Here we are with season two, and we have a longer season than season one. As such, I guess the show can still narratively afford to do some character set-up because that’s what’s still going on.
There’s a reason for that: our two ostensible series protagonists–Sunny and M.K.–have actual goals to complete until they do…whatever it is they need to do. Both are simple goals.
Sunny wants to get back to Veil in the Badlands.
M.K. wants to leave that monastery place to find Sunny and Tilda.
See? Simple goals.
Then again, in many ways, this is a simple show. That isn’t a complaint. This isn’t the sort of show that goes for deep character analysis or some sort of examination of the human condition. It’s a show with a lot cool wirework fights and stuff like that.
Case in point: the politics of the Badlands. Sure, the Widow is making a comeback, and Ryder clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing. Tilda went off the reservation and Waldo chided her for it, but what is that all there for? Probably to set up some future episode’s fight scenes.
Heck, even Lydia can kick ass. Some nomads crash a wedding with her religious group, kill the groom, threaten to rape the bride and one other, and then threaten her father with death, so she kicks their asses and kills them both…forcing her to leave again because Penrith is a pacifist and only the gods may kill.
Really? You bring the awesome Lance Henriksen in for that? How disappointing.
Meanwhile, we see more potential future fights as Quinn keeps building an army, protecting Veil and baby Henry, and killing the one guy who decides to oogle at Veil.
But that’s for future fights. What about present fights?
Well, M.K. has to fight himself. See, his training says there’s a dark part of him that he needs to defeat when he shifts into his subconscious. That part might have…done something to his mom. And M.K. at first doesn’t want to go because this part did a lot of bad things, but then he tries again and, eventually, gets his ass kicked a second time by his scary double.
So, that happened.
As for Sunny, well, turns out the head of the miners doesn’t like rats and handcuffs Bajie to Sunny and forces both to fight the giant Mouse. Bajie has a couple moves but mostly makes things worse at first, and the pair do work together to get out by sliding through a giant fan once the blades have been blocked. And if you think that a giant fan doesn’t guarantee that Mouse won’t be chopped up into gory bits and sprayed on Sunny and Bajie’s pursuers, you must be new to this kind of television.
And Bajie, for all he’s a chubby guy with questionable morals, proves a lot more capable in the Outlying Territories than Sunny does. He knows how to catch a rat for dinner. He also knows how to use a rat bone to pick the handcuffs off while Sunny just keeps hitting his manacle with a rock. And it’s Bajie who follows Sunny and offers a route into the Badlands.
Because someone built a wall around the Badlands. Apparently, despite the name “Badlands,” the Outlying Territories were much, much worse.
So, really, Sunny spent a good chunk of Season One trying to get out of the Badlands, and now he needs to spend a good chunk of time getting back in. Make up your mind, Sunny!