Tilda and her followers aren’t entirely united - it seems Odessa at least thinks that they should be building their numbers and not obsessing with the Widow quite so much. Whether this debate would go anywhere is moot because they get a warning to run away about 10 days too late because the Widow’s forces are here
Led by Nathaniel Moon
Which means we get lots and lots of shiny, beautiful fight scenes with Tilda being awesome then playing cat and mouse against Nathaniel when it becomes really clear that he’s a much better fighter than her. She tries to flee, she tries to fight back when she sees her people fighting for their lives and ultimately is knocked out. Odessa and her fellows get Tilda out while Odessa sacrifices herself to protect her.
Of course, The Widow knows exactly who Odessa is so now knows who the Iron Rabbit is. She’s also managed to turn Lydia who sets herself up as The Widow’s new Visceroy, running Quinn’s own territory: that territory she ruled as a baroness full of people who are totally loyal to Lydia… which is… not… wise. I mean this has been a rule since the Romans, you don’t set potentially hostile underlings up to create their own fiefdoms. To make things more complicated, Nathaniel Moon, The Widow’s Regent, is crushing hard on Lydia and not far at all from jumping sides. He even knows she was the one who tipped off Tilda (somewhat late) and is willing to cover for her
Lydia adds her own little plan: people like Quinn and the Widow are big and shiny and tend to burn out quickly, leaving a void for someone else to step into the void. So… not all that altruistic.
This is the same advice she gives to Tilda who has, rightly, guessed that she also sold her out as well as warning her. Lydia has a wonderful speech about wanting to change the world but needing to be part of it to do so. Having to compromise - but only so far. Also it’s time to actually help people rather than dealing with your mummy-issues. It all sounds wonderfully pragmatic and sensible - it also sounds like Lydia has finally solidified the loyalty of Tilda as well.
Step down Cersei, Lydia is ruling this game; the Widow better watch her back.
Following that advice, Tilda goes to see The Widow to make a deal: no more raiding in exchange for Odessa being released. The Widow’s counter offer is that + supporting the refugees but Tilda agrees to fight for her, how she wants, complete with a big recruitment pitch.
Tilda’s counter offer is yes, but MK goes free as well. I’m not entirely sure why she’s this invested in MK, but either way it’s not necessary because MK, after further brutal treatment from the Widow, has reclaimed his gifts. Throwing guards left, right and centre with his super powers and determined to unleash all hell on the Widow who is pretty helpless in the face of his black-eyed power.
Except Tilda steps in to divert him and they leave
So is Tilda accepting this deal or not? Either way it leaves the Widow alone, hurting and looking kind of bleak despite her beautiful surroundings
Sunny and Bajie are disguised as the Widow’s man to go to the front lines since they have to cross the border to get help for the baby. Sunny’s also pretending to be Regent of the Widow and… isn’t there ID or something for this? Of course maybe he gets away with it because the soldiers are little more than children: their commanders have all died one after another.
And I kind of have to call all kinds of side-eye on Sunny who is trying to get them to attack a brutal and lethal choke point so he can cross the border. These kids have been massacred by The Widow and now Sunny is trying to rallying them to die for his own purposes.
Sunny’s first plan is extremely good involving dazzling the archer pinning down the choke point - but it doesn’t work and one of the fighters, Wren, is shot in the leg and despite a push to keep going they decide instead to get her to safety (more awesome action).
Wren is severely injured; there’s almost no medical supplies and she’s pretty much doomed to die. Bajie is there for some major emotional scenes with Wren as she tells her story of basically bleak hopelessness and supporting the Widow in war because she had so little choice in her life.
He uses his arcane knowledge to take her pain - reminding us he definitely has some woo-woo. He begs the doctor to help her despite her being pretty much written off with so little supplies to spare. After more begging she agrees to try amputation with Bajie clearly suffering to take her pain and ensures she survives
But when she does survive she isn’t grateful - because missing a leg in this world means she can’t fight, can’t work in the fields and is almost doomed to become a prostitute to survive. The world is too terrible for her to thrive or live a good life and she’d be better off dead. Bajie desperately talks about change - but she is clear; any change that happens won’t be in her lifetime.
And while there are definitely ableist issues with deciding someone is better off dead than disabled; it’s also a point that the most vulnerable in society are the most likely to be victims in a world this torn.
Sunny does launch another plan at night time, using flaming arrows to destroy the archer’s night vision. He briefly appeals to the archer that he doesn’t care about the war but ends up disabling him. Only to realise it’s another kid, the last member of his platoon holding a last stand due to “duty.” He tries to get him treated as a prisoner of war - but the kid on his side murders him instead
Because this is the war - kids killing kids for their Barons and then being proud of the people they killed: exactly what Sunny was when he was young
And I think it’s vital we have this scene in Into the Badlands because this show is so beautiful. The fight scenes are gorgeous, those dancing, impossible moves which look so incredible even as people are dying left right and centre. For a show that makes violence and death so beautiful it is also doing a good job of reminding us of the refugees, of the grieving relatives, of the brutality of children being thrown into the meat grinder of this conflict. I’m impressed that it sees a need to hold this balance.