Sunny and Bajie have arrived in a giant shanty town on the river which has lots and lots of gritty signifiers with lots of violence and dog fighting and dangerous gambling games. And a contact of Bajie’s who is playing said dangerous gambling game which involves impaling your hand because that’s fun. Her name is Lily, she’s accused of cheating which leads us to a whacky fight scene - which involves considerably more octopus than usual and Sunny letting Bajie fight his own battles at least for a little while
Which does remind us that while Bajie is no Sunny, he can actually fight
Eventually they end up on a boat sailing away and Lily is annoyed because she insists she would have been fine and got the money… it looked doubtful. But she’s ornery anyway, really not a fan of Bajie and not moved by sob stories of sick babies. She does want money to pay her considerable debts - so Bajie gives her a pouch of coins. Which is nice but that was the money she was winning at gambling he managed to steal so doesn’t exactly thaw her any
Oh, and the fact she’s Bajie’s ex-wife doesn’t help matters. They have unresolved issues: but during the night she does explain her history with Bajie to Sunny. How he was a pirate with her and cunning and devious and killed the captain and they managed to live a great life. Until Bajie heard a rumour about Asra, took all their money and abandoned her.
Yes she has some good reasons to be pissed. And it also very much shows how much this search for Asra has consumed Bajie’s life and why he was less than thrilled with his old mentor.
Sunny’s also having more childhood flashbacks of being on this boat.
Bajie tries to bury the hatchet with Lily with some booze - it doesn’t go well. I really like the acting here, there’s real chemistry and Lily does a great job of portraying ALMOST being sucked in and then ferociously pulling back
She’s also sold them out to the River King because the bounties on their lives are worth a whooooole lot of money which does a lot of paying down her debts. And the whole hating Bajie thing. The River King and Sunny also have history so, yep, it’s time for another pretty fight scene
I do so love these fight scenes.
With everyone properly dead and the River King now held at sword point - and Lily continuing to dance that complicated line on deciding which side she’s on by not stabbing Bajie and saving Sunny, the River King offers a deal: his life for help in getting to Pilgrim.
Back to the Widow’s territory and Odessa is furious with Lydia for becoming a baron and abandoning the refugees so they can be attacked by Chau’s forces. Lydia still holds that you need to be in the system to change it while Odessa has doubts about what real change is going to happen. She’s also out - she’s done with fighting
But Tilda won’t abandon the refugees - which means, in Odessa’s eyes, she’s abandoning her
That doesn’t seem to sway Tilda who goes to the refugee camp and faces the judgement there of the new leader who needs supplies but, above all, need protection.
Tilda goes to the Widow with a deal: to fight on her side to bring Chau down. The Widow tries to be affectionate towards her but Tilda is clear: they’re only about business, she’s not the Widow’s Regent and certainly not her daughter
The Widow also has Castor, holding him imprisoned by acupuncture. Being a proper fanatic he won’t give up any info on Pilgrim so Nathaniel wants to cut off his head and send it to Pilgrim as a warning
Yes, it’s a very very very very very stupid idea which would get them all murdered.
The Widow has another plan
Pilgrim greets all his new enslaved refugees and ensures them they’re all free to go but first have a nice speech about Asra… which they buy. And honestly that seems a little convoluted especially since he just used soldiers to kill their friends and family, enslave them and transport them to him to work: do any of them even know what Asra is? I think by not working more on showing Pilgrim convince them and connect to them it also makes him look kind of exploitative - like he’s using his charisma to control people
Which kind of colours his meeting with the Widow - she arrives with Castor and actually returns him to Pilgrim as a gesture of friendship (and doesn’t mention the people that Castor and Chau’s men murdered). She assures him she’s not his enemy - but he is clear that anyone who is after power is his enemy. And also asks if she’s going to humble herself before him
See, this whole “everyone after power is the enemy” matched with “everyone has to humble themselves before me” is the kind of thing that makes me suspect people. The Widow is all for peace not power, honest, but hell will freeze over before she humbles herself before any man.
Nathaniel still doesn’t get why they’re giving away good leverage - but the Widow needs Pilgrim to see her as a potential convert rather than an enemy to conquer - long enough for her to defeat Chau. With both her and Chau’s armies she thinks she can bring down Pilgrim and his Dark Ones
Ok… but there’s like 2? I get it, they’re powerful… but there’s still only 2 of them. You need an army each? You have explosives!
Pilgrim has his own conflicts - including a screaming argument with Cressida about how disposable Castor is. Pilgrim sees him as a person (despite exploiting his gift) whole Cressida sees him - and by the look of it - everyone as just a tool to reach Asra. Pilgrim ends up threatening her
Castor is also furious with Pilgrim since he promised him and Nix would be in Asra together - he accuses him of lying and wonders what else he was lying about. Again I’m sensing more of a sense that while Pilgrim may be a fanatic he’s also really exploiting people.
Castor and MK have another fight before Pilgrim arrives for some alone time and another of his powerful speeches: he talks to Castor about honour and sacrifice and how amazing he was which is all very enthralling… and then he kills Castor.
He seems genuinely grieved by this but I’m still torn: how much of Pilgrim is being a true believer - and how much is he exploiting? Or is he doing both: being a True Believer and using that faith to exploit others is not mutually exclusive