Right from the moment last week’s episode dropped us off, “Leopard Stalks in Snow” picks up, with Quinn greeting Lydia in a most unpleasant fashion — bloody sword to her neck — and isn’t that just his way? Her wickedly charismatic husband (is there a Badlands divorce court, because I really think she has grounds … ) easily subdues Lydia’s dream of avenging her — “our” — son. Though her drive to kill seemed stronger than Ryder’s, and she managed to draw blood with Quinn’s own dagger, a single passionate, bloody kiss easily sweeps away Lydia’s resolve. It’s here I’d be remiss not to note Marton Csosack’s often show-carrying intensity; I fear for the day Quinn actually dies, because the man has an all-encompassing onscreen presence that injects this series with as much excitement as its incredible fight sequences.
Sunny still struggles over the guilt of his every action; saving a little girl’s life means little to him, since his presence caused her to be in danger. If he wants to get back to his own child and Veil, Sunny will have to set aside such contemplations, and accept that to exist in the Badlands is to live with violence — by his own hand as well as others’.
In the hour’s most unexpectedly emotional scene, Tilda revealed her abuse as a child to Odessa. Saved from suicide when the Widow killed her predatorial husband (aha!), it’s a mother’s love (and apology for not doing it sooner) that fuels Tilda’s intense loyalty. After Waldo happens upon the girls passionately first kiss, he softly warns her not to lose focus like Sunny did. Waldo is quickly becoming another favorite, and even if he and the Widow never take their relationship to another place, I love his fatherly (and grandfatherly) mentoring.
Freed after the bunker explosion, Veil is temporarily rescued, but when she’s unable to translate the Azra book, the Widow apologetically finds another use for the mother and child. On the one hand we might despise her for treating Veil and Henry like just so much pirate booty; on the other, we understand the Widow’s desperation for her own (and her butterflies’) safety. I’d like to think that after she uses Quinn to defeat the other barons, the Widow has plans for dispatching him, as well.
In news of so far, the world’s most inept young student, MK discovers he’s somehow been rendered impotent; Ava thinks it has something to do with his mirror trip, and as we later discover, he’s not the only one to have lost the gift. Because the climactic and as always, fantastic, finale fight scene that finds Sunny, MK and Bajie fighting a group of Abbots together features a supercool reveal: Nick Frost’s Bajie isn’t just some hapless goof who sometimes pulls off an impressive move or two. Rather, he’s a former Abbot himself, and one who used to possess the same dark gift as his former group; despite his earlier refusal to help Sunny out, that’s exactly what Bajie does.
And, let’s just talk about that whole glorious Christmastown Abbots v “the good guys” sequence, featuring Kickboxing champion and Mixed Martial Artist, Cung Le, who’s also won multiple Ultimate Fighting Champion titles. Holy was that ever a great episode closer, or what? While Ava saves MK’s ass, summoning her own dark power to do so, Sunny and Le’s Cyan throw down. Set against the shimmering snow and holiday lights and decorations, this was another of Badlands‘ stunning sequences, culminating in Ava’s death, Bajie’s reveal, and a gruesomely, gasp-inducing head-slice by Sunny’s sword, and perhaps … was it? … a transfer of power? In “Leopard’s” final moments, Sunny gasps for breath as something unknown happens to his body, and we’re left wondering if he accepted a dangerously dark gift.
I loved the Mad Maxesque scenes of Bajie and others in protective gear costumery, sucking in opium as attempted Badlands escape, as well as Sunny’s Maxed out car. Ditto to Bajie’s Minority Report bathtub evasion, although entering that particular basin also reminded of Slumdog Millionaire‘s portable toilet dive. Blech!
Christmasland was like a scene straight out of Seuss’ Whoville, or even Doctor Who. Kudos to the set designers, and as always, Badlands’ production shines.
MK finally admitted out loud that he killed his mother. Of all the series’ characters, I really wish his journey to the fighter he’s supposed to become would move a little faster.
Emily Beecham and Ally Ioannides continue to impress with their performances, physical and emotional. I could see the reticence and the resignation in The Widow’s eyes when she betrayed Veil, and Tilda’s scene with Odessa was just gorgeous.
I love that Nick Frost’s Bajie isn’t just some goofball thrown in for comical camaraderie — he’s a fighter with his own intriguing backstory. More, more!