SPOILER ALERT-Do not read if you have not seen season two-episode three of Into the Badlands.
Quote of the week: “We kill because in the end that is what we are meant to do.”
Episode three gives us unique insight into Sunny, Quinn, Veil, Waldo, and The Widow. With Sunny, there is a mysterious stranger who is more than he seems. He forces Sunny to question his beliefs about himself and his life. Veil is keeping secrets from Quinn. The Widow and Waldo may or may not be fighting for the same thing.
The episode opens with Sunny and Bajie wandering the desolate landscape. Bajie does not know exactly where they are but he has a general idea. They need to find a smuggler who will help them get through the wall. Smugglers always have a way around a barrier if there is money to be made. Bajie is strangely optimistic about their chances to convince a smuggler to help them. They will need to offer the smuggler something or the smuggler will not help them.
As they come to a bridge, they meet a mysterious stranger. Sunny assumes he is after them, but instead, the stranger defends them against a gang of bounty hunters. In the ensuing battle, the bounty hunters are savagely beaten and killed. The stranger is a phenomenal fighter. He offers them sanctuary in his lair. Baije does not trust the stranger, as he believes that the stranger will take their heads for the bounties, but it turns out that Baije is wrong. The stranger is a legendary Clipper named Nathaniel Moon who is known for his fighting prowess. He left his Baron to find peace in this different land. He won his wife in battle but he soon grew to love her. They had a son which only added to his wedded bliss. Unfortunately, Nathaniel’s past caught up with him when the son of a nomad, whom he had clipped, savagely murdered his family. He exacted revenge but it left him hollow. He now wanders the land, pursuing people for their bounties. But he only pursues those who deserve to be caught.
As Nathaniel relates his story, Sunny sees how Nathaniel’s tale parallels his own life. Nathaniel and Sunny understand each other. They are both former Regents who have killed hundreds of people. It is clear that Nathaniel sees Sunny as an equal. Nathaniel advises Sunny not to go back for Veil and his baby. This counsel is the best gift he can give them. More importantly, he tells Sunny, “We kill because in the end that is what we are meant to do.” Eventually, Nathaniel reveals why he brought Bajie, and especially Sunny, to his lair. He says he wants to fight Sunny and make him his 1000th tattooed clip. It is not absolutely clear that Nathaniel’s stated claim is true. He seems tired of life but is too proud to kill himself. There is a good chance that Sunny will kill him in the duel and save Nathaniel the trouble of killing himself. Sunny and Bajie attempt to leave but Nathaniel stops them. Sunny has no choice but to fight Nathaniel. They engage in a truly epic battle. We see why they are both masters of the fighting arts.
Sunny defeats Nathaniel, but he lets Nathaniel live. As Sunny attempts to leave again, Nathaniel attacks him from behind. Bajie defends Sunny by cutting off Nathaniel’s hand! As they depart the lair, Bajie takes Nathaniel’s sword as a prize to trade with the smuggler.
Back at the monastery, MK continues his training. He wants to find out what happened to his mother. If MK’s quest is true, one has to wonder why he constantly fights himself whenever he tries to remember. Why can’t he remember? His quest to learn about his mother will most likely end badly for MK. We forget things for a reason. The Master tells him that he needs to be patient as there are no short cuts.
During the night, MK hears screams again. This time he is determined to find the cause. He follows the monks as they take a box from one of the rooms to a chamber with a lot of medical instruments which look more like torture devices. The box is similar to the one which held MK. Tate, the novice who escaped, is taken out of the box and strapped to a table. The monks use strange needles to extract the “source of his pain.” Ava stops MK from interfering. She tells MK that Tate’s gift must cleansed since he will not follow the rules. MK decides that he wants to leave and that he wants Ava to leave with him. Ava tells him she cannot.
In the Badlands, The Widow (Minerva) prepares for the conclave with Waldo. She tells Tilda that Waldo will accompany her to the conclave. Tilda is not happy about The Widow’s decision, but The Widow has given her special instructions in case she dies.
As they are about to leave for the conclave, The Widow asks Waldo why he is doing this without payment or asking for anything in return. He explains that It is because it puts him back in the game after he was dismissed by Quinn. Waldo does not stop there; he relates that he never saw the world of people, who had to live on their knees, before he was in the wheelchair. It gives him a unique perspective. He explains, as Regent, he did not care about those who were less fortunate or enslaved. Now he is one of them. The wheelchair lowers his status in the world.
The Widow reveals that she is fighting for the people who have to live their lives on their knees. Waldo sees something in her so he gives her some advice. He tells her that power is a pricey doll, a term used for a prostitute. He says “If you get a taste for it, you keep coming back for more.” They depart their home and are the last to arrive at the conclave.
Meanwhile, Veil continues to treat Quinn. Quinn relates the story to Veil of how Jade tricked him, resulting in his casting out Lydia. He clearly regrets that action; but his reaction should be a warning to anyone who would lie to him in the future. We discover that Veil had been lying to Quinn about his brain tumor. It is actually getting worse. She has been giving him some palliative to ease the pain and showing him doctored x-ray scans to conceal the truth. This lie cannot end well for Veil but she is a smart woman. She knows she cannot lie to Quinn forever. The only question is what is she planning? Does the palliative have another effect besides easing the pain?
As we discover more about the characters and they continue to evolve, we need to decide what we think about them. Is Sunny Ulysses making the quintessential hero’s journey home or is he a cold-blooded killer who believes that love has redeemed or can redeem him? Or is he both? Can he be redeemed? Are Waldo and Minerva deluding themselves into thinking that they can defeat all the Barons? What if they win? Will Minerva be a benevolent ruler or will the power corrupt her? If MK finds out what happened to his mother, will it release him or destroy him? How long can Veil continue to fool the Baron? What delusions will Quinn suffer because of the tumor?
At this point, there are some things we know to be universally true in fictional universes.
– Lies never end well.
– The search for truth can give us the truth but it is rarely what we thought it would be.
– Giving people their freedom is great in theory but they must know how to be responsible for that freedom and not abuse it.
– A cold-blooded killer can never truly hang-up their weapons. Trouble follows them.
– The question here is whether or not Into the Badlands can escape these tropes.
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