Into the Badlands 3×03, “Leopard Snares Rabbit,” explores a myriad of relationships and how dangerous it can be to have loyalty to anyone but yourself.
The episode begins with fan-favorite couple Tilda and Odessa. They’re planning their next move against The Widow when they receive a message telling them to pack up and leave. Before they know it, they’re under attack from The Widow’s Butterflies, led by none other than Nathaniel Moon, The Widow’s new Regent.
This scene is just the beginning of the complicated web of loyalty (and disloyalty) being spun in this episode, and it encompasses all the major characters we see in Chapter XIX, minus Sunny and Bajie. Alliances are a part of life in the Badlands — you need them if you want to survive — but they can also be dangerous.
When Tilda is knocked out by Moon, Odessa orders their fighters to take her away and then goes toe to toe with the Regent herself. Her love for the Iron Rabbit is what gets her captured, but it’s Tilda’s love in return that actually sets her free. When Tilda returns to The Widow’s side at the end of the episode, it’s to save two of the people she cares about most: Odessa and M.K.
But let’s not discount Tilda’s continuing loyalty to The Widow. They may not be on good terms right now (The Widow did nearly kill her at the end of last season, after all), but there’s still a co-dependence between these two characters. The Widow is the closest thing Tilda has had to a real mother, and even though she wants revenge for the way The Widow has betrayed those around her, Tilda comes to her former Baroness’ aid when she’s needed.
It’s possible that Tilda is simply playing the game here. She knows she probably won’t win in another fight against The Widow, especially at the Baroness’ compound where she’s vastly outnumbered, so entering a tentative alliance might be her way of getting closer to her mother and is probably her best bet at survival.
But I don’t doubt that Tilda still feels love for The Widow. She wants to believe that her faith and loyalty in this woman have not been wasted. The look Tilda gives The Widow at the end, after M.K. asks her if she’s leaving with him, tells me everything I need to know. She still seeks approval from her mother. She still has loyalty.
The Widow, for her part, must feel the same way. She didn’t kill Tilda at the end of last season because she loves her. When she found out Tilda was the Iron Rabbit, she didn’t fight her, despite the fact that her daughter has caused plenty of complications to her war plans. The Widow wants Tilda back on her side, working with Moon to make sure they achieve their goals. She’s willing to give up her leverage — Odessa and M.K. — in order to gain Tilda’s trust.
The Widow is known for aligning herself with the strongest players in the moment, which means she has no problem going back on her word if she thinks she’s doing the best she can to bring her vision to life. But I think she genuinely loves Tilda and wants her daughter to come home, and this weakness, this loyalty to Tilda might end up killing her.
But The Widow isn’t the one who’s closest to the gallows. In this episode, that person is probably Lydia. She accepts The Widow’s offer to become a viceroy, which allows her some semblance of power. Throughout “Leopard Snares Rabbit,” Lydia is constantly trying to convince others that she took the position because she’d be able to do more good this way. Or maybe she’s just trying to convince herself.
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The person she must beg the most forgiveness from, however, is Tilda, who has a knife to her throat after she realizes Lydia is the one who betrayed them and told Moon where they were camping. But, Lydia argues, she’s also the one who warned them to leave. It was a bold move on Lydia’s part, and one that works in her favor — for now.
Tilda isn’t the only one who knows Lydia was the spy, however. Nathaniel Moon could tell just from the handwriting that Lydia wrote the note. He confronts her about it, and she doesn’t deny it. He wouldn’t believe her even if she tried.
Loyalty once again comes into play. Nathaniel and Lydia were involved many years ago, and it’s obvious on both ends that those feelings have not disappeared. Moon warns Lydia to be careful, but burns the note in a show of good faith. He’s not going to turn her over to The Widow.
This is the relationship that has piqued my interest the most. Lydia seems torn between two worlds. On the one hand, she knows what true power feels like and what it can accomplish. On the other, she comes from humble beginnings and has seen, firsthand, what the refugees have faced because of the war between The Widow and Chau.
Moon is a seasoned killer. The only reason why he aligned himself with The Widow is because of her promise to help him enact revenge on Sunny and Bajie for dishonoring him. Having lived outside the Badlands for so many years, he has no stake in what is happening between the remaining Barons. Until Lydia walks back into his life.
These two characters are perhaps the ones most primed for an ill fate. Moon and Lydia’s loyalty to each other could potentially send them both to walk with the gods for eternity. If The Widow realizes Lydia betrayed her, and Moon helped her keep the secret, heads will definitely roll unless one of them is willing to put aside loyalty for the sake of their own lives. But I’m not sure I believe either one would do that.
Despite the budding relationship between Moon and Lydia, no one on this show has a stronger loyalty to another person than Sunny does to Henry. This should not come as a shock to anyone; a father-son bond creates the deepest of loyalties — which is also why it’s the most dangerous. There is nothing Sunny wouldn’t do to ensure the safety of his kid.
Into the Badlands 3×03 brings Sunny, Henry, and Bajie to the front lines of the war between The Widow and Chau. Because of Henry’s sickness, the clock is ticking for him. Sunny must find a way to get his son to Bajie’s old master so they can learn more about what it means that he has the Dark Power.
Sunny’s loyalty to his son, while perhaps being the most dangerous, is also the most straightforward. What’s interesting to me is Bajie’s loyalty to Sunny.
Since day one, Bajie has had no trouble betraying everyone around him to make sure he’s the one who comes out on top. When they were in the mines, Bajie wasted no time in gaining Sunny’s confidence and then breaking it. From there, we’ve seen Bajie lie, cheat, and steal his way into more promising circumstances.
But when Sunny asks for a favor, Bajie does what he can to help. He might make a stink about it, but in the short time we’ve known Bajie, he’s chosen Sunny over himself more often than not, even if it might mean the end of his life. To be fair, Sunny has saved Bajie’s skin a number of times; he’s a good guy to keep around when you’re opportunistic like Bajie, but I do think their affiliation is slowly turning in something akin to a friendship.
Bajie has begun to care more about those around him than himself, which is why he helped Wren after she was shot with the poisonous arrows. He could’ve just as easily walked away from her pain and let her die, but instead he exposed his powers and took the time and energy needed to keep her comfortable while the doctor sawed off her leg.
That kind of loyalty to strangers is the mark of a good person, a hero — something I never would’ve expected from Bajie after watching his introduction in episode 2×01. Unfortunately, Wren didn’t appreciate having her life saved. Now she must live with one leg, and in a world that favors strong fighters, there’s not much she’ll be able to do to build a good life for herself.
Wren is angry at Bajie and sends him away, despite his obviously vulnerability. He did what he thought was right, and she hates him for it. So much for loyalty.
I hope Bajie’s arc doesn’t result in his death. The fact that he’s learned to care for others, and especially Sunny, makes me love him even more. But it also means he would be a perfect example to teach us about the dangers of loyalty.
What did you think of ‘Into the Badlands’ 3×03 ‘Leopard Snares Rabbit’