Into the Badlands Season Two: Series Review

Plot:


The plot this season was much more intricate, with multiple characters, arcs, intentions, and designs. There was a lot to fit into eight episodes, and that the show managed to keep so many plot lines coherent, while tying up several from last season, is a testament to the skills of the writers. As outlined in the character reviews, everyone got to have a plot. The overriding theme seemed to be everyone seeking power, in the vacuum left behind by Baron Quinn’s rumored death.

The overriding character arcs were the Widow’s corrupt rise to power, Sunny’s search for his wife, MK’s escape, and Baron Quinn’s last hurrah. The writers juggled these four plots with a number of subs, managing to keep most of them untangled, and comprehensible, while still throwing  in a number of unpredictable twists and turns, which I enjoyed. The betrayals were flying fast and furious at one point, and if you blinked you’d miss who was aligning with who.

My biggest complaint is the treatment of the black characters, Edgar, Silver Moon, Veil, an unnamed black teenager at the monastery, and an unnamed butterfly, who were all brutally killed. Of them, only Silver, and Veil, had backstories. The show can do better than that.  I don’t think the show wants to get embroiled in a discussion of anti-blackness, but it will, if it keeps killing off  all its black characters like that.

Plus, it gives us one of the worst types of  character trope, in the show’s finale, with the fridging of Sunny’s love interest, a black woman who sacrifices herself, to save her man. It seems no matter how progressive white male writers believe themselves to be, they simply cannot seem to avoid the trope of the Sacrificial Negro.

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That said, my favorite character this season was Silver Moon. I loved this character but I don’t know why. Probably because he reminds me of the character from the RZA’s Martial Arts movie, The Man with the Iron Fists. I also think it’s very interesting that Sunny, even after he had his own sword returned to him, kept using the one he took from Silver, giving his old sword to Lydia. This character had lines and a backstory. They tried really hard to flesh him out, and that’s to be applauded.

Complaints aside, I am glad that the show remembers there are Black people in the future, and in a fantasy setting, just walking around in the background scenes. The show does need to add more Asian characters though, and Baron Chau is a good start. I loved watching her kick some ass, and liked that she lives to see the next season. She’s played by actress Eleanor Matsuuras, who is from Hertfordshire by way of Tokyo, and has mostly starred in British productions.

 

Worldbuilding:



We didn’t get to see much architecture and landscapes in the last season, and what there was, seemed more of an afterthought, but with the show’s bigger budget this season, we got some very ambitious, sometimes epic, background scenery. From the shot of the huge walls that cut off the badlands from the rest of the world, to the  intricate and lush gardens surrounding the Widow’s home, we got treated to some tremendous worldbuilding. And the details of this world are simply incredible, as seen in the Widow’s study, and the map of the Badlands above, that’s only glimpsed in a brief moment in a single episode, which outlines where this takes place in the US, and marks the different baronies.

I remember that first season, I had some major questions about food and textile production, and we get a partial answer, in learning that not everyone grows poppies. There are oil fields, and if that is the case, then there are also textile mills somewhere as well. These things aren’t knowledge that would be lost, since creating fabrics is one of the most basic human skills. Certainly the working and tooling of leather hasn’t been lost, or car repair either, it seems. We got such a small glimpse of the world in the first season, that we were left with a ton of questions, but the show has really built on that in a way that makes sense for the Badlands. This world is set to become even bigger in the third season after Bajie’s Morse code message is received.

We’re also given some startling glimpses into what type of world we’ve joined. Apparently this world is set about a hundred or so years from now, (how far into the future is unclear, so I could be wrong), but it’s long after some sort of soft apocalypse, that left lots of infrastructure, and fewer people. In one of the episodes, MK and Ava visit a long abandoned mall/dept store, that still has Christmas lights and decorations. It can’t be too far into the future because the lights still work. There’s electricity in some places. There’s little literacy, but some knowledge of medicines and machines ( like X-rays) is still available in the Badlands. And then there’s this unseen city (Astra) that everyone keeps talking about.

And it’s not just the landscapes, but all the tiny details inside the homes of various characters, like Baron Chau’s all white interiors, and grand wall paintings, the dark, old-world, furnishings of the Widows home, the dark majesty of Quinn’s home in exile, in an abandoned metro station. We may have started the show traveling through the classic Mad Max dystopia of the mines, but not all of the Badlands looks that way, and it was very exciting to get these glimpses into a broken past.

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Costumes:

The series had some stunning costume work this season, with rich colors, and beautiful, very sexy, outlines. This is very probably one of the sexiest martial arts shows I’ve ever watched, as usually the costumes for this type of genre can be somewhat pragmatic.You can see there’s real intent  to create a feeling of lost majesty/ bygone luster.

And every  character (even the most minor of them) gets the luxury treatment. From Silver Moon’s  old and tattered Clipper outfit, to Tilda’s pragmatic, newly minted Regent uniform,  from Baron Chau’s sumptuous furs and glittery dresses, to Quinn’s scuffed and grubby finery. These details really bring home the kind of lifestyles of the Baron’s, as the Cogs are dressed in the simplest colors and practical, easily cared for, fabrics.

Everything, and everyone, is given gorgeous detail, from hair, to  shoes, to makeup, furniture, and housing. From Baron Chau’s pearl jewelry and on-point makeup, to the Widow’s more action oriented look, with everyone receiving more elaborate hairstyles, including MK. Even Waldo gets some scrumptious blue velvet to wear.

Each Barony has its own color scheme. Quinn’s was dried blood red, but now that it’s been taken over by Jade and Ryder, it’s a fresher, magenta red color. Baron Chau’s color scheme is white. Another Baron’s color is green. The Widow’s colors are a deep royal blue. The monks and MK are wearing various shades of purples, and oranges. After he escapes the monastery, MK is seeing wearing a gorgeous green surplus, that I wanted for myself, along with some more gentle earthtones.

 

Even the lowest, most minor characters, got the full costume treatment. Look at the detail on this Junkyard King, in his darkened purple, and mother of pearl buttons. Contrast that with the  fresher and more vibrant purple of MKs monk’s robes. I love the matching color schemes in these two photos.

The duplicitous and conniving Jade. Her hair and makeup also reflect her character. Contrast that with her more innocent look in the first season.

Veil is often associated with soft natural colors, and earth tones, in keeping with her honest, down to earth, nature.

The details this season are incredible. Check out Waldo’s pince nez glasses, the little crossed cufflinks, and the chair handle ornaments! I also liked MK’s more elaborate hairstyle, with its tiny twists. Most of these things you’re never going to notice during the series, except for a quick second, but the set designers and prop masters went the full one hundred, anyway. This is the first time I really noticed Waldo’s knuckle tattoos, from his time as a Clipper.


I have since learned that the painting in Baron Chau’s home is called “Leonidas at Thermopylae”, and is a reference to Sunny making a commitment to a fight he knows he won’t survive. It’s by a Neo-Classical French painter of the 19th century, named Jacques Louis-David. Sunny’s and Chau’s postures imitate the formal poses in the painting. This was a hallmark of the Classical style in which grand Mythological and Historical themes were painted in a clean, formal manner.

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Contrast Chau’s white minimalist environment, and  the marble columns, with Minerva’s home which is  very Old- World traditional, with lots of greenery, velvet, and hard-wood.  Chau’s home, and costumes are also a reflection of her character, which is just as cool and calculating, as Minerva’s is cool,yet determined.
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I love the details here as one of the girls wears a matching blue ballerina skirt under her coat.Just a touch of whimsy for a little girl Clipper. I also like the natural hairstyles on the black girls. I’m glad this show remembered black women exist, even if they’re not treated especially well.
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Baron Quinn is like the Badlands version of Darth Vader. Everyone is afraid of this grim creature, come back from the dead, to destroy all their lives. Check out the tiny details like the little glimpses of red in his new outfit, a callback to when he used to be a Baron, and the tiny rivets on his  belts. The rough, nubby, texture of his coat is in keeping with his new rugged lifestyle, and gives the viewer some idea of his rough character, and disturbed mindset. Except for his voice, he’s just rough all over.

Contrast Quinn’s look with Jade’s smoothly streamlined look,  since moving into a more comfortable position of power with Ryder, below. There’s more than a touch of the Antebellum South in Ryder’s suit coat, which is a deliberate choice on the part of the costume dept.
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Ryder Welcomes His Guests - Into the Badlands Season 2 Episode 3

 

Cinematography: 

Everything this season was given an upgrade, including the lighting and  cinematography. No detail has been spared. There’s a rich three dimensional feel to the environment, which allows the viewer to see every detail of a character, or event, and totally immerse themselves in the show. It’s equal parts dream and nightmare.

There’s some gorgeous lighting happening here, in the final scene of the series, as Sunny walks off into this frosty looking sunset with Baby Henry.

The monastery is full of candle light, giving its inhabitants a deceptively soft appearance. The irony is that these are some of the most lethal beings in the Badlands.



Sunny is fighting the monks in an old, worn, Nativity scene, at an abandoned dept. store. No one knows the meaning of any of the decorations, but check out the penguin with the Christmas wreath around his neck! The old religion has been supplanted by an even older one, that involves dark Chi, and superpowers.

 

I think it’s  really cute that they chose a baby that looks Black and Asian.

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Whenever possible, the creators tried to use natural lighting on all the sets, so we get some wonderfully lit scenes, like Veil with Henry, above, and Sunny’s fight with Silver Moon, below. Veil is often given the Madonna treatment with her  lighting.


Action:

The show has also upped the ante on the fight choreography this season, with much more elaborate stuntwork, and ambitious fight scenes involving multiple highly trained characters. The show also added some explosives work, which is something most shows don’t have a good sized budget for, but the larger budget shows how much confidence the network has in the success of this series. Whereas last season I struggled to get the word out about this show, its popularity has really soared this season because of its move to Netflix, and basic word of mouth. There are also more than a few websites dedicated to the show, on Tumblr.



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Bottom line: 

All of this adds up to one of the most visually stunning action series on television, and I’m so happy to be alive during its airing. I cannot wait for whatever new visual treats we’ll get next season.

 

 

 

Into the Badlands Season Two: Character Review (Pt. 1)

I like how short the seasons are for this show because it means that the plot can move quickly with a minimum of filler episodes. Despite that, the show still manages to throw some surprises in our direction. One of those surprises was the re-introduction of Baron Quinn. Another pleasant surprise, was the addition to the cast, of Nick Frost as Bajie. We got some major worldbuilding going this season, as the story fleshed out the where and the when of this show. I’m going to do this in three parts because otherwise its going to get too long. I’ll start with the the top four characters, around which most of the plot revolves.

Sunny: 

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The vast majority of the plot this season concerns Sunny’s search and return to Veil who, by this time, has given birth to a boy she names Henry. Veil is currently being imprisoned by Sunny’s nemesis, and former employer, Baron Quinn. Everything  is leading to the showdown between these two pivotal characters.

This  is all about Sunny coming to grips with his demons,  and laying the spiritual foundation for him to be a father for Henry. He feels he can’t do that until he puts his past as a killer for hire behind him. From episode one (Tiger Pushes Mountain), and his theme song, I’m Only Human by Rag ‘N Bone Man, to episode seven (Black Heart White Mountain), we see Sunny dealing with all the killing he dealt out in his past, and what kind of man that makes him. Last season we were given the idea that Sunny was sort of superhuman. At the beginning of this season we see him very much humbled. We watched him fall, and now we get to watch him rise up.  In order for him to do that he needs to acknowledge certain things about himself.

He also needs to choose a side. One of the most frustrating things about Sunny’s character last season was his passivity. He simply refused to make hard decisions, and would allow things to happen  to the people around him. Not only  would he not do anything, but he often refused to pass judgment. Adopting MK was the first pro-active decision we saw him make. after that it became easier to choose things for himself and his own happiness.

But the primary catalyst for his self reflection this season, like it is for a lot of men, is the birth of his first child, and his encounter with a legendary Clipper named Silver Moon, in the episode Red Sun Silver Moon. Pay attention to the titles here, because many of them refer to Sunny, or the people he encounters, like Silver. Silver has been waiting for a worthy opponent so he can die in style, so you can guess what the Red Sun means in the title. Sunny bests him but in keeping with his new vow, doesn’t kill him.

Sunny, like Silver, had made a vow not to kill anymore, for unnecessary reasons. He’s going to fail at this, as circumstances will require he keep at it. After escaping the mines, with a new companion named Bajie, he sets out to find his wife and son.  Whereas last season he pretty much lived according to Quinn’s whim, we see him fully committing to something unabashedly selfish. His own future happiness. He has a number of adventures along the way that require him to engage in violence to defend himself, as no one in the Badlands can be trusted. His journey into the Badlands is also a journey into his past and his self.

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Sunny has always been a kind of true neutral. Last season, he often held himself aloof from moral decisions, like when he stood by and watched Quinn kill Veil’s parents. There was a kind of curious moral paralysis, which Veil called him on towards the end of the season. This new moral version of Sunny is best illustrated in  episode five, Monkey Leaps Through Mist. He makes the decision to save a young girl from being sold into prostitution. This is major moral act for Sunny, who has always tried to shy away from being a savior. I think part of Sunny realizes that “not killing” isn’t enough. He is going to have to engage with the world to make it a better place, and  can’t just stand by and do nothing, if he hopes to become the kind of man he wants to be, that his son can be proud of.

Sunny also has to learn to work with, and trust others. Last season Sunny was very much a loner. This season he meets Bajie and the two of them have to work together to get back into the Badlands, defeat the Monks who want MK returned, and find and save Sunny’s  wife and son. This is made incredibly difficult because Bajie has ulterior motives of his own, and appears utterly untrustworthy.

In Black Heart White Mountain, Sunny literally confronts the many dead he’s responsible for, after being put in a coma like state by one of the Monks. He dreams of what his life could be, but he realizes on some level that he cannot have that life until he deals with his violent past. Reunited with MK, in  Leopard Stalks In Snow, he is then prepared to acknowledge that he can’t do what he needs to do alone,  that MK is his family, and he has a responsibility to him.

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In Sting of the Scorpion’s Tale, Sunny makes and breaks alliances with Baron Chau (the only other prominent Asian woman we’ve seen), and The Widow. Taken prisoner by Chau who is in hiding from the Widow, he convinces her that they have one thing in common, they both want Quinn and The Widow dead. Upon contact with the Widow, she convinces Snuny to spare her life, because she knows where Veil is, so he allies with her. That alliance is broken when he discovers she betrayed Veil to form an alliance with Quinn.

Unable to trust the Widow, and having lost MK again, he prepares to go it alone, after entrusting Bajie to find and care for his protege. He’s come a long way since the first episode when he could barely bring himself to look at, or even speak, to Bajie.

Sunny finally makes it to Veil’s side and we get the reunion we’ve all been waiting for, with  lots of kissing, soaring music, twirling cameras, and some tears. But its not to last, and we should’ve known that happiness, normality, and a white picket fence on a farm was never going to be in Sunny’s future.

 

Veil:

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Veil has been one of the most frustrating characters but I was starting   to understand her and why Sunny fell in love with her. Its not just her pleasant nature. We saw in season one, that she was willing to challenge others when she was in a position to do so. She was never a floormat when she could help it. The key to understanding Veil is that she was a relatively powerless individual. She had no martial skills, she had no political power, and no kind of social clout, but what power she did have she wielded carefully.

How she operated in the Badlands was by showing a level of integrity, and honesty, that many of the other character’s entirely lacked. Jade, Lydia, Quinn, all the people that Sunny knows, are people willing to manipulate and deceive to gain their own ends in the Badlands. Veil was unwilling to do any of those things, was unwilling to compromise her principles to get ahead. Her moral compass remained strong.  Sunny gravitated to her because he could trust her. She was the one steady component in his life. She was honest with him in ways no one else was and so he trusted her like no one else.

Its not that Veil didn’t engage in immoral behavior. She did occasionally try to lie. But only  as a form of self defense, or to protect Henry, and usually  her attempts at deception weren’t successful.  She occasionally relied on her helplessness to win mercy from others which we saw in Palm of the Iron Fox, where she lies to, poisons, and eventually kills a Clipper named Edgar, when the poison doesn’t work. Later, she tries to claim she killed him because he  attempted to rape her, only to be told that was unlikely because Edgar was gay. So she does engage in immoral behavior sometimes, but it never proves profitable for her, and she is never rewarded for it.

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Her moral certitude is illustrated best in  Sting of the Scorpion’s Tale, when Quinn forces her to marry him so that he can claim her son as his own. All pretense she made of caring about Quinn in her efforts to protect Baby Henry earlier, fall to the side. She makes no secret of her fear and contempt of Quinn, and shows little patience for the foolishness he keeps spouting to her and Henry. Eventually he has to lock her away to control her.

I have to admit, I was getting very frustrated with her inability to simply go along to get along, in the hopes of getting Henry away. That she would just chill and pretend she liked Quinn like before, but I get now why she didn’t do that. That kind of manipulative behavior simply does not come naturally to her, and she has no talent for it really. Her deceptions are always uncovered. In episode three, Red Sun Silver Moon, we find that she’s been lying to Quinn about his x-rays, substituting healthy x-rays for his, and that deception gets discovered in the next episode. I understand she’s been doing that because if Quinn doesn’t think she’s curing him he might kill her and Henry.

By the end of the season, Veil has formed an alliance with Lydia, against Quinn, and I have to applaud the show for writing it this way. Lydia is well used to manipulating and deceiving Quinn, and Veil needs someone like her, and I like that the writers show these women as allies against  their oppressor, rather than as competition for his attention. There’s a reason for Lydia’s behavior which I’ll get to in a moment.

I also liked that Veil got to be a love interest at all. The show definitely had that Django Unchained/Ring of the Nibelung vibe, where Sunny has to walk through ten kinds of Hell, the Widow’s  Butterflies, and Quinn’s wingnut Clippers, to win back his beloved, and I’m all kinds of here for that when its a Black woman, because we rarely get treated like that in genre narratives. That’s something that’s been the sole province of White women, and I have it on good authority that they find that shit kinda chafing. Its very interesting that neither Jade, nor Lydia, got that kind of treatment in the story.

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Unfortunately this is all we’re ever  getting about Veil, since she dies in the season finale, protecting Henry. I feel some kind of way about this and not just because I’m so tired of women of color being ‘fridged and watching  the show runners  sit back and make up bullshit excuses for why that happened.

But to be fair though, I wasn’t watching the show for her. I didn’t even know who Madeline Mantock was before watching it,  but I faithfully reported on her activities, gave her the benefit of the doubt, and followed what little of an arc she had. My faith in the showrunners was entirely misguided though, believing they might want, at some point, to do something with this character besides kill her off, but Gough and Millar seem unable to see much purpose in having PoC in their narratives except as cannon fodder.

Of the three Black people in the show this season, who had any lines,  they’ve all been killed. Edgar had a handful of lines, attacked Veil, and was killed. There was a Black Butterfly in The Widow’s camp, and she was unnecessarily singled out, and unceremoniously killed, by one of Quinn’s Clippers. I know a lot of women had feelings about that scene. And then there’s Veil. She’s been locked away, betrayed, assaulted multiple times, nearly raped, and then she sacrificed herself to kill Quinn. I think I saw the writing on the wall as soon as she walked into that room with Sunny, who was about to fight Quinn.

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This will not stop me from watching the show next season. I wasn’t watching the show to see Veil, but I was happy about her presence. Unlike some people I never had the luxury of just picking and choosing  which shows I was going to boycott. I grew up in a time of genre scarcity, where EVERYTHING I watched had problems, and nothing and no one was enlightened. I’m not going to boycott a series for one or two problematic elements. (It would have to be a really bad problem like what happened with Sleepy Hollow, or whitewashing, like with Ghost in the Shell.) I’ll watch the series and just keep complaining as loud as possible about the one problem. My attitude towards this type of thing is to reward the good behavior, and beat Hollywood with a rolled up newspaper, when they act a fool.

 

The Widow:

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We spent the bulk of our time this season shuttling back and forth between the Widow, Sunny and Quinn, the three major players in the narrative. We watched as the Widow connived, lied, and killed to consolidate her power, falling  even further into the dark side.

I must admit I was dismayed to see what became of Minerva this season. Its not that I ever thought she was a good person, but I was championing her cause. I believed in it. But it turns out that she really isn’t any better than the Barons she hopes to succeed. It turns out that power corrupts because the Widow had the most disappointing character arc of the season and has mostly just gone darkside at this point.

With Waldo (Sunny’s former Clipper teacher) as her adviser, she was willing to try diplomacy. When Ryder calls a Conclave of all the Barons in Palm of the Iron Fox, to assess what rules the Widow has broken in her rise to the top, she tries to play the game the way Waldo asks, but she is betrayed by the other Barons, who either attack her, or flee. She is saved by Tilda, who disobeyed a direct order to stay behind.  The event seemed to  crystallize something in Minerva, and she rejects Waldo’s advice, and starts following her own decisions from that point forward.

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Unfortunately, the Widow  doesn’t have a very good moral compass to follow. She makes all the wrong decisions. Decisions that both Waldo, and Tilda, two people with much stronger morality than her, attempt to talk her out of. She forms an alliance with Quinn which was galling enough to Waldo, but to do that, she returned Veil back to his custody, which Tilda found untenable. I never thought of her as a good person, as she always had an “ends justifies the means” attitude, but she lost me as a fan when she displayed complete hypocrisy in returning Veil  and Henry to  Quinn, in Leopard Stalks in Snow.

This is a woman who has championed the rights of Cogs and Women all of last season. I suppose I should have seen the writing on the wall after she kidnapped Veil in season one, as that was a bit extra. She cannot talk about protecting the women of the Badlands and be willing to send another woman into bondage for power. Not only that but it has also become clear that she has been using her emotional link to Tilda to get her to serve her cause. Its not that she doesn’t care about Tilda, but just as Veil said, she is willing to send little girls to fight and die for her cause. this makes her little different from Quinn.

In Nightingale Sings No More we get some backstory on the Widow (Minerva). How she used to be like MK, was kidnapped by the same Monks who took MK, and they drained her powers from her. Part of the reason she wants so desperately to decipher the book in her possession is she believes it can give her her powers back. That book that everyone has been passing about, that no one could read, is actually something that belongs to her. She owned it as a child, when she first encountered Bajie, a Monk who named her Flea.

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Baron Chau

We also get the mother /daughter fight that’s been long in the making. This has been coming since season one. Tilda always had the privilege of speaking freely with her, and the Widow trusted her like no other. We started seeing the cracks in their union in the first season when Tilda questioned her mother’s warmongering.

This time, Tilda, because she has a much clearer sense of morality than her mother, rightfully calls her out for betraying Veil, and challenges her mother to a duel, which she loses. Minerva can’t bring herself to kill her though, even though Tilda challenges her to do it. She locks her up instead. Tilda is rescued by a young woman named Odessa.

After she beat up Tilda,  Waldo turns his back on her too, believing her to be as corrupt as the other Barons. I guess next season we’ll have a brand new Big Bad as the Widow consolidates her  power.

 

Quinn:

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He’s the one person everyone seems to be hunting at some point. Yes, he’s still dying, and still insane.  He spent the first part of the season quietly terrorizing Veil and Henry,  losing it completely after he kills Ryder at a Conclave of the Barons, that Ryder arranged in Palm of the Iron Fox. After that, he must have been haunted by what he’d done  because Ryder’s hallucination taunts him for the entirety of the next episode, Monkey Leaps through Mist. Why his tumor hadn’t killed him yet is anybody’s guess. Why is Quinn still alive? That tumor was the size of a golf ball.

Lydia’s attempted capture of Quinn sets off explosives that he booby trapped throughout the compound, (an old transit station) and in the confusion, Veil escapes and goes to the Widow. Quinn forms an alliance with the The Widow, to take down the other Barons in exchange for Veil’s return, in Leopard Stalks in Snow, but the alliance doesn’t last  long. Neither of them can remotely trust the other, and  turn against one another at the first opportunity.

 

I’ve always been somewhat in awe of Quinn’s ability to talk complete bullshit and have it be believed, and  we get to see it in full force, up close and personal, all season. We saw him doing this last season but the only people he managed to hold in thrall were all Clippers. Lydia, Jade and Sunny all appeared to be immune to this superpower. I think this says a lot about the Clipper mentality, really.

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Quinn gets a lot of speech time, hissing, whispering, and conniving to anyone within earshot, to get what he wants. We get to watch him Jedi a young man named Gabriel, his entire Clipper force, and even tries his wiles on Veil, although I think she might have some immunity. His alliance with the Widow comes to an abrupt halt after he talks Gabriel into a terrorist attack in the Widow’s courtyard. He spends the rest of the next two episodes, Nightingale Sings No More, and Wolf’s Breath Dragon Fire, wiring the entire compound with explosives, waiting for Sunny to arrive.

It takes Sunny four tries to kill Quinn! At one point I was simply screaming at my TV because, for some reason, Sunny simply would not take this asshole’s head. Every time he thought the Baron was down, he would wander off and drop his weapon, and Quinn would just get back up, and cause more mischief. This complete inability to finish him off, was the reason  Quinn was alive at all. I was also pretty salty at the writers because it was all rather clumsily done. I really don’t want to have to look at Quinn all of next season again. I was getting pretty tired of all his speechifying. Not that I don’t like Martin Csokas. He played the Hell out of this character. Its just that a little bit of Quinn goes a long way and in this season was a bit too much.

In Part 2: Bajie, Tilda and MK get character reviews along with Lydia, one the few other people from season one, who survives to see a third season.

Into the Badlands Season Two: Tiger Pushes Mountain/Force of Eagle’s Claw

Okay, this is a long one, so let’s settle in.

We are now in the second season of Into the Badlands and the situation has changed greatly for most of the major characters. In the first episode of the season, we find out what happened to the major players of last season, get introduced to some new characters,  and are introduced to  a couple of surprise guests.

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Sunny/Bajie:

Sunny tried to dupe the River King, when he substituted the head of one of his Baron’s Cogs for MK’s, after the River king asked him to kill the person responsible for murdering a hold full of cargo/people. Seriously pissed off, the River King has sold Sunny to a mining consortium. When the show opens, we get the full on dystopia treatment, and a nice fight scene with Sunny’s first day at his involuntary job. The theme song for this was:

I’m liking the musical choices for this season. They’re much more appropriate to the mood of the show, rather than just some generic background notes. I also hope to see more of the River King this season. He and Baron Jacobi were two of the more interesting characters introduced in the middle of last season.

So far this seems to be one of those alternate worlds where race and skin color doesn’t seem to be a huge issue. none of the characters mention different races or cultures, which is just as interesting as if they did, but for opposite reasons. I like that this is a multicultural world, as I’m always suspicious of alternate worlds where there are no PoC, and I automatically give the side-eye to anyone arguing that those worlds shouldn’t be.

At the top of the episode we get some great fight scenes, some greater world-building, and an introduction to a new character named Bajie, played by Nick Frost. You may remember him from Hot Fuzz, or Shaun of the Dead, and he’s a welcome touch of humor for the series, which is pretty grim and gloomy. It also gives Danny Wu the opportunity to be show his sense of humor by playing straight man to Nick’s cutting up. I’m always fascinated by funny Asians on TV,  as the media has a tendency to depict Asian people as grim and moody, or a punchline to someone else’s jokes. I know Indians can be deeply funny, but I love to see Asian people of any culture, get snarky.

If you remember my earlier reviews,  I talked about how Into the Badlands was based on a Ming Dynasty era novel titled Journey to the West. Well, Bajie is based on one of the  characters from that story, named Zhu Bajie.  Zhu means pig. He’s often called an idiot in the original novel, which I haven’t read, but I take it he’s the comedy relief.  The Bajie part of his name is based on the eight precepts of Buddhism, which are much stricter versions of the five precepts. Well, its appropriate because the character, Bajie, breaks every single one of them.

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The Eight Precepts:

1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual activity.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
6. I undertake the precept to refrain from eating at the forbidden time (i.e., after noon).
7. I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments, wearing garlands, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.
8. I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place.

Human  is definitely Sunny’s song. That and the title of the episode are both references to Sunny. The Chinese languages are full of these little pithy sayings, which are like the American equivalents of ,”You can lead a horse to water…”. I couldn’t find a direct translation of the phrase Tiger Pushing Mountains, (its one of the forms of Tai Chi) but once you see the episode, you will understand the references to Sunny.

In episode two, after Bajie betrays Sunny, who has impressed the warden by beating the shit out of his men, while in restraints no less,  Sunny gets drafted to do some pitfighting. In every TV show about prison there must be a pitfight. I believe it’s some kind of law.  Naturally Sunny wins and uses the fight as an opportunity to escape, while attached to Bajie with chains.

The show is a lot more gory than it was last season. There’s a lot more blood flow as one guy gets thrown into a giant spinning fan, and another guy gets his throat cut onscreen.  I also love the banter between Bajie and Sunny. Sunny never had much of a sense of humor last season (the only person he ever smiled at was Veil) and his responses to Bajie’s foolishness gives Daniel Wu a chance to show his acting range, as we get to see him express more than  one emotion.

MK/The Master:

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MK as been secreted away at some type of monastery, where he can learn to use his superpowers correctly. The show gives Marvel a big  middle finger by having The Master of the monastery be portrayed by an Asian- Black woman, Chipo Chung, who has starred in the movies Sunshine, and the show Camelot. This is how you cast an Ancient martial arts master when you don’t want to adhere to Asian stereotypes.

It turns out,  due to the trauma of having killed people with his powers, he has formed some kind of alternate self, that the master says he must defeat, if he’s ever going to leave the monastery. MK is desperate to leave because he thinks Tilda, Sunny and the others needs him. His alternate personality is the master of his powers, and is far stronger than him, so we get a lot of scenes of MK beating the crap out of himself, and the disturbing implication that he may have killed his mother, and doesn’t remember that either.

The Master tells him that he’s the most powerful Jedi…uhm, student, she has ever had, after she rebuffs his demon self and breaks her arm. We know because we get to see her magically heal the jutting bones of her forearm afterward. Ugh! I’m loving this character though because she’s like a more stern version of Yoda. She has little patience for MK’s snark. I think its hilarious how he seems to have that effect on all his mentors.

For his part, MK is his usual snarky, whiny self. Yes, he’s annoying, but I still like him because he’s annoying in an authentically teenagery way, that I just find funny. He’ s snarky, impatient, wants to know everything at one time, and seemingly fearless towards people he knows are more powerful than him. And played by Aramis Knight, he’s also distractingly pretty, and you can see, in his face, the grown man that he’ll later become.

Veil/Quinn:

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Veil has given birth to a baby boy she names Henry, after her father. The midwife turns out to be none other than Baron Quinn, who we thought was killed by Sunny last season. He’s still as weird as  ever, and although he claims he isn’t, he’s actually holding Veil prisoner, while making creepy implications that he’d love to be closer to her. He also makes it clear that he has plans for Sunny’s, and Veil’s, child.

Quinn is a snake oil salesman of the first order. He’s always got honey-coated speeches, ready to deploy, against the naive and the gullible. You could see that in the first season. His speeches to his clippers about how wonderful a leader he is, to Sunny about the Badlands, to Veil about Sunny, to MK about Sunny, are all designed to get people to do what he wants, and believe what he  wants, even if he seems to be talking about what they want.

Veil is as lovely as ever, but we have yet to see any backbone from her. She hasn’t made any real effort to escape. Despite Quinn having some kind of  weird, Cult of Clippers Ceremonial Bloodening of the baby, she probably just hasn’t gotten desperate enough. She also has remained unharmed, although the Baron’s men have been leering at her, when he’s not paying attention. We await her further entrance into the plot, probably by trying to escape the Baron’s craziness, and if his brain tumor has been progressing, then he is definitely a noodle short of a bowl of soup.

To be  clear, a show like Into the Badlands is somewhat unprecedented, so I have no idea what to predict for these characters, or where the plot will take any of them. For all I know, Veil might end up having a baby like MK, and ending up at the monastery with him.

Jade and Ryder:

These two are finally as together as they longed to be, and Ryder is as trifling as he always was. He is still trying to live up to his father’s legacy, while being propped up by Jade. I’m sorry, but Ryder doesn’t strike me as the brightest penny in the wrapper. It’s no wonder no one had any respect for him. He tried to take over some of the Widow’s territory but isn’t strong enough to hold it,and loses it back to her because, while he is wildly ambitious, he has no idea how to plan ahead.

Just as I suspected, Jade isn’t half as light and innocent, as she had Quinn believing. She’s got a brand new wardrobe, and new attitude, as the wifey master of Quinn’s territory. In her defense,  she does appear to truly be in love with Ryder, although that’s not really saying much, because she truly appeared to be in love with Quinn, too. I wonder what will happen if she encounters the Baron again, as she turned out to be a lot more duplicitous than I thought she would be.

The Widow/Tilda/ Waldo:

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The Widow gets some of the best action in the entire first episode, despite Sunny’s antics, and she is always going to be one of my favorite characters.  Unlike most people, I’m not at all put out by the idea of women wearing heels, in a fight. I do get kind of exasperated when they’re wearing skimpy little outfits with heels, but I have the greatest admiration for the Widow, who always dresses to the nines, for all her fights. The Widow, with Tilda as her new Regent), mows down a whole crop of Ryder’s Clippers, just to deliver the message to Jade that she was taking back possession of her oil fields.

Tilda is still feeling conflicted over her Mother’s activities and plans for the Badlands. When her mother decides to release a group of Ryder’s Clippers, giving them free passage back to their home, Tilda goes against her mother’s express word, and with a posse of her own butterflies, has the Clippers secretly killed. Tilda’s become more independent of her mother and I see some future betrayal. I wonder if she and MK will meet again, and how they’ll react to the changes in each other’s lives and personalities.

Waldo (Quinn’s former Regent)has joined the Widow, as her adviser, and is fully on board with her plans to reform the Badlands. He has training sessions with Tilda, who he seems to have taken under his wing, and although he can’t walk, he still doesn’t go easy on her, or is very nice to her, either.

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Lydia/Ryder

Lydia was doing well with her father, but after they’re attacked by Nomads, and she kills the two men, her father condemns her again. She killed the men to save her father’s life. We finally get to see Lydia kick some ass. Contrast her fight scene, with Jade’s complete inability to do any kind of fighting, and you get some idea of the formidable opponent she was for Quinn. She’s pretty ferocious, but unlike the Widow, she is completely untrained, too. So everyone in the show has different fighting styles, which is important. I like how the show treats the women. They’re at least as dangerous as any of the men, and although rape is sometihng that is implied, it escapes the Game of Thrones problem of showing it to us, or using it as a plot point, all the time. Its interesting to me that a lot of shows have decided to do away with rape, as the entire plot, point all together, and only imply that it might happen, or that it used to happen.

As a side note, we’ll use The Walking Dead, as an example, where occasionally one of the Saviors might act  interested in raping someone, but it’s never shown. Its explained in the narrative that Negan has forbidden rape, and any man who rapes a woman, he kills. In a show like The Walking Dead, where consequences for one’s actions are not necessarily an issue, I expected it to be one of those go-tos, just like on GoT, and I keep being surprised when they don’t do it.

It was really frustrating watching Lydia’s father  condemn her for killing, saying that killing is only the province of the gods, and what right did she have to step into that space, while entirely neglecting that the nomads kill all the time, and are hardly godlike creatures. In her father’s mind, its perfectly okay to not defend his own life, or even the lives of his people. The irony is that Quinn’s bloodshed is what kept his people safe, and allowed them the space to form such extreme views, or his little cult would’ve gone extinct long ago, having been killed off by others, who are also willing to kill. So Lydia’s father is willing to accept bloodshed, in his name, as long as he doesn’t have to see it, I guess. The moment she killed the men I knew she would be banished though. Her father wouldn’t allow her to have a place there with blood on her hands, so I was not surprised to see her visiting Ryder later.

It turns out, Quinn protected her father’s little cult from the depredations of the Nomads, and she’d like Ryder to continue doing that. But her advice triggers Ryder’s daddy issues and he rejects her request, and her. My advice to her: Go  to the Widow. If Lydia truly wants to keep her father safe, she’ll make whatever deal with her that she can. I’d love to see what kind of mischief the Widow could get up to, with both Lydia’s, and Waldo’s, advice.

As it stands now, most of the characters are paired up, and unaware of what’s happened to the other characters. No one has mentioned Waldo, so I don’t think they know he’s working with the Widow. No one knows Quinn  is alive. Tilda knows nothing about MK’s fate. Veil believes Sunny is alive despite Quinn (with his ain’t shit ass) trying to convince her that Sunny abandoned her.

The World-building:

I also want to commend the world-building, in these episodes, as we get to see a lot more of not just the Badlands but the world outside of them. There’s an entire economy in the Badlands, which is something I had questions about the first season. We also find out, in episode two, that there’s a massive wall separating the Badlands from the supposedly civilized parts of the country.

The Fights:

The fight scenes have been stepped up a notch. They’re even more wild and outrageous than last seasons fights, being more fun and completely over the top Wuxia style fights. Everybody’s fighting styles is different. Bajie doesnt fight like Sunny. His fighting style is more of the Iron Man/Brawler style. He fights like the large man he is. Sunny and the Widow are the two most balletic fighters and eve nstill, the Widow fights like a woman. She’s not dainty, or anything like that, but her fighting style fits her personality. Tilda doesn’t fight like her mother. She is much more pragmatic and efficient, sort of like Quinn.

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Waldo is the most interesting, because the writers have taken the time to come up with a style for a man confined to a wheechair, that’s a believable style. We’ve seen him kick both MK’s and Tilda’s asses from that chair, and part of his ability to do that, is people keep underestimating what he can do from that chair. They think, because the legs aren’t working, that the rest of him is limited too, and one of the low-key messages of last season was people underestimating other people’s fighting abilities, because they were handicapped, or because they’re  women, or because they’re children, and then getting their asses burned. I see this is a theme set to continue this season, as we watch Sunny beat up an entire team of free-roaming nobodies, basically with his hands tied behnd his back both times. The first time, while in stocks, and the second time hobbled, by being chained to Bajie.

This is the first time we’ve seen Sunny as less than godlike. In the first season he was mostly kind of invincible, and I like how they keep showing him get occasionally defeated by someone like the monks, or the guards in the prison.

Well, I’m going to continue these reviews, hopefuly in a more timely manner than this. I’m as enthused and happy about this show as I was disappointed by Iron Fist.

Iron Fist Season One

I’m a long time martial arts movie fan. I have clocked a lot of hours watching people fake punching and kicking each other. If you’re that level of fan of martial arts, it’s okay. You can skip this show. There is waaaay too damn much talking in this show.

On the other hand, it’s not an awful show. It’s not half as awful as the critics would have everybody believe. It certainly could be a better show, and it doesn’t live up to any of the expectations of the trailers, as bad as they were. Let’s just say all the action you saw in the trailers, is most of the action in the show. My guess is they knew they couldn’t hook us in by showing the many, many hours of people snarking at each other in offices,and  wearing nice clothes, so decided to go with inelegant fight scenes. Think the show Suits, but with worst dialogue, and sometimes somebody gets punched.

The plot is as stated. Danny Rand flees a mystical Asian land called Kun Lun, where he is the legendary Iron Fist.He comes to NY and gets involved with Colleen, Claire Temple, and the Hand. We spend most of the show running around with this trio, from place to place, jostling with Ms. Gao, and the Hand, macking on Colleen like a creepy stalker, and trying  to avenge his parents deaths, which involves the corporation his father used to run, his father’s old partner, and that man’s children, the Meachums.

My special advice is to watch the show on your tablet or phone ,and every time you see people talking in an office, fast forward through that. I fast forwarded through almost all of that part and was still able to keep up with most of the details of the plot. I would also advise you not to listen too hard to the dialogue because you will go to sleep. Unless Claire’s on screen. She’s awesome. As always.

I was going to give some type of in depth review, but I’m not interested enough to invest that much work into the characters and plots and shit. So here. Have some links and articles that carefully explain what went wrong with this show.

Iron Fist was inspired by 1970s kung fu movies, but no one seriously expected Finn Jones to become the next Bruce Lee. The show focuses on plot over action, so it makes more sense to compare it to Daredevil. And that comparison makes Iron Fist look like total garbage.

Daredevil‘s hallway fight was praised for its stylish choreography and camera work. There’s a real weight and brutality to Daredevil’s blows, and the scene uses a long tracking shot so you can see all the necessary action.

Iron Fist paid tribute with its own hallway fight scene, utilizing a very different style of filmmaking.

 

In Iron Fist, the camera constantly cuts away before the blows connect. The editor chopped Danny’s choreography into two or three shots per move, so you don’t catch the full impact of his actions. It’s like trying to follow a ballet performance through a dozen tiny windows around the stage.

Once the fight reaches the elevator, we get a completely unnecessary split-screen view of Danny disarming an opponent. At 1:35 in the above video, the split screen actually makes it harder to see what he’s doing.

[READ MORE]

*I’m going to go one step further here. This weekend was the second season premiere of Into the Badlands. This show is everything that Iron Fist should have been. Into the Badlands is full of action and every one of its fight scenes is given the love and dedication that it should receive for an action show. Contrast this fight scene with the one from Iron Fist:

 

Oh, and here is the fight scene between Zhou Cheng and Iron Fist. Zhou Cheng is being played by Lewis Tan, an actor and model  who is half White, and was one of the most prominent contenders for AA Iron Fist.Btw, this is one of the best fights in the entire series.

 

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/20/14988036/lewis-tan-iron-fist-casting-marvel-netflix-asian-representation

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*This critique lays out the five major criticisms of the show:

 Monday, March 20, 2017

Five Comments on Iron Fist

Marvel and Netflix’s latest series dropped this past weekend, a week and a half after the pre-air reviews pretty much savaged it, calling it the partnership’s (if not the MCU’s) first complete dud.  What I found particularly damning about Iron Fist‘s reviews was their uniformity.  When one reviewer gives you a pan, you can blame the reviewer.  When a dozen reviewers give you pans that all make exactly the same criticisms–a dull and unsympathetic lead performance, an increasing emphasis on an unappealing villain, storylines that focus too much on boardroom shenanigans, lousy fight scenes–you’ve probably got a turkey on your hands.  Having watched the entire first season of Iron Fist, my only quibble with the reviewers is that most of the flaws they ascribe to the show were also present in the second season of Daredevil, which received generally favorable notices.  In fact, it’s not so much that Iron Fist is worse than Daredevil‘s second season, as that it is more boring (it lacks, for example, a magnetic central performance in the vein of Jon Bernthal’s Punisher), and this makes it easier to notice flaws that have been present in all of the Defenders shows, albeit taken to far greater extremes here.  The boring part means that the show doesn’t really deserve a full review, but there are a few points about it that I thought were worth discussing.
http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2017/03/five-comments-on-iron-fist.html

Continue reading “Iron Fist Season One”

Into the Badlands Season 2: Video Roundup

Yaaayyy!!! Season two of Into the Badlands will be airing on March 19th, on AMC. And I’m really excited about this, if only because the trailers look super exciting, going in directions I didn’t expect and this season stars one of my favorite actors:

That hefty fella back there is Nick Frost. You may remember him from Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block, and one my few favorite cop movies, Hot Fuzz. So, I’m totally geeking out about it!

There’s also a new trailer and a featurette focusing on the women of the Badlands. The first season turned out to be surprisingly feminist in aspect ,with lots of smart, deadly women, who have agency, affect the plot, and are integral to the development of this world, but that’s par for the course in the Chinese Action films on which this show is heavily based. The Chinese cinema has a long history of prominently showcasing women in the plots.

 

I hope this season we get to see more of the worldbuilding, as I had a lot of questions about this particular ‘verse. We will get to see some new sets and locations, which is cool. The show appears to have a slightly larger budget than last year, too. I hope to see more Woc, but my end all and be all, would be seeing at least one black woman kicking some ass in this show. We almost never get that in these kinds of movies or shows (but I wont be disappointed if I don’t get it.) Iron Fist has a lot to live up to as that’s going to be released at the same time.  I’m gonna be watching a lot of Kung Fu that weekend.

 

Into the Badlands Season 2 finds Sunny (Daniel Wu) and M.K. (Aramis Knight) separated and scattered to the wind, each imprisoned in unlikely places.  While M.K. struggles to control his powers, Sunny is determined to fight his way back into the Badlands to find his family or die trying.  On their journey, Clipper and Colt are assisted by mysterious, new allies whose motivations may be anything but pure.Meanwhile, The Widow (Emily Beecham) continues to consolidate power against the other Barons, while a dark and mysterious threat prepares to exact revenge on them all.Alliances are struck, friendships betrayed, and by season’s end, Sunny and M.K.’s lives will be forever altered with devastating consequences.

 

 

 

 

Forthcoming TV Shows

There are a number of television shows I’m looking forward to next year. Now in hindsight 2016 has been a fairly shitty year, except for TV, which is tearing it up with some very exciting series. I’m very much enjoying Legends of Tomorrow, which is much better in its second season. It got rid of the rather dodgy actress who played Hawkgirl, and replaced her with Vixen, with whom I’m very satisfied.

I’ve decided to try DCs other superhero shows and I’m liking them, although I do consider them to be rather light weight viewing. I still don’t like Arrow, though.

From Dusk Til Dawn also had a much better season than last year. It just aired its season finale  and I’m going to happily break that down for you guys by the end of this week.

American Horror Story just aired its finale episode which I’ve already reviewed. I feel like AHS had a great season this year, with a lot of depth, focus, and humor.

We got the truly wondrous Luke Cage, which I can’t even accurately review because my head is so crammed full of thoughts about it that I can’t straighten them out. I’m still processing this show, as I haven’t really had time to really think about it because:

Season 12 of Supernatural has just started to air and its very good. So far, its been very engaging, and funny, with some very well written side characters, and quite a number of feels.

And, I’m entirely caught up in the Westworld phenomena. Thankfully its only got two episodes left, after which I can take some time to think about something else and finish processing my thoughts and feels about it.

Then it’s back to watching and/or reviewing starting January 1st. There is such a wealth of good shows, and I have such a limited amount of time with which to review them, that I’m going to have to start farming out some reviews. So from now on, when I see a really great review of a show I’m watching, but don’t actually have time to review, I’m just going to leave a link or reblog.

Also, if you’re a person who writes long form TV reviews like these, please get in touch with me about linking , and reblogging your posts. I love a good, well thought-out, and logical review. No wanking or ‘ship wars, please. I don’t mind if you love a certain ship  but I’m not going to reblog about  ‘ships that erase PoC, canon LGBTQ characters, and women from their own narratives.

Okay, here’s what we have to look forward to:

*Sherlock (Jan.1)

Sherlock returns for its fourth season. I’m starting to get really tired of looking at Benedict Cumberbatch’s face. He’s a phenomenal actor, with one of the best voices I’ve ever heard on a screen, but he looks like a turtle that’s been squeezed too tightly, and  I think I have reached “Peak Cumberbatch”, at this point. Nevertheless, I may still watch this, because I actually enjoy the plots. (BBC)

*Beyond (Jan. 2)

This show looks like a cross between Kyle X and Teen Wolf, which isnt a bad thing. I’m looking for  a replacement teen show for Teen Wolf anyway, since its in its last season. (Freeform)

Shadowhunters (Jan. 2)

I’ve only ever watched a couple of episodes of Shadowhunters, but gifs of it keep showing up in my Tumblr feed, and I’ve liked those, so I’ll watch this. And Harry Shum, who was one of the fan contenders to play Danny Rand in Iron Fist, is in this and I do need to have some  Shum in my life, somehow. (Freeform)

Sleepy Hollow 

I won’t be watching  season four of this show and there’s no trailer as yet,  but if you don’t mind the complete wtf*ery of what happened  last season, you go right ahead .I’m gonna be a petty mf and not even post the airdate.

*Taboo (Jan.10)

I’m a huge Tom Hardy fan, often watching movies I would not normally think about just because he’s the star. Also, I just enjoy dark Historical mysteries and these trailers look gorgeous. (FX)

*Lemony Snicket (Jan.13)

I read a lot of Lemony Snicket books and enjoyed the Jim Carey version of this, so I will probably check this out. My favorite character is Violet, so I have to stan for my tiny baby. This trailer seems to capture some of the zaniness of the original film. (Netflix)

The Young Pope (Jan.15)

I really like Jude Law, but I probably won’t watch this, even if I find this kind of Catholic scandal type stuff, fascinating. I’m not Catholic, but I will watch dramatic histories about it. This looks well acted but I’m noping out. (HBO)

Six (Jan,18)

I don’t normally watch military type shows but this looks interesting. For some reason, I’m attracted to those Navy Seal non-fiction books, and this show looks suitably dramatic, so I may watch this. On the other hand, I don’t wanna see Black people being terrorized, so I may not make this a regular part of my viewing diet. (History)

*Frontier (Jan.20)

I’m always up for anything starring Jason Momoa. I have not yet reached Peak Momoa. (Netflix)

*The Magicians Jan.25)

I was a bit disappointed in the last season of this show because of the depictions of violence against its female characters, so I’m dubious about watching this new season. On the other hand, it looks gorgeous, and I hope its a better than the second book in the series on which this is based. Finishing that second book felt like working. (Syfy)

Riverdale (Jan.26)

I could not find a good trailer for this one. I try to stick to only one teen show per period, so I may not watch this, but this is the last season of Teen Wolf, and I might need something to replace that. The trailers don’t look very interesting but I could give it a try. (CW)

Black Sails (Jan.29)

I watched the first episodes of this and then stopped, but I have been following what’s happening through reviews.It still looks beautiful but I can make no promises about this show, other than I will watch the first episode and give it a chance. (Starz)

The Expanse (Feb. 8)

I only watched a few episodes of the first season, but I’ve since read that its a good show, so I’ll watch the first episodes of this second season. I don’t know if I’ll like it but I can try it. (Syfy)

Taken (Feb 27)

(NBC)

I’m a big Liam Neeson fan and I really liked the movies on which this show is based.

*Legion (Feb TBD)

This is a Marvel Superhero Joint, so I will watch it even though I’m not in the market for yet another show about a quirky, White, male hero. I do know who this character is in the comic books, though, so I’m going to check it out. (FX)

*Iron Fist (March 17)

I will watch this even though I’m disappointed that the creators didn’t choose an Asian American man to be Danny Rand. That kind of story would’ve had so much more depth, but depth isn’t Marvel’s strongest suit. I’m still not greatly impressed with the actor they chose either, but I promise to give him a chance. I’m mostly in it because I hope this show does for Colleen Wing, (who has been racebent to be Asian) what the Luke Cage series did for Misty Knight. (Netflix)

Into the Badlands (Spring TBD)

Well, duh! (AMC)

Lkeke’s Fall Lineup (TV)

Television

I will review the first episode of season three of The Strain this weekend. Hopefully it won’t turn into a hate-review and this season will be better put together than last season. There’s still going to be plenty of snarking on it though. I have never in my life hate-watched a show, but I really believed in the show, because its such a great idea and  the books were pretty good, and I kept hoping the show would get better.

It didn’t.

Last season had some truly awful plot points, characters, and whole episodes. I always go into these endeavors with a sense of optimism, though. I’ll try to do the same for this show as I do for all the other shows.

I will be reviewing as many of the new pilots as I can, and based on my reactions to those, I will add or subtract them to the list of weekly reviews, but my time is limited. I may not review one of your favorites. There are some shows that I’m definitely waiting to review, on a regular basis as soon as they return, like Into the Badlands (TBD/2017), and Shadowhunters, which looks silly and fun,  and The Magicians. I don’t think these will be released until next year. In the meantime, here is the list of shows I will definitely give weekly reviews for.

American Horror Story(9/14) – I have no idea what this season is about. Nobody does. The creators are keeping it a secret which is very frustrating to a lot of people who are used to knowing the entire plots of movies before they’re even released. I don’t mind the surprise, though. I do know that whatever the creators give us will be batshit crazy, so I’m expectant.

Luke Cage (9/30) – I’m so looking forward to this. it looks like its going to be fun. I will be watching for how the characters are treated, especially, the WoC, as Marvel doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to such things.I wonder if Iron Fist will get a mention, and if we’ll get to hear Luke’s catchphrase from the comic books.

Supernatural (10/13) – The show that never ends will be in its twelfth season.  Like I told you guys, I’m gonna be here to the end of the line.  I always go into every  new season with a positive outlook, and I’ll decide how I feel about a season when its over. As usual, my reviews will first be posted on https://samanddeanbrothersinarms.wordpress.com/      and then reblogged here.

The Walking Dead (10/23) – I’ve mostly avoided talking about this show all Summer. I feel really good about this season despite the presence of Negan and the absence of his victim, which I know is really gonna hurt, no matter who it is. I refuse to speculate as to who it will be.

I may or may not review From Dusk Til Dawn (9/6) and Aftermath (9/27) on the Syfy channel. Also coming up is the second season of Ash vs. The Evil Dead (10/2), which I may not review because I didn’t like how the one black woman in the entire show got treated in the narrative. I’m still pissed off about the writers fridging her  (in the   most horrible manner they could think of), just to provide some minor manpain for Ash.

There’s some intriguing new shows coming to the Syfy network , that I have no idea what to think about them, like Falling Water (10/13), and Channel Zero (9/27), which looks pretty scary and weird. I’ll review the pilots if I remember to program them into the DVR.

I still have not watched The Get Down on Netflix, and had no plans to watch Mr. Robot or Gomorrah.

 The pilots I’ll be reviewing are:

Atlanta (9/6) – this looks like a lot of fun. It has an all Black cast, and I’m casting around for a new comedy that’s as good as Black-ish and Brooklyn 99, and I like Donald Glover.

 

Pitch (/22) – I don’t normally watch anything that’s sports related outside of The Olympics. I definitely do not watch anything involving Baseball, but this looks so good, I’m getting kinda excited for it. I may never watch beyond the pilot but I hope it does well. Its about the first female pitcher in major league baseball, and she’s a black woman, so I hope the writers get the subjects of racism, misogyny, and feminism right.

 

 

Versailles (10/1) – I love historical shows about 17th and 18th century France. (Mostly because I love the clothes.) I’m going to check it out because its different from anything else I’m watching and will tide me over til Vikings (TBD/2017) is back on. I always have to watch at least one or two shows that totally don’t fit the aesthetic of anything else I’m watching. I like a little variety, sometimes.

 

 

Still Star Crossed (TBD/2017) – This is another historically themed show based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and starring a large Black cast. It looks gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see it.  I just came off  of Coriolanus,  and Macbeth, on Amazon. I’m no expert, and generally not into romances, though. I don’t study the hell out of his plays, or recite them line by line, but I know enough to get by.

 

 

Aftermath (9/27) – SyFy needs to hype its new shows more. I barely paid attention to this one but from the trailer it looks interesting. I don’t know if I’m going to tune in on a week by week basis, because The Walking Dead is enough apocalyptic TV for anyone. But this looks like one of those End of the World Christian millenialist type deals and I’m not gonna get all het up about this if I’m also watching the Exorcist.

 

 

Channel Zero (9/27) – There’s a horrible looking tooth-monster in the trailer. That’s all I got because Syfy is trying real hard to be mysterious about the creepy shows its going to be airing this Fall. I’m okay with that approach. It just means I’ll tune in to find out what the hell was going on in the trailer.

 

Midnight Texas (TBD/2017) – From the writer of True Blood (Charlaine Harris) and it may even star a few characters who made cameos on there. This is on NBC, which brought us Hannibal, but I’m not getting my hopes up ,that the show is going to be too wild. I think Hannibal was maybe a fluke or something.

Westworld (10/2) – I generally try to avoid HBO’s shows as they tend to rely a great deal on female violation to titillate male viewers. I’ve already read a bad review of the pilot for Westworld. On the other hand, I enjoyed Deadwood,  Carnivale, and Oz, and  I have memories of the original movie. I want to know how it stacks up.

 

Mascots (Netflix 10/13) – This is a comedy from the creator of Best in Show,  which is one of my favorite mockumentary films. Its about the world of sports team mascots. I expect it to be as lowkey hilarious as the movies Christopher Guest writes.

 

Falling Water (10/13) – I got nothing! Looks intriguing. I know nothing about it. I’m not especially impressed by the trailer and that doesn’t bode well.

 

 

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (10/22) – I remember reading this book in High School. The trailer looks suitably zany and Frodo is starring in it, and I like him, so I’m going to check it out and see what’s up. There’s also a BBC version of this series, which I have not seen but the trailer looks as zany as this one.

 

The Crown (Netflix/TBD) – Another historical series on Netflix. I’m not especially impressed with this but I may watch it.

 

The Exorcist (9/23) – There’s no way this is as good as the original movie but I have to watch it to find out if that’s true.

 

There’s a bunch of returning shows that I will probably watch but only give a barebones review for. I prefer to leave such reviews up to those who’ve been more devoted to those shows than I have been. Nevertheless I am giddy about a few of the returning shows, like:

Teen Wolf (Season 6 -11/16)

 

Brooklyn 99 (Season 4 – 9/20)

Agents of Shield (9/20) 

Okay, lets try this again. I haven’t been watching this show because I dislike Chloe Bennett. She’s just highly annoying to me, for some reason, although I like everybody else, with my fave being Melinda, naturally. This season is helped by having one of my all-time favorite characters joining the show Ghostrider. I read these comics as a teen, and even watched those shitty movies, starring a totally miscast Nicholas Cage, for the special effects.

 

Legends of Tomorrow (Season 2 – 10/13)

I kinda like this show. I cant stand to watch most of the other superhero shows on the Cw but I get through this one just fine. I’m not devoted, but I am intrigued, mostly by Firestorm, whose comic I used to read the hell out of.

 

From Dusk Til Dawn (Season 3)

I missed some parts of season tweo but i watched enough to know what’s going on and to look forward to season three. This show still looks great but some of the acting is a little cheesy, and the plot is all over the place, by the middle of the season. Nevertheless, where else am I going to see lots of bad-ass, Mexican vampires.

 

 

Yeah…NO!

I have no intention of looking at these shows although some of you guys might get a kick out of them.

Conviction starring Hayley Atwell –  She’s a great actress but she’s made  the horrible choice of picking a bland lawyer show to star in next and I don’t watch those.

Lethal Weapon – I refuse to relive mediocre eighties action movies, in the form of mediocre television shows.

Sleepy Hollow – C’mon! You know why!

The DC superhero shows on the CW, I don’t dislike these shows exactly, but I’m never gonna be a Supergirl fan, I don’t care who is on that show. Arrow simply wasn’t compelling enough for me and The Flash felt like it was aimed at kids, although I really like the characters.

I like the look of Gotham and I hope its improved since the second season, when I last watched it, but it wasn’t compelling enough for me, even with the addition of Jada Smith.The show looks gorgeous but its stil la show with cops in it and I’m avoiding those right now.

Lucifer has some interesting looking characters, but I’m waiting for an especially compelling trailer or something becasue so far its just not capturing me, even though it stars DB Woodside, on of my fave Black actors.

Training Day seems like a grittier version of Lethal Weapon. I’m not watching any cop shows, so this one is out.

Van Helsing – I watched the pilot. I was thoroughly unimpressed. No.

Wolf Creek – I’m not sure how I feel about this one yet. Its one of those serial killer movies, so maybe no.

 

Next up Movies and Books to look forward to.

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.)

Into the Badlands : Two Tigers Subdue Dragons

 

I’ve read that this series  is based on a Chinese story called” Journey to the West”, which was written in the 16th century, during the Ming Dynasty, about a Buddhist monk who has mystical adventures, while traveling to India to pick up some sacred scrolls. No, I haven’t read it or seen the movie, (although it seems to be in my Netflix queue), but my Google-Fu was strong last week, which is where I picked up this little tidbit.

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You’re welcome! Go forth and tell your friends!

This episode, despite the awesome title, was not as strong as some  previous episodes because of the introduction of some personal intrigues about the denizens of Quinn’s house (and I could always not care about that.) It is notable for two other things that do not bode well for MK and Ryder and one thing that I’d sort of been waiting for, the introduction of more PoC into this  ‘verse.

A close watching of the last four episodes reveals some interesting word-building. Having studied some Japanese history, I keep seeing  how much the social arrangements and costumes mirror feudal Japan, and not China, (although I admit I haven’t studied as much Chinese history). I’m going to take a wild guess and say this is a deliberate choice.

I do wonder about things in the Badlands and I suppose we’ll get to some of that information as the journeys of the main characters continue, I hope, next year. Like: Where does everyone’s clothing come from? For example, all the gorgeous, matching outfits the Clippers wear. Who is feeding all those baby Clippers, that we never see doing any other work, beyond learning to beat each other up?

I guess Quinn makes enough money or whatever to pay for all this but here’s another set of things I casually wonder about at 3AM:Does Sunny get paid for what he does”And if so, how much? Does the Baron pay for everything, including the fuel for his motorcycle? Do the cogs get paid?I know that money in the form of gold coins exist in this world but who mints them and where do they go and come from? Is there some far away, centralized government, that has some kind of non-interference policy for  the Badlands?

Where do they procure gas for the handful of vehicles we’ve seen? We’ve seen that there is a kind of frontier like town because there are brothels and saloons, where the Nomads hang out, and Veil has to be doctoring on someone. We’ve seen Quinn riding horses everywhere but at some point we forget that Sunny rides a motorcycle, and The Widow owns at least a couple of vehicles. There must be somewhere that dispenses gas and  and fixes old vehicles. (I’m guessing Cogs are too poor to do anything but walk, although I still don’t understand why there are no bicycles, though.)

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In a previous episode we saw that Ryder wears a prosthesis for his missing toes and I wonder what disease he has, that his toes are gone. Was it an accident? Leprosy? Diabetes?  And who made the prosthesis? Is this the reason Quinn disregards him as his successor.? Because he’s imperfect? In one of the earlier episodes MK mentioned Tobacco farmers, so there are other things being grown in this world bsides poppies. At one point, Quinn mentions his father was killed for stealing an ear of corn.

We get a slightly larger glimpse of the world outside  Quinn’s Fort when we meet  Jacobee himself, and The River King, both black men (although we have yet to see any Asian or Hispanic people.) We do get a brief look at the housing situation  of the Cogs who toil on the Baron’s grounds and learn they can be easily bribed with gold.

The Widow begins the second part of her trap to bring down Quinn, but Quinn is on to her contrivance to come between his and Jacobee’s alliance, by stealing one of Jacobee’s gold shipments and framing Quinn for it. He only needs to prove this to Jacobee ,before Jacobee becomes irate about it.

Sunny is training Mk when he is interrupted by Quinn to give him a War Pep Talk. The widow does the same thing when she catches her young ladies dancing in the foyer of the old mansion she’s moved  them into. This scene is actually pretty funny because the girls find an old record player and figure out how to work it. I don’t know the record they’re playing but it sounds like some funky seventies disco, which is completely incongruous with the setting of this show.  Well anyway, the Widow must hate that song because she storms in a breaks the record, after which Tilda has something she needs to get off her chest.

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We learn why the Widow is a widow and why she seeks to “overturn the patriarchy” of the Badlands, and I bet you can guess that sexual assault played a part in these decisions, as she reminds Tilda why her father is dead now. The Widow runs things very differently in her house compared to Quinn. In  episode two,  in the scene where she interrogates MK about his past, she mentions having a son and MK says he didn’t see any boys in the house. There are men in the Widow’s employ, though. We saw them during the fight scenes in the house, but maybe the men aren’t welcome indoors. It would explain the Widow’s reaction to watching her daughter kissing MK in a previous episode.

Lydia and Jade are still planning Jade’s wedding to Quinn. She better hurry up because she won’t have long before she’s a destitute widow. Lydia tells  Jade she knows about her affair with Ryder.

Veil proposes a form of chemotherapy to Quinn, saying it will make him sick before it kills the tumor and its not a guarantee. Had he not killed the  original doctor, who knew how to solve this problem, he would not now be at her doorstep, making demands.

Later that night Sunny watches as MK decides whether or not to cut himself while training, just to see what happens. We all wait with breathless anticipation for MK to Hulk but he’s just teasing us and doesn’t do it. Actually,  he’s too terrified to try it on his own, so Sunny decides to test him the next day. He takes MK out to a secluded area, talks to him about focus and control, cuts him and… promptly gets knocked on his ass. Mk passes out,too. I don’t know why but I think its hilarious that they’re both just laying on the ground, unconscious, in the middle of nowhere. Sunny really should have planned this better.

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Quinn manipulates Ryder into going out to parley with Jacobee alone. He’s really good at getting people to do what he wants. The only people this superpower doesn’t seem to work on is Lydia and Sunny. He also tells Ryder he knows about him and Jade.

Later, MK goes to visit Veil to see if she has translated any of the book. He thinks it’s a map through the badlands, though. When Sunny finds out that MK stole the book from his room, and that he does not know how to get to Azra, like he told him, he’s pretty pissed. MK is really trying his patience with all the sneaking about. (I think MK’s ninja skills  are  incredibly funny, but I can afford to laugh cuz he ain’t been sneakin’ in my house.) Veil informs Sunny that they need to leave quickly because Quinn’s tumor is making him insane.Yeah, Sunny needs to quit waffling about this.

Ryder meets with Zephyr, Jacobee’s Regent, for the time and  location of the parley.

Sunny asks Waldo for advice on leaving the Badlands. Waldo says he needs: Passage up the river, a map of the Badlands, and nothing to lose. Well he’s getting close to having nothing to lose, he may have a map of the Badlands according to MK, and now he needs safe passage. To get that, he needs to  have an audience with the River King. Waldo gives him a small totem, a plastic soldier,  that should gain him access, as the River KIng owes him a favor.

Ryder returns with the information, the parley will take place on neutral ground, in one of the local cemeteries.

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Quinn  and Sunny make preparations for the parley, choosing which men will go. Sunny deliberately skips over MK, once again giving him the cut direct. This pisses off MK who, naturally, decides to disobey Sunny and go anyway, because disobeying Sunny is one of his superpowers.

At the cemetery we finally get to meet Jacobee who turns out to be a beautifully dressed dandy. No, seriously! I loved his outfit, which had a distinct, 18th century, New Orleans flavor in blue plaid, echoed by his Clippers and Regent, Zephyr. It’s heartening to see this, because I was wondering if this was one of those depressing futures  where black people were all slaves, or had left the planet, or something, like in The Hunger Games and Divergent movies.

The Widow attempts to stir a war between Quinn and Jacobee by having Tilda anonymously attack Quinn and the fight is on. MK sees Tilda and tries to stop her, so he can make some accusations. She accidentally cuts him and he Hulks out and nearly kills her.

The key word is “nearly”.

He stops himself at the sound of her voice, as she pleads with him, (the way he did in his first fight with her,) not to hurt her. I guess he found his “focus”, but his control is still pretty shaky and he still passes out afterward. Taking Tilda’s butterfly, Sunny proves to Jacobee that the Widow started the whole mess. Jacobee agrees to a truce, but Quinn has to bring the Widow to heel before he’ll agree to be his ally.

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During the parley, the Widow attacks the Fort and kills the Colts and Clippers. She offers gold to the Cogs, who all run away. I like her, just fine. She’s a good strategist. She just tries every plan until something sticks. It really is like a chess game between her and Quinn and she seems way ahead of him. Quinn is just not as smart as he thinks he is.

Sunny goes to see the  River King, who is willing to give him safe passage, if he finds and kills the person who slaughtered a cargo full of Cogs, he was transporting upriver. Conveniently he has a picture and gives Sunny a drawing of MK.

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In the epilogue we learn that Ryder has been kidnapped by Zephyr and the Widow. Zephyr is working to overthrow her own Baron and the widow has a proposal to make to Ryder.

So, we have only two episodes left in the season and I’m pretty sure the writers are going to piss us off with a horrible cliffhanger , so we’ll come back next year.

Into he Badlands: White Stork Spreads Wings

You know how you love a character, root for them, but  still feel  as if they could use a very short, sharp pinch. This is how I feel about MK. Not often, mind you. Just whenever he shows agency or has an opinion.

But luckily I didn’t have to root too hard for harm to come to MK, as Stephen Lang’s character, Waldo, puts him neatly in his place during this episode, and that was satisfying enough.

This week the show focuses a lot of its time on the women of the series. It would seem that  women are in weakened positions because of how this world is designed but that’s not  completely true. And here is where the similarity to feudal Japan really strikes me. (That and the costumes.) It may have seemed that the women of that time period were helpless too, but many of them were involved in their own intrigues and yes, there were women Samurai, although they didn’t practice it in the same manner the men did.

In this world there are female Samurai ,too (and even a kind of Ninja, who were the undercover operatives of feudal Japan.) Most of these women. reside in the Widow’s clan and when Quinn declares war on her, we get to see them step up and hold their own against the Baron’s Clippers and even send quite a few of them home.

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Naturally, MK ,having been told to wait in one spot, does not follow orders and ninjas his way into the  Widow’s house during the battle, while Quinn and the Widow finally meet face to face and have it out.This is a great fight. and apparently a long time coming.

Quinn gets the advantage but is struck by a massive  tumor-ache. Before the Widow can finish the job the tumor  started, she is interrupted by Sunny. She and  most of  her women (The Butterflies) manage to escape the house through a secret passage.

Sunny confronts MK and MK shows him a book that he stole from the house. A book with a cover  image of the city of Azra. Another word-building point, which is why you have to pay close attention to the little things people say, is that MK is illiterate. So are most of the people of this world. Cogs can’t read, and neither can the Clippers.

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Lydia and Jade are sitting bedside to Ryder who is still in a coma. The two of them snipe at each other for a moment or two. Lydia makes it clear she knows that Jade is sleeping with both Quinn and Ryder and that that is a really bad idea. Jade goes to Veil, who was a childhood friend of hers, to beg her to save Ryder’s life. Veil is reluctant, at first, but Jade talks her into it.

Lydia, who seemingly hates everybody, doesn’t like the idea of a Cog (which I guess is what they call peasants in this world) doing surgery on her son, but relents when Veil explains to her that her son will die in a few hours if she doesn’t. She practices the age-old remedy of trepanning, drilling a hole in the skull, to relieve the intracranial pressure.

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Later,  Quinn approaches her and promises to find whoever killed her parents, not knowing that Veil is already  aware that he killed them. He also lets her know that yeah, he’s aware of her relationship with his chief Clipper.

After the battle Sunny goes to Veil to get patched up and the two of them try to be discreet about their relationship but MK , like most teenagers, cannot be fooled by people pretending not to like each other. It doesn’t help that Veil and Sunny are no good at lying. How the two of them are going to keep their escape from the Badlands a secret, when they can’t successfully lie to a teenage boy,  is a mystery.

MK also keeps making snarky comments to Sunny who has the perfect remedy for that. He takes MK to meet his mentor Waldo. I hadn’t noticed before but Waldo is disabled, (I wonder if we will get his backstory), which doesn’t stop him from beating MK’s ass, when Sunny needs to teach him a lesson about underestimating his opponents. This scene was a lot of fun and well choreographed. This underestimating one’s opponent, and then  getting your ass handed to you, seems to be a recurring theme in this series.

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Its also the third show I’ve watched just this year, which has a person with a disability, kicking ass and not even caring about names. I don’t know if TV was always like this or my brain is just noticing this now. contrast this with the original Ironside, its failed race-bending remake, and In Living Color’s HandiMan skits, which were done for laughs.

Ryder wakes up after his successful trepanning, and Quinn asks him who set him up. He says a woman in the red light district named Angelica, who proves more than a match for Sunny when Quinn sends him  and MK to retrieve her. She won’t allow herself to be taken alive and jumps from a balcony rather than let Sunny capture her. While this is happening Tilda, (who has been sent to retrieve Angelica too), sees MK and the two of them fight about which of the  Baron’s is a worse person, Quinn or the Widow. Angelica,  splatting in front of them, ends that.

Sunny has taken the book and hidden it, but MK ninjas his way into yet another house and manages somehow to steal it back. Even if he never makes it as a Clipper he can always become a thief. This is the main reason why he needs a sharp pinch. Once he gets it into his head to do something, the danger of it never occurs to him as he has mastered the ability to make poor choices.

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Like: taking the book to Veil to read it for him, after noticing she has a lot of books, so she can probably read. But she can’t read his book, either. its written in a language she’s never seen before.( It looks  vaguely Arabic, but not exactly.) Quinn shows up at her door, ostensibly to thank her. She hides the book with MK, who hides behind a curtain.

Quinn sends Sunny to get aid from a Baron named Jacobee. he must meet with Jacobee’s Regent, named Zephyr, who I like already. This is a woman well acquainted with what she wants and what she wants is Sunny.(Who wouldn’t? Sunny is foine!) She tells him he has a great opportunity. Kill Quinn and set himself up as baron, instead. Oooh, the plot thickens!

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Quinn goes to visit Veil and be creepy to her for a while. I guess being shitty and threatening to his wives isn’t enough to reach his creep quotient for the month, he’s got to let Veil in on the fun, too. What he really wants is for her to cure him the way she cured Ryder, giving her a prime opportunity to botch the operation and (oh, hell, why not?) make herself Baron. I’m all for this because even if she succeeds, his response will probably be to kill her or  take her for a wife, thereby  jeopardizing her baby’s life.

One must note that if Quinn hadn’t killed Veil’s parents to protect his increasingly not so secret-secret, this would never have become a problem, but in his defense, the tumor may have impacted Quinn’s long term planning capabilities.

Well now both  Veil and MK know the Baron’s secret.

The actress who plays Veil is phenomenal,  managing to portray strength and vulnerability, often at the same time. She’s great to watch and her character proves that there’s more than one kind of strength in this world besides the masculine associated ability to kick ass. There’s also the strength to endure and even thrive in this environment without martial skills, which is what the Cogs have to do.

I like the shows ability to portray men and women equitably, highlighting not just the strengths of the women but the weaknesses of the men. In that sense this show is turning out to be much more feminist than I expected, given the type of feudal dystopia that’s presented.

We’re down to the last two episodes of the season and I’m really mad at AMC for having only ordered six episodes,  hyping the Hell out of this series, making me fall in love with it, and then pulling the plug until Gob only  knows.

Next week: Two Tigers Subdue Dragons

Into the Badlands: Fist Like A Bullet

Okay, everybody! Into the Badlands has put in its application, after only our second date, to be my new boyfriend, and I have accepted this proposal. It doesn’t hurt that I’m probably in love with it.

I love a lot about this show. Not that it’s perfect. No show is perfect. There’s still some issues for me to overcome, some problems we need to work out as a couple, but I don’t see any deal breakers yet, and hey! it’s really, really pretty. The costumes look good, creating some nice silhouettes for the lead characters, the lead actors are handsome, the color schemes are rich.

The music, while not especially memorable, is at least not intrusive, and the fight scenes are awesome! They are well choreographed, the actors look like they’ve put some effort into them, and the actors move well and look good, especially Daniel Wu as Sunny. I knew already that I was going to like The Widow. She doesn’t have that balletic moves of her daughter Matilda (who fights a lot like Black Widow) but she moves in a clear, defined manner, sort of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with more jumping.

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Of course, since this is futuristic scifi, we must have the obligatory brothel, or nite-club scene, where some henchmen are waiting to get their asses handed to them by The Widow, although that’s not why she’s there. She is attempting to drum up support for her big move against Quinn, but her ally is assassinated by some gruff looking men, hired by Ryder, to kill her. This fight was a lot of fun. We didn’t get to see The Widow lay her shit down during the pilot but it was great to see it in this episode. Lets just say, “She got skillz”.

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MK is having a really hard time of it trying to get his ass out of Dodge. He’s just been imprisoned, crawled through a sewer, has barely escaped the Nomads, Baron Quinn’s fort, and may have to escape from the woman who tried to capture him, in the first place, The Widow. Wandering through the forest, he comes across a young girl killing squirrels with throwing stars shaped like butterflies, which is hilarious to me, for some reason I can’t explain. This is Matilda, one of The Widow’s daughters. She takes MK to her mother’s fort.

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Quinn has sussed that there is a traitor in his house after hearing about The Widow’s near assassination and MK’s escape from jail. He takes Sunny with him to see a doctor because his headaches are getting worse.

It turns out that the headaches are a brain tumor and that Quinn only has several months to live (how soapy can we get? His wife hates him, his son is a schemer, and his most trusted man betraying him). He can’t let anyone else know about this, so he orders Sunny to execute the elderly couple, who just happen to be Sunny’s girlfriend Veil’s, parents.

Sunny defies his Baron, possibly for the very first time in his life, but instead of killing him, the Baron elects to murder the couple himself, while Sunny looks on in amazed disgust. The Baron is not a very good Clipper, as he’s extremely messy about it.

The Widow is convinced that MK is the special boy she’s looking for and that he is lying when he tells her otherwise. This conversation is notable to me for his use of the words “free farmers”.  Apparently, there are such things as nomad farmers, who move from plantation to plantation.

There are also other, smaller plantations, that grow other things besides Poppies, as we learn when The Widow asks MK about tobacco farming, and when she offers Baron positions to some smaller landowners she’s trying to ally with to take down Quinn.

You have to listen closely to the dialogue for all the tiny details of what this world is like. So its not all plantations and slaves. I guess, according to Stephen Lang’s character, there’s a setup where people choose to become sharecroppers, or indentured servants, on the various properties, for safety reasons. Some people choose not to do this, becoming, Nomads, free farmers, or maybe some other type of professional, (like doctors), but since there are no laws or police, you are at the mercy of people who are more ruthless. At any rate there is a kind of economy that exists that cater to the needs and desires of the clippers, Nomads and various free persons wandering the Badlands.

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If this is the Badlands, are there by definition, some Good Lands called Ezra, maybe? And what are all these Poppies being used for?

Underestimating  The Widow and Matilda, the smaller plantation owners have to agree to back her play, after one of them loses in a fight with Matilda, who very easily wins against her bigger ,stronger opponent. There was never any doubt in my mind that  Matilda would win because her mother is The Widow, and she’s got mad skillz, and  for the Widow to demonstrate that things are not always as they seem, after one of the fools dissed her for being a woman.

 

Not to be outdone in the bad guy category, Ryder makes plans to have The Widow killed, when he makes plans to capture her skimming their profits, not knowing that this is a trap for him, and his father’s top enforcer, by The Widow.

 

We get a Stephen Lang cameo when Sunny visits his friend Waldo for some life advice. I’ve been loving this man’s career since the eighties. He almost  always plays bad guys, it seems. After what he witnessed that morning, Sunny informs Veil that the Baron killed her parents and the two make plans to escape the Badlands.

The Widow tells Tilda to test MK for his powers in a training session but MK convinces her not to hurt him. Matilda nicks herself, then lies to her mother about MK, saying he’s not “The Cho Zen Won”. Boy! There’s  supposedly trustworthy  people just lying through their teeth, all over the place in this episode. Ryder, Sunny, Matilda. I believe I’m sensing a theme here.

Later that evening Mk exhorts Matilda to help him escape. She takes pity on him but when they are caught by The Widow, who thinks they are merely lovers and not traitors, she kicks him out.

One of The Widow’s  swarthy looking new allies decides to take MK to his territory. But since there’s a bounty on MK, from Quinn, it looks like he’s headed right back where he came from, once again, locked in a trunk. (This actor is exceptionally pretty, and  probably not underage, but he seems to spend a lot of time in these episodes, shirtless, which is mildly disturbing.)

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Arriving at the abandoned factory to catch  The Widow, Ryder and Sunny are set upon by her allies and we get to have the joy of watching Sunny go to work. While Ryder dangles uselessly, having been taken out of the fight before it even started, Sunny takes on a couple dozen men with swords. This definitely cements Daniel Wu as a member of the Kingdom of Badass-ery, along with Jet Li and Donnie Yen.

He does get ambushed trying to save Ryder’s life, and that’s when MK, having cut himself free, kills his first man, to save Sunny. He asks Sunny to help him escape the badlands, but Sunny has another plan. He will mentor MK as his replacement (aka: Colt). He tells him that he needs to control what he is and he can only do that with training. Sunny’s right. So far, MK’s primary tactic has been to run away from what he is instead of mastering it and that’s not working. He is powerful enough to be at no one’s mercy if he tames his wolf, instead of being scared and running from it.

When MK becomes a Clipper, his job will be to safeguard Sunny’s wife and child to Ezra, which sounds beautifully tragic.

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Sunny takes MK back to the Baron’s fort where he declares that MK will be his new student. the Baron grudgingly agrees and then declares war on he Widow for nearly killing Ryder.

 

Geeking Out About : Into the Badlands

Yes, I ve been ignoring all my other reviews and recaps in favor of watching Hannibal reruns and Martial Arts movies. Those of you who are not fans of either, I have two statements:

A.) What’s wrong witchew?

And B.) I apologize, but I’m going to be ranting on these two topics for some time, while I completely ignore your interest in The Walking Dead. (Once I have calmed down, I will continue with my regularly scheduled programming on this blog. Maybe.)

The moment I saw the first trailer for this show I got really excited. I’m a long time a martial arts movie  fan. I grew up watching just about any tv show or movie with people fake kicking  each other. So, yeah, I’m  very excited about tonight’s show. I’ve already started picking out characters I like  from the trailers (The Widow and M.K.) and I sincerely hope AMC doesn’t screw this up or I will be disappoint!

This is one of those post-apoc, dystopian futures, with people in power offering protection from danger. They banished guns and trained up some sword fighters called Clippers. The top clipper, Sunny,  works for one of the barons named Quinn. Sonny is tracking a  lost transport owned by his boss.

There’s a reason why I hate dystopian fiction, but this system is not unlike feudal Japan, with Lords of various territories and the people who work under them. The Clippers are not unlike Samurai,  with everyone else working for the barons without wages. Just safety, from the unaffiliated Nomads, who live in the badlands, I guess. Kind of a cross between 16th century Japan and the antebellum south.

Sunny spots an open air abattoir of what? Slaves? Peasants? He tracks the attackers to ther campsite and they challenge him to  a fight. And we see why Nomads shouldn’t fight Clippers, as bones are broken, necks are snapped, and attackers are flipped. Clippers are actually trained.

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In a  stolen cargo trunk is a young man named MK. Sunny knocks him out, and takes him back to the transport site, where they bury the bodies. MK says The Widow paid the Nomads to capture him.

Sunny takes MK back to the Quinn’s fort. The Baron gives speeches about the badlands and talks up his protection and love. Whatever. I’ve heard these cult of personality speeches before and since I’m not a fourteen year old boy, desperate not to be someone’s slave, I’m tired of it already. He shows them Sunny’s tattooed body, with the hashes of the hundred or so men he’s killed. Who will be the next Sonny?

MK gets sent to the pit to see what he’s made of. The Baron tells his favored son Ryder, that he’s  not to move on the Widow, who hired Nomads to attack his caravan. MK is immediately attacked by a young man named Ajax, who steals his necklace, in an effort to show out for the Clippers, but Sunny interrupts the fight and takes the necklace for himself. Afterwards, a young boy named Bale, offers to watch MKs back.

The baron also has a tenuous relationship with one of his top wives, possibly the mother of his favored son. There’s intrigues as the mother and son discuss the barons weaknesses. I’m a lot less interested in intrigue. It’s the reason I pay only peripheral attention to Game of Thrones.

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Sunny goes to see a woman named Veil.  I’m not sure exactly where this is. Is it inside or outside the walls? I don’t know.  Sunny has an arrangement with Veil, who informs him that she’s pregnant. He tells her she can’t keep it and we learn the punishment is death. For who is unclear. For Sunny? For Veil? For the child? Sunny is not allowed to have a family, although nobody seems to care who he boinks. Since he’s a valuable asset and Veil isn’t, I’m guessing that Veil will be the one killed.

Veil suggests they go into the  badlands and you can see Sunny giving it some thought. I suspect, at some point, he may not get a choice about it. We also learn that the baron hunts down people who try to leave. That’s the way such cults work. Take away any hope of escape, talk up how great you are for them, kill them if they try to leave. After all those poppy fields aren’t going to pick themselves.

It will be interesting to find out what’s beyond the badlands. There’s no long range communications systems, and it will be nice to know what all this poppy picking and oil making, on the various plantations, has to do with the “shining city on the hill”, that’s pictured on MK’s necklace.

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Later, Ajax attacks MK, who totally “Rivers” out with  DarksideWillow eyes, and all. It’s creepy as hell because just like that, MK is gone. In his place is something very alien. I guess Ajax will never get to be a Clipper, as he certainly can’t do the job with one freaking eye. I had wondered what that scene was about and who the boy was in the trailer. It does make me wonder if MK’s superpowers have anything to do with  Quinn’s headaches.

Sunny questions MK about the fight. He says what Sunny saw only happens when he bleeds. He blacks out and can’t remember who he hurts. Creepy. He tells Sunny about Azra, a town out in the badlands. Later, when Sunny goes to see Veil, he’s attacked by the Widow’s henchmen. But she’s  just testing him out and proposing a job. She wants him to bring MK to her. That’s a lot of death, just to offer Sunny some work to do.

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Yes, it’s a great fight scene, even in the rain. I don’t know why I  love rainy fight scenes. It’s more balletic than realistic, with a clean, easy to follow style. It doesn’t go on any longer than it has to, by having the fighters do stupid things to prolong it. Yeah, you’re certain Sunny will win,  but then it turns out not to be a real stakes type of fight, anyway.

Yeah, I like the Widow, a redhead who still dresses in black, after allegedly killing her husband. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see her kick some ass, like we did in the trailers.  I’m intrigued by MK, for the same reason I liked River Tam, from Firefly. The first time we saw her, she was on a box, too.

MK decides to be stupid, though, and breaks into the main house to get his necklace back, and is promptly captured by Ryder and his mother. They find the necklace on him and the mother looks like she knows something about it. Ryder says he will execute MK in the morning and locks him in prison, where Sunny comes to visit and breaks him out. The baron’s wife witnesses the escape. Did she send Sunny to him or did he decide this on his own?

Quinn calls for Sunny, who thinks he’s been caught out but Quinn only tells him to move closer to the house.  I think he fears Sunny will leave because he tells him there’s nothing in the badlands and that he’s Sunny’s only choice. It’s interesting seeing the relationship between the two. The baron is rather needy and mostly clueless about what goes on in anybody’s mind but his own, but then that’s one of the problems that comes with power and paranoia.

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This episode was mostly character and plot intros. The fight scenes were fun and there’s a couple of interesting mysteries like: what is MK, Quinn’s headaches, how/what does The Widow know about MK, and is there anywhere else besides the badlands. The show is called Into the Badlands, so at some point, we’re gonna get out there right? Because I find the political intrigue,  on the plantation, less compelling than the writers do.

We’ll see what next week’s episode brings to the table.