Even in the era of Peak TV™, some shows still rise to become King of the Mountain. Currently, those shows are The Walking Dead on AMC and Game of Thrones on HBO. Both feature ensemble casts playing characters thrust into extraordinary circumstances in hostile and fantastical worlds. Both have deep wells of source material from which the showrunners can pull lore, plot lines, and character development to make their universes feel more real. But both series are also getting long in the tooth. The Walking Dead has finally hit a slump in its seventh year, while Game of Thrones is sprinting towards the finish line with two truncated seasons. Once those two titans of live-watching instead of binge-watching are gone, where will fans of expansive universes full of danger and intrigue turn? May I suggest Into the Badlands?
From the minds of Al Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville), with the help of veteran martial art choreographer Ku Huen-chiu, filmmaker Stephen Fung, and actor/producer Daniel Wu, Into the Badlands merges the visual of East and West to create something wholly new. As with The Walking Dead, AMC gave Badlands a shortened first season to hedge its bet. The network even went so far as to have the martial arts apocalypse air immediately after The Walking Dead to bolster eyeballs. The ploy worked. The show might not have pulled in zombie numbers, it averaged over 2 millions viewers a week. With a ten-episode sophomore season, that’s plenty of time to expand the universe created last year and draw in the genre audience who craves worlds with their own maps. You know what I’m talking about. The kind of maps found in the front of novels heavy enough to kill a man.
Maps like this:
Now, offering up any show as a replacement for the imminent Game of Thrones-shaped hole in our collective hearts is not one to be made lightly. George R.R. Martin has dedicated decades of his life to the series. But with only a handful of episodes, Into the Badlands set the stage to become a contender. There are dozens of factions and kingdoms, all vying for limited resources. There’s love and betrayal. There’s a mythical city. There’s even magic. All set in our world, only centuries in the future. Into the Badlands takes the low fantasy of Martin’s world, mixes in the post-apocalypse dystopias we love so much, throws in amazingly choreographed marital arts fights scenes and a pinch of feminism and shakes vigorously. The official AMC synopsis is tantalizing in and of itself.
After a succession of catastrophic disasters — some natural, others man-made — human civilization was virtually wiped out. Without electricity, resources, or manpower, the great cities of the world fell into ruin. The survivors returned to the fields where they farmed or foraged, and the world descended into a period of chaotic regression.
Approximately 500 years later, a feudal society evolved — six men and women known as “Barons” control the Badlands, each governing specific regions and resources vital to survival.