Into the Badlands : Snake Creeps Down/ Hand of Five Poisons

Snake Creeps Down

This is going to be a combination of the last two episodes of the season, so have a seat and buckle up. This is going to be a long read.

I found  that Snake Creeps Down is a Tai Chi move. I’ve seen variations of this move in a few action films and I’m always blown away by the grace and elegance. Tai Chi isn’t often showcased in action movies because, although there is a hard version, (that Jet Li practiced in in the movie The One), its gentler style is not of much use in action films.

 

I didn’t actually see this move in the episode though, so the title must be metaphorical.

Last week, Sunny, who has become more decisive in his efforts to get out of Dodge, made a deal with the River King to bring him the head of the person who killed all the Cogs in his cargo, and Sunny agreed. Sunny is very worried about MK and what he’s capable of, and has nightmares about being killed by SuperMK.

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The watch fob we saw in his possession is shown to neatly fit into the book that MK stole from the Widow’s house, and which Veil has been attempting to translate. MK’s assertion that it might be a map through the badlands may have some merit.

The Widow, having bought off Quinn’s Cogs,  is now using them as an army in her revolution. She is methodically testing the young men for MKs superpower.

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With the Cogs gone, there is no one to pick the Poppy harvest, so Jade steps up to teach what Colts are left, how to harvest the juice from the flowers, after Quinn has a tumor attack in plain view of everyone. Jade is interesting in that she seems to have some very revolutionary ideas about how things should be run in the Badlands. Ideas that are as wild and crazy as the Widow’s, like teaching the Cogs to read and treating them with respect. I had initially written her off as just another sexual schemer, trying to secure her future in the Fort, but it appears she has some goal in mind that isn’t about her own self aggrandizement. She steps up and is willing to get her hands dirty harvesting the crop and  influences Lydia to do the same.  Earlier, Lydia showed disdain for the work of the Cogs but I guess Jade’s attitude shamed her. The two of them spend the day harvesting the Poppy field, together.

Ryder goes to seek advice from Waldo, who tells him that if he wants answers to his questions about Azra, and the pendant he took from MK, he needs to go see Lydia’s father. Waldo shows barely veiled contempt for Ryder. Most of the characters on the show seem to have that reaction to him.

Veil and Quinn talk while she gives him his treatment, which she earlier confessed to Sunny, was pointless anyway. Quinn lies to her, telling her that Sunny killed her parents. I hope she doesn’t buy that but I guess the point is for Quinn to sow discord between her and Sunny. Quinn is just an asshole, and assholes are gonna asshole. Its what they do.

Ryder goes to see his grandfather, played by Lance Henriksen, and I’m totally squeeing in my bunny slippers, right now because its fecking LANCE HENRIKSEN! Penrith is the leader of some fundamentalist  religious cult. He tells Ryder that Azra is a myth but after Ryder leaves, he mentions something about a “Dark One” that needs to be destroyed. I guess he means MK.

Religion is approached in an interesting way in this series. Quinn is obviously an evil atheist, which I do not appreciate. Penrith is a fundamentalist who may not be much better, though. This show is saying something about religion, I’m just not certain what that is.

Wow! Mk is really getting popular. Everybody’s after his Unlucky Charms.

Bale, MK, and Sunny have been patrolling the woods all day, looking for signs of the Widow, when MK runs into Tilda. He’s trying to convince her to run away with him, but that’s not in their future because Sunny interrupts and takes her prisoner, but not before she bites off Bale’s ear, which he deserved for acting like a total shit and calling her a bitch.

Sunny takes her to the Fort, where Quinn tells him to torture her for information about the Widow, and incidentally, Sunny needs to stop seeing Veil. He gives some bullshit reason for this request, but we know its just more of his maneuvering. Sunny appears to agree, but we know he’s lying just to make Quinn shut up.

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Sunny’s torture session with the Tilda is interrupted by…the Widow. She and Sunny start reenacting the fight scene between Shu Lien and Jen from Crouching Tiger, even using some of the same weaponry, like  flails and those hook things Shu Lien was so good at wielding. While this is happening, Bale, who has lost his damn mind, decides to torture Tilda himself. He locks MK in a cell while he beats Tilda’s ass.  MK, desperate to save her, cuts himself and Jedis Bale, impaling him on some thorny wall art. (No, seriously!  Dungeon art  is ugly.) Quinn and the Widow both witness this, and the Widow, gravely injured, is helped to escape by Tilda.

 

Hand of Five Poisons

There are a lot of rearrangements of people’s lives happening in the finale.

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Per his agreement with the River King, Sunny takes the severed head of the boy who killed RK’s cargo, for his inspection. It’s actually Bale’s head and Sunny hopes the River King buys this deception, so he can secure his escape from the Badlands. I was pretty certain he wasn’t going to kill MK, as MK is one of the stars of the show and I think Sunny might have actual feelings for him. Sunny often seems impassive but underneath there’s a deep well of emotion. One day we hope to see Daniel Wu do the “single man tear”, because all bad-asses get to do that at least once.

In the Badlands, three amber-robed monks take an interest in MK. I wonder who these guys are and how/if they’re related to Lydia’s father, Penrith,, played by “LANCE HENRIKSEN!”

Quinn goes to Lydia and accuses her of poisoning Jade. I’m not buying that because that’s just much, much too obvious and convenient.Lydia insists that Jade poisoned herself, while I’m inclined to believe that Ryder did it. Quinn kicks Lydia out of the Fort. I think its a mistake for Quinn to leave her alive, though. What if she goes over to the Widow’s cause?

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Lydia walks out with her head held high and goes to join her father’s congregation. For some reason I was really touched by this moment. Earlier, Pen had told Ryder that his daughter was dead to him, but she begs him to accept her and he relents.Its interesting to watch Lydia being so nakedly emotional.  I think it  says something about me that I don’t completely trust her and think she’s got something else up her sleeve. (She gets re-baptized into her dad’s cult, while some  of the more uncoordinated members do the Cabbage Patch in the background, which I find unintentionally hilarious.)

Veil, is kidnapped by Tilda and the two of them have some long and frank discussions about the Widow not caring about Tilda. I’m going to have to disagree with Veil’s police-work on that issue. I think the Widow genuinely believes in her cause and  sees Tilda as more than cannon fodder, but Tilda is in that space where she’s  tired of killing, so Veil’s message  strikes a chord with her.

Veil nurses the Widow, but to ensure her release leaves three vials behind. Two of them are poisons and the last is a tincture to cure the Widow’s wounds. The irony of suggesting that Tilda kill her mother with one of the poisons, after she lectured Tilda about killing, seems to entirely  escape Veil. The Widow, tells Veil what she’s trying to accomplish and offers Veil sanctuary in return for nursing her back to health.

I’m becoming increasingly exasperated by Veil. Earlier in the episode she confronted Sunny about watching her parents die and doing nothing to stop it. She made it seem like she was changing her mind about leaving the badlands and that just irked me, but I’m not sure why, as she has a right to be mad about that. And later, you would think,  especially after the deaths of her parents, that she would be on-board the Widow’s ideas about the how the Badlands should be run. She’s so stuck on the idea of the Widow being violent, that she can’t see beyond the violence to the motivation behind it. And then later, has the nerve to suggest matricide to a person she just lectured about violence.

Tilda confronts her mother about MK, and the Widow explains that she knows what MK is because she used to be like him, which is quite a revelation,  and raises a whole host of questions about who she is, where she came from and what happened to her powers.

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Quinn imprisons Sunny, believing him to be the traitor that he’s been searching for.  Quinn is going even more insane or trying to tie up any loose ends before his death. He takes MK under his wing and promises him Tilda, Sunny’s life, and the moon and stars, if he’ll be loyal to him. I  don’t think MK is buying any of it as Quinn’s behavior seems more than a little desperate and creepy.

Quinn takes him to his meeting with Jacobee and cuts him. MK goes full Hulk on Jacobee, Zephyr, Ryder and all their henchmen and kicks ass. Its lot of fun to watch but I kept begging that Jacobee wouldn’t be killed because he’s a great villain, although I think Zephyr, the Widow’s henchwoman, is dead.

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It turns out that Waldo is the traitor. What better traitor could there be then the one person everyone disrespects and disregards. This is the one of the lessons that the show has been intermittently teaching, that underestimating one’s opponent leaves one open to defeat. In that sense Waldo has successfully destroyed Quinn’s house. Ryder is out of the picture, Lydia is in exile, Jade is poisoned and possibly dying.

Waldo releases Sunny from the prison. Sunny goes after Quinn, of course, as Quinn deliberately threatened to hurt Veil. He kills Quinn, who was hiding in an alley watching the MK-Hell he’d just unleashed on his foes. Its a quick and undramatic death, and I’m a little surprised Sunny did it. This is the most decisive thing I’ve  seen him do.

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Afterwards, he attempts to subdue MK but is interrupted by the three monks, who easily take both him and MK down, while revealing they have the same powers Mk does. We come full circle as Sunny gets kidnapped by the River King, who plans to sell him to the highest bidder, having seen through Sunny’s deception involving the head.

 

Overview:

I like Daniel Wu’s portrayal of Sunny. He’s, strong, and stoic, but compassionate and kind. I’m glad his personal angst is kept to a minimum and only alluded to by other characters, though. The only problem I had was his earlier passivity. Now though, he seems to have become much more active, actually making some real and tough decisions.

My  favorite, MK, is  the embodiment of every annoying teenager on TV. He’s headstrong, doesn’t listen, is egotistical, and snarky,  but this is offset by his compassion and the openness of his character, which this show kind of needs, as it can get a bit heavy. He’s also a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a taco. If he could  get out of his own way, he’d make a formidable Clipper and he has more than enough angst for both him and Sunny.When we last see him he is once again, kidnapped, locked in a trunk,  and being transported somewhere. Since Mk spends a lot of time escaping from being locked up somewhere, I don’t expect this  to last.

The Widow is awesome. I have a difficult time thinking of her as a villain. I  understand and identify with what she’s trying to accomplish, which has turned her role in this show into almost a feminist narrative, as she isn’t doing this just for her own power, although that’s a part of it. She wants to reform the Badlands into civilization, where people can choose their futures and not be at the mercy of the men who rule now, a system that keeps everyone in bondage except the Barons. She’s playing the part of  Ying Zheng, the man who united ancient China into the Qin Empire. Violence is pretty much her only option to accomplish her goals. I hope she survives into the next season, if there is one.

I’m actually starting to like Veil, even if she does get on my nerves. She was first introduced in that scene where she was teaching Sunny to read and  the writers have taken great care not to damsel her much. She’s smart, educated, brave, with just enough fire in her personality to keep her from being bland. She doesn’t seem to have any martial skills, but there are other ways women can be strong, and she’s an example of that.

I should mention, that Veil’s and Sunny’s relationship is remarkable because its the only interracial relationship, between two PoC, one being an Asian man, that I’ve noticed outside of The Walking Dead.

I’m also starting to like Jade, who started out as fairly uninteresting, but is probably a closet reformer, not unlike The Widow. It would be very interesting if the two of them were to compare notes.

I like Lydia ,too.  The last two episodes made her a much more interesting character, as she seems to be changing her mind about some long held beliefs. She’s another strong woman of a different type than Veil. All the women in this show would be formidable opponents to the Barons if they decided to team up.

I’m not disappointed in the first season of this show. I like the worldbuilding, the cliffhangers, the costumes the characters and, of course, all the fight scenes, which have been gorgeous. It will be interesting to see what direction the show takes if there’s a second season. (I’ll let everyone know if there is.)

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