Into the Badlands left television the same way it came in- loud, audacious, and thrillingly original. And somehow, this easily dismissed little kung-fu show on AMC managed to do something a lot of bigger, better known shows haven’t been able to do.
Yeah, the writers wrote a satisfying ending. Sure, there’s a few plot strands left dangling within easy reach if some other network decides to pick up the show (please?), but Sunny’s (Daniel Wu) journey from indentured killer to compassionate liberator has been told, and it was thrilling as hell.
I would say about half of “Seven Strike as One” was sheer martial arts mayhem, with the seven defenders of the Badlands facing off against Pilgrim’s (Babou Ceesay) army of dark eyed warriors.
Everyone knows the stakes, yet they set out to try and keep the fragile freedom of the Badlands complete. Tilda (Ally Ioannides) could stay behind and build a happy life. The Widow (Emily Beccham) and Gaius (Lewis Tan) could run away from the Badlands and raise their child together. Sunny could do the same with baby Henry, and Bajie (Nick Frost) and Kannin (Eugenia Yuan) would probably come along to help out. That would only leave Nathaniel Moon (Sherman Augustus) without a reason to give up.
Luckily for Moon, the other six have no intention of giving up. Tilda, Gaius, and Minerva split off to destroy the Meridian Chamber, in hopes of keeping Pilgrim from creating more dark ones.
Sunny, Moon, Bajie, and Kannin lead an army of Black Lotus soldiers in a direct offensive against Pilgrim’s main army, and it’s one of the most breathtakingly brutal action sequences I have seen on television. The Black Lotus troops know how to shut down the Gift, and the fight is actually pretty well balanced.
Until Pilgrim steps in, that is. Babou Ceesay is a sheer force of nature here, believably throwing people though stone pillars, breaking soldiers in half, and bringing the entire battle to a standstill.
That conflict is contrasted with the battle between the Widow’s group and M.K. (Aramis Knight), who has arrived to defend the Meridian Chamber. M.K. is raw fury and righteous rage, and appears to be more than able to take Gaius, Tilda, and the Widow to task.
Cressida (Lorraine Toussaint) has had enough- she knows full well that Pilgrim will destroy the world if he wins, so she tries to escape- only to find Nathaniel Moon waiting for her.
Overall, the finale of Into the Badlands manages to wrap up the current threat to the people of the Badlands, as well as bring most of the character’s story arcs to a satisfying conclusion. The action is top notch, and the ending leaves enough to work off of for more stories in this incredibly rich setting.
Let’s jump into some spoilers!
M.K.’s story is done, and I was surprised that the writing crew didn’t try to wrangle a redemption arc out at the last minute. But his road doesn’t go that direction, and he dies defending the only sense of normalcy that he ever known. It’s actually a little heart-breaking- as much as you might want to smack M.K. sometimes, he really just needed a stable, guiding hand.
Unfortunately, the only person willing (or able) to give him that was a megalomaniac.
I am absolutely thrilled that most of the characters survived, since it was starting to feel like the finale would be a blood-bath that no one walked away from. Bajie and Kannin could have their own series, wandering the wastelands and raising baby Henry. Moon can keep on hunting Cressida. The Widow and Gaius can have that family, and it looks like Tilda might even survive to be part of that.
Tilda really is the emotional rock in this story, and the yin to M.K.’s yang. She knows her worth, and knows she could make a life for herself, but chooses loyalty to her adopted mother. Her sacrifice to save Minerva was the catalyst that changed the battle, with M.K. suddenly faced with his inhumanity, and Minerva suddenly aware of a hidden truth.
The Gift has been in her all along, it just needed a spark. Seeing Tilda impaled before her woke up her gift, and she wastes no time in bringing M.K. down. It’s a pretty spectacular scene.
Speaking of spectacular scenes, though- Sunny is also impaled, and appears to be down for the count. Bajie manages to spear Pilgrim with hooks, hoists him off the floor, and Sunny comes to long enough to take Pilgrim out of the game. Then he collapses to the ground, and dies.
But his eyes flash gold right before he passes.
This is where things get interesting- Sunny finds himself in a sort of limbo, where the Master (Chipo Chung) tells him that his Gift kicked in right before he died, and that his body is repairing itself. He will be able to walk the earth again, and he will be needed, since a great evil has been unearthed.
That evil appears to be a gun. That’s the one thing the Barons outlawed when they built the Badlands, the one thing they knew would tear the shaky little peace they had created to shreds.
How’s that for an ending? Everything is wrapped up, all neat and pretty, but there’s so much raw building material left over. Into the Badlands could easily keep going for several more seasons, if only a network out there would pick it up.
Please, somebody pick it up. It’s a fantastic show, and I would love to keep going Into the Badlands.