Warning: This contains spoilers.
Following an uneven leap forward in the previous outing, Episode 7 (Black Heart, White Mountain) brings focus very firmly back to the human aspects of the show.
Having played sidekick so far this season, Nick Frost takes centre stage in M.K.’s battle to save Sunny’s life. Having been struck with The Hand of Five Poisons – which, as well as having a really cool name, acts as a death sentence for Badlands’ protagonist Sunny – it is up to M.K. and Baije to act, and fast.
Bajie, while still somewhat ill-fitting for the ‘former supernatural killer’ backstory bestowed on him, handles the spotlight brilliantly. The writing plays to his strengths, which tend to be incredulity at the idiocy of others, and swearing – both of which are at maximum potency in this episode. Bajie’s backstory and motivations are lightly delved into, but mostly, the episode’s merit lies in Frost’s overwhelming abundance of charm.
As M.K. had the Mirror Room to face his demons, Sunny has his own mind. Unconscious and delirious from the poison, his story mostly occurs in a warped vision in which his worst fears are realised. It’s a simple tale of guilt, but a striking one, to see such a powerful figure seem so helpless. Having Sunny pictured with his family – after all this effort to reach them – only to have it sour elicits a strong emotional gut-wrench at his loss.
Back in reality – or whatever world Quinn lives in – The Widow has begun her campaign of war against the other Barons. Striking at the weakest first, it gives Quinn a chance to act even more unpredictably, by apparently showing mercy. It’s a short visit to the Badlands, but an important one. The Widow is wasting no time on her fragile alliance with the former Baron, and, heading into the final episodes, it’s a question of which one can deceive the fastest.
Surprisingly, the fight sequences lack any real innovation this episode, particularly when creating bloodlust-driven distractions for the Abbots, which could’ve been a hundred times more chaotic – it’s hard to shake the feeling that after all the attention paid to M.K.’s inadvertent massacres, a huge battle like that would have a little more noise and scope. After last week’s story-fuelled undertaking, though, the human-centric focus helps Black Heart, White Mountain overall, as well as the undeniably likeable Nick Frost. This is an enjoyable venture into theorising for fans, but there’s nothing to truly sink our teeth into.
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.