Previously on Into the Badlands, “Black Heart, White Mountain”
Where to begin with this one… what a doozy.
When an episode opens with the unceremonious death of a Baron by The Widow’s hand, you know the next hour of your life will be filled to the brim with bloody violence. In this week’s installment of full scale post-apocalyptic warfare, our intrepid heroes are put to the test in a multitude of trials. Life goes from bad to abysmal for Sunny, Veil, and the others as the Barons lose all sense of restraint as each is desperate to arise from the mayhem as victor.
It’s been a long, hard road for Sunny, M.K., and Bajie and after weeks of avoiding slavers, fighting bounty hunters and turning the tables on the Abbots, they finally reached The Wall. After gazing upon this monument of Trumpian magnitude, the trio found passage through the barrier as soon as they arrived. If it sounds too good to be true it usually is and the rogues found out the hard way that Baron Chau (Eleanor Matsuura) doesn’t play when it comes to securing her daily quota of cogs.
Thankfully, Sunny learned valuable lessons as he wandered through the Outlying Territories with Bajie; in this instance Sunny finally realized the importance of finding opportunity in every situation. Bound and primed for processing in Chau’s network, Sunny used his 400 tattoos as a calling card and gained an audience with the calculating Baron. In little time, the former regent had regained his station among Chau’s clippers on the promise that he’d protect her from Quinn and The Widow. Sunny countered that he required his freedom if he were to kill under a banner again.
After a season and a half, Sunny has finally started to play the game like a seasoned pro; while he’s still pressed to leave his old life behind, after his near-death experience Sunny knows he must use all his abilities to ensure his family has a chance for a peaceful existence. Which is why it wasn’t surprising that Sunny switched colors mid-mission when Minerva immediately spilled the beans when Sunny crept up from her blind spot. At this point the Badlands appears to be a lost cause as every Baron is pushing their resources (i.e. their clippers) to the limit with nary any progress to be seen. All save for Quinn and his band of marauders who appear to have no other motivation but to watch the world burn.
Apparently Quinn’s crippling affinity for women works both ways as Veil, Lydia and Minerva appear stymied by the ex-Baron’s formidable will to conquer. All seem to know Quinn is near the end of his days but an animal like him is more dangerous when backed into a corner, as evidenced by the slaughter of the entire Broadmoor family. Seemingly accepting of his mortality, Quinn forced Veil to marry him in order to declare Henry his heir and sole Baron of the Badlands (or what’s left of them by season’s end).
The entire sequence was a study in despair as Veil and Lydia had no other option but to acquiesce to Quinn’s demands not for the sake of their lives but for Henry. Quinn is right to believe the child is the future but for the women he represents a purity and innocence that has been lost in the Badlands. No one else except for Sunny wants Quinn gone more than the ladies however they are willing to give up their freedom and agency to protect the future from Quinn’s vile influence.
Like “Red Sun, Silver Moon” and “Leopard Stalks in Snow” before it, “Scorpion’s Tail” had featured a number of scenes featuring works of literary and art masters that somehow survived humanity’s downfall. All these scenes occurred while Sunny was convincing Baron Chau to agree to his terms before riding after The Widow. Among the opulence and cleanliness of Chau’s estate was an impressive collection of masterworks that may foreshadow the future of the series.
The first given focus was Milton’s Paradise Lost, an epic poem that tells of the fantastical journeys of Adam, Eve and Satan during an angelic civil war. Long story short, Satan (Quinn, obviously) sought the allegiance of numerous rebel angels – chiefly Mammon, an archetype for greed and lust (Minerva?) – to overtake Heaven and fails. Ultimately he turned his gaze on God’s greatest creation to corrupt them absolutely. Though Eve is tempted by Satan, Adam follows suit out of his love for Eve. If they must fall, they’ll do so together.
While Sunny was showing off his newfound penchant for duplicity in Chau’s presence, ‘Leonidas at Thermopylae’, the magnum opus of neoclassical artist Jacques-Louis David, was featured numerous times in the background. The story is well known thanks to 2006’s hyper-stylized actioner 300, as the Spartan King and his most loyal soldiers sacrificed themselves to ensure their beloved nation’s survival. While the optics of having such a grandiose painting in the middle of a state room is cool and affirms that Chau is a very rich and powerful Baron, its presence shouldn’t be easily dismissed in regards to the possible direction Badlands may take next season.
The Barons are pretty much their own worst enemies within their borders and across the Badlands… but what lingers just outside their influence? We know the Outlying Territories are filled with all manner of brigands and cutthroats, yet they’re mostly unorganized and well contained to the south. What of the Swamped and Flooded Territories? The North Lands? The Badlands takes up a large swath of the former United States, but plenty remains unexplained about the overall state of the world. I mean, there must be a reason why the Abbots have taken so many Gifted and molded them into holy warriors. Something truly sinister must be underneath the surface on this already cruel world, and who better to lead the defense of the Badlands than its greatest warrior?
Whether this potential reckoning will emerge within or without, the attacks across the Badlands will form a massive power vacuum none of the players have foreseen. Quinn cannot be much longer in the world, The Widow is losing her grip, and so far, three Barons have been eliminated in short order. No matter who wins this war, everyone loses. As bad as its has been for a majority of the characters, the very foundation of their twisted way of life is crumbling apart due to their hubris and wanton bloodlust.
Into the Badlands S2E8
"Sting of the Scorpion's Tail"
Into the Badlands – S2E8 – Sting of the Scorpion’s Tail | Daniel Wu, Orla Brady, Sarah Bolger, Aramis Knight, Emily Beecham, Madeleine Mantock, Ally Ioannides, Nick Frost, Marton Csokas | Writer: LaToya Morgan | Director: Stephen Fung