Amazon Prime UK TV review: Into the Badlands (Season 1, Episode 1 – The Fort)
Chris Bryant | On 16, Nov 2015
Welcome to The Badlands, a mysterious and vibrant world created by Alfred Gough and Mike Millar in which Daniel Wu’s “Sonny” inadvertently rescues a young boy – becoming bound to him in the process.
The chaotic Badlands consist of six Barons who exist as lords of trade, slyly trying to murder one another and gain more power in the process. Sonny’s Baron, Quinn (played indulgently by Martin Csokas), enlists a legion of “clippers” – his chosen name for his personal gang of assassins. Quinn proudly announces that there isn’t a clipper in the Badlands more feared, or more loyal, than Sonny. Wu himself embodies that role, employing a quiet strength at all times and conveying his likability through displays of mercy, rather than his few words.
Elsewhere in the show, a rival Baron – the stunning Widow – vies for power over Quinn’s lands, while searching for the boy Sonny saved. The contrast of political tension and actual on-screen violence makes for a background of intriguing, lethal dystopia.
In an age where excellent television isn’t hard to come by, Into The Badlands does something few manage: it employs cliché as its starting pistol. Sonny himself is the quintessential ronin on a quest for his past; Quinn is a tyrannical warlord and his son is filled with ambition to prove himself, while harbouring jealousy for Sonny, his father’s favourite creation. However, in under 45 minutes, writers Gough and Millar take these common ideas and enrich them in a way which makes them more powerful. The characters are instantly relatable, allowing the show to build on the cliché, not rely on it.
But where AMC’s new original series thrives is in its execution. Fist-pumpingly soundtracked by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park/Fort Minor fame (also known for writing the score for The Raid’s western release), the show pounds as much in style and tempo as its characters do on-screen. It takes the basics of the world and quite literally gives it tattoos and a motorcycle. Brightly coloured and often phenomenally lit, this is unlike any show on television.
Packed with mystery, and balancing delicately on its own premise, Into the Badlands’ plot and characters impress but do have a lot to prove – they arrive after a string of AMC shows that includes Breaking Bad, Halt and Catch Fire and The Walking Dead. One episode in, though, and Into the Badlands smashes its way onto the screen with total authority. Coupled with a staggeringly badass vibe, it looks like AMC have done it again.
Into the Badlands is available to watch online exclusively on Amazon Prime Video UK, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every week on Tuesdays, within 48 hours of their US premiere. There are six episodes in total.
Additional notes (contains spoilers)
– The level of mystery in the show couldn’t be higher after the first episode; the fascination with the setting alone will drive some wild. Questions may include “Where is Sunny from?”, “Who is M.K.?” and “How did I survive that amount of awesome?”
– The most originality comes from the lesser seen characters so far; Sunny’s pregnant love – a doctor who lives outside of The Fort – Quinn’s elegant wife and young, naïve-seeming wife-to-be, plus The Widow herself.
– Sunny’s decision to free M.K. also seemed a shock, despite knowing the two only a little longer than a half-hour. It’s both a real testament to the writing of the show as well as an interesting turn. Seeing Sonny take on numerous nomads and assassins was thrilling enough without the idea of someone faster and stronger in the mix – we may have to recommend you buy harnesses for your sofas.