Editor’s note: With Cindy on the other side of the Atlantic, Craig is handling Badlands recaps for a couple of weeks.
Into the Badlands has made it a point of shaking up the status quo during its short lifespan. “Palm of the Iron Fox” turned the world of the Badlands on its ear with the Conclave and a break from previously established episode structure.
In the first handful of episodes of the new season, the series developed a predictable rhythm: Big fight to open, a lot of palace intrigue with a minor skirmish in the middle and an elaborate set piece fight to close.
“Iron Fox” threw all that out the window in favor of building the tension toward a single large fight at the end. In addition, Sunny’s road show was nowhere to be found and MK had one minor scene, both unprecedented.
The existence of the Conclave provided the catalyst for a chain reaction of significant events. Quinn emptying his base to ambush the meeting of the barons gave Veil the opportunity to make a break for it. It was not as easy as Veil first expected to give Edgar the slip (it took a drugging and some well-placed pipes to the face), but she and baby Henry made it out in one piece.
The Conclave itself was a lush affair fraught with tension at every turn. Badlands has pumped a lot of money into costuming this season, which has established a further visual gap between the powerful, and the dirt smeared cogs that serve them.
The Widow, Waldo in tow, spent the pre-Conclave cocktail party sizing up the room and counting up the votes in her favor. As a former cog who killed her reviled husband and assumed control of his lands, the Widow has few friends among the barons. Her recent crusade of providing a safe haven for refugee cogs and trying to break the feudal labor system in general puts her at odds with one of the newly introduced barons, Baron Chau, whose family has been providing cogs to the Badlands for generations.
Of course Chau holds the swing vote, leaving the Widow with a nearly impossible choice of having to compromise her principals in order to keep what power she possesses intact.
At the conclave, Widow stands accused of conduct unbecoming of a Baron, and Ryder wants his ill-gotten oil fields back. She demands that her lands be returned and a right place among the barons established, with the promise that her cog crusade will end.
Ryder is feeling chesty and calls for the Widow to be banished from the Badlands, and her holdings returned to him. The vote is cast and the barons agree to retain the status quo and kick the Widow out of the Badlands.
Once the Widow challenges the assembled Conclave to come take her lands at the risk of losing something or someone they hold dear (Butterflies are standing by), everyone produces a weapon at a meeting where weapons aren’t allowed.
Just to complicate matters, Quinn arrives with his small army in tow, looking to distrust the system in his own way. This triggers one of the largest and most frenetic fights the show has ever seen with Barons squaring off against the Widow, and Ryder almost immediately heading for the hills.
This fight is fast and brutal. Widow gets some assistance from the wheelchair bound Waldo, and from Tilda, who defied orders to sneak in and help her mother.
The episode ends with Quinn cornering Ryder while the latter was trying to make his escape. They meet at part of a statue of Laocoon, the tragic Greek figure known for his warning “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” which Quinn thinks is of Cronos, the evil titan who ate his children.
Ryder was never the strongest fighter and Quinn gets the upper hand, breaking Ryder’s sword in the process. Still, because Quinn is crazy, he exposes his bare neck to Ryder, who managed to grab a price of the broken blade. Quinn tells him not to hesitate and take the power with his own hand. Ryder is neither that strong or ruthless, which means Quinn quickly plunges the blade into Ryder’s chest, ending Ryder’s life.
This will inevitably plunge the Badlands into chaos, since what is left of the fragile peace among the Barons is shattered. It is also a watershed moment for the series, since Ryder’s death is the show’s first “no character is safe” moment (Quinn’s “death” last season didn’t count since he was dying and half the show was actively trying to kill him by season’s end).
With the Badlands in turmoil, this should go a long way toward drawing all the disparate factions and character groupings of the series together and draw some more superfan endorsements along the way:
— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) April 9, 2017