The CW’s Kung Fu follows young Chinese-American Nicky Shen (Olivia Liang) after a quarter-life crisis prompts her to drop out of college and embark on a life-changing journey to an isolated monastery in China. She stays at the monastery for three years under the mentorship of Pei-Ling Zhan (Vanessa Kai), but when Pei-Ling is murdered by Zhilan (Yvonne Chapman), Nicky returns home to her family in San Francisco. A deleted scene included with the home release of Kung Fu shows an alternate introduction to Zhilan.
In the pilot episode of Kung Fu, the series establishes a strong, meaningful relationship between Olivia Liang’s Nicky and Vanessa Kai’s Pei-Ling. Nicky first meets Yvonne Chapman’s Zhilan when she witnesses the murder of Pei-Ling and then follows and duels Zhilan in an attempt to avenge her mentor. This sets up Zhilan as the villain of the series, but it turns out there was an alternate introduction to this character. Check out the deleted scene below.
As seen in the deleted scene, Zhilan shows up making demands of Pei-Ling, who stands her ground and refuses to give in. Nicky approaches, sensing the tension, and asks what’s wrong. Zhilan takes a dig at Nicky being American. Pei-Ling reaffirms to Zhilan that her answer is no, and she is not intimidated by Zhilan’s power. Zhilan leaves, and Pei-Ling says the Mandarin word biange for the first time. Nicky asks what it means, and what Zhilan wants, and the clip ends.
Had the showrunners chosen to go with this introduction to Zhilan, a few things would change. First, Nicky would have recognized Zhilan when seeing her fight Pei-Ling and then chasing after her. Second, the audience would be clued in earlier to the deeper relationship between Zhilan and Pei-Ling, which is not revealed until later in the series. Third, this opening provides a different perspective on the first time Nicky hears the word “biange” which can be translated in English to “to change” or “to transform”.
The way the pilot plays out in actuality is more exciting as it’s more action-based, and that’s probably what the team at the CW was going for since they really need to grip viewers in the pilot. The deleted scene above is much more emotional, and while the audience can feel the tension between the three women, it doesn’t move the story as quickly. Nicky and Zhilan meeting for the first time in an action sequence works very well, but it’s still cool to see another way Zhilan could’ve been introduced as the series villain.
Fans can see more deleted scenes and a Bond of Honor featurette when Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releases Kung Fu: The Complete First Season on DVD and Blu-ray November 2, 2021. The series does a really beautiful job showcasing authentic Chinese culture. Check out our full list of 2021 new DVD releases and some of the best CW shows to stream right now.
Obsessed with Hamilton and most things Disney. Gets too attached to TV show characters. Loves a good thriller, but will only tolerate so much blood.