Into the Badlands, “The Fort” (1.1) – TV Review

15

Badlands

11/15/15, 10 pm (EST), AMC

AMC has been touting their newest show, Into the Badlands, for several months now. Described as a post-apocalyptic martial arts drama, the show’s timeslot after The Walking Dead makes sense, in terms of ratings, etc. Is this show worth it? The short answer is, I don’t know. “The Fort” brings the world to life with really good action, but gives us characters who are pretty bland and one-note so far.

Here’s the premise of the show: the world has gone into chaos. Why or how, we’re never told. Seven barons took over parts of the country (or world, it’s never made clear) to rule. Guns are banished, and the barons have clippers, which are their personal assassins. The story revolves around one clipper, Sunny, who has a reputation (and body count) that proceeds him. We’re quickly treated to Sunny’s talents as he discovers his baron’s transport raided and everyone slaughtered except for one missing person. After tracking down the group of marauders and quickly dispatching of them in cruel, vicious ways, Sunny discovers the kidnapped person, a boy. The boy is wanted by The Widow, who is another baron. Sunny returns him to his baron, Quinn. We’re also introduced to Quinn’s wife Lydia and his son Ryder. Ryder is no fan of Sunny, as Quinn treats Sunny as his adopted son.

While we discover Sunny was found alone and brought up by Quinn to become the most lethal clipper ever (over 400 kills, each one tattooed on his back), Sunny doesn’t seem to care for the lifestyle anymore. This is especially so after he finds out the boy, M.K., has a medallion of a landscape, Azura, a town beyond the badlands where Sunny came from and has a compass with the same landscape. We also find out Sunny’s girlfriend, Veil, is pregnant. Sunny seems none too happy about this, mostly because there seems to be some law against children or perhaps children out of wedlock, it’s not made clear. Either way, it’s a dangerous situation to keep the baby, which likely means Veil isn’t long for this world, only to fuel whatever destiny Sunny is about to go on.

The dialog in the pilot is forced and contrived at best. We’re expected to care about many of these characters, but so far few seem worthy of our attention. Aside from Sunny, M.K. is going to have a big role, as he’s able to go into an amnesia-induced Kung-Fu master mode when he sees his own blood. When Sunny sees this, he knows M.K. is special and will only be used for evil should any of the barons find out, so he allows him to escape Quinn’s fort. Clearly this won’t last, but it’s entertaining for the moment. Quinn is almost preacher-esque, able to whip up young recruits by getting them to cheer when he asks if they “want to kill in his name.” He’s a man of violence, but also of many tastes in women, as he is going to take on a second wife, Jade.

The action is what we came here for, and in that sense, the premiere doesn’t disappoint. Many of the scenes are choreographed and wire-fu, but they are all amazing in spite of the violence. The choreographers know what they’re doing as we’re treated to several beautiful fight scenes. The scene in the rain is shot well, even if it does have some clichéd shots (slow-mo of water dripping over a man’s hat, etc.). As long as we continue to see scenes like this, the show won’t disappoint while they get the characters and dialog in line.

Another beautiful thing about the show is the scenery. The landscape is colorful and vibrant, not something we’re used to seeing in a post-apocalyptic world. The show is just nice to look at for a change, especially against the drab browns, greens blacks we’re constantly treated to in The Walking Dead. Quinn’s home and surrounding landscape are well maintained as though he needs to keep up appearances for other barons or leaders that may visit.

While I don’t know if Into the Badlands will be a show that’ll last for seasons (or even past this season), right now it provides a story that has potential to grow on audiences, along with fantastic action scenes. If the writers can get a handle on the characters and dialog, this could be the next hit for AMC. Only time will tell.

The Roundup

  • It was interesting to see very few woman other than Lydia, Jade, Veil and The Widow. Is there some law where girls are no longer allowed in this new society?
  • Sunny’s illiteracy was interesting, though barely touched upon. While maybe not important to the story, it’d be nice to get more backstory on his character or why he needs to learn how to read.
  • Jade’s already sleeping around with Ryder. I’m sure that’ll go well for the two of them.
7.2 GOOD

While not a great premiere, Into the Badlands gives an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic world. The action is enough to make up for lackluster characters and dialog, but that won’t last for long.

  • GOOD 7.2
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