“Badlands” opens with the 2nd Mass unit in Charleston awaiting the arrival of their “fish head” alien enemies. Matt Mason runs to the various outer scout camps checking up on them. While he’s visiting Pope and Crazy Lee, shots are fired and it appears someone is targeting them.
While Tom worries about who could replace him, he stops by the tree sculpture being built and decides to call it The Liberty Tree, an important focal point for “Badlands”.
Crazy Lee, one of Pope’s Berserkers, grabs her tire vest (to protect herself from bullets) and heads to a nearby building, only to get shot. Pope runs over and sees that while the vest protected her, she fell and a bar is now protruding from her head. It has gone all the way through and there’s no way she’ll live long enough to see the next sunrise. Pope and Matt, however, are determined to rescue her. The theme of “Badlands” is evident here: sacrifice.
Tom visits Ben to find out about the shooters. There are six, and after a few get shot, Tom finds out something shocking: they’re human. They manage to capture one but have to talk Pope down from exacting vengeance since they need her alive for a little chat.
Anne, meanwhile, is running a blood test on Alexis, the baby she had with Tom. She tries to take blood from Alexis’ foot, but Alexis swings it away and says “Don’t.” When Anne puts Alexis back in her crib, she stands up and whispers, “Mommy.” This would all be somewhat normal if Alexis wasn’t three weeks old.
Lourdes talks to Tom about the possibility of Anne having post-partum depression or even psychosis. Tom visits Anne and apologizes for neglecting her for his new presidential duties. He assures her that she doesn’t have to go through it alone, and Anne then confides that she doesn’t think Alexis is human. Even this “Badlands” storyline has a sacrificial theme.
Hal and Maggie fight when Hal starts to leave, stating that he must give himself up because of the probe in his brain. He’s unsure of what he’s been made to do, if anything, and he doesn’t want anyone to be in danger because of him. Maggie states that he isn’t responsible for anything he’s done, even if he’s killed people under orders from the probe. Maggie gets upset at Hal and stomps out, only to return and tell him that every relationship of hers has ended this way, and this time she isn’t going to leave. She wants to help Hal figure out a way to fight the probe. Here’s “Badlands” again bringing up the main theme.
Tom visits the captured sniper but she will only state her name and rank. He hazards a guess that she and her group have discovered the Charleston area and suspect that Tom’s group is in collaboration with the aliens. He explains that the skitters who work with him are rebels, and that the Volm are allies. The prisoner asserts that “the only good alien is a dead alien”. Feeling like she’s disrespected Tom, someone introduces him as the president of the New United States, which makes her smile. Apparently, she’s working for the old president, who is still very much alive.
Crazy Lee has been moved to the hospital by Matt and Pope, but there’s no hope of her recovering.
Lourdes visits Anne and offers to help, but is pushed away when Anne finds out that Tom sent her. Anne feels like he doesn’t trust her with their child while Lourdes tries to explain that after running and fighting for two years, now that they are in a somewhat stable environment, things are catching up to them and they’ll just have to learn to deal with whatever is happening to her.
Tom visits Crazy Lee in the hospital and speaks a sort of personal eulogy over her. He then tells Matt he’s proud of him. “Sometimes the best thing we can do for people is just to be there for them as a witness when they leave.” Pope sits with Crazy Lee, who begs him to steal a car and take her and Matt to Disneyland, which is something he can’t do, he says, because he got in a fight once with Goofy. Tears slip down his cheeks as Crazy Lee breathes her last. Her hand touches Pope’s and he realizes she was holding her necklace, which he gives to Matt.
This was my favorite part of “Badlands.” We’ve seen Anne slowly going crazy, Crazy Lee die, Pope distraught at the loss of a fellow berserker, and Hal deciding to give up his own life to protect others. Everyone’s dealing with sacrifice, and Tom’s words comfort them, even if it’s just the eye of the storm.
In two years, not much has changed. They are still losing loved ones. “…It’s hard to compare what we lost to what we had. I lost a friend today. Her sacrifice is a reminder that every single day matters, every single one of us matters…tonight we will inscribe on the tree the names of loved ones. They’ll live on the Liberty Tree forever. Though the branches will undoubtedly grow because the cost of freedom is high, no matter how much time goes by, we will remember it’s not about how long we live, but how we live and what we leave behind.”
People write the names of their loved ones on leaves and hang them on the tree, but of course the moment is ruined by an explosion, before Hal can come forward. Everyone runs for cover as Alexis smiles up at the sky.