Warrior, the Cinemax original show based on the writings of Bruce Lee is more than halfway through with its first season. Last episode, “Chewed Up, Spit Out, and Stepped On,” the bombing of the Chinese New Year Parade shocked Chinatown. A target attack by the Fong Hai, on behalf of the Long Zii against the Hop Wei, the Tong Wars, a historical event in the 1880s are set to begin. Now, in episode seven, “The Tiger and the Fox,” the Hop Wei are out for blood placing the head of the Long Zii and his wife Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) at the center of their revenge.
The largest event of the “The Tiger and the Fox” is the fight between Bolo (Rich Ting) and our protagonist, Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji). Bolo, tasked with infiltrating the Long Zii safehouse in the middle of the night, swiftly does away with the guards off-camera, until he is confronted by Mai Ling. Unfortunately, she is not a fighter and as she’s about to die, Ah Sahm, literally comes flying in. For viewers, it’s a brother coming to save his sister, as he uses her old name, but for Bolo it’s a betrayal by a man he had reservations about, to begin with.
What happens next is a subtle spectacle and the longest 1v1 we’ve seen all season, the stakes are high. If one wins, the other dies, plain and simple. In this fight sequence, we also get the strongest callbacks to Bruce Lee’s fighting style since the first few episodes.
The fight between Bolo and Ah Sahm is gorgeously choreographed. Bolo’s blows are devastating, like a sledgehammer, while Ah Sahm’s are about the speed, the number of them, and the accuracy. The fight moves from an open area and into a hallway and the compression of the moves offers a different dynamic, keeping the fight fresh as it goes on past the short burst action sequence the series has gotten the audience accustomed to.
This is also the most brutality we’ve seen from Ah Sahm, the way the bones crack as he drives Bolo to the floor, his relentless pursuit, it’s perfection. And Bolo with his variance of style makes it easy to understand why he was saved from the fighting pits by Father Jun. There isn’t a single time that he hits Ah Sahm that you don’t fear that’s it’s the final hit. Koji and Ting’s athleticism and precision are on full display and stunt coordinator Brett Chan shows his ability to use both the actors’ sizes and the size of the space to great effect.
While this fight is the loudest moment of the episode, the moment that many will talk about and clip for YouTube, the beauty in “The Tiger and the Fox” lives in the character development of almost every member of the cast in one episode. While the brutality of the fight and the murders is there, it’s the characters that come into focus. It’s their humanity that gets built out and not forgotten as they perform or have performed violence in their past
Some characters have small moments, like Young Jun (Jason Tobin) offering a prostitute medicine for headache, showing that he’s looking for more than “a little sticky” even outside of episode five or Big Bill, seeing the mutilated face of the friend he murdered and tormented by it. This is a performance without words that lets (Kieran Bew) stretch his acting chops. Others, are larger and give insights into their lives, origins, and even their future.
While Officer Lee (Tom Weston-Jones) has been the character that we see our morality in, presented starkly against racism of San Francisco, he has a troubled past. That being said as Bill says, “a man shouldn’t pay for doing the right thing,” as his story reveals that despite being from the south, despite being in the racist West, this isn’t his way.
While the reveal of his origin is slightly heavy-handed, it helps to give a reason as to why he’s been outspoken but also hesitant to act. With his criminal past handled, hopefully, we’ll see him actively intervening and helping the Chinese and Chinese American citizens of San Francisco.
While Mai Ling and Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng) have been fairly absent in the last two episodes, this one didn’t disappoint. In fact, “The Tiger and the Fox” pushes their characters forward and inward as we learn more about who Ah Toy used to be, and who Mai Ling will become.
What starts out as Ah Toy buying new girls for her brothel turns into Ah Toy finding herself reflected in a young woman from her province in China. She is scared, she is a virgin, and she was sold by her parents to pay a debt. While we don’t know how Ah Toy came to San Francisco, seeing the compassion and empathy with which the new girl is eye-opening.
We have seen her order to have a woman’s face mutilated, we have seen her personally cut apart racist men in the street, and now we see her tenderly tell her new charge, “soon you may remember how to smile.”
There is a sadness to Ah Toy, a remembrance, and a need to save her, protect her from the men of San Francisco, a stark opposite to how she makes her money. Later on in the episode, she even draws blood for her, turning away money for her safety. Ah Toy isn’t just a madame in control, in one way she feels like a mother, and in another, she feels like she is trying to protect what she lost, or rather what was taken from her.
Where Ah Toy’s character is shown as ruthless by caring, Mai Ling’s ambition and quest for power comes is at the center of the episode, in fact, it’s in the very episode name. When Long Zii dies (Henry Yuk), he asks Mai Ling, “they have no idea who they’re dealing with do they?” To which she responds, “They will.”
Having given her life for her brother, her family, only to escape abuse in San Francisco to become the wife of the leader of one of the strongest Tongs, in episode seven, she finally moves completely out of the shadows. With the death of Long Zii she fills the vacuum of leadership in the Tong. Although it’s of her own making, it isn’t easy. She is emotional, she is sad, but she is undeterred.
As the episode ends, Mai Ling tells the story of the Tiger and the Fox. The foxes in this analogy, used the fear that the tiger inspired to become big, to become many. As the tiger grew weaker the foxes began to think that they were tigers. Now, Mai Ling is prepared and ready to put the other Tongs below the Long Zii, to make them foxes again, to claim her place as a tiger.
Overall, “The Tiger and the fox,” is a well-done episode. It has a big action sequence that is perfectly choreographed and executed. It also has some of the deepest character moments for my two favorite women on television right now, Ah Toy and Mai Ling. The ending of the episode is the eruption of the powder keg, but we have to wait until episode eight to see that battle.
As a series Warrior has given us action, world-building, and characters with depth. With three episodes left and the blood about to spill between the Tongs, I suggest you start binging these seven episodes if you haven’t started the show yet. You won’t want to miss it.
Warrior airs a new episode every Friday night on Cinemax at 10/9 CST.
Warrior, Episode 7 - The Tiger and the Fox
“The Tiger and the fox,” is a well-done episode. It has a big action sequence that is perfectly choreographed and executed. It also has some of the deepest character moments for my two favorite women on television right now, Ah Toy and Mai Ling. The ending of the episode is the eruption of the powder keg, but we have to wait until episode eight to see that battle.
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.