In a dystopian future set in the ruins of the old world, a place known as the badlands is ruled by seven barons who created order out of chaos. These barons became protectors for those who survived, and then turned into rulers. In order to maintain control they train armies known as Clippers, whose purpose is to eliminate threats and bring order to the badlands. Sunny (Daniel Wu), who is regarded as the most deadly clipper in the badlands and works for the most powerful baron Quinn (Marton Csokas), is sent on a mission to find some Nomads he comes back with a mysterious young boy called M.K. who harbours a dark secret. With the discovery of M.K., a rival baroness known as the widow who murdered her way to power, begins a quest to bring the boy to her which leads to a clash with Quinn that could upset the balance of power in the badlands forever.
Into the Badlands is a 6 part series that can be found on Amazon Prime here in the UK. Though it doesn’t merit the subscription to the streaming service alone, it absolutely provides worthy content to it. The idea of a world in ruin has become increasingly popular to use in recent years, but it’s becoming harder to find a show that does it differently to others, that was until Into the Badlands came around. Throughout the show we follow the character of Sunny, loyal follower of Quinn and the best clipper in his army. As Quinn’s actions become increasingly drastic and worrying, Sunny decides to look for a way out of the badlands so he can start a new life with his secret girlfriend who is carrying their unborn child. The discovery of M.K. gives Sunny hope of a way out, but with a war brewing between Quinn and a baroness known as The Widow (Emily Beecham) time is running out for him to escape.
The world crafted within the show, ruled by barons and guns outlawed, is simple but very intriguing. Each baron controls a different aspect of wealth or power whether it be poppy fields, oil, coin or the biggest army. This spread of resources helps maintain a balance of order amongst the barons, but relationships between them is anything but cordial. This post apocalyptic political structure is a refreshing change from maniacal overlords, or the dog eat dog world of survival which we get from other shows and it adds plenty of potential story arcs and backstory to explore. In series one we are given plenty of detail into Quinns ruthless rise to power, but we only touch on how The Widow came to power. The murder of her baron husband to obtain power is a delectable story line but is only covered in small conversation, as well as the other barons response to such actions. Making the future of this show a little more tantalising is that we only meet three barons, leaving plenty more ground to cover.
That being said, a well built world is only as interesting as the people who inhabit it and the majority of those that we meet are cutthroat, backstabbing, and disloyal. This is of course allows for excitement but can also be quite tiresome when one after another people try to overthrow one another, not every show has to be like Game of Thrones. There are a few respectable characters to be found, but their hands are still stained with blood, Sunny for example is our ‘good guy’ but as a lead clipper he’s responsible for more deaths than the grim reaper. Unlike the mighty HBO show which specialises in political machinations through dialogue and the well timed murder, the political game of Into the Badlands is ruled by action and death, lots of death. As guns are outlawed, everybody wields swords, axes, ninja stars, and pikes you name it, they stab with it. As a result of using this weaponry, everyone is also well versed in martial arts and how to kick ass with hands, feet and sharp objects and in turn we get loads of brilliantly orchestrated action scenes, fights and battles. It’s certainly one of the best qualities of the show, and easily some of the best action your likely to see from any series on TV.
If the series has any shortcomings is that it is just a little short. Six episodes might seem like a nice and easy series to dip your toes into without investing time, but it also means if you have a grand plan you need to rush your story arcs to a conclusion. Had the series ran to 10 episodes they could have fleshed out the landscape, developed characters more and had even pacing across the episodes. Instead we have some episodes that are fast paced, chock full of fights but little development, which then another episode has to compensate for. It’s a minor issue, but one your likely to feel as you go through the series. Performances are also a little inconsistent character to character, Daniel Wu, Emily Beecham, and Marton Csokas all revel in their respective roles and are a joy to watch, but the younger cast members struggle to keep up with them. Needless to say Stephen Lang as Waldo, a wheelchair bound former clipper is a joy to watch as always.
Take our word for it, Into the Badlands is a nice little series to get involved in. For good or for bad, the 6 episode length makes it an easier watch than most shows and there is a fascinating world being built for future seasons to reap the rewards, and did I mention it has loads of nuanced sword fights to keep you entertained? You can catch Into the Badlands Season 1 on Amazon Prime.