A near-perfect midseason finale, “Leopard Catches Cloud” leaves us on a high point as Pilgrim unlocks his power and the Widow takes the war to Baron Chau’s doorstep.
This review contains spoilers for the midseason finale of Into the Badlands.
I don’t mention this often, but one of my favourite things about the worldbuilding and storytelling of Into the Badlands is how it is recognisably, perhaps even lamentably, a future of our world. We see snapshots often; cars, buildings, bridges. In “Leopard Catches Cloud”, the midseason finale of the show’s third season, we see more of this than perhaps ever before. And more importantly, we see how, despite how familiar these places and technologies seem to us, they are alien to these characters, relics of a past they scarcely understand.
As we predicted last week, Sunny, Bajie and Henry arrive at Pilgrim’s Fortress, where they’re greeted by M.K. and a fight ensues. M.K. is still fuming about Sunny having murdered his mother, which is brought up in “Leopard Catches Cloud” and, I think, unsatisfyingly dealt with by Sunny. In all fairness, though, that’s the least of his problems. Henry is being consumed by his “Gift”; Pilgrim and Cressida insist they can cure him, but Bajie is deeply suspicious of them and their plan. Does Sunny put his love for his son over his better judgement, and that of his firm friend? You bet.
“What is this place?” Sunny asks, as Pilgrim shows him around. “People built palaces like this,” says Pilgrim, “so they would never forget their past.” It’s just a museum. The dinosaur bones are still suspended in the foyer. It’s funny, to hear a museum described in such grandiose terms. But it’s also true, and an accurate example of how we distort what we don’t understand, filter it through our hopes that those who came before were somehow purer, that they knew better. Why else would Pilgrim be so determined to uncover the hidden underground bunker that he describes as “the birthplace of Azra”? He believes that he has a destiny to fulfil. He believes that he and Sunny are the “chosen sons” of Azra.
The bunker is where, 500 years ago, the Gift was unleashed on an unsuspecting world. It’s also where, in “Leopard Catches Cloud”, Henry is healed and Pilgrim is imbued with unknowable power. There’s no wonder Bajie was suspicious of all this. What else is destiny but the belief that you’re entitled to all the power you desire?
Meanwhile, the Widow and Gaius hatch a plan to assassinate Baron Chau by sneaking into her compound, White Bone, using the tunnels that Gaius once used to spirit her cogs away. Along with Tilda they manage this, but it requires a distraction. Nathaniel Moon and Lydia, having done the no-pants-dance, amass their respective forces on Baron Chau’s frontlines. What follows is a fantastic action sequence as Nathaniel pinwheels through Chau’s forces, pinging darts and blades from his go-go-gadget hand, whirling that giant sword through necks and stomachs. Eventually he’s overwhelmed. The moral dimension to all this is that Lydia’s forces can save him if they break their defensive line; doing so, however, will expose a clear path to the Widow’s Sanctuary. What is to be done?
“Leopard Catches Cloud” cheats a little here. The line holds and Lydia still manages to save Nathaniel. It makes for a fun and triumphant scene, but it does speak to a lack of storytelling conviction. What good is a battle, much less a large one, is everyone survives it? Lydia does reveal an injury, I suppose, but there’s no suggestion that it’s mortal. I suspect she’ll be fine.
As will the Widow, for that matter. The infiltration is only a partial success; they get inside, but find an ambush waiting for them. An enjoyable (albeit brief) fight ensues between her and Baron Chau, but she’s quickly outfoxed. Then she’s rescued in another narrative rug-pull, by I believe the Master of the Abbots, sporting a new haircut. Her silly war can wait, so she’s told. There are bigger problems.
As for what those problems are (one assumes they’re related to Pilgrim and Sunny) we’re going to have to wait months to find out. I wish I was more patient. But you can’t fault the show for it; Into the Badlands delivered in “Leopard Catches Cloud” a near-perfect midseason finale, and if it wasn’t for a couple of contrivances, I can’t imagine how it might have been improved. I trust I’ll find out later in the year.
“Leopard Catches Cloud” was the midseason finale of Into the Badlands’ third season. Check out our full series coverage.