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Baron Jacobee battles Baron Quinn.
Into The Badlands, Season 1, Episode 4: “Two Tigers Subdue Dragons”
Original airdate December 6, 2015.

Synopsis

The Widow gathers her troops while the Baron tries to cure the tumor in his brain with Veil’s help. Sunny continues to train M.K., especially trying to explore how to control his strange power. The Widow attacks another baron Jacobee’s gold transport to set Quinn and Jacobee against each other. When the two barons meet up, however, they find that they were set up by the Widow. When Quinn returns to his fort, he finds all his servant cogs have been taken by the Widow. The Widow also reveals that Jacobee’s top clipper Zypher is working with her to take over her baron’s place. They makes a deal with Quinn’s son Ryder, who agrees to join their team to overthrow the old guard. Sunny meets with the River King to gain passage for him and Veil out of the Badlands, but the price for the passage is M.K.’s head.

The Good

Well, Sunny is finally doing something about leaving, even though the price being M.K.’s death is a steep one and puts him in the interesting bind of killing the young boy for the freedom of his new family.

It’s revealed in this episode that the Widow’s role as a baron is indeed quite tenuous, and she is on a mission to create a world that’s safer for women, although she is paving the way to that more matriarchal world with blood. Thus her alliance with the top female clipper warrior of the baron Jacobee’s troops, Zypher, makes a lot of sense in that Zypher will become another female baron.

Also revealed is that Jacobee is black, confirming my inkling that race/ethnicity doesn’t matter much into the power play politics of this world even though gender does.

One of aspects of the society I like is that the barons are not just fat pigs at the top of the feudal hierarchy–they are top fighters in this might makes right universe. Thus, in a sense, the Badlands is a land of opportunity, albeit one based on principles of a dog-eat-dog world. Anyone can become a baron, if he or she can wrestle that power away and keep it.

Quinn’s son Ryder is the perfect example of how both nepotism and inheritance holds no water in this society. Ryder keeps trying to live up to his father’s reputation, planning to take over, but he is constantly reminded by his father and later even his ever-loving mother that he is not fit for the job. Quinn even tells Ryder that if he wants something, he must take it. All of this leads Ryder to despise his parents and to (predictably) agree to team up with the Widow in the overthrow of his own father.

The Not So Good

It seems a little ridiculously convenient that every baron has a weapon signature that makes it easy to identify who did what and to frame so and so for something. I understand that the barons have to have a logo and all that, but it just doesn’t seem like a very smart way of doing business, especially when so much of the currency of power in this society is generated through treachery.

It makes me laugh the way Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does when the ultra evil clandestine society “Hydra” has logo letterheads on all their folders and correspondence. The agents would see the logo and be like “Oh, it’s Hydra! I can tell because they have Hydra logos on their stationary!” Duh. Worst secret organization ever.

I still enjoy the fight scenes, but the lack of respect for some basic physics just takes me out of the story whenever someone does something straight up ridiculous.

The only time it’s semi-okay is when M.K. goes into his special “killer” mode after being cut and then starts to destroy things and people. My suspension of disbelief is at least accessed because of his mysterious power. But even then it’s like, dude, I don’t even understand how his little arm can generate that kind of power.

In the Sarah Connor Chronicles, Summer Glau isn’t exactly combat fit, but at least I’ve got the understanding that there’s this ridiculously strong terminator skeleton underneath the skin of her slender body. And I just like the fact they give some respect to the laws of physics, which cannot be ignored if filmmakers want to give us a sense of weight to every punch and kick. That’s part of the “art” in martial arts–the technique that exploits the power of physics. To not respect that is to disrespect martial arts and make a mockery of it.

Conclusion

Power struggles are keeping it interesting, especially as a new baron is introduced and a subversive alliance is built between the Widow, the clipper Zypher, and Quinn’s son Ryder. There’s still too much flying around in the martial arts, as I’d like this to be more substantial and less ballet a la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

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