Review: Into the Badlands, Season One

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.

The logo for Into the BadlandsIt’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 Widow in Into the BadlandsThe 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.

Review: The Warcraft Chronicle, Volume Two

Continuing their efforts to provide a unified record of the vast Warcraft lore, Blizzard has now released the second installment of the Warcraft Chronicle.

Cover art for the Warcraft Chronicle, volume twoThis time, focus shifts away from Azeroth to cover the history of Draenor, before jumping back to Azeroth and reciting the history of the First and Second Wars, up to and including the events of Beyond the Dark Portal.

The first installment was for the most part of a fascinating dive into a lot of mostly unknown lore, but perhaps inevitably, volume two is less impressive.

My favourite part was learning about Draenor’s pre-history. This was for the most part totally new lore, and while it may not have been quite as thrilling as learning of Azeroth’s origins and the days of the Black Empire, it was nonetheless an interesting read. I particularly enjoyed learning the history of the Arrakoa civilization.

However, once it got around to more familiar history, it became much less impressive.

This is perhaps to be expected, as it’s all stuff I’m already familiar with, but the familiarity wasn’t the thing that bothered me most. Quite the opposite, actually.

When this whole Chronicle business started, I had the vague worry this might be another excuse to start retconning everything willy-nilly. Seems I was right to worry.

Much of the history of Draenor leading up to the First War has now been changed. It’s mostly smaller changes more than total rewrites, but when you add up all the little changes, it starts to become a rather different story.

A mighty Sporemound as depicted in the Warcraft Chronicle, volume twoThe intention seems to have been to unify history by incorporating elements of the alternate versions of Draenor seen in Warlords of Draenor and the film, but I’m not sure why they felt the need to do that. Both of those were pretty clearly alternate realities, and attempting to combine all the different versions of Draenor causes more confusion than it solves.

It’s doubly confusing when you consider that neither WoD nor the movie were terribly well-received. I really don’t think any Warcraft lore fan was like, “You know what we need? For Warlords of Draenor to be more canon!”

Hilariously, Garona’s origin story has been retconned yet again. I believe this is the fourth backstory she’s been given now? It’s getting hard to keep count. I think she officially takes the crown as the most heavily retconned part of the Warcraft universe now.

To be fair, most of these retcons don’t make the story any worse. Some even make it better. There’s finally a clear explanation of how the Twilight’s Hammer went from being a Draenic Orc clan to a multi-racial cult of Azerothian Old God worshippers, and it actually makes pretty good sense. I’m glad of that.

But sadly they do invalidate a good chunk of Warcraft literature, including a lot of Christie Golden’s work. And that’s a real shame. Rise of the Horde was one of the better novels.

Where it all began...In the end, volume two of the Warcraft Chronicle occupies an uncomfortable middle ground where the people who are most likely to read it are hardcore lore fans, but the people who are most likely to enjoy it are those with only minimal experience of the lore to date.

Overall rating: 6.2/10