“The wars were so long ago nobody even remembers. Darkness and fear ruled until the time of the barons, seven men and women who forged order out of chaos. People flocked to them for protection. That protection became servitude. They banished guns and trained armies of lethal fighters they called Clippers. This world is built on blood. Nobody is innocent here. Welcome to the Badlands.” – Into the Badlands, Episode One
The thing about the Badlands is everyone has tragedy in their past. I’m not talking about a kid whose family pet ran away. Their traumatic pasts include beatings, rapes, forced labor, forced murder, and humiliation, just to name a few. It’s a primitive society, just one step above a slave economy. And everywhere you look there is staunch brutality in every facet of the Badlands.
The show starts with an awe-inspiring fight scene between Barron Quinn’s regent, Sonny, and a gang of outlaws. With a plethora of steel weapons rushing toward him, Sonny shows us exactly why he’s known as the deadliest clipper in the badlands. The moves are great, the costuming is amazing, and the whole scene is impressive to behold and the perfect way to kick off a series like this. Daniel Wu moves with a quiet fury; his body whips around as he blocks attacks from in front and behind him, effectively annihilating the group of misfits. Awesome… just awesome.
Episode one delivers a rapid-fire introduction that effectively throws a net over the viewer, cloaking them with interest and a longing to know more. So much happens in the first 45-minutes, you almost get lost. I will tell you that I’ve watched that episode 4 or 5 times and every viewing has exposed another nuance or tidbit I missed previously. In six episodes, the first season of this series presents an intricate and compelling story, unlike anything I’ve seen recently. My husband and I are completely obsessed with this show, and it’s incredibly frustrating when my cat launches into a marathon meow fest as the opening credits roll. Every. Time.
There are simply too many badass characters in this series for me to talk about them all. I would ramble on for 18 pages. Front and back! (Friends reference… please forgive me 🙂 So, I’m going to talk briefly about a few of my favorites.
Quinn and The Fort Family
Quinn’s relationship with his wives, Lydia and Jade, is one that is ripe with deception and manipulation on both sides of the gender line. Marton Csokas’ performance as Quinn is disturbingly alluring. Quinn is a legendary warrior who rose up from the position of cog (slave) into a deadly clipper. He eventually took power from his Barron by killing him.
His obsession with beautiful women is his only real weakness. He is less suspicious (at least at first!) of his lady loves, and therefore vulnerable. You see him make familiar mistakes with the women in his life, and his relationships expose a complexity within the character that transforms him into a truly conflicted villain.
Lydia’s (Orla Brady) ruthlessness is palpable, but you never know when she is going to surprise you and show some ill-advised compassion. She has just enough heart to keep you guessing. Jade, on the other hand, comes across as demure and gentle at first glance but proves to have more secrets and greater ambition than you could ever imagine.
Sonny (Daniel Wu) is Quinn’s most trusted advisor, protector, and confidant. He’s been a soldier in Barron’s fighting force since he was found as a child, and he rose through the ranks because of his lethality. At the start of the show, he has 404 kill tattoos on his back. Clippers do this to signify their honor and commitment to their Barrons. Sonny is the deadliest clipper in the Badlands, but he has a secret… He is in love.
This show has some of the strongest female leads I’ve ever seen. To survive in the badlands, you must have a resilient spirit. To succeed in the Badlands, you must fight without mercy.
The Widow, played by Emily Beecham, is a Barron who took power by murdering her pedophilic husband and seizing his estate. Her story is an interesting one, and not only because of her past. Her quest for power is fueled by a complex set of personal values, and she often flirts with the line of taking too much from those most devoted to her. As the Widow begins to make progress towards her goals, her clippers, or Butterflies as she likes to call them, begin to question her motives.
The closest person to the Widow is Tilda, her adopted daughter. Ally Loannides plays Tilda, and she has some serious moves. In the first episode, we get to see her perform an epic takedown in a high-stakes showdown. The women in this show are equally as strong as the men, no matter their size or backstory, and it is amazing.
The costume designer did a fabulous job with this show. The costumes seem to go beyond just clothing- the frocks tend to show a side of the wearer’s personality. Brilliant colors, flattering cuts – everyone either looks like a debutant or a dominatrix.
Into the Badlands is one of my favorite series on television right now. The acting, martial arts, and deep and emotional plot make this a show I can watch on repeat.
The first two seasons are on Netflix. New episodes air on AMC on Sunday nights. If you’re a fan of the show, I highly recommend spending time on AMC.com on the Into the Badlands page; they have online graphic novels that describe the early days of some of the major characters.
If you’re looking for something to watch that is off the beaten path, give this show a try. If you’re new to Wuxia (martial heroes) as I was, approach this show with an open mind. It’s interesting because it is different.
Rating: 4 out of 4 stars.
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