The following recap contains spoilers from the Season 1 finale of American Born Chinese, streaming on Disney+.
Disney+’s American Born Chinese, with its season finale, in thrilling fashion revealed the sought-after Fourth Scroll — yet in doing so, it upended a main character’s life, leaving viewers clamoring for renewal news.
The finale opened with a dream in which Jin (played by Ben Wang) was the handyman in Beyond Repair, the (fictional) 1990s sitcom that featured the stereotype-riddled, catchphrase-spouting character of Freddy Wong (played by Academy Award winner Ke Huy Quan). In the sequence, Jin was visited by the goddess Guanyin (Academy Award winner Michelle Yeoh), who explained that it was the autumn equinox, at which time Heaven and Earth are in perfect balance and a “gate” briefly opens ‘tween the two. Thus, Bull Demon (Leonard Wu) has a plum opportunity to launch his uprising, during the moment that the gate between the realms is open.
In the course of delivering this exposition, Guanyin says a few things — including “Power flows from the core,” and that tonight’s soccer game has “epic consequences” — that Jin hears from others later that day, after waking up, convincing him as well as best friend Anuj that a mythological event is fated to unfold.
Jin and Anuj find Wei-Chen at his “aunt’s” apartment — and in his natural monkey form. Putting their heads together, the boys suspect that Bull Demon is acting out a storyline from one of the Kugo Ren mangas. As they set out to deduce which specific storyline, Jin and Anuj find a comp to a Fantastic Four comic in which the Mole Man attacked nuclear power plants from below. They surmise that Bull Demon plans to do same, using the Iron Staff to draw power “from the [Earth’s] core,” at the soccer game that night.
Said soccer game is preceded by several school club showcases there on the playing field, including one for Anuj and the Cosplay Club. Knowing that Bull Demon has (some) shapeshifting abilities, they can’t be sure who/where he is, so taking a cue from something Amelia said — in the course of (finally) asking out Jin/prompting a first kiss! — Jin decides to draw out their foe. Cue an impromptu play in which Jin and Anju cosplay as Bull Demon and the goddess Guanyin, with the former making his character out to be quite sad, pathetic and insecure. Bull Demon, “hiding” in the stands as biology teacher Mr. Larkins, take the bait and leaps through the air and onto the stage, to clash with Wei-Chen.
Ultimately, the fight takes flight, with the two tussling in the sky above the field — all as the principal, soccer coach and others presume it to be a(n ambitious) bit of theater. All the while, the Iron Staff, thrust into the ground, starts to draw power from the Earth’s core. Despite repeated tries, Wei-Chen is unable to get free of Bull Demon long enough to remove the staff. Jin, meanwhile, after lobbing several heavy items at the staff, to no effect, flashes back to something his parents said during the Beyond Repair dream — to be brave, recognize the strength within him, and “just be you.”
Jin then charges at, and leaps atop, the Iron Staff, just in time to block and absorb its energy blast.
And he was able to do so because he himself is the Fourth Scroll!
As the gate between Heaven and Earth closes, Monkey King Sun Wukong (Daniel Wu) resurfaces — apparently quite healed by Mrs. Wang’s co-opted herbal remedy powder! — to reclaim the staff and then disappear with both his son and Bull Demon, leaving the soccer field showing no signs of the celestial skirmish.
Arriving home that night, Jin finds Wei-Chen waiting for him. Wei-Chen reports that Bull Demon has been handed over to the Jade Emperor. He also affirms that it was Jin, not himself, who stopped the uprising.
“I still don’t know how I did that,” Jin shrugs. “Neither do I,” says Wei-Chen, “but I’m going to find out.”
After the boys hug goodbye (for now, at least), Jin heads inside the house to find… no one. His his parents are missing. And the celestial who we know to be Princess Iron Fan (Poppy Liu), aka Bull Demon’s wife, is sitting in the family living room.
“Who are you?” asks Jin.
“I have been waiting to ask you the same thing…,” the princess counters. “But I got my answer tonight. That’s why you are coming with me — if you want to see your parents again.”
Now, Jin’s Chinese isn’t so good, but we at home have the benefit of closed-captioning, so the dire stakes are clear. But will Disney+ in these uncertain streaming times order a Season 2 of ABC?