3:00 pm EDT, June 22, 2018

‘Into the Badlands’ season 3: Is The Gift rooted in science or mysticism?

The Into the Badlands season 3 mid-season finale has aired and we finally got some solid insight into Azra and The Gift. But what does it all mean?

This article contains spoilers for Into the Badlands season 3, episode 8, “Leopard Catches Cloud.”

In the mid-season finale, Pilgrim’s workers uncover the meridian chamber. This is, by far, the biggest insight into Azra we’ve had on the show so far. In previous episodes, we’ve heard stories and have seen M.K.’s necklace, Sunny’s compass, and the book The Widow couldn’t read, but answers were still few and far between.

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When Bajie stole Sunny’s compass and ventured to the tower on the cliff, we learned that Azra is — or at least was — technologically advanced. Surrounded by a bank of computers — the first we had seen on the show — Bajie used the compass to send out a signal in Morse Code, believing that his actions were going to save them all.

It wasn’t until he and Sunny spoke with Ankara that Bajie realized Pilgrim’s goal is to cause total devastation in order to start fresh.

But how does the meridian chamber work? What forces are at play here? Is The Gift as mystical as it seems, or could it actually be rooted in science?

Right now, Azra is still quite the mystery. We know that not everyone believes in its existence and that Ankara was ostracized for her zealous dedication to finding it. The Widow obviously believes in The Gift, but doesn’t necessarily believe Azra is real. Bajie and Sunny have also both wavered between denial that it exists and hesitantly hopeful that it does.

Pilgrim and Cressida, for their part, are quite certain Azra is real, and in the mid-season finale, Pilgrim told Sunny that they were the chosen brothers meant to protect their home at all costs. The dark power can help ensure their survival.

It would be easy to believe The Gift is purely mystical. With abilities so enhanced, the Dark Ones look otherworldly. In this episode, we also saw the Master’s ability to stop a group of arrows mid-flight and turn them around on The Widow’s would-be killers.

It kind of looked like magic to me.

But magic is just science we don’t understand yet.

We know Into the Badlands takes place roughly 500 years in the future and that there was a cataclysmic event that led to the creation of the world we see on the show in the present day.

An exchange between Cressida and Bajie not only tells us what the purpose of the meridian chamber is, but also raises some interesting questions about Pilgrim and Cressida’s plan.

Bajie: “What’s the meridian chamber? That’s why you’re here, right? That’s what you dug up.”
Cressida: “You can read the word of Azra.”
Bajie: “We’re full of secrets, aren’t we?”
Cressida: “The chamber where the Ancient Ones first unlocked the gift, 500 years ago.”
Bajie: “Right, and as I recall, that’s just when the old world went to shit. Yeah, it just sounds completely harmless.”
Cressida: “They destroyed themselves because they had no idea how to control the power they unleashed.”
Bajie: “But you do. Pilgrim.”

Cressida’s dream seems idealistic on the surface: to have an entire civilization with unlimited power. That way no single person is stronger than the next. That way everyone can enjoy the privilege of living like a god.

But Bajie is a bit more realistic. If Pilgrim can control the Dark Ones, that means he could have a superpowered army at his disposal. Not only can they give and take away the power at will thanks to the chamber, they can also control when individual people use The Gift. Pilgrim is the single most powerful person in the world right now.

And that’s before he takes Henry’s power for his own.

When we saw the meridian chamber activate, after both Sunny and Pilgrim each place a compass in the machine, I started to think that maybe The Gift isn’t as mystical as we once thought it was. And when we learned that Sunny is the key to awakening the chamber, but Pilgrim is its focus, my mind started working overtime.

We know that, at least in the beginning, a Dark One usually has to cut themselves in order to activate the power. We also know that Henry has the power of a Dark One because Sunny used to.

This leads me to believe that the basis of the power is in blood and may be genetic. Perhaps Pilgrim doesn’t have the gift because he is not descended from the Ancient Ones who were granted the gift in the past. However, he is clearly able to take on the power once its gifted by the meridian chamber.

The chamber itself appears to be a technological marvel. It’s mostly a supercomputer with several pillars in the center which act as channeling devices. When Sunny and Pilgrim touch the central stone, the chamber activates and removes the power from Henry, giving it to Pilgrim.

One could perceive this as advanced science, could they not? Even today we know about the healing properties of herbal remedies. Certain stones are used to relieve pain or calm anxiety. Is it so unbelievable that the Ancient Ones paired technology and nature in a way that alters the genetic makeup of a person?

While the “10% of the brain” myth is just that — a myth — we need to look no further than our fellow human beings to see that we are capable of extraordinary things. And if you’d like to delve a little bit deeper into mysticism, there are plenty of unsolved mysteries that lead many to believe our world is more incredible than we can possibly imagine.

Mystics believe they are able to alter their state of consciousness and attain truths they would otherwise not have access to. Some people may view this as magic or a gift from god, while others believe it could simply be a rare ability to control one’s own brain and body at a higher level than most.

After all, the Abbots on this show control their powers through chi, and at the end of the mid-season finale, we see the Master reactivate The Widow’s powers by touching her fingers to her forehead, which is where the third eye chakra sits.

It’s difficult to wrap your head around the idea that science can be attributed to helping people jump abnormally high or to stop a group of arrows mid-flight, but what if the science of the meridian chamber opens up the possibility of channeling the mystical arts? Maybe this isn’t a question of whether The Gift is science or magic. Maybe it’s an exploration of how it can be both.

Into the Badlands will return later this year to air the final eight episodes of season 3.

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