Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Into the Badlands Season One, Episode Six: Hand of Five Poisons

As of the 20th of December, AMC has not revealed whether it intends to order a second season of Into the Badlands.  After watching the season finale, I certainly hope that they at least give us a two hour episode to wrap things up, given that not only did the finale not answer any questions but it certainly raised new ones.  It's clear that should there be a second season, the location will certainly shift, as both Sonny and M.K. have been moved out of the Badlands against their desire.

The season finale begins with Sonny going to see the River King, with the head of someone who looks somewhat like M.K. The River King is suspicious at first because the head is missing its ear but accepts Sonny at his word.  Sonny arranges passage with the River King for midnight to leave the Badlands for good.  With a plan in motion, Sonny heads off to see Veil to warn her to be prepared to leave.  Veil however has been thinking over what Quinn said about Sonny's blade being the one to kill her parents. It's about time Veil wizened up and realise that love does not mean that Sonny is not a violent man.  Sonny tries to plead that things will be better once they leave the Badlands but Veil is not at all certain. Veil makes it clear that he will discover when he comes to pick her up what her decision is.

M.K. has to be the most desired person in the Badlands.  Some monks learn of M.K. and refer to him as the dark one. They decide to pack up and get M.K. after finding his location on the wanted posters that they Widow had printed up.

Last week, Jade was poisoned and when she awakes, she finds Lydia by her side claiming that the sun must have gotten to her. Uh huh. Is anyone buying that one for even a moment?  We certainly cannot have the wives agreeing and getting along and so Quinn bursts into the room to accuse Lydia of poisoning Jade. Quinn bases this assumption on the rumors which flew around the fort after the death of his other wife. Lydia naturally professes innocence but Quinn is having none of it and orders Lydia to leave fort saying that he never wants to lay eyes on her again. From her sick bed, Jade gives Lydia a small smile.  I guess this means that Jade wasn't playing when she told Lydia that she knew how to play the game.  One point Jade I suppose but I would rather see the two women working together to take out the bastard Quinn.

Back in his office, Quinn gets a visit from Ryder.  Now that mommy dearest is out of the way, it seems that Ryder has decided that his next move to grab his father's power is eliminate his greatest ally Sonny.  Ryder claims that he caught Sonny and the Widow in conversation and that Sonny is one of the few people with a key to the tunnels which the Widow recently accessed.  Quinn, who has always been a paranoid SOB, orders Sonny to be placed in chains and for Veil to be brought to him. Ryder believes that his father is listening into to him but this is obviously about getting control of M.K., now that he has seen first hand M.K.'s powers.

Quinn misses getting his dirty paws on Veil because she has already been captured by Tilda, who takes Veil to the Widow's new base of operations. It seems that in her epic fight with Sonny last week, The Widow was injured and she is badly in need of medical attention.  The Widow tries to sell Veil on girl power and the fact that women in this world are vulnerable and must find a way to fight back against men's violence. Veil listens but she is cautious and cagey.  The Widow suggests that Veil shouldn't be in such a rush to return to the Fort because she had Quinn poisoned and that things will be in anarchy after his death. After treating the Widow, Veil lays out three vials and explains that two are poison and one is the medicine that the Widow is going to need. Veil makes it clear that she will only reveal which vial contains the real medicine after she is returned to her practice.  The Widow wishes Veil well and orders Tilda to escort her back.

Having been banished, Lydia has no choice but to return to her father, who isn't exactly thrilled to see his now deposed daughter.  Lydia has to beg and claim that she can be redeemed.  This leads to Lydia promising to renounce worldly goods, and give herself up entirely the cult/religion her father seems to be running.  This comes complete with a water baptismal with Lydia dressed in white. I'm not sure how much we should care about this beyond the fact that Lydia and clearly her father both know something about Asra.

Back at the Fort, Quinn sits down with a very naive M.K.  Quinn promises to have Tilda brought to the Fort, warning that once the Widow is dead, Tilda will need someone to protect her.  As a bonus, Quinn promises to allow M.K. to see Tilda whenever he wants.  Showing his loyalty, M.K. asks about Sonny and Quinn promises to save Sonny's life if this is what M.K. wishes.  All M.K. has to do in return is to agree to be Quinn's Clipper.  M.K. nods to all of this and even accepts Quinn's proposal that they visit a bawdy house in order for M.K. to lose his virginity, so that he doesn't embarrass himself when he is with Tilda. Clearly, after everything that M.K. has seen he has learned nothing.

Ryder, ever the snake, is quick to inform Zypher about Quinn leaving the Fort with M.K. to visit a bawdy house.  They decide to assassinate Quinn that night so that Ryder can take his father's place as leader.  Though the the three had made a deal with the Widow initially, Ryder wants the Widow left out of the plan because he doesn't trust her.

Sonny is still chained in the dungeon when who should arrive but his former mentor Waldo.  Waldo easily disarms and overpowers Sonny's jailer before setting Sonny free.  Sonny is quick to realise that it was Waldo who was the traitor.  Waldo explains that the system is broken and that it is time for something new.  Sonny is incredulous that Waldo believes that the Widow could be the start of a new beginning.  Waldo quickly gives Sonny the heads up about what is going to happen at the bawdy house but suggests that rather than intervening, Sonny should take the opportunity to flee the Badlands for good.  Waldo then tosses Sonny a medallion that was found on Sonny when he was just a child. It just so happens that the medallion looks exactly like the one that M.K. was wearing.  So we all know that Sonny isn't going to leave right?

M.K. and Quinn arrive at the bawdy house only to find an ambush waiting there for them. Quinn rants and froths at the mouth about there being no going back for Ryder; however, Ryder, Jacoby and Zypher are confident that they have Quinn outnumbered and cornered. What none of the three had planned on was M.K.. Quinn quickly cuts M.K. and steps out of the way as M.K's power takes over. As M.K. goes all black eyes and sets out fighting with the three would be assassins, Sonny sneaks up on Quinn and stabs him in the gut.  Night night Quinn, it was too long in coming if you ask me. Sonny catches up with M.K., just as he is about to kill Ryder. Damn it Sonny, you should have let M.K. take that little worm out.  For his trouble, M.K. punches Sonny and shoves him through the wall.

In yet another instance of perfect timing, who should show up with the monks.  They grab a now unconscious M.K. planning to spirit him away but Sonny gets up and tells them that they have to go through him first.  An epic fight scene ensues in which Sonny does his damnedest to protect M.K. but the monks are simply too much for him.  The monks leave a beaten, bloodied and unconscious Sonny behind and pack up in M.K. in a crate before taking off.

Tilda has returned to the Widows and she realises that she has the means to put an end to her so-called mother and so confronts the Widow about her plans for M.K.. The Widow reveals that she knows about M.K. because she used to be just like him.   In case you're counting that is potentially two adults who used to have M.K.'s powers.

When Sonny awakes, he finds himself on the River King's boat. It seems that the River King is aware that Sonny tried to cheat him and is not in the least bit impressed.  The River King informs Sonny that there are plenty who would pay for men with Sonny's skills.  When M.K. awakes he finds himself inside a tiny little create being driven out of the Badlands.

And that's it for the first season of Into the Badlands.  The acting certainly wasn't the greatest but the epic fight scenes of which there were almost two every episode tended to make up for that.  It was absolutely beautiful to watch though I do hope the actors take some acting lessons if they are granted a second season.  The premise at times didn't make much sense to me.  We still don't know what brought about the dystopian and the reason for eschewing guns is ridiculous. I know that creating a show which featured martial arts is important to Wu, but he needs to sell the reason for it better than he does.  In a world where it's every man  or woman for themselves, it makes no sense that they would give up guns, given that it would be the only real equalizer in a society like this. It is further problematized by the fact that this story is set in a dystopian America and I cannot see Americans giving up their guns.

The characters never really move beyond two dimensional, though much time is devoted to repeatedly reminding us of their motivations.  The son who would be king but is completely inept has been done to death, making Ryder annoying most of the time that he is on the screen. The paranoid, mustache twirling Quinn is yet another trope. Then we have Veil and Sonny, who combined make up the biggest case of been there done that.  Sonny is a serial killer with supposedly a heart of gold saved by the love of a good woman.  Can we please, please, let this horrible trope die already? I am however given that Veil questions if in fact Sonny could indeed change. Then we have M.K., the dark one, or more accurately, in this case, the chosen one because everything epic always has to have a chosen one.  Finally we have the warring women - Lydia and Jade.

Perhaps the only somewhat original character in the entire series is the Widow.  It makes sense to me given that she is a survivor of intimate partner violence that she would make a force of all women and girls.  It makes sense to me that she would fight tooth and nail to hold onto her autonomy.  My biggest problem with the Widow is that despite supposedly fighting to empower women, she really doesn't treat them much differently than Quinn.  All the women around the Widow are pretty much deemed disposable.  I know that a matriarchy wouldn't necessarily usher in a world of lavender and roses but at the same time, given that her motivation is supposedly to stop the victimisation of women, the Widow's treatment of women should be markedly different.

The other bright side for me is Waldo. Unfortunately, Waldo doesn't have much screen time at all but each time he does appear, Waldo is smart and capable. It's not often that we see disability portrayed this way. Quinn may not have recognized that Waldo remained a threat or his vitality but this is something that Sonny is always aware of.

We now know that M.K. is the "dark one" and that potentially this is a power that both the Widow and Sonny both had at some point.  I do however question Sonny because he was with Quinn and Quinn would not have failed to exploit this, if his power had manifested.  What we know for sure is that there's something special about Sonny, we just don't know what for sure.  I do however believe that if his character is going to be redeemed which is clearly in the books if Into the Badlands gets a second season, they are going to have work harder to make be believe that this serial killer does indeed have a heart of gold.

I'm not completely sold on this series yet and I guess that given that Into the Badlands has not been renewed, there's some ambivalence around it.  I suppose that the ratings after The Walking Dead reached its mid-season finale will tell the tale.  Did Into the Badlands lose ground without it's great lead in?