This Into The Badlands review contains spoilers.
Into the Badlands Season 3 Episode 13
There’s a scene towards the beginning of the episode where the Magnus of the Black Lotus (Francis Magee) challenges Sunny’s newly revealed long-lost sister Kannin (Eugenia Yuan) with what seems like impossible task: activating her brother’s dark-eyed powers. He picks up a huge hourglass (which he calls “a souvenir from Azra”), turns it over, and sets it down on his table. “You have until the sand runs out to turn him,” Magnus says, and walks out the room, leaving Kannin to wonder how the hell she’s going to make Sunny a dark-eyed one in the next 30 odd minutes.
This scene feels like a metaphor for the writing of this entire episode. “You have until the sands runs out to tie up all the loose ends.” Now that we’re in the home stretch, barrelling towards the series finale of Into the Badlands faster than a flying kick, the writers have some ‘splainin to do. Since the last episode should be all about the action, this is the episode where they get most of that ‘splainin done, and as quickly as possible.
“Black Lotus, White Rose” is the densest episode of Into the Badlands. Every line of dialogue carries the answers to questions the audience has been waiting for since day one while making sure that the more recent additions to the show’s storylines (like Pilgrim and the Black Lotus) are tied into the show’s larger mythology. As a denoument, you could do a lot worse.
We witness multiple key flashbacks, sit through several monologues, and contemplate the pros and cons of wielding true power. In short, a lot happens here, and in a very short amount of time. The writers of the show know which of its storylines it can use to burn off as fuel and which it can use to sustain itself during its eleventh hour. Watching “Black Lotus, White Rose” felt as though we were watching them sort it out in real-time. It’s kind of like clearing house to get ready for a big move.
In the eye of this expository storm is what should be the emotional core of this episode, which is strangely — and noticeably — absent. Meeting your long lost sister should be the focus of the episode, and would be if Badlands’ was in its first or second seasons. And, yes, this subplot does get a decent amount of screentime here. Yet it feels like it’s on the peripheral here.
Discovering all we ever wanted to know about Sunny’s mysterious past and then some feels nice to have, but dropping it all on us at once not only makes my head spin, it makes me feel like the show would rather spend what precious time it has left on The Widow and her enlightening adventures into the redemption-lands, rather than put Sunny front and center. Besides, the audience, too, is now more preoccupied with tracking these storylines more than following Sunny’s perils in wrapping thngs up.
Maybe that’s because we can tell Kannin isn’t really a true flesh-and-blood character; she’s a story bot. She’s like one of those helpers you add to your party in a video game RPG that provides endless backstory to scroll through at the touch of a button and also has a high enough HP (and MP) to help you kick ass. And that’s about it. Eugenia Yuan (daughter of Wuxia legend Pei-Pei Cheng) plays the role well, and she recites her lines perfectly, but we still don’t get a sense of her inner world. Then again, we’re like four or five episodes away from the finale, so maybe we don’t really need to.
There are two big deaths in “Black Lotus, White Rose” that bear mentioning. Obviously, the cliffhanger from the last episode featuring Bajie being stabbed in the gut by Magnus was immediately retconned during this week’s opening moments by the witch Ankara (Clare Higgins), who sacrificed her own life with magic to save Bajie’s. How convenient. The second big dirt nap that we’re coming to terms with is that of The Master whose real name is actually Ada. This was a surprisngly emotional sequence that featured Flea — er, The Widow, guiding her back to her past through another paper crane induced vision quest to the home of her childhood.
Into the Badlands has always made our relationship with the Master a questionable one. At times, we’re more inclined to agree with Pilgrim’s stance on her methods of containing the dangerous abilities of the dark-eyed ones than side with her. Nevertheless, The Master (Chipo Chung) is truly an integral part of Badlands’ mythology as she trained its most pivotal characters, so her death, while obligatory, definitely feels like a catalyst to push the show’s final endgame forward. Chung does an excellent job during her death scene, where she advises The Widow to make sure the world doesn’t need masters anymore, which is a powerful statement and one that re-inforces the our heroes’ goals of changing the way the Badlands works forever. I’m fairly certain they can do it. How about you?