Wu Assassins is the story of how Kai, the new Wu Assassin, must restore the balance of the universe by taking the wu from Wu Warlords. The Wu Warlords each hold one of the elements: wood, fire, water, metal, and earth. This makes them powerful and dangerous.
To help or hinder Kai on his path are his childhood friends (Tommy, Jenny and Lu Xin), an undercover police agent (CG), his father (Triad crime boss and Fire Wu), and 1000 monk faces and powers. Season 1 just aired on Netflix this August. Here are five things it did well and five things that it could have done better.
10 Did Well: The Fight Scenes
These are well-choreographed and exciting fight scenes. Nearly each character has martial arts skills, and it was fascinating not only watching those skills, but how their characters were revealed through the fighting. For instance, Jenny appears to be used to being underestimated by most opponents. When she saves Tommy, she doesn't fight until she has to, and she uses many low-to-ground rolls and skills. Her opponent assumes he has bested her, but she has him just where she wants him. She uses her petite size and their narrow-mindedness to her benefit.
9 Could Have Been Better: The Role of CG and the Police
CG goes undercover to try to bring both Alec's Russian crew and Uncle's Six's crew in. She works for Lu Xin initially to gather data, but also to find dirt about him. Occasionally, we hear from the other police who are trying to keep the peace between these two warring fractions. However, as CG gets pulled into the Wu world, her initial role falters. The police present a subplot that never truly developed. While we like CG and consider her useful, her story feels spotty at best.
8 Did Well: The Earth Wu
The Earth Wu is barely in the show, but makes a big impact. Seeing that his son is a disappointment and shouldn't inherit the Wu, the Earth Wu kidnaps potentials in order to interview them. If they pass the interview, they would receive the Wu. If they don't, the Earth Wu kills them. All have been killed so far.
The Earth Wu is very connected to his element and protecting nature. His story is interesting in that his use of power is more grounded in helping the earth, rather than in what power he can get from it. While very eccentric, even he knows not to buddy up with Alec, the Wood Wu, and cautions Kai to keep away from him. The Earth Wu is unique and surprisingly well-developed even in his short screen time.
7 Could Have Been Better: Water Wu
The Water Wu is played by the fantastic actress Summer Glau, but she feels quite under-utilized. We know little about her besides the fact that she follows the Wood Wu and has had a romantic relationship with the Metal Wu (regardless of the body he is in). True, the Water Wu is beautiful and dangerous, but what else? Her sole purpose seems to be assuming the role of the sexy one, leaving her character flat. She is like the Sleeping Beauty of the Wu Warlords — on the screen, but only passively active. While she does kill a man, she kills him for the Wood Wu, not any motive unique to herself.
6 Did Well: The Childhood Friendship
Kai, Lu Xin, Jenny and Tommy have been friends since Uncle Six took Kai in as his own. We see them together as teenagers: getting tattoos, eating and goofing around. The scenes from their youth help show their history and chemistry. Kai comes across as more reserved than the other three, and they come across as protective of him. This continues into adulthood. However, when they dine together at the end, they seem less connected than before. This suggests that the tight friendship between them may have some challenges in the next season.
5 Could Have Been Better: The Monks' Faces and Powers
1000 monks gave their powers for the Wu Assassin (Kai) in order to successfully fight the Wu Warlords, restoring balance. In addition, when Kai needs to hide his identity, a monk's face appears as his own as a way to protect him. While we see a couple of the monks' faces, we don't see others. We don't know if each monk had a unique power that Kai comes to possess. Basically, we know little about their story.
Also, people find that Kai was the Wu Assassin pretty early, so the masks of the monks' faces become of little use.
4 Did Well: Family Struggles and Loyalty
In this series, we have multiple examples of family. We have Tommy and Jenny, a tight-knit sibling pair trying to live up to the high expectations of their family. Then there is Zan of the Triad who has no family and envies Jenny. We also have Alec the Wood Wu, who began his game just so he could go back to his family. Even CG talks about her father and how he led her to the life she has now. Then there is the Earth Wu and his talk of passing the Wu power down generation to generation. Last but not least, we have Kai and Uncle Six, who share a strong bond.
In each of these narratives, family or the lack of family is important. It determines the characters' values and what they are willing to do to protect those close to them. Zan, the one without a family, seems to be searching for hers. Instead, she chooses power and betrayal — both of which will probably not give her the sense of belonging she wants.
3 Could Have Been Better: Lu Xin's Shame and Anger
Out of the four friends, Lu Xin is the one who was burnt and harmed by the fire when they were teens and trapped in the building. His face and ear were scarred, and it is something he is sensitive about, thinking people treat him differently because of it. However, until other characters mentioned the scars, we didn't really notice much about them. On the screen, they seem minimal. The actor who plays Lu Xin, Lewis Tan, is a very handsome man, so Lu Xin doesn't come across as the rejected/judged outsider. He's also joyful. For the scars to have affected him more, we should see them manifest in the way Lu Xin views himself throughout the full series, and not just towards the end.
2 Did Well: Kai and Uncle Six's Relationship
Uncle Six seems only sincere when he is with Kai. While we doubt many things about Uncle Six, we never doubt his love for Kai. Even though Kai may be angry with Uncle Six, he also loves him. Uncle Six notes that Kai doesn't use the expensive knife Uncle Six bought him, but Kai also doesn't throw it away. This symbolizes their relationship — while Kai doesn't adhere to all of whom Uncle Six is, h also doesn't throw away his love and teachings. This relationships shone and it allowed us to see Uncle Six's softer, more noble side.
1 Could Have Been Better: "I Am Not a Killer"
A key part of Kai's personality is that he is not a killer. Uncle Six likes this about Kai and considers it a strength. Ying Ying tells Kai that as the Wu Assassin, he will need to kill. Kai answers back that he isn't a killer. However, when it comes time to kill, Kai does this easily and without much struggle. In contrast, another MCU superhero, Daredevil lives by the code of not killing, and struggles not to cross that line. Whereas, Kai just accepts that he has to kill with little to no inner struggle.