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After a few rushed episodes, Badlands slows a little with Episode 7 to put some emotional weight behind an uprising in The Widow’s camp, as well as a more composed, serious look into Sunny’s mysterious origins.
A significant improvement over recent episodes, Dragonfly’s Last Dance isn’t overstuffed with drama, or tedious stepping-stones of plot, but focuses on the main cast’s struggles. The Widow, betrayed by her palace guard after months of war, is forced to face the people she’s commanding in her war with Chau. Emily Beecham is finally in the spotlight, as her scheming anti-hero is forced to explain herself to those she supposedly protects. Flanked by Lewis Tan, Beecham manages – both in dramatic and action sequences – to show why she’s such a huge part of the show.
Daniel Wu’s Sunny is in a similar spot, bargaining with the River King for more information on Pilgrim, and his past. Introduced to a curiously armed hit-squad who tried to kill him as a boy, Sunny is at his peak without distractions like Bajie or Henry to slow his journey. Solemn-faced contemplation, whispered threats, and stunning multi-level wire-fu ensure that Sunny is, once again, the main event.
Concluding with a brilliant fight sequence (in which Sunny uses a Narwhal as a weapon), and an emotional reckoning for The Widow, Dragonfly’s Last Dance is an important moment for Into The Badlands, as we learn how much cleaner and valuable an episode can be, when the time is taken to grow the characters naturally, pace their discoveries, and not spin too many plates/razor-edged boomarangs at once.
Glimpses elsewhere show that M.K. is still unsure of his place within Pilgrim’s ranks, and Bajie’s relationship is still a mess of impulse, but the focus on Sunny and The Widow is a welcome return to form for a show that is often bulging with entertaining, but needless, side missions. With writer LaToya Morgan (TURN) and director Paco Cabezas (Mr Right) allowing the story room to land, and the cast room to perform, it’s a meaningful episode that truly feels like organic progress.
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