Sunday, May 20, 2018

REVIEW: 'Into the Badlands' - Sunny Learns More About His Origins While Trying to Save Henry in 'Carry Tiger to Mountain'

AMC's Into the Badlands - Episode 3.05 "Carry Tiger to Mountain"

Sunny and Bajie seek help from a reclusive former Master. The Widow must confront a specter from her past as Chau's slave.

At the start of this season of Into the Badlands, the various characters were all on their separate paths and journeys. The Widow and Baron Chau were fighting a war for control of the Badlands. Lydia and Tilda were trying to create peace and freedom outside of the war by actually caring for the displaced. Sunny and Bajie were once again teaming up to find a cure for the mysterious illness that has now affected Henry. M.K. was a prisoner still wallowing in the mystery and grief of his mother's death. And then, there were newcomers to the Badlands with nefarious intentions. The season premiere closed with Pilgrim delivering the message that those who do not join his cause will be killed. That always set up the assumption that he was the much more sinister and looming threat to the Badlands than the war between The Widow and Chau. And yet, that war has continued while Pilgrim has largely been able to do his own thing by establishing his own place in this world. And now, the show seems like it is finally bringing all of these characters back together. "Carry Tiger to Mountain" is a climatic episode because it finally reveals answers and clues to storylines that have been set up this season. The last few weeks have felt a little like filler because they weren't allowing for a whole lot of progress in the overall stories. This episode provides clarity on a couple of fronts. Sunny and Bajie are finally able to find the witch who may be able to heal Henry of his disease. The Widow and Chau realize that Pilgrim is their enemy who can't be trusted when it comes to figuring out the future of the Badlands. Plus, Bajie gets confirmation that Pilgrim was the recipient of the messages he sent out at the end of last season regarding the mysterious Azra. All of these various plot threads are coming together as the characters are learning just how necessary those bonds may actually be. It just carries so much risk because this is a world that solves all of its conflicts through violence.

It's absolutely brutal and grueling to see the procedure the witch does in order to ease some of Henry's pain. It's essentially the image of a woman trying to drown a baby. The audience isn't exactly suppose to see it as that because there is so much more dark energy coming out of Henry. He's not at risk of actually dying despite being under water for a considerable amount of time. Instead, the witch is channeling Sunny's energy in order to give it to Henry for him to fight off this infection. It's just a horrifying sight though where Sunny absolutely has the right instincts to push this woman away because of what she's willing to do to a baby. He is Henry's father and must protect him no matter what. This seems like a huge risk that could go wrong any number of ways. Nathaniel only sparred Sunny's life because he didn't want to leave Henry an orphan. That would have been for nothing if Henry then died in the next episode. And so, it's rewarding that he doesn't. He is allowed to live even though this illness isn't gone for good. The witch is able to delay the inevitable. She has the powers to push off death. She has the skill when Cressida is unable to do the same for Castor. The situations aren't exactly the same. But it also seems likely that they are dark ones dying from some kind of disease that only affects them. As such, the lines are increasingly coming together in this story. Sunny's strength is what's necessary to save Henry. His power has aided him a great deal over the course of the series. And now, the show seems to be diving deep into his origins and the powers he has. He isn't a dark one. And yet, he somehow passed the gift onto his son. That's a mystery that needs to be solved somehow.

Henry is a dark one because Sunny happens to be a Catalyst. That's the phrase that the witch and Pilgrim both use to describe his importance in this mythology. Sunny had no idea that he possessed these powers. Nor does he know exactly what it means to be a Catalyst. Right now, he is just a concerned parent trying to do what's best for his son. He is no longer trying to find Azra and escape towards peace. He's not trying to understanding the mysteries of the dark ones. He keeps finding himself pulled back into this conflict though. The witch says that fate has kept bringing him and Bajie together. Bajie has given up on believing in the crazy mysteries of the world promising a better life because he had all the tools to discover Azra and got nothing in return for his efforts. He fought hard to uncover the mysteries of the book. He had the compass to navigate his way to the new world. But he got no response. And now, he is confronted by a machine that is actually able to replay the message that Pilgrim sent. Apparently, the technology Bajie was using to deliver his message only went out. He couldn't receive anything. That's convenient and allows him to be surprised upon realizing that he brought Pilgrim to the Badlands. Pilgrim has come here in order to establish a new rule. He wants to unify the people and lead them to Azra. It's a mission he is willing to fight through blood and chaos. The witch warns Sunny and Bajie about the new people they will have to seek in order to heal Henry. Bajie believes that Sunny is buying into this conspiracy that the witch is telling him. But Sunny is just trying to do what's best for his son. Right now, that means returning to the Badlands and seeking out the one person who is striving to cause even more chaos and destruction. Sunny has been running away from that. It now seems like his destiny to always be trapped in that cycle though.

Of course, almost every interaction with Pilgrim so far this season has only led to more violence. He is a leader who is only looking out for his own interests because he sees his mission as pure. He's been blessed by a higher power with his gift to control dark ones. It makes him feel superior to those who challenge his rule in the Badlands. He has come here to conquer and discover the new world. He has instead walked into the middle of a war not really caring about the trivial pursuits of power between The Widow and Chau. He sees his mission as the only one worth pursuing. As such, he has no problem making deals with both of the barons. He was able to fight alongside The Widow last week against Chau's forces. And here, he teams up with Chau's forces in order to raid the refugee camp simply because he needs the workers. He is building to something greater. He welcomes M.K. into his ranks. He does so initially because he needs a dark one to replace Castor after it's clear that he is dying. He sees it as fate to have a new dark one fall into their lives when they need it the most. Of course, that only makes Castor more volatile because he believes he can still fight and be of service to Pilgrim. And yes, he is the one who leads the raid on the refugee camp. Sure, that gets him captured by The Widow's forces. That will be an ominous story in the future. But right now, it's all about accepting M.K. into this world. He has to let go of his anger and resentment in order to join them on their quest. He needs to see proof that there is something greater out there worth fighting for. Sunny and M.K. were once bonded over their pursuit of Azra. And now, M.K. wants to kill Sunny out of revenge for killing his mother. Plus, he has found a new savior in Pilgrim who can lead him to the destination he's been striving to find for a long time. It just means he won't be able to get his revenge because Pilgrim has to protect Sunny because he is a Catalyst. This group will need his powers in order to emerge victorious in discovering Azra. That too is a very exciting tease for the future.

Elsewhere, The Widow and Gaius Chau team up. They do largely because there is this incoming threat from Baron Chau against the refugee camp. The Widow needs as many forces as possible in order to defend that encampment. She needs to protect those people in order to secure her alliances with Tilda and Lydia. If she just saw those people as disposable, she would essentially lose Tilda and Lydia as her viceroys. She would once again be fighting this war without any allies. She could potentially lose as well because she is fighting two enemies. Both of them have their own interests but are very much interested in wiping out the way of life that The Widow is promising. As such, she is willing to trust Gaius simply because of a past relationship they used to have. This hour flashes back to offer more of a history lesson of the Badlands. The Chau family was revered for so long because they see their first baron as the most feared man throughout the world because of how victorious he was. Their land has stayed in the family's control because they followed his underlying principal of refusing to show mercy. That's a philosophy that Baron Chau still practices to this day. She doesn't want to betray the ideals of this world. She doesn't want it to fall into chaos because some people are willing to chase freedom in a world that will always be violent and cruel. Her brother has always been different. He was willing to show kindness to Minerva when she was a cog serving in the Chau household. She made a mistake and was punished severely for it. It's a punishment that doesn't match the crime at all. She simply slips and breaks some dishes. For that, she is lashed 10 times and spends the night locked up with the pigs. Gaius helped her escape and she didn't know about his involvement until now. That allows her to more easily trust him when they go into battle. But it also sets up the possibility for her to find love in this world if she is willing to make herself vulnerable in that way once more.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Carry Tiger to Mountain" was written by LaToya Morgan and directed by James Marshall.
  • Pilgrim is able to intimidate Baron Chau into doing what he wants simply by returning the severed heads of the soldiers she sent to kill him. It's a very effective threat because it shows his power. But she is also operating with the awareness that he is one short and that her brother must be out there somewhere doing something. Meanwhile, the audience knows that Pilgrim isn't aware of Gaius and doesn't buy into the suggestion that Chau's brother did this attack without her consent.
  • Gaius is able to sneak out of Pilgrim's compound and into The Widow's territory simply by stashing away in her vehicle. And yet, that barely makes any sense. He was seriously injured in Pilgrim's castle. That's on an island. How did Gaius escape from there and make it into the trunk of the car without anyone seeing him and finishing the job? It's just a contrivance in order to force this new dynamic with The Widow into occurring.
  • This season has teased that Cressida has been blessed with the gift of foresight. She is able to get teases of events that will happen in the future. And yet, that has never really played out in the actual story so far. It's been difficult to buy into her suggestions because they are so vague and nonsensical. But now, she's seen drawing Sunny's tattoos on the wall which allows Pilgrim to understand that the Catalyst is coming to him shortly.
  • It's always been crazy that Bajie has continued on this journey with Sunny for as long as he has because Sunny always pulls him into crazy situations that Bajie just doesn't want in his life. And yet, their friendship is what motivates him into staying. He sees Sunny getting pulled in deep to the mysteries of the dark ones and Azra. He's cautious about that. But he also sees the value in seeing what he started through to its conclusion. He brought Pilgrim to the Badlands. He should at least see him.
  • Castor could live a little while longer if he didn't use his powers. It wouldn't stop him from dying. It would just allow him to live with Nix and Pilgrim for a bit more. He's unwilling to do that because fighting is all he's ever known. Cressida is able to use that to motivate him into action. But it should be very fascinating to see a dark one die because of this disease. The show has promised it to be more significant than simply dying through combat.