The other night during a commercial break from AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, an interesting trailer played — I was sort of half paying attention, half not — and as I’d only caught part of the action, had a sit-up, “What the hell was that?” moment. The Into the Badlands clip is visually striking, the characters and actors immediately command attention, and the Django Unchained vibe (producers include Michael Shamberg and Pulp Fiction’s Stacey Sher), meshes with nods ranging from The Grandmaster to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to Blade Runner. If you were unfortunate enough to have caught FX’s amateurish production of The Bastard Executioner you’ll notice the difference in the look of Badlands right away. It leans more toward Game of Thrones’ lush world — with a martial arts twist — and the feeling that perhaps AMC has just found its next great series in a fantasy world.
The series is loosely based on the 16th century Chinese novel, Journey to the West (translated by Arthur Waley to Monkey), and follows Daniel Wu’s warrior, Sunny and M.K. (Aramis Knight) as they travel through dangerous territory together. Ruled by violent feudal barons, Sunny seeks to escape the badlands and his own past, when fate throws M.K. into the mix.
First, take a peek at the trailer, then get a look at the excellent cast.
Director/Actor/Martial Artist Daniel Wu headlines as Sunny, Regent/Head Clipper to the top baron, Quinn. Taken in as a child, Quinn has no memory of his parents or where he came from. The solitary warrior has killed hundreds, and each death is marked with a tattoo on his back.
As certain members of the Night’s Watch do, Sunny sometimes dreams of a different life, and has feelings for Veil (Edge of Tomorrow’s Madeleine Mantock).
Aramis Knight as M.K., a teenager with powerful, dark forces inside him (only apparent if his skin is cut). Sunny aims to help M.K. harness his gifts.
Like Sunny, M.K. has a lost childhood, and doesn’t know exactly where he comes from.
Emily Beecham stars as the Badlands’ newest baron and martial arts master, the Widow.
The deadly Widow succeeded her husband after his not-so-mysterious murder, and she aims to take on (read: eliminate) top dog, Quinn.
Marton Csokas as ruthless warmonger Quinn, who (also) eliminated the previous senior baron after he trained Quinn.
Of the world he’s in, Csokas says, “Disaster strikes the earth in this Darwinian universe where people are surviving as best they can. There’s a foundation treaty formed by the seven barons … there’s a period of kill or be killed.”
Orla Brady stars as Quinn’s first wife, Lydia, and Oliver Stark as his son, Ryder (kidnapped and tortured as a young child); each has different ideas than Quinn as to what Ryder’s future should look like.
Sarah Bolger as Jade, a “Cog” raised in Quinn’s home, and about to become his next wife.
Jade will be at odds with Lydia, both as Quinn’s advisor and a friend to Ryder.
There’ll be at least five minutes of fight scenes in each episode, and hot damn — if this is any indication, I’m all in.
Also starring are Stephen Lang, Mike Seal, Ally Ioannides, Yohance Myles and Benjamin Papac. Into the Badlands premieres on AMC on November 15th. Though currently slated as a 6-part series I’m hoping if it does well, they’ll expand into more seasons.
(via Hitfix, which has detailed character information)