“Raven’s Feather, Phoenix Blood” provided a showcase for the Widow to confront her demons as loyalties elsewhere continued to be tested.
This Into the Badlands Season 3, Episode 10 recap, for the episode titled “Raven’s Feather, Phoenix Blood”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
When it comes to Into the Badlands, it’s always smart to devote as much time as possible to the Widow (Emily Beecham). Wise viewers have an infinite tolerance for the fiery-haired beacon of female empowerment who has high-heeled and high-kicked her way through three seasons, becoming a fan-favorite in the process. “Raven’s Feather, Phoenix Blood” opens with a lovingly-crafted dreamscape sequence in which she demolishes a group of ninjas in an idyllic wood, including, at one point, snapping their elbows and spiking the bones up through their heads. It was, I’m sure you agree, a glorious opening.
This is all in service of the Widow regaining her “gift”; the bargain she made with the Master (Chipo Chung) in exchange for her help in thwarting Pilgrim’s (Babou Ceesay) world domination plans. And Pilgrim is losing it, frustratedly choking out his tech support (I know how he feels) when he isn’t immediately able to repair the damage done to the Meridian Chamber by Sunny (Daniel Wu) in the previous episode. Sunny, needless to say, is alive despite having been thrown from a window, and I agree with Cressida (Lorraine Toussaint) that it was remarkably naive for Pilgrim to assume he wouldn’t be. He’s the hero!
Back in the Widow’s rose-flecked fantasia, things are getting… confusing. She runs into Gaius Chau (Lewis Tan), who fills her in on the status quo in this new, alternate reality, where she’s the kind of Baron she despised in reality trying to quell a bloody uprising by some nebulous rebel leader who calls him or herself the Raven. Seeing her people forcibly brand new Cogs, including Tilda (Ally Ioannides), she intervenes much to the dismay of the onlookers and presumably the writer’s room, who are evidently having difficulty balancing the rules of this made-up reality with enough exposition for the audience to not feel lost in it.
One of the highlights of “Raven’s Feather, Phoenix Blood” is Pilgrim’s gradual breakdown, and how he grapples with that and his faith and his usually quite fair treatment of his disciples. When it becomes clear that Sunny has survived, he flips out and tries to kill one of his acolytes, but is stopped by Nix (Ella-Rae Smith). His immediate remorse is compelling, further cementing him as a somewhat nuanced villain who, as all good villains do, truly believes himself to be the hero of his own story. He nonetheless despatches M.K. (Aramis Knight) and his harbingers to lead the search, but his internal conflict works for the character, and Ceesay deserves more credit than he gets for giving a rather cliched religious fanatic archetype some depth.
Gaius and Tilda — the real-world versions — improbably stumble on Bajie (Nick Frost) and baby Henry out in the woods for some cute-baby comedy. They’re all heading to see Viceroy Lydia (Orla Brady), which is fortuitous, but try not to think about it too much. Sunny, meanwhile, finds himself fashioning makeshift weaponry in a creepy warehouse full of disused mannequins. And he’ll need his booby traps, since Pilgrim’s harbingers, led by M. K. and Nix, manage to find him without much fuss. Luckily he has an ally in Nix, who is becoming increasingly disillusioned with Pilgrim’s ideology, and throws a mannequin arm through one of the harbingers — talk about getting your hands dirty.
Nix’s wavering loyalty hasn’t gone unnoticed by Cressida, who employs the classic technique of the bathtime handjob to get through to Pilgrim, who is adorably blind to it; he’s still fed up that his “brother” betrayed him and that he used his gift in anger. Meanwhile, Bajie, Tilda and Gaius arrive at Lydia’s place to a frosty greeting from Nathaniel Moon (Sherman Augustus) and his go-go gadget hand. As it turns out Bajie “knows someone”, again, who might be able to help them in their fight against Pilgrim, so he burns off in a classic muscle car, leaving Henry in the loving care of the Viceroy, who even dusted off her son’s old crib for the occasion.
Back in Bizarro World, the Widow’s attempts to be altruistic backfire when Scruffy Cog Tilda tries to stab her. Activating her gift, she wrings her neck like a chicken, thus presumably reinforcing the point of “Raven’s Feather, Phoenix Blood” and of her spiritual journey; with the gift, she loses who she really is, and the compulsion to wield her power will overwhelm her desire to do what she believes is right. This is further reinforced when Bajie turns up to ruminate on the difference between ruling through fear and respect as if the point wasn’t obvious enough. (Having said that, it is always enjoyable to see Nick Frost interact with the various members of the cast.)
In case you were worried that the metaphor wasn’t quite explicit enough, the Raven turns out to be, predictably, the Widow herself. The ensuing fight was somewhat awkwardly filmed, primarily from above and behind since there is, regrettably, only one Emily Beecham in the world, but it got the point across — no doubt doubly so for horny fans of the character and high-heel fetishists, whom I’m sure were here for this scene. But a lesson has been learned, and the distinctions between heroes and villains become slightly less blurred as “Raven’s Feather, Phoenix Blood” allowed its characters to find their own way.