“Snake Creeps Down” was Into the Badlands’ busiest episode yet. Writer Justin Doble was burdened with the unenviable task of filing down the show’s rough edges in service of offering a smooth resolution next week. The show hasn’t been renewed yet (series’ star Daniel Wu had to correct himself on Instagram), so next week may be its valedictory and will almost certainly be its last chance to make a case for itself. Good thing then that the show just went all Westeros-y.
Badlands had always felt a bit like kung-fu Game of Thrones, like Netflix’s Marco Polo, but without the self-seriousness. Family politics are at the core of the thing and, now, people are getting poisoned at an alarming rate. Very much like the death of Joffrey, the poisoning of Lydia — the act itself — is off camera so the audience is left to wonder if it was Jade then left to consider that someone on this show is actually named Jade.
This juicy drama may not be enough to save to show. The reality is that Badlands is so serialized and plot-heavy that if its audience hasn’t reached critical mass yet, it’s unlikely to do so. Consider, for instance, the following longish paragraph in which I discuss goings on. If you don’t watch the show, it’s basically gibberish.
This week Quinn taunted Veil, daring her to poison him (“No one would know”) then lies to her about her parents’ deaths by blaming it on Sunny. But we don’t know whodunnit and there’s only so much time to think about it because we’re returning to Ryder’s arc, which sees him pitted against his father as a double agent for The Widow, seeking the truth behind the M.K.’s pendant. He tries to find answers with his grandfather, who is Lance Henriksen from Aliens for some reason, but doesn’t make much headway. And he’s only got so much time until The Widow makes her move!
The show is, in short, super forbidding. The only thing accessible about it, ultimately, is that the characters periodically beat the tar out of each other, an activity that sometimes has to do with the plot and sometimes feels a bit more like a lark.
Which brings us to the incredible fight between Sunny and The Widow in The Fort dungeons: You have to see it for yourself, but the two use more than just their swords and knives. The two go at each other with freaking guandao staffs and hook swords and straight-up torches lit on fire. It’s insane. The whole point is that the show is silly and operatic and so the fighting can be as well. This is Andrew Lloyd Webber meets Bruce Lee, so it’s got something for everyone.
The fight is worth the price of admission, but there’s no real reason to come back. Maybe if the show doesn’t get renewed the choreographer could just make YouTube shorts. People would definitely watch that.