The Dead Lands, Shudder’s co-production with New Zealand’s TVNZ is a must-see fantasy show. An action-adventure steeped in the supernatural world of Maori mythology, the series continues to one-up itself with every subsequent episode. Over the course of six episodes, the series has given us a taste of zombies, exorcisms, and a whole spirit world. Last episode, we got to see a larger explanation of the Maori mythic cosmology and it deepened the story. Now, in episode six “A Question of Identity,” the series has taken a turn for grounded character development that looks at Waka’s (Te Kohe Tuhaka) trauma while also packing the episode filled with fighting the Dead.
In “A Question of Identity,” Waka and Mehe (Darneen Christian) go on a search for Te Kaipõ, the man who broke the world, a powerful shaman, and the Waka’s father. When they arrive at his village, it’s clear that Waka isn’t welcomed but it’s even clearer that he doesn’t want to be. While this episode is focused on showcasing Waka’s strength and ability to fight the Dead, it’s also a close examination of how he became the man he is today. The man who was kicked out of the Land of the Dead, who carries guilt, shame, and dishonor, is also filled with pain.
Through his interactions with both his father and flashbacks, we’re shown that Waka’s aversion to trusting Mehe and others around him is rooted in always having to survive while his father beat him to set an example for the other boys. His rage and his determination all make sense now as the showrunners introduce us to a particularly vicious part of Aoteoroa. Cannibalism and hostility await them and yet, even with the blood and insinuated violence, “A Question of Identity” is a rich exploration of Waka.
While Mehe takes a step back this episode, she’s still a representation of calm power that balances Waka’s aggressive and impulsive attitude. Additionally, she holds her own as a warrior when she joins Waka in fighting the Dead. In their fight, this episode also recovers from the inconsistent costuming that has happened in previous episodes, allowing the characters to get dirty. Plus, the humor is executed extremely well.
Overall, “A Question of Identity” is the best episode of The Dead Lands yet, and in a series that keeps topping itself, I can’t wait for episode seven. This episode has emotional storytelling, growth, and the Dead with a side of a lot of blood. What’s not to love about The Dead Lands?
New episodes of The Dead Lands air every Thursday on Shudder in the U.S. with the first three episodes available on Amazon Prime Video.
The Dead Lands, Episode 6 - A Question if Identity
“A Question of Identity” is the best episode of The Dead Lands yet, and in a series that keeps topping itself, I can’t wait for episode seven. This episode has emotional storytelling, growth, and the Dead with a side of a lot of blood. What’s not to love about The Dead Lands?
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.