The following contains Into the Badlands spoilers.
Now that Into the Baldlands has aired its final episode, we sat down with its creators to learn what the big takeaway from watching the series is, and how they felt about its truly epic ending. What do they want the audience to know, and how did the series transform from an adaptation of a really, really long historical Chinese novel from the 16th century? Read on, find out, and get down with your bad self.
DEN OF GEEK: Into the Badlands became an ensemble piece over time, especially during its first season. Was that your vision for the show from the beginning?
Millar: It was sort of an evolution…that’s something that we really sort of explored in the writers’ room. There were all these characters with their own stories. It also helps with a practical sense with production because if Daniel’s off fighting, you need time for him to not to be shooting the drama elements of the show. It really evolved in terms of how we could actually shoot a show as complicated as Into the Badlands which was extremely complicated. So there were sort of practical reason but also a story reason as well. It was a dual approach.
How closely did you follow Journey to The West?
Millar: That was literally just our jumping off point. We borrowed elements that we liked but, really, we liked the shape of that story — the journey for enlightenment — and that’s something we sort of took away. We took those elements and made them our own.
Got it. So are the characters of Pilgrim and Cressida original creations?
Millar: Yeah. I think it’s really about the idea of the search for enlightenment. That really is the core idea of Journey to the West. I would say that is really it in terms of the adaptation. We took some names and some stories initially, but it bears no resemblance to the story whatsoever, actually.
What is the show’s big takeaway message now that it’s over? Is it the journey for enlightenment?
Millar: It is certainly enlightenment. Following false prophets leads to nothing. Ultimately the search for enlightenment is within. That is a sense of peace…and also that life is a constant battle. That this search for enlightenment, for paradise, is elusive, and ultimately futile. That unless you’re content in your own life and in the moment, then you’ll never be happy.
Many of the characters spend their time searching or preaching for the promise of paradise and happiness and all these things are defunct. So it’s really that search for inner peace… I think several of the characters get to that point, but it’s really a reflection on the big question of life. That sounds pretentious. But I think that’s kind of what it is.
How involved were you with the show itself on a day-to-day basis?
Millar: We spend many, many months in Ireland. I think for us, it’s a very singular show in sort of the costumes and the sets and the story, it’s not a show we could ever take our hands off, so our fingers are in everything and on everything.
What was filiming the big climactic battle in “Seven Strikes as One” (the final episode) like?
Millar: That last battle is obviously endless and it was probably ten minutes longer than it was in the show, it went on and on and on. It’s incredible in terms of the dimensions, the layers of action as our heroes battle Pilgrim and his dark-eyed ones. It was an immense task that the fight unit took on, so I think it’s incredibly satisfying and uses that set to its max.
And also I think it’s a very worthy conclusion for Pilgrim and our heroes. We wanted to ensure that the audience felt satisfied. You’ve watched all 32 episodes of the show in a binge watch, by the end you’d feel like you went on a journey and you’ve reached your destination.
There could be journeys to come, but it still feels like a satisfying experience as a whole, that you’ve really gone on a journey with these people emotionally, physically, and really had enjoyed a satisfying story that’s rich, different, original, and with action that’s like nothing they’ve ever seen before. That was certainly our goal. We’ll let the audience decide if we’ve succeeded.
Gough: We really wanted to give the story an ending, but also always leave a few side doors open. That this world is going to continue in one form or another beyond the show. So I think for us, especially with Sunny and The Widow and all of the characters who’ve literally been on the journey since the first episode, it’s been how do you really give them the best emotional send-off you can give them?
It was sort of an inevitable ending but it is obviously surprising and hopefully emotional. You hope the show’s remembered for it’s storytelling and its action and its diversity and its strong female characters. It’s a vision of the future that doesn’t feel like something you’ve seen before. That’s, for us, what we hope people take away. That it was a very unique television experience.