Into the Badlands Series Premiere Summary:
In a land controlled by feudal barons, Into the Badlands tells the story of a great warrior and a young boy who embark on a journey across a dangerous land to find enlightenment.
It is hard to not be interested in Badlands. It looks and feels so different than almost everything else out there. Yes, it is based on a post apocalypse but that is where the similarities with everything else on TV end. And it would be easy to say that by being the only Kung fu show on TV (save for maybe Daredevil), it is worth your time but that would really be selling it short. Into the Badlands is an immersive story about the most interesting post apocalypse on TV that happens to be filled with some of the best Kung fu to ever make its way to the small screen.
The premise for the show it not simple. We follow Sunny, an assassin who works for Quinn, one of the ruling Barons of the Badlands. It seems like the events of Badlands are following some sort of post apocalypse but the specifics of the history of the show are purposefully vague. I have a feeling at least a few of those specifics will be unveiled as the series progresses however they are not too important to understand the plot of the show. Basically Sunny stumbles upon a boy who is being transported to competing Baron and he notices that this boy is special. He isn’t sure exactly what it is about the boy, named MK, but he makes the decision to free MK and set him on the path to forge his own destiny in the Badlands.
Let’s get this out of the way, right off the bat: the action scenes are flawless. Fight coordinator Stephen Fung clearly knows exactly what he’s doing when setting up so many visually spectacular moments. The Fort has two that really stand out. The first is the fight in the forest and the second is the fight in the rain. Both are shot beautifully and are incredibly exciting to watch.
One of the really cool things about Badlands is that we are seeing a ton of Sunny-centric scenes and not many else, yet. Because of Daniel Wu’s involvement in both, I have noticed a handful of similarities between Badlands and the RZA’s kung fu love letter The Man With The Iron Fists, one being the fact that every character is dangerous. On the surface you have various Game of Thronesish political connections that are moving many of the characters into each other’s cross hairs. We have Barons competing with each other for power in the Badlands and within those Baron’s houses there is unrest. What makes those politics particularly fun is that almost every character could seemingly kill every other character. Sunny, MK, Quinn, and Ryder have established themselves in the premier as physical powerhouses capable of taking each other in a one on one fight .On top of that, Badlands has teased action sequences in the future for characters like The Widow. Most importantly, unlike GoT, we have no reference for which characters might die in any episode and that unpredictability should make it a ton of fun to watch Badlands going forward.
Badlands also features one of the most unique esthetics currently on TV, especially when they consider how many other post-apocalyptic shows are out there and how they all look so similar. Here’s a short list. You have The Walking Dead, The 100, Falling Skies, Revolution, The Last Man on Earth, and Jericho. All of those shows have some pretty similar looks. Everyone is dirty and hanging out in overgrown towns and in the woods. Most of the major Badlands scenes have taken place on a plantation-ish house in Louisiana and a steampunk city. We also got a look at some beautiful landscapes with more to come in the future. The costuming is incredibly unique often feeling like a marriage between Django Unchained and Kill Bill, which is never a bad thing.
Daniel Wu does an excellent job as Sunny, the lead Clipper. He has an incredibly steely demeanor but Sunny does a great job of playing the man behind the sword as well. Sunny is a man who’s back is breaking under the literal weight of over 400 kills and finally starting to show it. He has excellent chemistry with Aramis Knight who plays MK, although it is hard to tell how much time they will have in the future. He is also right in the middle of the power struggle happening between Quinn and his son, that we can expect to play out very violently in the coming season.
Badlands isn’t perfect. I did notice an almost complete lack of humor from the Pilot. That is clearly the trend in television today. Shows like Walking Dead and The Leftovers reign supreme in a world of bleak depressing television. Badlands is by no means depressing or bleak but what I think today’s great TV has forgotten about is how valuable a bit of comedy can be. The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, two of the best shows in modern history, were quite serious but always had time for some levity. I have also seen a ton of Firefly comparisons and this is exactly what is separating Badlands from being that kind of show. I can’t help but think that the thing keeping me from being painfully addicted to Badlands is how it lacks that same fun. That could absolutely change in the future and I hope it does. Pilot episodes are tricky like that.
Matthew Nando Kelly is an incredibly cool and handsome staff writer for Pop-Break who was allowed to write his own bio. Besides weekly Flash recaps, he focuses on film, television, music, and video games. Matthew also has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he discusses pop culture related brackets with fellow Pop-Break writer DJ Chapman. He has an unshakable love for U2, cats, and the New Orleans Saints. His twitter handle is @NationofNando. Did we mention how handsome he was?