Into the Badlands returns after a week away with “Black Wind Howls”, a character-driven episode that delves into the Bajie’s past while Pilgrim’s HR issues continue to cause him problems.
Seeing as Fear the Walking Dead continues to disappoint me like some kind of resentful child, it’s nice, after a week away, to tune into a show that I actually continue to enjoy watching. “Black Wind Howls” reintroduced us to AMC’s fantastical martial arts epic with a fight scene that incorporated fake Nick Frost acrobatics and a variety of seafood being used as weaponry. I didn’t know I wanted any of this until I got it.
Beyond the sheer joy of using a squid as a set of nunchuks, Bajie and Sunny have ventured to the den of disrepute to track down the former’s ex-wife, Lily, a dodgy smuggler who they need in much the same way that they need a new colourful character every week, which is to say so that the show’s production team can show off new ideas and environments and bits of worldbuilding. I’m quite okay with this.
Besides, the idea of a buccaneering Bajie sits quite well with me, and we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy that had “Black Wind Howls” not just introduced his piratical backstory out of nowhere. Sunny, meanwhile, continues to enjoy visions of his childhood after his encounter with the Mad Witch and it turns out he has already voyaged on the boat that Lily spirits him and Bajie away on. It’s all coming together, just in that unusual, ad-hoc way that things tend to in this show.
Meanwhile in “Black Wind Howls”, to offset burgeoning discontent in the refugee camp, Tilda makes a desperate, fragile alliance with The Widow in order to do away with Baron Chau. Castor, who was captured in the previous episode, is enjoying interrogation at the hands of the Widow and Nathaniel Moon, who plan to use him to leverage Pilgrim while he’s still supremely pissed off that Cressida went behind his back and manipulated the young boy into fighting for Baron Chau’s Clippers in the first place.
The plot goes relatively well. A simple exchange: Castor, for the Widow’s assurances that she’s not to be feared, which as we’ve learned over the seasons is complete bullshit. She says as much. It was nice to see her turn some of that overwhelming charisma towards skilful political manoeuvring rather than just kicking everyone in the face. It helped to foster the dissension among Pilgrim’s ranks, and also introduced the idea that the Widow might have had the black-eyed gift herself, at one point. Although in fairness I can’t remember if that has already been revealed or not. I watch a lot of TV – sue me.
Nobody in Into the Badlands is to be trusted, of course, least of all Lily, who sells out Sunny and Bajie to the River King in the hopes that the bounties on their heads will cover her debts. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about women over the years, it’s that they like an apology – even if one isn’t warranted. Bajie obviously knows this; “You were right about me,” he says, and that’s all it takes. She pitches in to the creative boat fight, which allows the heroes – if you can call them that – to take the River King hostage on their way to Pilgrim.
Not that Pilgrim doesn’t have enough to worry about. Between Cressida’s meddling and M.K.’s continued efforts to get laid, Castor is done for. His condition and his jealousy continue to worsen, and so there’s only one thing for it. “Black Wind Howls” ends with Pilgrim tearfully euthanizing his most faithful acolyte. It might have been an episode largely devoted to Bajie and his tortured love life, but the most compelling player in season three’s game of swords and sorcery continues to be Pilgrim. Part of me hopes he wins.