The Dead Lands is the first of its kind. A Shudder Original made in partnership with New Zealand’s NZTV, the series presented audiences with a Maori adventure filled with zombie-like creatures, magic, exorcism, and a hero’s journey that both fits traditionally myth structure but subverts it enough to create something completely unique. That said, what makes it one of a kind is that it tells the story of Waka (Te Kohe Tuhaka), the fiercest warrior in all of Aoteoroa (the Maori name for New Zealand), who was sent back to the world of the living to redeem his sins after being murdered, and Mehe (Darneen Christian), a Chief’s daughter with a gift she doesn’t know about. Now, after coming closer to fixing the world last episode, “The Sacrifice of Innocence” is a finale worth the wait.
The Dead Lands has broken new ground for the representation of indigenous cultures in genre TV. The series has been able to do so by not only being led by Maori actors but also by being handled by a Maori creative team. From the rituals performed, the fighting style, and more, each piece of The Dead Lands showcases Maori mythology and cosmology. The series features screen combat performed in the Māori martial art of Mau Rākau, while elements of action and fantasy throughout the story have been given shape by versions of Māori rituals reimagined for the show.
Now, with eight episodes, “The Sacrifice of Innocence” completes a powerful first season. The series is an epic, and the twists this episode after Waka return’s the village’s chosen ones and Mehe chooses to trust his father, the man who broke the world, create an amazing ending. In this episode, Waka and Mehe find themselves pulled together again as they fight off hoards of the Dead, having realized how they’ve found a family in each other, but it may be too late, all while the man who broke the work, Te Kaipo, continues to manipulate their fates.
While “The Sacrifice of Innocence” is a strong end to a first season, I hope it isn’t the end to a series. In the climactic moment of the episode and season, Waka and Mehe fight back to back in the largest scale action sequence in the series. It’s visceral and shot with our two main characters as pops of color against ashen bodies of the Dead. It’s a visually striking moment in the series and everything falls apart, you keep waiting for a happy ending, for something to go right. But it doesn’t, not really.
With “The Sacrifice of Innocence” as an ending to the season, the showrunners have chosen to not only open the story up to continue in the future but have also taken the risk to not tie the season up in a bow, which can sometimes end up badly. Instead, they have crafted a story that kept me invested from minute one of the first episode to the last minute of episode eight.
If there is a series out there deserving of a second season its The Dead Lands. It’s not only a giant push forward in indigenous storytelling on screen, but it’s just amazing storytelling overall. This series is fantasy at its best, it’s horror, it’s action, it’s simply everything a genre fan could want.
The Dead Lands is now streaming in its entirety exclusively on Shudder in the U.S.
The Dead Lands, Episode 8 - "The Sacrifice of Innocence"
If there is a series out there deserving of a second season itsÂ The Dead Lands.Â It’s not only a giant push forward in indigenous storytelling on screen, but it’s just amazing storytelling overall. This series is fantasy at its best, it’s horror, it’s action, it’s simply everything a genre fan could want.