Into the Badlands: Snake Creeps Down

Every week I spend a not insignificant amount of time trying to decipher the meaning of Into the Badlands’ episode title. Every week I wind up sort of shrugging at it. Who is the Snake? Where is down? What happened to the Tigers and Dragons from last week?

Well, whatever it all means, Sunny has apparently decided not to take the River King’s offer. Instead of killing M.K. in return for safe passage, he’s sparring with the kid atop the baron’s gate again. They trade some blows, then Sunny asks M.K. what happens when he uses his uncontrollable power. And is it why he killed everyone on the River King’s boat? M.K. snots that he can totally control his power whenever he wants, okay? He proves it by pushing Sunny off the gate.

Ha ha, kidding! Sunny dreamt all of that. He wakes up next to Veil, looking more constipated than anything, and flips through the book M.K. stole from the Widow. He finds a burned out hole in the back half, into which his compass fits perfectly. When he drops it in, the dial spins wildly before coming to a rest. I couldn’t tell if it was pointing at anything on the page, because Veil woke up and distracted Sunny. Damn it, Veil!!!

At the training ground, M.K. tries to suck up by telling Sunny how hard he’s been working, but Sunny doesn’t care. Instead, he wants to know why M.K. let Tilda Belcher go. M.K. has no idea why he did that, or how he was able to control or resist his power. It’s because he and Tilda want to touch each other’s butts, duh. Neither Sunny nor M.K. appear to think of this as a valid explanation, so instead they talk about when they’ll be able to escape. Sunny says they need to find the Widow for Quinn first. What a work ethic, this guy.

The Widow addresses the cogs she rescued from Quinn while her daughters pass out weird-looking bread. She tells the cogs they can join her in her fight against the other barons, or they can go, free of any obligation. She singles out a young man and sends him inside where all the other boys are gathered. For a party, probably!

Quinn is still whining about the damage the Widow caused, but Lydia has no patience for it whatsoever. Jade comes in with a brilliant idea: they should educate the cogs and treat them kindly! Surely that will engender more loyalty! Neither Lydia nor Quinn seem all that convinced, but when Jade offers to teach the Clippers how to fill in at harvesting duties until new cogs can arrive, Quinn is all about it. Lydia mentally sharpens her own aconite-harvesting skills.

Outside, Ryder finds M.K. waiting for Sunny. He says he knows M.K. is the boy the Widow was searching for, but I didn’t hear anything else because every time Ryder shows up I keep expecting him to turn into a bat and flap away. (He doesn’t.)

After the commercial, Quinn is rallying the troops. Mid-sentence, he’s doubled over from the pain of his tumor. Grabbing onto Lydia for support, he tells Jade to take over for him. That she doesn’t immediately leap over the balcony to take literal command of the men is a little surprising. Lydia helps Quinn to a chair and then yells for someone to get help.

In the woods, M.K. tells Sunny that he knows about the baby. Sunny doesn’t kill him. M.K. says that he’s glad Sunny hasn’t killed him. He also says he didn’t technically lie about knowing how to get to Azra, he just doesn’t have all the details. Like, which direction to go, and when, and how, and how long, and … Sunny tells him that he got his compass to work in the book, but I guess he didn’t see which direction it was pointing, either.

The Widow stands with the boy from earlier, whose hand she cuts with a knife before dismissing him. Oh, it’s a find-out-if-he’s-the-boy party! She explains to Tilda that every time the real boy is cut, his life force is diminished. If he isn’t trained properly, he’s doomed. She changes the subject to ask about M.K. Tilda deflects about as well as can be expected when your mom asks about your secret boyfriend. Dissatisfied with her answers, the Widow sends Tilda to check on their traps in case Quinn’s ready to retaliate.

At Waldo’s Birdland Paradise, Ryder lets himself in. Waldo, of course, knows who Ryder is before he speaks. To his credit, Ryder doesn’t let the old guy get away with pretending that he gained some superhuman ability to make up for his paralysis. It’s kind of a charming moment, especially when Ryder hints that he trusts Waldo more than anyone else in the baron’s camp. They talk in cryptic reminiscences about some past trauma from which Waldo rescued the boy. The show generally does a good job of laying down new secrets without overexplaining, but given that this is the penultimate episode in this season, I think they’re still playing that card a bit too often. At this point, I want answers, not more riddles.

Riddles are what we get, though. Ryder shows Waldo the pendant he took from M.K., and I take back the praise I just bestowed about non-clunky exposition as Waldo spits out a big piece of information that should already be apparent to everyone in the scene. He tells Ryder to see “the man who taught Lydia everything she knows. Go talk to your grandfather. The preacher, Penrith.” You were doing so well, show!

Sunny, M.K., another Clipper, and a boy I think is the bully from episodes back walk through a grove of trees in search of the Widow. The boy is pretty eager to find some girls to kill — he needs a first kill to get in his Clipper’s good graces, see. M.K. doesn’t care. He’s spotted a butterfly throwing star and walks toward it, calling Sunny’s attention to it as well. But it’s a trap! Like, an actual bear trap. Sunny pulls M.K. out of harm’s way then triggers the rest with a well-placed kick to a tree limb above his head. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief, except for the other Clipper, who wandered away near the start of the scene. He screams in pain and the rest of the group rush over to find him caught in yet another of the traps. A bone sticks out of his bloody leg. Excuse me, I have to bleach that image out of my head.

Luckily we go to the poppy fields next, where Jade is demonstrating how to harvest a poppy head. When the Clippers fan out to try their luck, Lydia shows up to say she wants to help, too.

Inside the house, Veil is hooking Quinn up to whatever passes for a chemo treatment in this world. He goads her into asking the one question he knows she has: why he killed her parents. Quinn tells her he did it because that’s just the kind of thing he does. She, in turn, could kill him easily, but she won’t because it’s not in her nature. When Veil somehow manages not to prove him wrong immediately, Quinn lies and tells her that it was Sunny who killed her mother and father. He’ll weasel out of it later, I assume, since he was so careful to phrase it as “Sunny’s blade” that ended their lives and not Sunny himself.

Ryder rides up to a clearing full of old people in long underwear, presided over by Penrith (Lance Henriksen). Penrith barely lets his grandson dismount before he starts digging into old wounds. Namely the one about Ryder being tortured by nomads because his father refused to pay a ransom for him. Could we just end the episode here and next week can be 45 minutes of everyone taking turns stripping Quinn of all his power, prestige, wealth, and autonomy? That would be great!

Unfortunately no one takes me up on the offer. Ryder shows the pendant to Penrith and tells him that it belongs to a boy in Quinn’s camp. The pendant is a symbol of Azra, Penrith explains, which is a myth the cogs tell each other to feel special — some shining city beyond the badlands. It’s totally unlike his own mystical religion! They don’t dwell on the cosmological or the mythological for long. Penrith reminisces about when Lydia and Quinn met, and how Lydia abandoned her father, life, and religion for the Clipper who rode in one day. Ryder’s had enough family time and rides away. As he vanishes into the distance, Penrith tells a lackey to send word to the abbots that there’s “a dark one in the fort [that] will need to be cleansed.” Which I am guessing doesn’t involve soap?

M.K. sneaks out of the Broken Leg Camp to meet Tilda, who warns him that the Widow is onto him. He also tells Tilda that she is his safe space, the reason he could control his power. She tells him that using his power will weaken him so he has to be careful. M.K. offers to run away with her, but before she can make a decision, Sunny sneaks up behind them and knocks her down.

After a commercial break, we find that Tilda’s being questioned about the Widow’s whereabouts by the boy who isn’t M.K. She doesn’t answer, but she does bite off the boy’s ear when he leans in too close. The Clippers both look impressed. Sunny declares they’ll take her back to Quinn’s, where Lydia and Jade bond after a long day of poppy-harvesting and (pretend to?) come to a truce of sorts. After they leave, the Widow and her girls find a piece of Tilda’s clothing stabbed to a tree with one of the Clipper swords. The Widow asks one of them to send word to their mole in Quinn’s fort that they need to get inside.

When Quinn wakes from his post-treatment nap, Lydia is curled up in a chair next to him. She echoes her father’s story about how they first met, then tells the baron that she’ll always be by his side. Even when their enemies finally land at their doorstep. She leaves when Sunny arrives with the news that they’ve captured one of the Widow’s girls. Quinn orders him to torture the girl until she talks, then orders him to stop sleeping with Veil. I really am astonished by how many times someone resists the urge to murder someone else on this show.

In the dungeons, Sunny straps Tilda to a chair while M.K. watches from outside her cell. He asks her to give him a reason not to do it, but she spits in his face instead.

Upstairs, Jade feeds Quinn his supper while he reminds her that the first time he was attracted to her was when she was a sixteen year old servant in his kitchen. Blergh and a half. They speak briefly about Lydia helping in the fields, then Jade collapses on the floor, foaming at the mouth and convulsing.

Back at Tilda’s cell, M.K. tries to convince her to give up the Widow for her own life. Tilda refuses, which is convenient, because the Widow is already there! She throws a weapon at the bully boy, then gets into an epic fight with Sunny. They dance up and down walls, flying through the air and through solid brick walls. When M.K. tries to release Tilda, the bully boy attacks him. Tilda runs to his rescue and is quickly overcome by the bully. The Widow is wounded by Sunny. M.K. cuts his hand and uses the power to break out of the cell and kill the bully. The Widow is next, but sunny distracts him long enough for Tilda to help her escape. M.K. passes out and Sunny gives chase, but loses them at the end of the tunnel. The camera heads back into the dungeons, where we see that Quinn saw some? all? part? most? of the fight. (Why? How? What happened to Jade?)

Only one more episode left! Will we get answers or more questions? Are any major characters ever likely to be in real mortal dangers? Will Waldo’s Bird Paradise ever add any non-pigeon birds? So much to look forward to!

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 and on Twitter @ohseafarer.