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Into the Badlands’ mixes martial arts, fantasy into a flavorless mush

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Into the Badlands

Two stars

Into the Badlands Sundays, 10 p.m., AMC.

A mishmash of various sci-fi and fantasy elements, Into the Badlands doesn’t particularly succeed at any of them, although it does feature some badass fight scenes courtesy of star and producer Daniel Wu, a veteran martial-arts performer. Wu plays Sonny, a warrior (known as a “clipper”) in a post-apocalyptic land ruled by feudal lords (called barons) constantly at odds with each other. The opening voiceover in the first episode makes a vague reference to “the wars,” but other than that there’s no information on where exactly the show takes place, or what led to the current state of affairs.

The style is a mix of genres, with intricately choreographed martial-arts stunts (since guns have been “banished” from this world, everyone uses swords and fists) alongside aspects of steampunk, Westerns (some characters ride horses, while others drive vintage cars), fantasy and even superheroes. That last part comes courtesy of whiny teen M.K. (Aramis Knight), Sonny’s protégé, who possesses supernatural powers that emerge at convenient moments.

Creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville) strain to build a believable world, and they saddle their characters with near-constant exposition that doesn’t make things any clearer. The characters themselves are mostly one-dimensional, and the performances range from stiff to dull. The only exception is Marton Csokas, whose hammy turn as the evil, Southern-accented baron who employs Sonny is a highlight. The rest is like a more violent version of something that would have aired in first-run syndication in the ’90s, not exactly the potential genre sensation AMC is hoping will match The Walking Dead.

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