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Into the Badlands: “Wolf’s Breath, Dragon Fire”

Into the Badlands, S2 E10: “Wolf’s Breath, Dragon Fire “
Written by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, and Matt Lambert
Directed by Paco Cabezas

“I hate sidekicks.”

In the head-scratching, WTF Season Two finale of Into the Badlands, many lives were lost but I’m not sure they were all characters. One wonders if the producers fired all of this season’s writers and plan to start all over with a new crew next year, since this bunch has clearly lost their shit. Plenty of heads rolled in this episode’s fight scenes – did some of them belong to the writers?

In all fairness, this series’ creators have clearly decided not to risk letting the show fall into a formulaic rut. The final scene indicates that the show will be taking a new direction with Season Three. This week’s show felt like we entered some kind of post-apocalyptic Alice-in-Wonderland-with-swords parallel universe.

If the actor who plays Quinn cannot find a job after Badlands, he can certainly get a job with one of those mega-churches. The man channels the Old Testament God better than any preacher in a revival tent could. He whips up his men into such a state that even Lydia’s revelation that he has rigged the entire underground bunker to explode, killing all of them, fails to cool their suicidal loyalty to him. Lydia’s refusal to die with him constitutes a betrayal that he cannot forgive. He sentences her to dig her own grave, before his clippers execute her and put her in it.

Never the obedient wife, however, Lydia refuses to go quietly into that good night. She kills one of her would be executioners and thwacks the other one before running away. After the second one catches up with her but before he deals the deathblow, Sunny shows up and throws a knife into the assassin’s head. Lydia warns him that Quinn has set up explosives throughout the underground bunker, and that Quinn knows he’s coming and is prepared to kill himself and everybody else in order to thwart Sunny. Sunny gives Lydia a big dagger, and leaves for the inevitable final conflict with Quinn. Thus the showdown between two men who were once close and are now enemies begins.

At the Widow’s compound, Waldo asks what the Widow did with Tillie and castigates her for her actions. Like Veil, Odessa, and Tillie, he says that she is just another bad baron; she just has good spin. The Widow has spent this whole season becoming a lot less likable than she used to be. Now she attempts to cultivate M.K. so that she can use him to get her gift back. M.K. insists that he doesn’t want it back, and holds some shears to his own throat. If he does get his gift back, he vows to use it to kill her. She makes a deal with him: she’s willing to risk death if he wins, but if she wins she gets to use him to do what she wants. She forces Bajie to translate the Azra book and throws him in a cell. Luckily for him, Tillie wakes up in the next cell, barfing blood all over the place. Bajie introduces himself as a friend of M.K.’s, so when Odessa comes to break Tillie out of the jail, Tillie insists that she release Bajie too. The three of them hotwire a truck and just as they are about to escape the Widow’s compound, a bowler-hatted clipper stops them. Waldo rolls up in his wheelchair at just the opportune moment. He orders the clipper to let them leave. Tillie asks him to come along with them, but for some reason he stays with the Widow. Tillie and Odessa part ways with Bajie when he goes to help Sunny at Quinn’s bunker.

Sunny rolls up on Quinn’s bunker and walks right in. Lydia was right; Quinn is ready and waiting. He’s holding baby Henry in his arms and surrounded by clippers holding crossbows loaded with flaming bolts. Sunny manages to deflect most of the crossbow bolts with his sword and some Olympic-quality gymnastics, but he takes two hits, one to the chest and one to the leg. Quinn takes one of the crossbows and aims it at Sunny, but instead of firing at him, he shoots the explosive bomb attached to the wall. Part of the room collapses on top of Sunny.

It wouldn’t be Badlands without Bajie saving Sunny’s ass at least once or twice a show. In fact, for Season Three, I think we should institute a subtitle: Into the Badlands; the Sidekick Files. Of course, we could just create a spinoff in which Bajie dials up some alien intelligence, takes off in a flying telephone booth, and saves the world. But more about that later.

This is the season finale, so a lot of bloodshed fits the norm. It does not disappoint. Each episode this season seems to highlight a particular kind of fight. This particular episode seems to specialize in lots of limb severing and arterial blood sprays, along with a fair number of decapitations. Plus we get to see Bajie work the nun-chucks! Nothing’s ever over until the fat man swings.

After Sunny and Bajie cut each of Quinn’s clippers into multiple pieces, Sunny finds Veil and breaks her out. Ah, true love’s kiss! Sunny and Veil engage in an extended lip lock as the music swells. Of course during the snogging, Sunny forgets to watch his back, and Bajie has to save him again. Bajie engages in an extended battle with Quinn’s chief nasty, ultimately cutting the man’s throat with a shard of glass. Unfortunately he takes a pair of scissors in the side. As he mutters his frustration and disbelief that he could die from being stabbed with a pair of scissors, he talks about how he was going to save the world. Say what? But more about that later.

Sunny and Veil find Quinn holding baby Henry. Quinn refuses to give him up. Quinn sets off all the explosives that he has rigged in the room, and apparently he’s the worst bomb-maker ever, because they all survive. An M-80 would have been more dangerous. The long-awaited epic battle between Sunny and Quinn goes badly for Sunny; though he gets Quinn’s sword away from him, Quinn pulls out two long daggers and succeeds in stabbing Sunny in the side, and then knocking him unconscious. He then whips around and throws a knife at Veil as she tries to escape with Henry. The knife catches her in the leg and she goes down, but somehow does not drop the baby. This threat to his family rouses Sunny and he fights Quinn again. This time he impales Quinn. Twice. It’s beginning to look like Quinn is just plain unkillable. Quinn makes a damn good villain, the kind that’s hard to follow. I suspect that’s why the character was resurrected for Season Two even though he supposedly died at the end of Season One. In a show like this, where there are so many dastardly people, it’s helpful to have one monumentally evil dude to create a focal point.

For the first time this season, Sunny reunites with both Veil and the newborn son that he’s never met. The reunion doesn’t last long though, because Quinn somehow still survives. He grabs Veil and holds a blade to her throat, telling Sunny that he can either have Veil or Henry, but not both. Veil indicates that Sunny should take the baby and go. She grabs the knife that Quinn is holding on her and shoves it through her own body and into his throat. As she lays dying she tells Sunny to teach Henry to be good. Sunny buries her and then leaves with Henry.

Despite his kvetching, Bajie still lives. He rides Sunny’s motorcycle to a stone tower on the coast, with what looks like a room full of defunct radio equipment in it. He puts the Azra Compass in the Azra book and puts the whole thing into this machine, which starts it up. The season ends with Bajie whispering “Azra” as the machinery sends out a signal in what sounds like Morse code, saying god knows what to god knows whom.

Talk about surprise endings. Did Bajie just save the Badlands? Who the fuck did he just contact? My ongoing jokes about Badlands being The Bajie Show now seem a lot more prescient than I realized. Are they also going to spinoff a reality show in which every week contestants try and kill Quinn in brutal and inventive ways, and every week he survives anyway? It could be called Really Super Ultimate Ultimate Survivor. Almost a year and a half passed between Season One and Season Two of this series. They may need that much time again in order to figure out where the hell they are going with this. And if all those rolling, decapitated heads really did belong to this season’s writers, they are going to have a hell of a time with recruitment.

Grade: B+

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Amy Anna was raised by wolves. She spends all her time eating and watching movies while lying on the couch . Her animal totem is the velociraptor.

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