The poetically-titled Palm of the Iron Fox is not only the best episode of the season, but possibly one of the best episodes of Into the Badlands overall. It contains a gritty, emotionally-driven sub-story, in the form of Veil’s escape attempt, a brutal revelation in M.K.’s dreams, as well as a hyper-tense showdown-turned-bloodbath in the form of the Conclave. The truly striking thing being that the episode doen’t contain protagonist Sunny at all.
Having built up some real mystery and then having him threaten to leave, it felt as though M.K.’s development might be saving the best for last – a tactic that went upsettingly awry in Season 1 – but Episode 4 found a corner yet to be filled with bloodthirstiness and speeches to house the supernatural teen’s drama. Here, and throughout the episode, the concise, direct writing not only keeps the thrill alive, but also ensures there is not a second wasted. This is Badlands at its best, squeezing every ounce of innovation and excitement into each scene.
Having had a fairly casual relationship with Veil until now – she has always been shown in relation to Sunny or Quinn, existing to juxtapose and salve – this episode puts her front and centre, particularly at a time when the other major story arc being depicted is an all-out war zone. Madeline Mantock defiantly holds her own against the onslaught, filling Veil with a ruthless, desperate focus that is as attractive to viewers as it is to Sunny and Quinn. Mantock ensures Veil is more than a damsel-in-distress for Sunny to save and Quinn to torment; she’s a brilliant character who will hopefully receive further focus in the future.
The Conclave, as promised in gifts of suspense and chill, is truly a spectacle and a masterful creation. Anxiety-inducing, with political plotting, and subtext galore, the scene is a success before the weapons even became a factor. Quinn’s anarchic entrance is perfectly timed, and the vividly-coloured, tribe-driven slaughter is above and beyond what could’ve been expected. It’s a testament to the show that even after numerous stunning fight sequences, it can still shock and amaze.
Ending on a heartless milestone that feels as distressing as it is inevitable, Palm of the Iron Fox couples fantastic pacing and excellent characterisation to continue making Into the Badlands absolutely unmissable.
Into the Badlands Season 2 is available to watch online exclusively on Amazon Prime Video UK, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Tuesday, within 48 hours of their US broadcast. Season 1 is already available.