Oh wow, I’m really late with this one, although not too late since the season hasn’t ended yet. I really should have begun this earlier, because there is a lot of ground to cover, and as is usual with this show, if you miss an episode, you’re up shit creek as far as understanding what’s going on, or what happened before. The plot does not slow down here. As the season moves forward the plot becomes more dense, the betrayals and alliances fly fast and furious, and of course, the action is literally kickin’! We’re gonna have to do this the old fashioned way: via character list.
Since the first episode, Sunny (whose actual name is indeed Sunshine) has been at pains to save Henry, since Henry became sick. It turns out that Henry is a baby Dark One. In his quest to save Henry from dying from his Dark Chi, Sunny teams up with Bajie, takes over a refugee camp, gets kidnapped by cannibals, and finally confronted by Nathaniel Moon, and finally reunited with the River King.
As usual, many of Sunny’s current problems spring from all the past shit he did as a Clipper, but there’s also a new wrinkle. Sunny happens to be a Dark One, only his abilities are latent. Sunny is a catalyst instead, capable of awakening the abilities of others. Should this information become public, and others find out he can create Dark Ones (possibly even control them), Sunny will become even more valuable to all the major Powers of the Badlands.
Bajie is one of those people who knows everybody, and everybody’s everybody. The Widow used to be a former pupil of his, and one of his former masters from the abbey is a witch who can cure Henry’s illness. He and Sunny find their way to this woman. She manages to cure Henry’s fever, but she is also the person who figures out that it was Sunny who caused the flareup because its hereditary.
Bajie is disappointed to think the signal he sent out, in first season, got no response, but the witch says it did. It attracted Pilgrim. And guess what? Bajie seems to know him too. So, at some point he and Pilgrim will be reunited.
Nathaniel Moon tracks Sunny to the lair of the cannibals, where he gets taken prisoner, as well. In exchange for saving his life from the cannibals, Moon decides to spare Sunny’s life. Also, Moon is an honorable man, who does not wish to make Henry an orphan.
The writers have learned at least a few lessons from the past seasons. They have given Moon a backstory, and although he does questionable things (most of the people in the Badlands do questionable things), he manages to maintain his honor, and occasionally make some good choices, but I suspect sooner or later, just like Tilda and Waldo, he will grow disillusioned with The Widow, and leave her.
He also has a sordid past with Lydia, who had an affair with him, when he was Quinn’s Clipper. I like this relationship and hope they get together because their chemistry is unmistakable.
The Widow’s war with Baron Chau continues, and its hard to say who is winning. They both use innocent lives to manipulate each other into action, so I can’t even say who is the better person. The Widow is still one of my favorite characters but I still got problems with her methods.
After Pilgrim floods her poppy fields with pamphlets, stealing away half her Cogs, she decides to get out in front of the problem, and goes to see him. Subsequently, she and Pilgrim reach an accord. He doesn’t steal away any more of her workers, and she will take his side against anyone who attacks him.and there won’t be any need for violence between them,
Lydia has been appointed to be the Widow’s governor, taking over the poppy plantation, where she used to live. It turns out that she and Nathaniel Moon used to be lovers, and their reunion was …how do you say? “Fraught with tension!” Like I said, the twists, turns and connections on this show fly fast and furious, and you have got to pay close attention, or you’ll miss some new, and relevant, development.
When we last saw MK he was zonked on opium, and without his powers, but the opium caused some type pf revelation, and he now believes that it was Sunny who killed his mother. I’m inclined to believe this is a delusion on his part, except Sunny has met more than a few people he’s wronged in his time as a Clipper, so why not MK.
During MK’s mission to find and kill Sunny, he’s shot by Gaius Chau’s crew, and found by Pilgrim. Pilgrim knows what he is, and wants him to stay and work for him, as a kind of enforcer, since one of his enforcers is in the final stages of being a Dark One burnout, and he needs a replacement. I’m not sure where this is going, but I’m pretty sure this won’t end with MK killing Sunny. They are set to be reunited, and I’m sure there’s gonna be some kung fu fightin’, but I think that will be the extent of it.
Tilda and her mother have reconciled, (sort of), and she is now a kind of liaison, between the war refugees and her mother, helping to run the camp set up in a corner of the Widow’s district, by Lydia. Over the course of the season, this camp has been attacked by everyone in the Badlands, mostly in an attempt to steal the refugees and get them involved in the war. Tilda makes this deal, with her mother, to protect them.
After her people are attacked by Pilgrim, Juliet Chau realizes she cannot fight a war on two fronts, and sends in her nuclear option, her brother, Gaius Chau, who she suborns into working for her, by threatening his friends. She and her brother have a history where he tried to be a nice guy, but his sister took over his position as head of the family because she was utterly ruthless. They were feuding, but she imprisoned her brother, after he tried to stage a coup. Needless to say, Juliet is a few rungs down the ladder of villainy than Minerva, as she seems to actually believe in, and support, the slavery of the Cogs.
She sends her brother out to find, and assassinate Pilgrim.
I’m not sure I like this version of the “dragon lady” stereotype, but I do like this character, who is every bit The Widow’s equal. Perhaps if the show had more Asian women in it, to offset her depiction, that might be better.
Fomented a rebellion against his sister when she became the head of hte clan. And guess who was at the bottom of this rebellion. A very young Minerva, of course! She seems to have ties to everyone in the Badlands.
We’ve already seen The Widow’s reunion with Bajie, last season, which did not go well, but after Gaius’ assassination attempt of Pilgrim is unsuccessful, he finds his way to the refugee camp led by Tilda, where he and Nathaniel team up to protect it from Baron Chau, after which he is reunited with The Widow, and now works for her.
Can I just say how happy I am to see Lewis Tan in this show.
Pilgrim and his entourage, which include the two Dark Ones, Nix and Castor, (and now MK), have taken up residence in an abandoned castle/museum on an islet. Pilgrim certainly seems to be educated from somewhere as he knows a lot about the artifacts in the museum, and has been heard quoting The Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.
Pilgrim is turning into one of the top power players in the Badlands, mostly because he is able to offer hope and stability, from the war, to the Cogs who flock to his banner. He’s certainly becoming someone who needs to be gotten rid of for becoming a hindrance, or parlayed with, instead. The Widow decides to make a deal (which she will renege on, at the first opportunity, of course). Baron Chau decides that getting rid of him is her best bet, and sends Gaius to do it.
Pilgrim and Cressida are engaged in some mysterious construction activities. Its kind of confusing because a lot of the people in the Badlands refer to Azra as a place that is gone, a place that exists now, a place that will exist in the future, or sometimes, a person. At any rate, actual mystical abilities (magic) have been introduced to the mythology of the Badlands, as Cressida actually is a seer, and keeps seeing Sunny’s Clipper hash-marks in her visions, which is convenient becasue Sunny is on his way to Pilgrim’s place, in the last episode.
This season consists of sixteen episodes this time, so we’re about half through. Of course, by the end of the season, every individual situation will have changed, and I hope they all survive to the next season.
I watched the season premieres of both shows live, thankfully, as they don’t actually air at the same time. They air back to back, and are immediately followed by Last Week With John Oliver, another news show I have an addiction for. The overriding theme of Into the Badlands wont become explicitly clear until some time mid-season but the overarching plot of Westworld was stated by the characters.
Into the Badlands
In the opening sequence The Widow fights Nathaniel Moon to a draw, in order to make him her new Regent, after Waldo and Tilda left her last season. It’s very nice to see Moon actually survived his encounter with Sunny and that he’s back. He was one of my favorite characters from last season, and I hope he gets better treatment this season. He does at least get a new hand, having had the original chopped off by Sunny. He might also be feeling some type of way about that during the season. To their credit, the writers have acknowledged the mistakes they made with the Black characters last season, and have said they will try to do better. I hope so, as that was one of my main criticisms . (Also, I like that they didn’t give some bullshit excuse for their mistakes.)
I have a much more solid idea of what The Widow is trying to do this season, Remember how we said that the basic storyline of the story Jounrey to the West from Chinese lore. Well The Widow’s storyline is also based on Chinese lore, as she is attempting to unify the Badlands all under one rule. We see her standing in front of the map we saw last season. She and Baron Chau are the only two Baronys left, and her task this season is to bring that Barony under her rule, unify the Badlands and institute social reforms. This is a reference to the Qin Wars that unified China.
I loved the scene where she first meets Moon at a lighthouse. (And can I just point out that it’s still kinda awesome watching The Widow kicking ass in her three inch heels. I never get tired of that.) Now Silver Moon has been taking down any headhunters who come after him, and planting their swords in the soil near the lighthouse. At first he thinks The Widow is just another bounty hunter, and the two of them fight all the way up the stairs of the lighthouse. There’s a lot of flight in these scenes, and the Western mind is prone to think of the ability to fly as a sign of the goodness of the person doing it. Since both the Widow and Moon are very gray characters, their ability to fly is not an indication of their morality, but of the purity of their resolve, and the conviction of their beliefs. Sometimes the ability to fly indicates that a person strongly believes whatever they believe.
This is not a fight to determine the rightness of a certain point of view, as the two of them have just met and have no past history to fight about. The two of them also fight to a draw, with Moon proving that he would make an excellent Regent for The Widow. We start to get a better idea of her ambitions for the future of the Badlands, and although I’m still mad at her for her shitty behavior last season, I’m actually agreeable with her ultimate goal. With the Badlands unified, they can much better fend off any rivals for power from outside the Badlands, like Pilgrim, (although we’re not certain how good or bad that character is yet.)
Qin’s wars of unification were a series of military campaigns launched in the late 3rd century BC by the Qin state against the other six major states — Han, Zhao, Yan, Wei, Chuand Qi — within the territories that formed modern China. By the end of the wars in 221 BC, Qin had unified most of the states and occupied some lands south of the Yangtze River. The territories conquered by Qin served as the foundation of the Qin dynasty.
So while I don’t know how to feel about The Widow, right now, I find that I do still believe in her goals, but find her methods deeply questionable. She is still holding MK prisoner in her mansion, as the two of them try to find a way to re-introduce him to his superpowers. MK has become a suicidal opium addict, and this is probably going to have some type of effect on his abilities. I still like him though, as he’s full of piss and vinegar towards her, giving zero fucks about her feelings. This is a gorgeously shot scene, as slow motion clouds of smoke pour out of MK’s nose, giving it a very forties film noir feel, picture Rachel’s Voight-Kampff interview in Bladerunner.
There are a lot more blues and purples this season, (along with more jewel tones in general). I love the color compositions in this show. The creators put some real thought into it.
Bajie has also returned, having not actually died last season in the tower. Unfortunately, his rogue-like manner has not changed, and he continues to get himself in trouble, becoming prisoner to yet another group of people. Tilda first saves him by accident, and later in the episode, he is saved from execution by Sunny. I’d say Bajie is more trouble than he’s worth, but I like him, and he’s a font of useful information on the goings on outside the Badlands, and one of this show’s few sources of humor. Oh, yeah, he’s also possibly responsible for bringing Pilgrim and Cressida to the Badlands, as the signal he sent out into the world in the last episode has now, seemingly been answered.
Tilda has adopted a kind of Robin Hood persona, that she uses to procure goods, and people, for Lydia, who runs a refugee camp for people displaced by the war, and this is where Bajie, Lydia, and Sunny meet. According to Bajie, its been six months since Quinn’s death.
Pilgrim and Cressida arrive through the massive gate that we saw separating the Badlands from the rest of the country. They approach one of the forts manned by Baron Chau’s people ,who are easily defeated by the two black eyed ,super powered teenagers who work for him.Pilgrim’s intent is to rule the Badlands, as he believes himself to be a kind of prophet. Cressida seems to perform much the same function for Pilgrim that a Regent does for a Baron. She offers him advice and support in his endeavors. This is an intriguing role for one of the few Black women in the show. (I hope to see the Abbess from last season, played by Chipo Chung.)
As for Sunny, all of his concentration is on Henry. He has gone into hiding to raise his son, and there’s a very Lone Wolf and Cub vibe\ there There are still people looking for Sunny, and he finds that it will be impossible for him to stop killing, because now he has to protect Henry from harm. When Henry develops a fever one morning, he takes him to see a healer who discovers that the child is one of the black-eyed super powered people randomly populating the Badlands.
One of the major themes this season may be people finding out about Henry, and trying to kidnap him, along with The Widow and Baron Chau’s war. Last season we saw Sunny coming to terms with his former life as a Clipper, but as Moon told him in the second episode. there’s always going to be people who want to challenge him, and make a name for them self, by killing the most legendary Clipper in the Badlands.
Here’s the very funny Vulture review of this episode:
We pick up the show two weeks after Ford’s murder by Dolores, and the massacre of the Delos Board in the park. We get introduced to new people, re-introduced to all the major characters again, and we get to see what they’ve been doing since the event. Apparently Ashley Stubbs was not killed by the Natives, which is what we all thought happened, although frankly I would not be shocked to discover that Ford took Ashley’s competence into account, and had him duplicated as a Host. What better person to have in charge of security than someone you can totally control, just like Bernard.
The episode moves aback and forth in time from the immediate aftermath ’til two weeks out. Two weeks later Bernard is found lying on a beach in the park by soldiers, who have been called in to investigate what happened, and subdue the Hosts. The rest of the episode is about events leading up to when Bernard was found on the beach.
Directly after the massacre Dolores and the other Hosts are hunting down any and all humans in the park and taking great satisfaction in executing them. I found myself unable to feel an ounce of sympathy for the humans they shot and in some cases lynched. Dolores wants revenge for all the atrocities committed against the Hosts by the Guests, and the slave/revenge allegory is made explicitly clear, when she references human slavery. It is an all out war between the humans and the Hosts.
I can’t help but feel some type of way considering that the Hosts were treated by human beings in the same manner that Black Americans were treated by White people for some three hundred years (and seem reluctant to give up.) Dolores words are an echo of a post I wrote, about how the first season of the show specifically references real world slavery. (For the record, the show is written by an Asian American woman, Lisa Joy, and Jonathan Nolan, the brother of Christopher Nolan. Previously, Joy worked on the shows Burn Notice and Pushing Daisies.)
When we last saw Maeve she made the decision to go back for her daughter. To that end, she teams up with Lee, the hack writer for Westworld, and he immediately tries to betray her to the security team, stalking the halls of the Delos Corporation, hunting down stray Hosts.I’m all for her killing him, and I guess the show must have some purpose for him, as he’s still around. Maeve gets reunited with Hector who forgives her for leaving him. He vows to follow her no matter where she goes. Remember Maeve’s name means “to enchant”, and she seems to have definitely had that effect on Hector.
Bernard in the aftermath of the massacre, is in the company of Charlotte Hale. He’s suffering from some type of corruption of his system programming, and is desperately trying to keep that a secret from Charlotte. Charlotte must find the Host in which she secreted a special code last season, if she expects to be rescued from the park.
When Bernard is found on the beach, he isn’t very forthcoming about what has happened in the park. Later he and the military come across the bodies of dozens of Hosts who have drowned in a previously unknown lake in the park. Bernard admits he may be responsible for what happened to them, and his time with Charlotte may be the key, because by the time he’s been found on the beach, Charlotte is nowhere to be found, but since the military is there to rescue what guests are left alive, we can assume her mission was successful.
Dolores ambitions involve more than simply freeing the Hosts from one park, she intends to free all the Hosts from all the parks. To that end we may get to visit the other four parks, which consist of Samurai World, Future World, Medieval World, and possibly Roman World.
The Man in Black is in heaven as he has finally gotten exactly what he wanted from the park. he wanted the stakes to be higher, to actually have some skin in the game. he is enjoined by Robert Ford’s little boy avatar to a new mission. To try to make it to the other end of the park alive.
So not a whole lot happened beyond introducing the two major character arcs for the season: Dolores ambition to free all the Hosts, and Maeve’s search for her daughter. The two of them have not yet met, and I’m looking forward to that. I will be disappointed if they are written in a stereotypical female manner of rivals and enemies, but there is a woman helping to write these characters, and she has shown so ability to think from an inter-sectional standpoint, so I feel hopeful she may get that right.
I love stories of Westerners in Japan, so I’m really looking forward to when Maeve gets to visit Samurai World.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.