Into the Badlands returns for a focused sprint to the finish in “Chamber of the Scorpion”, which establishes the stakes for the final conflict.
This recap of Into the Badlands Season 3, Episode 9, “Chamber of the Scorpion”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
It has been quite some time since AMC’s Into the Badlands was last on our screens, but it feels like no time at all. There is always some detective work to be done when returning to a show like this, though, in part because the fantastical martial arts epic is quite unlike anything else, but also because its plotting tends to have a freewheeling quality that I’m half-sure is just made up on the spot. It can get complicated, and not always in a good way, but “Chamber of the Scorpion”, the second-half premiere of the show’s third season, did a good job of reintroducing audiences to its zany world of black-eyed misfits and cartwheeling fat men.
Into the Badlands has always been a show about longwinded, sometimes silly exposition and awesome, sometimes silly action, and “Chamber of the Scorpion” has both in spades — right from the start, actually, as the Widow (Emily Beecham), perhaps the sexiest character on television, takes on the Master (Chipo Chung) in one of those floaty wuxia scraps just to let returning viewers know what time it is. These two have a complicated history but it isn’t worth getting into it; in brief, the Master wants to work with the Widow to thwart the upcoming schemes of Pilgrim (Babou Ceesay), who plans to use the newly activated Meridian Chamber to rebuild the mythical city of Azra by creating an army of “gifted” fighters. Or something.
It’s a bit complicated. all this, and isn’t always communicated in the best possible way, but whatever. At this point fans of the show know what to expect, even if the show itself seems content to reinvent itself either in part or entirely whenever it feels like it. But what has always been consistent about it — and what is just as prevalent in “Chamber of the Scorpion” — is how it works in that flexible moral grey area between heroes and villains. Pilgrim and Cressida (Lorraine Toussaint) don’t seem to have an agenda beyond a genuinely unswerving belief in what they’re doing; M.K. (Aramis Knight) is still a bit too pouty, but his sense of having been betrayed by Sunny (Daniel Wu) and given a purpose by Pilgrim feels authentic; and the roles of the Widow and the Abbots continue to waver as the Badlands’ status-quo shifts from one threat to the next.
“Chamber of the Scorpion” felt, if anything, more focused than the first half of the season. With the war between the Barons virtually over and Chau (Eleanor Matsuura) still missing, there’s not much to do for peripheral characters beyond fret about what’s happening with Pilgrim and Sunny. As this is the show’s final season, that’s probably a good thing; with only eight episodes to bring everything together, there no sense wasting time on arbitrary subplots and character dynamics that aren’t going to influence the final outcome in any meaningful sense. What we have by the end of the episode is a relatively clear division between this season’s goods and bads: Pilgrim and Cressida, M.K. and the “harbingers” on one side; Sunny and virtually everyone else on the other. There will, undoubtedly, be a fight. And I’m looking forward to it.