The Badlands Report: Things are kinda serious, kinda funny in “Black Wind Howls”


This most recent episode of Into the Badlands, “Black Wind Howls,” is interesting, since it seems like an episode that’s part filler, part story plotting. On the storyline side, we are now introduced to Bajie’s ex-wife, Lily (Sophia Di Martino). We also learned that Sunny was on Lily’s riverboat as a child, and whoever locked his power was on that riverboat with him. And, sadly, we had to say goodbye to Castor, who Pilgrim put down like a dog. It was sad, and I realize he was putting Castor out of his misery, but was Castor’s life Pilgrim’s to take? Just thinking out loud here.

Babou Ceesay as Pilgrim, Dean-Charles Chapman as Castor (Aidan Monaghan/AMC)
Babou Ceesay as Pilgrim, Dean-Charles Chapman as Castor (Aidan Monaghan/AMC)

Anyways, the filler part of the episode came in the form of characterization being a little all over the place. For one, Sunny had a small sense of humor in this episode, which is not out of bounds for him, but it’s extremely rare for him to crack a joke (even if it’s so dry you can’t tell it’s a joke). Second, Lily seemed to be all over the place. I get she’s a scorned woman, but she just came off as both one note and scattershot. Like, one minute, she hates children. The next minute she’s yelling at Bajie. Then she’s nice to Sunny before completely turning on a dime and mildly accosting him for asking her questions. One moment she’s getting drunk with Bajie, and then the next she’s shoving him away. Now, I’m got getting on her for shoving him away–let’s be clear about that. All I’m saying is that there was no throughline for her character. She was kinda written in a way Chi Chi from Dragonball Z is usually stereotypically written, which is loud and insufferable (and I’m saying that as someone who actually likes Chi Chi. Toriyama never does her any type of justice in my view, but that’s another story).

Sophia Di Martino as Lily (Aidan Monaghan/AMC)
Sophia Di Martino as Lily (Aidan Monaghan/AMC)

The main reason this show seemed like filler is because even though stuff happened, it still felt like nothing happened. Maybe that was because there were actually comedic fight scenes, another rarity for this show. On the one hand, the comedic moments were fun, particularly in the first fight scene of the episode, since I was getting shades of Jackie Chan humor. On the other hand, the light moments just made the episode feel slightly disjointed. The second, more serious fight had diminishing returns on the humor since there were some gruesome moments. I don’t know if I need a reaction shot of Lily grimacing in a comedic way at someone getting their head chopped off or receiving a spike through their neck.

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However, the B and C plots provided some gems that were easy to forget among the fights and the ex-wife and the flashbacks. For instance, Cressida and Pilgrim had a legitimate argument over Castor. Cressida sent Castor out into the world to give him one last opportunity to be a warrior, since she probably expected for him to die on the battlefield. Meanwhile Pilgrim wanted to keep Castor safe and spare him any further indignities. Cressida knows Castor’s time is coming, and she wants Pilgrim to accept it, but Pilgrim views her actions as disloyalty. The way she reacted to him lets me know that she’s not going to forget his threat, and as I said with Moon after the Widow accosted him, Pilgrim might have sealed his fate.

Lorraine Toussaint as Cressida (Aidan Monaghan/AMC)
Lorraine Toussaint as Cressida (Aidan Monaghan/AMC)

In any event, the argument shows that Cressida and Pilgrim have different ideas about what honor means. For Cressida, there’s honor in service, even if that service means death. In a way, she’s more for the cause than Pilgrim, since she not only says she has no fear of death (perhaps her understanding of the veil between life and death is different since she’s a priestess), but she also sees what the path to Asra requires. Maybe she saw Castor’s death in that journey, who knows.

For Pilgrim, though, there’s honor in loyalty, which might be his Achilles’ Heel. In fact, that the Achilles’ Heel for every powerful person in the Badlands. Requiring loyalty in a leadership position only translates to securing absolute power. Everyone wants to rule, so everyone’s power-hungry, even a zealot like Pilgrim. I think he’s less power-hungry than the other barons, but still, his relationship with power is something he’ll have to work on if he wants to truly lead his people to the promised land.

The other shoe to drop this episode was Odessa breaking up with Tilda. We thought Odessa was ride-or-die, but apparently, she’s only that up to a point. She would like for Tilda to run away with her and forget her life of fighting, but Tilda wants to fight to regain control of the Badlands for the refugees. In order to do that, she has to help the Widow defeat Chau. But after all of the bloodshed Odessa’s been a part of, she just wants out. So she does just that.

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I’m sure this is not the last time we’ll see Odessa, but I hope Tilda doesn’t immediately go running back to MK or try to persuade him from his path, because that’s not going to happen, nor will it help her. MK has his own trajectory to follow, which right now includes partnering up with Pilgrim (and it seems like he has an emerging relationship with Nix somehow).

Aramis Knight as M.K., Babou Ceesay as Pilgrim, Ella-Rae Smith as Nix (Aidan Monaghan/AMC)
Aramis Knight as M.K., Babou Ceesay as Pilgrim, Ella-Rae Smith as Nix (Aidan Monaghan/AMC)

To me, it seems like Tilda kinda floats from trajectory to trajectory in a way. First, she was the Widow’s Regent before becoming disillusioned and running off with Odessa to start a band of rogue fighters (who ended up getting killed thanks to Tilda and Odessa), and then they go to Lydia’s refugee camp and somehow become the leaders of the camp, just for Tilda to go back to the Widow. I feel like Tilda doesn’t really know who she is. Maybe working to free the refugees will help her find her way, but she needs to concentrate and figure out just what type of person–and what type of leader–she wants to become.

The final surprise is that the River King (Lance Nichols) returns! He started the episode thinking he was going to be in control and gather the bounty on Sunny and Bajie’s heads. But, as we knew would happen, Sunny turned the tables and now thanks to some of Sunny’s persuasion (i.e. a spike dragged down his face), the River King will help Sunny make it to Pilgrim so his child can be healed. We’re getting ever closer to what should be a very intense meeting.

Lance Nichols as River King, Daniel Wu as Sunny (Aidan Monaghan/AMC)
Lance Nichols as River King, Daniel Wu as Sunny (Aidan Monaghan/AMC)

So that’s what I’ve got for this week! What did you think of the episode? Tell me about it in the comments section!

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