Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Into the Badlands, Season One, Episode One: The Fort

A voice tells us about a war that led to darkness and fear until the barons comprised of seven men and one woman made order out of chaos.  People came to them for protection and that protection became servitude. Guns were banished and a group of lethal fighters called clippers were created. The world is built on blood and no one is innocent. The narrator welcomes us to the Badlands.

Sonny gets off his bike when he sees a turned over vehicle and a row of tided up dead bodies.  He takes the time to close the eyes of one of the cadavers and notes that one chain is open, suggesting that at least one person escaped.  Sunny pulls out a scope and scans the surrounding area, stopping when he sees smoke from a fire.

A group of men are camped by the roadside when Sonny pulls up.  A very confident Sonny leaves his sword next to his bike and walks over to the men to question them about the dead Cogs and the ambush. Sonny explains that the transport belonged to his baron but the men are not impressed by the fact that Sonny is a Clipper.  Sony asks about a trunk and is told that it's none of his damn business. One of the men gets the smart idea to pick up a sword and attack Sonny and ends up dead for his trouble.  Seeing their compatriot dead, the men at the camp get up and decide to attack Sonny, only to be killed themselves or badly injured.

Sonny picks up gold pieces around the fire pit and with the men out of the way, Sony opens the trunk to find a boy inside of it. M.K pops out and tries to run by Sonny throws a weapon which wraps around M.K.'s feet making him fall to the ground and in the process hit his head. When M.K. wakes, he sees Sonny having a drink by a grave that he has dug and tries to sneak away.  Sonny tells M.K. that there's no place to run and asks how M.K. ended up in trunk and not dead like the rest. When M.K says that he's just lucky, Sonny makes it clear that lying to him would not be a good idea. Sonny orders M.K. to help with the dead bodies and M.K. recognizes one of the dead.  M.K. is informed that he will be taken back to the fort but M.K. points out that no one would know if Sonny let him go. Sonny counters that M.K. will survive a lot longer working in his Baron's poppy fields.  Sonny hands M.K. the shovel and goes to sit next to his bike.  M.K. turns and asks for Sonny's name and snarks about Sonny showing up killing people and leaving.  M.K. asks if Sonny brightens everyone's day and is ordered to dig.

With M.K. on the back of his bike, Sonny drives back to the fort through the field of poppies where labourers are working .  M.K. pauses to look at the workers and makes eye contact with a boy about his age. Sonny drives into the fort and stops in front of a group of Clippers, who are through a Kata. When Sonny is noticed, the Clippers acknowledge Sonny as a Regent.  As Sonny and M.K. walk, they come across a group of youths fighting in a pit and Sonny informs M.K. that he is looking at Colts, who one day hope to grow up to be Clippers.  M.K is not interested in this option and Sonny warns him that this means he will spend the rest of his life working in the fields.  An alarm goes off and Sonny encourages M.K. to follow along, so that he can see the Baron welcome in the rest of the recruits.

Quinn, he Baron, holds up the bible and tells the boys that there is no God in the Badlands because God does not feed them, clothe them, or protect them, because he does.  Most of the boys are orphans and the Quinn says that the strongest will be given a chance to be trained as Clippers. To Quinn, Clippers are his family and once someone is accepted into the Quinn's family, there is no other family.  In return for their loyalty, they can have the best food, weapons and women. Wow, I just love hearing that women are property. Sonny is ordered to remove his vest and on his back we see a mark for every one Sonny has ever killed. Sonny tells the group of assembled kids that he kills to protect the Baron's interests. Quinn says that no Clipper in the Badlands is more feared or more loyal than Sony. We learn that Sonny was found naked and shivering by a river, with no parents and no name.  Quinn decided that if the Badlands hadn't killed him that there must be a strength inside Sonny, so he took him in. Quinn adds that maybe the boy who will follow in Sonny's footsteps is in this room. Quinn then asks the boys if they want to be part of his family, have the best of everything and kill in his name. All of the boys answer yes sir with the exception of M.K. Quinn tells the boys that their future has begun and they stand, cheer, and clap.

Later, Quinn looks at the coins Sonny found by the campsite and questions why M.K. was taken hostage. M.K. claims that he doesn't know and Quinn asks if M.K. knows what happens to people who keep secrets from him  Quinn orders M.K. to be put in the pit and for Sonny to keep an eye on him. They are joined by Ryder, Quinn's, son who wants to know why Sonny was sent in because he was handling the Nomad problem.  Quin reveals that the Nomads weren't the real problem and that the Widow was paying them to do her dirty work.  Quinn hands over the coin to his son and Ryder says that another Baron is moving against them.  Quinn is adamant that just because the Widow murdered her husband, does not make her a Baron.  Ryder however is more concerned about the fact that their poppies cannot be processed without the Widow's oil and that means that the Widow could easily choke them out.  Sonny points out that if they strike, they will be starting a war with the other five Barons.  Ryder is concerned that if they do nothing, they will look weak, causing the other Barons to come after them anyway. Quinn agrees with Sonny, and they walk away leaving Ryder alone.

M.K. enters the pit topless, except for a chain around his neck holding a pendant. Ace grabs the pendant from M.K. and M.K. immediately demands it back and follows up his demand with a punch. The two boys start to fight but when Ajax starts to get the upper hand, Sony intervenes and pulls Ajax away.  M.K. starts to scream about the pendant and so Sonny takes it away from Ace and stares down at the pendant before walking off. Bale walks up to M.K. and warns that guys like Ajax, like to show off to the Clippers because they want to be picked as Colts.  Bale offers to watch M.K.'s back, if M.K. will watch his. M.K. agrees and Bale walks off.

Quinn heads back to the main house where he finds his first wife Lydia, opening a negative response to a wedding invitation that she sent out. Lydia complains that this is the third rejection from a Baron and adds that when she and Baron got married, no other Baron would have dared to decline the invitation. Quinn points out that Lydia offered to handle the wedding and questions what's really going on. Lydia makes it clear that she is beyond jealousy at this point and encourages Quinn to marry Jade, or have as many wives as he wants. Quinn walks into his office and pauses to grab his head in pain.  Lydia follows Quinn into the office and tells Quinn that he needs to rest and let Ryder take the load. Lydia points out that they talked about giving Ryder more responsibility and Quinn asks if she is planning a wedding or wake. Lydia responds that one day, Ryder is going to succeed his father but Quinn believes that power is not inherited but taken. When Lydia snarks about Ryder cutting off Quinn's head, Quin simply replies that he wishes Ryder would, because he has spent years trying to groom him. When Lydia suggests that Quinn try harder, Quinn responds that they both know that Ryder is not up to the task. Lydia points out all of Ryder's sacrifices and makes it clear that she will not let Quinn abandon Ryder again.

Sonny is alone in the barracks and he pulls out a compass. When Sonny opens the compass we can see that inside the compass has the same markings as M.K.'s pendant.  Ryder walks into the barracks and Sonny hides his compass. Ryder asks what Sonny took from M.K., so Sonny tosses him the pendant. When Ryder asks if he has ever seen anything like this before, Sonny lies and says no. Ryder then asks Sonny to reconsider his position on moving against the Widow.  Sonny says that Quinn made his decision but Ryder believes that Sonny made Quinn's mind up for him. Ryder is adamant that Quinn is not himself and says that Sonny must see it as well.  Sonny responds that he has always protected the Baron but Ryder replies that by doing nothing, Sonny is digging Quinn's grave.  Ryder leaves the barracks with the pendant.

Quinn sees Jade in the gardens and the two of them kiss, as Ryder and Lydia watch from a distance. Ryder asks if it is hard for his mother to see his father with Jade like that. Lydia tells Ryder that his father is a Baron and is free to take as many wives as he wants. Ryder tells Lydia not to pretend that it doesn't hurt but Lydia responds that Quinn needs her and always will. Lydia adds that she still has the Quinn's head and heart and is happy to bequeath to Jade, everything to the south.  Ryder walks away, as the Baron and Jade stroll arm in arm in the garden.

Sony heads into a town like area and looks around him before entering a building. Veil is helping someone with their injured hand.  The patient becomes nervous when he sees Sonny and so Veil assures the patient that Sonny isn't there for him.  Later, we see Sonny reading to Veil in bed. Clearly, he has just learned to read.  Sonny complains that he liked the Cat in the Hat better and Veil points out that three months ago, he couldn't read his own name and is getting picky now. Sonny kisses Veil but pulls back when she is perfunctory.  Sonny asks Veil what is wrong and she admits that she is pregnant. Sonny asks how long and Veil answers, "long enough to be sure." Sonny sits at the end of the bed and tells Veil that she cannot keep the child. Veil asks if Sonny only knows how to solve problems with killing. Sonny argues that the punishment is death.  Veil questions if Sonny wants to keep the child and acknowledges that she knows the consequences.  Veil moves closer to Sonny and suggests that they leave the Badlands. Sonny points out that anyone who has tried to escape were hunted down and killed by Quinn.  Veil says that she has heard stories about places beyond these borders but Sonny believes that they are just stories and that there's nothing out there. Veil touches Sonny's tattooed back and says that she knows that under all of that ink is a good man.  Sonny turns to Veil and tells her that she is wrong before getting up and leaving.

Sonny sits for a tattoo to mark off his latest kills.  Ringo points out that there was a time when Sony was excited about getting a new mark. Sonny tells Ringo not to take it personally. Ringo however says that killing that many people takes a toll on a person. Sonny takes a sip from his flask and does not answer.

In the kid barracks, M.K. walks off only to be assaulted by Ajax.  Ajax tells Sonny that they have unfinished business because M.K. embarrassed him in front of Sony. When M.K. stands he is bleeding and his eyes go a ridiculous shade of neon blue. Ajax attacks again and this time gets his ass kicked into a glass wall. The glass breaks and M.K. catches a piece of glass as it flies back at him and tosses it right into Ajax's eye before passing out. What neither boy realises, is that they were being watched by Sonny.

When M.K. awakes, he is on Sonny's bed.  Sonny asks what happened in the bathroom because he has never seen anything like that before.  Sonny question if this is why the Widow is looking for M.K. Sonny adds that if he told Quinn what he saw, he would turn M.K. into something he doesn't want to be. M.K. explains that this happens every time he bleeds and when he wakes up, someone has been hurt or worse.  M.K. explains that his mother had heard about a healer who could fix him and when they went to find him,  they were caught by Nomads and separated.  Sonny shows M.K. his compass and M.K. says that this is home - Azra. Apparently, Azra is beyond the Badlands.  Sonny asks if M.K. remembers how to get there and M.K. replies that he doesn't because it was a long time ago.  M.K. asks for his pendant back because it is the last thing he has to remember his mother, but is told that Ryder took it. M.K. stands with the intent of getting it back but Sonny pushes him back on the bed and orders him to return to the barracks and keep his head down.

Later, Sony stands on the wall of the Fort with his compass in his hands. What Sonny doesn't know is that he is being observed by Quinn.

Later, Sony walks through the rain to Veil's. He puts his hand on the doorknob but doesn't enter. When Sonny looks around, he stops when he sees a car with its lights on in the middle of the road. When Sonny looks behind him, he sees two men enter the street, effectively cutting him off. Sonny pulls out two swords and the fight is on.  Sonny ends up killing all four his attackers.  The Widow gets out of the parked car and approaches Sonny. The Widow tells Sonny that he is really as good as everyone says. The Widow holds up the symbol on M.K.'s pendant and asks that M.K. be brought to her.  Sonny is adamant that this is not going to happen.  The Widow tells Sonny to let her know when he changes his mind and returns to her car.

M.K. talks with Bale about getting his pendant back. Bale tells M.K what floor Ryder's room is on but warns M.K. not to let Ryder catch him.  M.K. sneaks into Ryder's room and finds the pendant in a drawer. When M.K. turns to leave, he finds Ryder standing right behind him. M.K. tries to flee but is grabbed by Ryder. Lydia enters the room to find Ryder strangling M.K. Ryder hands his mother the pendant and Lydia asks him where he got it. M.K. replies that it's his. Clearly Lydia recognises the image on the pendant. Ryder's plan is to cage M.K. and then execute him in front of the new Cogs in the morning.

Sonny goes to see M.K. in this cage, reminding him that he was told to stay in the barracks.  M.K. asks Sonny who gave him that compass but Sonny says that it doesn't matter. M.K. points out that Sony kept it for a reason. M.K. adds that Sonny is hoping that Asra is other there to.  When Sonny points out that M.K. is going to die in the morning, M.K. asks Sonny to find his mother and tell her that he is sorry and that he loves her. Sonny responds that he cannot keep this promise. M.K. lowers his head and starts to cry. Sonny stands, drawing his sword and then he breaks M.K. bindings and tells him to find his mother and tell her himself.  Sonny leads M.K. to a tunnel that leads out of the fort.  Sonny warns M.K. that if he is caught, he will be killed. M.K. asks Sonny why he is helping him and Sonny replies, "because I never had a choice." M.K. thanks Sonny and then jumps down into the tunnels and takes off running.

Sonny runs backs back to the barracks but before he can enter, he gets a message that the Baron is looking for him.  Sonny enters the big house and Quinn tells Sony that he caught him on the wall staring out. Quinn says that he has seen that look before and had it himself. Quinn adds that there is nothing out there.  Quinn then reveals that he wants Sonny to move into one of the cottages closer to the house. Sonny says that he feels better being closer to his men but Quinn responds that he would feel safer knowing that Sonny was there to protect his family. Sonny complies with the order.  Quinn acknowledges that the other Barons are coming for them, but is certain that they will never take the Fort because he and Sonny are guarding it. Sonny points out that Ryder isn't going to be happy about this but Quinn says that family is nothing but trouble. Quinn adds that Sonny is lucky he never had one. Sonny turns and leaves the room and Quinn sits back and takes a hit of opium.

Jade makes her way into Ryder's room and disrobes.  Quinn becomes lost in a opium haze.  Lydia stares into a mirror.  Sonny lies in bed and looks at his compass.  Now outside the fort walls, M.K. runs for his life

As a series opening, The Fort did was it was meant to accomplish.  We were given a sense of the world and how the characters relate to each other and a little bit about why.  There's no doubt that Into the Badlands is a martial arts dystopian  with possibly a hint of magic given the fact that M.K.'s eyes changed colour and he turned into a super fighting badass.  I don't think that we have seen the last of the M.K. so I hope that why he is different is quickly revealed, given that this season only has six episodes.

I found the cinematography of Into the Badlands to be absolutely beautiful.  The fight scenes are beautiful to watch, particularly the one which occurred in the rain. I really do look forward to see more of those as the season goes on.

My main problem so far as that all of the characters feel very wooden.  We don't know much about them and yes, I acknowledge that this is the first episode.  Into the Badlands also felt very predictable. Clearly, Quinn favours Sonny over his biological son and this has already created some tension, which no doubt will escalate.  Ryder's anger over this rejection has led him to have an affair with Jade which will only lead to more problems. Then we have Lydia who at first blanch appears to be a strong matriarch but we will just see how that plays out.  Finally, there's Veil.  It irked me when she touched the marks on Sonny's back which indicate the number of men he killed and still called him a good man.  Really?  I am sick and tired of the idea that the love of a good woman somehow cleanses a man of the atrocities that he has committed.  Sonny may have freed M.K. but I see no indication that he is a good man despite him admitting that he didn't have a choice but to become Regent.