Into the Badlands: White Stork Spreads Wings Review

Is Into the Badlands improving, or are we just getting used to it? Maybe a little of both...

Into the Badlands Season 1 Episode 3

This time on Into the Badlands, stuff happens. More stuff than usual. And I was entertained. Maybe even – believe it or not – slightly engaged. Which makes me worry. Does this mean that the third time’s the charm and the show is improving, or that my standards are lower now? I’d like to think it’s a healthy mixture of both, personally, because I’d like to believe that Into the Badlands has agreed to meet its audience halfway and pick up the pace a little. We’re already at the halfway mark of a first season that comes across very much as a trial run, like AMC is chicken frying wire-fu for the first time to see if other people like the way it tastes. It’s almost like when Lay’s introduces a new chip flavor, y’know, and they only release a few bags for a limited time to test the market (I can’t resist a good junk food analogy for this show).  

“White Stork Spreads Wings” starts out with a breathless sequence in which Quinn, Sunny, and their Clipper crew infiltrate The Widow’s um, plantation base? The two Barons get in a fun sword duel that feels just as epic as they intended it to be, which helps the argument that this show only works best when the punching and kicking is going on. Actually, never mind. That’s not really an argument; it’s more of a fact.

Quinn vs The Widow, Round 1 is cut short before any fatalities can be performed thanks to Quinn’s horrible tumor-induced headaches. I would’ve loved to watch a whole episode dedicated to a Quinn and Widow cat-and-mouse game through the Badlands, punctuated with bouts of swordplay, but that’s asking too much. Instead, the show slips back into its soap opera groove, and we spend a good portion of the hour watching characters we still don’t know very well deal with Ryder being in a coma of sorts.

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Meanwhile, the characters we do want to get to know – Sunny and M.K. – begin their complicated master/pupil relationship. Now this is where most of the story’s focus should rightfully be, because we’re pretty sure that they will choose to take the journey out of the Badlands. We’re just waiting for the series to catch up with us. It’s sad that it might take more than one season to do so. 

M.K. is ready to start getting his training montage on, but Sunny wants him to learn that martial arts is not all about the fighting. It’s about the, uh…well, he didn’t say, exactly. But I’m sure it’s honorable and stuff. He goes on to introduce the boy to his old mentor, an old southern man in a wheelchair named Waldo. Because Sunny learned his ancestral art from a white dude in Tennessee. Sure, fine. Whatever you say, Into the Badlands. Just give us another fight scene. 

Which it does. Sunny tells M.K. that if he lands a punch on Master Waldo, he’ll skip over all the zen stuff and just teach him how to fight. He tries it, and Waldo prevents him from even laying a finger on his red leather tunic thing. We see this coming from a mile away, but Badlands gets points for trying.  

Meanwhile, Ryder is still in that coma, so Jade, one of Quinn’s ladies, pleads Veil into helping him. Of course, Veil doesn’t want anything to do with this situation, since Quinn killed her parents with Sunny’s sword last week. She does it anyway, not only because she’s kind and angelic, but also because we needed to spice up the narrative. She drills a hole in his skull to relieve the pressure and wake him up, and Quinn gets all creepy with her. Seeing these two interact so soon after what he did to her family was a minor victory for the show, as it proved to us that it can speed things up if it wants to. 

M.K. steals the book about the city of Azra from The Widow during the raid, so maybe he’ll give us some more details about it next time? Also, what’s up with him and Tilda? I feel like she definitely likes him, otherwise she wouldn’t lie to her mother about him. I don’t think he likes her back, though. I think he likes her shuriken more. Or maybe that’s just me.

Another big event here: Sunny tracks down one of the Widow’s girls because of what happened to Ryder. They fight, she dies. The Widow gets pissed. I bet she’s going to do something with her swords. Does she look like Lucille Ball to you, too? 

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Sunny also has a meeting in the middle of the night with another supermodel that knows karate. Her names Zypher, and she’s sassy yet reserved. She has a car. That’s about it. 

As both a third episode and a midseason entry, “White Stork Spreads Wings” gives Into the Badlands a much-needed shot of storytelling espresso to jumpstart things. The world has been slowly established, the characters have been introduced, and plotlines have begun to converge. Let’s cross our fingers and hope this is all going somewhere redeemable. 


2.5 out of 5