Sunday, June 3, 2018

REVIEW: 'Into the Badlands' - Sunny and Bajie Recruit a New Ally to Get to Pilgrim in 'Black Wind Howls'

AMC's Into the Badlands - Episode 3.06 "Black Wind Howls"

Sunny and Bajie call in a favor from Bajie's past. The Widow interrogates an important captive who threatens her tentative peace with Pilgrim.

Once again, I feel the need to ask about the travel distances on this show. Both Sunny and The Widow need to have conversations with Pilgrim at the moment. Sunny because Pilgrim may hold the key to curing Henry and unlocking the mysteries of Sunny's past. The Widow because Pilgrim aligned with Baron Chau's forces in order to raid the refugee camp that was under her protection. But Sunny and Bajie continue to experience delays with their journey while The Widow is able to make the trek to Pilgrim with no problems whatsoever. Yes, all of this could be attributed to The Widow still being in the Badlands and Sunny being beyond those borders. But the Badlands is a war-torn country at the moment. It should not be easy for anyone to navigate because of the shifting tides of this conflict. It's somehow easy for both The Widow and Chau's forces to meet with Pilgrim though. He is apparently on neutral territory that provides equal access to both of the rulers of this land. It could also be seen as The Widow sitting in a position of authority and power where she has the influence and support to go wherever she wants with very little resistance. That stands in contrast to Sunny and Bajie as well because they aren't welcome in the Badlands because of the bounties on their heads. Sure, they are better off alive than dead. That would lead to a more hefty reward for their capture. But it also means they have to be extremely careful while navigating this world. It just seems like the show just continues to delay that inevitable meeting between Sunny and Pilgrim because it doesn't want to offer up too many solutions and answers too quickly. There is even a reality where Sunny and Bajie don't land at Pilgrim's home in next week's episode even though The River King knows exactly where they need to go. As such, that can be frustrating if the individual stories don't have the merit to actually reward the delays from the main journey.

This week Sunny and Bajie find themselves needing the need of Bajie's ex-wife. Bajie goes to her for help smuggling into the Badlands and finding Pilgrim because she was always a successful navigator. And yet, she is rightfully upset at him for the way that he left her. Bajie has never previously mentioned being married. Sure, he cherished the love between Sunny and Veil. He wanted a happy life for them. But he was never envious or wanted that same dynamic for himself. Here, it presents as yet another case of Bajie's selfish desires coming before anything else in his life. It's rewarding that he has stuck by Sunny for as long as he has. He has always found a way to be useful to Sunny. In the beginning, Sunny couldn't tolerate Bajie at all. But now, the two are the closest of friends who don't judge each other for their past actions. They have both done things that they aren't proud of for reasons that they can no longer support. Sunny doesn't want to kill while Bajie doesn't want to believe in the magic of Azra. And yet, they are still a team trying to navigate this world. Bajie can still surprise Sunny like he does here. He always happens to have a friend who is willing to help him out. Of course, it's also a pattern of his that he believes it will be easy to enlist help from a former friend when it's actually more tense than that because of some past betrayal that Bajie made. Here, his ex-wife can't forgive him for running away with their savings in order to go find Azra. They were talking of building a life together far away from this chaos and destruction. Instead, he left her behind to chase his own selfish desires and impulses. As such, she can't forgive him even though she is stuck working with him throughout this episode.

And yet, the show never really earns the conflicted feelings of love between this new pairing. Right now, Bajie's ex-wife is understandably upset with him. She is able to hold her own in a fight as well. She may have cheated at a game. But that was only to be rewarded with the cash in order to make a quick escape. Bajie and Sunny interrupted those plans. They can only afford her services by handing over the money she had just won. Then, it becomes a story about Sunny learning more about their past relationship while the two of them seemingly grow closer once more. It's the show suggesting that the two of them still have undeniable chemistry and a yearning to be together. That's not an inherently bad story either. Bajie has been a scoundrel in the past whom no one can trust. He has grown a little bit during his time with Sunny. But is that enough to make a toxic relationship work now? His ex-wife doesn't want to fall into the same pattern as before. She doesn't want to fall for his charms and his insistence that he and Sunny are the only reason she escaped in the first place. It seemed like she could more than handle herself in that situation. Bajie just interrupted because he needed to make his presence known. But it's also so inevitable that she will betray them because she doesn't trust Bajie. She believes he will just run away from her again and leave her needing to pay several significant debts. She wants to earn her freedom by collecting the price on Sunny and Bajie's heads. She knows how valuable they are. It's one thing for the show to say that they survive because Sunny and Bajie are able to defeat all of The River King's men in battle. But the show also makes a point in saying that Bajie's ex-wife is choosing to align with them because her feelings for Bajie may still be passionate. That's a moment that just feels forced. It's not completely earned at all. And now, it's going to be a significant story moving forward.

Moreover, Sunny is finding himself haunted by his past. He keeps having visions of what he did when he was younger. He doesn't have complete recollection of the world that he came from. He knows what his life was like as soon as he came to the Badlands and was trained by Waldo. But now, he's trying to piece together his origin story. Right now, he's only being given cryptic clues that tease yet another tragedy in his life. He knows that he is special because of his connection to Azra and the dark ones. The witch said that he and Pilgrim would be a powerful duo once they could unite their powers. Only then would the true answers they seek reveal themselves. As such, there is the desire for the two of them to meet and figure all of this out. Sunny may not even be searching for these answers or the path to Azra anymore. He is just focused on being a good father to his son and making sure that he gets the cure that he needs. Of course, it's absolutely horrifying to see Sunny in a fight sequence while Henry is in his basket on his back. That just seems completely dangerous and meant to increase the stakes of the sequence. It ensures that this new unlikely trio can make their quick escape once they get to the boat. Sunny can't leave Henry behind. He needs to be the father caring for him at all times. But it's crazy that Henry doesn't make a fuss given all of the violent movements he is currently enduring. Plus, Henry only exists as a bargaining tool someone can use in order to threaten Sunny. It never works. Sunny always emerges victorious. Though he does get cut in this latest battle. That could mean something if he has a special power to be unlocked. Or it could be nothing. Just like the latest clues to his traumatic past of an experience on this same exact ship.

Meanwhile, it's a little strange to see what The Widow does with Castor as her prisoner of war. She understands that Pilgrim assisted Chau in this attack on the refugee camp in order to find more workers for his secret project. She doesn't trust that these people have come to him and are working for him through their own free will. She was there for the battle. She understands that Castor is sick. And yet, she mostly just delivers him back to Pilgrim because Castor refuses to share any information. She does this mostly to make herself seem like a benevolent ruler who is only fighting this war in order to establish peace. It's the same objective as Pilgrim. And yet, he wants everyone to submit to his rule because he walks the path of the righteous. The Widow has that empowering moment where she says she will never submit to another man ever again. Then, she walks away proclaiming that her troops will go to war with him soon enough. It's mostly just setting the stage for Pilgrim needing to make the brutal decision to kill Castor because his disease is crippling his body and his mind. Pilgrim is furious that Cressida sent Castor out on this mission in the first place. He is angry that she would defy him in such a way. He is used to his word being law in this place. He can't stand when his advisors and protectors decide to challenge his ways and beliefs. He pushes Cressida away because of it. Then, he kills Castor as soon as he starts voicing concerns about Pilgrim to Nix. He wants to ensure that Nix and M.K. will stay loyal to him as long as they serve his needs. He believes he is still a benevolent ruler as well who knows the way to salvation. He believes he's doing a service to Castor by putting him out of his misery. But it also seems like Pilgrim doing whatever it takes in order to stay in a position of power. He won't let anything destroy his plans of finding Azra and the glory that resides there.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Black Wind Howls" was written by Evan Endicott & Josh Stoddard and directed by James Marshall.
  • Tilda goes to The Widow to say that she is ready to fight alongside her as an ally in this war. She does so in order to ultimately defend the refugee camp. People need to stop being displaced by this war. The Widow needs to defeat Chau as soon as possible in order to bring salvation to the Badlands. And yet, Tilda wants to make sure that The Widow doesn't get any grand ideas about what this return means. She isn't coming back as her regent or her daughter.
  • As such, Tilda and Lydia are continuing to play the game as The Widow dictates it. They see it as a way to ensure their own survival while actually trying to make a difference in this world. They may be completely deluding themselves. They may not be able to change anything because the world will see them as people aligned with The Widow. And thus, they can't be sympathetic or understanding of the plight of the cogs.
  • Odessa makes the decision that she is done fighting. She no longer wants to live in this world that only knows violence. She wants to leave it all behind in search of a better life. The show has told this story before and shown that the entire world is nothing but violence. It's only more of this. And yet, it's such a brief and fleeting moment as well. It should be huge that this romance between Tilda and Odessa is now over. But it's mostly a way to free Tilda as she returns to The Widow.
  • Cressida can also sense that The Widow had the gift once and has since lost it. She teases that she can give it back to her as well. That seems like news that unsettles The Widow a little bit because she doesn't want to trust these newcomers to the Badlands. She wants to launch this attack against them for getting in the way of her desire to bring peace and freedom to this world. She wants to make things better and she can't do that with this new zealot preaching his message around.
  • And yet, does Pilgrim actually seem like a leader that people would follow after one inspirational speech? He certainly has that moment where he is talking to the newly acquired refugees. He says they are free to stay or go. He wants them to work to find Azra. His followers are still loyal to him. The refugees decide to work for him as well. But it never feels like a choice where they believe in what he's saying. It mostly just feels like the latest example of cogs being traded from baron to baron and just needing to do whatever task is required of them.