The Kung Fu Season 3 finale aired Wednesday on The CW, delivering a final showdown between Nicky (and the Shoobies) and Xiao, but more than that, it brought many of the fan favorite series' stories full circle. It was an action-packed and emotional hour of television and series executive producers Christina M. Kim and Robert Berens sat down with ComicBook.com ahead of the episode to talk about the character's journeys, one of the episode's most incredible scenes, and their hope that this is just "Volume One".
Warning: Spoilers for the Season 3 finale of Kung Fu beyond this point.
Nicole Drum, ComicBook.com: I always find myself not just watching Kung Fu as individual seasons or individual episodes, but as a big story so every episode for me feels as a part of the whole. Heading into the finale, I couldn't help but keep thinking all of these characters have been on such a journey this season and also all the way back from season one. Before we start jumping and talking specifics about this episode, what were you guys thinking about in terms of the characters' journeys or what were your goals for these characters as you embarked on season three?
Christina M. Kim: Well, I think you kind of hit and nail on the head is that we have a lot of characters and they've all been on these incredible journeys and over three seasons we sat down and took stock of where everybody started in season one to where we are now. And we had a lot of discussions about also where hopefully we can take them in future seasons. But we have a big cast and there there's a lot of story and as you mentioned, a lot of it is intertwined. So, we spent quite a bit of time at the beginning of the season trying to map out where we wanted to leave our characters at the end of season three.
Robert Berens: And I think the principle for us was what feels both right and satisfying for our characters, but also still feels a little bit surprising. So, I don't think Jim got into politics to actually hold office, but I think fun about the surprise of, oh wait, what if he actually won? And then in Mei-Li's case, I think it surprised us, but felt right that ultimately her journey forward would be more about her rediscovered spark for cooking and for being a leader and a businesswoman on her own and her new friendship with a younger chef in Sebastian. That would be the beginning of a new journey for her. So, I think we search for the things that would be both satisfying and feel right. But it would also take yours with a little bit of a surprise.
Talking about things that surprised me. And also talking about Mei-Li and Jin obviously we get the food truck and one of the great things about this whole season is watching Mei-Li struggle with letting go of control of her business and trying to find herself again in all this. At the same time, Sebastian's on his own journey and as we get to the end we see them, they got this food truck Warrior Wok. I kept getting this feeling at the end as we're seeing Warrior Wok being successful, we see Ryan and Sebastian doing their thing, starting their thing almost as Jin and Mei-Li the next generation. It's almost like the torch is being passed in a sense.
Berens: I think you put it very well and I think we also, so much of this is by design, but a lot of it's just by discovery. And I could even say that in the case of Mei-Li's arc, a lot of it was just really came from Kheng and the performance she gave, how far could we push her evolution from the woman we met in the first episode? And I think narratively the design was to arc towards a very different, almost rejuvenated younger version of herself to still taking chances, still starting over, even on the other side of her career. And that came from Kheng. That's the energy and vibe she brought to the role. And so, I think a lot of this was by discovery as we went along. And even the sort of parallels between Jin and Mei-Li and Sebastian, Ryan were things we found along the way. But we're glad that they landed because we loved them too. And we found that very emotional to stick that landing.
We go into this episode, and you all have a thing with finales where it is the most bananas and most high stakes thing, and you somehow manage to pull everything off in ways that I cannot predict. But we go into this, the bloodlines magic has all been pulled back, Mia is dead, it looks like there's no way out of this. We've got people thinking Xiao needs to die. Nicky's at her wits end trying to figure out what's my path here. There's a lot here. So, talk to me about why the stakes are always so high in your finales.
Kim: I think it's just building over the course of the season. We have so many balls up in the air because we have so many characters and so many storylines and we've got our more grounded stories and we've got our mythology stories. And it feels like by the end of the season there's so much that's been bubbling up and then we realize, oh shoot, we've got a resolve some of this. And it's worked out that way. It always makes it exciting, but I'm glad that you have noticed that we also like to come back to the family and to our characters. That's really the bread and butter of our show and I think our fans have connected to these characters so much. So yes, we have epic fights and big things happening and we're saving the world sometimes, but we always want to come back to the characters and make sure that we are leaving the audience satisfied in terms of knowing where they are and how they're feeling about things. But yeah, we do that.
Berens: Yeah, and also, I think a lot of it's got a two by... This is Nicky's heroes' journey, but it's also the Shen family's hero's journey. I think managing across three seasons, if Mei-Li and Jin were picking up two by fours to beat off possessed guards in season one, that would've felt too soon. So, there was definitely a slow build across three seasons. In the finale you've got Jin and Mei-Lee picking up two by fours to defend themselves in a way that feels earned and we've gotten there. So, the fun has been really increasingly bringing the family into the fold of the mix and the jeopardy. And so that guided that decision I think across three seasons.
There is a line in this episode, obviously we have Nicky being a badass without having the badass powers. We see her really come into her own in a way we've never really seen before. And there's a moment that jumped out at me and I even put in my notes best Nicky moment ever where she tells Xiao, I don't need to be a warrior to kick your ass. It feels like that is possibly the biggest turning point for the series here near the end of this season finale.
Berens: Absolutely. Yeah, and I think for us, there's always a lot of moving pieces in our finale in terms of how the tide is turned against our villain. But I think it was really important that this be really Nicky's victory by tactics and by her own smarts. And I think she has really seen through the limitation in Xiao's plan and that's the weak point that she's going to exploit. So, she goes in with a lot of confidence because she believes that ultimately as a statement of value, she has a team at her back and Xiao is her mirror opposite. Xiao is reaching out and using people and that is divided consciousness that is allowing oneself to be diffused and distracted. And I think we talked a lot in the room that what backs that up is a lot of what Pei-Ling taught her at the monastery about Shaolin principles of focus and having a unified focus. And so, she knows that she's exploiting Xiao's biggest weakness in that moment. So, it was a big F yeah moment for Nicky that we were very excited.
But you also let Nicky do the hardest thing she has to do, she has to kill Pei-Ling.
Berens: I think so much about the finale was really coming full circle with a pilot and I think as we saw at the beginning of this season, Nicky has grown so much, but I think ultimately this whole saga, this sort of, as we like to call it volume one of Kung Fu and hopefully it is just volume one of Kung Fu. It really started with her grief over Pei-Ling. And I think when Pei-Ling was brought back even though it was brought back by a villain. And it opened up all this danger in her world and it was all this magic. A part of her really just desperately wanted to hold onto that. At the core of all this was this desire to save her, she flew into undo the death that sort of started this whole story. And I think for that, it's on the other side of it for Nicky to realize that no, actually the hardest work she has to do is to let go of that hope because the truth is her shifu who died, that's how it's supposed to be.
Not to mention all of the mystical consequences of Pei-Ling's continued existence, like the threat of Xiao living on. And I think most of all the fact that Xiao essentially has these spirits of Mia and all of the bloodline warriors, they've all been sort of trapped in this magical purgatory for so long. And it is time for it to end, it has to end. So, there's a lot of back and forth about how much we would tease that that's where we were going. And we did hide the ball a little bit because we did want an element of surprise there. It really felt right that that's how it had to be. And then also that for Pei-Ling, really that would be fundamental to her values, that she knows that she was supposed to die to begin with, that what happened is what happened, and it needs to have happened.
One of the things I really loved about this season is we got unexpected team ups. We got to see Althea and Zhilan, which was so great. And then of course in this episode, what I really enjoyed is we also got the Pei-Ling, Nicky team up in the final battle with Xiao. They're both fighting the same villain basically in two different planes of existence.
Kim: And I think our stunts team is so incredible because they took what was a theoretical idea of mirroring Shifu, really embodying her Shifu, all of that and then turning it into this fight that actually made sense. It was beautiful. And of course, our actors are incredible to perform that way. But the design of it all I thought was amazing that they were able to choreograph it and have the storyline come through in the action.
Now you have mentioned that this is Kung Fu volume one, and obviously we don't know at anything about what the future is holding at this point. But I do have to say, as a viewer, this episode definitely feels like a series finale. If this is the end for Kung Fu, what are you hoping people walk away from this with?
Kim: Well, I think for me, so much of it is about these characters. And I think that we lucked out with the most incredible cast truly that we could have ever imagined. But I hope that they have touched people and surprised people along the way. And I hope that they've connected with them and maybe people are surprised that they connected with certain characters. But for me growing up, I never had a show that looked like this. So, I was really excited to have Nicky be a young Asian woman on TV every week, kicking butt. If we were to not return, which hopefully is not the case, I hope that that leaves a lasting impression and opens the door for a lot more shows like this. So that's my feelings on it. I'm so proud of our show and of the cast and the stories that we've told. And I like shows like this. I shows that are emotional and have a big heart to them, so I want more shows like this on the air as well. So, it's my thinking at the moment.
Berens: I'll just add that I think this world, it needs characters that Christina created. I think there's so much rich stuff to play with. And I think that what was really exciting and interesting was there's so many hero stories out there in the genre space. And I think there was a real opportunity here, and I hope it landed to challenge some of the hero storytelling in that there's a really strong story for Nicky. But there's also values and ideas of community and relying on others that maybe cut against the grain of the lone wolf hero idea. I hope that we created something different on a number of different levels to add to the pantheon of hero stories.0comments