It's really appropriate that "Into the Badlands" returns on St. Patrick's Day weekend as the AMC martial arts drama gives a lot of credit to Ireland for helping to enlarge the scope of its second season.
"We always try to make the show epic and big and grand," Daniel Wu, who's an executive producer on the show and stars as trained warrior Sunny, told Business Insider recently.
"But it was very difficult when we were shooting in New Orleans just because the geographical location was very limiting. If you go to New Orleans, it's just swamp. And more swamp. And more swamp. And more swamp. It's very flat and there's not much to see. We pretty much shot everything you possibly shoot there with the look of our show."
Over last summer, the production packed up for Ireland to shoot its sophomore year in and around the cities of Dublin and Wicklow. The result of the move makes quite a visual impact on the show's second season, which premieres Sunday at 10 p.m.
"Going to Ireland really opened it up for us," Wu said. "Because what you get within half an hour of Dublin city center are mountains, oceans, rivers, forests. You get all this great stuff that adds to the epic grandness of the show."
On the show's first season, we met Wu's Sunny, a trained assassin in service of the land baron, Quinn (Marton Csokas). In the midst of an illegal romance with Quinn's doctor, Veil (Madeleine Mantock), Sunny realizes they can't totally be free unless he leaves Quinn's army. Enter M.K. (Aramis Knight), an orphaned boy with a powerful gift whose tales of his mystical homeland, Azra, could mean freedom for Sunny and the now-pregnant Veil. But that freedom will be hard-fought, especially as Quinn and another powerful baron realize M.K. can be used as a weapon.
In its second season, Sunny and M.K. find themselves alone and separated by miles of diverse terrain as each one tries to find their purpose – something influenced by the possibilities that shooting in Ireland gave the production.
"On top of the move to Ireland, the writers stepped up this season and really went at character development and developing the story and really focusing on what the show is about," Wu said. "On two levels: visually and artistically, we've stepped up. But also in the writing as well. Combined together, those are our two weaknesses from last season. And I think we stepped up on those issues and made it so much better this season."
For those fans who liked having all the characters clashing with one another, don't despair. Wu teases that a reunion is the ultimate goal for the characters.
"Everyone's been separated and blown apart, but it gives everyone a common path," he told us. "Even though they're going through different things, they're all trying to focus on the one thing: trying to get back together. Sunny is trying to get back to Veil and the baby, as well as find M.K. M.K. is also looking for Sunny. Veil is also hoping that Sunny appears somewhere. She doesn't know where he is, and he might be dead. Then you have the issues with the barons and their story, and trying to control the Badlands. So everyone is converging back into the Badlands from last season."
Watch a trailer for the second season of AMC's "Into the Badlands" below: