I understand I haven’t written about Into the Badlands in a while. Life happens, everyone–more than I’m letting on in this sentence. I’m planning on writing notes on the series as a whole after the Season Finale. But until then, let’s all ogle at Daniel Wu in amazing Into the Badlands costuming.
Maybe it’s just that Wu-as-Sunny just looks great when he’s dressed by the baronesses (Chau, whose color is white, and The Widow, whose color is blue). Baronesses seem to have a lot more style than the barons, and I wonder if that was a specific gendered choice by the Into the Badlands team.
Wu has redeeming qualities aside from his good looks an looking fabulous in tailored clothes. He’s the executive producer of Into the Badlands, for one, and he’s had a storied career in Hong Kong, starting out as a model and falling into acting after being discovered by film director Yonfan. After starring in 60 films, he’s become known as the “young Donnie Yen” (and indeed, it’d be amazing if an English-language film for the American market starring both Yen and Wu was made–I’d have a front row seat).
Voice your love for Daniel Wu below in the comments section!
Into the Badlands, Season 2 | Episode 3, “Red Sun, Silver Moon” | Aired Apr. 2, 2017
Into the Badlands is a show that just keeps getting better and better each episode. As Daniel Wu said in his recent interview with Nerds of Color, he wanted to bring Hong Kong-style martial arts to America, and I dare say he and the entire Into the Badlands team have more than succeeded.
Speaking of Geeks of Color, apparently my Sunny/Veil Twitter call-out got a shout-out in the article! That was a shock! I also didn’t even know about it at first–Alice Wong of The Disability Visibility Project DM’ed me about it. First, I’m flattered the Geeks of Color saw fit to include one of my random call-outs in their article. Second, I’m jealous they got to talk to Wu. I gotta get in on that…Hey, Daniel, if you read this, hit me up on Twitter; I’ve got a ton of questions to ask you about this season.
One of those questions is if Sunny’s unkempt hair was a sly nod to Bruce Lee. I remember that folks on Twitter caught that the Master’s room of mirrors was a callback to Lee in the classic Enter the Dragon, so during Episode 4’s airing, I started wondering if Sunny’s hair wasn’t also a callback to Lee himself. Compare Sunny’s outgrown hair/mustache/goatee combo to Lee’s hair/mustache/goatee combo:
If so, that’s pretty sneaky, sis. Or it could just be me reading too much into the looks that have been served on this show so far since 1) any man can have that hair and 2) if it was going to be an overt homage, maybe Wu’s hair probably would have been more mushroomy–since Sunny’s on the run, he clearly hasn’t been to any barber shops to get layers cut into his hair (although he knows how to give himself a mean buzzcut). However, this show is no stranger to detailed references–for instance, Wu said on Twitter that Sunny’s kill number of 404 is directly related to the Chinese meaning of the number 4, which means death. And I also still have questions about Sunny’s durag, seeing how much of a hip-hop head Wu is in real life, plus how much he’s repped the cross-cultural influences of the black diaspora on this show, so who knows how many in-jokes and references are laced into this show without our knowledge.
Anyways, this was most definitely a Sunny-centric episode. Despite the episode having tons of action, it was very much an introspective look at Sunny, a man of few words, coming to terms with the person he could become. That person was Nathaniel aka Silver Moon (Sherman Augustus), a former Clipper who had found redemption with his wife and child. Or so he thought, until he came home one day and found that his former employer had killed them. Now, he roams the outlying lands almost like a wayward ronin. He’s someone’s who’s definitely lost tough with reality as well as his hope to ever have a normal life. He tells Sunny that Sunny, too, will suffer the same fate he’s suffered and that if he cares for Veil and his child at all, he won’t go looking for them, since trying to rescuing them will, in Nathaniel’s world, will only lead them to death.
However, Sunny’s not about to let that get in his head; he’s determined to get his family back from the Badlands’ clutches, and he quickly realizes that he and Bajie need to get out of Nathaniel’s lair as soon as possible.
But Nathaniel couldn’t leave well enough alone. He had been itching to fight Sunny the whole time after the both of them defeated the bounty hunters trailing Sunny and Bajie, and, like a spider toying with a fly in its web, he’d been housing Sunny and Bajie in order to get close to Sunny for one last good fight, a fight Nathaniel assumed would either send him to the gods or allow him to add Sunny to his kill tats as his golden thousandth’s kill.
It’s an amazing fight, ending with our guy defeating Nathaniel. But Sunny never wanted to kill him, and he still doesn’t. When he’s denied his honorable death (or assisted suicide, depending on how you look at it), Nathaniel goes to kill Sunny, enraged. But just as he’s about to strike Sunny, Bajie comes through with some boomerang blade action, slicing off Nathaniel’s hand.
Finally defeated, Nathaniel lets Sunny and Bajie go, still warning to Sunny about how his family will die because of him. Sunny can only look at this crumpled mess of a person and, while seeing some of himself reflected back, he defiantly says he’s not going to rest until he gets his family back. In a way, that’s also him saying he’s going to do whatever it takes not to let himself become Nathaniel.
Meanwhile, MK has been the same over-curious boy, getting his nose into things he has no business getting into. His god-like bunkmate, Tate (Jordan Bolger) tried to escape, and now the monks have to “cleanse” him, which means he has to endure a very painful process to get his special abilities taken away from him. I’m not sure how Tate is going to be afterwards, since he defined himself and his worth by his gift (remember, his clan worshipped him). Anyways, MK now believes the Master is lying to all of them and is scared of them. One could make the comparison of the Master’s deceit to the Ancient One’s deceit in Doctor Strange. However, the Master also has the same powers, so I don’t know why MK thinks the Master is afraid of them. Also, the Master has been trying to teach MK how to control his powers; the only reason she stopped the lessons is because he’d kill himself inside his own mind. Just because MK’s not strong enough yet doesn’t mean that the Master’s lying to him. Now, I would like to see the Master give an explanation for this “cleansing” stuff, though, since some stuff is starting to look suspect. But I don’t think the Master is being deceitful, unlike the Ancient One, who was totally deceitful in a major way.
Back in the Badlands, Veil is still taking care of Quinn, much to our confusion, until we see that she’s been lying to him the whole time. While she keeps showing him a healthy X-ray, his tumor is actually getting bigger every passing day. She’s just waiting for him to die. That’s a good plan, but it’d be an even better plan if she burned those doggone X-rays, because I don’t want her to lose Quinn’s trust, seeing how that’s the only thing keeping both her and Henry alive right now. Keeping those things in an unlocked drawer isn’t good enough, even if it is in a specialized X-ray development room.
Quinn’s still being Quinn, but he’s also…changing? I’m not saying he’s the bee’s knees all of a sudden, but if he were the same Quinn we knew from the past season, he would have killed that guy who tried to escape. However, as a parallel to the monks who used violent means to control their underlings, Quinn actually gives this dude another chance. Of course, it wasn’t without some violence, since Quinn challenged the dude to cut him to prove his mettle. But the guy is still alive to tell the tale, and that’s more than we can say for the guy last week, who got stabbed through the eye for eyeing Veil.
Finally, The Widow is preparing for her showdown with the other Barons. Talking and being charming isn’t her strongest suit; she’s much more experienced in convincing people through her actions. But she has decided to take Waldo, not Tilda, as her second, despite Tilda being Regent. Perhaps it’s because Waldo is adept in talking politics; he helped Sunny in much the same way while still with Quinn, but his political mind can be put to much better use with The Widow, who does heed his counsel in a different way than Sunny did. (In some ways, Sunny’s a bit of a meathead, whereas The Widow uses her cunning and wit in, well, a more womanly–read: highly intelligent–fashion.)
The show ends right when we’re about to see this conference of sorts convene at Ryder and Jade’s residence. It’s supposed to be all talk, but we all know there’s not going to be much talking once someone gets offended.
• Is Jade a gold-digger or not? Ryder was her first love, and it’s not like she could turn down Quinn and think she could live afterwards. But something about her still seems…slimy? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because of how easily she was able to disgrace Lydia. But, again, she also had to do what she needed to to survive. So…IDK. Old-school Kanye once again comes in handy to explain situations, because I’m not saying Jade’s a gold-digger, but she ain’t messing with no broke….baron.
• Speaking of the upcoming barons, the next episode is going to be the one in which we meet Baroness Chau (Eleanor Matsuura) and Baron Hassan (Alan Wai). This is the second Asian female character we’ll have on the show, with Chipo Chung’s Master being the first (as well as the first black female warrior we’ve seen).
One thing that’s highly ironic about the show is that while it is intensely diverse, it’s severely lacked in Asian women. Perhaps this is from an overzealousness to right the wrongs black women characters have suffered in all forms of media (not to beat a dead horse, but again, I direct you to Wu’s anger towards the ending of Romeo Must Die). Perhaps it’s also from an overzealousness to portray white women as more than just stereotypical white privilege damsels, something the show does to varying degrees, depending on if you’re referring to a character like Jade, who still exists in that white privilege-plantation wife mode, or The Widow and Tilda, who never identified with such markers, or Lydia, who is now somewhere in between now that she’s been stripped of her plantation wife status.
Whatever the reason, the problem of a lack of Asian women in this world still remains. So, it’s good to see Chau come in this episode. Let’s hope we don’t see the last of her in this episode as well.
• Both Chau and Hassan are our first Asian barons, which opens up the world nicely to that barons don’t have to just be white. One of the things I liked about the first season was that it answered my question about if white folks were the only ones who could be barons, harkening back to America’s slavery past. For most of the season, it seemed that answer was “Yes,” until Jacobee came along. But even then, it seemed like a twist on a slavery past, in a similar vein to how Sunny and Veil are righting the wrongs of Jet Li and Aaliyah’s relationship in Romeo Must Die, it seemed like the writing was attempting to show us what a black man with power equal to that of a plantation owner could look like. It was an interesting mental exercise, to be sure, one that I wished lasted longer. Jacobee certainly could have stood to have more time on screen. Now, with Chau and Hassan, the picture is being painted even more clearly that anyone can become a baron, as long as you know how to fight for what you want.
(By the way, those two photos are from next week’s episode. Technically, you’re probably not supposed to show photos from upcoming episodes in a recap for the current episode, but who cares? I’m doing it.)
• The set photographer’s field day: Into the Badlands is, of course, a show with some very gorgeous action scenes. But it’s also just a gorgeous show in general, so much so that set photographer Antony Platt had a field day just taking artistic photos of the actors, the Irish setting, and anything else Platt thought was worthy of a photo click. Just take a look at some of the photos that will certainly go in Platt’s photography portfolio.
At the risk of sounding like an elitist art school graduate, I don’t know if this gallery means much to non-artists, aside from the fact that you get more shots of the episode in this recap than you bargained for. But if you take a look at all of the press photos for this episode as well as the upcoming one, you can see the Platt is taking full advantage of his various subject matter and is acting like a kid in a candy store with these angles, compositions, portraits, and straight-up landscape shots that really have no purpose for a recapper, but all of the meaning for someone interested in photography and fine art in general.
The nail in the coffin regarding Platt having tons of fun being an artist on set is that the particular profile shot I used of Sunny in this recap is a duplicate–he took a second photo from the horizontal orientation, while the one I used is from the vertical. If I’m reading Platt right, he decided to go vertical because he’d get more of Daniel Wu’s body, which in turn gives more weight and pathos to the overall portrait. Also, he took advantage of the increased red-orange light, which is less strong on the horizontal picture. The horizontal one (the one I used for the featured image on the front page) gets the job done, but the vertical one has more subtle artistic touches.
Okay, art class over. Keep up the good work Platt, and keep that portfolio full.
That’s about it on this recap. What did you think of the episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
Into the Badlands Season 2 | Episode 2, “Force of Eagle’s Claw” | Aired March 26, 2017
Let’s start at the ending this time around: Quinn is a creepy mo-fo.
I don’t think I have words that express just how twisted Quinn is. He’s like any twisted plantation owner turned up to 11. Heck, I think he rates even higher than 11. Quinn has serious problems and he needs some help. But at the end of the day, I don’t think he wants help: I think he’s forgotten about the existence of his soul for decades and now all he uses to fill his empty space is power. Right now, that power comes from having Veil and baby Henry at his side. Veil and Henry feed his ego and that empty, sad space inside him much more than all of his loyal clippers and revenge plan do, which says a lot about the power and strength of Veil herself, but it also says a lot about how, as twisted as Quinn is, one thing he seems to desperately want, in his own way, is a family to call his own.
This duality is probably why Martin Coskas loves playing Quinn; there are always a lot of layers to explore with the evil characters because the challenge is finding their humanity. I’m no actor, but I know that to play or write a good villain, you’ve got to find and honor that small kernel of humanity they still have somewhere.
Enough of my Actors Masterclass. Let’s get back to talking about how creepy Quinn is. What’s upped the creep factor this go-round is just how much he’s into Veil. Look, Veil is a woman everyone who’s in their right mind should love. I’ll even go so far to admit that the lengths Quinn will go to protect Veil and the baby is…cute?? Maybe I’m the one going a bit out of my head right now. Don’t get me wrong; seeing him kill that dude through his eye was horrifying. But seeing Veil taken care of, whether by Sunny or by Quinn, hits at a place in my mind that realizes that black women aren’t usually put in this kind of damsel position. That alone is something noteworthy. HOWEVER, Quinn’s adoration over Veil is just as unwanted as it was to see Scar make Sarabi his queen in The Lion King (or, for the Broadway fans, see Scar lust over Nala, which was even creepier since he watched her grow up). Sunny can’t come back for his woman soon enough.
Meanwhile, Veil’s just gotta bear it. She’s got tons of resolve, I’ll tell you that. But I sincerely hope she uses that sunroom as an escape. She needs get her climb on and get out of there ASAP!
Also, let’s talk about the fact that she’s the one that saved doggone Quinn in the first place. I mean, there’s a reason he’s head-over-heels for her; after all he’s done to her family, she still found it in her heart somewhere to save him. While that’s really frustrating for us as viewers who want nothing more than for us to see Quinn dead in the ground, that also says a lot about her character, and I don’t think Quinn takes that lightly. Again, she feeds his soul in a way absolute power can’t; she’s the light he’s probably been seeking for longer than he can remember or even realized. He wants to do whatever he can to keep that light around, which includes him hoping that he can keep her captive long enough for her to start having feelings for him. But Beauty and the Beast this is not. She’s going to escape. It’s just a matter of time now.
Speaking of a matter of time, Sunny’s doing his best to make it back to the Badlands, despite having his “ball and chain” Bajie stuck with him. While Sunny’s journey is at the crux of this show, this episode was much more about where everyone else is in their own personal journeys. We know Sunny’s going to make it back to the Badlands; wherever Veil is, he’s going to make sure he’s there. But aside from Sunny and Bajie’s escape from the head slave fighter, it was a little uneventful on the Sunny front. The one thing of note from his and Bajie’s time in the outskirts was that out of everything’s Sunny’s been through, out of every neck Sunny’s cracked and every heart he’s stabbed, the one thing that freaks Sunny out is having a dead rodent wiggled in his face, as well as the idea of eating said rodent. Really, Sunny? I mean, we all have our phobias…I’m afraid of butterflies, for example, but don’t really mind bees. But if you’re a killer, seems like your fear for things like rodents would be the last thing going on in your mind. But it’s funny, so it’s yet one more fact we know about our favorite Clipper. If you want to defeat Sunny, just throw a hamster in his face.
Meanwhile, poor M.K. is battling himself, literally. The Master is taking him under her wing because she knows he’s a special boy, the one who will answer everything. What exactly he’s “the one” for, I’m not sure yet; I don’t think we’ve been told. But he’s special, and in order for him to leave the Master’s care, he’s got to do battle with and conquer himself. However, his dark side is a force to be reckoned with, and he doesn’t give up easily. In fact, right now, he’s capable of killing M.K. The Master has to bring M.K. back before his dark side kills him. M.K.’s got a long way to go before he defeats himself.
One thing I like about M.K.’s time in training is that it highlights how his constant training isn’t so much about being able to defeat others; it’s about being able to bring the mind in concert with the body. I’ve been taking meditation more seriously, so I’m sure these platitudes are things others have known forever, but the art of movement is less about the external and more about the internal. What M.K.’s learning on the outside is supposed to help him on the inside, and usually, all of that training just results in learning that in order to calm the mind and really conquer it, you have to just let it do it’s thing. You can’t fight the mind; you can only observe it and accept it for what it is. That’s all M.K.’s learning—how to become one with himself.
Okay, my Iron Fist moment is over.
Finally, we see Lydia’s Baroness past come back to haunt her when she has to defend her father’s religious enclave from attackers. However, her father is acting very ungrateful. Or is he?
I mean, he is acting ungrateful from our point of view, but he’s also a staunch believer in his way of life, and that includes letting things happen as they are wont to do. If it was his destiny to die that day, he was ready to meet it. He also doesn’t believe in killing, something he said is a privilege only allowed to the gods. So, Lydia has struck out on two fronts, all because she tried to save her father. Kinda messed up.
She tries reasoning with Ryder to have him protect his grandfather’s people, and he…agrees?? In any case, he definitely doesn’t want Lydia’s help in his life anymore. According to him, he’s a great baron and has lasted longer than Lydia gave him credit for. But I’d say he’s only lasted as long because of whatever help he’s received from Jade, who’s crafty in her own way. He’s not ruling things all by his lonesome. I say we can expect a truce to happen between him and his mother at some point. He’s going to need her help at some point, and I can’t wait for the groveling to happen.
• Can we talk about how attractive Sunny looks as a wanderer?
Between the Clipper look and this look, I’ll take this look any day. I’ll also take this look with the durag.
Knowing Daniel Wu’s intense love for hip-hop culture, did he have any say on the this sartorial decision? There are several types of head coverings people wear when working in boiler rooms or while doing ironwork, and Sunny just so happens to be wearing the durag version? Interesante, show. Muy interesante.
Of course, I won’t say no to a clean-cut Sunny, either. But he could clean up and keep the hair. That’d be great.) All of the men look good on this show, though, even Quinn (yes, I said it).
• I hope M.K. sports his monk-trainee hair for the rest of his life. I need to learn how this hair is done.
• Do you think Sunny would ever make a pact with The Widow once he figures out what she’s trying to do? I think he’d go along with a Baron-free world after everything he’s been through.
• There was a wall at the end of the episode. Does this mean that America finally built Trump’s wall after all? Or has Into the Badlands been set in China all this time?
What did you think of the episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
It’s already a cliche to say this, but Into the Badlands Season 2 showed up Iron Fist in nearly every way possible. If there Hollywood needed an example of how to make an inclusive martial arts-based action show that doesn’t appropriate cultures but actually respectfully melds cultures together into something new and original, then Into the Badlands is that much-needed example.
Did that sentence confuse you? Let me just break down what I’m trying to say in some bulleted points while telling you what you need to know about the jaw-dropping Season 2 premiere.
• The beginning didn’t linger.
I hope you had your Into the Badlands DVDs or On Demand players handy to catch up on the first season, since the show didn’t waste any time jumping back into the story and the action, and that’s great, because while the show’s story is fantastic, the biggest selling point are the extensive, thought-out, creative fight scenes.
We’ve dropped in on Sunny (Daniel Wu, who is also one of the show’s executive producers) after being transported to a slave colony to work in the mines. Gone are the days of being a Clipper (aka an upper-tier slave), and now, all Sunny cares about is getting out of the mines and back to Veil (Madeleine Mantock) and his new baby. And hopefully to get back on the right terms with Veil, since his role in her parents death is…dubious.
(Look, let’s get this out of the way right now in this huge aside; Sunny didn’t kill Veil’s parents. BUT, he did stand by while Quinn (Martin Csokas) killed them with Sunny’s sword. BUT, Quinn also threatened to kill Sunny. BUT, Sunny can totally take down Quinn, and he didn’t. BUT, Sunny was just waking up to the system as it is and he didn’t realize he was a slave until he realized he wanted more for his life, particularly because of his relationship with Veil. As you can see, the circular argument can go on and on. But bottom line is that he didn’t kill Veil’s parents, but he didn’t stop Quinn due to self-preservation and, to be blunt, selfishness. He wanted to be around to be with Veil, and he didn’t really think enough about Veil’s parents to realize he needed to stop Quinn from killing what could have become his own extended family. However, how did he think he could go explain this to Veil??? Not to be glib, but he didn’t think the “I’ll stand by like my hands are tied” thing through at all.)
At any rate, Sunny wants to get his family back and find his redemption. Right now, it seems like he could and he couldn’t; his new bunkmate frenemy Baijie (newcomer to the show Nick Frost) sold him out in order to try to secure his own freedom, but Sunny already had a plan before Baijie ratted him out; Sunny wants to try to take out the big wrestler of the group in order to become the new head of the slave food chain and, possibly, get his chance to escape.
HOWEVER, before we even get to Sunny making a plan, we immediately see Sunny try to escape from the first few minutes of the show. IT WAS INTENSE! THIS IS HOW YOU START AN ACTION SHOW!
• The diversity and badassery of the Into the Badlands‘ women
I can honestly say that this is one show that treats its women with respect. (Except for that one woman Baijie straight-up punched unconscious just to get a ring to buy his freedom. Baijie should know better than that.)
Overall, the women on Into the Badlands have thoroughly impressed me, even more so this season. One criticism that some, including Mediaversity Reviews, pointed out is that despite the presence of Veil and the awesomeness of The Widow, the show was centered around white feminism. (Li of Mediaversity Reviews also breaks down just how diverse the main cast is, which is that it’s pretty diverse and more multicultural on an individual-by-individual basis than I initially gave the show credit for. For instance, Mantock is black, Hispanic, and white, not just black as I alluded to in my recent Into the Badlands article. My bad.)
However, one of this season’s mission statements seems to be to correct that oversight, since this season, we’re seeing a much more diverse range of women, including The Master, played by Chipo Chung, who is Asian and black and the most powerful person on the show, period. As many online have noted, the show seems to be a masterclass for Marvel on how to 1) create a show with a POC Iron Fist and 2) how to simultaneously make an Iron Fist with Asian heritage and a proper female Ancient One that doesn’t appropriate the culture she’s supposed to be a part of (and, again, is an Ancient One with Asian heritage). She’s everything we wanted both Iron Fist and the Ancient One to be.
And Tilda (Ally Ioannides), who was just The Widow (Emily Beecham)’s daughter, has now been elevated to Regent. And her crew is also amazing.
— Rebecca Theodore (@FilmFatale_NYC) March 20, 2017
And another upcoming new baron, Baron Chau, looks like she can f*** some people up good-fashioned. I can’t wait to see her fight scenes, especially if she has fight scenes against The Widow. (She’s got to have some fight scenes against The Widow.)
— Into the Badlands (@IntotheBadlands) March 18, 2017
• A diversity masterclass for other shows
Yes, the show’s Season 2 premiere had a serendipitous moment by coming on during the same weekend as Iron Fist‘s premiere, simultaneously one-upping it and showing it how it’s really done when it comes to the martial arts game. But the show is a masterclass for any new series looking to infuse cultures together without appropriating or otherwise offending its audience.
This is something that was taken seriously last year, as evidenced by the whole spiel Wu had about rewriting Romeo Must Die through Sunny and Veil, but this year, the crew has taken their commitment to diversity even more seriously than before. We have the examples of the women above, but we also have just the worldbuilding in general. In every scene, you have a multicultural world which reflects the show’s multicultural audience. The world itself doesn’t particularly rest on whiteness as a default or as a power play, something I originally thought the show was using in the first season with Quinn’s family, coupled with the fact that Quinn and The Widow were the only barons we saw until the introduction of Edi Gathegi’s Jacobee (I still wish we saw more of Jacobee).
We’re also getting yet another baron; along with Chau, we’re also getting Baron Hassan, and the two of them together have opened up the baron game in the vein of Jacobee; anyone can be a baron, and knowing that anyone can attain that kind of power is refreshing, and in its own way, subversive, since the power everyone’s battling over is the same original sin that started America in the first place–slavery. It’s interesting that even though the America Into the Badlands inhabits is a post-apocalyptic type of America, it’s still a country that wrestles with the concept of power through owning others.
— Into the Badlands (@IntotheBadlands) March 18, 2017
• Surprises on surprises on surprises
We had the surprise of the Master being who she is, the surprise of The Widow upping her game this season (her big set piece was amazing to view, and I could watch that over and over again), and the surprise of Veil finally having her baby. But the biggest surprise was seeing QUINN AS VEIL’S CARETAKER! What kind of Frankenstein nonsense is happening right now?! We all thought he was dead! What is he doing with Veil and Veil’s baby?! Also, is he trying to seek redemption as well, or is he trying to regain his power to take on his son Ryder (Oliver Stark), who is now the new baron?
Overall, I’m PUMPED! I can’t wait to see where the rest of this season is taking us! What did you think of the first episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!