Starring: Daniel Wu, Orla Brady, Sarah Bolger, Aramis Knight, Emily Beecham, Oliver Stark, Madeleine Mantock, Ally Ioannides, Marton Csokas | Director: David Dobkin
Centuries from now, the world we know is no more.
Nations are dissolved, cities are ruins.
All that is left are a powerful few, and those who pledge their life-long servitude for protection. It is a meager existence yet a life inside the walls is far better than one that would certainly end in fire and blood. This vicious reality has tempered and refined the fighting arts, promoting assassins as the heralds of their master’s will.
Welcome to the future! It kind of blows.
It is on a highway that “The Fort” begins, with an enforcer assessing the damage caused by a band of nomads who acquired a particular item from his Baron’s convoy. It isn’t long before this warrior finds his targets and well… he delivers an ass-beating so brutal and bone-crunching, one can only become more excited about potentially nastier fight scenes AMC’s latest series can provide.
Into the Badlands wastes no time thrusting its audiences into the thick of things. Within 5 minutes, we’re quickly introduced to most of the leads and established their personal crises. Confronting their inner demons would be difficult enough if was within a world of relative peace and tranquility. It’s quite obvious this life as many know it, dominated by feudal lords and their fragile alliances, hangs upon a razor’s edge.
These seven “Barons” constantly scheme and seek out the weaknesses of their rivals in hopes of acquiring their lands and “Cogs”, slang for the fiefs that work the fields. To protect their resources, the Barons have amassed personal armies known as “Clippers” who exact their rule with the tips of their swords. The machines and structures within this world rely on the ingenuity of “Builders”, who recycle old tech to new purpose. Meanwhile, outlaws called “Nomads” loot, ravage, and kill anyone foolish enough to take to the roads.
The most feared and respected of these clippers is Sunny, played by Daniel Wu. A man with no equal, Sunny is portrayed as a man of quiet resolve, who resorts to violence as a last resort. Unfortunately for him, as evidenced in the cold open, that option tends to be the first for many in the Badlands. After reacquiring his Baron’s package – who turns out to a be a boy (Aramis Knight) of mysterious origin – Sunny’s loyalty shows signs of wavering after the two learn they share a secret that would surely cost them their lives. Add to the fact that the clipper’s special girl Veil (Madeleine Mantock) gave him even more news he doesn’t need in his life at the moment, any move Sunny possibly makes puts him in dire straits.
Our guide in this scheming, villainous life of the Barons is Quinn (Marton Csokas), a dour yet cunning ruler who has been able to assert his reign over the other Barons for decades. With the greatest killing force at his disposal, Quinn is a man who remains feared despite his diminishing state. Though a man who obviously has the respect of his clippers, others of Quinn’s station have sensed his time may be at hand. His enemies – without and within his walls – patiently await his demise, which in turn makes Quinn all the more dependent on Sunny. Csokas brooding nature casts Quinn as a leader with many secrets and perhaps a few regrets, making him a very desperate man.
The only aspect of Quinn that’s not so convincing is Csoka’s gaudily saccharine Southern accent, which tends to simmer down as the episode progresses. It was eerily reminiscent of a cross between Colonel Sanders and Foghorn Leghorn, but let’s blame that on the crippling headaches Quinn apparently suffers from time to time.
His empire is shared with wife Lydia (Orla Brady) and only son Ryder (Oliver Stark), both of whom quietly express their concerns for the future of The Fort, however they’ve differing (hidden) agendas to ensure their territory stays within the family. As they conspire in dark corners, Quinn prepares himself for betrothal to his second wife Jade (Sarah Bolger) who from all accounts in “The Fort”, may be the most dangerous player of them all.
In the meantime, Sunny is tested by Quinn’s chief rival, a Baroness known as The Widow (Emily Beecham), a former clipper that took it upon herself to acquire The Lodge from her not-so savvy husband. The Widow can smell blood in the water and hopes to make Sunny an ally in her takeover of Quinn’s territories and resources. He rejects her initial proposal but it’s highly likely the two will square off again in the near future. Let us hope for Sunny’s sake, he remains in her favor.
Into the Badlands S1E1
A well executed premiere, “The Fort” kept my attention throughout without placating to my baser nature of seeing a fight scene for the sake of it being a martial arts series. Into the Badlands decidedly proved itself to be much more in adding a touch of intrigue here, some inner conflict there, and a bit of fantasy element as well. Plus the dynamics and motivations of every lead character was touched upon effectively and efficiently, whilst in a surprisingly colorful post-apocalyptic landscape. The fight choreography was some of the best seen on American television and will no doubt keep audiences coming back every Sunday night.