Title: Into the Badlands (Seasons #1-3)
Released: 2015

Fix: Martial Arts, Gorgeous Imagery, Pretty People
Platform: Netflix

Netflix Summary:

Dreaming of escaping to a distant city, a ferocious warrior and a mysterious boy tangle with territorial warlords and their highly trained killers.

FYA Summary:

This is a dystopia, which means we need a history and vocab lesson. It’s the post-apocalyptic future, with some remnants of the past aka our present (e.g., electricity) but not others (e.g,. guns). The North American continent is now known as the Badlands, which has been divided into distinct regions ruled by barons. Each baron controls a signature commodity, a workforce of slaves known as cogs, and an army of fighters known as clippers. (Well, the clippers are also enslaved, but they know how to use swords and shizz.)

Sunny is a regent — like, THE main clipper. Not only just for his baron, but he’s the baddest badass who ever badded in the Badlands. One day, he comes across this mysterious kid M.K., who’s being pursued by a bunch of powerful and dangerous people. Of course, being Our Noble Hero, Sunny must PROTECC.

(Fun fact: this is an extremely loose retelling of the Chinese epic Journey to the West, which I have no insight into because I’m mostly just familiar with other retellings like Dragon Ball.)

Familiar Faces:

Daniel Wu as Sunny

I’ve loved Daniel Wu ever since I watched his chiseled perfection in the Hong Kong comedy Beauty and the Breast (I know, and I honestly can’t tell you how well it holds up). He’s already a huge star in Hong Kong, but he’s been cast in more English-speaking roles in the past few years. 

Aramis Knight as M.K.

I don’t actually recognize the actor from anything else, but he has a very cool name and the show cares about his character much more than I did. (He was Bean in Ender’s Game and he’s going to be in the Ms. Marvel series, though!)

Emily Beecham as The Widow

With the nickname, the hair, and and all the fantastic fight scenes, Emily Beecham totally could have been that Black Widow. As someone who rebels against the status quo but still upholds the system of oppression — like, literally a benevolent dictator — The Widow’s arc is the Khalessi storyline that should have been. If it seems like I’m overselling this character, it’s because she really is that awesome.

Sarah Bolger as Jade

I feel like I recognize her name more than I do her actual performances — although I’ll definitely remember her from this, as someone who’s willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants. (She was in The Tudors and Once Upon a Time, and she was also in the English dub of From Up on Poppy Hill.)

Madeleine Mantock as Veil

I’ve inadvertently watched a big chunk of her filmography, and they are of course mostly CW shows (The Tomorrow PeopleCharmed). Here, she’s a good-hearted doctor who tends to clippers. 

Stephen Lang as Waldo

It’s the Avatar guy! I know he’s been in many other things, but he’s forevermore the Avatar guy. Another vague Avatar connection: Waldo is a wheelchair user who was Sunny’s mentor in ass-kicking matters. (The wheelchair usage and the ass-kicking are not mutually exclusive, either.)

Nick Frost as Bajie

If you stick with the show beyond Season 1, Nick Frost shows up! 

(Virtual) Couch-Sharing Capability: Medium-Low

This was an AMC show, meaning mild profanity and sexytimes at most, in addition to the obvious violence. It’s not a super long binge (32 “hour”-long episodes), but it’s still a serialized commitment.

Recommended Level of Inebriation: Low-ish 

I’m pretty sure that alcohol survived the apocalypse (just like it is in our current hellscape), so DRINK UP IF YOU WANT. Especially anytime the villainous baron Quinn is chewing scenery, which he does A LOT. 

Use of Your Streaming Subscription: (Mostly) Great

This was an entertaining and diverse action show that had the misfortune of airing in a time of oversaturation, for both TV and dystopia. Its futuristic western vibes reminds me of Firefly, except this is a dystopia instead of outer space and there are actually Asian people. The show’s not perfect; it could have done better by its women characters of colour, and it ended on an intriguing note but not necessarily one that I wanted to see play out. But the storytelling is compelling, the visuals are superb, and the tailoring is IMMACULATE. (Seriously, I kept wondering if there was a baron of textiles, with how well everyone is dressed and accessorized.)

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.