It's a Man's World, but Women Rule 'Into the Badlands' 

In a world ravaged by war, the women of the Badlands are setting the chess pieces in place.

AMC Networks

Before the first commercial break, “Two Tigers Subdue Dragons” sees the Butterfly sisters of The Widow playing with an old record and dancing awkwardly like a junior high dance. It’s maybe the first time any of them have heard music. It’s a rare moment of feminine joy in the overtly masculine Into the Badlands, where men kill over pride and property. This week’s episode ends with a climactic fight between two Barons, Quinn and Jacoby, who discover they’ve wasted blood because The Widow tore them apart. The Badlands are a man’s world, but women are pulling the strings, whether they’re aware of their power or not.

In a supremely literal demonstration, the episode begins as The Widow’s daughter plays possum to men, leaving them open for an ambush.

The Shakespearean power struggle in Quinn’s home is marked by women. Lydia and Jade may be fighting for the affection of men, but the two are playing their war like marble collecting, one-upping each other by how they can bend Quinn and son Ryder to their will. The men of the household are total doofuses, while Lydia and Jade are as calculating as chess computers. Jade’s heart is a bit too naive, however. She’ll need to harden if she hopes to win over Lydia and even her lovers.

The Widow, Quinn’s arch-nemesis, is engaged in a different war. When she lectures her daughter, The Widow’s central motivation is revealed: To live where women are free to live without their innocence taken from them. To achieve her goals, Widow has given up a piece of her own femininity — destroying the record her Butterflies were enjoying — because there’s just no room for that where she’s going. And where that is, to borrow a phrase from Westeros, is playing the game of thrones, and The Widow isn’t the type who will accept losing.

She’s gaining the edge too. Aligning herself with Jacoby’s regent, Zephyr and Quinn’s son Ryder, The Widow is now among the most dominant in the Badlands — especially now that Quinn’s forces are drastically weakened after her surprise attack. While the men were off killing each other, The Widow proved that it’s the women who are the real danger of the Badlands.

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