This Into The Badlands review contains spoilers.
Into The Badlands Season 2 Episode 10
If there’s any episode of Into the Badlands that displays this show’s finest graces, this has to be it.
Which is ironic, seeing as “Wolf’s Breath, Dragon Fire” isn’t jam packed with twists and turns like the episodes that came immediately before it. The plot is straightforward: Sunny confronts Quinn, again, for the second and (we hope) final time. Every trial and tribulation that Sunny has overcome both outside and inside the Badlands have all lead up to this: a gorgeously shot, beautifully choreographed fight sequence that might just be the series’ defining moment.
And that’s saying a lot at this point. Although I’ve had a few gripes with characterization and pacing here and there, the second season of Into the Badlands has been a massive improvement over its initial six episode introduction last year. It’s now become a series that I look forward to seeing every week. It’s grown comfortable with embracing its myriad of geeky influences, distilling some of our favorite genre-based guilty pleasures into a show that feels familiar but looks like nothing we’ve ever seen before. In other words, the creative team behind Into the Badlands has learned an important lesson this year: it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
Case in point, there aren’t many storylines this year that I can say I haven’t sat through before in other forms of media. Obviously there’s nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to entertainment. It’s become apparent that the Into the Badlands staff realized that they have built a platform for weekly big budget fantasy/action stunt spectaculars that play out like love letters to so many B-movies most of us have grown up watching. This is an important discovery to make, because it’s transformed what was once a somber, dystopian TV drama that occasionally featured martial arts action into a mad scientist’s laboratory for genre experimentation where anything goes.
And this makes it ten times more watchable than it used to be. Yes, it’s campy. No, it’s not perfect. It’s quite vulgar. Into the Badlands is now more brutal than ever for no apparent reason other the fact that AMC execs probably mandated that there be more severed heads retain The Walking Dead’s lead-in audience. But it’s become apparent that graphic violence is just one of the many window dressings used to find an audience, because Into the Badlands is more than just the sum of its parts now.
“Wolf’s Blood, Dragon Fire” proves that beyond all of the gore, Into the Badlands is primarily concerned with delivering Hong Kong style martial arts to Western audiences week in and week out – which isn’t about savagery at all. Rather, it’s about transcendence, beauty, and elegance. Series director Paco Cabezas conveys this underlying message of the show as magnificently as possible, crafting the most visually rich hour of television I’ve seen all year long.
After having watched (and reviewed) two seasons of this series, I feel as though it’s still beginning. Now that both Veil and Quinn are dead, Sunny has become a hero we are closer with. It doesn’t matter if he has a baby to look after now; I’m sure Henry will be gracefully sidelined in some way, or at least raised by another character, while Sunny bikes around on his Harley and clips more merciless gangs of marauders like a post-apocalyptic badass. Hopefully Into the Badlands Season 3 will become more episodic thanks to the increased episode count so we can see Sunny encounter more weirdos beyond his own personal Thunderdome. Until then, Into the Badlands will do what effective television shows do during their off seasons: live on in our imaginations.
(Oh, yeah. And I was totally wrong about Tilda dying last week. Can you blame me?! Did that look look a non-fatal head-snapping to you? Yeah. Thought so. See you next year.)
Stephen Harber is the editor and co-writer of Occult Generation. He used to work as a bouncer at a bar called Badlands so this show has special meaning to him. Kind of.