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AMC's 'Into the Badlands' Lunges Into a Blood-Splattered Future
November 15, 2015  | By David Hinckley
 

If your main complaint about Game of Thrones is that it needs more violence, Into the Badlands may be just your ticket.

AMC’s new six-part series, which premieres Sunday night at 10 (ET), mashes together multiple familiar TV and film genres into an action-adventure-quest story that’s gratifyingly well spun.

It’s also bloody and soapy and at times as stylized as a comic-book superhero epic.

Though loosely based on a centuries-old Chinese tale, Into the Badlands takes place in the future, which turns out to be a ravaged and degraded version of the present.

It’s a crude world, aptly called The Badlands, in which almost everyone struggles simply to survive. It’s physically divided into seven feudal-style baronies, each ruled by a powerful leader who is suspicious of both the masses and the other barons.

To maintain power, barons train elite paramilitary units whose members are called Clippers, no relation to the Los Angeles basketball team. They provide both external security and internal policing.
The alpha baron at the moment is Quinn (Marton Csokas, right), who could pass for a huckster Southern preacher if he ever seemed to give a nanosecond’s thought to morality.

His head Clipper and closest advisor is Sunny (Daniel Wu), who gets a tattoo mark on his back every time he racks up a kill (top.) With more than 400 marks, his biggest worry may be running out of back.

Even before the opening credits of the premiere episode, we get to witness Sunny’s skill at killing large numbers of adversaries quickly. He impales people on swords. He snaps multiple bones up to and including necks. He folds one fellow in half, backwards. Use your imagination.

The blood spatter in several fight scenes is reminiscent of 300, though some viewers may fleetingly wonder why, if eight or 10 or 25 guys have Sunny cornered, they don’t all charge him at the same time, rather than getting picked off one by one.
Oh, well. Not our problem.

In any case, the Badlands would never be confused with Disney World. But a few dreamers cling to a ray of hope, in the form of a rumor that beyond the baronies lies a land where people are free.
The only problem is getting there, since the barons have little interest in letting anyone leave. In Quinn’s case, who would harvest and process all his opium poppies?

Enter M.K. (Aramis Knight), a teenager thought to have almost superhuman fighting powers by the baron known as The Widow (Emily Beecham, left). She’d really like to draft him for her team.

But M.K. already has a connection to Sunny, not to mention other ideas. He’s one of those freedom dreamers, and it turns out he’s not alone.

So we begin a symbolic and spiritual quest, all about man’s need for freedom and the price we’re willing or unwilling to pay.

At the same time, however, Into the Badlands also starts fleshing out a high-society soap opera, involving among others Quinn’s first wife Lydia (Orla Brady), his younger second wife Jade (Sara Bolger) and his loose-cannon son Ryder (Oliver Stark).

Did we mention that the Widow’s daughter Hilda (Alexis Ioannides) happens to run into M.K. while she’s hunting squirrels in the woods?

And no, we don’t know why she’d have to hunt squirrels, except maybe that some people just find them annoying.

Happily, all this seemingly complicated setup comes together quite coherently on the screen, and while almost all the characters practice lethal violence, there are a couple for whom we soon start rooting.
With Breaking Bad over, Into the Badlands keeps AMC in the hard-core drama game while going just far enough over the top so it might also lure a few Walking Dead followers.

 
 
 
 
 
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