it from the outside.
When Sophie tells Penny of Jacob’s death, Penny had that realization too, understanding what Ah Sahm has said. This is a representation of how some people want to help out, thinking it will all work out but in reality, it does not and seeing how people are really treated and the unfairness.
Mai Ling’s choice and Ah Toy understanding each other in terms of survival. Mai Ling had Wang Chao give up Jacob, thinking that it will stop the police from harassing Chinatown. She didn’t take in account that the Irish Workingmen would intercept Jacob and inflict a riot.
Mai Ling’s ideals while working with Buckley have backfired, thinking that Buckley will grant leniency on her and the Long Zi. This did not pan out as the restless Workingmen decided to assault Chinatown, especially for killing Blake.
Chao and Mai Ling seeking shelter at Ah Toy’s brothel, finally a moment between the two women in power. Ah Toy suffered to become a business woman in America while Mai Ling suffered in China, coming to power in America. They do discuss that the next day will be the same between them, yet they are the same.
Mai Ling finally sees what is happening, knowing there is bigger problems than petty squabbles. For her to help Ah Toy, it is a sense of respect between communities and understanding, even though there is differences in ethics.
O’Hara and Lee’s role is exactly what is happening now. As much as the police would like to get involved to protect the community, it’s not that easy. O’Hara does try to uphold the law but being the veteran police officer, he is seen more of an ally to the Irish.
Lee has hit his breaking point in his episode. Trying to maintain order the right way but knows it won’t be done properly. For him to try and stop Tully and the Workingmen, it mentally breaks him to see the same racial injustice happen all over again.
As we have been seeing two sides of police behavior, O’Hara represents how most police officers are while Lee represents the police officers we need.
The Hop Wei and Long Zi working together is a huge moment in the episode. Starting with Young Jun telling Hong to get everyone, as the Hop Wei stand together, the Long Zi stands with them.
That moment is where both Tongs put their differences aside, protecting their people and culture. I won’t fanboy too much. There is a moment too where Young Jun is cornered and Father Jun comes to his aid. Even putting his personal agenda aside to help.
And Ah Sahm paying homage to Bruce Lee, I will say actor Andrew Koji has done a great job adopting Bruce Lee’s mannerisms, making Ah Sahm not a caricature or Bruce Lee clone but making him into a living character.
The moment he grabs the nunchuaku, beating the Irish Workingmen around him, the Chinese community takes notice. They know of Li Young and Father Jun because they’re indebted to them, here they finally see someone fighting for them.
With both Tongs putting their differences aside, they protect their community and culture, finally obtaining a hero that will fight for them.
With everything that has happened in 2020 and still is happening, you see that nothing has changed. The series has made an impact and it still continues to do so.
George Santayana said “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” This series is showing what happened historically but it is a reflection of what is happening now. Let’s try and change history.