“The Assassin” is about violence and love, and the Shaolin approach to both. Cain wanders into the middle of two feuding families. On one side is Alan Swan (William Glover), an Englishman with a Japanese wife and daughter that runs a trading post. On the other is Noah Jones (Dana Elcar), who, with his son Abe (James Keach), runs a transportation convoy. What began as some kind of business dispute has become an ongoing war between the two that’s threatening to pass on to the next generation, Abe and Swan’s daughter “Aggie” (Akiko, Beverly Kushida).
A ninja (Robert Ito) is involved, and it soon becomes clear to Cain that he must discover who he is and confront him. It also becomes clear to Cain that he loves Akiko. The flashbacks in this episode focus on these two poles – martial arts and the fighting ways on the one, love of women on the other.
Po instructs Cain in fighting, in how to balance the Shaolin’s destructive ability with its respect for human life. “Learn first how to live. Learn second how not to kill. Learn third how to live with death. Learn fourth how to die.” That’d be an apt epigraph for the philosophical views of the series! For love, Po tells him to risk it – make himself vulnerable and it’ll all come back to you. “Empty yourself and yet be filled.”
There’s a great flashback of Master Kan also instructing Cain. Kan demonstrates to the disciples how to maim or kill someone with a blow to the neck. When Cain is troubled, Kan demonstrates how the ability to perform evil acts while still retaining a good moral compass is necessary in life – as the sun uses shadow on a sun dial to tell time. “Choose between goods. Choose between evils.” In this episode, Kan’s instruction ties Po’s together and it’s the adult Cain that must realize it.
Sex and violence, the “Kung Fu” way. Great episode, although I found the Akiko sub plot distracting. Three out of four yin yangs. IMDB here. Very notable for its use of a ninja, ten years at least before the ninja fad in martial arts movies of the 1980s.