‘Kung Fu’ Season 1 Recap


The CW’s hit series Kung Fu is jam-packed with twists and turns, from mystical weapons to betrayals to street fights. Its first season followed Nicky Shen as she returned to her childhood home in San Francisco after years spent training in a monastery abroad. As she tries to find her place in the family she left behind, she had to contend with a destiny she never knew she had. While she tried to figure out her place in the world, she faced off with Zhilan, the woman who killed her shifu Pei-Ling (and, it is revealed, Pei-Ling’s sister). As if that wasn’t enough, both Zhilan and Nicky were pursued by ruthless billionaire Russell Tan, who wanted the weapons both women were chasing to kickstart Biange, a legendary event that would give him nearly unlimited power. Clearly, Nicky had a lot on her plate!

It turns out the real Biange was the frenemies we made along the way as Nicky and Zhilan’s final (?) battle left both with a connection neither is aware of yet. Russell Tan is shaping up to be the new big bad of the series, and unlike Zhilan, he’s not working alone. With the season 2 premiere of Kung Fu nearly upon us, we wanted to refresh your memories as to where we left the Shen family at the end of season 1!

For more detailed recaps of each episode, head over to our dedicated Kung Fu page. Read on for a character-by-character breakdown, and be sure to check out our interview with series star Olivia Liang for more season 2 teases!

Nicky Shen

Dean Buscher/The CW

The season 2 finale saw Nicky finally face off against Zhilan at the monastery, but it turns out Zhilan isn’t the only villain after her. Russell Tan makes a play for the weapons and the energy from Biange, but no one knows what will happen when it is unleashed. The energy goes into Nicky and Zhilan, who both have visions of a parallel reality. Nicky sees Pei-Ling again, who advises her that Biange is necessary to maintain balance in the universe. This reunion with her beloved shifu gives Nicky the courage to escape from the dream. She and Zhilan fight, but it becomes clear the weapons are no longer holding the Biange energy: Nicky and Zhilan are. In order to prevent Zhilan from getting the full power of Biange, Nicky sends both of their energies into the Earth, seemingly stopping Biange from occurring and giving up the power for herself.

It seems that everything is back to normal for Nicky, but in the final minutes of the season, we learn that Nicky has a secret cousin who is coming after her. More worryingly, the flowers indicating Biange sprout behind Nicky as she walks the streets with Henry, unknown to Nicky. As Liang told us in our interview, “I think that the tease of the Biange flower blooming in San Francisco at the end of season one just is letting us know that the magic has followed Nicky from China and the monastery to San Francisco.”

Henry Yan

The CW

Throughout season 1 of Kung Fu, Henry was an invaluable resource and friend for Nicky. An expert in historical Chinese artifacts, he helped Nicky find the weapons and supported her in the finale battle against Zhilan. Despite the reveal of his past arrests for stealing as a juvenile, Henry’s sincere approach and strong moral compass caused Nicky to fall in love. His passion for making sure Chinese artifacts make their way home as opposed to sitting in an American museum or as a decoration in a rich white man’s mansion adds depth to his arc in season 1. Henry ended the season on a great note as the victor of the Henry/Evan love triangle battle for Nicky’s heart. He proved himself to Nicky by helping her fight Zhilan and Russell Tan at the monastery, and their relationship is secure. It remains to be seen if his past will come into play once again this season, but for now, all is well for Henry.

Althea Shen

The CW

Althea was definitely a character that was put through the wringer last season, but she seems to come out stronger on the other side of all that she’s faced. Of course, we got to see the perfectionist/bride-to-be worry over the wedding and handling Dennis’ family, but love ultimately prevailed on that front, as the two happily tied the knot in the finale. However, outside of the wedding, one of the largest storylines for this Shen (now Soong) was grappling with whether or not she should break her silence.

If you don’t remember, Althea is the Shens’ resident computer science genius, but gave up her job at a lucrative tech firm in the wake of a sexual assault incident involving her boss, Chase Matheson, that got real messy real quick. Having initially signed an NDA, Althea struggled with keeping the secret of what happened from both her family and the public. Ultimately, after seeing a young girl from the community center accept a job at her old firm, Althea decided she was going to go public about the matter. Though her family found out at different points, they were nothing but supportive — especially sweet, sweet Dennis. The older Shen seems to finally be steering her life in the direction she wants it to go, and we can’t wait to see her continue to grow into her newfound confidence and strength in season 2.

Ryan Shen

Bettina Strauss/The CW

Poor Ryan really went through a lot in season 1. Ryan struggled with finding a serious relationship and juggling his parents’ silence after he told them he was gay and Nicky left for China. He was well known in Chinatown for his skills as a doctor, but his dedication to his career gave him little time for a social life. He finally opened up to activist Joe, and the two had an adorable romance that sadly ended when Joe left to pursue opportunities outside San Francisco. He also had one of the most emotional moments of the season when he and his father Jin finally address Ryan’s sexuality. It’s a beautiful scene that leaves Ryan more open than we’ve ever seen him. The season ends with Ryan single and rededicated to his work, but season 2 will see the introduction of a new interest in the form of JB Tadena’s Sebastian. According to Sebastian’s character description, the new chef at Harmony Dumplings immediately catches Ryan’s eye — but is the feeling mutual? We’ll have to wait and see!

Zhilan Zhang

Bettina Strauss/The CW

A tragic villain, Zhilan sacrificed a lot in her pursuit of power. Her quest for revenge led her to kill her own sister and her love as she was forced to sacrifice Kerwin Tan for a chance at taking down his father Russell. She served as a perfect mirror character to Nicky. After all, Nicky once wanted revenge for Pei-Ling’s murder while Zhilan sought to avenge the death of her mother (and her own spinal disability) caused by Russell Tan’s factory pollution. But unlike Nicky, who came to realize that being motivated by fear and anger was only going to hurt her in the long run, Zhilan couldn’t let go of her hatred. The season ended with a de-powered Zhilan sitting in prison, but with Russell Tan on the loose, there’s no way Zhilan doesn’t join this fight.

Mei-Li and Jin Shen

Bettina Strauss/The CW

Jin and Mei-Li have been on many emotional rollercoasters throughout the season as a multitude of family secrets came out. It seemed to be one ordeal after the other: Jin and the rest of the family finding out about Mei-Xue, Ryan finding the courage to fully come out to his parents and bringing Joe around, the uptick in trouble in the community, dealing with the Soongs, and trying to reconnect with Nicky were only some of the things that befell them — not to mention that they almost sold Harmony Dumplings! Thankfully, with (hopefully) all of the major secrets out in the open, the Shen family seems as close and as stable as ever, and that includes the family’s figureheads. We can’t wait to see what the future brings with Harmony Dumplings booming, the introduction of Sebastian, and Mia appearing soon!

Evan Hartley

The CW

Our Dear Evan didn’t have the best of luck in season 1. From breaking up with his girlfriend, Sabine, to not ending up with Nicky after the whole love triangle debacle, the loyal ADA hasn’t had the best time in terms of his personal life. However, at the end of last season, we saw trouble was brewing for Evan at work as well, thanks to one sneaky secretary named Nadia. Evan discovers that none other than Russell Tan is buying out some very influential people to have in his pocket — one of them being his boss, DA Hughes. There had been some suspicious obstacles to Evan’s quest to take down Zhilan and investigate Russell Tan on the legal side, and with that new information, things are starting to add up. What Evan’s next steps will be in righting these wrongs are unknown, but we’re sure the storyline will be picked up where it left off during season 2.

Dennis Soong

The CW

Last season, Dennis wasn’t privy to most of the crazy things going on with the Shens. Like any good fiance, his main focus was his bride-to-be, Althea. After some family drama from both the Soongs and the Shens about the wedding, the pair finally tied the knot in the season 1 finale — though it was almost derailed by some goons sent by Zhilan. At the end of season 1, freshly married, Althea and Dennis seemed to be going as strong as ever. Althea told him about the ordeal with Chase Matheson, and they were facing it together. However, there’s another secret that Dennis has yet to learn; in the finale, we see Althea readying to tell Dennis about Nicky’s double life before they leave for their honeymoon in the Galapagos. We can’t imagine the sweet, supportive man taking it too badly, but only time will tell how Mr. Soong reacts.

Pei-Ling Zhang

The CW

Throughout season 1, we saw the tale unfold in a series of flashbacks about Pei-Ling’s story. Nicky’s grief over her shifu was one of the driving points of the narrative, and we continued to see Pei-Ling’s (Biange-induced?) spirit appear to Nicky, offering her guidance throughout her journey. While Pei-Ling seems to have been put to rest in a sense after confronting Zhilan (we still can’t believe she turned out to be her sister!) and the memorial at the monastery in her honor, Vanessa Kai is still listed as a series regular. So how will we be seeing more of Pei-Ling, especially as Nicky goes on to become a sort of shifu of her own to her cousin? Our bet is on more flashbacks, but we’ll have to tune in to know for sure.

The Tan Family

Bettina Strauss/The CW

Last but certainly not least, the Tan family heads into season 2 as the major antagonists set to disrupt Nicky’s peaceful life once again (can’t a girl get a break?) Patriarch Russell may have lost his chance at causing Biange, but he is coming for the energy that was released when Nicky and Zhilan fought. His son Kerwin ended the season by being stabbed by the love of his life, Zhilan. He is currently in a medically induced coma after surviving a direct stab wound to the gut by a trained assassin and almost bleeding out in a cemetery (mostly dead is still slightly alive, am I right?) This season we will also meet Juliette, Kerwin’s sister, who is trying to prove herself worthy of taking over her father’s empire. The Tans may have lurked in the shadows in season 1, but in season 2 they will be a major focus of the action.

Kung Fu airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/ 8 p.m. CT on The CW, returning from its hiatus tonight, March 9! You can find our other coverage of the series here!

I am a nurse and dedicated nerd from Boston, MA. When I'm not at work, I'm rewatching old favorites like Supernatural or discovering my new obsessions (too many to count!). When not fangirling, I can be found reading, writing, or listening to a true crime podcast. You can find me on Twitter @juleswritesblog for more nerdy nonsense.

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