Review – Into the Badlands: S02E01 – “Tiger Pushes Mountain”

Warning: spoilers ahead!

Enter season two of Into the Badlands. As a bleak memento of Sunny’s (Daniel Wu) failures at the end of season one, the new season is ushered in with Rag’n’Bone Man’s ‘Human‘. The lyrics remind us that the ex-regent is indeed only human, after all. 

From Clipper to Picker

Six months have passed since we last left our protagonist, bleeding and broken. Betrayed by the very man who promised to help him escape the badlands. “Tiger Pushes Mountain” introduces almost every character into a new position in the status quo. No longer the prodigious Regent at the Baron’s side, Sunny now labors away as a slave in a mining camp. M.K. (Aramis Knight)is no longer sought after as a living weapon. Instead, he trains under the watchful eyes of the Master (Chip Chung), learning to control his mysterious power.

into the badlands

Out of the Badlands & Into the Frying Pan

It’s not only the characters that have seen such drastic changes. The scenery too has altered. No more are we trapped in the idyllic Antebellum South. Where season one was limited to filming locations within the confines of New Orleans, season two takes us to the entirety of Ireland. Transforming the backdrop not only allows for a larger selection of locale. It also provides a better landscape for the post-apocalyptic, dystopian world that is Into the Badlands.

We are no longer forced to shuffle through the dramas of infidelity and brain tumors. The soap opera farce that was the Quinns has been placed on the back burner. That being said, Ryder Quinn (Oliver Stark) and his “lovely” mistress (Sarah Bolger) are still a prominent piece of the puzzle. He has stepped into the massive shoes that his deceased father left behind, and is now lording over three territories. Though it’s clear the Widow (Emily Beecham) is hardly going to allow his reign to continue uncontested. 

Painted as a villain in the first season, the Widow has turned into a figurehead for the people. She’s a revolutionary, think Che Guevara meets Harriet Tubman. The fallen Baroness liberates the downtrodden, leads them to a better life. She does not do so merely with words but also with a firm fist (and a small army of highly skilled femme fatales, but who’s counting). Probably a good thing that Tilda (Ally Ioannides) didn’t poison her during the final moments of the previous season.

into the badlands

For Your Viewing Pleasure

While season one lingered far too often between bouts of martial aptitude, season two of Into the Badlands jumps feet first into the violence we’ve been holding our collective breath for. Finally, the show is indulging itself in the gratuitous kung fu action that’s expected of it. After all, that’s why most people tune into the series. With Netflix’s Iron Fist falling flat in the martial arts department, Into the Badlands remains the proverbial king of both network television and streaming services. 

Season two may have shed some of season one’s glaring flaws but, there’s still a long way to go. The character development remains flawed. While Sunny’s fall from grace is echoed in Wu’s solemn silence and less disciplined style of fighting, there’s still many robotic, gawky performances from much of the supporting cast. A prime example is Knight’s delivery of his lines. He remains mechanical, almost deliberate; like he’s reading them directly from the script. It makes M.K.’s development suffer greatly. 

But even with the remaining obstacles, season two of Into the Badlands has nowhere to go but up. This show has a tremendous amount of potential. Hopefully, the first episode of this season establishes a positive pattern. More fights, more character development, and more bloodshed. Is that too much to ask?

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