Into The Badlands, Season 1, Episode 2: “Fist Like A Bullet”
Original airdate November 22, 2015.
An attempt on the life of The Widow (Emily Beeckman) reveals struggles for power between the Barons. After escaping from Baron Quinn’s (Marton Csokas) fortress, the mysterious M.K. (Aramis Knight) finds himself in The Widow’s territory. He meets Tilda (Ally Ioannides), one of The Widow’s top warriors, and they become friends. The Widow suspects M.K. could be the one with mysterious abilities the she’d been seeking, so she orders Tilda to attack and draw blood from M.K. However, Tilda only pretends to attack M.K., and The Widow gives him to a nomad group she has been working with.
Meanwhile, Sunny (Daniel Wu) finds out his Baron Quinn is dying, and Quinn orders him to slaughter his personal doctor, who also happens to be the adoptive parents of Sunny’s pregnant lover Veil (Madeleine Mantock). Sunny refuses, and Quinn carries out the killings himself, and this tragedy convinces Sunny to finally decide to try to leave the Badlands with Veil. In a showdown between Sunny and some some nomad bandits who have stolen some of Quinn’s opium, M.K. saves Sunny by killing the nomad leader. Sunny decides to take M.K. as his apprentice to train him how to fight.
Strong female characters. Who doesn’t love strong female characters? The Widow and Tilda were featured prominently in this episode, and their assassin skills were thoroughly demonstrated. The Widow lays waste not just to your average ruffians but to ex-Clippers, top of the line trained killers. Then Tilda easily disposes of a big burly nomad bandit, sealing a deal for her “mother”, The Widow. Apparently, this matriarch Baron has a whole team of highly trained female Clippers, although it’s not clear if they are considered Clippers officially.
The intrigue of the mysterious city outside of the Badlands is still interesting, and I’m curious about why M.K. has these powers. I feel like the tone of the whole series kind of rests upon the explanation for M.K.’s powers, because if it’s scientific in origin, then the whole series is more grounded in a gritty reality, but if it’s “magical”, then the whole series becomes more fantasy. We’ll see which direction that goes and how that plays out for the story.
The Not So Good
Strong female characters I like, but I also have a high standard for them. At least the women warriors in Into The Badlands are not toothpicks, because nothing annoys me more than a girl who is supposed to be tough but there’s little to no substance to her, but there’s still not enough perceived power behind those punches. I think this goes back to that same “dance-like” martial arts style that’s being used overall in the film.
When it comes to women fighting on film, I am a little spoiled with my favorite pro-fighters, such as Cris Cyborg who accidentally threw a man over a car for this upcoming movie Fight Valley. The film will be featuring three of MMA’s top female fighters, Cyborg plus Holly Holm and Miesha Tate:
Of course, it’s not fair to compare actors who are not pro-fighters with pro-fighters, so I’d like to put out there that I always rather enjoy Bobbi’s (Adrianne Palicki) fight scenes from Marvel’s Agents of Shield:
I wish they would just make the show Bobbi of Shield.
Also, I think the filming of the moves and direction of the stunt people could be improved. Sometimes, there were clips where I thought “Was that really the best one they shot?” I see a lot of talented martial artists on the show, but it feels their best foot is not being put forward.
There was one thing that really, really, really bothered me about this episode though, and that was that Sunny stood by and did nothing while Quinn slaughtered Veil’s parents. I understand that Sunny is trapped in this whole Baron-Clipper situation and all that, but even though he didn’t do the killing himself, he did nothing to stop it. First of all, that smelled strongly of cowardice, and I think that’s a problem with Sunny’s character so far. I guess it’s good to have a “flaw” to make things interesting, but it didn’t seem intended. I felt like it was supposed to be a “I’m still finding myself” sort of moment, but it just came off to me as a “I’m too scared to rock the boat” moment instead.
To make matters worse, later, when he tells his lover Veil about how Quinn killed her adoptive parents, he didn’t show any remorse whatsoever for not trying to stop him. He also didn’t reveal that he stood there as Quinn went in and just sliced up the helpless old couple. That came off to me as not just cowardly, but downright underhanded, like he was hiding it from her, or possible, worse, he’s so self-centered, he didn’t feel bad about not stopping it. Maybe it was cut out during editing, but it would have made Sunny a whole lot more likable and human if he had had some sort of moment where he showed remorse over letting that happen. Without that, Sunny’s character just stretches out flat into a two dimensional character.
A nice follow up to the pilot with a story that still has momentum moving forward, but the development of the main character Sunny seems to be losing steam and lacking substance. The training of M.K. by Sunny should hopefully reveal more about M.K.’s powers, and there’s plenty of martial arts action to go around, but all of it would be better if it packed more punch.