Season 1 of Into The Badlands was an experiment for AMC. With only 6 episodes, it was also an incomplete season by any standard. The finale left us with a lot of questions and hopes that we would get a greatly expanded world. The show used The Walking Dead as a lead in for season 1 but didn’t need it as much in season 2. In fact, the series was renewed for a third season before the current season even finished.
Let this note serve as a spoiler warning. We will be discussing a lot of plot points and spoilers from season 2 below. So if you are not caught up, do not read any further.
Season 1 left us with MK in a box, and Sunny captive by the River King. Both of their fates were left open. Quinn and Jacobee were dead and the baron’s were struggling for power. Season 2 picks up 6 months after the events in season 1 and Sunny finds himself a slave being sold to a mining camp. We are lead to assume this is far outside the badlands which is the first time we have seen anything outside the badlands.
A map posted on the AMC social media page finally gives us context to the world and where we are, which is basically the former United States, and you can get a good look at how the Barons territories are split up.
Sunny ends up meeting Bajie (Nick Frost), who has been to the badlands and knows how to get back. In fact he even knows that Sunny is a clipper and his former baron was Quinn. This dangerous piece of knowledge proves to be troublesome for Sunny.
The workers get a fight night, similar to a thunder dome match (two men enter, one man leaves in a body bag). This gives Sunny some ideas. As the season continues both Sunny and Bajie trek the land to find their way back into the badlands and into more trouble.
Meanwhile we get to see MK doing some fight training with a mysterious group of people that we can only assume are the same ones who kidnapped him. It is interesting to note that each of the boys is paired up with a girl. This is the first time that we get to see a larger group of kids who all have the same ability as MK. He has a conversation with one of them who tells him that he was considered a god among his people and he gladly would cut himself to turn in order to protect his clan.
MK isn’t as careless about his own life but sneaks up to the Masters quarters to see if they exist. Turns out that master is a she also, and she is far more powerful than MK thought. What MK doesn’t realize, is that he is also a lot more powerful than any of the others. Her arm was snapped from that punch even through she stopped it.
MK eventually escapes and runs into Bajie and Sunny. His powers now gone, MK is not as unstable as he had once been. Bajie’s secret comes out and it wasn’t what I expected either. He was once a monk as well and his former pupil was none other than the Widow herself. That of course leaves a lot of questions about Bajie’s motives when he hid the compass from MK and was seeking the book the Widow had. I also found it rather annoying that MK lost his powers and we didn’t explore that more after it was such an important plot line in the first season and first half of season 2. Then we end the season without much progression on it.
The Widow stepped things up this season and went to war with all the barons. In fact she switched sides so many times it was really hard to keep track of who was with her and who was against her. That to me was very much her character but also somewhat annoying. Tilda’s relationship with her ended up souring in the end and that was not unexpected either. But I did find the sudden switch for Tilda no longer having feelings for MK and going for another butterfly to be out of left field. Not sure what the writers were trying to accomplish there.
Ryder had taken up shop in Jacobee’s old mansion and left Quinn’s boarded up. He also has control of the oil fields, that is until the Widow makes her appearances and all hell breaks loose. The oil field fight is one of the reasons this show is so good. The fight scenes and vivid color use throughout the show is stunning and well put together. Each baron with a very unique color and style that separates them very clearly on-screen. The Widow wastes no time reclaiming her oil fields from Ryder.
Quinn’s return was a delight given his dramatic entrances in all the scenes he had this season. His obsession with Vale and the baby was certainly a Quinn personality trait. His slow decent into madness was a fitting role for him all the way to the end. Season 2 pushed Quinn into a corner and he struck out. From killing his son to being ready to blow up everyone on his side, including himself, to get what he wanted.
The thing to remember about Into The Badlands is the fact that in 2 seasons we have had a total of 16 episodes, barely a full season order. Considering that, it is amazing the amount of ground we have covered in such a short time. Season 2 gave us a much-needed expansion into the story with new characters and locations. The use of vivid colors to divide up the factions has been a staple of the series. It has also been used to give us a sense of good versus evil which is a very blurred line in this world.
The first few episodes do not heavily focus on MK as they did in season 1, which is a good thing for the series. MK is an important part of the story but there is so much more to flesh out for other characters and the world itself. The writers do a good job of giving us a taste of all the various groups and locations in season 2: Sunny and Bajie, MK and the monks, Vale and Quinn, The barons in the badlands.
The ending of the season left me a little disappointed unlike season 1. Bajie clearly knows a lot more about the book and Azra then he has led on. Once the tower was activated it is clear that a morse code is being sent out to somewhere. The real question is who is listening? I feel like the MK/Widow side of the story, and Sunny’s connection to Azra as well were not well enough explored or fleshed out. The connection between these 3 and the legendary city has been teased since the first episode of season 1. However, so far very little progression has occurred there. MK’s fate is also left open, as he is still in the custody of the Widow.
The deaths at the end of the fight with Sunny were a mixed bag. Quinn needed to go after surviving the first time. With the tumor in his head, he was a dead man walking. Veil’s death for me seemed unnecessary to the story. Sunny was already going to have a difficult enough time with his new family and trying to protect them. With Veil’s death that is going to be even more difficult. Perhaps that’s the entire point for his character. But again I just didn’t feel her death accomplished anything to advance the story or Sunny as a character.
I have to give huge props to the entire cast for their work this season. Marton Csokas was brilliant this season as Quinn in his madness. Daniel Wu continued to shine as Sunny. Orla Brady really stepped up Lydia’s character this season. You actually felt empathy for her more so then you ever did in season 1. Ally Loannides and Aramis Knight both grew a lot in season 2, giving their characters a more fleshed out feel. Madeleine Mantock is our MVP for season 2. Her portrayal of Veil not just as a smart and strong woman but as a mother was incredible this season. She will be missed. And let us not forget Nick Frost, who went from Sunny’s side kick into an interesting and important character in a short period of time.
The plus side is that we will be getting a new season and even more episodes. Now that we will have a full season coming up, we will have more episodes to really flesh out the stories. Season 2 was not perfect. However, it was exactly the progression and improvements we wanted and expected out of season 1. Beyond the fight scenes and excellent use of color, Into The Badlands is also a great example of representation on TV. Plus our female leads are not portrayed as weak or unable to fight back. They are some of the most powerful and influential characters in the show. We highly recommend you stick around and watch Into The Badlands season 3.
If you haven’t already picked up Into The Badlands season 1, you should. It’s a worthwhile add to your collection.