One of the most underrated shows in all of the land of television has finally returned! I know I'm making quite the boastful statement but I feel really strongly about this one. I have been watching Into the Badlands since the very first episode and have been doing all that I can to sing its praises. It might be cliché to some to set a show in a post-apocalyptic world but the creativity that goes into this one every week is always refreshing. The world of the Badlands is full of unique looking sets compiled of villages, fortresses, and abandoned structures that do so much more than just showing empty streets and vacant suburban areas. The fight scenes are on the scale that we've typically only seen on the big screen so it is a huge delight seeing them on a TV show. It also brings a very graphic and violent element that soaks your screen in blood but it just makes the action all the more intense. After losing its main villain Quinn, last season it is with great curiosity to see who takes his place as Enter the Phoenix kicks things off with a whole new run of episodes.
We open with The Widow aka Minerva (Emily Beecham) catching us up on the fact that last season five of the six Barons were killed leaving only Chau as the lone standing threat to her winning this war for the Badlands so she can be the one to bring peace to the land. At least that's the story she spins to her followers. We are taken to a massive battle where the two armies clash in an ocean of a chaotic battle where all we see is the distinctive navy blue and white to represent the two armies but lest not forget the third color which is the red that comes from the blood caused by all the sword blades that dance about slicing open one body after the next. While it looks like the Widow's army might prevail, Chau's troops gain a last minute upper hand and keep their victory from happening.
We move our story to a large stone tower in a grassy mountainside where the Widow herself has sought out the former Regent Moon (Sherman Augustus) to ask him to join her forces. Now with only one hand, taken last season from Sunny (Daniel Wu) using his own sword to slice it off he still seeks to quench his vengeance against the man. But that's all he's interested in and when he turns down her offer she doesn't take it well and they clash in a spectacular fight that has them starting from the base of the tower and as their sparring increases, it takes them all the way up to the top. They end up in a stalemate that could result in either of their deaths but she convinces Moon that if he comes with her she will help him get his revenge.
We cut to a transport driving down a heavily forested road that is manned by the Widow's people which are suddenly ambushed by hooded bandits wearing orange colored attire. After the first vehicle is taken out they focus their efforts on the second one and we get the reveal that Tilda (Ally Ioannides) herself is leading this attack with Odessa (Maddison Jaizani) also in the group. After being ousted from the Widow's army last season it's expected that Tilda would find a way to get back at her former leader. When they have finished taking out all of the Widow's troops, Tilda finds an unexpected prisoner in the back of the truck, it's Bajie (Nick Frost)! And he's happy to see her too.
Back at the Widow's base, she and Moon are making their way back and in the six months that have passed since last season, she has had a giant wall built around her property to protect her people from the war they are currently fighting. By all appearances, her fighting force has grown quite a lot as we see many of her soldiers training outside on the grounds. Inside her manor, we find M.K. (Aramis Knight) smoking a pipe with two naked women sleeping on his bed. While it would seem he is living the good life when the Widow enters the room we see he is actually confined to this room by a black iron gate. Guess the women must've been his conjugal visit. After she kicks out his floozies the Widow speaks to M.K. telling him that she is trying to help him get his Gift back but he's not trying hard enough.
He lets her know that even though they've been trying various ways of cutting him (knives, razors, needles) that none of it is working so what's the point? She reminds him that she is the only hope he has but he mentions Sunny's name to which Minerva shoots down M.K.'s former protector and says he hasn't come back for him buy now-he is isn't going to. M.K. doesn't take kindly to her dismissing Sunny and strikes at her inner emotions by bringing up how Tilda and Waldo have both left her cause. That one hurt and Minerva pulls out a blade and puts it to his chest to show he crossed the line with that comment. M.K. isn't even scared in the least and instead, she just puts him on his ass with a boot to the face to show him who is in charge.
Speaking of Sunny, we should check-in with the main character at some point to see where he's ended up. We find him living in a random RV camper, hunting for food with little Henry strapped to his back like Yoda on Luke in Empire Strikes Back, and washing his clothes in a local steam. He seems to be living a peaceful life of reading classic novels to Henry at night and passing out from drinking. It must be quickly mentioned that Henry has the most loveable babyface this post-apocalyptic world could wish for. Bu this is the Badlands and harmony is not in the cards for many as Sunny would soon discover. He awakes one morning to Henry crying because he has a fever and shortly after is attacked by three men seeking to get a bounty that has been put on his head. Unfortunately for those men, they picked the wrong reward to try and collect on. There is something iconic about Sunny cradling baby Henry in his arms with his face splattered with blood from protecting his boy.
Sunny takes Henry to a neighboring couple but the wife says she doesn't know how to help the child's sickness. She tells Sunny about a refugee camp that has a healer and he should seek it out. Sunny states that there are people after him, but she tells him that Henry will only get worse if he doesn't try. After she leaves the room, the husband tries to demand that Sunny stay away because he is "not welcome." Sunny shoves the husband against a wall and gets him to confess to sending the Stalkers to try and kill him for the reward. He was going to use his cut to feed his family but Sunny lets him know they just would've double-crossed him. It's so hard to find friends in these parts!
At the said refugee camp, it turns out it is run by Lydia (Orla Brady) who has been trying to help folks that have been affected by all of the fallout from the fighting among the barons. Even though they are being overwhelmed with the amount of needy coming in she still refuses to turn anyone away. Turns out Lydia has some familiar help as Tilda arrives with the transport she stole into the camp and now they have some more supplies to help their cause. But Lydia is none too thrilled to see Bajie since he makes it clear he doesn't trust the former Baroness and she says that he can't stay at her camp. He brushes off her order and says he planned to leave in the morning. Lydia thanks Tilda and her group we learn are named Rabbits for their help but also asks her to go because she feels this attack on the Widow's convoy could bring an attack on the refugee camp. Thanks for the food but don't let the gate hit your ass on the way out! Some appreciation there Lydia. Tilda tries to convince Lydia they should start fighting back but it falls on deaf ears as is her efforts to get Bajie involved.
Unbeknownst to any of them, Suuny arrives in the camp seeking out the healer to help Henry. After he pleads with her to help his son she takes him in and says she will do what she can. While he deals with the worry about his boy being okay he walks around the camp and sees his old motorcycle randomly parked on the grounds. Shortly thereafter, he finds Bajie trying to swindle some men out of their money at gambling and after he gets him out of a jam the happy duo is happily reunited. Hard for these two to break habits of bailing the other one out. As they sit down to talk, Bajie tells Sunny he disappeared because he didn't want to be in the way of him and Veil getting back together and being a family. The somber look on Sunny's face says it all but he still spells it out for Bajie and reveals that Veil died but he still has Henry to look after.
Just as Sunny is being a gushing father, Lydia approaches the two with troubling news about Henry and she brings them back to see what the healer has found. When we see him, his eyes are now pure solid black from her pricking him with a needle--Henry somehow has the Gift! Bajie has never seen it in someone so young before and Sunny thinks it's what must be making him sick. His solution is to try and use the compass to find the fabled city of Azra and maybe they will have answers. We know he is grasping at straws because no one has been able to find that place up to this point. Bajie tries to convince Sunny that it's all a myth because he tried contacting them (from a communications tower last season) for months and they never responded. So that's what he was doing up there! Solves that mystery for now.
As we leave our heroes for this episode we move on to a different place in the Badlands where we are introduced to a long caravan of people and vehicles traveling across a desolate road. Our focus is brought to the front of the line as we see a man stop and pull out a compass just like the one Sunny has that shows the city of Azra. He reads the direction it is pointing and says "A promised land is at hand." He is dressed in a very thick combination of leather and orange robes while his two accomplices by his side wear more of combat style garb with weapons strapped to their backs. We are given a shot of a stern woman atop one of the vehicles, dressed all in purple, looking all powerful as she is anticipating a greatness to come from their journey. Hiding behind some bushes, a couple of Chau's men see this group coming and realize they must warn their checkpoint.
The mystery man leaves the convoy and takes just his two accomplices ahead to the checkpoint. As the commander of the outpost tells him to stop the man reveals his name to be Pilgrim (Babou Ceesay) and orders them to lay down their weapons and surrender. We know that a group of over twenty guards is going to do no such thing and the commander orders his troops to fire on the intruders. Pilgrim's two accomplices take out small knives and cut their skin activating the Gift as their eyes go black. We know that these troops are already all doomed. As these two slash and stab through Chau's fighters Pilgrim is nothing but calm and stands as an observer. When all but the commander is left, he spares his life to deliver the message back to his people: "A reckoning has come. Join us or die." I think it is very clear we have our new threat for Season Three!
What a way to start off a season! The show continues to dazzle us with intense choreographed fight scenes that incorporate sword fighting and martial arts that happily defy all the laws of physics. Instead, they call upon a mystic quality within its characters that give them the ability to carry out special skills. The continued use of distinct colors for costumes gives a wonderfully defined look behind each group in the Badlands. Now in its third season, the show has really cast a wide net of different storylines that has far exceeded what used to mainly revolve around its main character Sunny. Couldn't be more excited to see where this all goes as AMC continues airing the show on Sunday nights!