The third episode of Into the Badlands — “White Stork Spreads Wings” — will be the last one to follow The Walking Dead since last night was the mid-season finale for everyone’s favorite zombie show. How Badlands will fare without its massive lead-in will be a question to be answered next week. If this episode is any indication, viewers should be coming back in full force even without a zombie pre-show.

Unbelievably, we’ve reached the mid-season point on Badlands since the season is only six shows long. The episode kicks off with an intense Clipper vs. Clipper battle royale at the Widow’s mansion. After coming for Quinn’s son last week, the Baron has sent his fighters to seek vengeance on his biggest rival. The Widow’s all-female Clipper force is more than up to the challenge and takes out several of Quinn’s red-leathered killers.

Mere minutes into the cold open, we see the first mano a Widow as the two warring barons have an epic sword battle.

Mind you, the credits haven’t even rolled yet!

Quinn gets the upper hand and is about to take out his enemy when his tumor strikes and Widow turns the tables. Sunny shows up in the nick of time and Widow and her butterfly crew flee her mansion for safer pastures elsewhere. In the commotion, M.K. makes off with a mysterious book emblazoned with the symbol of Asra.

Meanwhile, back at the Fort, the Baron’s wives argue about the fate of Ryder who still hasn’t recovered from last week’s Nomad ambush. The only people who could save him were murdered in cold blood by the Baron, so Jade comes up with the next best thing. The doctor’s adopted daughter — who also happens to be Sunny’s betrothed — Veil.

It also just so happens that Jade and Veil are actually old friends and grew up together.

Jade is desperate to save the Baron’s son, mostly because she’s also banging him. We’re not sure if Lydia realizes this though, but eventually relents when Veil is brought to the house to do some healing in a scene straight out of Cinemax’s The Knick. It seems that Ryder is suffering from brain swelling, and if Veil doesn’t relieve the pressure (by basically drilling into his temple) he’s gonna die.

After the successful procedure, Sunny — who had been visiting his tattoo artist Ringo — returns to the Fort and is shocked to see Veil in the Baron’s home.

That’s not the only surprise, however, since Quinn admits that he’s been aware of Veil’s affair with Sunny for some time. This is the first time in which Madeleine Mantock — the actress who plays Veil — gets significant, and boy does she shine! It’s clear from the outset that the episode is shining the spotlight on the women of the Badlands as Jade, Lydia, and Veil take center stage along with the Widow and her minions, of course.

As the Butterflies descend on their new homebase, Widow sends Tilda to extract Angelica, their mole from the brothel — the undercover prostitute who set the trap for Ryder in the previous ep — because she knows Sunny will be after her. Tilda’s too late though because when she arrives, Sunny and Angelica are engaged in some wire-fu that’s straight out of a Yuen Woo Ping fever dream.

Before Sunny can get any answers, Angelica commits suicide by plunging herself over the side of the balcony. Before heading back, Sunny takes M.K. to Veil’s clinic so he can get stitched up. Though the two pretend they aren’t lovers, M.K. figures it out pretty quickly, Also, they’re terrible at pretending they aren’t lovers.

Speaking of M.K., Aramis Knight doesn’t have much to do this episode but whine about Obi-Wan not spending enough time training him to become a Jedi Master. Though it leads to a pretty nifty scene in which Sunny takes M.K. to meet his mentor Waldo — played by the incomparable Stephen Lang — and teach the kid a lesson or two about underestimating his opponents.

Later, when Ryder begins to waken from his treatment, his mother chides him for basically being an idiot. By plunging his father’s forces into an unnecessary war with the Widow, Ryder has screwed up everything. It turns out the other barons are none too pleased with Quinn’s move on the Widow — and consequently her oil fields — and have requested his presence at a Godfather-esque meeting of all the barons.

Sunny warns that it’s obviously a trap, and Quinn agrees. So he sends Sunny to meet with the regent — that would be head clipper — of one Baron that might align with Quinn and his people. Sunny and Zypher, the other regent, meet in a far off poppy field. Not only is Zypher a woman — played by Spartacus’ Ellen Hollman — apparently, she and Sunny have a sexual history too.

The two agree to strike a deal (maybe?) but this is the Badlands, someone is bound to betray somebody else. Speaking of betrayals, M.K. shows up at Veil’s clinic after hours and without Sunny’s knowledge. M.K. knows Veil can read (since literacy is a rarity in the Badlands) and asks her to translate the Asra book he found at the Widow’s.

The problem is that the book is written in a language no one knows (elvish?) and she is unable to help. At that moment, Baron Quinn comes barging in to her home. And in one of the tensest scenes on the show to date, you think the Baron is about to do something obscene to Veil, but finally, he asks her to operate on his brain tumor since she miraculously saved his son.

Will Veil do the operation? And since she knows Quinn murdered her family, will she use that opportunity to return the favor? Guess we’ll have to tune in next week — without zombies — to find out.

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