It’s hard to pin a label on AMC’s new six-part action drama series Into the Badlands, premiering Sunday, Nov. 15, at 10pm ET/PT. It has the dystopian future politics of The Hunger Games. It has the antiheroes of Westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It has the warrior’s spiritual journey of Kung Fu. It has themes of family bloodlines and ambition like in Game of Thrones or Shakespeare’s history plays. It has the moral codes of classic samurai films, and fight sequences reminiscent of The Matrix and Hong Kong martial arts movies. Into the Badlands fuses together so many familiar styles, yet it succeeds at creating something wholly original.
The series is set 500 years in the future, after the breakdown of civilization from a series of natural and manmade catastrophes. “There were marauding tribes. People were not safe so they went behind walls, and created their communities and society,” explains star Marton Csokas. The former American Midwest, now known as the Badlands, is divided among seven ruling barons who control the wealth, land and resources as established in the Foundation Treaty. “There’s been peace for a long time,” Csokas says. “Some people are happy with the way things are run; some people are not. There’s been harmony. Of course some people are better off than others within that Japanese feudal-type system.”
Baron Quinn (Marton Csokas) The most powerful of the seven barons, Quinn controls the poppies that produce opiates. Quinn’s stronghold is The Fort, where he commands armies of assassins known as Clippers. While Quinn speaks like a Southern gentleman, Csokas assures us that there’s very little that’s gentlemanly about him.
Sunny (Daniel Wu) An orphan who arrived at The Fort as a boy, Sunny was trained to become an elite Clipper and has more than 400 kills to his credit. The stoic warrior goes on a transformative journey that will change his destiny and the future of the Badlands.
The Widow (Emily Beecham) The Widow — it’s not just a clever name — looks like a scarlet-haired Steampunk Southern belle with a twist of dominatrix. “My character is kind of a bit of a maverick,” Beecham says. “She used a lot of tactics to get ahead. Her workforce is dwindling, so she has to resort to using tactics. And, yeah, she is a wealthier baron and she controls the oil.” She commands an all-female army known as the Butterflies.
M.K. (Aramis Knight) M.K. is a teenager who survived a raid on a shipment of slaves to The Fort. With a dark secret and a big price on his head, impetuous M.K. becomes Sunny’s student.
Lydia (Orla Brady) Lydia is Quinn’s first wife, but changing power dynamics (and maybe a midlife crisis) leave her jilted. Lydia wants her son to be the next baron, but she has doubts about his ability.
Photos: Sunny: Credit: James Minchin III/AMC; The Widow: Credit: James Dimmock/AMC