So, here I am at the next-to-last episode of Into the Badlands, coming in around the same time I am finishing up the much longer Voltron: Legendary Defender. My theoretical readers may have made a note that I haven’t been pleased with the final season of Voltron while Into the Badlands is still a lot of fun for me.
So, with not much time left for either show, I think I want to discuss why that is.
Consider, if you will, how Into the Badlands is finishing off what turned out to be its final season. True, the producers didn’t know at the time this was going to be the final season, so whatever story is going on will be incomplete. And also true that, well, the characters on Into the Badlands are not the most interesting out there. I don’t watch this show to see how the Widow will react to confirmation that she is pregnant by Gaius Chau. I watch and enjoy Into the Badlands because on some level, the series knows exactly what kind of show it is and isn’t trying to be more than that.
I mean, this episode is beginning to wrap up the Pilgrim storyline. We have M.K., a character I am not sure I ever liked all that much aside from that one moment where he was genuinely pleased to learn Tilde had a girlfriend, going more and more “everyone lied to me!” on everyone and looking for vengeance against anyone who isn’t Pilgrim. This same Pilgrim is looking to do what looks an awful lot like genocide after Kannin warns him the gift is corrupting him and the people who raised both of them were looking to wipe out anyone who didn’t have it. And then Pilgrim decides that a fine idea, steals her gift, and starts sharing it with more and more people. The only thing really left to do is for our heroes to try and recruit the Black Lotus to fight Pilgrim’s army. And that more or less works. Sunny is looking to move on and forgive the Widow, she’s questioning if she wants to be a mother, Moon swears to help bring down Pilgrim before going back into exile following Lydia’s death, and Bajie is still awesome.
And that’s basically the entire episode. The finale will be Sunny and his allies, including the Black Lotus, against Pilgrim. Cressida is shaken up because she saw a vision of Pilgrim killing, oh, everybody including herself, and I am supposed to believe the guy who was introduced as something of a fanatic is somehow worse now. Dude, his introduction had his sending Nix and Castor to kill some randos while this episode had Pilgrim remove Nix’s head with his bare hands (and the decapitated head looked kinda fake, just sayin’).
But the point here is simple: something is actually happening. Into the Badlands never just sat still. Characters who were set up as important were routinely killed off, as seen recently with Lydia. Sure, Lydia didn’t really have a purpose to the plot past maybe the start of season two, but how many other shows would have kept that character around longer to do some kind of intrigue? Even if the characters were more archetypal stand-ins, stuff was always happening. Basically, this was a show where almost everyone knew martial arts. I watch to see people kick ass with martial arts. That happens every episode. I was not disappointed.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the final season of Voltron. For that show, the producers went to great efforts to give the different characters more distinct personalities. I may never know where the Widow will stand at any given moment, but I couldn’t say that for any of the Paladins. True, Voltron is a more family-friendly show, but that isn’t the point here. The point here is for the last thirteen episode season of Voltron, far too many episodes seemed to focus on nothing really happening. The series ran out of gas.
So, when I finish Into the Badlands and Voltron: Legendary Defender write ups within the next two weeks, I think I know which series I will remember more fondly and miss more. True, Into the Badlands may have worn out its welcome over time, but in the meantime, I got 32 episodes worth of badasses kicking each other in the face. What more could you ask for from a series that basically just set out to be the living embodiment of the Rule of Cool?