The Badlands Report: The past comes back to haunt (and tries to eat) Sunny

This week’s episode of Into the Badlands, “Blind Cannibal Assassins,” gives us what is labeled on the tin; blind cannibal assassins. However, there is more to these assassins than meets the eye. Yes, I made such an easy-to-reach-for joke. I slightly hate myself for it.

But the joke nicely segues into something I probably should acknowledge, seeing how there are many films and TV shows that showcase disability as a path towards evil (i.e. how disability is routinely used in Star Wars as the litmus test for who becomes the savior of the universe or the Donald Trump of space). As the title of the episode states, Sunny’s main adversaries this go-round are blind assassins. I might be part of the visually impaired community because I am nearsighted, but I’m not blind, so while I might have opinions on how the blind characters were treated in this episode, I’d more than happily defer to the opinions of blind Into the Badlands fans, who would have more credible thoughts than mine on the subject.

Alexandra Moen as Allisito, a blinded woman holding baby Henry.
Alexandra Moen as Allisito (Photo Credit: Aidan Monaghan/AMC)

I will say that because the characters are treated as adversarial and with extremely heightened senses, it does put them in the conversation of how often disabilities, including blindness, are used to showcase extreme exceptionalism (i.e. Chirrut Îmwe from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and extreme evil (i.e. The Blind Man in Don’t Breathe). But the show does provide a backstory for these characters, showing how they became blind at the evil doings of a Waldo when he was a young Clipper and a Sunny, who was just a Colt. Their tragic backstories allow for the viewer to realize the assassins aren’t the people we should be rooting against; instead, we should be empathizing with them. The livelihood they tried to protect in this episode is a livelihood forged from resilient hope.

Sunny had to mow them down to get back to his son, but it was a killing spree that I don’t think Sunny took lightly. Even though there were some occasional clumsy moments with characters being able to “sense” emotion just because of their blindness, I think the characters were handled well. There were many other pitfalls the writers could have fallen into, but I think they avoided many of them.

Most people probably thought I was going to open this review by talking about the long-awaited appearance of Lewis Tan’s Gaius Chau. Believe me, it’s fun to see him onscreen, particularly in a role that actually utilizes his acting and fighting talents to full effect. I feel like this episode was definitely just a taste of what Gaius will bring us throughout the season; we see he’s a skilled ninja as well as a prisoner of his tyrannical sister, Baron Chau. It would seem he’s also a freedom fighter of some sort? We see that he’s imprisoned because he led an uprising, freeing Chau’s cogs. The fight he’s on now–to get the heads of Pilgrim’s Gifted bodyguards–is not one he wants to be on. Judging by how Castor defeated Gaius by possibly breaking his shoulder and injuring him so profusely that he spat blood, it might be a fight Gaius has trouble continuing. But it seems like this could be a fight that Gaius eventually turns into a long-con. Somehow, he might use this mission as a way to come back to Chau ready to defeat her once and for all.

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Lewis Tan as Gaius. He's holding a katana and black ninja clothes.
Lewis Tan as Gaius (Photo Credit: Aidan Monaghan/AMC)

Now onto the main thrust of the episode–Sunny facing his past, a past that could endanger his son’s future. As I’ve said throughout this season, Sunny is on a journey of self-reflection, and the more he comes back to face himself and his actions, he realizes how short-sighted he was to think none of his crimes would come back to bite him in the butt. People do say parenthood changes you because you begin to see life beyond a narrow, selfish viewpoint. Sunny’s definitely going through this growth process, realizing how his past self is something he’s going to have to square away fast, or his son will end up paying the price for Sunny’s sins.

I am liking that with each episode, Sunny becomes more horrified with himself, and his horror allows him to finally open up to his emotions. Essentially, he’s unlearning the extreme form of toxic masculinity he was taught as a Colt, and the unlearning process is doing a number on him. Bey the end of this season, I expect Sunny will be emotionally haggard, but hopefully he’ll be a better person and better father because of it.

Daniel Wu as Sunny. He's wearing a fur-lined coat and holds his sword.
Daniel Wu as Sunny (Photo Credit: Aidan Monaghan/AMC)

It seems like some of Sunny’s lessons are already sticking, since he told Moon he wasn’t going to keep the cycle of “blood for blood” going, not when he had a son to take care of. That resonated with Moon, since he too was once a father. For the sake of Henry, Moon squares away his debt with Sunny and spares his life. But Moon gives him a warning to never return to the Badlands. Of course, somehow Sunny will find his way back to the Badlands before the season is over, but for now, the message is understood.

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Speaking of “blood for blood,” Tilda tries to talk M.K. out of going after Sunny, and it’s something both M.K. and Odessa aren’t here for. Odessa more so, since her willingness to let M.K. go on his journey stems from jealousy. I have a feeling M.K.’s presence and Tilda’s residual feelings for him has now created a wedge between Tilda and Odessa, and it’s a wedge that I feel will affect Odessa for much longer than this one episode. In any case, M.K. is already in trouble on the first leg of his journey, now that he’s about to be captured/rescued by Nix.

Ella-Rae Smith as Nix
Ella-Rae Smith as Nix (Photo Credit: Aidan Monaghan/AMC)

I nearly forgot to mention the diplomatic discussions between Pilgrim, The Widow, Cressida, and Lydia. Both parties came away with useful information; The Widow realized she can’t upset Pilgrim too much since he has the power to turn off the Gift, something that could be useful (or detrimental) to The Widow’s cause. Cressida tried to out-faith talk Cressida and failed, since, to me, Cressida was actually spitting some real knowledge that should be applied to how all religious and spiritual people should approach faith. Faith isn’t supposed to be something that makes you long for the afterlife; it’s supposed to spur you into action to fight for the common good. (Do I believe Cressida is actually for the common good? That’s another story.) Lydia also realized Cressida is good in a fight.

In short, Pilgrim and Cressida aren’t the hacks Lydia and The Widow initially took them for. But Pilgrim is still more than they’ve bargained for. Do I believe he’ll quit seducing The Widow and Lydia’s workers away? Not really. He’ll stop for a while, but he’ll come back after he’s finished with Chau (something he’s keen to do in the promos for next week’s episode).

Babou Ceesay as Pilgrim, Emily Beecham as The Widow
Babou Ceesay as Pilgrim, Emily Beecham as The Widow (Photo Credit: Aidan Monaghan/AMC)

What did you think of this week’s episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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