Recap: INTO THE BADLANDS – S01E03

Into the Badlands  – S01E03

Into The Badlands

Title: White Stork Spreads Wings

This episode is all about repercussions as the fallout from The Widow’s machinations in episode 2 come back to bite her.  So too with Baron Quinn as the rashness of his previous actions could jeopardize his son’s life as well as his own.

SPOILERS beyond this point.

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The Baron’s come to chew bubble gum and kick ass…and he’s all out of bubblegum.

Let Clip the Cogs of War

In the wake of last episode’s ambush on Sunny and Ryder, Baron Quinn now has vengeance on his mind (along with that tumour).  He takes a moderately sized clipper force to attack The Widow’s estate.  Oddly enough, they bring a bunch of colts (clippers in training) along.  Sunny, tells M.K. who, as far as we have been shown, has no real fighting training or experience, to stay put.  Perhaps Sunny just wants to keep him close, but M.K. uses the opportunity to sneak back into the Widow’s estate to locate that book with the symbol of Azra on it.

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M.K. knows that reading is fundamental.

While the Widow’s forces seem outnumbered, the do appear to be better skilled and a number of her clippers are able to take down some of Quinn’s forces.  Ultimately this is all just so much exposition to get us to the build up we know is coming, the Quinn and Widow fight.  While it’s not the best fight sequence of the series so far, it does the job of establishing the styles of the two leaders.  Quinn is naturally brutish in his attacks while the Widow (whose name we learn is Minerva) uses dexterity and nimbleness to her advantage.

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Shall we dance?

Ultimately, Baron Quinn simply beats the Widow down through sheer force and repetition, but at a critical moment he suffers some form of migraine-like seizure,  brought on by his tumour.  The Widow is unable to capitalize on the moment though as Sunny shows up and drives her off.

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It’s not a tumour!

Baron Quinn returns victorious, having taken the Widow’s estate and oil fields.  His wife Lydia (Orla Brady) criticizes his rashness noting that war with the other barons seems inevitable.  Baron Quinn deflects her scorn and looks to solace in the embrace of his concubine Jade (Sarah Bolger), but Jade’s betrothal is just a means to an end, and her true affections seemingly lie with Ryder.  Quinn’s arrogance is put on full display as he beds Jade while Lydia sits in the next room keeping watch over Ryder fully, fully aware of the spiteful act going on mere feet away from where she sits.

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Where’s a big-ass iron fan when you need one?

After the battle at the Widow’s estate, Sunny is less than pleased with M.K.’s lack of discipline especially after discovering that he risked himself going after a book.  Sunny decides that M.K. will need more training than he can provide (which so far only seems to be learning how to fall…from really high up).  To this end he takes him to train with Waldo who, though wheelchair bound, unleashes a veritable can (or chair) of whoop-ass.

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You just know this is not going to end well for M.K.

Drill baby drill

Back at Quinn’s estate, Ryder’s condition has worsened and he’s not regaining consciousness.  Quinn’s wife chastises the Baron for his reckless behavior in offing the family doctor.  Jade has an idea to save Ryder.  She travels to visit her old friend, yep you guessed it, Veil to ask her to provide medical care for him.  She claims hesitancy due to her Cog status (which makes me wonder if her adopted parents were Cogs, free folk, or something else), but ultimately shows up at the estate.  Her prescription, a drill to the brain.

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It’s only brain surgery, not rocket science.

Fortunately for Ryder she sticks to her medical oath and only drills enough to relieve the pressure.  Baron Quinn, more intrigued by Veil than he is pleased that she saved Ryder, confronts her about her relationship with Sunny, and manages to ooze a level of creepiness as yet unseen in the show.

The House of the Rising Sunny

Meanwhile, the Widow and the remnants of her forces have retreated to an abandoned estate that in any other film or show would be a dead giveaway as haunted.  Realizing that Angelica (Teressa Liane), the girl who leaked the the false information to Ryder last episode, is likely in danger, she tasks Tilda with going to fetch her.  But when Ryder recovers consciousness the Baron finds out who gave Ryder the information, so he immediately sends Sunny off to clip her.  By the time Tilda arrives at the brothel, M.K. and Sunny are already there.  Angelica and Sunny fight, but when she realizes she can’t defeat him, she takes her own life.  M.K. urges Tilda to leave to avoid being discovered.

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Angelica

After the battle, Sunny stops by to have Veil patch him up.  M.K. puts 2 and 2 together and figures out what everyone else already seems to know anyway about the Sunny/Veil relationship.  Upon returning to The Fort, Quinn asks Sunny to try and set up a meeting with (the as yet unseen) Baron Jacobee to creat an alliance.  Sunny meets with Zypher (Ellen Hollman) Jacobee’s regent and we learn that she and Sunny have a ‘history’.  Zypher tells Sunny that if he were to clip Baron Quinn the other Barons would recognise him for it and much bloodshed could be prevented.  In this context, I take recognition to mean Sunny could supplant Quinn as a Baron (as apparently Quinn supplanted his Baron years before).

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Zypher

While Sunny is away, M.K. returns to Veil’s shop where he asks her to help him read the book as he can’t understand the language.  But their discussion is interrupted when Baron Quinn, carrying over his full on creeper mode from before, stops by unexpectedly.  This scene is a testament to actors Martin Coskas and Madeline Mantock who play out this tension extremely well and I honestly wasn’t sure what was coming until the final moment.  Having saved Ryder, he now wants Veil to try and save him.

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Note sure if he’s more interested in Veil’s medical skills or her bedside manner.

Thoughts on the episode.

Things are heating a bit on the third episode, the narrative pushes forward slightly but there is still no sense of being any closer to an actual journey.  If they stick to the numbers, we are looking at four or five characters (depending on if you count Xuanzang’s transformed dragon-horse as a character).

  • It’s clear Sunny and M.K. are going.
  • Veil is a distinct possibility, but she’s also in narrative position supporting character fodder to create a tragic motivational moment for Sunny.
  • Waldo has potential, but being disabled could be problematic for a journey. Still, he gives me a strong Friar Sand vibe.  Maybe Veil cold hook him up with some of her steam-punk-ish mimics (as she calls them).
  • Another (long-shot) possibility is Ryder. His treachery and lechery are somewhat reflective of Piggy before being defeated by the Monkey King, so perhaps he could end up in a spot on team M.K.  This theme of ‘redemption’, particularly among the travelling party, was a core aspect of the literature and continues to be played out in modern incarnations such as Journey to the West: Conquering Demons [大話西遊之三藏付魔] (2013).
  • As the narrative is trying to foster the attraction of Tilda and M.K., she is another possibility.
  • The newest character on the scene Zypher (Ellen Hollman) might be another possibility, bringing the baggage of her and Sunny’s past along for the ride.

Quinn’s suddenly incapacitation by his migraine was slighlty reminiscent of the times when Xuanzang would activate the golden circlet the Monkey King wore which would cause him great pain.  It makes me wonder if there is any chance this a foreshadowing of perhaps Sunny also having a tumour.

M.K. (and his mother) are supposedly from Azra, but he is not able to read the book with the city’s symbol on it.  Could M.K. be lying?

The book in question kinda looks like Sanskrit (but I don’t believe it actually is) which was the language of the scrolls to be recovered by the heroes in the original journey.  You can see images of lotus flowers along the borders though.

The title of the epside (White Stork Spreads Wings) is interesting in the use of the specific word stork.  Very often in southern Chinese martial arts manuals you will hear the word crane 鶴 (hok6) used to describe forms and style names (e.g. Tiger Crane Paired Form Fist 虎鶴雙形拳).  I wonder if the use of stork 鸛 (gun3) instead here is a double play on the fact that Veil is expecting.

With only three episodes remaining, I am getting the sense that this season arc is all about the ‘team’ setup and that we won’t actually get ‘into’ the badlands in this season, at least not until the very end of episode 6.

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