The CINEMAX/HBO Max series “Warrior” follows Ah Sahm, a skilled Chinese immigrant martial artist, as he fights his way through a number of difficult challenges in 1870s San Francisco, including unrelenting racism at the hands of white Americans and turf battles against rival Tongs with the goal of winning more land and influence in Chinatown. The show is based on a concept that Bruce Lee wanted to bring to televisions across the United States back in the early 1970s. After Lee unsuccessfully pitched the idea to Warner Bros, the studio turned around and developed a similar show called “Kung Fu” starring David Carradine in yellowface.
This whitewashing of Lee’s idea was a disappointment to his family for decades until his daughter Shannon Lee helped revive the concept as “Warrior.” Shannon Lee connected with Justin Lin (known for directing many of the Fast & the Furious films), and they talked about bringing Bruce Lee’s vision to life.
Lin told Shannon Lee, “If you would want to, we should make this – and not just make it. But really make it the way your father intended it to be made and with the intent behind it.”
After bringing the show to life, Shannon Lee and Lin have stayed on as executive producers of “Warrior.”
Just the fact that “Warrior” is based on a concept by Bruce Lee should be enough to pique your interest. However, it is so much more than a show with awesome kung fu fight scenes. It’s a meaningful period piece that shows the discrimination and outright racism that Chinese Americans faced in the 1870s. Furthermore, “Warrior” helps you understand the deep-seated roots of today’s anti-Asian racism.
“Warrior” kicks off with Ah Sahm (played by Andrew Koji) arriving in San Francisco in 1875. As soon as he steps foot on American soil, he’s antagonized by a group of Irish Americans. After quickly defeating the Irish Americans in a one-sided fight, Ah Sahm is recruited by the Hop Wei Tong to be their new muscle in the Tong Wars. Some historians might liken Tongs to gangs, while others might call them brotherhoods focused on helping their community. In any case, Tongs provided Chinese immigrants with counseling, English classes, schooling, and protection.
All of these services were extremely important in San Francisco during the 1870s because many Irish Americans, elected politicians, and rich businessmen were on a mission to kick Chinese immigrants out of the country and shut down the immigration of Chinese people to the United States.
Irish Americans had a clear motive for this: Chinese Americans were their primary competition for jobs on the railroads. Also, many powerful politicians and businessmen were firmly entrenched in the belief in white supremacy and viewed Chinese Americans as dirty and un-American. They used their influence, money, and power to help enact hateful laws that made discrimination against Chinese people legal. The first two seasons of “Warrior” portray what San Francisco was like before some of these discriminatory laws were put into place.
“‘Warrior‘ is a must-watch for both Asian Americans, and all Americans in general. It does a tremendous job of highlighting a past that many history textbooks have glossed over,” Korean American singer Paul Kim (AKA P.Keys) told DIRECTV.
“The burning of Chinatowns were a real thing. Public lynchings of Chinese immigrants actually happened. The anti-Asian sentiment of the late 1800s is what led to the Chinese Exclusion Act being passed by Congress. I don’t need to remind you that history seems to be repeating itself today. ‘Warrior‘ gives a raw and accurate description of what many Asians experienced on the journey ‘across the salt’ to America, during this period.”
It’s really difficult to find a show that has the ability to educate viewers – especially on a subject as touchy as America’s racist history – while keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. “Warrior” finds itself in this rare class of shows thanks to its interesting characters, important subject matter, unparalleled action choreography (powered by countless talented martial artists), and an engaging storyline.
“‘Warrior‘ is the first time where a TV series truly centered on Chinese Americans and told their immigration story from their perspective. This was an origin story for today’s Chinese American community,” says Tom Ngo, head of content at Popshop Live and founder of CXSHXNLY (the precursor to 88rising). “It depicts Chinese people not as foreigners, but as people simply looking for a place they can call home. ‘Warrior’ shows how Chinese Americans helped build America while facing endless discrimination and racism. This discrimination has been a constant theme throughout American history, as seen in today’s prevalent hate crimes against Chinese Americans.”
Season 2 of “Warrior” wrapped up on Cinemax in December 2020 and fans of the show were worried the show would reach an abrupt and untimely end due to Cinemax‘s decision to completely halt the production of original programming. “Warrior” was the last original program airing on Cinemax.
In an effort to save the show, “Warrior” fans created a petition on Change.org with the hope of bringing season 3 to another network. After nearly 70,000 signatures, HBO decided to bring “Warrior” to HBO Max, which seems like a natural transition since Cinemax and HBO Max are both parts of the HBO family.
The release date of season 3 hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s expected that it will be released sometime in 2023. In the meantime, now is the perfect time for you to jump on HBO Max and binge “Warrior.” It’s the best show that you haven’t watched yet.