Into The Badlands Season Two: Character Reviews (Pt. 2)

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Bajie

I think Nick Frost was one of the best additions to this season, bringing a much needed element of humor to the series. We first meet him when he’s chained to Sunny in the mines, and he eventually proves to be useful to Sunny, both during, and after their escape, although that first betrayal of Sunny, to the warden, established him as a somewhat shady character.

After their escape from the mines, it takes some time for him and Sunny to warm to each other, because Sunny, very correctly,  doesn’t like or trust him, and Sunny has trouble working well with others. As Quinn’s ultimate authority, he was always very self sufficient. But getting into the Badlands is not something he can do alone, and Bajie needs him to acknowledge that. By the end of the season Sunny trusts Bajie enough to  entrust him with  MK’s  protection. I think that’s the reason Bajie sticks around. Its obvious that he’s reluctant to stay with Sunny, but there’s a part of Bajie that likes feeling needed. Oh and Bjaie figures he’s more likely to accomplish his goals with Sunny, than without him.

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It turns out that Bajie has a number of secrets that make him important to the greater narrative, so he’s not just some random character. In Nightingale Sings No More, we learn he used to be an Abbot at the Monastery that MK was taken to.

As I said in an earlier post,  Bajie means “8 Precepts” (of Buddhist thought), and  from the novel Journey to the West: Zhu Bajie is a complex and developed character. He looks like a terrible monster, part human and part pig, who often gets himself and his companions into trouble through his laziness, gluttony, and propensity for lusting after pretty women. 

This is pretty close to what Bajie is like in this show. He no longer lives according to his vows, drinking, and sleeping with women, as we saw in Monkey Leaps through Mists. He also fulfills another Kung Fu Movie stereotype: that of The Wayward Monk who has forsaken his vows and/or goes on a quest.

He gave up the Abbot’s life after he lost a student, that he nicknamed Flea, who turned out to be The Widow. He is searching for his student, saying that the only place he hadn’t looked was in the Badlands. Bajie is also the only person who knows how to interpret the Widow’s book. So he is also hoping to find that as well, although we could argue that the book is the only reason he’s looking for her.

In Black Heart White Mountain Bajie agrees to save Sunny from his coma, and he and MK sneak back into the monastery to get Sunny’s cure. While there, Bajie steals the compass that MK had in his possession, which The Master of the monastery took from him. We get a better understanding of  how skilled Bajie is when the Master and her students attack them.  Nick Frost acquits himself very well in his fight scenes, as I had never thought of him as an action movie star, despite his role  in Hot Fuzz.

Later, Bajie proves his loyalty to Sunny by attempting torescue him after Sunny makes an alliance with the Widow. Unfortunately we may not get any more of this character for next season. In Wolf’s Breath Dragon Fire, Bajie accompanies Sunny on his mission to take down Quinn and is severely injured. He manages to live long enough to put the together the book he stole from the Widow, with the compass he stole from MK. He makes his way up the coast to a conning tower and uses the book and compass to send out a signal in Morse code,  before succumbing to his wounds. What the message is, and where it’s going we’ll find out in season three. So yeah, the world is about to get much, much wider, next season.

 

MK:

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The last we saw of MK, he’d been kidnapped by some Monks with superpowers much like his own, only they could control theirs. These guys have taken it upon themselves to find young people like MK, and there are many, and either show them how to control their abilities or neutralize them entirely. At the monastery, Mk gets new fighting skills and a possible love interest in a young woman named Ava. He also discovers the truth about his past and how he got separated from his mother.

The monastery is run by the only Asian-African actress in the series Chipo Chung, who is of Zimbabwean and Chinese descent. Some of you might know her from Doctor Who. Well, I don’t know her from anywhere, but she is AWESOME in this series, and needs to be in more episodes. She is The Master who guides MK into his past, but also threatens to neutralize him, and her ultimate intentions are a mystery. By the time MK escapes the monastery, his powers have gone dormant, and he can no longer access them. I wonder if that’s the Abbot’s doing, or is MK repressing his abilities out of guilt for killing his mother. I suspect it’s the latter. After he escaped the monastery, the monks tracked him using a device that determines the dark energy of his abilities, and they were successful in finding him and Ava.  I think his powers are still there, but latent.

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In Leopard Stalks in Snow, MK is finally reunited with Sunny but has to leave him and travel back to the Monastery with Bajie, for a cure for Sunny’s poisoning in Black heart, White Mountain. He and Bajie have one of the best three way fights this season with the monks, their black-eyed students, and the Abbot.

Afterwards, MK, Bajie, and Sunny make their way into the Badlands, with several detours along the way, finally ending their journey in an alliance with the Widow. The Widow tries her best to seduce MK over to her side, but unlike Tilda, MK can see right through her bullshit, and is one of several people who call her out on her hypocrisy this season. She’s trying to convince him that the book, now in Bajie’s possession, is the key to getting their powers back, but MK is happy that his have gone dormant.

MK also has a reunion with Tilda, and the chemistry between the two of them is still there, but Tilda has found another potential love, who doesn’t trust MK because she was present when he hulked out, and murdered The River King’s cargo. Incidentally, we didn’t get to see the River King this season, but hopefully we’ll get to see more of him in the next, because that part of the story is still unresolved. I’m sure he still wants revenge against both MK and Sunny, for what happened in season one.

 

Tilda:

Tilda has one of the more interesting character arcs this season. A lot of viewers saw her rift with the Widow coming last season. I suspected it might occur, I didn’t realize it would occur so soon. Last season, Tilda made it clear that she still very much has a conscience, and very much believes in what the Widow is trying to do, for the women and Cogs of the Badlands.

Also, the Widow isn’t actually her mother. Tilda was a Cog that her husband sexually abusde, and the Widow claimed to have killed him for that reason. It seems that she may have been lying about her motivations in order to weaponize Tilda, and keep her on her side, by allowing her to call her mother.

Tilda committed a couple of disobediencies this season.The first, in Tiger Pushes Mountain, when she goes against the Widow’s express orders not to kill a group of Clippers that she had set free, chasing them down with her own girls, and killing them in secret. The second time was in Palm of the Iron Fox, when she disobeys the Widow’s instructions to stay home, after the Widow is invited to the Baron’s Conclave. When the Conclave is ambushed by Quinn, it is Tilda, who saves both the Widow and Waldo.

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It isn’t until after the Widow betrays Veil in Leopard Stalks in Snow, that Tilda rightfully confronts the Widow about her hypocrisy, and the two finally have it out in Nightingale Sings No More, when Tilda confronts her one last time. After the Widow defeats Tilda, even Waldo won’t have anything to do with the Widow, and leaves her. I suspect part of the reason the Widow tries so hard to attract MK is because she needs a new Regent.

Tilda also discovers new love, with a new Butterfly named Odessa, in Leopard Stalks in Snow. The show is making tentative inroads into introducing gay characters, in  Edward, who was promptly killed by Veil, and Tilda who is a primary character. Hopefully we’ll get to see more gay characters next season. Its taking the right steps in regards to Odessa who, although a jealous and suspicious person, her motivations for being so, are sound. Odessa is also brave and definitely attached to Tilda, which is a relief, as I suspected she might have some horrible ulterior motive, at first. If we’re lucky they won’t kill her off for Tilda’s woman-pain.

 

Lydia:

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Lydia had been exiled to her father’s territory, and then exiled from there too. Lydia has learned some deep lessons since that first season. It turns out that it was Jade’s duplicity that got her exiled by Quinn, after she poisoned herself, and blamed it on Lydia. Lydia had a contentious relationship with Jade for most of the whole season, which is what allowed Jade to get away with her deception.

Lydia has learned the value of allyship in the wake of Quinn killing her only son, Ryder in episode four, Palm of the Iron Fox.  Afterwards she and Jade commiserated on Ryder’s loss, and Lydia vowed to kill Quinn. Heading off with Jade’s Clippers, (as she now rules Quinn’s former territory), Lydia got taken hostage by Quinn, because he booby-trapped his underground lair.

Given the opportunity to kill Quinn, Lydia doesn’t hesitate, but he stops her, and she is there to witness his fake wedding to Veil, when he claims Henry as his heir. She tries to counsel Veil, and help her through the ordeal, but Veil has other ideas. She gives Lydia custody of Henry, as she intends to kill Quinn when he tries to consummate their wedding.

Lydia does her best to alleviate Veil’s misery while in Quinn’s bunker, but its all for nothing.The last we see of her she was being rescued by Sunny as she was about to be exectuted for trying to warn Quinn’s men about the bombs he’d placed throughout his compound. Okay, she did kick more than a little ass, with nothing but a shovel she’d been using to dig her own grave. Sunny places his sword in her care, and she runs off into the woods.

 

Next post: Into the Badlands (The World)

 

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