This Into The Badlands review contains spoilers.
Into The Badlands Season 2 Episode 4
Well, this was a pleasant surprise.
After last week’s slow interlude in which we sat around and waiting for the Baron prom to happen, we get an entire episode that’s all about speeding up the pace. To put it lightly, major shit goes down in “Palm of the Iron Fox”, shit that has huge ramifications on the rest of the season, if not the series itself. I, for one, say bravo (and it’s about time).
I’m not saying this episode is perfect. Characters (especially those who are newly introduced) still take on the laborious and unrealistic task of providing infodumps about their backstories to give the folks at home an idea of where they fall on Into the Badlands’ large and mostly grey character spectrum. Case in point, Baron Chau, someone who has the potential to become a fan favorite. I’d like to to see her do more than spend most of her screen time detailing her resume and summarizing her life to those who are supposed to know her well.
And herein lies a particular beef I have with this series that’s becoming more apparent these days: it doesn’t know how to introduce new characters organically. The “how-do-you-dos” are either downplayed like they’ve always been there, or so explicit and over-pronounced that most of their dialogue is self-indulgent exposition. (See: Nataniel Moon’s debut in the previous episode.) Chau certainly falls prey to this direct characterization through dialogue, but we have to know where she stands and what motivates her in ten minutes or less. What are we supposed to do?
Looking past the characterization nitpicks, “Palm of the Iron Fox” just might be the most suspenseful hour Into the Badlands has cranked out so far, although it’s also the campiest. Each scene racks up the tension organically. Nothing feels rushed or forced for the most part.
Never mind, I take that back. Baron Quinn’s sudden attack on his ex-peers? That did feel rushed. But I give it an A for effort anyway because Badlands has the balls make Quinn’s presence known to most of its characters this early on in the season. Plus, we had to make time for the big confrontation scene with his son Ryder too. Quinn kills him in a manic fit of rage at the center of a hedge maze, directly in front of a statue of the Greek god Laocoön – whom Quinn audibly mistakes as Cronus moments before blood is shed. Not sure what episode writer Daniel C. Connolly is trying to say with this reference – that Quinn is batshit crazy and not seeing things properly? – but it’s an interesting cipher that casts a ominous shadow on the tragic event nevertheless.
Before Quinn announced his comeback at the Mortal Conclave tournament, the Widow and Waldo’s machinations broke down in front of the other Barons when her proposal failed. Looks like her deal with Chau wasn’t enough to get a vote during the ceremony, mostly because The Widow’s vision of a cog-free world rails against everything anyone who has power in the Badlands stands for.
Is it dramatic irony that Ryder proposes that Widow be banished from the Badlands and stripped of her Baron title to the rest of the council yet he’s the one who bit the dust this episode? It sure smells like it. Since the other Barons agreed to his decision, will they still consider the Widow a baron from here on out? Or will this all be settled in another ridiculous fight sequence where Waldo whoops everyone with a mace?
Back at West Avalon AKA Baron Quinn’s Fortress of The Immortal Beard (which I somehow didn’t realize was a subway station until just now), we escort Veil through a few harrowing escape attempts that turn a turn for the worse pretty quickly. This just might be the most captivating storyline I’ve seen on this series so far. I knew Into the Badlands could be gory, extreme, and be a melting pot for genre cliches, but this particular foray into horror caught me off guard. When Veil tries to sneak out of captivity, she’s istopped by good-natured guard Edgar at first. When she tries to roofie him and it doesn’t work out, they get into a desperate fight on the dirty floor of a hallway in the abandoned transit station results in his death. There’s been plenty of blood on the show lately, so much so that it’s downright desensitizing, but this is the first time the series has gotten truly visceral.
Meanwhile, M.K. breaks into the Master’s hall of mirrors and huffs one of her opium origami cranes so he can journey to the past and find out what happened to his mother. He doesn’t like what he finds out: he killed her himself as Dark!M.K. D’oh! He should have saved himself the trauma and hit the bong a few times instead.
Oh, would you look at that. Guess Sunny wasn’t in this episode. Shucks.