Into the Badlands


This show is like a John Woo version of a dystopian “Kill Bill” crammed into the formulaic structure of “Dynasty” on steroids. So there’s no middle ground here--either that idea appeals to you or it doesn’t. At present, it seems to add up to killer visuals riding a dime novel story.

First the basics. Society was destroyed a long time ago (isn’t it always). The best humanity could do afterwards is to reconstitute feudalism. The feudal lords are called Barons, their assassins are called Clippers and the head assassins are called Regents. The biggest, baddest Baron is Quinn, who has endless fields of opium and a headstrong loser of a son named Ryder. Quinn’s big, bad Regent is Sunny, he of the 440 legendary kills. The newest Baron trying to rise is The Widow.

The dime novel story is as follows. Sunny finds some kid named M.K. and lugs him back to Quinn’s fort to become a Colt (i.e., a Clipper in training). The kid has a medallion that has the same picture on it Sunny had when he was found as a child. It’s supposed to be Azra, a mythical place outside the Badlands. That idea calls to Sunny because his concubine, Veil, is pregnant, something not to be allowed by post-Apocalyptic feudal rules. Got all that?

M.K. has a darker secret as well. When you draw blood from him, his eyes turn black and he kicks your ass brutally with some mystical power he neither controls nor understands. The Widow is searching for him because she wants to use that power to overthrow the psychopathic Quinn, who’s also dying of a brain tumor while suspecting his son is a loser. He’s right on that count. By the end of the second episode Ryder has piled up a season’s worth of Dynasty character errors, from sleeping with his father’s latest bride to eagerly walking into an obvious trap. Too bad Sunny saves him.

The first two episodes follow M.K. ping ponging back and forth between Sunny and The Widow, who has a lot of impressive leather outfits and boots for someone in a preindustrial society. All the while, Sunny becomes more and more disillusioned with Quinn. Lots of fighting occurs.

The fight scenes are awesome for TV, rife with color and ridiculously choreographed. The plot and characterizations to date are pedestrian. Only time will tell if they can find the right balance.