Into the Badlands: Hand of Five Poisons

Into the Badlands

Merry Holiday Celebration to you, fellow Into the Badlands watchers! We are at the end of this first tiny season of indeterminate post-collapse survivors scrabbling for prestige, glory, or freedom. I haven’t seen anything from AMC on whether the show is likely to return for a second season — but on a network that gave Halt and Catch Fire two and counting, but axed Low Winter Sun after only a few million promos (did it air episodes? I have no memory of them), anything goes.

This final episode, “Hand of Five Poisons,” opens with the gate, through which Sunny speeds on his bike. I was kind of hoping he would roll up on an ambushed transport and put us back at the start of the first episode with all the inexplicable time-travel possibilities that would entail. Alas! He is merely going to the River King to deliver the head of the boy the king wants dead. It is, of course, not M.K.’s head but the bully boy M.K. killed when he hulked out. The king doesn’t know any better, despite the suspiciously computer print-out looking drawing of the boy he carries. But no matter. RK agrees to get Sunny, et al, out that night and warns him not to be late, which means everything will off without a hitch and we won’t see the boat leaving without Sunny, Veil, and/or M.K. later. Phew!

Veil is mortar and pestling a batch of something when Sunny arrives to tell her to be ready that night. Veil says she can’t wait for him; she’s expected at Quinn’s. Sunny tells her not to bother and turns to leave. Before he can go, Veil asks if he killed her parents. He explains again that it was Quinn, but Veil — to her credit!! — calls him out on what utter baloney that is. Quinn used Sunny’s sword, and Sunny did nothing to stop him. He stood there while her parents were slaughtered and did nothing, then lied to her about it. How she didn’t dissolve into a mist of righteous fury and strip the flesh from Sunny’s bones when he tries to tell her everything will be different when they leave, I do not know. For Veil, the only change is that she trades one liar for another. At least she knows Quinn needs her enough to not harm her yet.

An old white guy from Penrith’s pajama club wanders through a hilly area and approaches a steampunk-looking building on an outcropping. Inside, he gives one of M.K.’s wanted posters to some hooded guys and tells them where to find him. The hooded guys load a trunk onto an old truck. Aw, nice, maybe they’re going to a picnic!

Lydia mops Jade’s sweaty forehead and assures her she’ll recover soon from her heat exhaustion. Quinn smarms into the room to declare that Jade was poisoned — by Lydia. He pulls out her jewelry box, complete with a metric crapton of dried aconite. Lydia would never be so sloppy! I don’t believe it for a second! Lydia protests her innocence, but Quinn orders his guards to take her outside the gates. She’s banished. Once she leaves, Jade and Quinn share a tender moment. She tells him she has something to say about his son, who is at that moment escorting his mother outside the gates. Lydia figures out that Ryder told Jade about the previous wife who was poisoned, and that Jade poisoned herself to frame Lydia. I think? It’s so complicated, this family drama!

Ryder and Quinn have a tete-a-tete in Quinn’s study — which is decorated with a glorious black velvet boxing painting I only just noticed. I want one! (Cough cough, AMC online store.) They tell each other a couple of things they and we already know, then Quinn asks Ryder to get Sunny to meet him in the chapel. What was the point of this scene exactly?

In the chapel, Quinn waxes nostalgic about Sunny’s time as a Colt and as his most trusted Clipper, before accusing him of treachery and demanding his sword. Sunny offers up his blade, by holding it to Quinn’s neck. But he has no follow-through and submits meekly to Quinn’s control instead of using the super fighting power we’ve seen all this season. M.K. brats that Quinn’s making a big mistake, and Quinn flexes his charm to lure the boy further into his spider’s lair.

Nearby, Veil returns to her shop. It doesn’t look like she’s getting ready to skip town, but it’s a moot point anyway because someone sneaks up behind her and gas-rags her into passing out. When she comes to, Veil finds she’s in the Widow’s summer home, where the Widow is sucking on an opium pipe like it’s her job. There’s a big nasty sword cut along the Widow’s stomach. It’s infected like whoa, hence the need for Veil’s tender ministrations. Of course, before she can begin, the Widow gets nasty about Veil choosing a life with men over the glories of the Murderladyland she offers, so Veil jabs her right in the gaping wound. Hey, whatever it takes to keep the peace, right?

Sunny is chained up in the dungeon, and here comes Quinn to gloat at him. I spent most of it wondering why we needed like six different scenes when they could have dispatched with all of this Quinn-Ryder-Sunny business in one and been done with it. But I do not get paid the big bucks for writing television, so what do I know. Anyway, Sunny promises to get Quinn for this, blah blah.

Lydia walks through a wilderness and enters her father’s pajama camp, where she pleads for sanctuary. Penrith tries to turn her away, but Lydia pulls a bunch of chess pieces out of a sack. They must be really special chess pieces, because Penrith relents. He makes her promise to give up the material world she was kicked out of and agree never to leave the pajamas again. Ugh, Lydia, it’s not worth it! Go find the Widow and turn Murderladyland into the misandrist paradise we all know it can be!

Veil and the Widow bond over a couple of catgut stitches — “Is that why you’re fighting? To rid the world of brutal men?” “There wouldn’t be many men left if we did that.” — while Tilda Belcher looks on. Veil lays out a trio of bottles: one of them is a tincture for healing, the others are poison. She’ll let Tilda know which is which once she’s safe at home. There was another entreaty for Veil to join Electic Murderladyland, but I missed most of it trying to figure out how a world without Spandex produced the elaborately strappy bra the Widow is wearing. Seriously, the episode is worth it just for a glimpse of that architectural marvel. I’d strangle myself trying to put one on.

Back at Quinn’s, he’s giving M.K. a capsule review of the old world: about the “enlightened men” who once occupied the real world version of his shabby Capitol Building model and left them the shell of a civilization they now occupy. He promises the boy that he can bring Tilda to the fort and keep Sunny safe too. M.K. totally falls for it! In return, Quinn will take him into town and get him his first “doll” so he won’t disappoint Tilda on their first time together. Excuse me, I am drowning in my own disgust. Give me just a minute.

Ryder meets Zypher near an old railroad bridge for more plotting. I wonder who’s responsible for the upkeep on that bridge. It hasn’t crumbled into rust, so someone must, especially given how high the river is during the scene. (Another point in the show’s worldbuilding favor: I forgot momentarily that the bridge is, in fact, a bridge in our world and so presumably kept up by the rail company that owns it and not some random baron.)

Sorry, wandered off the point a bit. Ryder tells Zypher about Quinn’s plans for that night (ugh, what is Quinn doing, crowing about it all over the house?) and that the Widow is probably out of commission. As plotting goes, this is another scene that’s largely pointless. A line or two of dialogue at the start of an ambush scene would have done the job just as well. But then you wouldn’t have been subjected to my railroad bridge maintenance musings, so it’s probably better this way.

In the dungeon, Waldo has managed to tear himself away from his birdfriends long enough to visit Sunny. No, actually, he’s there to break Sunny out! And to reveal that he’s been betraying Quinn all along in cahoots with the Widow, who plans to slaughter everyone from the fort that night. Sunny, for some reason, gets really upset about Waldo’s revolutionary plans. Just go to the River King, Sunny! It’s what your Waldobird wants! Waldo does something monumentally stupid, though: he tells Sunny that M.K. is going to be at the brothel that night, where the ambush will go down.

When Tilda lets Veil go, she thanks her for saving the Widow’s life. Veil does her level best to reason with Tilda: life with a woman who expects her to kill for her safety isn’t really a life. She tells Tilda that she has a choice. One of the bottles she left is the tincture, but the other two are poison. It’s up to Tilda to decide which is the right path for her.

In town, Quinn tries to calm M.K.’s nerves about his first brothel visit. M.K. is more concerned with why town is abandoned. Quinn apparently knew it was a trap all along, because he’s unsurprised to see Jacobee’s men come out of the shadows — along with Jacobee and Zypher. And Ryder! He is definitely surprised to see Ryder!

The group trades barbs for a while, then Quinn reveals his plan to keep control of his territory: he slices a huge chunk out of M.K.’s back and stands aside while the boy defeats his enemies for him. He stands a little too far back, though. In the alley, he comes face to face with Sunny, who STABS QUINN THROUGH THE ABDOMEN. I was sincerely not expecting that at all. I don’t believe for a second that Quinn is going to die from the wound, but wow!

M.K. is about to kill Ryder when Sunny stops him, or tries to. M.K. shakes him off easily, then punches him down the street, as a truck pulls up behind him. It disgorges the robed dudes from earlier — one of whom is a female robed dude — as foreboding music kicks up on the soundtrack. M.K. ignores them to attack Zypher, and the robed dudes strike. They move like the kung-fu samples on a Wu-Tang album sound. One pokes M.K. a bunch with glowing fingers (uhhh?) until the boy crumples into a post-rage limp rag. The robed dude sweeps him up into a fireman’s carry, but before they can leave, Sunny looms up at them and warns: “If you want to take him, you’ll have to go through me first.”

So, they do. Or try to. The first two aren’t very effective, but the third drops M.K. and flies through the air to fight Sunny hand to hand. There’s a lot of whooshing and sound effects and narrow missed blows. Just as it looks like Sunny might be winning, all three robed dudes turn into crosses between M.K.’s rage monster and the last airbenders. They beat him so severely I expect Detective Goren from Law and Order: Criminal Intent to show up to explain about concussive force injuries on a human’s internal organs. When Sunny finally stays down, the robed dudes pack M.K. in their trunk and roll out of town.

Back at the pajama party, Lydia enters a jacuzzi in a Princess Leia robe while the old people do weird Jazzercise around her. She symbolically washes away her old life, and her father creepily embraces her when she emerges from the water.

Tilda returns to the Widow’s summer home, where she tries to explain that she’s been protecting M.K. The Widow tells Tilda that she’s the only person trying to keep him safe. She used to be like M.K. “Special,” she calls it. Grimacing with pain, she asks Tilda which of the bottles is the tincture. Tilda doesn’t answer.

In town Veil finds Sunny’s sword in pieces on the street and looks sad. On the river, Sunny is chained to a pole in the River King’s boat. The River King himself comes down to tell Sunny that he knows about the swindle — Sunny brought the wrong boys’ head. So, now, Sunny’s getting out of the badlands, but he’s not going to like where they’re going.

M.K. is also escaping the badlands against his will. The truck drives across a vast, dry salt flat toward a mountain range, while M.K. screams and tries to break out of the box they’ve locked him in. Boy, hiatus is going to suck if he’s trapped in there the whole time!

And that’s it! We’re all done with the first season of Into the Badlands. Thanks for sticking with me, and the show! Are you invested enough in any of the characters or their fates to come back if AMC renews? Will you be disappointed if they choose to cancel instead?

Photo Courtesy of AMC

About Lisa Shininger

Lisa Shininger spends way too much time thinking about fictional characters but, somehow, it's never enough. She co-hosts Bossy Britches, and yells about pop culture at lisashininger.com and on Twitter @ohseafarer.