Here’s the thing about Max’s high-octane, action-packed drama Warrior, which returns today for its third season. The show hooked me pretty much from the get-go, thanks to the way it combines elements of some of my all-time favorite series (Peaky Blinders and Boardwalk Empire), while also adding in a dash of martial arts to give viewers some pretty enthralling fight scenes. And as for the setting, Warrior unfolds in the Chinatown of post-Civil War San Francisco — a backdrop that doesn’t look all that different, at least to me, from Peaky Blinders’ Small Heath.
Having said all that, though, there’s also a good chance you have no idea what I’m talking about.
That’s because, as fantastic as Warrior is, it’s been described as the most underrated action series of the century (via Inverse), a categorization probably owing to the fact that the show originally aired on Cinemax before HBO brought it over to its newly christened Max streamer for the new season. Hopefully, being carried by a bigger platform means the show — based on the writings of martial arts icon Bruce Lee — now has a chance at the bigger audience it definitely deserves, because with a Tommy Shelby-like protagonist, witty repartee, big action set pieces, and period style galore, what’s not to like?
Warrior, which currently has a near-perfect 94% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, is notionally based on the real-world Tong Wars. Those were a long-running series of disputes between factions of Chinese gangs and their descendants that unfolded in San Francisco’s Chinatown and elsewhere in the US during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
“In the wake of the race riots that upended Chinatown in season two,” explains the official Warrior Season 3 logline, “Mai Ling uses her government connections to consolidate power, while Ah Sahm and the Hop Wei must find new ways to survive.” The cast includes Andrew Koji, Olivia Cheng, Jason Tobin, Dianne Doan, Kieran Bew, Dean Jagger, and Tom Weston-Jones, among others. And here’s what executive producer Shannon Lee had to say about the new season, in tandem with the unveiling of three curated, interactive murals connected to the show in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco:
“Seeing Warrior return for our 3rd season during this 50th anniversary year for my father is just the ultimate celebration of his legacy,” said Lee, who’s also the president of the Bruce Lee Foundation. “I couldn’t be more proud of our show, our cast, our crew, and the impact our show continues to have and the entertainment it continues to serve up — and celebrating through art and interactivity in 3 cities across the country all at once is just an amazing way for a lot of people to get in on the fun.”