You might already be familiar with some of AMC's original programming, such as The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and its spin-off Better Call Saul, Hell on Wheels and Preacher. But one show that's somehow managed to stay under the radar of many a TV watcher is Into the Badlands.
The martial arts drama, which originally debuted back in November 2015, is proving to be something of a sleeper hit among fans ... but for those who have been watching from the beginning, the only question that remains is how long it will take others to jump on the bandwagon and immerse themselves in the world of the Badlands. The second season is set to premiere on Sunday, March 19 (tonight!) ... and if you're looking to join the party, it's not too late. Here are a few reasons to start.
The world building is rich and complex.
Into the Badlands takes place in a world that's definitely a far cry from our own; the country has long since been torn apart by wars and in-fighting, and governments run by enlightened men were eventually toppled only to give way to a new feudal age. Seven men and women called Barons have assumed control of various territories, though their close occupation often leads to frequent clashes as they each attempt to maintain holds on their lands. Each Baron retains his or her own group of lethal fighters, who are trained from youth on the condition they swear their loyalty. Meanwhile, the poorest of individuals, called 'cogs,' are responsible for the more menial tasks such as field labor, personal service to the wealthy and the practice of medicine.
The show doesn't reveal all of this information up front, however; with each episode, more and more pieces of the puzzle are fitted into place until you get a broader sense of what's going on in the world of the Badlands and a better perception of just how rich this setting really is.
The characters are layered and complicated.
Actor Daniel Wu (who also serves as executive producer) stars as Sunny, a warrior who belongs to a group called the Clippers, fighters who are trained into lethal weapons from a very young age. When we first meet him, he's torn between his loyalty to the Baron he serves under, Quinn (Marton Csokas) and protecting Veil (Madeleine Mantock), the woman he loves -- two things which are definitely not compatible. Living within the fort's walls isn't exactly safe for Quinn's family either, especially not his first wife Lydia (Orla Brady), second wife Jade (Sarah Bolger) or son Ryder (Oliver Stark), who secretly plots to overthrow his father's position and take over as the new Baron.
In the midst of his inner dilemma Sunny is also introduced to a young boy named M.K. (Aramis Knight), who possesses a dark force that makes him a valuable asset to those who would seek to use it for their own purposes. One of those people is the Widow (Emily Beecham), the newest Baron with a skill for swordplay -- verbal and otherwise. Early on it's clear to see that the Widow will stop at nothing to accomplish her goal of refitting the Badlands into a place of her own making, including inciting war amongst the other Barons, and all with the help of a group of young women she calls "Butterflies" under her wing. What the Widow doesn't count on, however, is her daughter Tilda (Ally Ioannides) taking a liking to M.K. -- and doing what she can to protect her newfound friend at all costs.
The fight choreography is a thing of beauty.
Into The Badlands is a self-proclaimed "genre-bending martial arts series," and in an age where certain actors sometimes have a reputation for phoning it in on their fight sequences, one of the best parts about this show is that everyone involved is giving it 110 percent. The actors spend four weeks at a fight camp in Ireland, practicing everything from yoga to core and strength training to various martial arts techniques. That all happens even before production starts in Louisiana. Beyond the physical training, everyone involved in the fight sequences you see on screen -- from the stunt coordinators to the action director to the actors themselves -- spend time rehearsing the choreography so that when it finally comes time to roll camera, everyone knows exactly where to step and how to move.
The result is absolutely breathless choreography, to the point where it almost becomes necessary to go back and watch certain fight scenes more than once. (A few standout fights include Sunny's fight in the rain against the Widow's soldiers, the Widow taking down attackers in a local bar and Sunny absolutely demolishing a group of Nomads in a warehouse -- but the truth is every sequence in the show is worthy of note.)
It pays perfect homage to classic martial arts movies.
Sunny's aforementioned fight against twenty or thirty Nomad gang members in an abandoned warehouse felt so much like a nod to a classic kung fu film that it led to some serious fangirling. It's not just the fight sequences themselves that pay tribute to martial arts movies of yore but the way they're shot, too -- the camera follows the trajectory of blades that are thrown across the room, or slows down just enough to let the audience take their breath before launching into the next bit of fighting or swordplay.
One of the unique bits of storytelling in the world of Into The Badlands is that guns have been outlawed, so not only does that contribute to the old-school look of fight sequences but also means that folks have to get a little creative when it comes to picking and choosing their weapons. At any point in the series, we see characters fight each other with dual swords, daggers, spears, throwing stars and lit torches -- and that's probably not even the best of what's to come in Season 2.
It's easy to get caught up!
The good news is: if you start watching Into The Badlands, it won't take you very long to catch up to where fans are now, since Season 1 only consists of six episodes. The bad news is: once you finish the first season you're just going to be eager for more, especially since the finale ends on something of a cliffhanger for our conflicted Clipper, Sunny.
Fortunately, we'll have the opportunity to find out exactly what's happened to all of our favorites when Season 2 premieres tonight and brings us even more of those impressive fight sequences, lying and scheming characters, and women kicking ass backwards and in heels.