For those who love action movies, Netflix has served a great binge in the form of ‘Wu Assassins’. If you love Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, then Iko Uwais’s jaw-dropping action sequences in this series will delight your soul. Mixing mythology and superhero stuff with lots of martial arts, it is a show that you don’t want to miss. It is so replete with action scenes, that sometimes it feels like people are fighting more than they are talking to each other. And that’s not at all a complaint! If you haven’t yet seen it, head over to Netflix. Right now. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Summary of the Plot
‘Wu Assassins’ follows the story of a chef, Kai Jin, who becomes a part of an ancient war between the Wu Xing and the Wu Assassins. His father is the leader of the Triad and is the crime lord presiding over Chinatown in San Francisco. He is also one of the Wu Xing and the first one that Kai needs to take down to save the world. His childhood friends, each of whom is connected to his father in a different way, get indulged in his plan, along with an undercover cop.
The Powers of the Wu Xing
‘Wu Assassins’ pits the protagonist against the force of five enemies who possess the powers of various elements. Each Wu Xing piece allows its possessor to gain full control of a particular element. Starting with the Fire Wu, the powers are rather simple. (Till now, at least.) Uncle Six was burying a body when he stumbled upon the Fire Wu Xing. He had no idea what it was, but as soon as he touched it, the power took over him. It took him some time to get used to it. As soon as he knew he was good to go, he decided to kill his competition and took over full control of the Triad. For fifteen years, he was in the possession of the Wu Xing and we see him employ it for a good number of things. He can burn you from inside out, he can instantly raise the temperature of anything. Fire blasts are obvious, and he can even create weapons out of it, like the leash he used during his first fight with the Wu Assassin.
The second Wu Xing that we come across is Wood Wu. Alec McCullough was a retired assassin, living with his family in the jungles of Scotland in the 16th century. Ying Ying found him and made him accept his destiny as the Wu Assassin. He even succeeds in killing the Water and Wood Wu, but the loss of his family is too much for him to bear. He gives up the powers of the Assassin to accept the powers of the Wood Wu, in the hopes of bringing back his family. But nothing can resurrect the dead and he is forever haunted by it.
One of the powers of the Wood Wu is Wolverine-level healing, which further, grants him immortality. It is also one of the things that make him a formidable enemy. Another perk of being a Wood Wu is that you can heal others. Other than this, we don’t get to know more about it. We don’t see McCullough fighting the previous Wood Wu and we never get to see him indulge in action when he has it. Perhaps, in the next season! Another Wu Xing is Water Wu. As the name suggests, it gives its possessor the power to control water, be it from a river, a glass of water, or inside the human body. The more creative you can get with it, the more dangerous you are. Also, “water beats fire”, so that makes Water Wu more powerful than Fire Wu.
The most interesting of all is the Metal Wu. We are introduced to it last, but it instantly proves itself highly dangerous and, consequently, more useful. A man named Gideon possesses the Metal Wu and seems adept at using it, which means that he has been in control of it for a long time. Metal is everywhere, even in humans, and Gideon can manipulate all of it. In some sense, he is like Magneto, but better. Being able to manipulate the iron inside the human body allows him access to others. He can take over anyone, pushing their consciousness in the backseat. The victim would be in what can be compared to the Sunken Place in ‘Get Out’. The more your haemoglobin, the better control he has. Gideon’s power also allows him to control electronic devices. He can short-circuit any switch-board, he can access all the files in a computer without ever touching it, and can send a text without ever asking Siri to do it!
The next Wu Xing that Kai Jin comes across, and the first one that he has to kill, is the Earth Wu. Unlike others, who chanced upon the Wu Xing or were led to it through someone, Baxter inherits it from his family. He is a naturalist and is so concerned about the fate of the Earth that it has turned him into a serial killer. He is a psychopath! And the fault lies in his upbringing.
The Earth Wu had been in his family for generations and was passed down from father to son. When the time came for Baxter to give it up, he wanted to be sure that his son was a deserving successor. Evidently, the son failed at it and Baxter had to interview other people for the job. Since he couldn’t send out flyers for this stuff, he would kidnap people and ask them a series of questions about geology and nature. The one to pass with flying colours would be bestowed with its power. What he forgets during this is that the captives are so traumatised by their experience that they are not in the mental state to pass any test. When they fail, he kills them. This obsessive behaviour also makes us question the fate of his “unworthy” son. Did Baxter kill him too?
Speaking of his powers, the Earth Wu is a pretty powerful thing to have. It gives you control of, well, the Earth. You can bring about earthquakes, you can make caves collapse, you can turn anyone into stone. You can manipulate the ground beneath the feet of your enemy. However, this great power also comes with a horrifying price. Becoming one with the Earth Wu means that you will slowly turn into stone yourself. The closest example of this is the Greyscale disease of the Stone Men in ‘Game of Thrones’. The difference is that Baxter’s problem is not communicable. But that doesn’t make him any less hazardous.
The Wu Assassin and the Path
Wu Assassins gains their power from the Dao that is the bridge between them and the thousand monks who sacrificed themselves for the greater good. Ying Ying was the first of those assassins and had succeeded in retrieving all the pieces, but one moment of carelessness cost her the Wu Xing as well as her life. Since a thousand monks had given their lives, there were a thousand assassins that the world would get. 999 options have been exhausted, which makes Kai the last hope for humanity. In order to help the successors meet their destiny, the monks brought Ying Ying to a limbo between life and death. This place is called the Path and here she trains the Assassins to kill the Wu Xing.
The uniqueness of the Path allows it to be free of the constraints of time and reality. Spend one hour or a day in the Path, and not more than a few moments would pass you by in reality. It also allows her access to various points in history through which she helps Kai Jin understand what he is up against. Only a Wu Assassin has access to this place, and they go in and out of it without disrupting the fabric of reality. However, if someone else comes through, the results can be catastrophic. Since normal humans and the Wu Xing are not allowed in the Path, the more time they spend here means more damage done to the real world. The Monk warns Kai Jin to not allow McCollough to enter the Path. However, McCollough gains access to the stones that activate in the presence of all Wu Xing and allows them to cross over.
Wu Assassins The Ending: Was It Real?
The finale of ‘Wu Assassin’ delivers an action-packed ride that ends on a very confusing note. McCollough had stabbed Tommy and was only keeping him alive to blackmail Kai Jin into giving up the Wood Wu. In an attempt to help her brother, Jenny takes control of the Fire Wu but is forced to remain docile due to her brother’s life. CG’s body is taken over by Gideon and she is able to overpower him momentarily. However, he takes over her and the plan that Kai Jin had come up with goes to waste.
Meanwhile, Zan has taken over the Triad. Uncle Six believes that some people in the gang are still loyal to him and calls out to them to help Kai Jin. But his hopes are shattered when his loyal men bring Zan with them. Uncle Six tries to fight her, but ruthless as she is, he doesn’t survive her. The death of his father hits Kai Jin hard and he walks into war with the thought of exacting revenge. When he does reach the woods where McCollough has been waiting for him, he discovers that his plan won’t work. But there is another trick up his sleeve. Instead of surrendering Wood Wu to McCollough, he gives its powers to Tommy. While this would have been a great move in any other condition, McCollough had anticipated this, which is why he called Kai to the site of the ritual.
As soon as Tommy takes over the Wood Wu, the circle completes and the doorway to the Path is activated. Once inside it, the Wu Xing is forced out of everyone and Kai is able to bring them together, as Ying Ying had, and along with the Dao gives up the whole piece to the higher power. They succeed in overcoming the rest of McCullough’s goons and Kai tells everyone to go back. Meanwhile, McCollough has gone deeper into the limbo and finally meets his family. Kai follows him and kills him, sparing his wife and son. Next, we see him back in the kitchen. It has been six weeks since all this happened and they are all trying to move on with their lives. They are trying to get hold of Zan, who has gone to Macau to strengthen her position in the Triad. Just when we think that everything has gone back to normal, everything begins to quake and Ying Ying appears out of nowhere, telling Kai that it hasn’t ended yet.
Now, here is the question, whatever happened after Kai killed McCollough, was it real or not? As far as we know, Ying Ying is dead and uses the Path to communicate with Kai. Does that mean that Kai is in his own limbo now? Did he never return to Earth? While I considered this possibility very keenly, I don’t think that Kai was dreaming. He did come back to Earth. Six weeks did pass by, and all of them did have dinner together.
One of the things that we notice while experiencing a character’s dream is that everything happens from their perspective. It wasn’t so here. Lu Xin shared an intimate moment with Christine outside the restaurant and parted with her in a manner similar to when they had first met. Since Kai didn’t know this detail, he couldn’t have dreamed it. Similarly, there is Jenny talking to a guy from high school who invites her to join public service. This wasn’t something in Kai’s mind, so again, he couldn’t have dreamed it. Then there is Mr Young. There is something mysterious about the way he delivers those groceries. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something wrong with him!
So, if Kai wasn’t in the limbo, then how is Ying Ying there “in the flesh”? Well, this isn’t the first time that we have seen her outside of the Path. The first time she met Kai was on a street and it was after spending a few minutes there that she took him to their main rendezvous point. Secondly, the Monk had warned Kai that the more time McCollough spends in the limbo, the more strain will be put on the nature of reality and the more chaotic things would become. Since McCollough did spend a considerable amount of time in the Path, there must have been some heavy repercussions on the nature of reality. This could mean that Ying Ying has the power of properly going out and about into the real world. This is how she is sipping wine in front of the confused Kai.
Wu Assassins Season 2: What to Expect?
‘Wu Assassins’ gives a great start to the story that has a lot of potential, and those excellent action sequences are the reason why Netflix shouldn’t take much time in dropping the next season. There are a lot of questions that need answering. First of all, we need more information about the origin of the Wu Xing. Ying Ying tells Kai Jin that the problem began when five Wu warlords decided to use their powers to strengthen their position by oppressing others.
With the power of Wu Xing in their control, they thought that the world should be under their rule. It was to defeat them that the monks sacrificed their lives and merged their powers to form the Dao, which is what helps him channel the energy of the monks to fight the Wu Xing. However, between all this, she doesn’t tell him how the Wu Xing came about in the first place. Did someone create them like the Dao was created? Or had they always been around? Is there another mythology waiting behind the powers of Wu Xing? The second season is expected to shed light on the history of both the Dao and the Wu Xing, and how they are the part of the same puzzle.
Next, if Kai Jin had successfully retrieved all the pieces, why does the world still need the Assassin? Who has control over the powers now? Is it because the line separating Earth from the Path has blurred that new problems have emerged? In this situation, can we expect Ying Ying to be on Earth full-time? She is too good a character to keep in the shadows forever. We need more of her! Also, romance is blossoming between certain characters.
While the first season was too busy to pay attention to anyone’s love life, we can expect the second season to be more attentive to that. Next, there is the talk of Jenny’s future? Will we see her as a rising political figure? Considering the position of Zan in Chinatown now, the group will need someone who can rival her? Who better than her archnemesis, Jenny? Also, what is the deal with Mr Young? I refuse to believe that he is just a normal grocer.