Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Into the Badlands, Season 3, Episode 1: Enter the Phoenix

Into the Badlands is back along with some of the most beautiful fight scenes on television. And I don’t care if part of me is supposed to decry the violence and all that, the sheer gorgeous artistry of the choreography on this show will make me an eternal fan.

The opening scene is the Widow quickly recapping everything, specifically that all but two barons are dead now - Chau and her (and her stylish bowler hat wearing) forces both fighting for supremacy. And Widow, of course, is fighting for freedom and equality.

We also have some of the first large scale fights - which is amazing but tellingly for all of this amazing combat skill what wins is a hail of arrows. All the skill in the world won’t help much against ranged weaponry.

The Widow herself has gone to see Nathaniel - the clipper with the most kills in the world who was recently defeated by Sunny who cut off his hand. Nathaniel has retired, he doesn’t want to be a Regent - the job she’s offering him - and cares only about being left her alone and maybe murdering Sunny to make up for the whole hand chopping thing. Being Into the Badlands they resolve their disagreement with a really really really really beautiful fight scene. Which the Widow wins - so that’s Nathaniel recruited. Especially since she also promises to help him find Sunny for some honourable murdering.

When they ride back Nathaniel notes that she has great big walls which he thinks pretty much flies in the face of her principles. But what he also sees is her comforting the mother of one of her soldiers who died in the battle. The woman is angry, accuses the Widow of acting like a god and asks what the point of a better world is if her daughter isn’t in it: but The Widow responds with grace, compassion and humility.

Of course the flip side is she has imprisoned MK (apparently in luxury and with lots of opium) because he’s lost his gift and they’re trying to poke him with sharp things to get his black eyed killing machine gift back. They also both pretty much hate each other

Sunny, meanwhile, is over everything. He’s wandering around the wilderness with his baby and generally trying to stay out of trouble. And moping. Moping a lot. He even mopes over killing deer for venison. There’s a lot of moping here.

And he doesn’t manage to stay out of trouble either - goons find him, including one who looks very young. Sunny brutally kills both of them - and this is the first none beautiful fight scene. It’s brutal and bloody and messy and there are not beautiful soaring moves or dancing with weapons and he kills one of them with spikes he’s built into his baby’s crib. This is much more raw than the more stylised battles we generally see.

To add to his troubles, his baby is sick and he heads to a refugee camp to find a doctor.

Tilda has left the Widow, her mother, with much ill feeling and now attacks a convoy of her soldiers with her own little gang of warriors. There they steal supplies and find a prisoner - Bajie who was being transported back to the widow. He’s happy to go to the refugee camp instead

The Refugee camp is run by Lydia now her dad’s dead and she’s determined their religious group will keep bringing in refugees. Supplied by Tilda. Which is all very nice but Tilda has another agenda - she wants to bring down the Widow no matter what - which Lydia has not time for

Bajie’s not really interested either, being much more focused on himself and his own wellbeing, never mind anyone else. Not MK, not Sunny and not Tilda. He also doesn’t get on that well with Lydia with lots of scathing words for her new holy attitude after so long supporting the last Baron. She also wants Tilda to stay away from the camp has her thieving may have attracted attention.

Sunny arrives at the same camp and while the healer is caring for his child he runs into Bajie for a reunion and to reclaim his Asrah compass which Bajie has hung on to. While they’re sharing drinks and Bajie is conning refugees, the doctor draws blood from Sunny’s baby - and his eyes turn black. He has the gift

Sunny is super afraid especially if the gift is making the baby ill and asks Bajie, apparent expert - but he’s never known the gift in someone so young. So who knows - well Sunny thinks the people of Asrah might know but Bajie bitterly calls them a myth, since her called them and they didn’t come.

I think they may be a bit more real than that. We see a convoy of people dressed completely unlike anyone in the Badlands, approaching the big secure wall and the checkpoint with one of the Asrah compass. Three people go forwards, a man who declares he’s here to offer salvation in exchange for their submission.

Yeah that’s not a great sell.

When the people at the checkpoint don’t buy his two companions cut themselves - and go all dark-eyed and dangerous and promptly slaughter everyone in another beautiful fight scene. But I have two notes here - one, the young man in the improbably tight trousers seems to briefly lose his black-eyed-gift for a time. And two, they don’t seem that… overpowered? I mean MK was flicking people away with a tiny gesture of his fingers. These two seem more like, say, the Widow or Sunny. Awesome, certainly, but not more supernaturally awesome than the other incredible fighters here. Ok, except catching the crossbow bolt with her fingers. That was impressive