This Into The Badlands review contains spoilers.
Into The Badlands Season 2 Episode 4
Ho ho ho! Merry non-denominational holiday! Season’s greetings from Into the Badlands.
Just kidding. But it’s best to get this out of the way up front: Can someone explain the loose Christmas theme to me?! If Into the Badlands had such a thing as a holiday special, this would be it. Why? Because. That’s why.
If I had to guess (which I like doing), I’d say maybe is this episode was produced with the expectation that it would air during the winter season? Not saying that the Christmas theme is strongly overt, but…come on. The climax takes place in a chintzy winter wonderland for crying out loud. As a set piece, the festive decor makes a bizarrely ironic backdrop for what might be the second season’s most decisive action sequence. Which adds an extra atomspheric touch to what is, in essence, the show’s creative high point so far.
Look past the Christmas decorations of debatable appropriateness, though, and you’ll witness an hour of Into the Badlands that finds the show living up to its full potential.
This is the first time I’ve loved an episode of Into the Badlands. I’ve been entertained by each one so far, on a sliding scale from “passively interested” to “curious and intrigued,” but “Leopard Stalks In Snow” is most definitely the first time the show has pleasantly surprised me in every scene.
That’s because a lot of stuff happens. And I mean a lot. This is the episode where all of the major story arcs converge, for better or worse. Fortunately, right now, it’s all for the better. Twists and turns abound; alliances shift and fates are sealed. Heartbreaking betrayals and heartwarming reunions. Matt Lambert’s impressively structured script plays with our emotions while it disregards our expectations, which is exactly the level of storytelling the show needs on a consistent, week-to-week basis. It’s getting closer to that lately for sure, but this marks the first time it’s the show’s vision has, I feel, been successfully realized.
That probably has a lot to do with the resurgence of certain season one elements that have been mostly sidelined or relegated to Easter eggs for the production team to play with. Case in point: The City of Azra. This hasn’t been brought up much this year, as the series’ focus has shifted to chronicling the urgent conflicts that are disrupting the Badlands’ power structure. This week, nobody will shut up about it. And I like that.
Some examples: When Veil seeks asylum at The Widow’s, um…butterfly habitat, Lucille Ball’s deadliest doppelganger asks that she figure out how to decipher language the Book of Azra was written in. Meanwhile, in Blanca Peak, Colorado, M.K. and Eva find an ancient copy of Wired Magazine that features an article about the city itself. And then the abbots run around using Azra technology to locate M.K. using the energy he emits. Everything’s just coming up Azra! Azra, Azra, Azra! The power of repetition, folks. And just in time to set the stage for the path to the finale’s endgame.
Then we have the whole Widow/Quinn/Veil thing happening. It sounds raunchier than it is, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to watch. When Veil finally made it out of West Avalon, she thought she’d be safe in the Widow’s care. But thanks to some more (kind of) forgotten season one events, the Widow double crosses our favorite damsel in perpetual distress in a deal with Quinn she’s been planning since his surprise debut party during the conclave two weeks ago.
Next up: Sunny and M.K. are reunited and it feels so… well, you know the rest. Both of their fates (and respective storylines) converge here as the abbots hunt down our poor boy with evil dark shadow powers that can force one to commit matricide. We don’t get to witness them interact much, since a giant stunt show on ice breaks out and Sunny is left on death’s door after having certain pressure points on his body struck by an abbot. Hopefully that all works out!
Speaking of those two, Sunny also got a chance to meet Eva, a character who was just now beginning to be developed and fleshed out before she was killed. Sigh. At least she got to admit a harsh truth to her sort-of boyfriend M.K.: she doesn’t really have much. Motivation, life goals, hobbies, a personality…you name it. Huh. Guess she was deadweight we don’t need her around after all?
Another thing that must be addressed: Bajie. Is it just me or does he have a tendency to pop back in “just in time” to save Sunny during the final fight…each and every episode that he’s in so far? We get it, Badlands; you’re trying to make him seem useful. And he is. He has some good lines. (“Help me kick this asshole’s asshole.”) He’s the only comic relief in a dour world, plus a huge part of the source material. We know he’s not going anywhere. Is it necessary to continue to sell him to us like this or am I supposed to take it as a running gag?
Any way you slice it, “Leopard Stalks In Snow” is a fine hour for Into the Badlands.