Into the Badlands is something my father discovered while perusing Netflix and then recommended to me. Without much else to watch between episodes of iZombie, I decided to give it a try.
It’s a strange show. It’s some sort of post-apocalyptic Western kung fu… thing, set in a far-flung future where the civilization we know is a distant memory. The land is ruled by ruthless barons, aided by their armies of “clippers,” which are sort of like samurai without the honour.
The story focuses on Sunny, a weary veteran clipper in service to a cruel baron, and M.K., an orphan boy with a mysterious power. Fate causes their paths to repeatedly cross as Sunny’s master prepares for war with his rival, a revolutionary known as the Widow.
It’s a pretty unique mash-up of genres, and certainly the concept holds a lot of potential, but the problem with Into the Badlands is that it isn’t very good.
That’s pretty much it. It’s mediocre in almost every way imaginable. None of the characters are all that interesting or likable. The plot’s pretty unsurprising. It’s often silly and illogical — I like how they were able to preserve the technology for cars and X-rays, but not guns.
All the absurdity of the show would be fine if it weren’t determined to take itself so deadly seriously. Into the Badlands has all the ingredients for a fun, light-hearted action-adventure, but it’s trying to be a serious drama. It has no whimsy, no self-awareness, and no sense of humour.
The shortness of its season doesn’t help matters. Season one is just six episodes, and it’s a pretty complicated story, so I’m not sure there’s really time to develop anyone or anything enough. On the other hand if the season had been any longer I might not have made it to the end. At just six episodes there wasn’t much to lose by sticking it out.
I suppose the acting is not bad — I actually rather like the guy who plays Sunny; he’s got some gravitas — but the writing is so weak that the cast’s talent is largely wasted.
Really the only thing it’s got going for it is that it’s a very visually appealing show. If all you want is to see good-looking people in really cool costumes doing extravagant wire fu moves in front of pretty backdrops, this is the show for you.
If you want anything more than that, move on.
Overall rating: 5.9/10
As an aside, has it occurred to anyone how inaccurate the show’s title is? The story is about trying to get out of the Badlands, and the “Badlands” appear to actually be quite fertile and clement.