This Into the Badlands review contains spoilers.
Into the Badlands Season 2 Episode 1
In case you didn’t notice, I was feeling um, “on the fence” about Into the Badlands last year. That’s putting it nicely. Not saying it was terrible or anything, but let’s just say I had some beef with it.
Case in point: its pace was way too slow for an ambitious martial arts action/drama. There was a lot of talking – and I mean a lot of talking – a bunch of deep south soap opera shade flying around, a questionable accent or two, plus an incredibly distracting beard that could have been a character in its own right. Oh, and the cultural appropriation? Yeah, that’s always going to be a thing.
But when everyone started kung-fu fighting, this series lived up to its true potential. Unfortunately, those moments were few and far between in a six episode season that played more like an extended cut of a pilot than anything else. But hey – these fights were well choreographed, fun to watch, and always worth sticking around for. By the time the finale zipped by us, I was actually starting to care about M.K. and Sunny and Tilda and maybe Veil, I’m not sure. (Kidding.)
I was more excited to see what the show would do when it would further indulge itself both in interpreting its subject material (Journey to the West) and its progenitors’ influence (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and O Brother, Where Art Thou?). But then again, that enthusiasm I felt could’ve just been the after effects from Lance Henriksen’s screen presence. It was hard to tell.
But now, after watching its second season premiere, I am officially no longer “on the fence” about Into the Badlands. I have made my decision. It’s not my final answer, but it is a judgement call.
Are you ready to hear it? Still here? Good. I’ll tell you how I feel about Into the Badlands now.
I think this show is finally kind of awesome.
Is it perfect? No. But in some ways…yes. Yes, it is perfect in that it finally lives up to all that potential it wasted last year, and it does it in just a single episode. I don’t know if it spent all of 2016 training up in the mountains or what, but this show has earned the right to be called a “genre bending martial arts series” now.
So what changed?
For starters, the frustrating pacing issue appears to have been fixed. A lot happens in “Tiger Pushes Mountain”, and at least 80% of its scenes are memorable. That’s more than I can say for the entirety of the first season. There are actual twists – yes, real honest to goodness plot twists! Like all the cool new TV shows have these days. And it’s grittier now. There are more kill shots. I think there was a beheading somewhere in there, too. Lots of gore if you’re into that sort of thing. Not semi-realistic Game of Thrones gore though, more like wet and wild Spartacus: Blood and Sand over the top CGI blood porn. I like that kind better. I think?
The dialogue has improved, too. Although the new characters introduced here are barely more than sounding boards that explain to the audience the plot, the universe, and the emotional state of the main characters, it’s not as wooden as it used to be. That’s something. (But okay, fine. It’s still coming across a bit forced.)
The characters? They’re mostly bearable now. Sunny is lost in a dystopian Mad Max-esque mining camp with a duplicitous British sidekick, M.K. is being trained in the mountains on how to be a Jedi Airbender with a female kung-fu master, and The Widow and Tilda are still kicking ass and stabbing men in the throat with their high heels. Oh, and apparently Quinn is alive again and just played midwife to Veil’s and Sunny’s baby.
Yes, as the scene before the credits proves, Baron Quinn isn’t dead after all. I’m not sure how this is possible, but now that I know that the show is comfortable being slightly campy, increasingly brutal, and fantastic as all getout, I’m interested to see what excuse they’ll come up with.
So bravo, Into the Badlands. Bravo. Let’s see how ther other nine episodes from this season play out.