Hello, Collectors, it’s been a while, but I’m finally back from hiatus and diving head-first into a plethora of new shows, and the one I’m most excited about is the new MTV show: The Shannara Chronicles. I attended the panel for the show at SDCC 2015, and I’ve been waiting for it with bated breath ever since. Now, the show is based on Terry Brooks’ series of Shannara fantasy novels, and over the past decade I have read every single one. So, let’s jump right in and talk about The Shannara Chronicles, episodes 1-3 (I’m a little behind because of vacation. Oops). Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Chosen (Parts 1 & 2)
The series begins in the Elven kingdom of Arborlon, and a contest is being held to select The Chosen, who are tasked with caretaking the Ellcrys, a magical tree that protects the Four Lands from the evil beyond the Forbidding. According to Elvish lore, the Forbidding was created as a barrier of protection from demons, and the Ellcrys is the power behind that barrier.
We are given to understand that female Elves do not usually become one of the Chosen, so the opening sequence that shows us Princess Amberle (Poppy Drayton) competing in the Gauntlet gives us a main character that is set apart from her peers. Amberle becomes one of the caretakers of the Ellcrys, much to the dismay of her grandfather, King Eventine (John Rhys-Davies). Soon after Amberle takes on the sacred duty, she is plagued with visions of her murdering one of the fellow Chosen. Upset, scared, and confused, Amberle flees the Elvish city in search of her aunt, who she believes can help her.
It is around this time that the druid Allanon (Manu Bennett) awakens from an enchanted sleep and declares ominously, “It has begun.”
It has indeed begun. The Forbidding has weakened enough to allow a demon to cross over to the Four Lands, infiltrate Arborlon, and kill all the other Chosen. After impressing on the Elvish king and council the direness of the situation, Allanon goes in search of Wil Ohmsford (Austin Butler), the last descendant of the Shannara, an ancient Elvish royal house that was skilled with magic in times past. In fact, Wil has received the Elfstones of Shannara, given him by his mother on her deathbed.
Except Wil doesn’t keep the Elfstones for long when he is waylaid by Eretria (Ivana Baquero), a Rover, who steals them. When Allanon finds Wil, the young half-Elf isn’t overly concerned by the missing stones, mostly because he’s been taught by society that magic doesn’t exist. No matter that Wil’s father was a strategic player in the War of the Races fought thirty years before, in which he was the possessor of a magic sword that would only work for the descendants of Jerle Shannara.
After a quick trip back to Arborlon (because the Four Lands is roughly twenty miles wide and all travelling can be done in a day), Wil and Allanon are on their way to find the Elvish princess and bring her back to Arborlon. The Ellcrys is dying, they have learned, and only a member of the Chosen can save it now. Since Amberle is the only member of the Chosen left alive, it is very important that she is well protected by the Druid and Wil–the only two beings in the Four Lands with magic.
The pilot episode ends with a demon attacking Team Ellcrys, and it looks like they have less time to fix the Forbidding than they originally thought.
Allanon is injured after the battle with the demon, and Wil is determined to save him with the magical healing mud of the Silver River. Before they can give the druid his mud bath, however, Amberle and Wil are captured by Eretria and her band of merry Rovers. Eretria’s father, the Rover leader, wants to use the Elfstones but needs Wil to show him how. Wil, still under the impression that the stones are not magic, is forced into a corner when the Rovers threaten Amberle’s life if he doesn’t cooperate.
A demon attacks the Rover camp, and Wil quickly learns just how to use the Elfstones for protection of himself and Amberle. In a visually stunning scene, the demon is barbecued by the Elfstones’ power. Poor Wil is left unconscious and hurt, because as Allanon so gloomily reminds us: all magic has a price. Allanon returns (apparently a catnap cures all druid injuries) and Team Ellcrys goes back to Arborlon, after picking up another lost soul named Bandon (Marcus Vanco), who may or may not have magic. Not even Allanon can tell.
Why Watch The Shannara Chronicles?
As far as genre television series go, The Shannara Chronicles is one of the most ambitious I’ve ever seen. Make no mistake: this is not the high fantasy you’re used to. This is not Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings–what Terry Brooks and MTV have done is create an edgier fantasy reality that borders on the dystopic, leaving behind the political undercurrents favored by HBO and George R.R. Martin for a endearing characters and an epic good versus evil plot.
While the show is not without creases that need to be ironed out as it develops, I admit that I would watch it for the setting alone (the show is filmed in New Zealand). MTV has created a world that is beautiful to watch and perhaps the biggest recommendation I can give the show is that The Shannara Chronicles never forgets that it exists in a fantastical world, and for that reason it is delightful.
The Shannara Chronicles airs on Tuesdays at 10 pm on MTV.
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