The Dead Lands is a new original series from Shudder, AMC’s premier streaming service for horror, the supernatural, thrillers, and more. The series focuses on Waka, the strongest Māori warrior to have ever lived who has been rejected from the afterlife by his ancestors, and Mehe, a strong-willed woman who is doing everything she can to save her father, her tribe, and now the land. In the pilot episode, Mehe realized that her father couldn’t be saved, at least in the land of the living and Waka dealt with the voices of the dead urging him to kill his new protegé, regardless of how much he is connecting with her. Now, in episode two, “The Sins of My Father,” the tension between them continues to grow, just as their connection to each other does as well.
“The Sins of My Father” also focusses on the idea that children can and should overcome the decisions that have cast their lots in life. From Mehe pushing past her father’s refusal to train her as a fighter, to her tribe confronting the elders in another. The theme of the episode fits the title and the way that it explores ideas of familial obligation and age hierarchy in Māori culture gives more weight to the series and specifically Waka’s interactions with his mother in the dead lands when she visits him. How Waka sees himself in relation to the dead, to his ancestors, and his mother are pivotal in explaining his reasons for being extremely fearful of them.
But the best part of this episode, like the last, comes from Mehe and specifically how she grows as a warrior. While it’s clear that the Māori elite didn’t teach their daughters to fight, like other cultures, Mehe lets Waka and the audience know that she isn’t weak. She isn’t weak because her father taught her a skill that even Waka lacks: the ability to think for herself.
Coming from point zero, Mehe trains with Waka, learning how to fight, defend herself, and ultimately how to reclaim her position in her tribe. When it comes to the fighting that Mehe does, we don’t get too much of it without edits; her fight choreography isn’t as graphic as Waka’s which dampens her rise in power. That being said, its Mehe’s interactions with her brother and their uncle that sets her as more than just a girl, but a capable leader and fighter with agency. It’s up to her to save what remains of her tribe and with that, it’s clear that she is the driving force of the series, in equal measure to Waka.
“The Sins of My Father” also casts a question on tradition, asking can the dead actually speak to the living and make them do their bidding. Or, can tradition be pushed aside by rejecting the gods and saving people over their paranoia? It’s clear that there is a story in this episode that will speak to a Māori audience who are currently having conversations about tradition. That said, I do know what it’s like to be in an extremely patriarchal culture that reveres age like wisdom. This means that I was able to identify with Mehe’s assertions that changing beliefs that hurt people is necessary.
While I love Mehe’s character development, her strength as a fighter seems to come too fast. When it comes to pacing, the series has had a few issues so far. In episode two, the show’s intro is too long, and something that is baked into the opening credits. While it may be good since the series is week-to-week, it is on a streaming platform and it feels out of place being a part of the episode and not just an extra bit that can be skipped. To add to my critique, the inconsistency with the costumes, being dirty one moment and clean the next is a distraction in some of the scenes. Additionally, the costuming of the dead is so minimal it remains hard to distinguish someone we’re rooting for and someone we’re rooting against. With that being said, there are great moments that show how the series is leaning on pieces of the zombie genre to tell its story.
Overall, “The Sins of My Father” continues to build out a world of magic and monsters. While it may not have the best acting, it has more heart than many of the series out. The Dead Lands is all about myth and now that we’ve gotten two episodes that provide a wealth of exposition, viewers should be ready for more and I hope that the upcoming episodes won’t let them down. Episode three is set up with a call for another quest, and with the dead asking Waka to do opposing tasks, I’m interested to see how he’ll make his choice.
The Dead Lands episodes one and two premieres on Shudder tonight, January 23rd.
The Dead Lands, Episode 2 - The Sins of My Father
“The Sins of My Father” continues to build out a world of magic and monsters. While it may not have the best acting, it has more heart than many of the series out. The Dead Lands is all about myth and now that we’ve gotten two episodes that provide a wealth of exposition, viewers should be ready for more and I hope that the upcoming episodes won’t let them down.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.