WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Wish Dragon, now streaming on Netflix.
Netflix’s Wish Dragon is a retelling of the genie-in-the-bottle story, with 19-year-old Din (Jimmy Wong) getting ahold of a magical Chinese teapot that contains the wish dragon, Long Zhu (John Cho). The dragon isn’t initially as friendly as say Aladdin’s Genie, but in time he and Din form a similar close bond.
However, a lot more nuance is given to the wish master as Din explores what he wants for himself, so let’s dissect Long’s powers and how his background influences the youth.
When Din gets the teapot from a mysterious old man, he makes his first wish on the fly as he runs from goons hunting the relic. It’s nonchalant, though, as he doesn’t think his summoning of Long is real, but when he gets his wish to be a kung-fu master, Din starts believing the hype. Long reaffirms he can grant three wishes, but there are constraints.
He can’t do time travel, kill people or force folks to fall in love — or even be friends. The latter is of concern to Din as he wants to reunite with his best friend, Li Na, after she left their poor community a decade ago. However, Din does work around it by asking to be a modern prince for 24 hours, which results in Long turning into a human personal assistant, providing him a fancy suit, car and watch to woo Li Na at her birthday party.
What’s interesting is that with this wish — and the subsequent and final one Din makes to be rich permanently — Long displays another tweak to his wish-granting. He isn’t beholden to just grant them instantly after Din says the magic words; he has the ability to pause the wish and confer with his master as to whether or not they really want this. He hasn’t used this with the others, but he likes Din, so he shows him the truth about his own history to inform Din on his last wish.
Up to this point, Din thinks Long’s just a dragon who needs the teen to grant three wishes to release him from servitude. Din’s his 10th and final master, and once this happens, Long’s soul can enter heaven. But the dragon admits he altered his story just to rush Din into wishes, all so he could be free. In flashbacks, he shows Din that he was indeed a Chinese lord a millennia ago but being turned into a dragon after death wasn’t a reward — it was punishment.
He was a greedy lord who had 17 wives so he could have countless children. His daughters were married off so he could expand his empire while his lone son was killed in war due to Long’s obsession with gold. His vanity also had him pushing subjects to build monuments to him, and sadly, he didn’t care when they died which confirms he wasn’t benevolent — he was a tyrant.
Long Zhu ended up on his deathbed alone with no family or loyal underlings there to comfort him, so the gods turned him to this dragon as penance. They were hoping he could see how greed is indeed a poison and after spending a thousand years trapped in servitude, thanks to Din, Long finally understands how it corrupts. More so, he learns of true love and family from Din. As such, he doesn’t want Din to repeat his mistakes, and after this history lesson, he’s ready to restart the wish if Din really wants to follow the selfish path like he did.
Written and directed by Chris Appelhans, Wish Dragon stars the voice talents of Jimmy Wong, John Cho, Constance Wu, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Will Yun Lee, Jimmy O. Yang, Aaron Yoo, Bobby Lee and Ronnie Chieng. It is currently streaming on Netflix.
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Let's break down Long Zhu's powers in Netflix's Wish Dragon and how his true background helps Din to make a crucial decision with his big wish.