“Black Lotus, White Rose” spends a lot of time delivering exposition, but it leaves things in an interesting place for the show’s looming conclusion.
This Into the Badlands Season 3 Episode 13 recap for the episode titled “Black Lotus, White Rose” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
You might recall that at the end of last week’s rather excellent episode, Into the Badlands made some bold narrative decisions. One of those was having the newly-explained Black Lotus baddie Magnus (Francis Magee) shank the Mad Witch Ankara (Clare Higgins) and Bajie (Nick Frost), leaving them both bleeding to death on the mucky floor of a shed. You’ll be pleased — or, depending on how you feel about cheap cliffhangers, a bit dismayed — to learn that this week Magnus barely has time to gloat about this to Sunny (Daniel Wu) before Ankara uses her glowing magic hands to bring Bajie back to life, thus invalidating one of the most provocative deaths in the show’s history pretty much immediately.
Ankara is still dead, though. Then again she was only a very minor character to begin with, so I don’t imagine anyone will care much, however great Clare Higgins was in the role. But Bajie’s resurrection feels like a bit of a cop-out, despite how casually this show plays with mortality; I guess the appeal of Chicken Wing Chun is too great to resist.
“Black Lotus, White Rose” was pretty eager to frontload a lot of interesting reveals, so we mustn’t linger on that one. We also learned — before the credits, no less — that Sunny’s long-presumed-dead sister is also still alive, now apparently a happy member of the same maniac assassin order that razed the fabled city of Azra to the ground in the first place. And Pilgrim (Babou Ceesay), having hyped up a new battalion of gifted troops from the Master’s (Chipo Chung) previously-comatose ranks of ASBO students, is coughing up blood.
Let’s start with Sunny’s sibling. Her name is Kannin (Eugenia Yuan), and through the usual glowy-finger magic, she’s able to show Sunny a distractingly badly-acted flashback to his training at Azra, where his young self (Logan Hyson-Dauson George) is being a twerp to young Pilgrim (Teni Taiwo) — there’s no wonder he’s so annoyed, really. But he’s not the only one. Kannin is immediately established as sympathetic, since Magnus, whenever he gets a moment free from delivering exposition, keeps kissing her on the mouth and calling her names. She needs to unlock Sunny’s gift posthaste, or something deeply unpleasant is in her future.
Luckily, unlocking Sunny’s gift requires more flashbacks, so the process pulls double-duty as important world-building. We’re treated to glimpses of the secretive haven of Azra in its prime, and of the Black Lotus beginning to encroach on their idyllic assassin-training way of life. Sunny and Kannin’s father is a bit of a nutcase, we learn, demanding that a fresh-faced Sunny kill an intruder because killing is going to be a big part of his life anyway, so why not start young? Once again Into the Badlands returns to the well of bad parenting, both biological and surrogate, insisting as it always does that slavish devotion to any lifestyle or ideology is probably not a good idea. Villains are the heroes in their own stories, after all, and in much the same way, each of the show’s competing sects believe themselves to be righteous saviors, from the competing baronies of the first season to the Master and her Abbots to Pilgrim and his harbingers to the Black Lotus and the lost city of Azra. They can’t all be right.
“Black Lotus, White Rose” is about, in its way, learning how the grass isn’t always greener — that sometimes there isn’t actually any grass at all. Pilgrim learns this the hard way; the Master, realizing that he’s knackered and bleeding from the eyes and mouth in rejection of his so-called gift, attempts an escape. And she almost succeeds until she’s fatally skewered by M.K. (Aramis Knight), of all people. But it’s enough to show Pilgrim that his grasps at absolute power aren’t all they were advertised to be and to show M.K. that the bloke he most admires isn’t infallible. Lessons are learned. And the Master survives for long enough to enjoy a flashback farewell with the Widow (Emily Beecham), who dismounts motorbikes in loving slow-motion because Into the Badlands recognizes that her unrivaled hotness is the most powerful weapon in its universe.
Apparently, though, Sunny is a close second. Bajie — risen from the dead just in time for Easter, now that I think about it — attempts a rescue, but he’s thwarted by Kannin’s apparent loyalty to the Black Lotus, who want to use Sunny’s gift to eradicate Pilgrim and his followers. More flashbacks reveal that Magnus was among the initial wave of Black Lotus assassins captured by Sunny’s father and that he was the one Sunny was told to kill, but Sunny chose to help him instead, thus ensuring the downfall of Azra, his own memory loss, his sister’s lifetime of creepy sexual servitude, and his current predicament, which finds him fastened to an ungainly contraption designed to hold him once he’s “unlocked”. A less-than-ideal situation all around, I’m sure you agree.
Luckily Kannin comes around in the nick of time, freeing Sunny and Bajie and helping them whoop the Black Lotus in an action sequence that sees the chains of bondage turned to tools of liberation. A predictable outcome? Sure, and made a little annoying in how nobody thinks to kill Magnus, instead leaving him unconscious but alive. Then again, the closing montage of “Black Lotus, White Rose” — set to Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”, because why not? — suggests so many amassing armies that there might not be room for poor old Magnus in all the commotion. Pilgrim’s sleepers slice their gift loose. Gaius (Lewis Tan) raises his sister’s severed head to her former troops, who bend the knee. And the Widow burns down the monastery, mostly so she can do that whole “walking away from a fire in slow-motion” thing.
So, that’s that then. We’re rapidly approaching the finale now, and thus the end of Into the Badlands, so it’s only right that we churn through the last dregs of exposition and make the battle lines a little clearer. There’s chaos on the horizon, folks. We might as well enjoy it while it lasts.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.