Into the Badlands “Hand of Five Poisons” Review (Season 1 Episode 6)

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On the season finale of “Into the Badlands,” things wrapped up in a satisfying, if oft-unexpected, variety of ways, most of them bad, in the excellently-titled “Hand of Five Poisons.” I don’t know if anyone was necessarily expecting all of our heroes to sail off into the sunset or anything, per se, but I must say, I was a little surprised that the show was willing to go so dark with things- and it was not an unwelcome development, in spite of that. After all, in a world such as the one portrayed here, nothing was ever going to be easy- nor should it be.

One of my favorite things about the finale was how full circle it all was: M.K. (Aramis Knight, “Ender’s Game”) quite literally ended the season the way he’d begun it- in a box- while Sunny (Daniel Wu, “The Man with the Iron Fists”) himself went from being one man’s slave to being another one’s, just as it seemed he’d eluded such a fate for good.

Meanwhile, Quinn’s wife Lydia (Orla Brady, “American Odyssey”) was banished and forced to go back to her father, holy man Penrith (Lance Henriksen, “The Blacklist”) and beg for forgiveness and rededicate herself to her former faith and a life she’d long since left behind, while her ungrateful son Ryder (Oliver Stark, “My Hero”) gloated and continued his plots to double-cross anyone and everyone he could to further his own twisted agenda.

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Father Quinn (Marton Csokas, “The Lord of the Rings”) finally saw his luck run out once and for all, as his fiercest warrior Sunny turned turncoat and killed him with a sword. Of course, Quinn wasn’t long for this world anyway, so this was the least unexpected element of the finale, but I am actually glad that Sunny was the one to deliver the final blow, rather than his brain disease.

Less certain, in terms of their fate, is The Widow (Emily Beecham, “28 Weeks Later”), who was left at the mercy of her own daughter, Tilda (Ally Ioannides, “Parenthood”), who knows which bottle will save her mother, and which will poison her. In this case, I kind of hope Tilda opts to save her, as The Widow is such a bad-ass character, and, after all, unbeknownst to her, M.K. is long-gone, so if she kills her mother, she’ll be in a world of trouble and all but alone in it, practically defenseless.

Lest we forget, there’s a power shift in-the-making, with one Baron definitely dead, and another, Jacobee (Edi Gathegi, “House M.D.”), almost certainly also laid low, if not outright dead. It’s hard to say for sure, given how much wear-and-tear these sometimes seemingly super-human foes are able to withstand, but I’m fairly certain Jacobee is done for. Zypher (Ellen Hollman, “Spartacus: War of the Damned”), on the other hand, might be okay, as more than a few have ended up going through brick walls over the course of the show and lived to tell the tale.

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Ryder, regardless, managed to slink away during the melee, so he’s definitely free to scheme another day. One assumes he’ll be headed back home, to reunite with his love Jade (Sarah Bolger, “Once Upon a Time”), who, one assumes, poisoned herself to frame Lydia and will eventually be just fine.

Pity then, poor Veil (Madeleine Mantock, “The Tomorrow People”), left alone, pregnant, and seemingly with her former home left in ruins. It’s possible she might end up going back to the Widow’s headquarters, but who knows? She might just set off to find out what became of Sunny.

When we last saw him, Sunny was paying the price of betraying the River King (Lance E. Nichols, “Treme”), and had been abducted by him after having his butt kicked all over the place by some monk types sent by Penrith to abscond with M.K., which they were ultimately able to do, shockingly enough. I never thought we’d see the day where Sunny would lose a fight, but those three really did a number on him!

I think that about covers it for this episode. This season, while short, was totally action-packed and exciting, and certainly didn’t overstay its welcome. While I’d argue that perhaps the season could have been a little longer than a mere six episodes, perhaps there’s something to be said for leaving people wanting more.

Besides, the show was just successful enough that there’s a distinct possibility that next season might be slightly longer, now that AMC knows there’s a market for this type of thing, which was by no means guaranteed going in. I do think, however, that they’d be wise to continue to pair it with “The Walking Dead” moving forward.

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I thought the action choreography, while heavily stylized in a way that brought to mind both old-school Asian action flicks and modern-day flicks like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” was nothing short of incredible, especially given the time constraints on filming something like this. It’s a miracle that someone wasn’t hurt, as a lot of the actors did a significant amount of their own stunts, save perhaps some of the more dangerous ones, which one would assume were done by stunt people.

But the lion’s share of that praise has to go to star Daniel Wu, who at the not-so-ripe age of 41 is doing some hair-raising stuff here. It’s a testament to his ability that you never have any trouble whatsoever buying that one guy could beat down so many foes. This, in turn, made it all the more shocking when he finally met his match in the season finale. Can’t wait to see how he turns his current situation all around in season two, which has already been confirmed.

All in all, it was a fun, exciting premiere season, with a lot to recommend, especially for action fans looking for something unique and somewhat off-the-beaten-path. While the oddball setting of a “Mad Max” post-apocalyptic future and old-school Southern plantation-style past was an admittedly strange combination, it somehow worked, in spite of all the ways it could have potentially gone wrong. The fact that it remained relatively unpredictable until the very end bodes well for its future.

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What did you think of the premiere season of “Into the Badlands”? Did you also wish the season had been a bit longer? Do you think it will be next season? What would you like to see happen next season? Who were your favorite characters? How about your least favorites? Did you have a favorite episode? Or a favorite moment? (Aside from Sunny’s various butt-kicking sessions, I really enjoyed the Widow laying down the law in episode 2.) Sound off down below, and thanks for reading!