This Into the Badlands review contains spoilers.
Into the Badlands Season 3 Episode 3
One of the reasons why Into the Badlands is a stronger show this season is that it has a surprisingly rich lore for a series that doesn’t even have twenty episodes yet. On top of that, it has an ever-shifting web of allegiances that is hypnotizing to behold because all characters are pretty much self-serving no matter what favors they do for others. But hey, this is post-post-apocalyAmericaercia. What do you expect?
So. We have to talk about The Widow. To make a pop culture analogy that virtually everyone will understand, she’s being a Regina George. That means the other girls in school are trying to be nice to her to get on her good side so they can be popular, too.
The Widow creates the illusion of control in the Badlands, when in reality she has more enemies that she keeps close for safety purposes than true friends. Nathaniel Moon is only working with her to have a rematch with Sunny, and Lydia serving as her Viceroy out of her own Machiavellian survival instincts – which makes sense for her character, since she was one of Quinn’s wives and all. Not even Tilda the Iron Bunny (hehe) will seriously take her up on her offer to rejoin as her mother’s regent when the Widow proposes it in the final scenes of “Leopard Snares Rabbit”, even though she said she was “open to it” in order to save Odessa. Who, by the way, sums it up best when she tells the Widow “no one is buying your bullshit anymore.”
Surprise, surprise: everyone is out for themselves in the Badlands. The Widow’s reign is starting to cause a sense of civil unrest and we are witnessing its effects on the people who are the most intimately involved with it. In the process, we begin to wonder if Lydia has ambitions for taking over rule herself. We also find out that she has a romantic past with Nathaniel Moon, a character whose company I enjoy much more than I did during our brief introduction last year.
“Leopard Snares Rabbit” quietly plays with the idea of people’s perspectives and how they create their experiences in a lawless world like the Badlands. This is best represented by a scene in which Lydia is approached by housemaid Maryanne with potential designs of their new insignia mandated by The Widow. Maryanne doesn’t think much of the new horse-themed emblem while Lydia is strangely inspired by it. When Maryanne explains that she mentally associates horses with servants, Lydia smiles ever so slightly and says, “People forget that horses once ran wild in the Badlands. Before the Barons, they had no masters.” Then she goes even further and clearly states that just because they work under the Widow doesn’t make them servants.
So that’s what it comes down to. Do you have the spirit of a wild horse or a domesticated donkey? If you’re anything like the characters who get the most screen time on Into the Badlands, you’ll go with Option A. Sunny and Bajie certainly would, so much so that it feels like they quickly trotted off into their spinoff show that’s being edited in. I was excited to see everyone in one place (fine, shanty town) working together as a team in the season premiere. Now they’re all split up again doing their own machination things. So, yes, we most definitely have some wild horses on our hands here.
Sunny and Bajie’s adventures in Sniper Alley are as dangerous as you are picturing in your head, because that name is ominous as f*ck. It’s even worse when the sniper is wielding a crossbow loaded with poison arrows. But this a-hole in the Robin Hood suit is just another pawn himself, a young kid who is acting out of duty to their Baron. Sunny understands what that’s like, but it doesn’t mean he wants his life to be that way again. Although he does his best to defend the lives of the young’ns under his command while posing as the Widow’s Regent (don’t ask), he sees the errors of their ways. Now that he has a child, Sunny’s is now more dedicated to preserving life than he ever was before, even if he still has to kill some random dude juggling double hatchets to do it.
Man, Into the Badlands is kind of a weird show. But I dig it.
The theme of perspective comes back up when Bajie saves a young cog named Ren who had been shot by one of the sniper’s arrows by putting her to sleep and taking her pain away while the doctor amputated her leg to remove the poison. Bajie believed that he did a good deed and saved the day; Ren, upon waking up, is convinced that he ruined her life. She asks him if he thinks the world could truly change and become a better place for someone like her, and he says yes – but her attitude and spiteful response gives him pause. Will the Badlands ever escape the atrocities of this neverending war that is neither Sunny’s nor Bajie’s? Will the people who live in service to survive always be at the mercy of the Barons’ constant power struggles?
“Leopard Snares Rabbit” answers its own question: yes, but only if you believe it can happen. So believe, all you horses galloping around out there, itching to get rid of your saddles – and remember how wild you can be.