Into the Badlands Creator Al Gough on Tilda and the Widow’s Complicated Relationship

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Antony Platt/AMC
Antony Platt/AMC

The relationship between a mother and daughter is always complicated, even more so when your mother is a Baron with big dreams for reforming society. All season long on Into the Badlands tension has been building between the Widow (Emily Beecham) and her surrogate daughter Tilda (Ally Ioannides). Things finally came to a head, as the two engaged in a knockdown fight for the ages in last Sunday’s episode that saw the Widow deliver a final, but not fatal, knockout blow to Tilda.

How the two move on from here remains to be seen as the drama heads into its Season 2 finale this Sunday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET on AMC. The fight was the culmination of a season’s worth of doubts for Tilda, as she’s watched the Widow change and make questionable decisions all in the name of her quest to reform the Badlands. After learning that her mother had traded Veil (Madeleine Mantock) to Quinn (Marton Csokas) to secure an alliance, Tilda finally had enough. Unfortunately for her, the Widow is still the best and baddest Butterfly of them all, even though in the end she couldn’t bring herself to take Tilda out for good.

Into the Badlands co-creator, co-showrunner and executive producer Al Gough recently spoke exclusively with The TV Junkies about the women’s complicated relationship. He discussed why the writing team wanted to build a rift between the two and if there’s any hope for them to mend fences in the future. With the show having been renewed for an extended 16 episode Season 3 by AMC, there will be plenty of possibility to explore things going forward. Gough also talked about how the show was aware of what having the fate of Tilda, a queer character, left up in the air could mean for fans who are now more and more aware of television’s recent problems with the Bury Your Gays trope.

 

The TV Junkies: The dynamic between Tilda and the Widow is one of my favorite parts of the show and that fight in Sunday’s episode, while amazing, was really hard to watch. Why was it important for you to give those two all that tension this season and see this rift between them?

Al Gough: The Widow is a fascinating and complex character and her relationship with Tilda, while the show has many hearts, that’s one of the key arteries. There’s a line the Widow says at the beginning of the season, ‘If I won the world and I lost you that would be the tragedy,’ and in a weird way that’s exactly what she’s done this season in her quest for, not necessarily power, but to see her vision for the Badlands through. In a way she ultimately becomes the thing she didn’t want to become.

Tilda has always been her moral compass and once she traded Veil and the baby to Quinn, that was when Tilda saw she really crossed the line. She tried to justify it but she couldn’t, and then Sunny came onto the scene and she didn’t tell him what she had done. She really saw her mother as being manipulative. There’s that scene in Episode 8 where Veil says ‘The Widow is a predator and we’re all prey,’ and I think there’s part of it where ‘as much as I want to defend my mother and believe in what she’s doing on the bigger scale, is that really what she’s about any more?’ M.K. then came back into the picture and suddenly all her old doubts about her mother came to the floor, she started to see her for what she is and then called her on it.

It’s the ultimate mother/daughter fight. I have a teenage daughter and a wife and some of the show is completely real until the kung fu and swords start. [laughs] It is a mother/daughter relationship and it’s a daughter who in Season 1, while she was her favorite Butterfly, Tilda didn’t always have a lot of agency. This season she’s a Regent and we’ve seen her go out on her own and do things she thinks is right. For instance, the Widow let those clippers go in Episode 1, but Tilda knew what they had done to Odessa and the girls and wasn’t going to stand for it. She was told not to go to the conclave and she shows up at the conclave. For a young woman who has killed a lot of people, she has a very strong moral center. As much as she wanted to see past those things, she couldn’t any more and it led to this.

With the Widow we say it’s akin to Michael Corleone in Godfather II where he says ‘I don’t want to become my father. I’m not my family,’ and then by the end he’s killing his brother and straying from his wife. He’s become the thing he never wanted to become. I think in some sense the Widow has gotten to that point, where in her quest for recognition and to see her vision of the Badlands — again a very noble vision — she lost her way as a person. Has she corrupted herself in an effort to get what she wants? Now she’s left alone. I think that’s devastating for her, even with M.K. coming back into the picture and the tantalizing idea that she could somehow figure out how to get her gift back. She’s in a very dark place at the end of the season.

Antony Platt/AMC
Antony Platt/AMC

TTVJ: Are things then beyond repair for her and Tilda or is there still hope?

AG: Now it’s certainly bad, but like a lot of mother/daughter relationships — even in one like this where your mother drops a chandelier on you [laughs] — I like to think that the Widow still loves Tilda and Tilda, even under all her anger, knows there’s still that mother/daughter bond. It’s frayed to the point of breaking at this point, clearly the worst it’s ever been, and it gives us a lot of dramatic situations for Season 3, but I think they have a connection. Their relationship will never be the same, but it doesn’t mean that they’ll never come back together. Again, it’s daughters and mothers as they get older and those relationships go through peaks and valleys. On this show we’re just playing that out on a much more operatic level.

TTVJ: After Sunday’s episode I noticed a lot of members of the queer fandom were very nervous about Tilda’s fate being left somewhat in question. One of your writers, LaToya Morgan, was quick to jump on social media and assure fans Tilda was just knocked out. Did you guys have any concerns about ending an episode with a queer character’s fate in question like that?

AG: No, and we’re definitely savvy to what’s happened on The 100 and other shows, but as a writer it’s always hard. Social media is a great way to take the temperature of the show and you want people to think that because that’s the fun of the show. I told LaToya ‘I wish you hadn’t said that because I want people to show up next week and see we didn’t kill her.’ We’re not doing the tropey thing where we’re killing that character, but we wanted to leave people with that question. That’s part of what serialized television does is that it makes people go ‘what happened? Let’s show up next week!’

It’s an interesting thing to me that people think the Widow could’ve killed her, like ‘Holy shit! Would she go that far?’ It makes me think people see how potentially dark she’s come, but she wouldn’t do that.

TTVJ: Admittedly, when I watched I saw it as the Widow knocking her out, but then a lot of people on my feeds who are queer were really freaked out about it. So when LaToya tweeted that there was a lot of relief.

AG: I know. I definitely get that and understand. It’s just so rare as a show where you can do that and have people go ‘Holy shit!’ or get the Twitter reaction of ‘F this show! I’m out!’ Even though I’ve found those types of people who tweet they are out are rarely out for good.

 

What did you think of the fight between Tilda and the Widow? Are you ready (or scared) for the finale? Sound off in the comments below! For more with Gough check back here at The TV Junkies after the finale on Sunday when we’ll post the rest of our interview.

Into the Badlands airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.

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