This Into the Badlands review contains spoilers.
Into the Badlands Season 2 Episode 7
Admit it. You’ve been craving vast stretches of alone time with just Bajie and M.K. all season, haven’t you?
No? Damn. Guess that was someone else.
Either way, that’s what we have here in “Black Heart, White Mountain”, an hour of television that echoes far superior hours of television that I still wouldn’t want to sit through again because they rely on a contrived stock plot – something I like to call The Coma Quest – to pad things out.
The Coma Quest (or “Adventures in Comaland” as TVTropes has dubbed it) typically serves two functions: to conquer the inner landscape of the lead protagonist so they can face the trials ahead as a stronger figure, and to give the supporting cast a conflict to resolve while they ruminate on the events of the main story arc. That’s exactly what happens here, but rather than focusing too much on the former, “Black Heart” spends most of its time on the latter. This is a good thing overall, but M.K. and Bajie are saddled with the duty of moving the plot forward and solving this temporary crisis.
If Into the Badlands was a character driven show, M.K. and Bajie wouldn’t get along. But it’s not, so they have an instant bond of trust where they feel comfortable discussing their deepest motivations and darkest fears in passing. M.K. treats Bajie like he’s known him – or of him – since day one. Like he’s Sunny’s old co-worker from Best Buy who spilled top ramen on their Xbox once. Sunny’s emergency establishes that level of familiarity, I guess, but still…they literally met each other last episode.
Turns out they have a lot in common. They have the same friends. The Master, for instance. No, not The Doctor’s arch-nemesis. No, not Buffy’s arch-nemesis either. We’re talking about the leader of the Abbots. Turns out, she doesn’t have much influence over her army.
Microwaved script aside, my other beef with “Black Heart” is its performances. The acting is all over the place. Even Nick Frost partially phones it in, but he actually turns out to be the one who carries the hour. Everyone else is more preoccupied with chewing scenery than anything else (I’m looking at you, Martin Csokas). This is not intended to be a slam, but it is hopefully a wakeup call.
If you told me that the final climax of this week’s Into the Badlands episode would be primarily focused on overexaggerated accupuncture, I’d probably believe you. But…although this act isn’t technically wasted on a plotline that didn’t make a ton of sense, it’s not what I would consider to be the worst offender out of this hour. That woud have to be the whole Bajie/M.K. forced relationshp.
Other than that, what’s going on with Quinn and Jade? Outside of a few rebellious hiccups, not much, It was intriguing to see how their dynamic works when Jade is put at a disavantage, but that’s about it. We know she is presenting matters to everyone except those who are competely relevant to the storyline, so what’s the big issue?
Sunny’s vision quest to meet the spirit of those he has clipped is a clever narrative device but one that falls flat in the context of such a “by-the-book” episode that it’s hard to concentrate on all the good developments that take place.
But in the end, despite some dramatic moments Between Quinn and Jade, “Black Heart, White Mountain” feels like it’s stallng the process of telling an epic season long story that many people will eventually be interested in. Thankfully, this is just an installment that helps us get from point A to point B. Next episode, thanks!