The third hour of this new Sunny and Bajie Show continues to stump Sunny more than anyone; as much as the former Clipper would like to get rid of his prattling sidekick, Bajie keeps proving himself unexpectedly useful. His disdain for a newfound companion aside, by episode’s end — at the very least — Sunny owes his partner a hand.
In between comedic moments, the primal joy of Badlands are its fights. Both this week’s terrific and gleefully violent sequences are marked by the appearance of another new face, that of another former Clipper, Moon (played with aplomb by Sherman Augustus [Westworld, Low Winter Sun]), who in the midst of greedy nomads seeking the bounty on Sunny and Bajie’s heads, appears to be an ally. Moon’s 999 kill marks dwarf Sunny’s own impressive back (404 marks), and it doesn’t take long for the obvious question to receive a disturbing (if predictable) answer: Moon is saving that benchmark thousandth fight for a worthy opponent — Sunny, of course.
Before their climactic dance, “Red Sun, Silver Moon” pops in for a peek at MK’s ongoing training. Turns out behind The Master’s serene climate of control lurk dark, torturous secrets for non-believers or would-be escapees. MK quickly decides he’s next on the list to leave and tries to convince Ava to play Bajie to his Sunny, but she fearfully declines … for now.
Waldo continues to coach The Widow on How to Succeed at a Conclave without Really Dying, and as he explains (when Tilda finds out Waldo is going instead of her), mother needs a strategist by her side. As weapons are forbidden at the upcoming mass baron meeting, The Widow passes down her precious swords to Tilda for safekeeping, tells her daughter that if she doesn’t return, Tilda should blow up the oil fields and protect the girls. This of course sets us up for an “unexpected” attack on The Widow, and what we can presume will be another epic fight — the purportedly non-violent session will no doubt end a bloody mess.
Speaking of setups, under the guise of her miraculous treatment plan, Veil has won Quinn’s admiration and loyalty, as well as free babysitting for life. You’ll have to admit his soft cooing and Rumpelstiltskin reading to little Henry is heartwarming; outside of fight sequences, Marton Csokas continues to outact the entire ensemble (although former regent, Stephen Lang is right there beside him). Hiding his diseased brain behind a swapped out, healthy x-ray image, Veil watches the vengeful Quinn planning his triumphant comeback, with time out to mentor a frightened trainee who reminds the baron of his younger self.
Quinn’s former traitorous lover, now his son’s openly acknowledged mistress, Jade joins Ryder in welcoming The Widow and Waldo to the Big Baron Board Meeting; I hope there are snacks and pee breaks. After three weeks of stage-setting, we’re ready for whatever happens, and wondering who’ll be surprise guests (Quinn and Co.?).
Finally, after Moon shares his sad story of lost happiness, and his wife and child all in one fell swoop, the champion makes it known he wants Sunny to be his 1,000th kill. In one of the best yet fight scenes, Sun(ny) and Moon fly skyward, swoop down to solid ground, their gorgeously choreographed moves rivaling any partners you’ve seen on a dance floor. With traded warnings that don’t bode well for dreams of another life — “You can run far far away, but there’s no escaping what we’ve turned into” — the two men battle for some semblance of control over their own destinies. Moon proves that even Sunny’s decision not to kill, to avoid manipulation into being another’s creation, will only end badly. In that moment he turns to walk away, the warrior makes himself vulnerable to last minute retaliation. Bajie takes up the executioner mantle, saves Sunny’s life and provides their ticket (a bartering sword) past the wall, but Moon’s final words hang in the air, portending things to come. “You’ll leave a trail of bodies before you get back to your family, and theirs will be the last ones. Theirs will be the last ones, Sunny”.
Gif out with Sunny and Moon …
I’d still like to see this series dig deeper, delve a little more into story (and take about twelve less commercial breaks). As wonderful as the fights are, the plot is still too thin, stretched out and broken up into such small bits, it’s difficult to feel truly connected. Still, the main actors are excellent, and the fights compelling enough to keep us coming back for more.
Here’s hoping we get to see Sherman Augustus again.