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Into The Badlands Season One: The Year’s Best Action Series [Review]

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From AMC and showrunners Al Gough and Miles Millar come the epic martial arts series Into The Badlands starring Daniel Wu, Emily Beechum, Sarah Bolger, Oliver Stark, Aramis Knight, Marton Csokas, Stephen Lang, Ally Loannides, Madeleine Mantock and Orla Brady.

The ruthless, prodigiously skilled warrior Sunny, mentors a teenage boy M.K. during a spiritual journey across a feudal civilization known as the Badlands. With the help of trained assassins like Sunny, the area is ruled by rival barons, and for decades Quinn has consistently outflanked and outmaneuvered his fellow barons to keep the upper hand. His invincibility, however, begins to fade in light of brazen attacks by the newest baron, The Widow, who believes M.K. is the key to her success. As the battle for control of the Badlands heats up, the destinies of the stoic assassin and the impetuous teenager become intertwined.

Into The Badlands Star Oliver Stark Talks Season 1: By The End “Nothing Will be The Same as it Was in The Beginning” [Interview]

We haven’t had a really good martial arts television series in what – forever?  At least nothing as memorable since that oldschool show Kung Fu starring David Carradine. And I never watched that. So Into The Badlands is THAT show and more. A post-apocalyptic action epic that is equal parts science fiction, fantasy and live-action anime. Leading man Daniel Wu has been doing this for a minute now but I wasn’t familiar with him. It doesn’t take long to be introduced however as you’ll see him quickly and brutally kick all kinds of ass within the first five minutes of the pilot episode. I loved that first episode. Loved it.

Arms, legs and heads go snap crackle and pop nonstop in this show and the action choreography is hands down the best of any television series this year. The only close competition would be Banshee or Daredevil, which is just as brutal but even then it doesn’t have the finesse of Into The Badlands.  Stephen Fung and Master DeeDee have worked on Kill Bill and numerous other martial arts flicks so with them involved you know the battles are going to be unbelievable. The rain sequence and warehouse brawls in the climaxes of the first couple episodes were my favourites of the season. Stylish and violent – Into The Badlands is easily the year’s best action series.

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Marton Csokas plays the Baron Quinn – who rules over his people but finds himself losing that iron grip when he starts to become ill. Csokas’ eyes are so frightening, so powerful that even when he isn’t talking, his performance is so commanding that you forget he’s acting. From his psychotic breakdown at the doctor’s office I was sold on Csokas being this season’s scene stealer and standout role. He’s such a cool villain and even with another badass rival Baron like The Widow, nobody can touch Quinn when it comes to being a boss. I loved the fractured relationship storyline between Quinn and his son Ryder too this season – newcomer Oliver Stark has some tremendous potential and I can’t wait to see what he does next. (read my interview with Stark HERE)

The world in which Into The Badlands dwells is a fascinating one – it’s futuristic but medieval because guns have become extinct. Battles are won by blades and problems resolved by the sword. It’s very oldschool and at times feels like a Western. There’s a fantastical element with this young boy named M.K, and the core of this season is Sunny (Wu) mentoring him and trying to understand the dangerous hidden power he possesses. By the end of the season we’re only scratching the surface as to what that entails and that becomes overwhelmingly evident in a brutal fight between Sunny and guest star Cung Le.

Emily Beecham as The Widow - Into the Badlands _ Season 1, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: James Dimmock/AMC

I’ll be honest though and tell ya that it bugged me when physics went right out the window. On occasion and moreso in the finale when dudes are standing on each others arms and doing Power Ranger inspired super attacks did I feel annoyed. I was OK when Sunny was kicking a dude and sending him flying into a tree but it was because of the quick brutality of the moment. I wasn’t a big fan of the final battle this season because it was so over-the-top. I like my fights down to earth and gritty – the final fight of season one was a little too Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon for me to fully enjoy.

That being said I’m excited about the expansion of the Into The Badlands universe (if it gets renewed because as I write this – it shockingly hasn’t been). New Barons, new bosses, new enemies and hopefully way more asses for Sunny to decimate.

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Editor-In-Chief of Fox Force Five News. I had a zombie cameo on the opening page of The Walking Dead issue #91, where I was killed with a machete... It was awesome.