I’ll give almost any show on AMC a shot. Despite having a pretty wide array of shows, they seem to have a pretty specific formula for a series in mind. I think the key to it is they don’t try to keep it going indefinitely. When they start a show, they know where it’s going, and they have some idea how to get it there. That helps them avoid the pitfalls of other shows, the endless love triangles, the new characters shoe-horned into the story, and all the other annoying tricks showrunners try to squeeze one more season out of a hit show. With all that being said, I’d have given Into the Badlands a look even if it weren’t an AMC show. The premise is interesting enough. I think when Kyle asked me about it, I described it as a post-apocalyptic Kung Fu fantasy. Gets your attention, right?
From an aesthetic point of view, I think the look of the show is striking. By that I mean this doesn’t look like a post-apocalyptic world I’ve seen before. There’s green grass and blue sky. Actually, the show is generally a back and forth between vibrant color and more muted noir. The choreography that goes into the fight scenes is impressive. I’m not a Kung Fu movie buff, but from what I’ve seen, I’d think the action would satisfy those who are.
From a narrative standpoint, I described this is a post-apocalyptic Kung Fu fantasy, and that’s really because the story borrows a few tropes from all those genres. If anything drags the show down, it’ll be a reliance on those tropes. We’ve got a world under the control of barons (read feudal Japan or China), a mystery orphan with mystical power, a forbidden romance, a baron’s lieutenant questioning his loyalty, and a young baron’s son living in his father’s shadow. How well any or all of that works depends on how the characters in question are developed along the way. The premier episode was more focused on world building than character building, so it’s not fair to render a verdict just yet, but the potential for the show is easy to see. The world they did build in the premier feels enough like its own, and I think the writers found a good balance between introducing us to that world without loading the show down with exposition. There’s a lot we don’t know about this setting. We’re not sure what the apocalyptic war was about. We’re not quite sure why people flocked to the barons for protection, but I prefer a little mystery to a story that wants to take me by the hand and drag me through every mouse hole.
Into the Badlands caught my interest with its debut. I’m not certain it’ll hold my attention, but for now, it’s earned a chance.