Into the Badlands had some very interesting promos leading up to the premiere episode. It looked like all the best of wushu styled martial arts movies, but set in what looked like a post-apocalyptic world, like a Mad Max world with some actually nice kingdoms left. Well, that is pretty much what it turned out to be. It also worked pretty well as a premiere episode and one hopes that it will remain quality thanks to AMC.
The episode starts off pretty much letting us know what the world we are stepping into looks like. This is a feudal system ran by seven Barons in a world that has outlawed guns. Outside of the land ran by the Barons is a wasteland, which is where no one but nomads live, similar to the ones you might recognize from Mad Max. There is also a land, that seems mystical, that is beyond the Badlands that no one admits to existing.
The hero here is Sunny (Daniel Wu) and he is a Head Clipper for the most powerful Baron in the Badlands, Quinn (Marton Csokas). Basically, a Clipper is a loyal fighter and someone who will fight for the Baron to the death if needed. As this episode starts, Sunny is on a motorcycle trying to find a transport with prisoners on it that never arrived. When he finds the transport, all the prisoners and guards are dead. He realizes that one of the prisoners is unaccounted for and sets out to find him.
Sunny sets out to find the Nomads who attacked the truck and finds them in the woods. There are about a dozen of them there and he tells the Nomads that they took something that he wants back. He sees a trunk and asks what is in it. They attack him and we get the exact thing that makes Into the Badlands so fun. Think of a martial arts fight from a great wushu movie, one where the hero is outnumbered and uses amazing skills to take down everyone.
That happens here and Sunny kills all the Nomads. He really doesn’t even take any damage himself. It is glorious.
He then opens the trunk and there is a kid in there. After subduing the kid, he takes him back with him to Quinn’s castle. This kid is M.K. (Aramis Knight) and he has some kind of secret past, and might have come from that mysterious land that no one believes exists. Actually, one person thinks it exists, as Sunny also believes that it is out there somewhere.
Once back at the castle, there is a lot of setup.
Sunny wants M.K. to train to be a Clipper, but he wants to do nothing but leave to continue his search for his mother. M.K. gets on the bad side of some kids training there and then loses his medallion, which Baron Quinn’s son Ryder (Oliver Stark). There is a lot of Shakespeare seeping through here, as Ryder wants to take over his father’s land and will surely betray him at some point. Quinn also has multiple wives, with his first wife Lydia (Orla Brady) scheming and his youngest wife Jade (Sarah Bolger) sleeping with his son.
After all this is completed, M.K. breaks into the castle to get his medallion back but is caught and sentenced to death. He is locked away, and when someone comes in to kill him, he sees his own blood, his eyes turn red, and he goes into complete rage mode and kills his attacker. This was nuts and it is clear that – other than the wushu – there is something supernatural going on here. Sunny helps M.K. escape and realizes that he might have hope for a life outside the walls of this kingdom.
That is important for Sunny because the love of his life is pregnant, and the penalty for a Clipper getting a woman pregnant is death. She wants to keep it and for the two of them to run off together but he is loyal to Quinn. This also leads to one more huge fight as The Widow (Emily Beecham) sends her own assassins to kill Sunny in a rainy battle in the streets. Sunny once again uses his amazing prowess to kill them all. That is when the Widow demands that he bring her the boy or else.
This was an interesting and very fun premiere episode. Into the Badlands looks like it will be a giant fun martial arts epic with some interesting supernatural stuff and a lot of Shakespeare political intrigue thrown in. If the rest of the series keeps up this frenetic pace, this should be a new can’t miss show for anyone who wants crazy action and a good time.