Playing Into the Badland’s resident bad boy Quinn takes more than just devilish charm, and Marton Csokas delivers it with aplomb
AMC’s martial-arts-meets-feudalism series Into the Badlands tells of a post-apocalyptic time in which the world has been ravaged and resources are scarce. Society is ruled over by seven Barons, each of whom maintains control over a precious commodity. They protect their assets using Clippers, highly trained soldiers and assassins handpicked from their slave population at an early age. The show follows Sunny, the regent or head clipper for Baron Quinn, as he finds his life turned upside down by a mysterious young man named M.K.. After receiving news that he is a father-to-be, Sunny is faced with a series of decisions that will alter his life and change the course of the Badlands forever.
While Into the Badlands has an endless list of heroes and villains, the title of Villain We Most Love To Hate unarguably belongs to Quinn, Sunny’s former Baron. From the first time we listened to him evangelize to his Colts using that slow Southern drawl, we knew he would be trouble. Throughout season one, he was the unyielding barrier between the regent and his family, and it led to what we believed was a fatal encounter with Sunny at the very end. Once the show returned, we found out the baron narrowly escaped death and was now on a vengeful path back to power. Played by the incredibly talented Marton Csokas, an imposing figure with talent to match, Quinn has made an indelible impression on the Badlanders that will last long after this season’s finale.
Quinn’s power comes from his conviction, something Csokas expertly conveys
Marton Csokas has graced both small and big screens for the past two decades, often times playing someone who believed he had an unerring vision of a better world. Sometimes the characters grew into reformed bad guys, but other times, they stuck to their guns until the very end. Whether it was Yorgi from xXx, Jack Barts from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Teddy from The Equalizer, or Sheriff Brooks from Loving, each of Czokas’s roles involved portraying a man wholeheartedly committed to their philosophy. When it came time to bring Baron Quinn to life in Into the Badlands, Czokas really took the time to develop this complex villain.
When we first meet Quinn, we immediately understand that he’s a man of great conviction. We know the most dangerous villains in the world are those who believe blindly in their vision for the world, because their earnest passion translate easily to those they recruit. In Quinn’s case, while his perspective on the world (and his role in it) does not reflect reality, he makes it clear that he will bleed for his cause. There is an evangelistic quality to him – a raw charisma that earns him fervent devotion and unending loyalty. Csokas allows his performances to be completely consumed by conviction, and ends up conveying it so well we find ourselves rooting for Quinn despite his evil misdeeds. There are even times we question if we’re wrong for vilifying him, which is quite the feat!
His baron successfully walks the line between villainy and insanity
It doesn’t take long for us to find out that Quinn is facing more than just unrest from the other barons in the Badlands. He has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, one that will likely kill him should it continue to grow. He quickly dispenses of the good doctor and his wife despite their promises to remain quiet, an act that drives the first wedge between him and his faithful regent. As time passes, we see him begin to suffer the signs of his illness, with bouts of migraine headaches, changes in vision, and physical weakness. However, it isn’t until season two that Quinn descends into paranoia and madness, but clues along the way leaves us wondering just how much of it was the real him. The more that time passes, the crazier his antics, to the point that even his own wife doesn’t recognize the man he’s become.
While it’s easy to chalk up all of his antics to being a truly evil man, let us play devil’s advocate for a moment. Let’s assume that based on the images we’ve seen of Quinn’s tumor, it sits firmly in his frontal lobe. If you were to look up what this part does, you would find out that it takes care of executive function (decision making, reasoning), personality, emotional control, and understanding social situations. So, those people who have tumors in that lobe of the brain would lose the ability to think clearly, have changes in personality, become emotionally impulsive, and misinterpret social cues. Sound familiar? Combine that with his increasing paranoia, hallucinating and interacting with his dead son, and those damn headaches, and you have a second explanation for Quinn’s behavior. Csokas makes sure we know villainy and insanity are vying for control, but he never reveals which is the victor.
Csokas reminds us we’re always only one step away from darkness
Although there are people out there in the world who are just “born evil,” the majority of wrongdoers are a result of bad past experiences that show them how to view the world. Quinn is a prime example of that. We know through his own admission that he was once a cog at The Fort, and he rose through the clipper ranks through force of will. He likely learned early on that violence kept you alive and earned you respect. Being a clipper meant he had no family, and that reinforced the lack of exposure to love and affection. He later discovered that power could bring the guise of happiness, and this led him to murder his baron. As we approach season two, we come to understand this drives his actions and behaviors in a very primal way.
(Dead) Ryder: “Wiping away the blood won’t change what you’ve done. What kind of man kills his own son? Look at you. Holed up here like a rat pretending to play house with another man’s woman and child. The child of the man who ran you through. How pathetic.”
Quinn: “Pathetic, hmm? Since the moment you first sucked air, you were a disappointment.”
(Dead) Ryder: “Oh, there he is, huh? The mighty Quinn. You know, I used to think you were so strong. But you’re weak. No wonder all the women in your life betrayed you. My mother, Jade. You wanna know the truth? Jade always came running back to me because you couldn’t satisfy her. Think Veil will be any different?”
Wanting to be loved is something that we work for constantly, and Quinn is the same in this respect. Because he had no real exposure before, he tries to intimidate his way into being loved, starting with Lydia and Ryder. He cannot separate loyalty from affection, so he treats the clippers and his family the same. When things don’t turn out as he hoped, he starts over with Jade because he doesn’t know how to fix things. Most of what he does in season two is not just for power, but for the adoration he believes it will bring. Even when faced with death, what he wants most is Henry, which is extremely telling. Csokas infuses this desperation through his scenes with Ryder, Veil, and Henry, reminding us of the lengths that we go through to avoid being unloved. Yes, Quinn took it too far, but haven’t we been tempted too?
Quinn may be the most feared baron in the Badlands, but we have nothing but love for Marton Csokas
Let’s put down our swords and be honest with each other for a minute. Did we enjoy hating Quinn from the first episode? Yes. Did we also secretly admire his tenacity and charisma? Yes. Were we just a little bit excited to see him reappear when season two started? HELL YES. His increasingly unhinged mind made for some incredibly memorable moments, and his strategic skill added so much tension and unpredictability to the sophomore season of Into the Badlands. In the hands of a lesser skilled actor, Quinn would have likely been turned into an one-dimensional caricature, but Marton Csokas brought an irresistible passion to the baron that made it impossible for us to ignore.
Every speech, every gesture, every look was calculated to maximize the effect, and the fact that he drew out such intense emotions from us as the audience speaks to his talent. Whether we wanted to admit it or not, we tuned in every week to see what Quinn would do next, armed with a litany of curses for when he delivered his next move. When he rose like the phoenix in his underground fort, we let out just the tiniest of cheers. When he surprised the barons at the conclave, we were grinning ear-to-ear. When he faced off with Ryder, we felt his devastation. Love him or hate him, every time Csokas comes on screen as Quinn, we cannot look away. If you’re still not convinced, just consider what this season would have been like without the devilish baron in the picture and then you’ll understand why Marton Csokas is our Into the Badlands season two scene stealer!