Into the Badlands is one of a short list of TV shows offering martial arts entertainment. It is truly an awful shame that the story (which ended on a cliffhanger) was abruptly cancelled. Of course, it’s a niche genre, even on film. Aside from movies like The Raid and Ip Man, it’s hard to find large success with that style. Many of these films are made overseas, often resulting in substandard dubbing. Into the Badlands may have sometimes suffered from lackluster acting too, but not from its major players. And it had an incredible sense of style, with loads of appealing martial arts wizardry.
Here’s how fans rated the ten best episode of the series, which will be missed. Spoiler warning!
10 Chamber of the Scorpion
This was the mid-season premiere of the series’ final run, and we had to wait an entire year for it. In this episode, we were given some false hope about Lydia’s survival, as Moon returns her in time. And Widow finally resolves her defiant posture against The Master. It was a brilliant fight scene, and surprisingly, there’s more packed into this episode than usual.
This show often found an organic way to incorporate martial arts. But this time, everything simply comes to a head. Bajie survives an execution, MK stops Sunny from destroying the chamber, and Sunny finally battles Pilgrim. It’s non-stop action, but it’s well-earned, even if the cliffhanger is a tad uninspired.
9 The Boar and the Butterfly
It didn’t take long for MK to become a frustrating, misguided antagonist. However, his motivation regarding his mother is hard to ignore. Nix’s change of heart, to help Sunny, feels pretty natural. She was already leaning that way, but fending off MK in the cold open basically seals the deal. But the most fun in this episode is the relationship between Bajie and the Widow, who have some great chemistry. Nick Frost carries surprising range for dramatic sequences, and his comedy is perpetually charming.
Also, the scene with Gaius’ mother is truly striking, and surprisingly bloody. The climactic fight between Sunny and the Widow is neat, sure. But we know beforehand that the former is injured, and the latter has been improving.
8 Cobra Fang, Panther Claw
This episode finally pitted The Master against Pilgrim, a rewarding test of power, given the reputations of either. The slaughter of the monastery is pretty brutal, and tragic. Pilgrim, as a religious extremist, always felt like a somewhat rote villain. However, the actor quickly developed an unexpected level of gravitas. And the writing gave Pilgrim some compelling drama. Here, he actually points out some of the ethical shortcomings of The Master.
It’s hard to disagree when one of her coma victims explains his painful experience. Meanwhile, Tilda and Gaius were captured, and Baron Chau’s torture is realistic and tough to watch. It creates a great ticking clock for the Widow to swoop in.
7 Curse of the Red Rain
This was the first indication that Cressida wielded more power than expected. The red rain is a visually arresting concept, and it certainly proved to be a bad omen. Despite all of Lydia’s newfound plans, she dies by Cressida’s hands. It was foolish to send one person to execute someone who is known to be powerful. It’s tough to see such a longtime, sympathetic character meet an undue end.
Another highlight of the show is definitely Pilgrim’s assault. The plan of defense against his army is truly innovative, thrilling, and escalates without succumbing to redundancy. Also, the Widow discovers she is pregnant, which becomes crucial to her decisions.
6 Palm of the Iron Fox
Here, the seeds of The Master’s undoing are planted. MK disagrees with some of her controlling methods, and that ultimately leads to his decisions to help Pilgrim later on. Meanwhile, Veil does everything she can to escape Quinn’s clutches. She’s actually very intelligent about the whole ordeal, and doesn’t make the mistakes one usually expects for plot contrivances. But the most striking scene is certainly the end.
Quinn surprises his son, and proceeds to kill him. Granted, they had their differences before, but it’s still shocking in a Shakespearean way.
5 Leopard Catches Cloud
We’re right back to season three, which pulled all the stops for the show’s final outing. This episode was the mid-season finale, preceding a nine-month wait. But it absolutely delivers, as Sunny’s life proves extraordinarily haphazard. First, Sunny fends off a vengeful MK, and later discovers that he probably killed MK’s mother. Then, still blinded in trying to help his son, he rashly fuels Pilgrim with more power than ever.
This episode was very streamlined, rather than focusing on an ensemble like usual. And yet, it remains absolutely packed with story. The third season did a great job of accelerating the pace, where previous seasons sometimes ambled along.
4 Seven Strike as One
This is the unfortunate series finale, as of yet. Hopefully, there can be some form of resolution on another channel, or in another medium. But for now, the episode couldn’t possibly rank at the top. It’s very clear that the show had the rug pulled from under its feet, and so did the audience. Sure, many of the loose ends are tied up. Pilgrim is finally defeated, after a fierce and entertaining battle. MK accidentally stabs Tilda, which incites the Widow’s gift and allows her to take revenge.
It’s pretty satisfying that she basically ends up with The Force, using telekinesis. But too much is left unsaid, by the episode’s end. That’s because it spends an equal amount of time resolving old storylines and setting up new ones.
3 Hand of Five Poisons
This was the season one finale, and it meticulously juggles a handful of storylines. It was a time when MK almost seemed to be the primary protagonist, more so than Sunny. Quinn is a character that you love to hate, but when Sunny stabs him, you wouldn’t expect his return. And yet, he subsequently ends up with far more interesting material. Besides apparently subduing its main villain, the show establishes the Abbots, who share MK’s gift. Cung Le, a legitimate martial artist, is a fun cameo for the show.
The battle against the Abbots is a great payoff, after the episode spent more time packing in story than action. Fortunately, the former was equally gripping, and the cliffhanger had terrific promise.
2 Nightingale Sings No More
Even in just small doses, Stephen Lang is a profoundly fun character actor to watch. So, it was great to hear him advise Sunny against siding with the Widow. Ultimately, he was right, as Sunny rightfully ends up holding her responsible for Veil’s eventual death. But in this episode, the Widow helps lead Sunny to Quinn, to rescue his family.
That has been Sunny’s driving force throughout the majority of the show, and why the series never fizzled out. Also, Tilda’s battle with her mother was really entertaining, and tragic all the while. This series frequently found a great way to infuse its fight sequences with clear, intriguing motivations.
1 Black Lotus, White Rose
This episode begins with a serious copout, bringing Bajie back to life. But he’s just too fun a character to be upset about it—despite the convincing, moving death scene he had. Kannin was an interesting addition to this show, and she fills the mythology without the exposition getting needlessly out of hand. Her change of heart seems prompt, especially given her suicidal commitment. Still, if anyone could spur her memories and motivations, it would be Sunny. The escape is very satisfying, after learning how Magnus treated her. But it was definitely a mistake to leave him alive.
This episode is all about the Black Lotus, and Sunny’s sister, both of which are innately fascinating. It’s surprising how late in the game this show was able to smoothly, successfully introduce new characters and elements. This selection has a great balance of family drama, answers, and story progression. It even included the monumental shift of MK personally killing The Master, rescuing Pilgrim.