Into the Badlands, S2 E8: “Sting of the Scorpion’s tail”
Written by Latoya Morgan
Directed by Stephen Fung
“Well, at least we’re back in the Badlands.”
It’s official. The Trump administration caused the fall of civilization which created the Badlands. The wall which separates the Badlands from the Outlying Territories is Trump’s border wall between the US and Mexico, as evidenced by the sign “MexSol” above one of the entrances. No indication, however, of who ended up paying for it. Maybe Trump reinstated slavery, thereby providing wall labor and resolving his confusion regarding the Civil War.
How appropriate it is that Baron Hassan makes his money by farming sheeple, I mean sheep. So it is a beautiful thing to see, in this patriarchal Lord of the Flies-land left behind by Trump’s misogynistic and misanthropic policies, a bunch of girls in blue tutus massacre hordes of Baron Hassan’s all-male Clippers. Then the Widow, one of only two female Barons left in this oligarchy, slices off Baron Hassan’s arm and head. It’s good to see women thriving in positions of power despite the violence inherent in a male-dominated world, but it’s a shame that they have to act just like the men who ripped civilization apart. The Widow and Baron Quinn then share a ceremonial showing of the beheaded… heads to prove they have upheld each of their parts of their very tentative alliance. Baron Quinn not only cut off Baron Broadmoor’s head and put it in a box, but he’s got a whole bunch of other boxes, too. The Widow is not pleased to find out that those boxes hold the heads of all of Broadmoor’s wives and daughters as well. She is desperately trying to make women’s lives better which, in the Badlands, is synonymous with trying to make women’s lives possible. Tillie tries to apologize to Veil for the Widow handing her over to Quinn, but Veil is having none of that. Veil tells Tillie that the Widow is just another predator who doesn’t care about anyone’s life but her own, but Tillie defends the Widow. When Tillie later confronts the Widow about this betrayal, the Widow talks about the hundreds of women’s lives that she has saved. She says that the life of one person isn’t as important as that. The Widow’s commitment to trying to make women’s lives better certainly makes her unique in the Badlands, and she is succeeding some of the time, but this is a case where both Tillie and Veil may be right about her. She helps people, and she’s a born killer.
All walls have their weak points, and Bajie negotiates with some coyotes, I mean smugglers, to get himself, Sunny, and M.K. through a porous section. The boys board a reinforced school bus along with other illegals to avoid crossing at an official checkpoint. When they are almost all the way through and some very big doors have been closed and locked behind them, a cloud of white storm troopers surrounds the bus. Apparently the smugglers turnover all the illegals to Baron Chow, who then puts them to work as slaves. When Bajie, Sunny, and M.K. refuse to disembark from the bus, the storm troopers let fly with crossbow bolts until the bus looks like a big metal porcupine. This marks Sunny and M.K.’s ignominious return to the Badlands.
When Sunny shows his clipper tatts to a guard, he gets an audience with Baron Chow. She not only dresses her storm troopers in white, her palace is decorated all in white as well, including classic books bound in white leather. While waiting for her to arrive, Sunny finds an intricately tooled metal bookmark in one of the books, which he pockets. Chow informs him that Quinn is still alive and has formed an alliance with the Widow. They are killing off all of the barons, and Chow believes that she is next. She offers Sunny a job as her regent. He counters; he will use M.K. to lure out the Widow, who will then lead them to Quinn. In exchange, he gets his freedom. Meanwhile, it appears that Sunny has left Bajie hanging, but Sunny manages to slip him the bookmark, though Bajie doesn’t realize it at first. Sunny plans to send someone to infiltrate the Widow’s compound posing as a defector. That mole will feed intel to the Widow that M.K. is being traded, in return for weapons and supplies, to the River King.
Meanwhile, at his underground compound, Baron Quinn contemplates his own demise with a toast. He reveals that he knows he does not have long to live. He dines on a bloody piece of meat that looks like the rarest steak you’ll ever see, but in this place you can’t help but wonder if it is human flesh. He says that he knows that Veil’s treatments for his brain tumor are useless. He is going to marry Veil and adopt Henry as his heir. When Veil protests that she will never agree to marry the man who murdered her parents, Quinn says that he could always raise Henry without her.
Lydia helps get Veil dressed for her wedding. Lydia is a hard one to read: she genuinely seems concerned about Veil and seems to feel sorry for her in this horrible situation. But she’s also clearly not happy about Quinn taking another wife. She’s definitely jealous even as she feels compassion for Veil. Veil breaks down and swears that she cannot go through with this marriage. Lydia pep talks her and reminds her that her son’s safety is at stake. Appropriately enough, Veil’s wedding gown is blood red. Perhaps because Quinn loves to torture Lydia, Lydia conducts the ceremony, which consists of cutting each other’s palms and letting the blood mingle in their clasped hands. This involves giving Veil the knife used to make the wounds, and though she clearly thinks about it, she does not attack Quinn, and goes through with the ceremony.
Lydia takes Henry and tries to escape while Quinn’s clippers drink to celebrate the wedding cut. They don’t get far before one of the clippers catches them. Just then another clipper appears with the news that Sunny is back and he has allied with the Widow. Escape aborted, Lydia runs back to warn Quinn what is happening. She breaks in on Quinn and Veil in the nuptial bed. Only now that Veil is officially married to Quinn does she find out that Sunny is alive and back in the Badlands.
Bajie discovers the book mark that Sunny slipped into his pocket, and uses it to escape from Baron Chow’s cells. He steals a motorcycle, and follows the motorcade that is taking M.K. to the set up where they intend to entrap the Widow. The Widow surrounds the motorcade containing M.K. and she triumphantly throws down the body of the mole. But then Sunny’s blade slides against her throat and he demands that she tell him where Quinn is hiding. Instead, the Widow tells them that she can tell him where Veil and his son Henry are. Allegiances change lightning fast in the Badlands; instead of Sunny and Chow’s clippers against the Widow and her clippers, now it’s Sunny and the Widow against Chow in the fight scene of the episode. It does not disappoint.
The alliance between Quinn and the Widow which began the episode dies, and a new alliance between Sunny and the Widow against Quinn forms. The Widow and Sunny make a good fighting team. The last time we saw these two in a fight scene they were fighting each other. This time they’re fighting next to each other. Since they are the only two groups of people in the Badlands with any redeeming qualities at all, it’s nice to see Sunny, Bajie and M.K. working alongside the Widow, Tillie, and Waldo. It may not be a bunch of superheroes with hearts of gold fighting for truth, justice, and the American way, but it’s better than Quinn and Chow fighting for power, power, and more power. This show is nothing if not a cautionary tale about the horrors and perils attendant upon the unbridled accumulation of power in the hands of a few.