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Max’s Underseen Martial Arts Gem Gets a Second Life on Netflix

Max never truly knew what to do with Warrior, but the series will find a new audience on a rival streamer.

Andrew Koji and Joe Taslim in Warrior
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The streaming era is not without its foibles, but there’s something to be said for the way Netflix has been picking up the slack where it can. The streamer is by no means perfect — in many ways, it still perpetuates the industry’s worst habits — but what was once the progenitor of haphazard franchise building has become a savior of projects that would otherwise be lost to the whims of other platforms.

Take Netflix’s relationship with Max. While the latter hacks its streaming library to pieces, Netflix is all too happy to take the gems it discards. It’s also made Warner Bros.’ most coveted properties accessible to a wider audience, from the films of DC’s Snyderverse to Issa Rae’s Insecure. Now, Netflix has scooped up another of Max’s most promising titles: the underseen and recently canceled martial arts epic Warrior.

Warrior survived the recent tumult at Warner Bros. better than most. The series originally premiered on Cinemax and enjoyed a two-season run until 2020, when Cinemax announced it was pulling the plug on all its original programming. It had to make way for HBO Max, which was set to house all WarnerMedia content under one roof. But Warrior was renewed under the new regime, and launched its third season on the new service in 2021.

Warrior actually began as a potential starring vehicle for Bruce Lee. The martial arts legend wrote a pitch for the series in the ‘70s, keen to tell the story of a Chinese immigrant who fights his way to the American Dream. Lee shopped it to multiple studios, but was ultimately rejected. No one felt confident centering a series on an Asian male lead. Given the prevalence of shows like Kung Fu, which cast white actors to play Asian characters, Lee’s struggle still leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Andrew Koji inherits the role originally conceived for Bruce Lee.


Lee’s concept was then lost until 2000, when producer Shannon Lee discovered her father’s writings and helped develop Warrior. Bullet Train’s Andrew Koji took the role originally conceived for Lee: Ah Sahm, a Chinese-American martial artist who comes to San Francisco in the 1880s in search of his estranged younger sister, Mai Ling (Dianne Doan). He joins up with the Hop Wei, a Chinese gang embroiled in a contentious turf battle, but his allegiances quickly strain when he learns Mai Ling is allied with the rival Long Zii.

For all the behind-the-scenes turmoil, Max was a good home for Warrior. It has a lot in common with horny, politically-driven shows like Game of Thrones, and since it began on Cinemax, it was no stranger to kinetic, ultraviolent action sequences. Ah Sahm and Mai Ling’s strained dynamic serves as a fitting entry point into a conflict-riddled Chinatown, and the gangs face opposition from all sides: not only from their own rivals, but also from the American politicians and cops vying for control of the city.

For those who miss the political machinations of Game of Thrones, Warrior is an ideal alternative.


San Francisco was very different in the late 19th century, and Warrior doesn’t shy away from the era’s controversies. The series may take artistic liberties where needed, but it also serves as the gateway to a history America would rather forget. That Warner saw fit to cancel the show twice is still a disappointment, but Netflix seems to recognize its merit... and its potential to reach an even wider fanbase.

Per Deadline, who first broke word of Warrior’s cancellation, Netflix also has the power to renew the series for a fourth season. Chances of renewal are slim, as the cast has since moved on to other projects. But at least the scrappy series has another fighting chance. Max never truly knew what to do with Warrior, but maybe Netflix will.

Warrior is streaming on Netflix.

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