Into The Badlands, Season 1, Episode 3: “White Stork Spreads Wings”
Original airdate November 29, 2015.
After the poppy drug baron Quinn launches a full out attack on the Widow. He succeeds in dethroning the Widow and taking over her oil-rich territory but does not succeed in killing her, hindered only by pain from the tumor in his brain. The Widow goes into hiding. In the meantime, Quinn’s son Ryder is recovering from his wounds from being attacked by the nomads, and the Veil is brought in by Quinn’s second wife, Jade, to save Ryder. Successfully doing so only pulls Veil further into Quinn’s crosshairs, as he now looks to her to heal the illness in his head.
The Widow has a highly trained team of ninja assassin girls. That’s definitely fun to watch, but I do wish they were more believably strong.
The action overall is pretty regular, which I’m sure keeps things interesting for viewers.
The politics of struggling for power between the different barons is enough to give the story a solid layer of conflict and intrigue to propel the plot forward in an organic manner.
I also find a lot of the supporting characters rather interesting. I’d like to know more about The Widow and how she came to power, and I’m wondering if she is training all these girls in order to make them stronger, like a grand matron teaching young girls to survive in a tough world, or if she is just using them. Her character seems to be leaning towards the former. The baron Quinn is aptly terrifying, convincingly crazy and cruel at the same time. Quinn’s son Ryder is so far perfectly hate-able and pathetic, which seems like the point of his existence.
In the world of “Into The Badlands”, I’m still interested in seeing how race and gender really play out. So far, the people in power, the barons, have been white, and their warriors and slaves seem to be of all sorts of heritage. However, since no other baron has been introduced yet, it’s not really clear whether race plays a role in power yet, as the rest of the barons could be non-white. Besides this, it seems anyone can equally become slave or warrior, regardless of race or gender.
For gender, though, there seems to be a strain on the fact that The Widow is a baron herself, as it’s been hinted that none of the other barons are female and they tenuously recognize her authority. Also, the warrior clippers have been predominantly male, and Quinn clearly objectifies women in his territory by taking two wives and promising his men enjoyment of women for their loyalty and hard work. However, the introduction of a female clipper regeant or lead warrior, Zypher, from another baron seems to indicate that women may be subverted under Quinn’s power, but may not be so under the rule of other barons. Her suggestion that the other barons want Sunny to kill Quinn and take over indicates that they have no problem with an Asian non-white baron.
In any case, it seems that the rule of the land is simply might makes right, regardless of gender or ethnic heritage.
The Not So Good
The main character Sunny continues to be rather annoying. I understand that he’s trapped in this whole feudal Baron system, but there’s nothing about him that gives me the sense that he’s really actively trying to solve problems. He’s just reactive, it seems, with occasional touches of identity angst here and there, expressed more by those around him than by his own actions or words.
The mysterious boy from beyond the Badlands, M.K. seems to have more determination and courage than Sunny does. M.K. takes more risks than Sunny, and then Sunny’s response is always to deride M.K. for trying to get them killed. It would make sense if M.K. is just the rash young’un and Sunny is the more calculating adult, but Sunny’s got NO plan and everything M.K. does actually gathers them more information about the city beyond the Badlands that he is from, which leaves the only conclusion to be that Sunny is a coward. M.K. is supposed to be Sunny’s “colt” or student, but it feels like the roles are actually reversed.
To make Sunny’s character worse, in order to get the other barons off his back, Quinn suggests that Sunny meet with the head Clipper named Zypher of another baron to try to forge an alliance. Zypher informs Sunny that if he kills Quinn, the other barons are ready to recognize him as the new baron, and they would all split the Widows property. What does Sunny do? He refuses on what seems to be loyalty…to the guy who murdered his lover’s parents? Give me a break. There seems to be no love between Sunny and Quinn, no real feeling of “You’re like a father to me” or anything like that, so it really just seems like Sunny is just Quinn’s lapdog. I suppose if later it’s shown that Sunny owes Quinn a HUGE debt of some sort, it would all make a lot more sense, but it might just be too little too late for the viewer to accept that ad hoc.
In terms of martial arts, I felt this episode had some integrated MMA elements, which all action filmography has been integrating recently to address a more discerning audience. I gotta tell ya, though, I’m getting kind of tired of seeing arm bars in every fight on screen these days (thank you Ronda Rousey?). Also, I’m not an arm bar expert, but the one Sunny did on an opponent felt like a pretty unconvincing one. I know it’s not a *real* arm bar, but it’s got to at least look and feel like one, which it didn’t.
Also, there were some scenes that seemed to defy the laws of physics, and I’m not just talking about the unrealistic flying action (of which there was). Sunny would pick up opponents and body slam them like they were air balloons. I know he’s strong, but he’s human, not a Terminator, so the lack of effort in picking up someone and slamming them down, not even a little bend of the torso to get some kind of torque, just was asking too much of the audience. As a result, the effect is not much power and a difficult time for viewers really believing that he is strong at all without wire work.
The world of the series seems to be alive and healthy, but the main character Sunny is still faltering, although M.K. is picking up the slack along with other supporting characters. The martial arts action is plentiful and often times beautifully artistic while also having moments where there seems to be some bugs in the physics coding that makes it looks like they’re tossing around blow up dolls.