Monday, April 10, 2017

Into the Badlands, Season Two, Episode Four: Palm of the Iron Fox

After much preparation, the big meeting of the Barons is about to start.  It begins with a meeting of the dignitaries and a lot of political positioning.  The Barons are concerned with the Widows actions of freeing the cogs and hosting a sanctuary for escaped Cogs because they see it as a threat to her way of life. The Widow wants to continue with what she's doing and have her oil fields returned to her which were seized by Quinn and now under the control of Ryder.  For his part, Quinn is determined to disrupt the proceedings and let the world know that he is still alive in a grand fashion. 

This week we got to meet Baron Chau for the first time.  I love that once again we have a powerful female Baron.  It's fair to say that Chau and the Widow are not on the same side at all. Because Chau is new to the series, the writers had to catch us up as to who she is, the problem is that the Widow should have known this already, making it feel like the clumsy info dump that it was.  What irked me about the meeting is the sexist undertones that it took.  Chau wanted it to be known that she inherited her position as Baron from her father but she started as a cog and worked harder than anyone to achieve her success.  Chau stopped short of claiming that The Widow slept her way to the top because the Widow became a Baron by marrying one and then murdering him.  It's cheap and wrong in the worst ways.  I don't see why they couldn't have these two women just disagree without having Chau throw sexist accusations.  Every damn powerful woman is accused of sleeping her way to the top. 

Waldo encourages The Widow to make a deal with Chau because he's certain that the vote won't go the way The Widow wants it to.  Chau comes across as pragmatic and agrees to support the Widow on the condition that she not take in anymore escaped Cogs, for fear that a war will break out if the Widow is voted down; something no one can really afford to have happen.  It's a steep price and contrary to The Widows morals but she agrees to this.  Of course, when The Widow makes this known to the council, Ryder is there to call her a liar.  The Widow brings up the fact that Ryder shouldn't be trusted because he killed his own father.   Ryder does his best Quinn impersonation and talks about how unstable Quinn was as an excuse for his patricide. Predictably, the Widow is voted down and Ryder seeks to press his advantage by encouraging the other Barons to join with him to kill the widow. 

Waldo does try to calm the situation down but quickly realises that the time for talking is over and pulls a chain off his wheelchair. The Barons are quick to grab the weapons they have hidden on their persons.  This is when the Widow announces that she knows where they have hidden their loved ones to keep them safe during the conclave and that the butterflies have orders to kill them all if she doesn't return. The Widow makes it clear that if she is killed, they will only make her a martyr and that the cog revolt will only intensify. 

This is when Quinn makes his big arrival.  The first thing Quinn does is to dress down his son, for stealing his role as Baron, his young wife and even the clothing from his closet.  Rather than staying to confront his father, Ryder takes off running the coward that he is.  Quinn calls his forces in and a fight breaks out. I really liked that Waldo was in the thick of things taking people out.  It would have been so easy to make him helpless because of his wheelchair and let's be honest, ableism is a thing in our media.  Waldo is valuable not only because he's intelligent but he's still physically capable.  I did however feel that Into the Badlands undermined all of this awesomeness just a bit when they had Tilda show up in time to take out one of Quinn's men, who was about to destroy Waldo's eyes. The Widow and Chau fight it out for a bit but Chau ends up taking off when she realises that she's the only one left to fight off The Widow, Waldo and Tilda.

Quinn is determined to get justice from his son and so goes chasing after him. Jade does her best to run interference but this is a confrontation that must happen.  Ryder goes running into the maze on the grounds and actually traps his own damn self when he runs right into the center of the maze.  There's some time for some poorly written dialogue and then Quinn gives Ryder the opportunity to kill him.  Even after everything, Ryder still cannot bring himself to kill his father and so dies when he is stabbed by Quinn.  Quinn is almost shocked by his own actions as he kneels over his son's body.  There's no time for anymore grief and Quinn is forced to flee.

In Quinn's absence, Veil is determined that she is going to escape. She's not at all comforted by the fact that Quinn wants to leave her son his ring should he not survive.  Unfortunately for Veil, Quinn isn't about to leave her alone and cites concerns about her safety. Edgar sees being left in charge of Quinn's safety as an honour because a) it means Quinn trusts him and b) he has a lot of respect for Sonny. Veil's first attempt at escape is thwarted by Edgar and she has to pretend that she was just breast feeding the baby. For Veil's next escape attempt, she tries to poison Edgar with a sedative. At first Edgar blames the wild mushrooms and quickly realises that Veil did this.  Veil grabs the baby and runs to the gate, only to find that it's locked and Edgar has the damn key.  Unfortunately for Veil, Edgar's loopy but determined to stop her because Quinn will kill him if he returns and finds Veil gone.  The fight is on and it's absolutely brutal.  Veil ends up killing Edgar with a led pipe. Of all of the violence in this episode, this is the one that I cannot look away from. It's filled with Veil's desperation to escape and make a new life for her son.  Even after all of her efforts, Veil is still stuck locked up because the key broke off in the lock.  How is she going to explain Edgar's death to Quinn?

From almost the moment we met M.K. his goal has been to get back to his mother.  M.K. may not be able to leave the sanctuary but this doesn't stop him from looking for answers. M.K. breaks into Masters hall and decides to take a hit off of her origami cranes in order to speak to his altered self.  This is when M.K. learns the truth - he'll never find his mother because he's already killed her.   Oh snap. 

For me, Pam of the Iron Fox feels like the season has now officially started. Far too much time was spent into the build up of the Baron conclave.  The conclave itself was quite underwhelming given that it was burdened with sexism. The showdown between The Widow and Chau would have been more meaningful had Into the Badlands previously introduced her character.  The big info dumping really didn't help set the stage, it was just awkward and a reminder that more often that not, rather than work on storytelling, Into the Badlands is dependent upon its epic fight scenes. 

The fight between Veil and Edgar is where Into the Badlands did the best. At this point, we're all pretty used to watching people get stabbed, having their heads cut off and blood splayed across the place. It means that even with the epic choreographed fight scenes that something is often missing. Why Veil and Edgar worked is because Into the Badlands has put in the work to make viewers invest in Veil and her struggle to escape the horror that is Quinn. Madeleine Mantock shined in every single moment and I believed her desperation and I believed her fear.   Into the Badlands needs to spend more time developing their characters and the plot to really and truly be a success and with what happened in Palm of the Iron Fox with Veil, proves that they do indeed have the chops to make it happen.