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TV Review: Into The Badlands 1.1 “The Fort”
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Into the Badlands, Season 1, Episode 1

Into The Badlands
Episode 1.1 “The Fort”
Directed by David Dobkin
Written by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Starring Daniel Wu, Ruby Lou Smith, Aramis Knight, Ally Ioannides, Stephen Lang, Emily Beecham, Morgan Benoit, Marton Csokas, Sarah Bolger, Madeleine Mantock, Oliver Stark
AMC
Air date: Sunday, November 15, 2015, 10pm

Beware of spoilers!

It took me all of 5 minutes to fall head over heels for Into the Badlands, AMC’s new show that premiered Sunday night after The Walking Dead. After an opening narration introducing the post apocalyptic new world in which we have fallen back into a bizarre technological form of feudalism, Sunny (Daniel Wu), a Clipper (expert trained killer swordsmen), finds an overturned vehicle and a bunch of dead bodies on the road. When he pokes for answers in the woods, he is quickly engaged in a 1 on 9 battle. That does NOT go well for the 9! Everything about the scene is visceral, the bright red attire he wears, the sounds of each bone breaking, kick landing, body being impaled, and so on. With every kill my roars got louder and louder, until my wife asked from the other room what I was watching. And this was only the first 5 minutes!!!

Sunny takes a survivor, M.K. (Aramis Knight) back to his fort. The fort is controlled by one of few powerful Barons. The peasants are in the fields, all young men get to train to become Clippers. The choice for M.K., an impoverished life in the fields, or a life of violence. The Baron, Quinn (Martin Csokas) holds up a bible and talks of a past where that book and its God were revered. “But there is no God in the Badlands.” He makes Sunny remove his vest revealing pattern tattoos revealing the 404 he’s killed “to protect your interests Baron.”

There are competing forts with competing barons, each one controls a necessity. Sunny’s fort processes poppy. The Widow’s (Emily Beecham)… oil. She paid the nomads in the opening scene. M.K., meanwhile, is forced into the pits to fight and has an heirloom taken. It’s retrieved by Sunny who shows particular interest as it is similar to one he had as a child. There is also a power struggle brewing between the Baron and his son Ryder (Oliver Stark). Ryder wants Sunny as an ally, but Sunny has sworn his allegiance to the Baron.

The Into the Badlands premiere was tremendously effective at crafting a universe, and giving us unique details to its hierarchy and structure. Baron Quinn can “take as many wives as he pleases” as his wife watches him prep for his second wedding. Sunny has a beautiful girl of his own, Veil (Madeleine Mantock) who reveals that she’s pregnant; an affliction for which the penalty is death. When she recommends escaping the Badlands, Sunny says that Quinn kills those who try to escape, the lands outside “are just stories… there’s nothing out there.”

When M.K. gets attacked by a macho kid, the sight of his own blood seems to demonically possess him, as the reasons why the Widow wanted him alive seem to make more sense.
Sunny shows M.K. his pendant which bears the same mark as the boys. It is from Asra, the boy’s (and probably Sunny’s), homeland. As Sunny goes to get Veil he pauses and finds himself surrounded in the rain. What’s four guys after that opening scene? The Widow has offers for Sunny, it’s obvious as greatest Clipper, he is in high demand. Sunny is having a crisis of conscience. His loyalty versus his heart, and his newfound admiration and interest in M.K., have me dying to find out what happens next week.

Into The Badlands is like nothing I’ve ever seen, while at the same time feeling familiar. It reminded me of Mad Max, The Hunger Games, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Road to Perdition all at once. It was a post apocalyptic, martial arts, gangster story with a boy who becomes vampirish at the sight of his own blood. Every character is interesting. Daniel Wu plays an outstanding conflicted hero. Martin Csokas chews the scenery as Quinn, and there is something dark behind Aramis Knight’s eyes. The show is an assault on the senses. It’s visually stunning; the two fight scenes show textbook choreography and plenty of gruesome results. I was hooked before the opening credits.

Into the Badlands returns next Sunday night, November 22nd at 10:00pm ET after The Walking Dead on AMC. Check out AMC.com for some cool info into the background of the show’s world.

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