If you’re like me you have eight subscriptions to different streaming services and yet you spend about an hour trying to find something to watch every time you log on. Well, I’m here with a bit of advice for something you should check out if you’re an HBO Max subscriber. Warrior.
Warrior is not to be confused with Warrior, the rather good Tom Hardy MMA movie, though it does involve a lot of fighting.
Rather, Warrior is a Cinemax series that is two seasons in, and has just been renewed for a third. Though it only recently hit HBO Max where it’s more likely to be seen, given that going out of your way to subscribe to Cinemax among all these other services is not in the cards for many these days.
Warrior was actually based on a Bruce Lee project that he worked on before his death, and it’s produced by his daughter, Shannon Lee, and action director Justin Lin. It’s easy to see how in a different era, Bruce Lee would have been in the title role (especially by the end of season 2), but instead that honor goes to Andrew Koji as Ah Sahm, who plays a Chinese immigrant who is quickly adopted as an enforcer by a local gang (“tong”) in San Francisco in the 1870s.
Warrior has Jonathan Tropper as its showrunner, who also did the hyperviolent, hypersexy Banshee for Cinemax, and there is more of both within Warrior. Banshee is also worth a watch, and if you recognize its lead, Antony Starr, that’s because he’s now gone blonde and is flying around murdering people as Homelander on The Boys. So needless to say, Tropper has an eye for talent.
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What really stands out about Warrior is its 70% Asian cast, all of whom are fantastic, from Ah Sahm’s tong brother Young Jun to his sister/rival tong leader Mai Ling. And if you’re a martial arts fan, Mortal Kombat’s Joe Taslim (Sub Zero) is also here as pretty much the best fighter in the entire city.
The action here is…spectacular. Better than probably any other show I’ve seen, better than most full martial arts films. Whether it’s giant brawls or one on one fights, the acrobatics and brutality here are like nothing else on TV, and worth the price of admission on its own. Episode 5 of season 1, which goes full western for a bottle episode, is one of my favorite episodes of any show I’ve seen in the past year.
But it’s not just the action that makes Warrior work. These are all well-developed characters, and this is a compelling series in many ways, particularly in how it addresses the horrific anti-Asian sentiment of the time, as the Irish “working men” declare war on the Chinese they believe to be taking their jobs, instead of the industrialists hiring them and exploiting them for cheap labor. The show is a lot deeper than it looks, and despite being set in 1870, has obvious parallels to today.
You don’t have to worry about the show ending on a cliffhanger because it’s been picked up for another season. I devoured all of it this past week and I cannot wait for more. Check it out if you haven’t yet, and I doubt you’ll regret it.
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