Into the Badlands: “Nightingale Sings No More” is a great set-up for next week’s finale

In addition to being a truly excellent episode on its own, “Nightingale Sings No More” is a creditable lead-in to next week’s season finale, setting up the finale’s major conflicts while offering some dramatic payoff of its own. It’s a briskly paced hour with a good mix of character work, dramatic moments and action, including one of the season’s best fights. Most importantly, however, the show seems poised to end with a decisive wrap-up of the season’s major storylines next week rather than a frustrating cliffhanger like the first season did. What will be interesting next week is to see if things are tidily concluded in anticipation of not getting a season three or if there will be hints of next season’s potential storyline.

**Spoilers ahead.**

The pre-credits scene reveals some more of Bajie’s past—and that the Widow is Bajie’s lost apprentice, Flea. It’s almost disappointing how obvious it was, especially after I know I wrote this speculation down in my notes weeks ago, but it works well enough. It’s also a revelation that quickly bears fruit, as Bajie and his erstwhile protégé are reunited this week. Some shows might have made us wait for that, but Into the Badlands is nothing if not prone to racing through story and not wasting time on diversions. In the flashback scene, we also learn that young Minerva had the book of Azra when she came to the monastery and that it’s something that she was asked by Bajie to keep secret from the Master and the other abbots there—a secrecy that Bajie also asks M.K. to enter into later in the episode when they are trying to steal the Widow’s book to combine with Sunny’s pocket watch (something tells me the watch is the key to deciphering the book). Bajie ends the episode presumably captured (along with M.K.) by the Widow, and this storyline will likely feature largely in next week’s finale.

Sunny is quickly changed out of that ridiculous white number Chau gave him and into something much more practical, but right as Sunny and the Widow are about to formulate their strategy against Quinn, Quinn’s flunky Gabriel shows up and drops several info-bombs on Sunny—namely that Veil is Quinn’s wife now and that it was the Widow who sold Veil to Quinn in the first place—before suicide bombing the Widow’s compound. In the ensuing chaos, Sunny escapes into the woods and seems intent on facing Quinn alone if need be. Sunny’s trust in the Widow hasn’t been robust at the best of times, but obviously finding out about the Widow’s betrayal of Veil—even sans details—sends him off on his own. It’s a little disappointing that he didn’t stick around for an explanation, but I expect something of that sort may yet occur next week. By the end of this episode, the Widow seems overdue for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, the reunion between Tilda and M.K. is sweet, but somewhat sullied when it turns out that Odessa was a cog being shipped on the same boat where M.K. went on a rampage and killed his mother and a whole bunch of other people. While it’s a little too convenient that Odessa would have this first-hand knowledge, it’s also a good way to force Tilda to really think about who her friend is and what he’s capable of and whether or not she’s okay with that. Interestingly, Tilda seems to have chosen a side by the end of the episode. When she goes to ask her mother where M.K. is, it turns into a broader confrontation about the Widow’s general ethics in her war to change the Badlands, and this turns into a gorgeously executed mother-daughter fight scene in the Widow’s conservatory that effortlessly accomplishes the twin goals of serving the story/characters and looking amazing. Though the scene ends with Tilda seemingly killed—after begging her mother to kill her, even—that’s, if anything, a confirmation that she’s definitely not dead.

At Quinn’s not-so-secret hideout, things go from bad to worse for Veil, who tries to stand up to Quinn and has Henry taken away from her and finds herself locked up in the ventilation room. A lot of shows might have decided to have Veil raped to show how bad things are for her, but after last week’s near miss it seems that Veil is off the hook for having to experience sexual violence for character growth. I hate that the bar here is so low to pass, but “not unnecessarily depicting the rape of female characters” is always a bonus in a fantasy drama, and Badlands finds plenty of other ways to put its women through hell. For Veil, being separated from her son and kept in isolation is torture enough, and when Lydia finally brings Henry to her—along with the news that Quinn has rigged the whole complex to explode before he’ll let Henry be taken away from him—their situation takes on a renewed sense of urgency. Quinn’s mental state is obviously deteriorating in a major way, and there’s no telling exactly what will set him off or when. As Lydia says, they can’t wait for Sunny; they’re going to have to find a way out on their own.

Miscellany:

  • Quinn’s careful grooming of Gabriel is chilling.
  • Bajie’s ploy to infiltrate the Widow’s compound was a much needed bit of light humor in an otherwise serious and quite dark episode.
  • Waldo is still touting his no emotions philosophy, and no one ever listens to him.
  • I kind of love that Odessa wasn’t jealous. Maddison Jaizani really sells the moment, too. I only wish the Odessa/Tilda relationship would get more screen time.
  • It’s interesting that it’s Odessa who rats M.K. and Bajie out to the Widow after she expressed her own lack of trust in the Widow just recently. I guess she’s more scared of M.K. than she is distrustful of the Widow, but I wonder what she’d think if she knew the Widow had similar powers to M.K.’s and that she’s trying to reawaken them.
  • The casual cruelty of the Widow telling Tilda to call her “Baron” rather than “Mother” seemed a little pre-emptive. While Tilda has been having some doubts about the Widow for a while, their relationship has otherwise been pretty normal (for them), and it seems weird that it’s the Widow who would be the first to upset the status quo in this fashion.
  • Tilda’s echoing of the Widow’s “Don’t start what you can’t finish” just destroyed me.

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