Warrior, the new Cinemax original show based on the writings of Bruce Lee went full cowboy last episode, with protagonist Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) going on a Hateful Eight inspired adventure with Young Jun. Now, in episode six, “Chewed Up, Spit Out, and Stepped On,” the showrunners Shannon Lee, Justin Lin, and Jonathan Tropper have returned the drama to Chinatown and the tensions that have been building come closer to fruition.
Although the last episode was the best hour of television I’ve watched, it now seems to separate from the rest of the series as “Chewed Up, Spit Out, and Stepped On” knocks down the dominoes set up in the episodes before “In the Blood and the Sh*t,” continuing the narrative but making my favorite episode so far seems like it belongs to a different episode. That being said, this episode is the most brutal yet, opening with footage of Chinatown’s Chinese New Year festival intercut with an intimate scene between Ah Sahm and Penelope (Joanna Vanderham), continuing the relationship established in episode four.
As the drums pound in Chinatown, the sex scene is almost lyrical. Ah Sahm moves rhythmically to their breaths echoing the scene at the parades. Then it hits me that although the show has been filled with sex since episode one, it has never been gratuitous and it has always been an experience to watch. For shows that find themselves on Cinemax or HBO or even Showtime, sex is commonplace, but it’s rarely laid out with as much care as other scenes. Last episode’s scene between Young Jun (Jason Tobin) and Wankeia (Rachel Colwell) had started this thinking and this one sealed the deal.
The opening of “Chewed Up, Spit Out, and Stepped On” shows the ducks and members of the Tongs side by side, all celebrating, but that is shattered when the Fung Hai attack, wounding the leader of the Hop Wei, and Father Wei in the process. The aftermath is shot beautifully, along with the sound design, use of ringing and falling ash sets the mood. The Chinatown powder keg just blew and there will be ramifications on sides.
The rest of “Chewed Up, Spit Out, and Stepped On” deals with the bombing, a tragedy orchestrated by Mai Ling in episode four after securing an alliance for the Long Zii with the Fung Hai. It ripples across Chinatown and San Francisco as a whole. While the Hope Wei attacks the casino and the Fung Hai’s business in Chinatown to exact their revenge, the duck politicians work to push the Chinese exclusion act, and the police turn a blind eye. The first and the latter of these situations are stand out character moments.
As the Hop Wei attack the casino, we see Young Jun stepping up and acting as the leader in his father’s absence, pushing the elders of the Hop Wei to move to action. Itching to scrap, he makes the call and the fight scene that follows showcases him, Ah Sahm, and Bolo (Rich Ting) laying waste to the Fung Hai. Ending with Young Jun pulling a gun, in the end, this is the only nod to episode five, and a complete establishment as Young Jun as a Chinese American, using the hatchet and the gun.
For the latter, Lee (Tom Weston-Jones) and Big Bill (Kieran Bew) discuss the explosion. While Bill is more focused on his gambling debt, Lee is focused on preparing the town for the eventuality of a full-scale Tong war. For Bill, he sees all of the Tongs as the same and a Tong war means that less Chinese to deal with, but Lee isn’t okay with that, at odds with his racist partner but under his command still the same.
Mai Ling’s move to act against the Hop Wei, fueled by her own quest for power, yet still manipulated by the ducks in charge, has escalated every possible tension and as the Tongs in Chinatown refuse peace, the war begins. While we see the effects of the maneuvering and plotting we only see her once in “Chewed Up, Spit Out, and Stepped On.” In fact, outside of Penelope and Ah Sahm’s sex scene, a close up of Ah Toy during the parade, and Mai Ling waiting for her husband, the women have taken a backseat the last two episodes. While I’m sure they’ll be back in full first as the war progresses, Cheng and Doan’s acting is missed.
In the B-plot, Bill has gotten deeper in with the Irish, seeking help from Leary (Dean Jagger) to ease his debts and exploiting Leary’s deep racism to his own needs. This plot is brutal in a different way than the Hop Wei attack on the casino. It’s heavy, with Leary boxing Jack Damon (Brendan Sean Murray). The hits smash against each other and the sound of the flesh hitting flesh has a different effect than the sound design of the more martial arts based fight scenes.
When Bill has to decide on mercy or murder, the danger the Irish pose comes in more clearly. Not only will Leary burn down your house, but he will beat you bloody. With the Irish yet to come in direct conflict with the Tongs, it feels like once the Tongs settle, Leary and his men will be the new war on the horizon. Warrior only has four episodes left this season and with season two already greenlit, the storytelling is starting to unravel and leave me guessing when the two exploited parts of San Francisco will meet, and how many will die. While I am more invested in the Chinatown storyline than Bill’s and even Penelope’s for that matter, I can’t wait to see the plots meet each other.
Overall, episode six of Warrior, “Chewed Up, Spit Out, and Stepped On,” offers up the start to the war and a look at the work of one woman in bringing it on, even if she isn’t really in the episode. The episode is exciting and brutal if a little slow at times. This episode continues to showcase excellent writing and action. Although it isn’t near as good as the last episode, a fear I have for the others in the season, it keeps the story moving and me locked into my seat for this Friday’s episode.
Warrior airs every Friday on Cinemax at 10/9 CST.
Warrior, Episode 6 - Chewed Up, Spit Out, and Stepped On
“Chewed Up, Spit Out, and Stepped On,” offers up the start to the war and a look at the work of one woman in bringing it on, even if she isn’t really in the episode. The episode is exciting and brutal if a little slow at times. This episode continues to showcase excellent writing and action.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.