We like that the show doesn't rely only on its action sequences and martial arts, though spectacular, and establishes a complex web of interlinked plotlines.
Of course, the partner fight scene with Daniel Wu and Nick Frost was still quite thrilling.
There were moments where the pacing dragged a bit, either from exposition or excessive conversation.
The past and future collide for barons, clippers, and criminals alike in a game of wits and skill in 2X02 “Force of Eagle’s Claw”
Even though Sunny was a captive miner in the season two opener, we knew he wasn’t going to stay for long. Our favorite clipper gets things done when he puts his mind to it, and he did just that within the first few minutes of “Force of Eagle’s Claw.” After Bajie realizes the deal he had with The Engineer was never going to happen, he quickly changes sides again and helps Sunny fight Mouse. They escape and cross the plains to find themselves faced with a giant wall separating the Outlying Territories from the Badlands that rivals the Great Wall of China. Bajie hints that he knows people who can get them in, and Sunny reluctantly agrees to travel with him.
M.K. has remained in the temple under the Master’s tutelage, and she immediately throws him into his new training. She takes him to a mirrored room that reminds us of carnival, but the task she has in mind for him is not remotely fun. After inhaling what we can only assume is a mind-altering drug, he comes face-to-face with the dark piece of himself that killed all the cogs on the River King’s ship. When he asks to go back in and defeat his dark self, he realizes that he is no match for him. Not only is his other self a better fighter, but he knows what M.K. is capable as well. The Master manages to bring him back before he suffers a deadly blow, but it is clear this is not a good sign.
After the shocking last minutes of the season 2 premiere revealed Quinn was still alive, we see him rebuilding his empire with the clippers who remained loyal to him after the Fort was taken. We find out that not only did Veil and the baby end up with Quinn, she actually was the one who saved his life. Quinn repays this favor by baptising baby Henry in the old ways, with a bloody display after he stabs the clipper who’s been eyeing Veil in the eye. Meanwhile, the Totemists are attacked by nomads during a wedding, Lydia kills them but earns the wrath of her father. She goes to Ryder to ask for him to protect them as his father once did, but she can’t resist trying to take some control over his baronship. She is rewarded with ejection out of his home with no protection promise, while her son decides to request a conclave with all the barons except The Widow.
Waldo, who is now aligned with The Widow, has been training Tilda on how to be the regent. He makes it clear that he does not approve of her unsanctioned mission with the rogue clippers, and reminds her that what made Sunny the best was his unswaying loyalty. He wonders what has come of his former trainee, and Tilda has her own question about M.K.’s fate. Later, Waldo gets wind of the conclave and suggests she attend to plead her case. When asked what he would recommend if they decide against her, he happily recommends they kill her all.
We’re starting to get a picture of the uphill battles each of our favorite characters must face this season, but we don’t quite know yet how they will overcome them. Let’s break down what we learned this week and see if we can divine the future, shall we?
Lydia has faced rejection by all the men in her life, and she must carve a path for herself to survive
You’ve got to feel sorry for Lydia. First, Quinn rejects her for the love of a younger woman while she tries desperately to hold her family together. Then, the bride-to-be turns around and frames her for an assassination attempt, getting her banished from the Fort forever. She crawls her way back to her father, who put her through the ringer before accepting her back. Six months later, she is just settling in when nomads attack the tribe during a wedding. With the others kneeling and accepting the abuse, Lydia (Orla Brady) takes action and manages to kill both men all on her own. What is her reward for trying to defend her tribe? Disdain from her father. Despite this, Lydia tries approach Ryder (Oliver Stark) to indirectly secure protection, but after making the mistake of offending his ego, he throws her out of his house.
Lydia: “The gods will bless you for this.”
Ryder: “Oh, you know I’m not the religious type.”
Lydia: “Yeah, but your Cogs are. Almost half of them worship the same gods we do. Showing you’re a friend to the Totemists will help pacify your own workers.”
Ryder: “And who says they’re not already? News travels slower out in the wilds, but even I’ve heard the stories Cogs abandoning your poppy fields to go work for The Widow? I’m handling The Widow.”
Lydia: “But that’s not what people think. Remember what I taught you, you have to either make them love you, or fear you. Perhaps I could help. Teach you to think more like a Baron.”
Ryder: “Well, I am a Baron! And I am a damn good one. I don’t need anyone’s help, especially yours.”
Lydia: “Such ingratitude and arrogance.”
Ryder: “Arrogance? Last time I saw you, Mother, you told me I wouldn’t last a month without you. Let’s see if your Totemists can last that long without me. One of my Cogs will see you out.”
While many might fall apart after being rejected by her father, her husband, and her son, Lydia is a self-made woman. She is someone who caught the eye of one of the most dangerous clippers of her time, married him and became a baroness, and managed to protect her family for decades. This is not someone who just rolls over and waits to die; she will forge a new life for herself however she must. Now that all the men in her life have disappointed her, we have no doubt that this formidable woman will claw her way back to the top. Is it possible that she will eventually seek refuge with The Widow, another woman scorned by the men around her? What if she finds out Quinn is alive? Will she convince him to take her back? With her, anything is possible, but we definitely won’t be underestimating her.
Quinn is most definitely alive and ready to reclaim his title with whatever bloody means necessary
Our collective jaws dropped during the last minutes of the last episode when it was revealed that Veil (Madeleine Mantock) not only gave birth,but that Quinn served as her midwife. We find out this week that not only is he alive, he’s already planning to reclaim his baronship. Having gathered all the loyal clippers who stayed with him after the Fort was taken, Quinn (Marton Csokas) has taken refuge in West Avalon and reinitiated his clipper training program. We also discover that Veil was in fact the one that saved his life yet again, and he repaid her by offering his protection for her and the baby. Of course, this comes with a price, as he makes it clear that he sees baby Henry as his property. He goes so far as to baptize the child, making his claim publicly known and securing it by threatening anyone who considers going after Veil with death.
Quinn: “All ready for his baptism tonight? He still needs fresh air and sunlight.”
Veil: “If I could just take him out for a little while.”
Quinn: “Well, I wish that were possible.”
Veil: “Please, Quinn. You can’t keep us here forever.”
Quinn: “Why, you make it sound like you’re a prisoner. Veil, be sensible, we both know how dangerous it is for you out there. Sunny left behind so many enemies, perturbs me to think what might happen if one ever got their hands on his child.”
Veil: “It’s time for his nap.”
Quinn: “Of course. Hmm. Sweet dreams, my prince. That boy is lucky to have you, Veil. We both are. Some evenings I, I lie awake, thinking what might have become of me if you hadn’t found me that night Sunny abandoned you.”
Veil: “Sunny didn’t abandon me.”
Quinn: “Then he must be dead. That’s the only explanation. Please, Veil, without each other, we’d both be dead, too. I, I owe you my life for sewing me back up. All I want is to return the favor. I got a feeling this child is destined for great things.”
Quinn may owe Veil a life debt, but it doesn’t mean that keeping her safe is entirely altruistic on his part. Ryder’s betrayal no doubt stings, and Sunny is in his sights for trying to kill him. We suspect he’s claiming Henry to make him a pawn to negotiate with once Sunny returns, because despite what he says, he believes his former regent is alive. Marton Csokas’s impressive performance makes our skin crawl every time he interacts with Veil, but we also admire the steely determination to take back what’s his. Considering how very dead he seemed to be in last season’s finale, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar pulled off a stunning twist by bringing him back. As for this season, Quinn’s going to make things very interesting, since we know he is nothing if not a strategist. He could be the dark horse in this game, and we’re excited to see what happens next.
Bajie can guide Sunny back into the Badlands, but only if they don’t kill each other first
After Bajie (Nick Frost) throws him to the wolves for his own benefit, we don’t blame Sunny (Daniel Wu) for being furious with him. His revenge comes from an unexpected source, but not without some literal strings attached. Once in the fighting arena, The Engineer quickly turns on Bajie by chaining him to Sunny and forcing them to face off against the ironically named Mouse. Sunny is too determined to escape to be deterred by this, and smartly uses his new fighting partner to his advantage. Sunny bears the brunt of the attacks and ends up nearly getting his head chopped off by a huge revolving fan, but Bajie comes to the rescue with some surprise moves of his own. The pair make their way out of the mines, and after the con artist shows off his survival and lockpicking skills, Sunny reluctantly (and we mean really reluctantly) agrees to travel with him.
Bajie: “Why don’t you try hitting it harder? What? Why are you mad at me? You’re the one who was going to leave me there to rot. Maybe it’s true what they say about Clippers. No conscience, no heart, no honor.”
Sunny: “I’m not a Clipper anymore.”
Bajie: “Mmm. What are you then? Why don’t you try a different rock?”
Sunny: “I don’t see you helping.”
Bajie: “Of course I’m helping. Not gonna get anywhere on an empty stomach, are we? How you planning on finding this woman of yours anyway? If she’s anywhere, she’s in the Badlands. Ah, then you’re in luck. ‘Cause I’m going that way myself. Seriously. Got a bit of unfinished business there.”
Sunny: “What kind of business?”
Bajie: “What, so you get to be all mysterious and silent and I’ve got to give you my personal soliloquy? Nah.”
Sunny: “Just get back to your rat. I don’t need your help.”
Bajie: “Oh, really? You got any idea where you are? Huh? Could be outlying territories – Makes the Badlands look like the goddamn greatlands. Trying to get out of here alone is just useless as smashing a chain with a rock.”
All of us would admit that we tune in week after week to watch Daniel Wu perform incredible martial arts stunts, but we have to say we’re impressed by the moves Nick Frost showed us as Bajie this week. We know Frost can do some fast talking based on his previous performances, but seeing him do so while kicking some ass was a real treat. The fight scene between Sunny and Bajie and Mouse was incredibly well choreographed, and the rigging done by Ronan Kearns and Chris Manger helped to keep the sequences so smooth that we can’t tell where the martial arts starts and the stunt work ends. We really like that Gough and Millar made sure that Bajie would not just challenge Sunny mentally but also be decent in a fight. This makes us look forward to seeing more of this pair as they come together for a common goal.
Final Verdict: Into the Badlands 2X02 “Force of Eagle’s Claw” is setting up the chess game for this season, and we can tell it’s going to be good
With so many paths carved in this complex landscape, “Force of Eagle’s Claw” offered a roadmap of sorts to what’s coming up ahead. We still get the fighting we insist upon in every episode, but there’s also the laying of what will become the foundation for the rest of the season. We get a peek at the events that will motivate our characters, but also the challenges that they will face. While it can be hard to work through the slower parts with a show filled with so much action and stunt work, Into the Badlands delivers a mostly successful attempt with this week’s episode.
With as many loose ends as this episode left, there’s no doubt we’re left with things to wonder about. At the very least, just what is this dark self M.K. is harboring, and where did it come from? How is he to defeat it when it’s superior in fighting and strength? What about Tilda? She may be The Widow’s regent, but facing off against six other barons at a conclave while possibly outnumbered can’t bode well for such a young clipper.
While “Force of Eagle’s Claw” was an intriguing episode, there were moments where the pace slowed down a little too much. There seemed to be moments that seemed a bit dragged out, such as when Sunny and Bajie are walking through the grasslands. Others were a tad bit too expository, like the scene between Waldo and Tilda when they discuss what makes a successful regent.
Overall, this week’s episode was a decently strong follow-up to the excitement generated by last week’s premiere. While it did not contain as much of the fighting as we’re used to, it was an important transitional episode as it guides us through the storylines that we can expect for season two. The occasional slow pacing wasn’t so much of a distraction that we didn’t enjoy the episode in general. We were particularly impressed with Aramis Knight‘s portrayal of both a terrified M.K. and his darker, dangerous self.
With so many of our favorite characters losing everything they’ve ever known, we know they’ll be fighting to get back what’s theirs. This means we can expect growth and learning from each of them, and maybe even in ways we never expected. This helps avoid the season two lull that plagues some of the great starter shows, so we’re waiting to see how Into the Badlands handles this dilemma.
We know once Sunny gets back into the Badlands his reputation will precede him and he will be forced back into his old clipper ways. If Quinn’s alive, then we can expect Sunny’s got a price on his head that will have every nomad and clipper alike looking for him (not to mention, a really pissed off Engineer). He’s going to have to fight in more ways than one to get back to those he loves, and we’re clearing our schedule to watch him do it!
Can a huge wall contain the questions we have after this episode? We think not!
- What is this business Bajie has in the Badlands? Could he be thinking of turning Sunny in?
- Who or what is this dark self within M.K. and how long has it been there?
- Could M.K.’s mind hold the key to where his mother is?
- Why was the wall built and who does Bajie know who will get them in?
- What is Lydia going to do now that she’s essentially on her own?
- Will the other barons align with Ryder, or will they choose to mind their own business?
- What does Quinn really want with Veil and Henry?
- Does Bajie ever stop talking? Will he run out of things to say or will he just start over?
- Are we the only ones who think that wall is a little overkill? It’s ridiculous tall…
- Is it bad we’re a little jealous of The Widow’s residence? It’s so beautiful!
Into the Badlands airs next SUNDAY, APRIL 2ND, 2017 at 10/9C on AMC
Into the Badlands 2X02 “Force of Eagle’s Claw” Review