Orca at the TV: Into the Badlands

Heyyy, if you’re a subscriber to AMC or on a cool piracy scheme you’ve probably just watched Season 1 of Into the Badlands, their new show. See how elegantly I avoided adding any attributes to the term show? Because after the end of a mini-season of only 6 episodes we can’t honestly say if it’s a hit show and it’s not even clear if it’s SciFi, fantasy or just a soap opera.



But lets manifest one thing already: It’s a shit show. For various reasons and purposes it’s really crappy, bottom of the barrel level. The series plays kinda 500 years in the future, after a war has decimated the whole world’s population to just a couple thousand people living in the lands of 6 barons (that’s so totally different from the 7 kingdoms of Game of Thrones) and the whole livelyhood and only industrial produce seems to be poppy farming. Huh? 😮

Oh yes, normal people do exist, but they are usually slaves (cogs) working in the poppy fields of their barons. So the whole planet’s made up of potheads and nothing else matters? Hm, so why then do they have so many intrigues and murders and betrayals and whatnots? Oh, and yeah, they still have cars, but of the sort we already call oldtimers in 2015, so what are they in 2515? But they don’t have guns, pistols, rifles or anything that shoots. So you gotta do your murders with a kinda katana sword and be a martial artist … or just use poison. 😉 And of course the killings are done by so-called clippers, highly trained killers/enforcers/soldiers.


Sunny days, rainy nights: Must be a wannabe Asian kung fu series

Let’s not get fooled here: Into the Badlands is all about martial arts, kidz. All the rest and the drama is just a bonus, as clearly visible from the sometimes pretty bad acting skills of actors who are in fact nothing but stuntpeople with a couple lines to speak … before they are killed of by our hero of a singular facial expression. I guess it’s save to say Daniel Wu ain’t the greatest actor ever. Or he does the stoic act to perfection. 🙂

Talking about acting, the most senior, bestest and most experienced actors in ItB are such Hollywood heavyweights such as Marton Csokas and Lance Henriksen. Too bad Csokas’ character is already killed of in episode 6 and Henriksen is reduced to playing a father and religious nutter with not (yet) any influence on the greater storyline.

And around the badlands – which actually look rather nice – are the wastelands. But nobody goes there, ever. It’s kinda taboo zone, and something like human curiosity and scientific thurst for knowledge obviously doesn’t exist in this future universe.

An expert swordswoman and figure of controvery: The Widow (Emily Beecham)

Let’s just say the series’s universe is highly unlogical, ok? Not even worth mentioning on the very sophisticated expert film-criticism site of Orca Flotta. So why am I going thru the hassle to write about ItB if it’s all so bad? Hah, see now it becomes more interesting. See, in order to criticise and rate a TV show we have to view it in context with countless other shows that are flooding our screens lately. Some of them are pretty good and famous, like Game of Thrones and True Detective and Vikings and Fargo and others. Into the Badlands reminds me closest of The Walking Dead. Yeah, dunno why exactly. I guess the apocalyptic setting in the USA’s south-east and the gloomy atmosphere, the brutality and the frequency in which even key players are killed off is similar in both series.

And now here come my real reason for why I’m writing about Into the Badlands (/me looks around if somebody’s watching us and lowers her voice to a hoarse whisper): I … ahem … I really like *cough*  Into the Badlands *cough cough* I even prefer it over the famous hit show TWD, prefer it quite a bit. Contrary to TWD’s kinda realistic setting in a very realistic universe with actors  acting out totally unbelievable characters and storylines, in ItB all characters are acting pretty logical. Meaning they and their stories are following the logics of their universe. And that is the kind of consistancy I and every demanding viewer/reader/consumer find rather important: When you create a universe it must have rules. These rules can be illogical and total alien to us, it doesn’t matter much. But what does matter is that the characters in that certain universe must follow its rules! In ItB there can nobody die of bullet wounds; they can do other stuff tho, kinda fantasy stuff. That’s ok.

Sunny (Daniel Wu) the clipper of choice … and a single facial expression

For example the world of ItB is one of feudalism, of little kings and wannabe kings, everything is about gaining power … one or the other way. Be it via shortlived alliances or coldblooded murder or unfriendly takeovers. One critic called ItB the Dallas of the Postapocalypse, and I guess he was right about that. Only in ItB we have a bit less elegantly plotted intrigues but more very nicely choreographed sword and kung fu fights.

Compared to this we have The Walking Dead with its almost realistic universe (ya, realistic since a Zombie outbreak is pretty much an accepted plot development nowadays) but totally unrealistic, unlogical characters. Imagine a zombie outbreak in your ‘hood, what would you do, how would you react? Try to reach the authorities, call the police, right? If that fails huddle together with your neighbors or your co-workers, depending on where you are right now. Then all together make plans to survive the next couple hours, days, weeks … count your guns and amunition, disperse food, break into a convenience store if necessary but whatever you do: You stay together with your group! You don’t have to necessarily like those people but they are there, they are your best chance of survival. It’s always the same old truth: Strength in numbers. The group survives,  the loner dies. Only the TWD cast doesn’t seem to know or realize this basic human principle.

The Widow’s fave but conflicted daughter, and expert fighter: Tilda (Ally Ioannides)

What do sheriff Rick and all the other characters do? They run away from each other, creating smaller and smaller groups, fighting other groups, becoming totally paranoid. And when they finally settle as a group they immediately start bickering and fighting over the leadership. Pretty cool, yeah, kill yourselves off, spare them zombies the hard work. Anyway, by acting so brainlessly they make themselves much less appealing to any zombie anyway. I’ve heard human brains are considered a fukn delicacy in goumet zombie circles.

And while ItB already after 6 episodes gives us and its small cast of leads a kinda goal to work forward to – escaping from the badlands and start over somewhere else – sheriff Rick and his unmerry gang are circling around themselves and gain nothing. Not for themselves, not for the story. And they are doing so since … dunno, 8 seasons or what?

The next difference in which ItB clearly wins over TWD is the pacing and the rather speedy story development. While TWD follows the same old pattern in each and every episode, ItB is all over the place … in a positive way. You’re never bored but always entertained in the badlands. 🙂

Sunny’s secret love interest, the doctor and not-a-fighter but preggers: Jade (Sarah Bolger)

But the strongest point for ItB is the amount of strong female characters. I know and I don’t care that the show ain’t about feminism or even emancipation, but uses all the warrior girls as pure fanservice for the adolescent boys which probably make up at least 80% of the audience. At least they are there … and they mean business.

So I gave up on watching TWD a couple seasons ago but am really looking forward to the next – hopefully a bit longer – season of ItB.



  1. […] Read my critique of Into the Badlands? Yeah, it’s pretty bad matter of factly but after the ultra short first season (5 episodes only) we’re invested in the series and its protagonists and can’t wait to see how they’ll do on their journey. Yeah, the stage is indeed just set, the parameters are drawn, the characters introduced and divided into very bad, plain bad and not too bad guys, now the show is supposed to start for reals. Come on Syfi, hurry up with the production. […]


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