This Into The Badlands review contains spoilers.
Into the Badlands Season 3 Episode 15
I walked past a billboard the other day that said “If you want to change your future, change your now”.
That phrase sums up this entire season of Into the Badlands for me.
Instead of delivering a gloomy funeral procession hinted at by its name, “Requiem for the Fallen” looks to the future. It reminds us that the one thing all of its characters want the most right now is change — just a little bit of change to make the future better for the next generation. After all, it’s the only noble act that can collectively wash the blood off these weary killers’ hands. It’s the utltimate act of redemption, really, and it’s no wonder it’s the holy grail in their final quest.
One thing is shockingly clear after watching this episode of Into the Badlands: Pilgrim is a Big Bad with two capital Bs. How bad? Let’s just say the opening teaser for “Requiem for the Fallen” made me actually despise his character for once, something that probably needed to happenb before the big battle with the Badlands Avengers happens next episode. After a brief showdown, Pilgrim brutally murders Nix by ripping her head off with his bare hands. Afterwards, he casually tosses it down a set of stairs, and walks away without even flinching.
Obviously, this is an unforgivable act. The impact of Nix’s death feels ten times worse than that of Lydia’s downfall at the hands of Cressida in “Curse of the Red Rain”. But why? As characters go, Nix (Ella-Rae Smith) wasn’t exactly the most well-developed ever. You could tell from the start that she was introduced to serve a function, much like Sunny’s sister Kannin. Except in Nix’s case, we weren’t quite sure what the function was until she started actively working for the side of good with Sunny and Bajie.
Turns out she was a sacrificial lamb like her brother Castor, who also met his untimely end at the sanctimonious, blood encrusted hands of Pilgrim. But we were meant to care about Nix past a casual interest in a side character. The writers went out of their way to make sure that we cared. We were supposed to believe in the redemption of a dark-eyed one, even if we knew deep down it wasn’t going to turn out well for her. We wanted Nix’s redemption arc to be a reflection of The Widow’s because we we’ve been finding a newfound hope and courage in the strong female characters that Into the Badlands has only begun to wield wisely.
But just like that blank look in her eyes suggested during so many of the scenes she was shoehorned into as an afterthought, Nix was pretty much just a glorified plot device in the end, a connective tissue, and she had served her purpose. Or, rather, her purpose was fulfilled here, by dying in the opening minutes of “Requiem for the Fallen”, right before the series finale, proving her character was but a means to the end for Badlands‘ final story arc.
Despite how much Pilgrim appeals to us (thanks to Babou Ceesay’s fantastic performance which more than deserves an award of some kind), we need to recognize him as the terrible threat to the Badlands that he really is. He promises freedom from the Barons, sure, but he himself is a Baron at heart. He operates like one. He treats people like one. He’s no better than Quinn — and even though I’m Pilgrim fan, I’d argue that he’s worse. Pilgrim is so much more sympathetic and manipulative and likeable than that neckbeareded villain ever was. Pilgrim was an excellent character to bring into play during the final year of Into the Badlands because of all the conflicting emotions he fills both the characters and the viewers at home with. Well played, Millar and Gough.
Besides his brutal killing of Nix, Pilgrim is seen throughout this episode explaining his master plan, and making sure that everyone — especially those closest to him — understand what he wants, and what his vision for Azra is. He comforts M.K., who is still nursing his wounds from the terrible battle during last week’s episode. He engages in some philosophical discourse with Pilgrim (go figure) in which he explains how he’s using his gift to keep the pain away, but it mostly feels like he’s just killing time in the break room, smoking a joint and waiting until he’s needed in the finale.
Cressida herself begins to have second thoughts about Pilgrim’s goals after she has a vision of the future in which snaps her neck right after singing the glory of his new Azra. This is a nice moment, but it feels like it could have come a bit sooner in the season, like a couple episodes ago maybe. But that wouldn’t have served the final story arc very well as having Cressida doubt Pilgrim means we wouldn’t have epic sequences like the ominous Red Rain sequence or Lydia’s assassination. Also, Cressida is a very active character who wouldn’t hold back in using her powers against Pilgrim, so redeeming her too soon would definitely spoil the finale fun.
So what caused this sudden change of heart for Cressida? The exposition robot herself, Sunny’s sister Kannin, was the kung-fu catalyst. Well, kind of.
She shows up to confront Pilgrim (aka Taurin) and Cressida, offering to save them from his dangerous vision of Azra, which she mentions is built on a history of genocide — something that he willingly accepts. Kannin tells Cressida to look deeper to see the truth about where Plgrim’s path will take them. Pilgrim takes Kannin to the Meridian Chamber to prove her wrong. She refuses to see things through the evangelical, self-righteous lens he does and tells him that the chamber is not a temple but in fact a laboratory for manmade evil and nothing more. The get into a duel and Pilgrim uses one of the monoliths to take away her dark gift.
Meanwhile, Sunny and Bajie finally meet back up with The Widow and the rest of the superfriends. Oh, and Henry, too. Remember when he was the number one plot device this show could brag about? Thank the gods for Season 3, am I right? But their reunion isn’t a nostalgic one; they spend their increasingly limited screen time in the most efficient way possible by using it to strategize their next move against Pilgrim. Sunny admits to The Widow that he is ready to put their complicated history aside so that they can fight the final battle together.
But The Widow comes to terms with a truth that she’s been carrying, one that she has only become recently aware of thanks to Cressida’s warning: she’s pregnant. She tells other characters about this eleventh hour twist, Gaius (father of the child) included, and each person has their own unique piece of advice for her. The most memorable response was from Nathaniel Moon, who told her to get rid of it. At first, he seems to say this in retaliation for what happened to Lydia because he blames The Widow for this heartbreaking event. And yes, that may have fueled his response just a teensy bit.
But Moon brings up a good point, and one that threads itself through the rest of the this hour: who in their right mind would want to raise a child in the unforgiving post-apocalyptic world that they live in? Even if our heroes were to transform the Badlands into a more peaceful environment that isn’t ruled by power hungry Barons who want to enslave everyone in sight, it’s still not exactly the kind of safe, cuddly kind of world that you can raise a family in.
Then again, family is all anyone has now in the Badlands. It’s the only thing that matters. If you think about it, family is a primary motivation for most of the characters on either side of the spectrum: building a family, preserving it, and extending that feeling to others. When you have no home anywhere, your home is everywhere, after all.
So found family — the kind that you claim or that claims you — is the most prominent kind of family in the show. The Widow, Tilda, and Gaius; Sunny and Bajie and Henry; Lydia and Nathaniel Moon; Pilgrim, Cressida, M.K., and the Dark Ones. These are all family units, clans that are worth fighting for. In that sense, you could say this show has become a “clash of the clans” (for lack of a better term.) Much like the Barons before him, Pilgrim’s tyranny masquerades under the guise of his family values. But The Widow sees through this. She used similar tactics to control her own army of cogs.
In the end, Sunny, Bajie, Gaius, and Kannin team up to appeal to the Black Lotus to gain their help in battling Pilgrim. This ends with Magnus dying at the hands of a distraught Kannin, who reveals to Sunny that her gift is gone and the Meridian Chamber is not active so there’s literally no time left. We know this, too, seeing as how next week’s episode is the show’s last. Whose clan survives the clash? Whose idealistic dreams will remain intact? Tune in next week — same Badlands time, same Badlands channel! (I’ve been waiting a long time to say that.)