In the inventory of storylines in a lot of police shows from KOJAK, HUNTER, etc. is the obligatory Chinatown episode, which deals with the spillage of Asian crime into the concerns of mainstream, which in turn exposes the urban problems of the Asian community in the big city. This Chinatown episode surfaces as the second episode of NASH BRIDGES possibly because the show is set in San Francisco with one of the largest and most famous Chinatowns in the United States. NASH BRIDGES deals with its setting in a dark and wildly violent episode with lots of shoot-outs and explosions.
There are several unusual aspects to this episode which is worth noting. The first is the nature of the crime - the home invasion is an extremely violent sort of crime, and this violence is presented with strong stylistic visuals. There is a kind of drop-frame slow motion effect which is used effectively in the opening sequence of a home invasion in progress with the home invaders stylistically made-up in painted faces. Later, when the home invaders attack Nash and company at his apartment, this same visual technique is employed. It makes for scary and exciting sequences, if not entirely coherent. A virtual commando team attacks Nash and his house guests in revenge because Nash has been forced to kill one of their members. The outrageousness (and the resultant mayhem) of the storyline continues when the head of the violent crew tries to escape in a Winnebago with Nash in his Barracuda in hot pursuit. The Winnebago plunges off the freeway exploding in a fireball.
Parallel to the pyrotechnics is the strong romance as Nash finally succumbs to his second ex-wife after he saves her from the Blind Date From Hell. Initially there appears to be two separate isolated storylines of the romance story and the home invasion story, but the two stories merge when the bad guys turn up at Nash's apartment for payback. What makes this storyline treatment different from the standard Chinatown episode is the focus on Nash and his personal life. The romance storyline overwhelms the almost incidental "gimmick crime of the week" of home invasion. In this 1990s adaptation of the Chinatown cliches, the social context of Chinatown and the concerns of the Asian community are pushed aside. In an earlier era, there might be more storyline coverage about Chinatown, but in the 1990s reincarnate of NASH BRIDGES, the Chinatown storyline is almost incoherent. More troubling is the association of the violent home invasion to the context of Chinatown. In a Chinatown street confrontation with an exchange of gunfire and human shields, Nash kills one of the home invaders. This most violent of crimes, home invasion, is now linked to the concept of the Asian community.
The NASH BRIDGES reworking of the standard Chinatown episode to police shows isn't terribly progressive in light of its San Francisco setting and its other progressive elements. This second episode is a half step backwards - even the gender relationships are sullied. The rekindling of Nash's romance with his second ex-wife ends abruptly as his first ex-wife explodes at Nash for endangering their daughter in the apartment shoot-out. She turns into a veritable shrew and tears into Nash, slapping him in the face - so much for this series initial smooth progressive veneer. Similarly, Nash's pal Joe Dominguez is on the outs with his wife. There's dark humor here as the episode ends on a freeze-frame of Nash and Joes' faces, looking like whipped dogs.
For more, see synopsis for Episode 2