Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Into the Badlands, Season 3, Episode 2: Chapter XVIII: Moon Rises, Raven Seeks

We see more of the mysterious Pilgrim and his caravan making grandiose plans for the future with lots of talk of fate and destiny - and Asra. While the Pilgrim leads them it’s clear that Cresida is the one with the visions who knows where they are going

And where they are going is to a building in the lake which they call the first temple of Asra. Which sounds nice but when they arrive it looks like it’s an abandoned museum (which also kind of fixes this story as happening in California). Some of the Pilgrim’s followers get a little antsy about this, thinking he’s led them to a ruin even if it does have impressive dinosaur skeletons in it. Cressida thinks they should be punished but the Pilgrim is far more inspiring

He makes an awesome speech about how, if the flock go astray it is the shepherd who is at fault. He offers to atone - blind folding himself and kneeling unarmed in front of his critics and telling them to strike him down as he is protected only by blind faith

And, of course, awesome skill, even while blind folded which brings us another of those so very beautiful fight scenes that makes this show such an utterly visual feast. He wins, killing at least once and proving his faith is pretty damn awesome but his martial arts are more so

But he has his own doubts. Mainly because of Castor, the black-eyed gifted man in the super tight trousers from last episode… and oh my gods that’s Tommen. Tommen from Game of Thrones. Someone needs to tell these actors they’re not allowed to age

Anyway he’s bleeding from the ears and generally feel bad and he’s worried he’ll die before he reaches Asra. And so is Pilgrim which makes him all kinds of sad since Castor clearly ha so much faith in him. Cressida? Not so much - black eyed ones don’t live long. Pilgrim shouldn’t get attached

Cressida also challenges him on his own lack of faith, insisting the “Catalyst” sent the signal so this must be holy ground. She also throws a lot of past at him - apparently he was left by the elders as a child for the jackals as a sacrifice to their gods. And she nursed him to health through “seizures and nightmares” until his power bloomed. Which suggests he has his own woo-woo which isn’t black-eyedness.

For further reassurance she performs a ritual under the full moon to see everything - which involves hooks driven into her flesh and her being raised up by it. (I believe this is an old Native American ritual). Apparently this allows her to see everything

In the Badlands Nathaniel has joined the Widow as Regent and has shiny new hands and an even shinier new hand to go with it. It’s all a lovely image and MK arrives to spoil it. Since he’s being all kind of bratty because the Widow has taken his opium, Nathaniel steps up to “help his training”. Which basically means another beautiful fight scene. Nathaniel wins, though he sees MK isn’t without skill and is most vexed when he hears Sunny trained him. It looks like MK is trying to suicide by Regent

The Widow tries to jolt him out of his funk by promising Bajie is coming - this is why she needs Bajie so badly, to help him find his gift. This doesn’t break through his depression and he proves the suicidal theory by overdosing on opium

Only to be pulled into a dream/memory by his Black-eyed self which is really really unhappy about dying. He’s lost his gift because last season the Master convinced him that he killed his mother when under its influence to try and control him. Now his black-eyed self reveals that was a lie and the real person to kill his mother? Was Sunny when he worked for Quinn

Yes this is all getting hella messy.

Let’s add some more messiness. The Widow sends Nathaniel after the Iron Rabbit because she’s done with the thefts and also wants Bajie back. It’s also pretty apparent she doesn’t know the Iron Rabbit is Tilda.

At the refugee camp, we all confirm that Sunny needs someone who knows about Black Eyed giftiness to save his son. Lydia knows a surprising amount since her father used to find the gifted and hand them over to the Abbot - which doesn’t impress Bajie since he thinks the Master was a controlling manipulator who stole children (and given what we know of MK’s past? That’s… not wrong…). She does know someone else who may help, an exiled abbot, the “Mad Witch”

Bajie can lead them to her but he’s all kind of reluctant. Partly because this will involve walking into a war zone but also, as Sunny appeals for help (which is hauntingly out of character for him) because he’s torn with his own history with this Master

Apparently she was his master and believed in Asra and how everything would be amazing and Bajie was the chosen one who would lead them all there. Naturally it didn’t turn out that way and Bajie feels all kinds of betrayed and disappointed and crushed because of it

What makes him put those feelings aside is when Sunny meets Tilda and wants to kill her for betraying Veil when she worked for the Widow. Tilda wants to make amends and Bajie is quick to speak in her favour. She has the tools Sunny needs to get there as well (transport and a disguise). I do think when Sunny says this doesn’t redeem her and “some debts are never paid” he is at least in part talking about himself as well. As we’ve seen with MK’s visions, he has his own debts.

Nathanial does track the Iron Rabbit to the camp - but is looking for a man and Lydia is quick to distract them from Sunny, Bajie and Tilda as they escape. Nathaniel and Lydia know each other - Nathaniel was Quinn’s regent when Lydia was his wife - and there may even be a little spark of flirting there. I think at least to distract him she agrees to go see the Widow

And be decidedly unintimidated by her. And is another character to poke holes in this idea of a better life - noting that refugees no longer go to the Widow’s camps because she press gangs them to be cannon fodder in her war.

The Widow doesn’t try to scare her -but offers her Viceroy, holding Quinn’s old territory and being able to help people. But to get that she needs to hand over the Iron Rabbit...

So, Lydia is offered the same path the Widow took - good intentions pave this road but its destination is unlikely to be a utopia

I can’t stress enough how beautiful this series is. And I don’t just mean the gorgeous fight scenes with their incredible choreographed artistry. But also the beautiful backgrounds, the sweeping vistas as the Pilgrim’s caravan travels. The opulent setting of the Widow’s home is droolworthy. Nathaniel’s hand is lavish. The clothing amazing. Every visual is stunning in effect but also really well chosen - the pioneering hopeful venture around the museum leading to the dark, dusty and ruined interior; reminding us these people are scrabbling for scraps in the ruins of our civilisation. The magnificent finery around the Widow contrasts with the roughness of the Refugee camp, even the Widow’s (rather ridiculous) high heels and fancy clothing against Lydia’s simple robes. I think the visuals of this show are always so very expertly chosen