Into the Badlands, Season 3 Episodes 1-4 Review

Synopsis of 03×1-03×4: The Badlands are forging new alliances and facing new enemies. This season sees more episodes, which means more characters and more fights. Sunny’s on a mission, the Widow is looking for a fight, and Lydia is playing a dangerous game.

Spoilers: Medium

Rating:

Into the Badlands is more epic than ever before — if you consider extra episodes to be extra epicness. Game of Thrones’ most intense season was seven episodes long. So while I’m excited for more Badlands, I’m also worried about extra time meaning extra filler.

The first four episodes have relieved me of worry. The few times I thought we were headed into a filler episode wound up being related to a more interesting set of themes. Badlands is thus far not wasting any air on excessive fight sequences or side journeys. Each step in the path is certainly leading to a bigger and badder end.

Badlands season 3 starts with all of our heroes fractured apart from one another. Sunny is hiding with Henry, away from the politics and wars of the Barons. Lydia is running a refugee camp with Tilda as her right-hand woman. Tilda is calling herself the Iron Rabbit and is siphoning off goods from the Widow when she comes across Bajie as part of the cargo.

The Widow finds a new Regent in our old friend Nathaniel Moon. She also has MK held captive. He’s looking more like the opioid-addicted Quinn than the dark-eyed protege of Sunny. Once he has a drug-induced epiphany, MK heads off on his own mission.

Over the course of the first two episodes, everyone falls back into the traps of the Badlands. Alliances are made; relationships rekindled. Lydia takes on the role of Viceroy in the Widow’s region. She’s also turning down the advances of a former lover. By attempting to play both sides, she’s alienating Tilda. And the mother/daughter relationship between the Widow and Tilda gets even more complicated. The show is starting to look like Game of Thrones in that the women are running the show.

Sunny’s son Henry is the catalyst for his journey. He has The Gift, but it’s killing him inside. It can only be cured by the Witch (more on her later). Bajie is back as Sunny’s sidekick and he’s as delightful as ever. Do you think Nick Frost had any idea when he guested last year that he’d be a mainstay on a martial arts epic?

In my season premiere hype post, I warned: “the Badlands are going to war.” To fans, that might sound redundant. The Badlands has always been a battleground for Barons, but this season, there’s a new enemy in town. One that could shake the Badlands up and burn the whole thing down.

I’m talking about the Cult of Azra. I am here for Lorraine Toussaint as the Mad Witch. I am here for her crazy band of companions, including Tommen of House Baratheon. But what I’m especially here for is an issue bigger than the Barons. We’ve seen the Barons duke it out season upon season. The Big Bad is something they haven’t encountered before: a cult surrounding the greatest myth in the Badlands.

Do the Barons team up and face their foes together? Or do they tear each other apart, leaving Azra to reign supreme?

There’s already a strong theme this season about keeping your enemies close. There are several alliances one wouldn’t have suspected based on previous seasons. Then again, Sunny did fight for Baron Chau once, so anything is possible.

Speaking of Chau, she’s back this season as the only other Baron who matters. She’s making her own strange deals because she needs the brother who betrayed her to fight on her behalf. Lewis Tan makes his first appearance as Gaius Chau in episode four. Bringing Gaius and his Baroness sister into the fold means there’s more room for the Badlands to play, plot-wise — which means more room for conflict to arise.

Another theme making this season fascinating is the way Sunny’s past keeps coming back to haunt him. We’ve gotten glimpses into Sunny’s psyche, but rarely into his brutal past. We’re getting flashback after flashback of how much damage Sunny has inflicted on behalf of his Baron. The stakes are high for the reconciliation of his actions.

The last theme which has presented itself is the old guard versus the new. The young and restless versus the veteran survivors. Characters like Lydia, The Widow, and even Sunny, are used to the old way of politics, playing the game from inside the systems. The young blood, Tilda, MK, and maybe Gaius, are more interested in blowing it all up from the outside. Should this theme play itself out, one of these younger characters is sure to die. Probably Tommen… because he’s Tommen.

This season has started off strong. With Alfred Gough and Miles Millar at the helm, the longer season will surely be a gift. The set-up is grand, let’s hope the payoff is equally spectacular.

Into the Badlands airs Sunday nights on AMC at 10/9c.