Last week we saw the premiere of a new series by AMC called, Into the Badlands. They had been highly publicizing this show for months now and I have to admit I was intrigued. It is a drama/action show centered on martial arts. I’m always a sucker for both things, so I knew I had to give this show a shot. First though let’s take a look at the beginning and who makes up this show and then we’ll see how it all came together and my thoughts on it.
Into the Badlands is very loosely based off of Journey to the West, a 16th century Chinese novel by Wu Cheng’en that is considered to be one of the four great classic novels of Chinese literature. It is very popular, even today, and is steeped in Chinese mythology, folk religion, and Buddhist/Taoist philosophies. At its core it is an adventure story that is full of hardships and gained personal and spiritual enlightenment through learned cooperation.
In the novel the main character heads west towards India, in the show our cast is set in a dystopian American south where our protagonist wants to head out west to be safe. Who is our protagonist? That would be Sunny, an assassin. He is played by Daniel Wu Yin-cho. You may think he is new to acting, but in fact since his debut in 1998 he has been in over 60 movies. He is 41 (say whhhaaattttt) and has also produced and directed. Other people starring in this series are Emily Beecham (28 Weeks Later), Aramis Knight (Enders Game), Sarah Bolger (Once Upon A Time, The Spiderwick Chronicles), Oliver Stark (The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box), Marton Csokas (The Lord of the Rings, XXX, The Equalizer), Orla Brady (Fringe), Madeleine Mantock (Edge of Tomorrow) and Ally Ioannides (Parenthood). The series was created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, both of whom worked on Smallville and Shanghai Knights.
So we have an impressive cast and crew for the adaptation of a classic story. How does Into the Badlands stack up?
First of all I would recommend if you watch this to not try and figure out where this place is or how any of it makes sense. Think of it as you would a comic book, the setting meets the demands of the story instead of the story being confined to the setting. The show throws in the old American South, with bits and pieces of kung fu and samurai movies along with a dystopian future. Once I decided to roll with it instead of sitting there trying to figure it out, I enjoyed it much more.
The premise is that pretty much that seven barons control the ‘badlands’ or what used to be known as the southern part of the USA. No one goes in or out; most don’t even believe there is an out. Each baron controls a resource that helps everyone survive. Because of this, they are always targeted and so they have armies to help them keep their assets in tact. Our story starts with the baron Quinn. He seems to grow poppies, so I’m assuming he makes opium. If there is another resource he makes, I missed it.
Quinn is exactly what you would think an old Southern plantation farmer would be like-he has a deep drawl, an impressive beard, and is a white, cruel, ruthless and clever SOB. He’s married to Lydia who is as critical of him as she is loyal. She too is clever, but seems to have more of a heart, for now. They have a son named Ryder. I want to punch him in the face. He plays the perfect tortured but arrogant and spoiled son. He is supposed to be Quinn’s heir, but they all doubt him, except his mother and himself. He is very jealous of Sunny. Quinn has also stolen Ryder’s love, Jade and is planning on making her his newest wife.
There is also the Widow, once just another baron’s wife, she has now taken over and is looking for a particular boy. Which boy? Why MK, a cutie pie who Sunny saves and brings back to Quinn’s compound. We find out that when he bleeds he gets deadly martial arts powers. We find out he and Sunny are both from the same place out west, and they both want to get back to it. Sunny needs to go because he has found out his sort of girlfriend Veil is pregnant and that is against the law for him to have a family. Punishment is death.
The first episode threw a lot of information at the viewers, maybe a bit too much. Some of the characters seemed a bit one dimensional, but I will refrain from saying they are until I’ve seen a few more episodes. Sunny had the most development as we were told some of his past, his affections for Veil and the consequences of that and how he let MK go and wants to find out more about where they both came from. I was left wanting to know more about Sunny and hoping to see him succeed in finding ways to save Veil, MK and himself.
The pace of the show was good, there was always more action around every corner and that is where this show excels. Daniel Wu does an amazing job of showing off his martial arts skills and the other actors and stunt people around them aren’t shabby either. I could have easily been entertained by just having an hour long fight scene, which actually wasn’t far off from the actual show. I can’t wait to see how they will continue to up the ante for future fight scenes. I wish I could be more descriptive about the choreography, but as a fan who doesn’t practice martial arts myself, all I can tell you is it’s hella great and if you enjoy kung fu movies even a tiny bit, you will like this show.
Overall I’m giving a thumbs up to this show. It’s only six episodes and so I will definitely be sticking it out through the entire first season. I’m hoping to see more character and plot development in the future and hope the action isn’t lost as we go along. What were your thoughts on this new series? Tell us @thenerdygirlexp or you can go to my personal account @quietlikeastorm where you’ll find me definitely live tweeting the newest episode out Sunday on AMC. Seriously, we love talking with you guys!
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