AMC’s Into the Badlands is the coolest television series I have watched in recent weeks. It follows the struggles of a warrior with a conscience and a boy with a dark side as they make their way from the feudal world of the Badlands, whose name is self-explanatory, to the utopian city of Azra, a place that may or may not exist.
The Badlands is controlled by Barons using highly trained and deadly Clippers, whose very name is synonymous to killing. To be clipped is to be killed. Clippers-in-trainings are called Colts, which makes them not as deadly as the Clippers but more smug than the real deal. The workforce is made up of slaves called Cogs, and for entertainment they have prostitutes called Dolls. While Cogs and Dolls had virtually no rights and privileges in the Badlands, the Clippers are respected, feared and bestowed upon by many gifts to highlight their importance in maintaining peace in the Badlands. Clippers, Cogs, and Dolls live within the territories of their chosen Baron and follow their strict rules while those who choose to live with relative freedom are called Nomads. Nomads ambush the cargoes of the Barons as they travel from one barony to the other, and they kill hapless runaways without mercy. Although those who live in the Badlands know nothing about the outside world, including Azra, their world of violence, gore, political takedowns, and deadly fashion choices is interesting enough for me to almost wish that warrior and boy remain in the Badlands for the entirety of the show.
Here are 10 reasons why I love Into the Badlands (Seasons 1 and 2 spoilers included):
- Sunny (Daniel Wu) is the perfect warrior.
Sunny was the Regent or Head Clipper of the most powerful Baron in the Badlands. With 404 kills, which are tattooed on his person, he is more than worthy of that position. He has a kickass bike that he used in the premier of the show and in the finale of the second season to bookend his badassness because when Sunny uses his bike, he means business. Deadly business.
Daniel Wu makes Sunny lethal and vulnerable at the same time. On one hand, his movements are graceful, which remind me of Roger Federer and Juan Mata, whether he is wielding a long sword or using wooden restraints to kill his enemies. Sunny is adept in using multiple weapons, primary of which is his body. He makes killing a work of art, a gorgeous ballet of blood and flying dismembered body parts. On the other hand, Sunny does not kill for the sake of killing. There are boundaries which he refuses to cross, killing the adoptive parents of Veil (Madeleine Mantock), the woman he loves, and sleeping with a Doll, a welcome-to-my-kingdome kind of gift. Of course, who can forget that Sunny travels hundreds of miles from the Bordeaux Mines back to the Badlands to save Veil and their baby from the clutches of evil, with a pile of dead people trailing in his wake.
It matters not that he is a killer. In my book, he remains a warrior with a conscience.
- The Widow (Emily Beecham) is beguiling.
The Widow earns her name by killing her husband who repeatedly raped a little girl. With her husband’s death, The Widow, formerly known as Minerva, gains the title Baroness and the oil-rich territory that comes with it. Due to the easy way she ascends to power, the other Barons do not respect The Widow and her butterflies, the girl followers of The Widow. Little do they know, that The Widow and her butterflies are skilled fighters whose fluidity in motion is rivaled only by Sunny. The hate she receives is mutually reciprocated as she wishes to change the feudal system with society that respects the rights of women, and this can only be done by killing all the other Barons.
The Widow is a more complicated character than Sunny. She claims to help the weak and the weary, but she also uses them to gain more power. She declares that she wishes to help the boy with a dark side because she was once like him, but she plans to use him as a weapon. Although her intentions are a little veiled, one thing is certain, The Widow knows how to kickass in kickass heels and gowns. For a girl named Flea, The Widow sure has metamorphosed into a stunning butterfly.
- Tilda (Ally Ioannides) is fierce.
If I have a daughter, I want her to grow up like Tilda. Yes, I want my daughter to be an assassin who is well-versed with martial arts and uses butterfly-shaped weapons like they were heart-shaped stamp pads and glittering ribbons. I also hope my imaginary daughter to move as swiftly and as breathtakingly as Tilda while she cuts off the heads of her enemies. I will also support her wholeheartedly whether she likes boys or girls. I cannot blame her, the boy is cute and the girl is gorgeous.
- Bean of Ender’s Game is all grown up.
Aramis Knight, the actor who played Bean in Ender’s Game (Bean is my favorite character in the book and in the movie), resurfaces as M.K., the boy who possesses dark energy that turns into a deadly weapon because he cannot control it. The cute Bean is now a buff almost-adult with martial arts skills. Sunny has taken him under his wing and treats him like a younger brother. To return the favor, M.K. does everything in his power to keep Sunny alive after the warrior succumbs to the superior maneuvers of the head Abbott (Cung Le). His loyalty is admirable.
On a personal note, I wish that Tilda will end up with M.K. When they are together, angels sigh in contentment.
- Quinn (Marton Csokas) is fun fun fun.
Quinn was a former Clipper who rose through the ranks to become the inimitable Baron in the Badlands. He discovered, saved, and trained Sunny to be the peerless warrior that he is. He liked women and eyeliner a little too much. The way he enunciated words separates him from all the other delicious evil characters I have encountered. He asked his son and his first wife to kill him, with his own hand on the hilt of the weapon located dead center in his chest, he rigged his own headquarter to explode, and he let his traitorous second wife live. It was a game of would he or wouldn’t he kill the person before him or himself. It might be the tumor in his brain that made him do crazy decisions, but his craziness was fun to watch while it lasted. Quinn and his elaborate costumes will be greatly missed next season.
- The Engineer (Stephen Walters) stole my heart.
He was the filthy-mouthed yet loveable Highlander Angus Mohr in Outlander until he met his end at the hands of the British. His unkempt and unwashed character resurrects as The Engineer in Into the Badlands. As The Engineer, he lords over a throng of Pickers, or slave miners, to unearth coal in the Bordeaux Mines. For fun, he throws Pickers who have not reached their daily quota into a fighting pit to battle his champion named Mouse. Believe me when I say that Mouse does not look like any mouse in existence, unless that mouse is 10 feet tall, rippling with muscles and have an unquenchable thirst for human blood.
Of the four series I have watched that involve Walters, I have yet to see him in clean clothes, but he continues to fascinate me.
- Waldo (Stephen Lang) is hot hot hot.
I have written in my previous posts that I have an unhealthy admiration for evil fictional characters or for older intellectually stimulating men. Waldo belongs to the latter category, emphasis on the first adjective rather than on the second (the second one belongs to the likes of Tywin Lannister). Waldo, a former Regent of Quinn and the predecessor of Sunny, is wheelchair-bound. His physical state does not hinder him from orchestrating a crucial move whose effects reverberate across two seasons of the show, taking Tilda down a peg or two in an affectionate manner, saving Sunny’s ass more than once, and killing men whose musculature is in perfect order. It also helps that he sits in the wheelchair like a king and the color blue, which is my favorite, complements his eyes. 🙂
- The camera works are insane.
Into the Badlands is like a graphic novel in motion. There is a ton of slow motion of cutting heads, blood gushing out of veins, various weapons flying, skirts swishing, and characters colliding. There is also an insane amount of close-ups of butchered limbs and bloody body parts. I love every bit of it.
- Into the Badlands have the most fashionable and alluring killers on TV.
The photo below shows the barons of the Badlands in a conclave. Note the clothes, especially the white pants and white shoes and the Angelina Jolie-worthy slit on the white skirt worn by Baron Chau (Eleanor Matsuura). The women on this photo also wear heels and they fight fiercely in those heels in the sand. Imagine the amount of sand getting inside those heels.
I like it that each baron has his Baronial color and symbol. My favorite is the blue-winged butterfly of The Widow. Tilda looks exquisite in blue kimono-like dresses.
- The barons of the Badlands know their priorities.
Each barony in the Badlands has a product that it trades with the other baronies. Quinn had opium, The Widow used to own the barony that produced crude oil, and Hassan (Alan Wai) had silk. If you think about it, opium and silk make people happy. Anything else is incidental.
*I am on the fence about Bajie (Nick Frost). I like him, but I have not made an emotional connection with him yet.