NatGeo has had some programming highs and lows in the last decade or so, and until recently I’ve been unable to find something truly binge-worthy in its line-up.
But I stumbled onto Badlands, Texas during a particularly slow viewing night and got hooked. It has true crime, human interest, a slice of Americana…not unlike a certain Netflix docu-series that’s been making the rounds lately. I actually started watching Badlands before Making a Murderer, though at the traditional real-time TV pace once a week, so it’s still going strong.
The show tells the stories of the residents of Terlingua, an off-grid border town in Texas. It’s filmed in an almost impressionist style, with a lot of badlands b-roll and abstract visual sequences like glass shattering in slow-mo, or puzzle pieces falling into place on a stark white table.
Some of the characters add to this eerie feel, in particular a man I just refer to as The Stranger (but whose real name is Ty Mitchell) because he reminds me so much of Sam Elliot’s role in The Big Lebowski. He couldn’t have been written any better in a fictional script…he’s got a 10-gallon hat, snake-skin boots, a leather eye patch, a gnarly scar down one cheek, and a bottle of beer set next to his propped up legs on a rustic table, while he holds a cup of black coffee at the same time.
At first, I thought the show would be focused solely on telling the stories of Terlingua’s residents, which would have been fine. But nay; as soon as we’re introduced to The Stranger, Trailer-Rental Ronda (who is strikingly gorgeous), ‘Doctor Doug’ and the rest of the cast of characters, we’re on to the real meat of the matter: one of this tiny town’s residents killed another resident. They were both loved, they were both drunk, and now one is dead and the other doesn’t remember doing the deed.
Cue the trial; cue Episode 2.