You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Into the Badlands’


Daniel Wu, Marton Csokas, Orla Brady, Emily Beecham, Aramis Knight, Sarah Bolger, Oliver Stark, Madeleine Mantock, Alexia Ioannides.

The action scenes scattered throughout “Into the Badlands” are not just stirringly presented, they represent a test passed with flying — and bloody — colors. This efficient AMC series is an homage to classic Samurai films and kinetic action fare churned out by Hong Kong maestros of furious fists, and if the TV drama had failed to meet the standards set by the sturdiest examples of those genres, it would have seemed superfluous at best. Fortunately, star Daniel Wu is more than up to the task of occupying the center of this streamlined story of vengeance, tyranny and roundhouse kicks.

Well-deployed Louisiana locations are used to sketch out a retro-flavored vision of the future in which, after a period of massive unrest, large swathes of territory are controlled by seven barons who control key resources and employ large armies. It’s a good thing the barons — whose ranks include an ambitious woman known as the Widow — have lots of fighters in reserve: In the first two episodes of “Into the Badlands,” any number of them are dispatched by Sunny, the precise yet ferocious warrior played by Wu.

Sunny is the chief counsel and first lieutenant to a baron named Quinn, a role Marton Csokas tears into like a hungry man at a barbecue shack. Very little about Quinn or the show is subtle, but that’s not a dig at this kind of fare, which is meant to be melodramatic and packed with saturated colors and accessible metaphors. The world of the barons and their lackeys is one of desperation and restraint, just as the energetic action sequences are a mixture of balletic gestures and brutal punishment. Speaking of those scenes, don’t seek out the clips that have been posted as online teasers: These exactingly choreographed moments deserve to be seen on a big TV in their full high-definition glory.

Wu has the charisma and the action chops to play a quiet man who can believably dish out punishment that reflects disciplined training and a tenacious will. Sunny is the kind of character that is standard in this genre: He’s got a mysterious past, a complicated present and mulls a future free of an erratic and dangerous boss. Wu brings soulful presence and watchful energy to Sunny, who also has to contend with what “Game of Thrones” fans would call a Joffrey problem. Like a Lannister, Baron Quinn may be cutthroat, but he’s a canny strategist as well. His son Ryder, on the other hand, is half as intelligent as his father and much more impulsive and spoiled.

Emily Beecham is convincingly driven as the treacherous Widow, who gets a satisfying action sequence of her own in the second episode, and one hopes Orla Brady, who brings depth and texture to any role, will get more to do as Quinn’s observant wife.

Reservations about “Into the Badlands” center on supporting roles; it’s unclear if a set of younger characters will be as compelling as the ones played by the more seasoned actors. M.K. (Aramis Knight), an orphan who repeatedly crosses Sunny’s path, is the least impressive part of the show’s first two installments. All the characters are more or less archetypes in the early going, which is only appropriate for an actioner focused on vibrant visuals and clanking swords. But if the six-episode first season is to beat back ferocious competition for viewers’ eyeballs, M.K. can’t remain a callow and underwritten plot device for long.

All in all, however, “Into the Badlands” is a welcome addition to the television scene, especially with action-heavy dramas like “Strike Back” and “Banshee” either finished or on the way out. AMC may no longer visit the subtle and complicated realms of “Mad Men’s” corner offices, but this pleasing drama hits it target with admirable force.

For more discussion of “Into the Badlands” (as well as “Master of None” and “Flesh and Bone“), check out the latest edition of the Talking TV podcast, which is here and on iTunes

TV Review: 'Into the Badlands'

(Series; AMC, Sun. Nov. 15, 10 p.m.)


Filmed in New Orleans for AMC Prods.


Executive producers, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Stacey Sher, Michael Shamberg, David Dobkin, Stephen Fung, Daniel Wu; co-executive producers, Henry Bronchtein, Guy Ferland; producer, Dany Wolf; director, Dobkin; writers, Gough, Millar; camera, Shane Hurlbut; production designer, Carey Meyer; costume designer, Christine Bieselin Clark; ; editor, Vikash Patel; martial arts choreographer, Ku Huen Chiu (Master Dee Dee); fight director, Stephen Fung; music, David Shepard; casting, Margery Simkin, Orly Sitowitz, Meagan Lewis. 44 MIN.


Daniel Wu, Marton Csokas, Orla Brady, Emily Beecham, Aramis Knight, Sarah Bolger, Oliver Stark, Madeleine Mantock, Alexia Ioannides.

More TV

  • Whitney Davis photographed at the PMC

    'CBS Has a White Problem': Executive Blasts Toxic Culture at Network in Explosive Letter

    Last year, CBS hired two white-shoe law firms to conduct an independent investigation into alleged misconduct by then-CEO Leslie Moonves, as well as broader cultural issues at CBS. Writing for Variety, Whitney Davis — a veteran of the company’s news and entertainment divisions — describes how the investigation prompted her to reconsider her nearly decade-and-a-half career [...]

  • DSC03586.ARW

    Virgin Media Partners With Amazon, Integrates Prime Video App

    Virgin Media is adding the Amazon Prime Video app to its TV service. The Liberty Global-owned cabler will integrate the app into its ultra HD settop from this summer, meaning customers with the high-end box can access Prime Video directly. Virgin Media will be the first Liberty Global pay TV business to integrate Amazon’s streaming [...]

  • PyeongChang Winter Olympics

    France Televisions to Sub-License Olympic Games for Beijing 2022 and Paris 2024 From Discovery

    France Télévisions has signed a deal with Discovery to sub-license exclusive free-to-air French broadcasting rights to the Olympic Games for Beijing 2022 and Paris 2024 from Eurosport, Discovery’s leading sports brand. Under the deal, France Télévisions will broadcast the 2022 and 2024 Olympic Games, as well as extended coverage, including dedicated streams covering every sport, [...]

  • Globe Centred On Asia And Oceania,

    APOS: Online Video Headed for 15% Annual Growth, Disrupting Asia Markets

    A blistering 15% annual growth of online video will give the Asian video industry (TV, pay-TV, home entertainment and streaming) a growth rate nearly double that of North America for the next five years. According to a new report from Media Partners Asia, published on the eve of the APOS conference in Indonesia, Asia’s online [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    Writers Guild Says Over 7,000 Members Have Fired Agents

    Over 7,000 members of the Writers Guild of America have fired their talent agents, the Hollywood union said on Monday. As promised, the guild delivered a first round of termination letters to agents in a show of support for the WGA’s full-on war with the Association of Talent Agents. “Today the Guild delivered a first [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content