Can I just start off by telling you all how long I’ve been waiting to watch this show?
Into the Badlands premiered last night at 10pm, but AMC has been airing trailers since at least September. A cool post-apocalyptic kung-fu TV show? Count me in.
The show is set in a place called the Badlands, centuries into the future. It is a feudal society run by seven barons and their armies of assassins, called Clippers. The uneasy peace is threatened by the emergence of the Widow, a new baron played by Emily Beecham. Our protagonist is Sunny, played by Daniel Wu. He is the most dangerous Clipper in the service of Quinn, played by Marton Csokas, who is the most powerful Baron in the Badlands. Sunny discovers a teenaged boy named M.K., played by Aramis Knight, who has a special secret and claims to be from a land outside the Badlands and beyond the control of the Barons. He also has a bounty on his head from the Widow, and, by association, Sunny is forced into the power struggle between Quinn and the other Barons.
Sunny’s first appearance is via a motorcycle and his long red trench coat exudes cool. He’s self-assured and calm, obviously able to handle any situation thrown his way. But Sonny is not just a dog for his Baron. He has an underlying complexity that I expect will be fleshed out more as the show goes on. Wu’s portrayal was effortless and nuanced and he looks to be the perfect man to play the role. Sunny may have killed a lot of people, but he’s somehow still likeable as a character. Aramis Knight’s M.K. shows considerable promise as a supporting character. The show’s creators, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, actually employed a teenager to play the teenage character, something you don’t always see, and it seems to be working for them.
The story moves a bit slowly in this episode, which is something to be expected in a series premiere. With a new world to introduce, a ton of characters, and crazy action sequences (I’ll get to that in a minute), it’s amazing that the writers managed to squeeze as much plot and intrigue into the episode as they did. There’s a jealous wife, a scheming son, a tricky bride-to-be, a pregnant lover, a missing mother, a new friend, and a bully in addition to Sunny, M.K., Quinn, and the Widow, and each is involved in significant plot points throughout the pilot. The whole point of a kung-fu show is to watch the action sequences, right? With Into the Badlands, however, we may actually get to enjoy a good story as well.
Those fight scenes? Whoa. Five minutes into the show and you get your first insane hand-to-hand combat sequence. There isn’t really any gore, although there are some cringe-inducing injuries and deaths to be had. The second action sequence, in contrast, is a beautifully filmed sword fight in the rain. While the first may have invoked whoops and verbal reactions from my roommates and I, we watched the second with a quiet awe. These scenes are the star of the show, and do not fail to impress. As is typical with kung-fu, the fights are a bit unrealistic, but that’s what makes them fun. You watch to see incredible feats of strength, grace, and violence. I think the show runners were smart to include only two sequences in the pilot so that they did not upset the pacing of the show, but, rather, revved it through the rest of the episode with a renewed vigor. I also can’t wait to see how the creators top themselves in future episodes.
Overall, Into the Badlands did not disappoint. It is sleek and stylish, with interesting characters, and good pacing. Daniel Wu and the rest of the cast put in strong performances that keep the story engaging. The show airs immediately after The Walking Dead, to hopefully pull in viewers from the immensely popular zombie show, which should help give it some staying power. I definitely recommend that you add Into the Badlands to your weekly watch-list.
5 awesome fight scenes out of 5.