The second season premiere of Into the Badlands (AMC, Sundays, 10/9C), Chapter VII – Tiger Pushes Mountain, opens six months later – as Sunny, in stocks and chains, is herded into a mining prison.
An attempt to help a fellow prisoner leads to a spectacular action sequence, but he is outnumbered and fighting a force that expects someone to try to escape.
While Sunny (Daniel Wu) is in a less than optimum position as season two begins, M.K. (Aramis Knight) is training in a secluded monastery in the mountains, under the watchful eye of an abbot named Ava (Eve Connolly).
Ryder (Oliver Stark) is now the Baron in what was Quinn’s barony – but even though his father is dead, he’s still haunted by him. Even Jade’s (Sarah Bolger) support and encouragement (and, truth to tell, intelligence) can’t get him past that.
Meanwhile, The Widow (Emily Beecham) and Tilda (Ally Ioannides) are making a bold move – one that threatens Ryder’s barony – while also making her personal philosophy known. This arc introduces a new character, Odessa (Maddisan Jaizani) – a Doll, freed by The Widow, who can’t quite believe that she is free.
In the mining prison, Sunny finds himself shackled to Bajie (Nick Frost), a scrounger and ruthless opportunist – who figures out who Sunny really is.
In the monastery, M.K. finally meets the Master – who is not quite what he was expecting.
Written by series creators Alfred Gough & Miles Millar, and directed by Nick Copus, Tiger Pushing Mountain sets the wheels in motion for a radical shifting of the status quo on pretty much every level.
The Widow is set on changing the baronial society at the most fundamental level; Sunny is in a place where his skills are of no apparent use; and M.K. is discovering that there is no easy fix for controlling his dark chi-based power.
The action set pieces are possibly even more spectacular than in the first season – if not necessarily as moody, then certainly bloodier, but the emphasis on world-building continues with the introduction of the mining prison and the monastery. This is a world that is as varied – and detailed – as anything we’ve seen before.
Copus moves things along briskly – even his quieter moments sizzle with energy. He has a tendency to hold close-ups a beat too long, but in certain circumstances (one action sequence with the Widow and another with Tilda, are good examples) the extra emphasis works.
There’s a good balance between the more flamboyant action sequences and the drama between set pieces, too. We learn more about important characters and get to watch them in action to boot.
In the case of Tilda, we’re seeing the development of controlled fury and righteous wrath – making her at least as interesting as her mother (and potentially even more so).
Frost makes Bajie a cunning, intelligent man who has the wit to seize the opportunities he seeks out. Since he’s a regular this season, it will be interesting to see where the character goes – and how his relationship with Sunny will develop.
Into the Badlands opens its second season with a bang. Now let’s see if it can keep up the pace.
Final Grade: A