Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Into the Badlands: Season 2, Episode 2: Force of Eagle's Claw

Time for more stunning visuals – but not quite as many fight scenes

Sunny has just been betrayed and is now being used in the arena – but the boss guy doesn’t especially want a crafty, manipulative rat like Bajie running around either. So, twist, he chains them both together for the gladiatorial combat so Sunny has a disadvantage

Ok, this show could have gone very badly with this – portraying the fat guy as the inept comic relief. But, in general, it doesn’t. Sure Bajie isn’t a skilled fighter but nor is he utterly physically inept and he is the one who directs their escape. He even manages to save Sunny – (of course Sunny does most of the fighting and the attacker ends up well and truly splattered)

They do escape and cross the long grassland. Again we see competence from Bajie – he can find food (and I wish it were more a case of them both being hungry and Bajie getting food for them rather than Bajie stopping to eat while Sunny wanted to continue on) and he’s the one who can remove their shackles

And while Sunny attempts to leave him behind, he may need Bajie to get across the huge wall that separates them from the Badlands

I’m curious that they have made Bajie competent – in a show that is so utterly physical, that is defined by these beautiful, amazing fight scenes, it would be easy to turn the fat guy into inept comic relief. Especially since Nick Frost has spent no small part of his career playing that role.

Over to Lydia who has joined her father and the Totemists. And they’re all very peaceful and kind and very religious and Lydia is super happy there (though next time save your speech about how happy you are to be home for an event other than someone’s wedding – way to make the day all about you!)

Until they’re raided by vicious nomads who are there to steal and rape. The Totemists are utterly pacifistic and refuse to fight back, all kneeling. Except Lydia who fights – killing them both to save her dad from being killed and the new bride from being raped. Even as she desperately struggles for her life, none of the Totemists help her

After the nomads are killed her father is furious “who are you to kill in our name!” he demands – killing is completely forbidden in their religion, even to defend themselves.

Which sounds a lot more noble when they didn’t all kneel and watch one woman nearly be raped, an old man nearly be murdered and another woman desperately fight for her life.

It seems even more hollow when Lydia goes to see Ryder to appeal for Baron protection – which is what Quinn used to do. It seems that Totemist pacifism existed behind a shield of Baronial violent protection. Lydia even has a side for Ryder – most cogs (workers) share the same religion of Totemists and respect them, providing protection would boost moral and stop more defections

Of course, Ryder hears any criticism to his less than stellar rule and has a temper tantrum, remembering his mother’s less than supportive words on how well he’d do as Baron without her he adamantly refuses to help or to accept her advice

There may be no love lost between Ryder and his mother but it’s clear he needs some help despite his huge territory.

To which we move to the Widow’s territory where Waldo is acting as mentor and advisor. And he’s not happy that Tilde slaughtered the Clippers last episode – no matter her moral outrage, The Widow let them go and a Regent (chief clipper) who doesn’t follow orders is useless

Of course, we could point out The Widow is trying to produce a new system where people are not bound by orders. The flip side of that is that Tilde is actively undermining the Widow by doing things like that (“you’re free to go. Oh but we’ll murder you”)

Waldo emphasises Sunny used to be awesome because he was emotionless, cold – and it’s clear he isn’t troubled by the abuse the clippers caused which prompted the killing. I can see the party line drawn now – we have the practical, cold Waldo and the empathetic, more emotional Tilde. The two sides pulling at the Widow who wants a new system but still has to work within the old one

And we’re going to see that up close because Ryder has called a Conclave – a very rare event. Basically calling all the Barons together to discuss the Widow’s attacks on the oil refineries. The Widow would quite like to murder everyone but Waldo advises reserving that for option B. Ultimately, the Widow’s forces aren’t strong enough for all out war with the other Barons – and the other Barons don’t want war anyway. So diplomacy will be the name of the game, despite the Widow’s distaste

And they can always turn to massacre plan b if it turns out to be a trap

Over to MK – he is being taught by the Master who now has a hall of mirrors in which MK can confront his darker self, his terrible memories so he can bring his gift under his own control. As the Master points out, the gift is his, it doesn’t belong to his dark side. Especially since his gift is super powerful

This means delving into unpleasant memories of the innocent people MK has killed and since suppressed. He vehemently rejects facing this and tries to leave, wallowing in a lot of self-hate. It’s only when Abbot Ava tells him they’ve all killed innocents – if they all have the same gift/curse that’s understandable – that MK returns to the Master

This time to go into the reflections and fight his shadow self – and this means lots of awesome fight scenes… which MK loses. The Master has to pull him out of the trance and she looks very disturbed when she does

Possibly relatedly – MK keeps calling for his mother in the trance.

Still clinging in there is Quinn and his loyal followers and Veil and her new child Henry. Quinn has an almost cult like following and definitely plans for more. He also has clear plans for Veil and her child: he seems to want to take on Henry as his heir and I think he has designs on Veil as well. He stabs one of his followers in the eye for looking at her when she was breastfeeding and this could be a defence of her privacy but it feels far more like a statement of possession. Especially since Veil is clearly a nicely-worded prisoner.

I don’t have high hopes for his fatherhood either – since he baptises Henry in blood, after drinking that blood himself. Yeah this is not a good sign

I also kind of think, plotwise, that maybe Quinn was one plot too far. Or maybe Lydia was. There’s a lot going on and everyone is leading very separate lives: I think Sunny, The Widow, MK would suffice as main plot lines with only Ryder as the foil for The Widow.