Monkey Leaps Through Mist marks the halfway point of the series. In many ways it's a reminder of just how scattered and at times how utterly predictable the plot for Into The Bandlands is. More often than not, it feels like a bad mash up of an old spaghetti western and a Mad Max film. Sure, there's at least one great fight scene per episode as a pay off to the audience for sitting through the hour but sometimes, as in the case of this episode, it's just not enough to make one want to invest.
At the end of season one, Sonny and MK were seperated. Sonny is certainly the protagonist of this series; however, we were led to believe that MK's role was absolutely critical to the world building and setting of this series. It's been five episodes thus far and with MK seperated from everyone else in the world, it makes MK's scenes fill like filler. Sure we know more about what MK is, why he needs to learn to control his power, and even what happened to his mother but none of this is enough of a pay off for the ways in which MK now feels like an interruption. This might change now that MK has made his escape.
In the Badlands themselves, the Baron's have gone to ground due to the events at the conclave last week. Now that the secret is out that Quinn is in fact alive, the big mission is to find a way to kill him. This means that the Widow has to decide what she is going to do. For the last five episodes, we've seen Waldo acting as the Widow's adviser based in his knowledge of the political alliances, as well as history of the Badlands itself. It really seemed like a wise move and it gave us a vital and vibrant disabled character. Unfortunately, Waldo's advice at the conclave didn't exactly work out well. This has given the Widow reason to doubt Waldo's perception of events and she's decided that with so much at stake, it's time to stop pandering to the other Barons and compromising her beliefs. To that end, the Widow orders Waldo to figure out where the hell Quinn is holed up because she wants to make an alliance with him.
The Widow's decision to make an alliance with Quinn really does seem like going against the grain which is something she has done from the beginning. I recognise that the Widow is going all ancient proverb here but I'm not sold.
For this to work, we have to forget that Quinn is the one who stole her oil fields in the first damn place and is guilty of the same horrors that she's fighting against. The Widow doesn't even have a real idea of the number of clippers that Quinn now commands. Then there's the whole issue of Quinn having a brain tumor. I know that Quinn kept that quiet but seriously, no one knows that the man is dying? Making an alliance with Quinn may be out of the box thinking but I don't see it as reflective of the intelligence that the Widow has so far displayed.
With Ryder dead, Jade declares herself Ryder's one and true heir and takes the Baron's oath. This means that we now have three female Barons and two who became Baron's after the death of their husbands. Jade had better learn pretty quickly how to defend herself. I think that this might be a good move for Jade, for the simple fact that we've seen her in the role of helpless damsel quite a bit, even if she's used her intelligence to spin various situations to her best advantage. I am really hoping that Ryder's death will bring about a revolution for Jade.
Now that she's Baron, Jade's first act is to visit Lydia to inform her of her son's passing. Orla Brady did not at all sell the whole grieving mother thing well. She came across as wooden. Look, I wasn't expecting her to tear her clothing in grief but something more than a robotic response would have been more believable but then, we don't watch Into the Badlands for the acting right. If that were the case, Marton Csokas, with his slipping horrible accent would have us regularly tuning out. At any rate, Lydia decides to join forces with Jade because they both loved Ryder, on the condition that she be the one allowed to kill Quinn. This should be an epic pairing but it just comes across as sort of meh.
For his part, Quinn, in the wake of killing Ryder, has become more and more unhinged. It doesn't help that Ryder's ghost pays Quinn's several visits, playing up on his paranoia and causing Quinn to question if he is really getting better why does he still have headaches. This isn't good news for Veil, who is now being questioned about Martin's death. Veil tries to claim that Martin tried to assault her and that she acted in self defense; however, that is quickly declared a lie because Martin was gay. Veil is informed by one of Quinn's men that he knows that she isn't really healing Quinn and that she better come up with an effective treatment soon.
Quinn's spiraling leads him to threaten Veil's child. The ghost of Ryder convinces him that if he puts a knife to the baby's throat, Veil will admit that she doesn't really love him and in fact has been working at cross purposes from the beginning. This for me is more bad writing. Yes, Quinn is unstable but how could he believe for one moment that after killing Veil's parents that she could love him, no matter what act she puts on? Veil does manage to make her escape when Lydia's forces attack Quinn's stronghold.
Sonny and Bajie are still making their way towards the Badlands. Bajie decides to enlist the aid of his friend Nos, to help them slip under the wall using the sword they acquired as payment. Sonny has changed a lot from the man that we met in the first episode of this show. Sonny's plagued by the four hundred men that he's killed in the service of Quinn and his only objective is to get back to Veil and his child. This means that Sonny only fights or takes a life when his is directly in jeopardy.
Nos sends a Doll to entertain Sonny and he is quick to turn down the offer of sex. Perhaps sensing that his refusal to have sex with her makes Sonny a good man, Portia begs Sonny to kill Nos, so that Nos doesn't force her daughter into prostitution. Sonny is aghast at the idea that a child so young would be forced into prostitution but it's not enough for him to help Portia by killing Nos. Sonny has sworn off killing and he's determined to keep to that vow.
Naturally, Sonny deciding not to kill cannot be allowed to stand and so before Sonny and Bajie can leave Nos's territory, Nos reveals that he knows that Portia petitioned Sonny to kill him and thanks Sonny for saying no. Nos presents Portia to Sonny with her face all cut up, saying that it's a reminder to other Dolls to stay in their place. At this point, from the expression on Sonny's face, it's clear that he regrets not killing Nos. For his part, Bajie says Sonny's name as a reminder of their objective. Sonny points out that the sword he traded is worth a lot more than what Nos is offering and asks to take Portia and her child with them when they leave. Nos however is not interested in agreeing and points out that Portia's child has an extremely high value due to her innocence and that Sonny can have the child in a few months after she's spent some time as a Doll. Sonny is disgusted with this as he should be and makes it clear that he will not leave without Portia and the child. Nos responds by stabbing Portia and pointing out that Sonny is both outnumbered and unarmed. Thus begins the one epic fight scene of this episode, with Bajie actually chipping in a little bit and helping Sonny and Portia and her daughter escape. Sonny even manages to get away with the sword. Nos does survive the encounter which leads me to believe that we haven't seen the last of him.
This engagement surely is meant as a teaching moment for Sonny. Sure, killing because you've been ordered to is beyond problematic but there's something to be said about standing up for the powerless when you have the ability to do so. He and Bajie may not be in the Badlands but there's plenty of oppression around and more than enough people who are being victimized by the powerful. Sure Sonny cannot save the world but along the way, if he uses his skills properly, he can help some people. This is clearly a form of redemption for Sonny. Can you hear the train whistle?
This scene also provided some growth for Bajie. He didn't have to help Sonny escape and in fact, would probably have been better served by staying on the sidelines and remaining on the good side of Nos. We know that Bajie is self interested and has in fact betrayed Sonny before but it seems that even for Bajie that there are some lines which should not be crossed. I suppose this is going to bring Sonny and Bajie closer together and turn them into an actual team instead of the Laurel Hardy routine they've been playing at.