Tag Archives: Into the Badlands

Exclusive: “Into the Badlands” showrunner Al Gough on Veil’s death and fan reaction

Daniel Wu as Sunny, Madeleine Mantock as Veil – Into the Badlands _ Season 2, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Antony Platt/AMC

Last Sunday was the season finale of Into the Badlands, and many fans came away less than impressed because of what happened at the very end of the episode–the love of Sunny’s life, Veil, killing herself to take Quinn with her. It was the ultimate sacrifice in order for Veil to save her family, but it was also a sacrifice that many fans felt was a bridge too far, especially in light of other shows that have done the same to black female characters, including the often-talked-about (and now cancelled) Sleepy Hollow.

After mulling it over, I also felt a little disturbed by Veil’s death, leading me to write my review of the final episode for Black Girl Nerds. In my review, I go over why Veil’s death rubbed many fans the wrong way. An excerpt:

[I]t isn’t right that Veil, like too many Black women characters before her in other shows, was once again the sacrifice for the better good. It’s doubly painful in a show like Into the Badlands, which has been praised for its focus on diversity and inclusive writing. Adding insult to injury is part of the origin of Sunny and Veil’s relationship itself—Daniel Wu’s urge to rewrite Romeo Must Die into something that respected both Black women and Asian men as desirable romantic leads. To be fair, it wasn’t as if Wu wrote this episode—it was writer Matt Lambert and showrunners Al Gough and Miles Millar who did—but still, doesn’t an ending like this undercut that original intent behind the characters? Doesn’t it still paint the picture that 1) POC interracial relationships can’t work out because they aren’t seen as “normal” and 2) Black women can’t be the damsel in their narrative? I mean, Wu might not be a writer, but he’s still an executive producer. I’m sure there’s something he could have said, right? I mean, Wu’s my dude, but I’ve got to be real and called stuff how I see it.

At the end of the day, I don’t see why it was Veil’s duty to be the one to take Quinn out. Sunny’s the master marksman; couldn’t have lobbed off Quinn’s head while holding Henry? Or better yet, couldn’t he have beheaded Quinn when he was laid out on the floor? Such a rookie mistake for someone with 444 or so kills on his back. But somehow, fans were treated to shades of Abbie Mills when Veil sacrificed herself to save her family. Does this always have to be the narrative for Black women on television? Haven’t Black characters suffered enough? Didn’t Veil suffer enough from Season 1, after Quinn killed her parents? Of all of the characters, she deserved her happiness with her man and her son. But it seems like out of all of the women who have suffered hardship on this show; Veil is the only one that has to die to find some relief. Meanwhile, Jade, Tilda, and Lydia are out in the wilderness somewhere finding themselves and living life. Not fair.

It seemed like my review reached all the corners of the internet, so much so that one of the people I called out in the above excerpt, showrunner Al Gough, reached out to me to ask if we could talk.

During our interview later that week, Gough jumped right into how he felt about what I’ll call throughout the rest of this article “Veil-gate.” In short, it seems like he knows how to take his lumps and learn from them.

“I will start by saying the job of a storyteller is never to start a story where at the end of it, people are like, ‘I’m out, I’m never watching it again!'” he said. “I knew…there would be some backlash and there would be some Twitter hate; frankly, I was surprised by how much. But delving into it, I understand. …[W]e did Smallville at the very beginning of the internet with television, and it was…message boards and things like that. You’d get feedback and you’d look, but it wasn’t Twitter. This is, frankly, the first show we’ve done in the Twitter era, which is both fascinating and scary and obviously it’s been very positive and people have really embraced the show and it’s a fan show.”

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to reach out to you because I read the review, and I thought…you made all the points, you know what I mean?” he said. “…And obviously, people can watch the show and feel how they want to feel, that’s what we do, so I don’t begrudge anybody their feelings, but it certainly wasn’t our intention to piss off a large swath of our audience with our finale.”

Gough admitted that the television trope of killing black women characters was one that had escaped him.

“I think as TV tropes go, I was very keenly aware of the “killing the lesbian” trope because [writer] Justine Gilmer, who worked on the first season of Badlands and [writer] Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who’s actually a friend of mine, were both on The 100,” he said. “What’s interesting is that–and this is probably just me being naive–I don’t think I was as aware of a pattern that had been going with killing African American women on shows. I actually don’t watch Sleepy Hollow, I don’t watch Person of Interest…I think people thought that Flash had killed [Iris] on that show. I don’t watch The Flash…and [the audience found out] she wasn’t dead. I don’t think I was aware that this was a pattern in shows because the shows that it’s happened on I don’t watch, so that was one [trope] I was probably less aware of.”

“…What’s interesting about our show is that…there’s diversity in the show because it’s the future because your race and gender and sexual orientation, in some senses in this world, those are not the things people judge you for…It’s either you can fight or you can’t. Martial arts, as I’ve said before, is the great equalizer in terms of an art form because men and women can do it with equal skill and deadly aim,” he said. “Also, I think too, it’s not like Veil is going to be the last African American woman you’re ever going to see on this show. We’ve lost a lot of characters this year with Quinn and Ryder and Jade’s no longer there and obviously Veil. So there will be new characters that are being introduced and…we plan to introduce new African American female characters too. It’s not like Veil will be the only one. I said to somebody, “I feel like Veil died and all of a sudden we have only white people on our show!” I was like, “Uh oh!”

“It’s a show that we continue to make where diversity, frankly, is a priority with the show and in the world, but I also understand the optics of you’re watching a show and you’ve fallen in love with a character and a couple and that person is snatched away and then the optics [of] she’s the only lead,” he said. “Obviously we have other African American cast members, but she’s the lead. So part of that I do understand and that’s when I saw [the backlash], I reached out to Keith Chow [of Nerds of Color]…who I know and who I’ve talked with over the course of the show, and when I saw your review, which I thought was good and I know that you guys have been big supporters, I wanted to reach out to you as well.”

I brought up how the consternation and hurt fans have been feeling came from the fact that, as he said, how committed the show has been to diversity and steering clear of many other tropes on television.

“I certainly noticed that from some of the Twitter response and other things. I think that people felt a betrayal, and I was like, ‘Uh oh, that’s not the goal!'” said Gough. “I thought [in] your review…you’d clearly thought about it and thought about all of the permutations and, frankly, you covered a lot of the thinking and arguments that went on in the writers’ room because when you’re killing off a character or make that decision, you never do it lightly and you never do it without debate. There’s good reasons on both sides and you have to ultimately do what you think is best on the show and move the story forward…[Veil’s death] was not done callously, it was not done as an afterthought, it was done with a lot of discussion and weighing the pluses and minuses in the writers’ room and that was something we debated until very late in the season.”

“I will say the Quinn death was something that was always going to happen,” he said. “That we kind of knew before we started the season, and Marton [Csokas] came to us separately and said, ‘I sort of feel like Quinn’s got one more season in him and that’s probably it for the character’…That was something we thought about, but certainly with Veil and some of these other characters, you think long and hard about it and that’s where we came out in terms of where we wanted to go in the longer story.”

Marton Csokas as Quinn – Into the Badlands _ Season 2, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Antony Platt/AMC

The major thing Gough wanted to stress was that he realizes how important it is to stay connected to Into the Badlands‘ fanbase and understand how the fandom reacts to decisions, both good and bad.

“It’s hard to make a television show, and then it’s hard to make a television show that then gets a fanbase. The reason the show’s renewed is because people watched. I don’t think you can ever take that out of the equation,” he said. “…When you’re doing a television show, you are engaging in a conversation with the audience. Because they go on for weeks and months and you hope, God willing, years, you want to keep your finger on that pulse and really see what’s working and what’s not working. But [a show] is a conversation with an audience, and I think that’s what distinguishes them from movies.”

“Movies, to me, are like loud statements that come and go really quickly nowadays…they don’t have a lot of cultural gravitas anymore. Rarely are the movies the things we are all talking about,” he said. “I’m looking at the old reviews for Star Wars which [turned] 40 [Thursday] and I was nine when that movie came out. I remember it and I remember it resonating through the culture for years. Nowadays, it’s only television shows that do those kinds of things, like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, the big hits. I think…that social media does give you that feedback and that platform to interact with fans and when the show’s on, I look at the Twitter feed and sometimes if I’m not in front of the TV, I can tell where we are in the show by looking at the Twitter feed, which I always find fascinating.”

“I think that’s something that, in a world where there’s 500 television shows, you have a fanbase [and] you want to be respectful of that fanbase and even if you make decisions they don’t like, you want them to at least know that you’re listening, this is why you made it, you hope they come back,” he said laughing. “I’ve seen a lot those ‘I’m out!’ [messages]. We used to get that on Smallville, but this one felt a little more [like] “Uh oh!” …It’s so hard to get people to watch a television show; there’s so many options and people’s time is valuable that you always want them to know that you’re making the best show you can make to be entertaining because the last thing you want to do is waste somebody’s time.”

“…I think this is a show that people have really championed and gotten behind and you can feel the groundswell from the fans Miles and I feel it, Daniel [Wu] feels it, the cast feels it, the writers feel it,” he said. “I think that’s something too–when you have that kind of relationship with the fanbase, you want to honor it as well.”

Because Veil is dead, with the assumption that she’ll not be back in any form, I asked how Veil’s death will affect Sunny going forward, particularly Sunny’s journey towards redemption.


“Ironically, even though the show is about ‘Into the Badlands,’ it’s about a man going on this spiritual and emotional journey to be good. So I think that at a point, Sunny will find his redemption,” said Gough. “Obviously, in Season 3, Sunny is a single father dealing with a baby and obviously people [are] still coming after him. In a way, his world has gotten a lot harder, but you’ll also start to see doors and paths to that redemptive journey. He’s a guy who wants to change.”

“The first season was kind of like Sunny waking up. He’s been a product of this environment and a product of the Barony and of Quinn’s teachings. It’s combination of Veil and M.K. waking up a guy. He was a pretty big part of a system; when you’re the Regent, you’re pretty high up. Then everything’s stripped away from him in Season 2 and it’s his journey back to Veil,” he said. “He was warned all season that the price will come. Moon and his fever dreams and other things and obviously, he did pay that terrible price. But I also think that this is a journey to redemption…it’s not about Sunny always losing or never getting a win or things like that.”

“It’s definitely a journey of redemption, and it’s definitely a journey of redemption for the Badlands, too, because if you look at it when it started, it was a brutal system. We called it a ‘brutal order.’ You have these five barons in a world that’s hard to live in but, obviously, when you go to the outlying territories, it’s better than that,” he said. “It’s like you have freedom, but you have marauders, you’re completely on your own. So, there’s a brutal order to the Barony which now The Widow has destabilized and is now in the midst of a war with Chau. Where does Sunny fit into this bigger world? What [are the] questions about his past [such as] where did he get that compass? Waldo gave him an Azra pendant at the end of Season 1 and said that he found this on him, but we’ve never seen Sunny display the Gift. So what is Sunny’s connection to that bigger, mythological journey as well? Especially with 16 episodes, we’ll start to get more of those answers in the coming season.”

Daniel Wu as Sunny – Into the Badlands _ Season 2, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Antony Platt/AMC

I also asked how Veil’s death will reverberate throughout the upcoming season.

“I think for Sunny, he was left with her last words, which were [to] teach Henry to be good. I think that goes to his larger journey of how is he going to engage in the world? How is he going to make the world around him better and better for his son,” he said. “He does have something to live for; it is his connection to her. He was part of the problem in this world, and how is this going to propel him to be part of the solution? He had that connection, he had love, they had a baby. He’s taken life and now he’s created life and what [is he] going to do now as a parent in a very dangerous world?”

“It is that kind of thing [where] killing and fighting are things that come easy to him, but now you have this child and what is the world you want to bring him up in?” he said. Those are some of the ways that Veil’s death and the effect she had on him will push him forward.”

I also asked if Veil-gate will have an effect on the writers’ room conversations going forward.

“I think we’ll continue to have the same discussions [we have had] in the writers’ room. It’s not like we ever take these situations, whether it’s taking a character off the board or killing them, lightly,” said Gough. “Like I said, we’ve always had a commitment to having a diverse world in the show, a diverse cast, and that will continue, even in the light of the Veil death, which, like I said, we didn’t take lightly to begin with. …The discussions about characters and diversity are always something that we talk about in the writers room and we’ll continue to do that.”

“Frankly, going forward, it’s to be more mindful of these tropes that get played with on these shows, it’s about looking at how this show fits in the greater pantheon of trends on television as well,” said Gough. “Like I said…we were much more keenly aware of sci-fi shows killing lesbian characters than I was to the trend of these shows are killing off African American female characters. I’m not using that as an excuse–I didn’t [know]. Once it was pointed out, I was like, “Okay.” I can also see why, in the greater optics of the television landscape why people would react to this show negatively, the fans that did. ”

I made sure to ask one question that had been on my mind since Veil-gate popped off–what did Madeleine Mantock, the actress playing Veil, think about Veil’s death? Gough said Mantock was in on the discussions about Veil’s death.

“…[W]hen we started having these discussions, she understood. She thought it was the right emotional conclusion to her character, but we wanted to make sure Veil went out [well], that’s why she ultimately made the sacrifice. We wanted her to go out in a strong way so it was something that we definitely wanted to do and at the time that we were starting to seriously consider this idea, we brought her into that conversation,” he said. “It’s not something like I called her two days before the script came out and said, ‘This is what’s happening.’ We had the discussion and we talked about it. I think she…knew that it was coming and she was aware of it and we made her a part of that discussion in terms of how Veil would end on the show and should we do it [so] that it would be her sacrifice? Because…you want her to get the final death blow on Quinn, even in this case, if it meant taking herself out as well. She was aware of it and we didn’t just drop it on her like a bomb with the script.”

So now that the dust is settling on Veil-gate, what message does Gough have for the fans, particularly those fans who have sworn not to come back for Season 3?

“I would say that we appreciate your fandom. Certainly, people are allowed to feel however they want to feel about the season finale, so that’s certainly fair. Our commitment to a diverse cast and creating a diverse world on our show continues, and that includes adding new, strong African American female characters,” said Gough. “I would say that this commitment hasn’t changed. For those who have said that they’ve checked out, [I ask] that they give the third season a look before they make that final decision.”♦

Man Crush Monday: Daniel Wu

Daniel Wu as Sunny – Into the Badlands _ Season 2, Gallery – Photo Credit: Carlos Serrao/AMC

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” recap: Lost redemption and failed escapes

Daniel Wu as Sunny (Antony Platt/AMC)

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:

Photo credits (L-R) Flickr Creative Commons, Antony Platt/AMC

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.

Daniel Wu as Sunny, Nick Frost as Bajie, Sherman Augustus as Moon (Antony Platt/AMC)

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. 

Aramis Knight as M.K. (Antony Platt/AMC)

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.

Emily Beecham as The Widow (Antony Platt/AMC)

Final notes:

• 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.

Sarah Bolger as Jade, Oliver Stark as Ryder (Antony Platt/AMC)

• 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.

Eleanor Matsuura as Baroness Chau (Antony Platt/AMC)

• 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.

Alan Wai as Baron Hassan (Antony Platt/AMC)

(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 recap: Quinn’s back and creepier than ever

Sunny needs to get back to Veil as soon as possible! Antony Platt/AMC

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.

Antony Platt/AMC

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.

Antony Platt/AMC

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.

Final notes:

• Can we talk about how attractive Sunny looks as a wanderer?

Antony Platt/AMC

Between the Clipper look and this look, I’ll take this look any day. I’ll also take this look with the durag.

Antony Platt/AMC

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!

“Into the Badlands” Season 2 premiere is a masterclass in inclusive TV

Daniel Wu as Sunny (Antony Platt/AMC)

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.

Chipo Chung as The Master  (Antony Platt/AMC)

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.

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.)

• 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.

• 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!

Fans sound off on their love for “Into the Badlands” couple Sunny and Veil

Daniel Wu as Sunny and Madeleine Mantock as Veil – Into the Badlands, Season 1, Epsiode 2. Patti Perret/AMC

Into the Badlands is coming into its second season March 19, and even though we’re psyched about the level of action and and suspense, we’re also focused on the family aspect of the show, which is worrying about how Sunny’s going to get back to his family, Veil and their newborn baby. Check out the trailer for an insight into what we can expect this season:

One of the elements I’ve loved the most about Into the Badlands is the relationship between Sunny and Veil, especially the backstory behind why Daniel Wu specifically wanted Sunny and Veil (Madeleine Mantock) to be an interracial Asian man/black woman relationship.

As he told Slate:

“…[I]t felt especially important to show an Asian male as having a sensual side. We all know the story of Romeo Must Die, how Jet Li is the movie’s hero, and the whole time you see this connection developing between him and Aaliyah, who played the female lead. And in the last scene, Li was supposed to kiss her, but when they showed the movie to test audiences, people said they found that disgusting. In the version they released, you just see them give each other a hug. So I don’t want to say this is groundbreaking, because we need to make this a success yet, but it’s cool that we were able to right that wrong too. It’s been 15 years since Romeo Must Die, and 40 years since Kung Fu. That’s just ridiculous. But it’s Hollywood, so I’ll take it.”

This point comes up a bit on this site, but Wu’s insistence on redoing Romeo Must Die in his own way is important, since the only other times (at least in my memory) that we’ve seen an interracial AM/BW relationship on TV was during Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella in 1997, with Brandy as the titular character and Paolo Montalban as the prince:

And 2009’s Flash Forward with John Cho as Demetri Noh (who I believe saw his own death??) and Gabrielle Union as his fiancee Zoey Andata:

And until the recent boom in shows featuring Asian American men like Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the most recent example of an Asian man as the love interest on a show was, once again, Cho in Selfie. 

In short, Into the Badlands is super important to the discussion of representation for interracial relationships, particularly interracial relationships between two non-white individuals and, of course, relationships between Asian men and African American women.

There’s a whole host of other things that makes Sunny and Veil great, so to list them all, I asked the good folks on Twitter why they love Sunny and Veil’s relationship.

Why do you love Sunny and Veil? Give your reasons in the comments section!

The Breakout Shows of 2015: “Mr. Robot” and “Into the Badlands”

2015 saw a ton of explosive shows vie for our attention, from the new seasons of How to Get Away with MurderScandal, and Empire, to the new faces on rookie shows like RosewoodQuantico, and The Grinder (or, in The Grinder‘s case, familiar faces we haven’t seen in a while). But if there were two new shows that captured the imagination more in 2015, they would have to be Mr. Robot and Into the Badlands. 

The COLOR Fall TV Schedule!

It’s getting close to the fall TV season, so I spent part of the weekend actually developing my fall TV viewing/reviewing/recapping schedule (instead of what I usually do, which is wing everything the weekend before fall TV starts).

So, for everyone who loves reading my recaps and viewpoints on TV (and like interacting with me with my live-tweeting), there’s THE OFFICIAL COLOR SCHEDULE!

(All times listed are CT since I’m in the central time zone)