It was announced this month that when the third season of the AMC martial arts drama “Into the Badlands” returns March 24, it’ll be for eight final episodes that will bring the story to a close — for the most part.
But as the first-look photos below show, there’s a lot of action in store before the end. Co-creator Al Gough told IndieWire, “It really builds on the first half of Season 3… A disparate group of people coming together against a common foe. There’s definitely sort of a ‘Magnificent Seven’ kind of vibe to it as well as the season progresses: At the beginning, everybody’s been kind of blown apart. And then slowly through the course of the season, the Widow goes on her own emotional journey, Sunny and Bajie go on their emotional journey. It’s ultimately leading everyone to regroup and reconnect. They put their differences aside to face off against the ultimate threat.”
Alongside co-creator Miles Millar, Gough has shepherded the action-packed show about life in a post-apocalyptic world, where society has devolved into various fiefdoms ruled by barons, and the lack of guns doesn’t mean a lack of violence. But while “Badlands” has always featured jaw-dropping martial arts sequences, brought to life by the Hong Kong-trained team of stunt performers and fight choreographers, Gough noted that in the writers’ room, “When you have these sort of large fantasy worlds and everybody’s, you know, kung fu fighting, it has to be grounded in an emotional stories and relatable stories.”
He added, “What we always tried to do, even with this crazy world that we’ve created, is make sure that the characters feel like they’re grounded in emotion that you can understand and relate to.”
To Gough, Sunny’s (Daniel Wu) journey began in Season 1 as “the guy who’s great at his job, who’s reached a certain age and goes, ‘I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. No, I want to settle down and have a family,’ and in this world that he’s not allowed to do that.”
Meanwhile, Gough described the Widow (Emily Beecham) as “the upstart who comes into this and basically wants to shake up the system. She’s [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] or any politician who comes in and really wants to shake it up.”
While the emotion is present, Gough does promise that the last eight episodes won’t skimp on the action, even after the sprawling war scene that dominated the colossal midseason finale. “I can tell you there are a couple of epic battles to come that, that even surpass that one. It was definitely an amazing season. It was 16 episodes and the fight team shot for like, I want to say, 120 days. They shot 40 fights for 16 episodes over nine months.”
The series’ action scenes are legendary for the care put into them, but Gough said, “We had a rule in the writer’s room where we’d ask, why are we fighting? And if we’re fighting because we’re trying to solve a plot point, you can’t do that. You have to fight for the fights to be for compelling emotional reasons. Because they’re expensive and hard to do, so you can’t just use them to patch the plot holes.”
Along with these photos comes the poster for the final episodes, specifically the below striking image created by the AMC marketing team, which Gough said he and Millar loved immediately when they first saw it.
“In a show with so much kinetic energy, whether it’s the fights and the fury, there is just something really quietly poetic about that image that we just love,” he said. “Because with Sunny there’s always been a stillness to him and, and the quiet even as the world swirls around him. It’s always the intimate and the epic, and that poster, for us, really sold what these final episodes are going to bring.”
Gough said that the writers had been aware that there was a possibility of Season 3 being the last season, and so they plotted it with the desire to drive towards “a conclusion that was very epic, and very emotional. I think that’s what we really tried to do, so that fans who have been going on this journey with us for four years, you know, felt that they had a satisfactory end to the story.”
This doesn’t mean that every plot thread will be wrapped up at the end: “We left some back doors open — we’ve always known one of the things the story ends with, but there were obviously doors that we left ourselves open that we could go into in a Season 4. You always leave a few escape hatches in any finale. This story definitely has a conclusion, but it doesn’t mean that the world has had stopped and everybody’s packing our bags and gone home.”
While he didn’t offer plot specifics about what to expect, beyond the aforementioned showdown with the season’s ultimate big bad, Gough did say that the ending would contain a “hopeful note. If you look at Miles’ and my work, even in a show like this, which has a lot of moral gray areas, we always tried to strike a hopeful tone. The world can get better. It doesn’t mean that people won’t go through a lot, but I don’t think we’re nihilistic people by nature.”
That said, “I don’t think the ending will be what people expect.”
There’s a chance the world of “Into the Badlands” could continue in the form of novels, comics, or even an animated series; Gough says that the producers are in conversations about such ideas with the studio, but are focused on releasing the final episodes for now. “Those are things that we would love to actively explore,” he said.
After all, over three seasons this world of Clippers and Barons and magical powers has truly become its own story universe, one which Gough takes great pride in. “The best compliment I get is when people are like, ‘Wait, this isn’t based on a graphic novel or a book? It feels like there are many stories you could tell in that world, you know, that go beyond just what you’re seeing on your television set.”
In the meantime, “Into the Badlands” begins its final run of episodes on Sunday, March 24 on AMC. Check out more first look photos below.