Synopsis of 3×5-8: Sunny makes it to Pilgrim and the gang, only to find out he’s part of a larger, darker plan. And the Widow makes one last attempt at revolution, only to be thwarted by a figure from her past.
Into the Badlands continues to pummel and impress as it barrels through the third season. Episode 5-8 introduce more plot lines than the show could possibly handle. The show has always focused on the plot faction by faction. Now it’s gotten itself muddled in a way that might jump the shark in the second half of the season. Initially, my worry was that there would be too much filler, not enough plot. Now there’s too much plot and not enough time.
First, there’s Sunny and his journey to save his son, Henry. Henry’s Gift is killing him and the only way to save the baby is to make contact with the Cult of Azra. Baije is, as always, the sidekick with all the answers. He finds them passage on a boat led by his ex-wife, Lily. If anyone else played Baije as such a scoundrel, his character would have become unbearable. But Nick Frost is so stellar in his performance, it’s hard to hate him.
Along the way, Sunny runs into the River King. Back in season 1, Sunny had a few run-ins with the River King. This time, the River King wants revenge. In a push and pull of power and necessity, Sunny’s encounter with the River King turns up two important pieces of information. One, Sunny was a child captive on the River King’s boat and narrowly escaped a massacre. Two, he had a sister alongside him. Sunny and Baije eventually make it to Pilgrim and the Cult of Azra.
Pilgrim has been up to no-good. Having just killed Castor (aka Dean-Charles Chapman aka Tommen) and chalked his death up to illness. But Nix isn’t as convinced of Pilgrim’s innocence and she begins to question the very faith that Pilgrims relies on.
MK has made his alliance with Pilgrim, ostensibly as Castor’s replacement. Something he constantly denies. MK also is out for blood once he realizes that Sunny is the one who killed his mother. Vowing to kill Sunny, he gets his chance when Sunny and Baije arrive. He almost succeeds until Pilgrim step in.
Pilgrim is feeling remorse about the loss of Castor and he’s letting his grief and zealotry consume him. There is a leap forward in the search for Azra with the discovery of the Meridian Room. It’s a room that looks like any other control room, with the exception of a stone henge sitting inside. According to legend, the Meridian Room is what unleashed the Gift upon the Old World and left if crumbling in its wake.
There’s a second discovery to be made: Pilgrim knows Sunny from their childhood. Unsurprisingly, Sunny doesn’t remember. But thanks to a nudge from MK, he puts his faith into Pilgrim as the man who can save Henry. Their story ends with Henry healed, and Pilgrim given the Gift that could potentially end the world.
All of this is far more entertaining than the squabbles of the Barons. Maybe the most interesting bit of information gleaned from this round of episodes is the revelation that the Widow worked as a cog for the Chau family. Gaius felt for the plight of cogs even as a young boy and has carried a torch for Minerva ever since she escaped the Chau household. Now as adults, they team up against a coup.
A mini-revolution is led by Wren, a butterfly who lost her leg earlier in the season. The coup ends thanks to an alliance between Moon, Tilda, and Lydia. Though Lydia did attempt to play both sides and has already prepared to take over as Baron should The Widow die prematurely.
The Widow comes up with a plan to attack Baron Chau. The plan is faulty at best, and the fight sequence is a small echo of the glory that is any Game of Thrones battle sequence. The fighting amongst the Barons continues to feel more and more trivial when the big picture is squarely focused on Azra. The two plot lines finally intersect once the Master comes to take The Widow to the bigger war.
Sunny’s past is now less of a theme than it is a trove of secrets. Finding out where he comes from and who is hunting him will hopefully pay off in the long-run. maybe we’ll also uncover a little bit about how his past ties in with MK’s. One could say the theme of pasts coming to haunt us has been moved to Baije. His abandonment of his wife did play a part in their dealings with the River King. Or maybe the death of Castor will come to haunt Pilgrim, though that feels too on the nose.
The adults have clearly come back to play with a vengeance, leaving the children out to dry. Both MK and Tilda find themselves pledged back to adults. Pilgrim (presumably) won’t need to rely on his children as much. So much for my theory that the kids are taking over. Then again, we’re only at the mid-season.
While I wouldn’t say this season is too ambitious, I will say it’s a little clunky. The travel time is on par with Game of Thrones Season 7. Time jumps happen in seconds, the pacing now off-kilter. But the stories and characters never bore and the fights continue to amaze. There’s good reason to believe that as the plot thickens, the show will settle for the second half of the season.