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Into The Badlands Gave Us The Worst Character Trope In Its Season Finale

Into The Badlands Gave Us The Worst Character Trope In Its Season Finale

Written by: Monique Jones 

This post contains heavy spoilers

Here we are, recovering after the Season 2 finale of Into the Badlands, and we are in mourning. How could the show let Veil, Sunny’s love, die? Yeah, she took out Quinn as she killed herself, but in the end, was it worth it? Was anything that happened in this season worth it?

After seeing the finale, I mulled over what went down, read fan reactions, and even posted a couple of my own before calling it a night. Now that the sun has risen on a new day, I have some reflections to make.

1. Why has the season’s buildup been the damsel-in-distress story if the damsel doesn’t get rescued?

From what I’ve learned about writing rooms over the years of covering Sleepy Hollow, the writing team usually has most, if not all of their season beats worked out. This means that the writing crew already knew that Veil was going to die by the end of the season. So, why make the entire season one big tease that she’ll get rescued in the end? Why have her gone through the physical and psychological horrors of being trapped with Quinn if she wasn’t going to get her happy ending? At the end of the day, it just seems like Veil’s treatment veers on the side of torture porn. At the very least, it seems like Veil’s treatment is punishment just for being a nice person—remember, she had a chance to kill Quinn, but didn’t take it because, as a doctor and as one of the few people with morals in this world, she didn’t have the heart to take his life.

I’m sure there are fans out there who will say that there was foreshadowing of Veil’s demise throughout the season—there were several times earlier in the season when there were callbacks to Quinn and Veil’s Season 1 conversation about what was or wasn’t in their natures; clearly killing people wasn’t in Veil’s nature, otherwise, Quinn would have been dead already. Later on, there was Veil’s conversation with Tilda, in which Veil states how both she and Tilda didn’t have the heart to kill the people who were holding them hostage. When Veil did kill someone and tried to make a break for it, she found her way blocked. When Veil was finally able to escape Quinn’s lair, she was taken back to him by The Widow. For some fans, these moments of storytelling justify Veil’s ultimate end.

But they don’t. As far as I and many other fans were concerned, the push-and-pull of Veil fighting for her freedom seemed like the ultimate tease for Sunny’s triumphant return to save his woman and child, with their next stop being the mythical Azra. To have Veil make the ultimate sacrifice after all of her tribulations has given fans if you excuse the crudeness, blue balls. Why go through the trouble?

2. Are Black women always going to be the mule of the world, even in the future?

Another thing to add to the argument against Veil dying is that two other women escaped death in the same episode. Interestingly enough, both of those women—Tilda and Lydia—are white. Lydia even dug her own grave and still was able to escape death. Sure, both Tilda and Lydia have the fighting skill, but we’ve seen that Veil can fight, too, when push comes to shove. And if I’m reading the characters right, Veil is just like Lydia in the sense that she has had to learn how to fight without any training. So, if Lydia—who isn’t a trained fighter—can still escape her own grave, how come Veil couldn’t have done something awesome to save herself and kill Quinn in the process?

You know what sealed Veil’s fate as far as character actions go? It was when Sunny gave Lydia his other sword. As he was doing that, I was thinking “Why, though?” I know it was both for her protection and as a thank-you of sorts, but if Sunny had some forethought, he could have given Veil that sword, with which she could have stabbed Quinn in the head as he was holding her at sword-point.

But regardless of whether or not Veil had a weapon, it isn’t right that Veil, like too many Black women characters before her in other shows, was once again the sacrifice for the better good. It’s doubly painful in a show like Into the Badlands, which has been praised for its focus on diversity and inclusive writing. Adding insult to injury is part of the origin of Sunny and Veil’s relationship itself—Daniel Wu’s urge to rewrite Romeo Must Die into something that respected both Black women and Asian men as desirable romantic leads. To be fair, it wasn’t as if Wu wrote this episode—it was writer Matt Lambert and showrunners Al Gough and Miles Millar who did—but still, doesn’t an ending like this undercut that original intent behind the characters? Doesn’t it still paint the picture that 1) POC interracial relationships can’t work out because they aren’t seen as “normal” and 2) Black women can’t be the damsel in their narrative? I mean, Wu might not be a writer, but he’s still an executive producer. I’m sure there’s something he could have said, right? I mean, Wu’s my dude, but I’ve got to be real and called stuff how I see it.

At the end of the day, I don’t see why it was Veil’s duty to be the one to take Quinn out. Sunny’s the master marksman; couldn’t have lobbed off Quinn’s head while holding Henry? Or better yet, couldn’t he have beheaded Quinn when he was laid out on the floor? Such a rookie mistake for someone with 444 or so kills on his back. But somehow, fans were treated to shades of Abbie Mills when Veil sacrificed herself to save her family. Does this always have to be the narrative for Black women on television? Haven’t Black characters suffered enough? Didn’t Veil suffer enough from Season 1, after Quinn killed her parents? Of all of the characters, she deserved her happiness with her man and her son. But it seems like out of all of the women who have suffered hardship on this show; Veil is the only one that has to die to find some relief. Meanwhile, Jade, Tilda, and Lydia are out in the wilderness somewhere finding themselves and living life. Not fair.

3. Regardless of race, Veil’s death is a continuation of the fridged woman

If there’s one thing I can say about Veil in regards to comparisons to Abbie is that at least the quality of Veil’s characterization didn’t diminish as the seasons wore on. There was no “Katrina-Ichabod Power Hour” equivalent to increasing fans’ bitterness. But no amount of characterization or care can make up for the fact that, like Abbie, Veil is another fridged woman meant to serve the male character’s emotional journey.

Let’s take out the racial component for a second because the devil’s advocate rebuttal to Veil’s death would be that Black women characters have just as much of a chance to die as white women characters do. In a democratically-written show, this is very true. However, if we take out the racial component, we’re still left with another woman who had to die for there to be “emotional depth.” Couldn’t there have been emotional depth built with her still living? I understand that the writing team probably wanted this season to be one where Sunny comes face to face with the types of horrors his life of clipping can bring, but there could have been other ways for him to deal with those demons other than Veil dying, right? I mean, he was dealing with his demons when he was near death; he could continue to deal with them throughout the rest of his character arc instead of for just one episode.

The fridging of Veil reiterates how much of a misstep this is for a show that has been praised for its commitment to telling stories a different way. Throughout two seasons, there hadn’t been an egregious fridging of any woman. If anything, we’ve seen the fridging of a man—Ryder—at the expense of Jade’s emotional growth, a remarkable gender role reversal. But Veil is the first woman to receive this extensive treatment, all to further Sunny’s hero’s journey as well as the building anticipation of reaching Azra. And again, she’s also a woman of color, whereas all of the other women who have been able to survive are white (or, in the case of Baroness Chau, Asian). If we’re going to fridge women, did the only fridged woman have to also be a woman of color? Let’s be equal in our annihilation of female characterization, at the very least.

4. The season finale undercuts Sunny’s story as well

I mentioned Romeo Must Die earlier; I must also add that the decision to kill Veil not only undercuts the idea of Black women being allowed to be damsels to be rescued, but it also undercuts the notion of Asian men being heroic and winning the girl. The whole point of Sunny as the leading man is to showcase that Asian actors can helm a show, be a sex symbol, and get the girl in the end. That’s what I took away from it if I’m going by what Wu himself has said about the role. So, doesn’t Sunny losing his girl during his valiant fight undermine that entire thesis? By losing Veil, it continues a precedent Hollywood has set for leading Asian men; you can fight and be the star, but you can’t have love. A character like Sunny can go through all the motions of heroism, and still lose in the end.

I’m not an Asian man, apparently, but from my perspective, that’s what I got out of Sunny’s failed heroic journey. Again, you could say that this was foreshadowed by Moon’s story of his loss, but when Sunny said he wasn’t going to let that happen to him, we believed it wouldn’t. Sunny thought it wouldn’t, and Veil believed Sunny would save her. Doesn’t the decision to kill Veil undermine the trust the two characters had in each other? Wouldn’t it make us as fans, who were rooting for them, feel like we’ve been disrespected?

Veil deserved so much more than this ending, and frankly, so did Sunny. He’s been through hell as well, trying to get back to the Badlands. Is this the kind of ending that does his character justice? I don’t think so.

The takeaways

From what I hear, there are going to be tons more women of color coming to the third season of Into the Badlands. However, many Twitter denizens say they could care less about the third season since they won’t be watching it. Again, like with Sleepy Hollow, they feel like the heart of the show has been cut out. They also feel mighty disrespected by a show that has taken on the hashtag #ColorMeBadlands as a mark of honor.  A hashtag created by an online community supported by Black women.  The consensus is that a show can’t decide to utilize POC hashtags for marketing if they’re just going to kill off the characters that represent a good chunk of its viewership—Black women. It happened to Sleepy Hollow, and it’s happening to Into the Badlands now.

The only concrete way the show could get viewers back is if they rewrite the upcoming season so that Veil, somehow, can come back. Maybe Azra is a place where the dead can be revived. Maybe some necromancer comes along, stumbles upon Veil’s grave, and brings her back. Something, anything, as long as Veil is back in fighting form. Hey, Dragonball Z, another show based on Journey To the West like Into the Badlands, has folks coming back from “HFIL” all the time, and Into the Badlands has folks with powers and stuff. Why not go that extra step?

In any case, when it’s all said and done, Into the Badlands got too cocky this time and treaded where it need not tread. You goofed, Into the Badlands.


Monique Jones is an entertainment blogger/journalist. She’s written for Entertainment Weekly, Black Girl Nerds,Racialicious, and many others. She runs JUST ADD COLOR (originally called COLOR) and has introduced a new online magazine, COLOR BLOCK Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter at @moniqueblognet and the official Twitter for JUST ADD COLOR and COLORBLOCK Magazine,@COLORwebmag.

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  • I was planning on getting caught up on Into The Badlands when I saw the reactions to the season finale. As a Black Woman my philosophy is simple, if I’m not welcome you don’t have to tell me twice. Sleepy Hollow and other shows taught me well. So annoyed with Into the Badlands, but not surprised. Well, on to the next one…Star Trek: Discovery and Black Lighting coming up soon.

  • The irony is that Season 2, it was the women’s stories I found more compelling than the men’s stories. Veil, Widow, Tilda, Lydia, Head Abbott their struggles seem greater, with higher stakes than Sunny, Waldo, MK, Quinn, Baiji. The season 2 finale flubs the landing. However it can be redeemed.

    Season 3 finds Sunny in a jam. He’s a homeless cog in the Badlands without a baron, and everyone knowing he’s betrayed the two barons he had allied with. Normally, he could hold his own but trying to keep his son, Henry, alive holds him back when facing an army. Sure, he can hold his own for a while, but eventually, sufficient forces would corner him — until a mysterious figure turns the tables and rescues Sunny and Henry. The hooded figure uncloaks to reveal it’s Veil.

    How? Veil relates by convenient flashback, Sunny riding off glumly with Henry to reunite with MK and Baiji and the Head Abbot just missing him, ticked off at him, MK and Baiji. Sunny is the key to her revenge and then she discovers the bodies Veil and Quinn, the people who told the abbot that Sunny was searching for. After applying some special herbs (good enough for Oliver Queen on ARROW) and a few pressure point punches, Veil gasps and sits up!

    “That’ll do.”

    Sunny, Henry, MK and Baiji are on the run trying to escape the Badlands and MK & Baiji tell Sunny to take Henry while they decoy the forces after them, thus explaining why Sunny & Henry are alone.

    Meanwhile, a montage shows the Head Abbot training an amnesiac Veil and revealing that her near-death experience has given her the Gift that MK and Baiji have lost. Once Veil’s training is complete, the abbot will restore Veil’s access to her memories so she can track down Sunny and thru him, MK and Baiji. However Veil will not feel any emotional attachment (ala Juliet / Eve on GRIMM), but will fake those emotions, making her the perfect weapon for the abbot to track down MK & Baiji.

    Funny thing though, Veil will break that conditioning, because of her love of Sunny and/or Henry? Frell to the no! Because she will remember all of the suffering SHE has endured and she will break free for independence for HERSELF. Thus she surprise the abbot when she comes to collect Sunny, MK & Baiji, only to discover that the hunter is now the prey–and Veil is the mistress of her own destiny.

  • Pls don’t take my comments as disrespecting your perception but I have a different narrative to add.

    From the very first I couldn’t take to Veil. The only thing I could relate with her was that we’re both Heathcare professionals, other than that nothing she did or said commended her to me in S1. Before the season ended I was forwarding her scenes.

    I don’t ship Sunny/Veil and I don’t see the chemistry. But I had this inkling in S1 with Veil introduced as Sunny’s romantic connection that this character wasn’t going to survive long. Simply by the way I judged Sunny’s character. He was never written to be the peaceful farmer with a family. He may be a character that craves that life but his destiny is written to bare a life greater than the common man. Yes a writer who thinks outside the sphere could have given Veil the same great destiny as Widow or Tilda. But the moment she came as Sunny’s secret love and pregnant with his child. Sorry that was it for any personal arc for this character. They write Sunny to have a single-minded obsession to reach Veil and his child. But he is not a character that can carry a great destiny and be a part time husband and father. I often liken Sunny to Jon Snow. Born with a considerable lineage and dragged through it all grudgingly. Same with Veil. She was written to ‘wait’ for Sunny, though she outsmarted her prisoners a few times. If Sunny and Veil reunited and carried that to S3, all I envision is Veil sitting, nursing on the sidelines, either open or in hiding with the odd medical assistance. But the majority of the storyline would belong to the ‘powerfully agressive’ characters of the show. Veil is not that.

    If I was writing this season I would have lessoned Sunny’s obsession with reaching Veil, even make him question his attachment to her. With Veil, and cute as he is, I’d have her lose her son during birth due to her confinements. With no attachments to Sunny. It would have motivated her to fight, politically using her wit and charm to have others sword fight for her, to mark her place between other Barons. A romance between Sunny and Veil could have come after they both got a break to dig into other plot lines independently. Sunny has, Veil hasn’t. It wouldn’t have made shippers happy but at least her character would have got some growth outside of being a lover and mother. But how Veil was written, I guessed in 201/2 that Veil was going to die in the finale. Yes she did deserve more but I’m just glad she got to plunge that knife into her abusers chest. She got the last word.

    I don’t believe the writers were ‘playing’ with the shippers like a certain show did nor disrespecting BW community. I just think the writers had pencilled this in for Veil from the beginning and if the show had been given a S2. This was just a slow-burn to fill 10 episodes. I don’t believe Veil was used to further Sunny’s destiny as such. Only to leave him with a part of herself that kept his humanity grounded. Sunny already has a destiny calling him regardless and he hasn’t realised yet but I bet when it comes to S3, he will have found a small measure of peace and happiness in his son.

    I’m sorry for all who wanted Sunny/Veil’s happy reunion to last forever, but this is the Badlands. No character gets a happily ever after. They are all still searching for something to forefill them.

    You mentioned ‘Romeo must Die’ the only points related to that movie being an interracial relationship between an Asian man and a Black women. Other than that Han Sing’s focus was to avenge his brother, not so much to romance Trish. Is there another significance I didn’t see?

    I’m looking forward to S3, I think we’ll be introduced to more characters as well as lose some old ones. I don’t believe there will be a romantic subplot for Sunny in S3, not unless they do a noteable timejump. Maybe in S4…. I lost 2 favourites out of 5, Ryder and Quinn but I’m coming back because these writers have intrigued me with the Azra plot and the possibility of expanding the Badlands universe.

    Again I mention no disrespect with my different views ????

  • Eh, Veil always had an anvil over her head–it seemed she was destined to be innocent-sacrificed-as-punishment-for-Sunny’s-life-of-killing. Yes, a trope, and a boring one. Sadly in a world of kung fu dervishes she was always the least interesting character. Bajie suddenly having fighting skills is actually more farfetched and annoying to me, and he’s only slightly more convincing than Finn Jones’ Danny Rand. Can’t say I ever cared about Veil enough to miss her; I’ll see watching but I sure hope they drop the damn baby off somewhere.

  • Things like this makes a person wonder, if it’s not intentional why does it keep happening? I can honestly say that writers wrote her like a target. She didn’t have to develop, she wasn’t supposed to live that long. With options like this we can only presume that things happen differently in a parallel universe. Or what works for me is to create my own stories.

  • Monique did an excellent job of showing how the writers destroyed a compelling narrative.

    From the very beginning, Veil withstood some incredible odds.
    Quinn was volatile and every moment around him was dangerous for her.
    Having Henry raised the stakes. For the most part, she kept her wits under circumstances that would make most people buckle. I would have liked to see those two seasons of
    Veil’s resilience properly rewarded.

    As far as Veil’s relationship with Sunny, she had high expectations of him and he often met them. I think without her influence, he might not have helped anyone he did in Season 2. It’s also doubtful he’d have the same level of concern for MK that he does.

    The writers took the easy way out. In future seasons, Sunny and Veil could have had a healthy relationship. They could have been the backbone of helping to unravel all of those mysterious subplots.

  • I, along with many others loved Sunny and Veil as a couple. The show is ruined now that veil is dead. I too noticed how all the white women were spared, yet veil was not. A large portion of the shows fan base were black women who are disappointed with this finale. THEY REALLY MESSED UP! WE will not be watching season 3 unless Veil is brought back.

  • Man, I was SCREAMING when all that went down. I saw at least 3 different times when Veil could have stepped up and help Sunny kill Quinn’s crazy a$$ and I’m like, “They bet not!” Of course they did. I will tune in for S3 because I’m curious, but like most of us, I’m so over that damn trope. Veil didn’t need to die.


  • I think Season two of Into the badlands ended terribly with key issues were unresolved (Moon, The Smuggers, The Abbots) and two characters get killed off for no valid reason (Veil and Bajige). Perhaps Veil’s death was meant to be a consequence of Sunny trying to be a killer with a conscience, something that was foresaw through the Moon and Sunny’s fight with him. But like you said, all Sunny had to do was finish Quinn off when he had the chance which makes Veil’s death unnecessary. If the purpose of Veil’s death was to show that Sunny can’t have his cake and eat it too, then why not kill Henry off as well? It would be made so interesting to see a Season 3 Sunny where he is dealing with the aftermath. (I hope I’m not seen as messed up for wondering what it would be like if Henry died)

    I think Veil being brought back to life would kill the impact her death made on Sunny and turn the show in essence, into DBS, where all tension is neutralized (what is the point of worrying about characters if they can all be brought back to life?)

  • I mentioned this to someone else too. I watch a lot of Eastern Asian movies/dramas so it didn’t dawn on me that most won’t see the connection that is clear to me.

    If he gives creative input, Daniel Wu takes his from Asian movies/dramas. The lone wolf and cub theme, which is a father raising and protecting his child in a dystopia world, is an old and popular one for us (think Mad Max with a baby). When you have every other character skilled in martial arts in some form and one that is written to be genteel. its not often that one unarmed character survives. Add that character to be a women in love and pregnant with the one character who is the most skilled and accomplished, struggling with his demons. Than you can bet money the women will not survive but the child will.

    As a child I used to wonder why that had to be…..if the lone wolf had to battle through rough plains with an innocent burden or baggage anyway then why not carry the child’s mother too. But Eastern shows like that timeless narrative of a father’s struggle with a child more then the happy ever after of a family. I view ITB as an Asian drama more than an American one. The moment Veil was singled out as an unskilled fighter, in love and pregnant. I knew she was a goner in the second season finale. Now if this had been an Indian/Punjabi/Urdu drama then Sunny would find his second chance at love close to S3 finale and the theme would carry on to S4. Now that S3 has given father and son time to grow and bond.

    Giving Veil the start that they did and the background they did. I don’t think they could have written her off any other way. Again thinking about the Eastern shows I watch. Because they wrote Veil and Sunny to be so in love that creating a scenario where both part amicably would be inconsistent and still anger their shippers. Veil didn’t die to push Sunny’s story. His story is already moving forward with Azra. She died because that was as far as her character was suppose to reach. A mother sacrificing herself so her son would be a better person than her jailer. Now Sunny is a father who will fight to keep his son on a better path than his own.

    I don’t believe the entire S2 was a waste though I did get bored with a few scenes here and there. They wrote for Veil and Sunny’s eventual reunion and they delivered on that promise. But if you recognise the theme as I do, they never promised a happy ever after…after. Fans believed, because the characters believed….just as the writers puppeteer it. Daniel and Madeleine get full credit for that. This does not diminish Sunny as a failure and any less badass because he did what he set out to do, he fought his way back to Veil as he promised at the beginning. His weakness comes from not his abilities or conviction but his inability to control fate.

    “why was she killed but many other female characters the door was left open for their return?”

    Because all the other characters, male and female, have subplots apart from Veil and nothing to do with Sunny as much. She was only there to wait for her man. Not a nice definition but that was all she was for. To inject her into other characters subplots would be seeing skills and powers from her early on like MK or gradually like the Widow. I’ve read people say ‘Bring her back like Quinn.’ That wont work for Veil because she doesn’t have connections to other characters like Quinn did. Also Quinn is an aggressive character, a stubborn survivor. Veil in not and to make her such would be inconsistent at this point and sloppy. Plus Veil has no part in the lone wolf and cub narrative.

    If Veil had been a white character I still think this is how she would have died. I think that because I can place her in a lot of Eastern shows. She was their to bring a child as hope into a wasted world with broken people. That was her part in the story.

    I’m sorry for the long dialog, I just wanted to explain in detail to not create misunderstanding. Lesson learnt from SH.

  • The only thing I thought was dumb was Quinn being able to still stand and threaten Veil after being impaled through Sunny’s badass sword twice, through what appeared to me, to be his spine (at least the very first time when Quinn was standing over Veil);
    Only to have the blow that finally kills him look like a sai going through his shoulder, along with only like half point hitting Quinn, with it going all the way through Veils chest.
    Kinda figured she was going to die, they foreshadowed it enough. I just thought the way it happened was dumb. Would of been better if it was a random bandit that killed her after her and Sunny killed Quinn, or just having Sunny be too late.
    Really other than that I thought this season was even better than the first. Looking forward to 16 episodes of season 3!!!

  • But thy already brought several characters back from the “grave” already. Why not Veil as well?

  • If they were going to bring her back, they wouldn’t have shown her grave and Sunny carrying Henry to an uncertain future.

  • I’m glad Veil isn’t coming back. It’s a sad ending they gave her after two seasons of not having her own urgency or plot. I think it’d cheapen her character further reanimating her from the dead. Not to mention ruin the whole Lone Wolf and Cub plot DW is eager for. At least Madeleine Mantock has a new show Age Before Beauty. Which is a British production. No offence to USA writers but U.K Writers are better in my opinion.

  • Veil was my favorite character because of her intelligence and compassion. Considering the entire second season in its entirety, it definitely seems to me she was victimized and made the object of, as stated in an earlier comment, “torture porn.” She should have lived. It would have been terrific to see Veil, Sunny and Henry surviving in the Badlands as a loving family – something you don’t see often in action-adventure series. I mean, the writers let useless JADE live. But she, as well as the other remaining main women castmembers, is white. Yeah, I was such a champion of this show, but now given its treatment of its only major WOC character, I just can’t bear to watch it any further. The showrunner said in an interview after the finale that more WOC characters would be added to the third season. Like Black people are interchangeable. We’re not, Veil is not, so no thanks.

  • How about a Ninja Assassin remake with Lewis Tan and Madeleine Mantock? But instead of a movie, it get turned into a series for Netflix. They hire the fight choreography who did The Raid movies. The Raid 1 and 2 are great movies.

  • Because Quinn “death” was ambitious as in it wasn’t completely confirmed that he died. Veil was stabbed through the chest with a short sword and died in Sunny’s arms, it’s impossible to bring her back.

  • Fully agree about how it diminishes Sunny as well, because the way they wrote it, Sunny failed TWICE to properly finish off Quinn (S1 and S2 finales), both times having ample opportunity but failing because of BAD LAZY WRITING. What garbage. So insulting to the audience.

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