Previously on Into the Badlands, “Chapter XXII: Black Wind Howls”
As anticipated, the war has reached a stalemate. Neither Chau or Minerva have gained any ground, yet they continue to issue commands from their opulent mansions so thousands of nameless conscripted soldiers die needlessly in their name. After months of countless losses and unalterable ruin, the grunts – led by a couple familiar faces – have turned, successfully capturing The Widow and her circle to force an armistice. Yeah, good luck with that folks…
Elsewhere, Sunny learned more about his childhood thanks to The River King (Lance E. Nichols), who betrayed the clipper yet again to another mysterious faction that’s been searching for Sunny since he was a child. Now more determined than he’s ever been, Sunny will not rest until he heals his son completely, and uncovers the secrets of his past… a path that will lead to the inevitable collision with the disingenuous Pilgrim and a vengeful M.K.
Since the premiere, Badlands has focused on Sunny’s “Redemption Tour” as his past exploits have come back to potentially disrupt his and Henry’s future. Rather than call back to Minerva’s past indiscretions, “Dragonfly’s Last Dance” centered on The Widow’s recent failings as a leader, and how a sizable contingent of her butterflies and bowlers – led by Arthur and Wren from “Leopard Snares Rabbit” – were brave enough to air their grievances the only way they knew Minerva and her cohorts would acknowledge: through force and severe reprisal.
While Arthur (George Sear) was still his usual short-sighted, impulsive self, Wren (Tamsin Topolski) had grown considerably as a leader, though her tactics left much to be desired. Wren claimed to want peace, but was willing to drop a few more bodies to get her point across. Clearly, her mission was flawed and destined to fail because of her underlying personal vendetta. Like many young people (especially women), she fell for The Widow’s rhetoric, paying a great cost for empty promises. On the whole, it was a minor insurrection that was easily quelled by the combined forces of Minerva, Gaius, Moon and Tilda, yet it was effective all the same. Wren knew her actions would certainly lead to her death but the message of her failed coup did strike The Widow.
Refusing to be blindfolded during her final moments on earth, Wren was asked by Minerva if she had a final request. “Be the leader you promised to be,” she said. “End this war, once and for all.” It was then The Widow came to respect her, and if one could perceive this scene a bit deeper, it appeared Minerva felt a tinge of regret in executing Wren. Her resolve was a quality seldom encountered in the Badlands; unfortunately she had to make an example out of Wren and her men. Still, her words rang clear and true… and this experience will not be forgotten by The Widow.
After abducting The River King to ensure safe passage to Pilgrim, Sunny took him back to his headquarters as a good faith gesture. I know he and Moon are inextricably honorbound but sometimes it’s pretty damn ridiculous how much faith Sunny has in others to uphold their accord. Nevertheless, the River King did (temporarily) observe their pact and even gave Sunny a bit of information about the boat and its captain that brought him to the Badlands. The battle-scarred salty dog revealed a few choice nuggets to Sunny: firstly, his sister gave their pursuers a run for their money. Secondly, The River King knows more than he’s willing to share.
Of course, before Sunny could “discuss” what really happened on the boat with the River King, the “Men from the North” arrived to take our intrepid hero to parts unknown. Though Sunny handily defeated the soldiers, once more he has more questions than answers due to the surviving warrior poisoning himself, and the River King being skewered for good measure. And like two ships in the night, Lily (Sophia Di Martino) and Bajie go their separate ways, however the former is in a great position to gain more influence across the docks… as the River Queen.
At the Temple, Nix (Ella-Rae Smith) finally picked up what Castor put down about the growing deceit between Pilgrim and Cressida. In hindsight she knew taking the side of her “father” at the end of “Black Wind Howls” was a tragic mistake: after the pyre, Nix made Pilgrim aware that she saw the bruises around Castor’s neck while preparing his body. Naturally, the man she followed and admired for most of her life spun a yarn about sacrifice and faith, completely dismissing her suspicions while holding her face in the same hands he used to snap her best friend’s neck. By the time Pilgrim was done with his latest sermon, Nix was confident of his guilt and uncharacteristic action to eliminate one of his most loyal soldiers.
Enter M.K., who’s had more than his share of disappointing mentors. Rather than think about his own needs for once, he offered his sympathies to Nix along with his knowledge in controlling the dark power within them. Adept as Pilgrim may be in shutting off their abilities, it’s apparent he and Cressida lack the expertise to master the darkness, or care only about the damage their Dark Ones inflict for their cause.
My sole wish is their burgeoning friendship doesn’t become something more as it would be a grossly predictable and unoriginal move. Rather, I’d like to see Nix and M.K. impart a bit of wisdom between one another and improve upon their undeniable survival skills. Besides, lest we forget, every woman M.K. had his eye on romantically (save for Tilda) bites it in a relatively ignoble manner.
Dispatches From The Badlands
In the opening seconds of the episode, viewers were privy to the most complete map of the Badlands we’ve seen so far. While Chau’s side had a number of townships that were mostly unrecognizable, on The Widow’s side of the border were communities with familiar names: “Springfield”, “Bartsville”, “Garnett”, “Leboznada”. Most of us believed the Badlands were located in the Southern regions of the former United States, but knowing Minerva controls most of the Mid-Atlantic makes plenty of sense, especially after Sunny and Bajie cleared out Sniper Alley in what appeared to be ancient Midtown Manhattan.
The River King mentioned how Sunny was found on August 28, a date in history that is ridiculously significant but doesn’t appear to have any potential connection to or hint about Badlands’ main arc. Unless, as these episodes were filmed in 2017, August 28 that year was Qi Xi… which could be used to explain a bit of Sunny’s familial origin? Perhaps? Maybe? No?