Into the Badlands beautifully revives the TV martial arts genre


AMC has been careful to pick original shows for their programming, especially with the success of The Walking Dead, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. With their new series Into the Badlands coming out this week, it looks like AMC has continued that trend of powerful story arcs and characters, but this time, they included beautifully choreographed martial art scenes.

Into the Badlands introduces the audience to a post-apocalyptic future where guns are banned, everything has a steampunk feel, and the Badlands are ruled by seven barons who are struggling for power. The storyline is based on the 16th-century Chinese folklore Journey to the WestOur protagonist Sunny (Daniel Wu) is a devoted ‘clipper’, a trained fighter, for the poppy-field owning baron Quinn (viciously played by Marton Csokas). While on a mission sent by the Quinn to retrieve some goods, Sonny meets MK (Aramis Knight), a mysterious boy who is wanted by another baron, The Widow (Emily Beecham). Why? We find out MK has a secret power that could cause damage to anyone who crosses him, which could be used as a weapon in the war among the barons. It’s up to Sunny to protect and train the boy in order to find a way out for him and his pregnant lover to escape from the Badlands.

The world of the Badlands is truly vibrant with colors that fit the scenes perfectly. The Baron’s poppy fields, the rugged town, the Widow’s forest area, and many other locations felt very real and authentic to the storyline. Everything is very detailed – even Quinn’s office has so much detail like the record player, the gong, and even his pipe – to fit the storyline. Everything just made you feel like you were in the Badlands.

There are some tropes in several characters in the series – the faithful wife who is angry with her husband for taking another bride; the power-hungry son who is jealous of his father’s relationship with Sunny and wants to take over his father’s empire; and the badass baroness who killed her husband to obtain power. Although these are typical storylines, in the world of the Badlands, it works. These characters are still interesting and engaging where those tropes do not matter. Each character in the series is carefully crafted for a purpose. The baroness and what she stands for provides women more power in the series, which balances out the machoness of Quinn’s territory; and trust me, that is needed.

Of course, we cannot forget the fight scenes, which is honestly the best part of the series. Choreographed by EP and fight director Stephen Fung, the fight sequences are just superb. Wu, Knight, Beecham and Ally Ioannides, who appears in the second episode as the Widow’s daughter Tilda, all have turned their martial arts training into an art form. There is a fight scene in the first episode where Wu takes on the Widow’s henchmen in the rain. The direction, the camera angles, and the choreography for that scene was just masterful and mesmerizing. Wu is in his element as an actor and as a martial artist. We’ve had some TV series with cool martial arts being featured, like Daredevil, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen a martial arts series this beautiful in a long time.

Overall, the series is a fresh take on a dystopian era where fighting is the only way to survive. And, the fighting is absolutely stunning to watch.

Into the Badlands premieres this Sunday on AMC.

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Laura Sirikul
Laura Sirikul 1849 posts

Trekkie. Jedi. Whovian. Sherlockian. Hobbit. Sanrio. Comics. I am Spartacus. Warrior Princess. Superhero. Nerd. Follow me @lsirikul