Left: Pentel Brush Pen and Schmincke pan watercolor sketch (Translucent Orange and Helio Blue Reddish) on Nideggen paper, in a 7.5 inch handbound journal turned vertically. The Baron Quinn, played by Martin Csokas on “Into the Badlands” on AMC.
If you don’t like movies and TV shows which include violent action scenes, fights, battles, and acrobatic martial arts engagements just click away today. I’ve got nothing for you.
Remember this blog is “My Many Enthusiasms.”
He had me at “martial arts.”
I couldn’t wait for Sunday (at 9 p.m. [CST] on AMC) to come around after my massage therapist told me about the new show “Into the Badlands.” It was advertised as full of sword fights and leaping combatants. David knows I grew up watching all the Samurai movies. He knows I enjoy ninja movies.
The first 15 minutes or so of the first episode of “Into the Badlands” did not disappoint. We’re launched immediately into a battle (with leaps, twists, lots of blades, really incredible stuff). Then the actors started to talk and I got up and wailed. The acting was stiff and painful. The dialog was tortuous. Then magically we were back to an epic battle. I think this was the street in the rain that hit all the right notes, but I didn’t keep notes so I might just be remembering what I want to remember.
And then there was acting. And I stood up and wailed again.
Two weeks later when I saw David again we started talking at once. “How about the opening of ‘Badlands’?” “Yeah, the sword play, the jumps…” “and then…” “yeah, and then,”
In unison—“they talked.”
We agreed to hold off judgement because the battle scenes were too good to miss. We’d watch another episode.
Since then we’ve separately decided that the acting has stepped up a bit and the writing has improved. We both have favorite characters. But I told him I was quite concerned about the storyline/motivation/backstory crap that was visible on the horizon that the Widow is trying to sell about men taking advantage and all being evil, which is so tired and worn (I can’t say more without spoilers). SERIOUSLY!?
Let’s examine something for a moment. The Widow is said to have killed her husband. She is a badass combatant whenever she needs to be. Yet she sends her daughters in to fight for her. We are always seeing her daughters fight, win a skirmish, and then the Widow strolls out of the brush somewhere without a drop of sweat or blood on her.
What mother treats her daughters that way when she’s supposedly trying to protect them?
I don’t buy it.
David, being two decades my junior and the product of those generational groups in which boys were encouraged to share their feelings, or at least have feelings, would like to buy this story line, or if not buy it, at least indulge it for a moment. He argued that generals can’t go into battle. I countered with “She’s their mother,” and some expletives which we’ll just leave deleted.
He comes back with a repeat of the statement that generals never go into battle. Mostly he’s laughing at how agitated I’m becoming. (By this time, which is before the massage, I am actually leaping up and down myself.)
Then I start reeling off names of generals who are famous for going into battle. I began with the Ancients, not pausing for breath (or any discussion of “victors writing history”) and worked on up through the British Wars and American Wars into and including the American Civil War.
At which point David said, “Sherman,” and all I could do is look at him oddly. “Sherman didn’t die in the Civil War,” I replied. But David said, “OK, Stonewall Jackson.” By this time I was jumping up and down while excitedly listing off generals. I wasn’t going to stop and concede Jackson because that was friendly fire.
So I kept going, not allowing the slightest pause for interruption, though he was trying, and it threw me off my game. I blurted out “George Armstrong Custer.” Then both of us smirked at each other in unison.
“Though that didn’t work out so well for him,” I continued. And we both laughed at the end of my logic. I had wanted to throw Teddy Roosevelt at him, but he wasn’t a general when he led the charge on San Juan Hill. And as I said, I was working through the Civil War. But this stalled me, I can only hold so many generals in my brain at one time. (Cary Grant movies, production dates, etc., now that’s another thing.)
Yes by the time someone is a general he is surrounded by guards, etc., but there are so many examples of generals going into battle.
And the Widow is the MOTHER of her fighters (at least some of them, it’s unclear how many). That’s just too different.
My point through all this is that she shouldn’t be hiding in the bushes letting young girls do her dirty work. She should get out there and fight, and be honest about the reasons she’s fighting. All men are not evil.
Of course on this show everyone is pretty messed up.
But they can really fight. And if you find such battles fun, exciting, beautifully choreographed, or exquisite bits of filming and CG, then there is something here for you even if the writing still lacks some force and the acting is only just warming up.
Did I mention there are great hairstyles and ears!? And beards!