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Having finally reached the fabled Witch – an irritatingly cartoonish Clare Higgins – Sunny hopes to cure his newborn son of The Gift, before any harm comes from it. As Into the Badlands’ is occasionally prone to do, this solution proves to be just another domino to fall, as he and Baije are sent on a further quest – this time for Pilgrim himself.
Interesting though the idea of that may be, Episode 5 is a disheartening trudge through the Badlands’ weakest points, with both the trademark violence and colour dulled by procedural stories and sigh-worthy dialogue. Penned by Parenthood-alum LaToya Morgan, Carry Tiger To Mountain contains none of Badlands’ swift-footed mystique and focuses on moving the plot forward one simplistic step at a time.
A flashback-driven struggle for The Widow plays out over her minimal screen-time, as she is forced to trust Lewis Tan’s sincere newcomer. While the backstory is interesting, it’s difficult to process, considering the sheer number of questions already being teased about The Widow’s already blurry connection to the Abbots, not to mention her ex-husband.
Speaking of past mysteries, Sunny’s history of merciless violence becomes one of the supernatural, as it is revealed he is possibly at the centre of the surge in Gifted individuals currently causing havoc in and out of the Badlands. It’s an attention-grabber, but unavoidably gives the impression that Daniel Wu’s unrelenting fighter needs anything extra to make him fascinating, now that his battle is with loss as opposed to multi-level assailants.
Building up to a group-fight climax, Episode 5 manages to span 35 minutes before a punch is thrown and, even then, the fight lacks any trademark innovation and relies more on the spectacle of seeing big names versus big names. Castor’s gift remains sheathed throughout, and even the impact of seeing Moon wield his ringed sword again adds little thrill.
The disappointment in the episode doesn’t so much arise from the tedium of it, but more from the conclusion seeming little different from the starting point. Sunny is still following Baije’s “I know a guy” routine, Emily Beecham and Ally Ioannides are still desperately underused, and M.K. is still trapped among people seeking to use his power to leverage their own agendas, allowing Aramis Knight no room to perform at all. Only Babou Ceesay’s seemingly peaceful Pilgrim is given a chance to add suspense, and this mostly occurs through expositional warnings about his prophetic coming.
Overall, Episode 5 ends with a distinct lack of movement, which dulls a show usually strikingly razor-edged and blindingly colourful.
Into the Badlands Season 1 to 3 are available to watch online exclusively on Amazon Prime Video UK, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive weekly on Tuesdays, following their US brodcast.
Photo: Aidan Monaghan/AMC