Previously on Into the Badlands, ‘Snake Creeps Down’
Starring: Daniel Wu, Orla Brady, Sarah Bolger, Aramis Knight, Emily Beecham, Oliver Stark, Madeleine Mantock, Ally Ioannides, Marton Csokas | Director: Guy Ferland
Sunny gains passage from the River King, but not in the way he hoped. Jade plays Lydia, who crawls back to daddy. Penrith summons the super monks to take out MK. Quinn believes he found his secret weapon. The Widow and Veil become frienemies. Ryder betrays an ally, who betrays a mutual ally, while he betrays THAT ally as well. Basically, never ever trust Ryder.
TIME AND TIDE WAIT FOR NO MAN
“Hand of Five Poisons” begins with Sunny revisiting the River King with the head of “MK” to pay for his passage. Believing he can trick the trader with the head of Bale, Sunny is given the King’s go-ahead for a ride up river. There is a stipulation: he must leave the badlands that evening.
The lies keep coming as Sunny instructs Veil (Madeleine Mantock) to prepare for their desertion that night. After weeks of calculating the best moment to abscond from The Fort, Sunny resorts to a haphazard plan that calls for far too much creativity and improvisation.
The chemistry between Wu and Mantock has been palpable from the beginning, making it quite easy for viewers to delve into their complicated relationship. The two somehow found love in a realm that detests its presence; to display any sliver of sentimentality is to show weakness. Sunny and Veil’s relationship isn’t much of a secret among the more perceptive characters, yet the depths of their mutual affection would spell the end of their very lives. Understandably, theirs is a devotion bound in secrecy and shrouded with half-truths and deceit.
After learning of Sunny’s evasiveness about how her parents truly died, Veil finds herself at a crossroads: leave the only life she’s known with a man she cannot completely trust, or remain and possibly find herself at the end of a blade after her own deception begins to further reveal itself in the coming months. That is, if her unplanned rendezvous with the Widow (Emily Beecham) doesn’t result in an unusual alliance of sorts.
A NEST OF VIPERS
Compared to the circuitous designs and villainous schemes going down between Quinn, Widow, Jacobee, and their respective underlings, the current strife between Sunny and Veil is like a pithy argument among newlyweds about sharing closet space or opening a joint account. In the end, their tiff is nothing like the multifarious dealings among the elite.
Given how Quinn has recklessly managed his expanded territories, no one is better suited for the seat of power than his ambitious second wife. Sarah Bolger has portrayed the duplicitous Jade masterfully, constantly using her subtle charms and resourcefulness with cold precision. Viewers may have suspected the young bride-to-be had an agenda, but surely no one presumed she would quickly turn an entire house against itself and steal their influence from under their feet. All from the comfort of her bed. Brilliant.
While Jade exhibits a definite, prolonged vision for her ascension among the barons, Ryder continues to wallow in his selfish, destructive game of revenge. Allied with the Widow and Zypher (Ellen Hollman), the wannabe baron already exudes an air of accomplishment and success when he hasn’t even started with the heavy lifting. Believing The Fort is his for the taking now that his mother has been exiled and father distracted by Sunny’s betrayal, Ryder forms yet another plot with Zypher to clip both Quinn and The Widow. Who does this guy think he is? Ryder can barely take on a single nomad, but now he can drop his old man and the World’s Most Dangerous Woman? Clipper, please.
At the center of this tempest of maliciousness and treachery, Quinn (Marton Csokas) remains the harbinger of all that is vile in The Fort. Though his strength may be leaving him, the baron offsets his vulnerability by doubling down on becoming an insular, miserly ruler. The Fort is circling the drain thanks to his rampant paranoia. Quinn has lost the loyalty of his inner circle, the barons are likely scheming to oust him, and the one person he should keep both eyes on (perhaps he is and won’t mention it until the last second… a quality Quinn’s known to display) is setting up his downfall.
Quinn’s quest for power is renewed thanks to witnessing MK’s powers in “Snake Creeps Down”. The baron wastes no time in making Sunny suffer the humiliation of being exposed as a traitor. Rather than mark all associated with the clipper as conspirators, Quinn attempts to goad MK into becoming his next regent. By agreeing to Quinn’s demands, he guarantees that Sunny and Veil will not be executed. Oh, MK… things are never that easily achieved in Badlands, especially with the baron involved.
BY ALL THAT IS HOLY
Ostracized by her own husband, Lydia (Orla Brady) has no other choice but to return to the home she abandoned so many years ago. Her father, Penrith (Lance Henriksen), was first apathetic to her pleas for forgiveness, yet he took his daughter back under the demand that she renounce the extravagant life that robbed her of sincerity and generosity.
Lydia’s return to the flock was noticeably an act of desperation – and her hesitation in being born again was apparent – however there would be no surprise if her reacquaintance with living a virtuous life is slowly twisted to her own esurient wiles. If anything, Lydia has presented the cunning to subvert others to her whim. Her father’s flock could be the perfect agency to seek retribution against a weakened Fort.
Penrith wasted no time summoning abbots – led by renown martial artist Cung Le – to enact his righteous order. A trio of devoted warrior-monks ride to The Fort and unsurprisingly make short work of an activated MK. The following contest between Sunny and the Abbots however was the most demanding and grandiose fight scene, as the scant seen supernatural element of Badlands was in full effect. The channeling of one’s dark force or qi appears a little less uncommon with presence of the abbots, and the Widow’s subtle revelation.
With this new information revealed, perhaps the badlands are named as such for another reason entirely.
NO EVER SUSPECTS THE QUINTUPLE-CROSS!
So much backstabbing, so little time.
“Five Poisons” culminates in a showdown to end all showdowns (minus the Widow who’s trying to keep her guts inside her body). Quinn wants to celebrate his recent accord with MK and casually strolls into a trap he assumed Jacobee (Edi Gathegi) had arranged. It’s uncanny how the man seems to know nearly everything that’s about to go down. Keyword: nearly… out of the shadows enters Ryder on the side of his father’s rival. Before anyone could even say “Chuōjiǎo”, Quinn cuts MK and pools of blood quickly spill on the streets.
In the end, “Five Poisons” shifted the status quo significantly, leaving viewers wondering which characters are dead (and there were a surprising handful). MK is kidnapped and taken outside of the badlands, Sunny is chained and under the control of the River King, the conspirators are scattered to the wind, and Veil is all alone to pick up the pieces. Somehow, the badlands are in worse shape than when the series began.
Halfway through the episode, Waldo (Stephen Lang) said matter-of-factly “The system is broken. You gotta blow it up and start again.” Sure, that seems like a grand plan when an institution or way of life is corrupt beyond measure.
On the other hand, no matter the intent or purpose, few if any events turn out as one wishes.
Sunny and the others can attest to that.
Into the Badlands S1E6
If there is any other way to fashion a more exciting and energetic cliffhanger, then I definitely haven’t watched enough television. Into the Badlands was a grand experiment for AMC that succeeded by leaps and bounds. Its short season compelled its writing staff and actors to create a compelling drama with meticulously crafted fight scenes in concentrated amounts. It also doesn’t hurt that nearly every lead and supporting character had a kick-ass moment, be it with fists or savvy.
Although no official word from AMC has been released about a second season as of the posting of this review, Into the Badlands soundly deserves renewal as it’s not only a show that’s unlike anything on American television today, but it’s also quality television. Although there was some bellyaching among The Walking Dead and Talking Dead fans about Badlands jumping between their beloved shows, series ratings remained relatively consistent considering the plethora of shows one could choose from that air during its timeslot.
You don’t give up when the getting’s good. Believe me my friends, Badlands is well worth the effort.