Martial-arts prodigy Ah Sahm immigrates from China to San Francisco under mysterious circumstances and becomes a hatchet man for the Hop Wei, one of Chinatown’s most powerful tongs.
San Francisco, 1878: Ah Sahm, a newly arrived Chinese immigrant with serious fighting skills, is introduced by a fixer named Chao to Chinatown's most ruthless tong, the Hop Wei. After impressing Young Jun, son of tong leader Father Jun, Ah Sahm is branded.
Intercepting a shipment of opium at the docks, Young Jun, with Ah Sahm and his Hop Wei lieutenant Bolo in tow, decides to send a message to Long Zii. Big Bill and Lee investigate a grisly murder scene in an alley, and Ah Sahm pays a steep price for playing the hero.
Leary pressures Byron Mercer, Penny's father and a gentleman industrialist, to hire his men for a cable-car track job. Accused of assault and perhaps worse, Ah Sahm gets a cold shoulder from the Hop Wei, with his fate in the hands of an unexpected ally.
Big Bill finds himself compromised by his gambling excesses, but discovers a possible solution after an opium den raid. After meeting with leaders of the Fung Hai tong, Mai Ling offers Ah Sahm a way out of a protracted - and bloody - tong war.
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Transporting precious cargo via stagecoach, Ah Sahm and Young Jun are forced to spend the night with three strangers at a frontier saloon in the middle of nowhere. The detour turns perilous when Harlan French, a notorious outlaw, shows up with his henchmen.
Tensions soar between the Hop Wei and Long Zii after an assassination attempt during a boisterous parade. Big Bill sets out to pay his debt to Jack Damon. Mayor Blake and Deputy Mayor Buckley get a mandate from Robert Crestwood, a senator with eyes on the White House.
Ah Sahm faces a dilemma when Father Jun sends Bolo to hunt down Long Zii and Mai Ling. Ah Toy recruits a special girl from a whore monger, and takes on a business partner for a land deal. Penny is faced with an unsavoury choice in order to save her home.
The Hop Wei and Long Zii consider a novel way to end hostilities. Ah Toy and her real-estate business partner hit a bump in the road in their effort to buy a valuable piece of land. After promising jobs to Leary's Irish workers, Mercer toasts Crestwood at a fundraiser.
Chinatown gathers to witness a prize fight between elite warriors from the Hop Wei and Long Zii. Buckley plays a bluff in hopes of getting Mercer to lower his fee. Bill and Lee question Wang Chao about the recent series of sword killings in San Francisco.
Ah Sahm rejects his warrior roots and retreats into the netherworld of the Chinese working class. A guilty Big Bill stands vigil for Lee at the hospital. Zing and the Fung Hai make a show of force to compel Mai Ling to honour her partnership.