This Into the Badlands review contains spoilers.
Into the Badlands Season 3 Episode 4
Nice job, Into the Badlands. You continue to hold your own this season. For the most part, you stay consistent with the pace and quality of your storytelling. You give us beautifully choreographed fight scenes every week. And, what’s more, you expect us to handle thought-provoking philosophical concepts on a regular basis now.
Keep up the good work, kiddo.
“Blind Cannibal Assassins” is a great episode of Into the Badlands, but there’s one thing that keeps it from being fantastic: the performances. Everyone’s line delivery was a little flat. They shouldn’t have been, because the script is one of the series’ sharper ones. Is it the direction then? Possibly, but I don’t want to point fingers at anyone. What I do want to do though is comment on the fact that during some scenes it feels like just another day at the office for the cast of Into the Badlands. “Oops, we’ve been locked up by blind cannibals who have kidnapped your precious firstborn son.” You can’t feel the stakes, which are supposed to be fairly high, right? But no. This isn’t a season finale, so we can get away with phoning it in. We haven’t even reached the halfway mark yet.
Sunny and Bajie’s storyline in this episode also rehashes a common trope that Badlands‘ dusts off at least once per season: the consequences of the Clipper’s past mistakes become an obstacle that blocks his path to a better future. So that doesn’t help things much. But, it does feature the eponymous villains, the Blind Cannibal Assassins, who sound like an alt-rock band from the 1990s. They’re cool to have around, even if they are presented as being a little on the wacky side. Their backstory is a dark and gruesome one, as their blindness was inflicted by a young Sunny himself, who was merely following orders from his Regent and trying to be a good Clipper-in-Training. Sunny has done some pretty gnarly stuff back in the day, but… yeah, this was bad.
While in the Fine Young Cannibal’s – er, Blind Cannibal Assassins’ captivity, Nathaniel Moon finally catches up with our heroes when he gets captured by the B.C.A. too. After they escape together using the mighty powers of friendship and teamwork, Moon lets Sunny walk free, saying his honor is fulfilled as a year’s worth of dramatic tension evaporates into thin air. Uh, right.
Although I appreciate Into the Badlands not drawing out the Sunny/Moon chase across the whole entire season and wrapping it up early on, the way it was resolved is… well… the word anticlimactic comes to mind. Obviously, Moon is more of an ally than an enemy to Sunny and has been this whole time. Without seeking his precious retribution against our kung-fu single father, what motivation does he have for being so involved with the Widow’s operations? Like every other castmember, Moon started off this season on a mission. Without this clear directive, what will his character do?
Hopefully help out Sunny somewhere down the line, because looks like he’s going to need it later on. After fending off more assassins (who can see just fine, by the way) sent by Baron Chau, The Widow and Lydia are joining forces with Pilgrim and the “cult” of Azra. Or, at least, have some kind of alliance with them. The Baroness and her Viceroy’s inquiry into the nature of the religion based around Azra got a clear and concise answer, something that folks like you at me sitting at home in the audience needed. We need to know what these new figures stand for and whether or not we can trust them. So far, they’re being portrayed in a villainous capacity. Their willingness to work with The Widow doesn’t give me hope, which makes me sad because, in my had, this new crew of spiritual misfits is synonymous with this season’s big theme: change.
Like “Leopard Snares Rabbit”, “Blind Cannibal Assasins” asks us to contemplate big questions about where the main story arc is heading. Can the Badlands change? Can the efforts of these people who are all looking out for themselves help build a better world, a place that violence does not equal power?
There are no easy answers to these questions, of course – but there is hope. And that’s something that was strangely absent from the first two seasons. The Badlands was a bleak and unforgiving place then, just as it is now. But it doesn’t have to be. Not anymore. It’ll take some work on everyone’s parts, but the winds of change have started blowing through the poppy fields stained with the blood, sweat, and tears of many a Cog…and a hurricane of revolution is right behind them.
Bring it on.