Into the Badlands eases off the gas this week, as Sunny debates how to deal with Henry’s gift and the Widow aids Nathaniel Moon on his path of revenge. Oh, and M.K. got high.
After a stellar third season premiere, Into the Badlands eased off the gas a little this week, as familiar characters dealt with unfamiliar – and typically weird – situations. Moon Rises, Raven Seeks wasn’t a bad episode by any means, but it’s the kind of episode you get early in a season; stuff happened, but not much of consequence, unless you count M.K. getting smacked off his **** as any kind of cliffhanger.
We’ll get to that. In the meantime, let’s talk about Sunny. Or, more specifically, let’s talk about Baroness Lydia, whose new gimmick seems to be recalling narratively-convenient esoteric information that somehow relates to her pacifist God-bothering father. Sunny’s rightly panicking that his son possesses the Gift, which it turns out is hereditary – so Sunny has the Gift, even though he… doesn’t, and this is confirmed by Lydia, who was apparently there when he was found as a boy. He was wearing the mark of Azra, which is Into the Badlands shorthand for “has magic powers.”
Apparently Lydia’s father used to “track Dark Ones for the Abbots,” which leads me to question if there’s anybody in this show who doesn’t have some kind of connection to those mystical black-eyed monks. Sunny briefly considers taking Henry to the Master, which Bajie quickly points out is a bad idea given how many Abbots Sunny has slit up recently. Luckily, Lydia has a solution. There’s an old Master, known as the “Mad Witch”, who might be able to help. Bajie, true to form, doesn’t like this idea either. “One: she’s mad. Two: she’s a witch. And three: Nobody knows where she is.” All good points well made.
Turns out Lydia knows where she is. I mean… if you say so.
Putting aside Lydia’s heretofore-unmentioned wealth of forbidden knowledge, we didn’t really see much from Sunny in Moon Rises, Raven Seeks, which is probably just as well. He’s the least-interesting character in the show; especially now that the Widow is buttering up Nathaniel Moon with gadget-festooned metal prostheses. Darts in the knuckles, blades that pop out when the fingers are flexed – as though he needs that kind of help. To test it out he had an arbitrary scrap with M.K., who staggered downstairs looking for smack. Did I miss something here? Last week he was slinging dick in his cell, and now he’s cripplingly addicted to opiates?
Nevertheless he holds his own. The fight was fun in how it incorporated Moon’s new hand and further cemented his status as a hat-wearing badass. Not that any of it really mattered, other than, I guess, to wind up Moon about M.K.’s relationship to Sunny. That’s a point, actually – should he still be mad about Sunny chopping his hand off now he has this cool new one? Let me know.
I’m sure you don’t need reminding, but Emily Beecham is a bottomless well of sexually-charged charisma and the less she has to do in a given episode, the less exciting that episode ends up being. But those weird erotic undertones are as much a part of Into the Badlands as the decapitations and dismemberments, as evidenced by the extraordinarily weird scene towards the end in which Pilgrim (Babou Cessay) lovingly raised Cressida (Lorraine Toussaint) to the ceiling with chains and meat hooks. Doesn’t sound like a sexy scene, I know, but I’m done questioning such things at this point.
I’m undecided on Pilgrim and his zealotry thus far, mostly because I don’t know enough about his currently-nebulous scheme to really make a decision either way. The other fight scene in Moon Rises, Raven Seeks involved him; a rather pointless showcase of his badassery against three of his acolytes while wearing a blindfold. I suppose showcases of badassery can never be truly pointless, and the show’s choreography and editing are so good that it’s never not a privilege to watch people throw down, but you know – stakes are always nice.
We’ll get there, I’m sure. Moon Rises, Raven Seeks might not have been a particularly action-packed episode, but it did a fine job of continuing to move players around AMC’s uniquely blood-soaked game board. Into the Badlands isn’t a show that deals in subtlety and gradual, slow-burning storytelling, which is often a detriment. With episodes like this one it’s taking time to flesh out its mythology, develop relationships and establish real dramatic structure, which might not be too thrilling in the moment, but will be all the better when everything collides in a shower of steel, blood and leather.
Let’s look forward to that.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.