Editor’s note: With Cindy recovering from jet lag, Craig is handling this week’s review.
In this second season of Into the Badlands, the world has expanded in breadth and scope. Viewers have gone from witnessing a couple of power brokers squabbling over territory to a broader world where the powerful and powerless alike are doing all they can just to make it to the next day.
That narrow view from the first season is important, because it defines who Sunny is. Despite the fact that he has taken more than 400 lives, he has a personal moral code. Sunny comes from a place where there are strict rules of engagement. There may not be equality in the baronies of the Badlands, but there are strictly defined roles, there is order … most of the time, anyway.
That backdrop is why Sunny and Bajie make an interesting pair. Sunny, with his rigid view of the world, and Bajie, who has made it up as he’s gone along every day of his life. It’s not surprising Sunny is a fish out of water when the pair end up at the camp of The Commandant, looking to trade their way under the Badlands’ wall.
Sunny’s code comes into conflict with The Commandant at dinner, when the camp leader tells Sunny that he has a special talent when it comes to enslaving women, and that Quinn is still very much alive and stirring up trouble in the Badlands.
Later on, Sunny is put in an untenable position. He wants to stop killing so he can be a better man for Veil and his baby, but everywhere there are people like Portia, a doll sent to Sunny’s bed by the Commandant, and her daughter Amelia, who is rapidly approaching the age where she’s “old” enough to be sold into slavery, herself. She begs Sunny to kill the Commandant so Amelia doesn’t have to face the same horrors she did as a child.
Sunny at first resists the offer. His conviction not to kill is that strong, as is his desire to not make waves and just get back to Veil. However, the Commandant, in some misguided alpha-male display, forces Sunny’s hand. Instead of just letting Sunny leave or double-crossing him later down the line, the Commandant makes a big display of knowing about Portia’s would-be betrayal. He stabs her, and boasts of the horrors he’s going to visit upon the little girl.
Sunny tries to bargain his way out of the situation, but instead has to fight his way out in the episode’s big set piece battle. He uses anything at hand as a weapon: a hubcap and the contents of a food truck. It’s another brilliantly choreographed scene where Sunny utilizes his surroundings to his advantage. In the end, Bajie boosts a car and helps rescue Portia and Amelia before making their escape. Sunny is no closer to the Badlands, and now there’s four in his little party.
Elsewhere in the Badlands:
- Did we mention that Quinn is crazy? That malignant mass in his head and perhaps a little bit of guilt has him hallucinating Ryder. GhostRyder, as he was nicknamed on Twitter, is a tough talking, no nonsense figment of Quinn’s imagination that is reminiscent of Six from Battlestar Galactica (and way more interesting than living Ryder). But, there’s nothing a little opium and silent movies can’t cure.
- Veil is in deep. Quinn’s No. 1 henchman has found her Desk Drawer of Secrets, and has threatened her to actually start treating Quinn or there’ll be hell to pay. Quinn, with some assistance from GhostRyder, has some questions of his own and he used baby Henry to try to get some answers. Once Veil talks him down and retrieves her baby, she gets the hell out of there.
- Onetime enemies, Jade and Lydia, have joined forces to take on Quinn. Jade has become Baron, and the first order of business is to take down Quinn. Lydia is in, so long as she gets to deliver the killing stroke in retribution for her only son’s death. The plan to storm Quinn’s lair goes well until Lydia’s clippers set off the booby traps.
- The Widow is reevaluating her post-conclave situation. Waldo recommends taking out Quinn as a way of currying favor with the other barons. Widow has had enough of Waldo’s advice, and instead decides to strike an alliance with Quinn.
- MK is still making the kind of decisions that get him stuffed in a box. He makes a break from the monastery, and steals the clothes from what appears to be a Robin Hood cosplayer who was attacked and hung from the giant Preacher tree.
This was one of the more frenetically intriguing episodes of the entire series run. There was plenty to keep people on edge, despite there being only one fight of consequence. Fascinating, well-crafted episodes like this, where the world of the Badlands is explored in greater depth, will go a long way to determine the series’ long term success and survival.