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story.lead_photo.caption Daniel Wu stars as the conflicted warrior Sunny in AMC’s martial arts adventure Into the Badlands. The series returns for Season 3 at 9 p.m. today.

AMC's action-packed, escapist, post-apocalyptic martial arts adventure Into the Badlands returns for an expanded Season 3 at 9 p.m. today. Depending on your gag reflex, that's either great news or not.

I'm hard-pressed to think of a more violent series on television. Even AMC's two Walking Dead series ameliorate the violence by having most of it be against already dead zombies. Still, when the violence slops over onto living beings we care about, it can be tough to stomach.

I'm thinking about the loss of Glenn and Abraham. And Shane, Dale, Carl, Sasha, Noah, Tyreese, Beth, Sophia, Denise, Andrea, Hershel and T-Dog, and Mika and Lizzie.

Poor Mika and Lizzie. "Just look at the flowers, Lizzie."

And let's not forget the heroic death of Shiva the Tiger. Poor Shiva.

If there's a saving grace for all the gore in the sanguinary, sword-swinging, slice-'n'-dice, chop-socky Badlands, it's that of the scores of minions and lackeys that are skewered, dismembered, decapitated or otherwise dispatched, most are nameless. That allows the violence to take on the less painful, even cartoonish, air of a video game.

May as well be killing zombies.

It's like the deaths of so many red-shirted security personnel on Star Trek. Factoid: Of the 59 crew members killed in the original Star Trek, 43 of them were redshirts.

"He's dead, Jim."

Beyond the flying side kicks that defy physics, the parkour-esque gymnastics and the usual 10-to-1 odds we know our heroes will survive, Into the Badlands is a sterling character drama.

At the center of the action in this feudal society is Sunny, played with emotional intensity by 43-year-old California native Daniel Wu. Sunny is a renowned "clipper," or trained warrior. Perhaps the best in the world.

Sunny was the regent -- head clipper -- for Quinn (Marton Csokas), the Badlands' most powerful and merciless baron. The series' first two seasons deal with Sunny's relationship with Quinn, Quinn's relationship with the other barons and the struggle for power.

Quinn was finally fatally skewered by Sunny's love and baby mama Veil (Madeleine Mantock) -- a move that also cost Veil her life. That left Sunny to raise their infant, Henry, and left the Badlands in turmoil amid a power struggle between Quinn's successor, The Widow (Emily Beecham), and her one remaining opponent, Baron Chau (Eleanor Matsuura).

Season 3 finds Sunny living quietly off the grid beyond the Badlands. He's just trying to take care of Henry. After a mysterious fever afflicts the boy, Sunny encounters his shifty erstwhile traveling companion, Bajie (Nick Frost), and they head back into The Badlands in an attempt to find a cure for the tyke.

What they find along the way is something quite shocking.

Meanwhile, The Widow enlists menacing legendary clipper Nathaniel Moon (Sherman Augustus) to be her new regent. Moon doesn't particularly like The Widow, but he passionately hates Sunny ever since Sunny chopped off his hand last season. Moon wants revenge.

Finally, the second episode will see the arrival of an enigmatic nomadic warlord called Pilgrim (Babou Ceesay) who is on a zealot's mission to bring a new era of "peace" to The Badlands. There is mysticism and other spooky stuff involved.

One thing to remember for newcomers: The series is set in the future about 500 years after a war that destroyed conventional civilization. Although there are some technology aspects remaining, such as electricity and vehicles, guns have been banished. That allows edged weapons and bows to hold sway.

Also, the mythical Utopian city of Azra is supposed to exist somewhere out there far beyond the Badlands.

The highly stylized Into the Badlands (rated TV-14) has proved so popular that AMC expanded this season to 16 episodes.

• Westworld. Season 2 of the artificial intelligence drama debuts at 8 p.m. today on HBO. HBO describes the series as "a dark odyssey that follows the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin in a world where every human appetite can be indulged."

Back for more are Evan Rachel Wood, Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, Thandie Newton and Ed Harris.

Dancing With the Jocks. Tonya Harding, 47, will provide a lot of pre-season curiosity when Season 26 of Dancing With the Stars arrives at 7 p.m. April 30 on ABC. May as well strike while the I, Tonya iron is hot.

Others vying for the mirror ball in the all-athlete season will be Olympic figure skaters Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu; Olympic snowboarder Jamie Anderson; pro basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Notre Dame basketball star Arike Ogunbowale; Olympic luger Chris Mazdzer; former pro softballer Jennie Finch Daigle; ex-pro baseball player Johnny Damon; and NFL star Josh Norman.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Style on 04/22/2018

Print Headline: Violent Into the Badlands returns to AMC today

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