In the Season 1 finale of Cinemax’s “Warrior,” Ah Sahm makes a choice after reconnecting with two women. Three women end the season in positions of power and responsibility and Ah Sahm gets used to losing.
The episode begins after Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) has already left the care of Ah Toy. A timekeeper walks through a rundown dormitory, shaking a box on a stick that gives a soft rattle, announcing, “Five, five, five o’clock.” This is a place for people so poor that they share a bed. One taking over as the other rises to work.
Ah Sahm is getting up as his bedmate, Po (Orion Lee) returns from a day of hard work. Ah Sahm wears a sweat and dirt stained long-sleeved undershirt that may have once been white. Over that he has a dark but faded and dirty Mandarin collared jacket with frog closures. He’s wearing drawstring black pants. His shoes are cheap black fabric ones with thin soles. On his face, he still bears healing marks from the fight that nearly cost him his life (“Chinese Boxing”) and he walks with a limp.
Outside, he waits, hoping to be selected for work as a day laborer. For his meal, he uses his fingers to eat rice gruel without any protein or vegetables in a dirty rice bowl. He passes Wang Chao who is talking to a white man. At work, he ends up pushing a wheel barrow with rocks.
Wang Chao (Hoon Lee) helps white men looking for labor get Chinese work crews and the contrast between the dandyish Wang Chao and the dirty, poor men in that part of Chinatown is painful.
Ah Sahm returns to his bed after a hard day’s work and rouses his bed mate.
The previous episode ended with Officer Richard Lee (Tom Weston-Jones) on the ground, unconscious after taking a severe beating by the Fung Hai. In this episode, he is in a coma at a beautifully white and clean hospital. Beside him is Sergeant Bill O’Hara (Kieran Bew). On the night stand are a Bible, a kerosene lamp, a rosary and what looks like a half drunk bottle of alcohol.
Bill’s wife, Lucy (Emily Child), has come to bring him breakfast. She asks him to come home and tells him he can’t keep spending his nights here. Lee’s been there a week, but the guilt-ridden Bill says, “He’s got no people here. I want to be here when he wakes up.” Or mark his passing if he doesn’t.
Lucy kisses her hand and touches Lee’s forehead and tell him to wake up in his own time and leaves to get home before the children wakeup. After she leaves, Bill looks down at the marker with the Chinese symbol for heaven/sky in his hand. The Fung Hai leader Zing, left it on Lee.
In Chinatown, Father Jun (Perry Yung) and Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) reach an agreement stamping a map of Chinatown with their chop marks, but it’s not as Mai Ling thought. Father Jun agrees that the Long Ziyi can import and sell opium within their own territory and the Hop Wei will no longer sell in those areas. Mai Ling thought their agreement meant she would gain territory and be able to sell outside of Long Zii territory.
Father Jun claims that not how he understood their agreement. He tells her that he’s not happy about the situation and, “If you take one step out of line and I won’t stop until I have your pretty little head on this table.”
The scene changes to Ah Sahm rising again at five o-clock. With no work, he’s just waiting. A wagon takes the men who got a job out of Chinatown.
At the Irish part of town, two black men enter the Banshee and asks Gareth for whiskey. While a customer, Mac, wants to refuse them service, Dylan Leary (Dean Jagger) comes out and says, “These men have done nothing to you. Think they wanted to come here? Their people were dragged here in fucking chains.” Leary tells the barkeep to assume the two black men have already paid their dues and as far as he’s concerned, they’ve paid for their drinks. While you think you might be seeing a soft side of Leary, he ends by telling the two men, “You should know better than to come into an Irish bar for fuck’s sake.”
Then Leary sees a man, Nate, that should have been sleeping to prepare for working at the Mercer factory and Leary learns that his teams of Irish workers have been replaced. Next we’re with Leary as he storms into Byron Mercer’s (Graham Hopkins) office. Penelope is there and Leary asks that she step outside. Leary tells Mercer, “I made promises based on your promise.”
Mercer can only whine, “The mayor’s office kept grinding me until I had no choice,” and mentions Walter Buckley (Langley Kirkwood). Mercer doesn’t even think he’ll turn a profit.
Leary replies, “You shook my hand, you shook my fucking hand.”
In Chinatown, Ah Sahm returns to his bed and Po can’t get up. Po was hurt a few days ago and his leg still has an open wound.
Back at the hospital, another man, Bill O’Hara, who went back on his agreement to pay back a marker and, with the help of Leary, murdered a former fellow officer, (“White Mountain”) makes another promise: “You were a gigantic pain in my ass and you’re a good cop. and while I’m in no position to judge these things I suspect you’re a good man, too.”
Bill continues, “I put you in harm’s way. I just want you to know I’m going to find the bastards who did this to you. I’m going to make them pay.”
Later, at a Fung Hai gambling den, Bill enters with a gun and shoots a man in the leg. He holds a gun to another man and then turns it on the Fung Hai leader, Zing (Dustin Nguyen). Zing disarms Bill, and when Bill uses the gang member as a shield, Zing shoots his own gang member to leave Bill standing before him.
Zing tells Bill, “You owe money, policeman. I no kill your partner; just make lesson for you. I don’t need fucking money.”
Bill asks, “Then what do you want from me?” Zing will come to an arrangement with Bill.
In the upper class white part of town Penelope goes into a bar looking for Buckley. She wants to talk about her father’s business and while she acknowledges that “I am generally alone,” Buckley claims that her husband, Mayor Samuel Blake (Christian McKay) is at the office. Penelope knows that he’s “whoring.”
“I pray it’s only whores. I’ve seen some things.” Buckley admits that when he encouraged the mayor to marry her, he had hoped the marriage would “correct the more unsavory” aspects of the mayor. He was wrong.
“You’ve put my father in an impossible position.” She reveals that her father was threatened and she wants protection. Penelope says, “I thought I might cut out the middle man,” meaning her husband, and she is angry that Buckley put pressure on her father that resulted in his hiring the cheaper Chinese labor. The Irish are angry and she fears something will happen.
“I don’t respond well to threats.” Buckley counters that he knows Penelope was at the Chinese boxing match, but she threatens him with seeing who has more sway with the mayor. Buckley only agrees to have a small group of officers in the vicinity in case something happens.
Penelope finds that “A day late and a dollar short,” which Buckley counters it is just like municipal politics.
In the poor side of Chinatown, Penelope’s former lover Ah Sahm is helping his ailing bedmate. Po tells Ah Sahm, that he came to the US to make money for his family. He thought he would be able to make enough money in a year and return home, but that was eight years ago. “I’ve never been able to buy my way back.”
Po feels he was a failure. Ah Sahm admits, “I failed my family before I ever left China. You did this to help, to feed them.”
Po worries about being buried in this horrible country and his soul will never find its way home, then says, “The curse of a thousand coolies will haunt on this country.”
In another part of town, Mai Ling leaves her carriage to meet Buckley in his carriage. Buckley congratulates her, “The king is dead; now live the queen.” He worried that the peace that her late husband wanted has been made. “You’re not getting soft on me, are you?”
Mai Ling tells him, “I’m just getting warmed up.” Yet she reminds Buckley, “I won’t be under anyone’s thumb, Mr. Buckley.” She then asks him for more opium, “twice what you brought last time. Let me know when it clears customs.”
Buckley reminds her that while she may be a person of significant in Chinatown “go half a mile in any direction and you’re just a Chinese woman of no consequence to anyone. You could disappear tomorrow and it wouldn’t even rise to the level of police matter.”
Mai Ling counters that a lot can happen in half a mile.
In the morning, at Coolie Square, Ah Sahm doesn’t get a job, but Wang Chao notices him and says, “The itchy onion back from the dead.” He then says, “A guy with your skills and your smarts, you don’t have to be doing this.”
Ah Sahm replies, “I’m no different from anyone else here.” But they both know “that isn’t true,” Wang Chao insists. “Hey, we’re starting to staff a big job decent conditions. I’ll make sure you get picked if you’re here tomorrow.” Then he adds, “But I hope you won’t be.”
Back in the white part of town, Lee wakes up. His face is still badly bruised. Lee sees Bill and asks, “What happened to me?”
Bill replies, “You don’t remember? You got jumped in Chinatown.”
Lee asks, “How’d I do?”
Bill says, “Not as well as you could have.”
Lee asks, “How long have I been out?”
Bill tells him, “About a week.”
Lee asks, “Did you at least get the guys who did it?”
Bill replies, “We’re still getting them.”
That isn’t exactly true. The police are arresting Hop Wei and Long Zii, beating them up during raids for opium trade.
Li Yong reports the problem with their new opium enterprise to Mai Ling.
Mai Ling asks, “Another raid today?”
Li Yong responds, “The police are making a statement.”
Mai Ling asks, “Why now? We’ve given them no reason.”
Li Yong replies, “Revenge…someone put a cop in the hospital.”
Mai Ling asks, “Who would be so reckless?” Even as the words come out, she knows.
In another part of town, Young Jun comes looking for Ah Sahm. “You’re a hard man to find.”
Ah Sahm says, “I’m in the same place every day.”
Young Jun replies, “But it’s a shitty place. Ah Toy’s worried about you.”
Ah Sahm asks, “She said that?”
Young Jun responds, “I might be reading between the lines a little bit.” Young Jun wants Ah Sahm to come back and tells him, “Father Jun hasn’t been the same since the explosion. He’s giving away the fucking store.” He knows that the Long Zii and the Fung Hai are building up and it’s “only a matter of time when they make a real move on us.”
Ah Sahm refuses but Young Jun asks him if he’s “hoping for the privilege of breaking your back for duck pennies.”
While Ah Sahm responds, “It’s honest work,” we know that most of the people they are working for aren’t really honest or concerned about the coolies who work for them.
Young Jun tells him, “You can’t just walk away from us.”
Ah Sahm picks up Young Jun by his lapels and while Young Jun signals for his men not to attack Ah Sahm, Ah Sahm says, “I didn’t walk away; I fought for you, you tossed me out like I was garbage.”
Young Jun defends the Hop Wei’s actions by maintaining there are rules. We know he wanted his father to help Ah Sahm but argued in vain. Young Jun like Wang Chao reminds Ah Sahm, “You’re not a fucking coolie.”
Ah Sahm replies, “I’m not a hatchet man.”
Young Jun before leaving asks, “Then what the hell are you?”
After the Hop Wei leave, Ah Sahm goes to Wang Chao asking for a job. Wang Chao tells him that he was younger than Ah Sahm when he “crossed the salt.” Both his parents had died during the Taiping Rebellion. Wang Chao wanted to seek his fortune in the US, but the ship captain had other ideas and “sailed us to Cuba” and then “sold us as slaves.” It took about a week before Wang Chao realized he wasn’t in the US.
Wang Chao says, “I think about the people I left behind. As far as I know, most of them are still there in Cuba.” The reason he escaped was, he tells Ah Sahm, “I know I’m not a fucking slave.” After 11 years, he escaped. Then he admonishes Ah Sahm, saying, “I’m not buying this whole coolie act.” Wang Chao says, “Warriors have only two paths, get killed or get better.”
Ah Sahm still asks, “Do you have a job for me or not?”
Wang Chao replies, “As my father always said, if you’re going to bow, bow low.”
At the site where we know Ah Sahm will be working, Penelope balances the ledgers. She tells her father, “You have to go back to your suppliers.”
Her father whines, “I had contracts,” but Penelope assures him that “renegotiation is part of the process” and that because of his large orders, “you have to leverage your positions.” He tells her that he can handled things.
Penelope says, “If you keep handling the balances like this, my sisters will be out on the street” and that “I didn’t make the sacrifices I did for you to squander this opportunity.”
Her father is ashamed and tells her, “I didn’t ask you to do anything.”
This isn’t actually true as we have seen when he needed to seal the deal. Penelope doesn’t call him on his lie and replies, “You didn’t stop me either.”
Walking down the stairs to the factory floor, Penelope sees Ah Sahm working at her father’s factory, bringing coal to the furnaces. Penelope says, she had sent Jacob to check on him, but he was gone. “Is this really what you’re going to do?” She offers to help him because “with your English you can translate for the managers” and “you’d be invaluable.” She offers to get him a better positions but he declines.
Back in Chinatown, the leader of the Fung Hai meets with Mai Ling and she confronts Zing about the assault on Lee. Zing brushes that off telling her that it was Fung Hai business. While the Fung Hai are distributing the opium and had an agreement with the Long Zii, Zing tells her “Don’t make no mistake. I don’t work for you.” Then he makes it clear, “If I decide to kill ten cops, I’m going to do it and I don’t need your fucking permission.”
“Maybe you’re not the partner I imagined you would be,” Mai Ling responds. She says they will look for other solutions going forward and thanks Zing.
Mai Ling tried to dismiss Zing. Zing doesn’t move. Li Yung steps in front of Zing. Zing asks Mai Ling and Li Yung to step outside. He has his men lined up and the Long Zii men are kneeling on the ground.
In the poor part of Chinatown, with the money from his new job, Ah Sahm has been able to afford some things. Returning to his time-share bed, he tells Po, “I brought you some fresh bread and medicine.” Po is dead. Ah Sahm takes the body out
In the wealthy white part of time, Buckley is accosted Dylan Leary who is standing in front of Buckley’s carriage. Buckley tells Leary, “I’m the mayor’s liaison” for the cable car contract with the Mercer company.
Buckley knows about the fires, men going missing in the middle of the night and the beatings that Leary arranges so he finds Leary’s “moralizing tone misplaced.”
Leary responds, “I’ve known men like you and the only way to deal with men like you is close and personal.”
Leary contends, “You might be surprised to find we have similar goals” because Buckley doesn’t want coolie labor in the city either. He calls Leary a “common thug” and tells him, “you’re not going to influence state politics with threats with a fucking knife.”
Leary believes otherwise because sometimes it is knife held to the right person works. Leary leaves him. Buckley brushes his neck frantically and then collapses as he throws up.
The next day, Leary goes black bloc and takes a gang to Mercer’s factory, beating up the Chinese. The Irish thugs force the Chinese onto the ground, on their hands and knees. Then two men start crushing the hands of the Chinese workers using a hammer.
Mercer tries to load a gun in the office where he has locked himself, but he dies of a heart attack.” Then Ah Sahm appears. Leary’s men fight with Ah Sahm as the rest of the Chinese workers escape. Leary knocks Ah Sahm down and recognizes him. Ah Sahm gets some good hits in. Their fight is stopped by the arrival of the police.
Leary parting words to Ah Sahm are, “I’m going to find you, chink.”
Ah Sahm says, “I hope so.”
Outside of Chinatown, Bill is starting a new side job. He tells a man, “I know you think you’re safe outside of Chinatown,” but “It’s my job to keep the Chinese in Chinatown and you safe from them.” If the Fung Hai attack this well-to-do businessman, Bill will have failed.
The man sees it differently. Bill is now a loan shark. Bill warns, “Trust me. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of these bastards.” Bill gets $1500 and tells him, “Have the rest in two weeks or else it’s the white mountain for you.”
Outside, Lee is waiting for him and Bill tells Lee that he “just stopped in on an old friend.” Bill asks Lee how he feels and Lee tells him, “Like I was rode hard and put back wet.”
Bill then says, “Back into the shit you go.”
Looking on the bright side, Lee says, “A nice enough night for it.”
At Ah Toy, Lai is practicing with the sword under Ah Toy’s watchful eyes. At Mercer’s factory, Penelope looks at the books dressed in red.
Back at Ah Toy’s, Ah Toy is dressed in white with a black belt cinching her waist as she descends the stairs. She sees Ah Sahm and at the bottom of the steps she asks him, “What brings you here?”
Ah Sahm replies, “I was thinking I never really thanked you for taking care of me after the tournament.” To show his gratitude, he brought her something: two Irish men, hogtied in her basement.
In Chinese, she asks about the men and Ah Sahm tells her, “They were breaking the hands of coolies with a hammer.” She finds a hammer and a large Chinese man drags one man off.
Ah Toy asks, “So what happens now?”
Ah Sahm admits, “I don’t know exactly.” Then he says, “In the meantime I figured you could use some help now in then, you know, fighting back.”
Ah Toy replies, “Like you said. It’s a fight we can’t win.”
Ah Sahm says, “It’s okay. I’m getting used to losing.”
Ah Toy mentions that Wang Chao told her he was finding work out of Coolie Square, but Ah Sahm tells her he won’t be going there any more because it “turns out I have a different skillset.”
Ah Toy responds that “Confucius says in the middle of chaos lies opportunity.”
Yet Ah Sahm knows, “Confucius never said that.”
Ah Toy slyly responds, “No, he didn’t.”
In the next scenes, we see Ah Sahm dressing up in the black and red of the Hop Wei. The episode ends with Ah Sahm dressed up and walking down the streets of Chinatown with Young Jun and a group of Hop Wei hatchet men.