Into The Badlands’ first season is both terrible and awesome

I binge-watched season one of Into The Badlands recently to help distract myself from a coding project. It was a questionable decision overall, but I can’t really fault myself for the choice in show.

For those among us who like to watch beautiful violence on television, Into The Badlands was made for you.

The visuals are consistently bold, and you can tell that color played a huge role in the character design of all of the major players. It reminds me of RWBY in the way that personalities are reflected in the colors that define them. I particularly like how the red flowers of the poppy fields illustrate and inform everything about the faction that grows and harvests them (and also how Daniel Wu looks bad-ass in a red leather jacket).

But I don’t want to gush too much. The writing of the show is honestly terrible. I despised much of the dialogue, mostly having to do with a certain whiny boy equipped with a dark power (my reaction to this supposed main character can be summed up by halfheartedly saying his name—M.K.). The subplot centering on the sister-wives of a dying man was plain silly, and so often the show’s story just came off as stale.

But I still loved the show the other half of the time. Anytime Quinn was on screen I was entertained (what a silly character), and the character of Tilda was surprisingly well done.

And don’t get me started on the blood and gore. As much as depictions of murder can be, these depictions were tasteful. The show included blood spouting out of dying men, an axe buried in someone’s head, the brutal murder of a nice old couple and the violent deaths of hundreds, yet it usually came off as balletic. The actions scenes have humor and heart and an awful lot of human carnage. Maybe I’m desensitized, but they are as well done as anything I’ve seen in blockbuster movies or on Game of Thrones.

Daniel Wu, who plays Sunny, an experienced “clipper” or warrior retainer of his community and Baron.

Basically, watch this show if you like exciting action, and if you don’t mind sitting through some terrible writing. The acting varies widely in its quality, featuring some amazing performances, some mediocre and some terrible (I’m looking at you M.K.). The art direction and choreography are great. Honestly, you could just skip ahead through all pieces of dialogue that aren’t involving Quinn, Sunny, Tilda or Waldo and still have a pretty good time,

I guess technically this show falls into the realm of fantasy (it’s got dark powers and nobody has any guns and the setting is essentially low-effort post-apocalyptic steampunk), but I certainly don’t think of it that way. It’s fantasy in the same way that Monty Python and The Holy Grail is fantasy. Sure, it checks all the boxes, but it’s mostly something else. The Holy Grail is satire—a comedy. Into The Badlands is action—a remixed kung fu movie.

It is popcorn. This isn’t a bad thing. I consider Jim Butcher, one of my favorite authors, a writer of primarily popcorn. But popcorn is unhealthy, especially if it’s the only thing that goes in your mouth.

So maybe try something a little more meaningful after you finish watching the blood and pretty colors. Or not, it’s up to you.

The first season of six episodes is currently on Netflix, and the second season is airing now. Try it. It exists.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore. Source. Pictured is Daniel Wu, who plays the character of Sunny.

Header Photo credit: hikersbay. Source. Pictured is Badlands National Park. Not affiliated with the show.


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