Into the Badlands Season 3 is Here!
In preparation for this new season, which promises to be the biggest, boldest and most explosive yet, let’s look back on where we left off. Seasons one and two were just the beginning and set the stage for the events to come. The Badlands is at war! But this war will be fought on many different fronts. The past will haunt our favourite characters, while personal demons and personal grudges compel others. Some are looking for redemption and some are just looking for good old fashioned revenge. New characters will threaten the resolve of those wanting to make the Badlands a better place. It should be another amazing season, let’s dive right in!
What happened in the 1st two seasons of Into the Badlands?
AMC took a chance on a martial arts drama that would never see or use a gun and an amazing show was born.
The first season of Into the Badlands was shot in Louisiana and it shows. There’s a tangible plantation (poppy not cotton), old south, kind of vibe in the DNA of the first season. From the buildings and massive plantation homesteads, to the weeping trees, heavy with heat and humidity, to the above ground cemeteries. Among these stone monoliths some crazy martial art action sequences were shot. Season one was different. Good, but different from what the show would eventually become.
The first season also introduced one of the big bads of the show and like so many TV and Films made these days, a foreign actor portrayed a character who spoke with a strange twist on a southern accent. At least that’s how it sounds to me.
I’m speaking of course of Quinn, played by Marton Csokas. You’ve seen him before, as Celeborn in the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, (he is from New Zealand after all), in the Amazing Spider Man 2, and in the Bourne Supremacy to name a few. His role on Into the Badlands was his best, and most creepy, to date. But Marton Csokas’s portrayal of Quinn and all of his sociopathic swagger, once again wielding a sword, fit perfectly in the world that the makers of Into the Badlands were creating.
I remember watching the very first episode of Into the Badlands. Sunny racing across the vast poppy fields on his motorcycle to the camp of some outlaws to retrieve stolen Cogs (worker bees of this world) for his then Baron Quinn. The fight scene that followed his arrival set the tone for the show and for the first time we saw Sunny do things that no normal human can do.
What was I watching? I asked myself. I wasn’t sure yet, but I liked it. We had seen similar in other martial art films – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon comes to mind. The iconic scene of two warriors gracefully gliding across the tops of a tall forest with swords in hand. Into the Badlands defies logic and if you’re wanting to watch a show that adheres to a rigid depiction of reality, don’t look here. But this is a good thing.
The best fighters like Sunny, The Widow, Tilda, Bajie, M.K. Nathaniel Moon, Quinn, and now Pilgrim, Nix and Castor – they all can perform seemingly superhuman acrobatics and balancing acts during the epics fight scenes. The Widow especially comes to mind, her dismantling of Ryder’s forces in the beginning of Season 2 was amazing. The way she fought her way up a flight of stairs, almost floating between railings and soaring on suspended chains – truly awesome.
But the Widow’s fight to convince Moon to become her new Regent in the premiere episode of Season 3 was even better and took the Widow to new heights, literally. At one point she flips and lands her stiletto boots on two upright swords. The swords, with pointy ends stuck into the soil, marked the graves of the men who had previously come and fell while attempting to take down the man with 1000 kills, Nathaniel Moon.
Almost performing a split in midair, The Widow gracefully lands her jump on the hilts of two swords and then remains until she’s ready to strike again. And she does. The Widow then performs a twisting, spinning double kick and perfectly strikes the bottoms of two swords to send them jettisoning at Moon. He evades the aerial attack handedly. As if that wasn’t enough, The Widow had kicked the two swords with enough force to send them hurreling 50 feet through the air with enough force to bury them deep into the stone wall of the tower behind Nathaniel.
As an aside, Nathaniel Moon and Sunny are probably the most “successful” Clippers in the Badlands. One would assume this means they are the best swordsmen, but it may be be a woman who’s at least their equal, if not better. The Widow hasn’t been tested by Sunny yet, but she basically beat Moon in the Season 3 premiere episode. Is the Widow the best? I very much want to see a showdown between The Widow and Sunny someday, however I don’t want either to win. I like them both. I do believe we’re heading for another Sunny and Nathaniel confrontation, this seems inevitable. (But now there’s the Pilgrim. Who in the previews can fight blindfolded – surely a force to be reckoned with as well.)
So what are these abilities? What allows these people to soar through the air and perform dizzying acrobatic antigravity assaults? Are our heroes on Into the Badlands superhuman? Are they superheroes? For lack of a better answer, yes.
I have two theories. The first depends on the fact that this new world does not rely on guns for fighting. Without the crutch of weapons that let any unskilled person harm and kill others, people have naturally evolved to become weapons themselves. Yes there are crossbows and bows and arrows, but these too require skill and are mainly used for long range fighting and hunting. The real talent is in the close quarters battles, where your sword, knife and body ARE the weapons. Your instincts, your agility, strength, speed and stamina determine if you OR your enemy walks away from the fight. I prefer to suspend my disbelief and let go of any notions that our heroes are bound by the strict laws of physics. It’s more enjoyable this way.
Evolving and training to be an exceptional fighter is one thing, but what of the black eyes and the mystical abilities of M.K., The Widow, Bajie, Nix and Castor? (The list keeps getting longer) My best guess is that this superpower, the eyes-cloud over-black-killing-machine power. This could be part mystical, part evolution and part chemically induced when it first happened long ago. I’m sure in a world where some power-at-be was looking for a way to create an army of superhuman killers, they relied on goons in lab coats to make a serum. The story is tried and true and could be part of the puzzle here. That is to say, the show hasn’t revealed how the first black eyed killer came to be, but I can’t wait to learn about this mystery.
The world of Into the Badlands in the first season focused on the barrons and their lands, poppy crops as well as the power, gold and murder that maintain their positions. Like all great shows, Into the Badlands in only the six episodes of the first season changed and adapted. So much changed, or was torn down by the end of season one. As the show changed and evolved, so did the production behind it. In addition to on screen story elements, moving the filming location of Into the Badlands to Ireland seemed like the perfect evolution for this rollercoaster ride.
Sunny was torn away from the love of his life, a pregnant Veil and young M.K. were both stolen away by the black eyed monks. Quinn was struck down by Sunny, which was the result of a betrayal from his own son Ryder. Meanwhile, Quinn’s wife went back to her religious father to commit herself to the faith again. The widow seized upon the chaos and forged new aliences to further her power and her own version of control in the Badlands. So much happened in only six episodes. But it set the stage for season 2.
At the start of season 2 we were carried off to a desolate foreign land. Nothing was familiar, to us or the characters we care about. For the cast and crew of Into the Badlands it must have felt that way as well. Far away from the weeping willows and flat lands of Louisiana, production moved across the Atlantic Ocean to the beautiful and pristine country of Ireland.
Watching season two you can’t think about how the countryside and vistas of Ireland look nothing like most of the continental US. Supposedly the Badlands are located in what was the United States. This is why the majority of the cast speak with a general American accent. Even though much of the cast is from Great Britain or Europe. I’m glad they didn’t make Nick Frost give up his cockney for his betrayal of Bajie. We laugh and love Bajie and Nick Frost partly because of his native British accent.
For now at least Into the Badlands is filmed entirely in Ireland. This move was crucial to the growth of the show. Into the Badlands is similar to a classic fairytale, a story told about another time, in another place, by characters who live among “magic” and mysticism.
Regarding the technical, I believe Into the Badlands is shot with Red cameras capturing 6K digital files and mastered at 4K (for now) – like so many shows, film is becoming a thing of the past. Related to this, Spielberg shot Ready Player One on film and like most VFX and Animation production throughout the industry, all of those frames are rendered in 1080p (for now) Beyond that, every real production is edited on Avid editing systems, accept no substitute!
Back to Ireland. If it works for Game of Thrones… Seriously, Into the Badlands has never looked better and season 2 looked amazing. The locations, the sets, the huge estates, everything in season two looked and felt like the show was finally being shot in color. (After season one was shot in greyscale)
Shooting in Ireland had other benefits as well. Such as the aforementioned addition of the character Bajie, played by the great Nick Frost. Perhaps best known for appearing in the “trilogy” of films: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. All of these films also starred Simon Pegg, who co-wrote these movies as well. Nick is a great talent and while he may not look the typical part of a serious martial arts master, when he starts fighting alongside Sunny and M.K. watch out! Beyond that, Nick’s character added a much needed sense of humor to the second and now third season of Into the Badlands.
So much of the story, characters, and action of Into the Badlands is deadly serious. (In every way it’s deadly serious) So having Bajie on screen to make us laugh, next to the straight man like Sunny, (every comedy team needs one) – the addition of Nick Frost was an ingenious casting and writing feat for the show runners. While I’m not sure of the details, if feels like Bajie was written solely for the comedic talents of Nick Frost. I venture a guess here, but I bet Nick was brought to the show and then they wrote a character for him to portray. Of course it could be the exact opposite.
The Bajie character could have been created and written and then the producers had great luck in landing Nick Frost for the role. This happens so many times in production, a chance or educated guess is put into action and then magic happens on screen. Sometimes the result of all of the hard work, from conception to writing to the intense production process. Thousands of hours and hundreds of talented people work behind the scenes. They shoot images that eventually end up in our living rooms – sometimes magic happens. Into the Badlands is one of those cases. Kudos and Congrats to the cast and crew!
Season two forced the cast to work apart for most of the season. By design the characters were each set forth on their own respective journeys. The most obvious is a literal journey of Sunny, as he tried to make his way from slavery, past the wall and a hundred enemies, all the way back to the Badlands. Sunny met Bajie along the way and through ups and downs and occasional betrayals, he became Sunny’s friend and fighting partner. Of course there was a long term con at play, Bajie stole the compass from the Master’s chambers and kept it with him until the very end of season 2. I was happy to see Sunny get the compass back in Season 3.
I hope we learn more about the fabled land of Azra. The show has dropped clues along the way and it remains the great hope for many of the characters. Bajie may know more than he’s ever going to let on and may know some secrets regarding Azra. He says it’s a fairytale, but he could be lying still. But it’s the great hope of M.K. that compels us to care about the reality of this place and whether it could be a promised land.
Here’s my theory about Azra… Azra may not be a real land or city, but an idea. Azra could stand for hope. Azra could be the embodiment of the hope for a better tomorrow, of redemption, of a better future and of a peaceful existence for all men. Azra could encapsulate the return of the ideals which founded the United States. The promise of freedom, life, land and liberty for every man, woman and child.
A major theme of Into the Badlands Season 3 will be introspection of our hero characters. How can they change? Can you leave the past behind and become a better person? How does each of them fit into a new world? How can the new world be better than the last?
Forging a new world from what everyone has always known will be a difficult task. For the longest time there has only been a world run by the Barons. The Baronocracy has been the law of the land for as long as the people of the Badlands can remember. It is ironic that Barons were the lowest form of the British nobility. In the Badlands the Barons have traditionally been the highest authority in the land. In Brittian these landowners were referred to as “Lord” but they were Barons nonetheless. It does make sense for the world of Into the Badlands to revert to a form of government that we fought a Revolutionary War to break free from in the 1700s.
After the “wars” decimated the old United States, a system run by Barons, protected by Clippers and served by Cogs, Dolls and slaves came into being. This system opposes everything that the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and Bill of Rights stand for. It is sad that when a people and their government do not maintain and stand for the principles, liberties and freedoms on which they died and stood for, over time they are forgotten. If we forget our past, who we are and why we are free, we risk not only forgetting – we risk fundamentally changing who we are and losing that for which we stand.
I believe this happened in the world of Into the Badlands, but it doesn’t need to stay this way. At our core, we all want to be free. We want that which we were born with – the right to life, liberty and the chance to pursue happiness. Only other men, other governments – the tyrannical and powerful men and women who live solely for power and control, can take these rights away from us. We all need to be reminded of the following:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” — The Bill of Rights.
In season two of Into the Badlands the Widow attempted to establish and maintain similar rights for the people who fled other Barons and sought refuge on her land. It is no surprise that other Barons opposed her efforts and fought against her attempt to change the game. Power and wealth in the hands of an unjust and evil person will breed corruption and more injustice. These Barons will never give up their power, save by force and or death. Sure it’s cliche, but absolute power does corrupt absolutely.
“The world is fine the way it is.” “The Badlands are fine the way it is.” This mentality is extremely difficult to change. From the Barons, to the Clippers, to the Cogs, Dolls and slaves, the Baronocracy is the unwritten law of the land. What’s Azra? Azra is nothing but an idea, a long away promise of something better. Azra is only an image on an old Wired magazine. Azra is an image embossed on a book or compass. Until the characters learn otherwise, meaning until we learn otherwise and the great writers of Into the Badlands show us otherwise, Azra is only that – the promise of a better place, time, and future.
With this in mind, let’s all settle in for what should be an enlightening, vastly entertaining, and grossly immersive third season of Into the Badlands. Our sword-wielding heroes are all searching for something different, something better, and hoping for a better tomorrow. Now, how do you forge a path through the dense forest of enemies standing in the way of the promised land? How do you let go of the past? Let loose the anchor pulling you down to the bottom of an ocean of death and doubt? How can you become a better person? – When you’re the same person who has killed hundreds of people as a clipper for an evil Baron. How do you overcome your past had you lost your wife, killed your old Baron, killed your husband to become the Baron, if you’ve killed over a thousand times or find yourself standing by the caskets of own fallen soldiers? What do you do should a master Clipper, whose hand you took in battle is haunting you?
These are only a few of the questions that I want to see addressed in Season 3 of Into the Badlands.
AMC Into the Badlands Sundays 10/9
Catch up on first two seasons of Into the Badlands on Netflix
About Into the Badlands Season 3
Season 3 of Into the Badlands finds Sunny living off the grid, doing his best to provide for his infant son, Henry, in the wake of Veil’s death. It is only when Henry contracts a mysterious illness that Sunny must join forces with Bajie and journey back into the Badlands, where the Widow and Baron Chau are entrenched in a drawn-out war that has destabilized the entire region. No longer supported by Tilda or Waldo, the Widow must find new allies in Lydia and in Nathaniel Moon — the former regent who lost his hand to Sunny and Bajie in Season 2. But when a mysterious nomadic leader called Pilgrim arrives in the Badlands on a mission to restore Azra and usher in a new era of “peace,” old enemies must band together to defend the Badlands.