Previously on Into the Badlands, “Monkey Leaps Through Mist”
Since its humble beginnings, Into the Badlands has a grown a worthy reputation for amazing stunt and fight work, with a pretty entertaining premise to boot. Though the tale of a weary assassin and his journey towards inner peace and family has been a lengthy pursuit with many divergent paths, the myriad story lines Badlands‘ writing staff have developed over the last 12 episodes finally showed significant gains in “Leopard Stalks in Snow”. This episode would have been the finale if AMC hadn’t extended the second season and given all that occurred in its running time, “Leopard” shared all the tension and dramatic twists one would experience during a cliffhanger.
Thankfully Lydia and Quinn’s “reunion” was the first item on the episode’s agenda as their narrative is currently the least engaging, mainly due to the sadistic undertones of their relationship. Lydia threw some hard shade at Quinn about his former reign while proclaiming the only thing she wants in this world is cut his throat to avenge her son. However, as soon as the Baron whipped out his silver tongue, Ryder was the last thing on Lydia’s mind. Their frenzied relationship has quickly become old hat. Even when Quinn and Lydia were at the height of power in season one, the oft-practiced tradecraft between the maniacs was nothing more than a lethal form of foreplay. Now that the Badlands are on the verge of war, the once-power couple are so pumped full of hormones they couldn’t help but pash one more time.
There’s a strong probability that Lydia is playing Quinn just as Veil did last episode, knowing full well about her husband’s weakness for the “fairer sex”, but we aren’t entirely sure. I only wish that their bizarre, murder-fueled relationship would actually offer something new rather than tread old ground. Then again, to twist an old adage, you can’t teach an old clipper new tricks.
If the on-again off-again dynamic between Quinn and Lydia wasn’t displeasing enough, in a cruel reversal of fortune The Widow managed to secure her alliance with the smooth talking ex-Baron by relinquishing the perpetually hopeless Veil. After escaping West Avalon by the skin of her teeth (with the help of a silent, nameless refugee), Veil set foot on Minerva’s turf and finally allowed herself to exhale. Her relief to be rid of Quinn would be short lived thanks to Widow’s long memory; that whole turning-Tilda-against-her-mother scheme from last season still lingers in Minerva’s mind. Short of Sunny and MK, Veil has no one to rely on and has become more desperate and less calculating as time has passed. It is difficult to be on your game when you’ve a newborn to look after… and knowing almost everyone wants to kill you.
Once The Widow learned that Veil was helping MK find clues within the journal about Azra, Minerva put the young mother to the test. Regrettably Veil provided zero insight. What’s a shrewd, self-seeking tyrant to do but play the cards she has in her hand? If Veil can’t earn The Widow’s protection, she and Henry still have value elsewhere… in Quinn’s grimy hands. If The Widow’s duplicity was known by her Butterflies or the refugees she protects, it’ll cost Minerva more than anything her rival Barons could have seized from her during the conclave: loyalty
One of the bright spots in this awfully dark episode was Tilda’s abrupt introduction to a budding romance with an unlikely admirer. Her pal Odessa (Maddison Jaizani) appeared to have a sinister agenda in “Palm of the Iron Fox” when she convinced Tilda to interrupt the conclave. Their suspicion melted away when two shared horror stories about their repeated abuses by their respective former Barons; during this scene both young women simultaneously earned our sympathy and respect for overcoming the trauma they’ve suffered. As I brought up in my review of “Monkey Leaps Through Mist”, little had been stated about or observed of the trauma and exploitation women of low rank experience throughout the Badlands. Apparently no one is immune from the vile impulses of those in power.
Regretful for dismissing Sophia’s pleas at Nos’ compound, Sunny and Baijie found Doc Cloud (Peter Marinker), an “herbalist” who provides tonics and salves as well as the future apocalypse’s version of black tar. After tending to Sophia’s wounds off-screen, Doc provided Sunny with some weighty counsel, but it was more sudden appearance of the abbots and what we learned about Bajie’s checkered past that was more intriguing! So untrustworthy, uncouth, sketchy AF, always looking like he needs a shower Bajie… was once an abbot? Color us shocked! His renouncement of The Master’s ways - followed by perpetual debauchery - is understandable if Cyan (Cung Le) was his brother. As suspected, the abbots aren’t as benevolent as MK believed and from what occurred in the final moments of “Leopard”, they aren’t opposed to killing even their own.
While Sunny and Cyan were engaged in their rematch, MK and Ava (Eve Connolly) did their best against a pair of abbots, however like Bajie, MK appears to have lost his Gift. Unfortunately, Ava was mortally wounded and used the last of her strength to save MK; Bajie and Sunny double teamed Cyan who also met his surprising demise. Before his brains spilled on the floor, Cyan managed to pull off the Badlands’ version of the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on Sunny. Since MK and Bajie are monastery dropouts, neither one hasn’t a clue how to save their anguished friend.
The entire final act of “Leopard” was a fantastical display of action mixed with Badlands’ otherworldly quirks, yet there was a particular scene that caught my absolute attention as it likely did for most Badlanders. Minutes before the abbots’ arrival, MK found an old copy of Wired magazine and on its cover was concept art for a city of the future with the tagline ”Dreaming of a better tomorrow”. While this image was a splitting image of the fabled Azra, it was the features along the cover that drew my eye.
For one, the issue’s dateline was November 2023; the series of events that spurred the current order of this world is finally being set in stone. It appears whatever calamity humankind suffered - either through war, pollution, climate change or another blight altogether - happened not long after its publication.
Which leads us to the most noticeable cover line: ‘Bio Shock: A pharma revolution’ Anyone who’s picked up a controller for either console in the past decade should be fairly acquainted with 2K Games’ best selling series. Yes, it’s more than likely a cheeky easter egg for us eagle-eyed fans but there’s also the line about ‘Plasma Tech’ on the opposite side, which could be construed as a faint reference to the Bethesda Game Studios’ Fallout series. If anything the teasers had me wishing Badlands was developing an open world action role-playing game of its own.
Yet the most foreboding cover lines were obscured by grit and the wear of time. While the promise of a holographic acoustic printer in the next six years could actually become a reality, Wired also declared 2023 ‘The Year of the Robot’. Considering the sweeping progress Boston Dynamics and other companies have accomplished in the past decade - and how robots are being designed for more complex applications like space exploration and defense - it wouldn’t be remarkable to surmise that humanity nearly annihilated itself with the use of killer automatons.
It’s these little hints about the history of this violent universe and the characters therein that have made Badlands an engaging series from the beginning. Now that everyone is in far greater danger than ever, it’s possible humanity may finally do itself in if things go according to the plans of a powerful few.
Into the Badlands S2E6
"Leopard Stalks in Snow"
Into the Badlands - S2E6 - Leopard Stalks in Snow | Daniel Wu, Orla Brady, Sarah Bolger, Aramis Knight, Emily Beecham, Oliver Stark, Madeleine Mantock, Ally Ioannides, Nick Frost, Marton Csokas | Writer: Matt Lambert | Director: Paco Cabezas