Spoilers within for the Into the Badlands Season 3 premiere, "Enter the Phoenix."
Into the Badlands is back! Fans were ecstatic to learn that the show had been renewed for a third season, especially after serving up such an epic finale in Season 2. It's only been a few months since those devastating events, but when we caught up with all of our Badlands faves in the Season 3 premiere, much has changed.
SYFY FANGRRLS caught up with Badlands co-creator and executive producer Al Gough to break down nearly everything that went down in "Enter the Phoenix," as well as that big reveal towards the end of the episode.
When we first get back to the Badlands, there's this voiceover from the Widow that establishes that she and Chau were really the only Barons who were left with any sizable territory claim. So between the two of them and Lydia overseeing the refugee camp, and Tilda now in charge of her own little band of thieves, it really feels like women are running things in the Badlands this season, at least when we pick up again.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
How does that change the stakes, or impact any major conflicts compared to last season?
The leadership positions are all basically women, with the exception of when Pilgrim rolls into town at the end of the episode. But, even then, he's got a very strong priestess Cressida with him, who's sort of his strategist he relies on. What's interesting about the Widow/Chau relationship is [that] you're going to find out through the course of the season that it goes much deeper, and there's a lot of personal animosity and feelings wrapped up with the goals of the Widow wanting to free the Badlands, and Chau wanting the Badlands to basically go back to the way they were.
I think what's really great about all of our female characters is that they're unapologetic in many ways for how they run things. They're not trying to justify why they're doing what they’re doing. [The Widow] doesn't apologize for her tactics, neither does Chau, neither does Lydia. When you get into it, you realize that Lydia is very much a survivor. There's a reason why somebody like her has survived in the Badlands all these years and is not a great fighter. She deploys different weapons in the fight than Baron Chau, or the Widow.
We get to explore the mother-daughter relationship between Tilda and the Widow, and that's sort of interesting because Tilda's not a child anymore. She's a young woman who has some misgivings and some issues with the Widow, but through the course of the season, she's also going to realize that the Widow's not perfect and that the Widow makes certain decisions because the world isn't black and white. That's something I believe Lydia helps her realize as well. I jokingly refer to Tilda and the Widow as Lady Bird with swords. [laughs] I think it's interesting to explore that dynamic.
Another thing that we're getting into this season that we haven't really in previous seasons is love stories. What are their love lives? You'll see that with Lydia and with the Widow as the season progresses. How do those relationships affect their leadership roles and the choices that they make when they find something else worth fighting for than just their cause?
I know one of the relationships that fans were really excited to see was Tilda’s last season, and it looks like that relationship is still going pretty strong as far as what we can see from the premiere anyway. They're still working together.
The Tilda/Odessa relationship, that's another one we wanted to see, “How does that play out?” When you're in this world and you're at war, and you have agendas and things like that. It's just trying to play those things as honestly as you can. What would these people do in this situation? What are their points of view? Where do they have different points of view? And what does that do to the relationships? We really try to explore all of that within the insanity of our show.
One of the things I'm really proud of about the show other than the fights and stuff, which are always fantastic, is that you want it to be [about] characters that people want to come back to week-to-week. You can have an insane world, but if you don't have characters that people can relate to, nobody's showing up. That's really something that we worked hard to do this season too, which is to show different relationships and deepen relationships that we have. Frankly for all of the window dressing, people come to television for the characters, and that's why they stay on the journey.You brought up the fight scenes, which is actually great because that leads to my next question. In the opener for this episode, we get a really great fight scene between the Widow and Nathaniel Moon where they, at the end, establish this somewhat uneasy alliance. Given that past seasons have already boasted a ton of really impressive stunts and fight sequences, how tricky would you say it is for the show's martial arts team and fight team to outdo themselves every week?
Well, it's always very tricky, and part of it, like everything on television, is a team sport. A lot of those things will start in the writers’ room, and the real question is always "Why are we fighting?" If we don't have a good emotional character story reason to fight, then why are we having this fight? Because, at some point, if you just have a fight in there for fight’s sake, somebody's gonna sniff it out and it's not gonna make the show.
Sometimes you just have a board and you're like, "Who have we seen fight? Who would we like to see fight? Who has got real beef with each other? What are locations that we've seen, as we've been out scouting now for a year or two, that we'd like to use?" Then we go to the fight unit and say, "Are there things that you guys want to do that you haven't been able to do yet? Are there things that you'd like to?" It always starts at the very beginning of the season with this big grab bag of ideas in terms of locations, and pairings, and things that they haven't done, or moves that they want to use. Then, when we get into the room and start breaking the stories, and the scripts, and the fights, we have all of those pieces and then we can kind of start to put them together.
Then, as usual, they evolve. The fights this year have gotten even better. We also have a much bigger variety of fights. You have the opening fight, which is incredibly epic and sweeping. Then you have the fight with Sunny and the trailer, which is very brutal and close-quartered and hand-to-hand. Then, as we get into the season, you're going to see that there are some fights that are more comedic as well. We have a great Bajie fight in Episode 6 that's fantastic [and] very much recalls early Jackie Chan. For us, it's always mixing it up. It's like musical numbers. You don't want every number to be a ballad, [and] you don't want every number to be a dance number.
So, speaking of Sunny, he's definitely been off doing his own thing, but now he has a baby to worry about. How much does Sunny's drive to protect Henry dictate his choices over the course of Season 3?
It completely dictates his choices. I mean, that's his priority. Veil's dying words were, "Teach him to be good." Here's a guy who's the best killer in the Badlands with 400 kills and a ton of enemies protecting this defenseless child. In a way, you could say Henry is a bit of a weakness or a blind spot, but I think it actually gives Sunny a lot of strength and you can even see it in that opening. The first fight we see in the camper, it's brutal. It's a much more brutal, raw Sunny than the precision Sunny that we saw at the beginning of Season 1. He's really got stakes, and he's really got something to fight for. Even through this journey of trying to keep Henry safe, we'll see the ghosts of his past come back in different aspects of his former life come back to bite him in the ass. His journey is always the most interesting because he's a guy whose tattoos never go away, but he's trying to change his life for his son.
The big reveal, at the end of the episode, is that it looks like Henry has the gift, which is kind of crazy since we never really saw that manifest in Veil or even Sunny. Is there some other maybe mysterious explanation for why Henry’s eyes have gone black?
The answer is yes. The more Sunny dives into his past, the more he realizes. Because you remember, in Season 1, Waldo handed him an Azra pendant at the end. He said, "This was on you when I found you." There's a connection and we haven't seen it manifest, but then we're going to find out why. In the quest to save Henry, Sunny's really going to learn about himself and his past, and unlock all his secrets.
Into the Badlands airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC. Check out an exclusive clip from next week's episode, "Moon Rises, Raven Seeks" below!