AMC's latest new show Into The Badlands is a — take a deep-breath — post-apocalyptic kung-fu western. Set in "The Badlands," the series follows a man named Sunny, known for being the best killer in The Badlands, and a boy he discovers who carries a secret. But where exactly are The Badlands? Is this a post-apocalyptic America, or a post-apocalyptic Asia like the source material, Journey To The West? Is it set in the west and just happens to feature kung-fu, or is it set in a more kung-fu friendly geographic location that just happens to feature elements of the wild west? It seems that neither of those are exactly right — The "Badlands" of the show are actually the southern and midwestern parts of the United States of America.
Though according to the New York Times and other sources, the Badlands themselves are supposed to be in the Midwest, the newspaper also describes how the series was filmed in Louisiana, specifically the New Orleans area, and features former plantations and the decadent houses the plantation owners lived in. Rolling Stone says that the show is set in the deep South, but even if most of the action issupposed to be in the Midwest, the actual, physical location plays a huge role. The American South carries a great deal of history in its soil, from the modern southern culture to the it's tragic and well-documented history with slavery. How will these elements influence Into The Badlands? I have some theories.
Flat Plains & Beautiful Floura
The American deep south is known for its expansive landscape, and how far and flat the land can stretch. Expect a great deal of landscape shots showing off the expansive imagery that the on-set location has to offer. Films like Django Unchained, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, and 12 Years A Slave have filmed in Louisiana to spectacular visual results.
Much like the critically acclaimed series Fargo incorporated the idea of "Minnesota Nice" into how its characters interact, expect Into The Badlands to feature its characters partaking in the cultural tradition of Southern Hospitality, at least on the surface. People in the Badlands may be polite at first, but don't expect it to be long before the swords come out.
The Shadow Of Slavery
Some wealthy southern families benefitted from slavery, be it the acquisition of farmland or the decadent mansions built onto plantations. It seems that Into The Badlands is using these structures, both physical and social, to inform the cultural setting of the series. The wealthy live in mansions and have five-course meals and use the poor to do their dirty work.
The average temperature in Louisiana, year-round, is 78 degrees. It gets as high as 100 degrees and stays fairly warm even in the winter. Imagine if you had to live your life in 90 degree weather with no air conditioning — now imagine that you live in a world where everyone is carrying a sword or similarly bladed weapon and you're always at risk of being sliced without a moment's notice. The heat magnifies the social tension in the show, and helps solidify the tone of all of the characters being on-edge. Whenever you see a show filmed in the deep south, remember, none of these actors are comfortable and they're all likely covered in sweat.
The Deep South and Midwest are a creative choice for the setting of a — deep breath, again — post-apocalyptic kung-fu western. However, given the storied history of the geographic locations where Into the Badlands is shot, they add a new layer of depth to the plot.
Images: James Minchin III, Patti Perret (2), Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/AMC