Warrior has a lot going on and it takes a few episodes to get into the characters but awesome fight scenes are never far off and Ah Sahm is one of the best badasses on screen. If you’re a fan of Banshee then this is must-see television.
Plot: Set during the Tong Wars in the late 1800s, Ah Sahm, a martial arts prodigy originating from China to San Francisco, ends up becoming a hatchet man for the most powerful tong in Chinatown.
Review: When it comes to hardcore action Cinemax is the best channel on television with series like Strike Back and Banshee coming before their latest action opus Warrior from the writings of Bruce Lee.
From the opening credits with the amazing theme tune I knew Warrior was going to be my kind of show and it didn’t disappoint; it has fight scenes every episode, never dull and always unpredictable.
As stated in the plot above Ah Sahm is our main protagonist who has come to America searching for his sister Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) but ends up joining a gang only to find out that she has her own machinations about ruling Chinatown. The girl he once knew is gone and she has become rather unsympathetic and power hungry; she has no qualms about killing anyone who gets in her way but can her brother bring her back to the light?
Ah Sahm is played by English actor Andrew Koji who is immediately appealing while also being a complete badass. He is one of the coolest characters I’ve seen on television for some time with Koji playing him as someone who is controlled but when he sees injustice taking place he can’t sit idly by and watch. Koji bears a resemblance to Bruce Lee even using some of his fighting moves and mannerisms in the character of Ah Sahm while also wearing his outfit from Fist of Fury. We also even have a character called Bolo which I loved.
40 years ago Lee himself wanted to bring this show to life but was denied by the networks as they believed that audiences weren’t ready for an Asian lead… well, here we are 40 years later and the show has finally been brought to stunning life. It tackles issues like racial identity and really captures what it must have been like for these poor immigrants who came to America for a better life but were treated like second class citizens.
My immediate reaction to the first few episodes was that I didn’t really like that many of the characters who are all mostly horribly racist thugs but as the story progresses we realize that they are far more layered than we initially thought. The Irish police officer Bill O’Hara (Kieran Bew) starts off as a belligerent asshole but becomes one of the most interesting characters and his friendship with new cop Lee (Tom Weston-Jones) helps to humanize him and despite still being naturally racist he feels like an authentic person of the time.
Banshee’s Hoon Lee returns as Wang Chao; a man who helps people get whatever they need while always trying to remain neutral to the various gangs. As always he is one of the best things about the show and is one of my favourite actors.
Corbin Nash’s Dean Jagger plays head of the Irish locals Dylan Leary who is a terrifying force of nature and yet not a complete monster. He helps out his own people trying to get work and hands out money to those in need so just when you think you have him figured out he has you second guessing yourself.
Then we have Joe Taslim (The Night Comes for Us) as Li Yong; a born fighter who is fiercely loyal to Ah Sahm’s sister Mai Ling. He doesn’t say much but he has some amazing fight scenes especially in episode 9 which I won’t spoil but let’s just say everything has built up perfectly to that point and it delivers in spades.
Warrior generally feels very much of the time period with excellent set and costume designs. My only issue is that a little too much of the show takes place at night in darkly lit rooms so it’s sometimes hard to see what’s going on. For the most part though it’s one of the best action series on television with no shortage of violence, sex and badassery.
One of my favourite episodes is entitled “The Blood and the Shit” which has Ah Sahm and Young Jun (Jason Tobin) transporting precious cargo via stagecoach through the Sierra Nevada, where they are forced to spend the night with three strangers at a frontier saloon in the middle of nowhere; an outlaw and his henchmen arrive looking for a payday. It takes the action out of San Fransisco so it’s less claustrophobic feeling and comes across as a classic Western style tale. You think you have an idea where it’s going to go but then something comes out of left field keeping you on your toes. It’s a great arc for Young Jun who is growing as a man and future leader of the gang.
The relationship between Ah Sahm and the mayor’s wife Penelope Blake (Joanna Vanderham) you just know is going to go badly eventually but as with everything else in this series things never quite go as you think. I love how their scenes together in her second house take place in this ethereal bright white room; it’s like the only thing that is pure in their lives.
Overall, there’s so much more I want to talk about but I think I’ve said enough; if you are looking for a new action TV series and are a fan of Banshee then Warrior is a must-see with breakneck action, a badass new action hero in Andrew Koji and many intertwining stories to keep viewers engaged.
PS I love how there is a bar called the Banshee as a nice little nod to the classic show.