Right out of the gate, I want to admit that Terry Brooks was a huge influence on me as a writer. After The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, his Shannara novels were my next stop on the journey to becoming a fantasy novelist myself, and I dare say, he impacted me a great deal more than Tolkien did.
While I am aware that is tantamount to blasphemy to many in the fantasy fan circles, it remains true. While Tolkien was my introduction, Brooks was the one who made me marvel at the endless possibilities the genre offered. After I devoured everything he had written at that point, I ended up with David & Leah Eddings, Alan Dean Foster, and eventually, R. A. Salvatore, who remains one of my all time favorite fantasy authors ever.
There is no denying, however, that my desire to become a fantasy author really begins with Terry Brooks and his wild imagination. So, it’s only natural that when his works finally come to film, after a wait of literally almost my entire life, I am going to be over eager to cover it here on my blog.
Honestly, I don’t think I would be half the writer, or a fraction of the creative person I am, had Terry Brooks not paved the way. War Witch carries more than a little of his influence in its pages. While I can’t say as to whether or not he’d be honored by that, I am thankful for him and his writing all the same.
There will likely be a great deal of fangobbering on my part as these recaps continue, just so you know. Since Mr. Brooks was on hand for the filming of The Shannara Chronicles, and the entire endeavor has his stamp of approval, there will also be a fair amount of fangobbering over the series. Again, just so you are aware.
Which leads me to the first really interesting thing about this, in the most poorly constructed segue ever. The Shannara Chronicles doesn’t start with the first Shannara novel, but rather, the second. While this was at first the only thing about it that gave me pause, I have to admit, it ended up being a brilliant decision. It lays the events of the first novel, The Sword of Shannara, in the history of this series, giving it an extra layer of intrigue. Things happened that we are not fully privy to, which makes what we do see feel as if it has a real history to it, one we don’t know all the details of, in much the way actual history works.
It also allows the characters of the series to move about, discovering not just their destiny, but their history, without the viewer being biased by having witnessed the events of the past themselves. It works surprisingly well, and allows us to connect to them in interesting ways.
More than that, though, is the way some of the characters who lived through that history reflect on it, and allow it to impact their current choices. Again, because we didn’t get to experience it ourselves, it makes their choices harder to judge, and allows them to appear as more relatable and understandable. It’s just a really clever way of approaching this story, is what I’m getting at.
I also want to point out that this show is just absolutely beautiful to behold. While a lot of people were very nervous about it, because MTV was behind it, I can say without a doubt that they spared no expense in trying to cash in on some of that Game of Thrones popularity, creating a series that is just stunning to look at. Really, they outdid themselves, and this show is gorgeous.
They were smart in their casting choices at well, which I’ll get into in the followup to the recap. It’s likely to be a bit of a long post, so you know, as I’ll be covering the entire two hour premier.
All that said, let’s go ahead and take a look at the first two episodes of The Shannara Chronicles.
We begin with some royally gorgeous music set to a long sweeping shot of the landscape, littered with the remnants of a more advanced civilization. It only takes a moment to find out that civilization was ours, as we come upon a structure, long gone to ruin, that still remains unmistakable.
All of this is to establish that this is Earth, some time in the distant future, after a catastrophe has destroyed everything we know. This isn’t super relevant, and the books give a bit more detail, but since it isn’t touched on in the series, I’m not going to comment on it except to say that it grounds the series in a familiar, yet alien, environment.
From there, we’re off to the Elven city of Arborlon, which is presented in some serious glory. I’d screenshot it, but I’m gonna have a lot of screenshots for this if I’m not careful, so I feel like I should pace myself a little. Trust me, though, it’s a super pretty place. Very Elvish.
In the woods near the city, in the middle of the night at that, Amberle, the grand daughter of the Elven King, is out for a run. That she has her hands tied behind her back and is blindfolded, while being chased, makes it look kind of bad. Not to worry, though, she’s just training with her uncle, Ander, for the Gauntlet.
She takes a tumble, and he’s briefly worried, but she’s fine. She keeps missing the jump she needs to make, and wants to go again. It seems she is very determined to win this Gauntlet. Against his better judgement, Ander agrees.
The next day, at the actual Gauntlet, Amberle and her… I’m guessing this lady is her handmaiden or some such. Anyway, her name is Catania, and she is making sure Amberle is really ready to step on thousands of years of tradition. Apparently, women, and especially Princesses, aren’t usually allowed in the Gauntlet, something that Amberle thinks is the sort of thing that needs to be stepped all over.
Now, a bit about this Gauntlet. It’s a pretty big deal for the Elves of Arborlon. Basically, it’s a race through the forest that the participants must run with their hands bound behind their backs, and blindfolded. The first seven across the finish line are then deemed the Chosen, and will spend the next year protecting the most sacred tree anywhere, ever, the Ellcrys. I’ll get into what makes it such a sacred tree later, but for now, it’s basically a huge honor, and all the strapping young men glaring at Amberle as she joins them don’t think it’s a task that should be left to anyone who walks around penisless.
The nerve of people to be penisless, I know.
Anyway, one of the other contestants is Amberle’s boyfriend, Lorin, who appears to be uncertain if he should be proud of her, or worried for her, but only after he mistakenly thinks she’s there to wish him luck. She thinks he should settle on proud and gets ready to race, manglares be damned. There’s a lot more than seven guys here, by the way, and none of them seem happy to have a vagina in their midst.
I’ve no idea why. I’m always happy to have a vagina in my midst. Guess I never learned how to man properly.
Now, before you go asking if I’ve been brainwashed by the matriarchy and allowed myself to become a tool of their oppression, let me say something. I don’t generally consider myself a feminist. I do consider myself a humanist, however, which is to say that I believe everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their gender, skin color, sexual orientation or lack there of.
In other words, I try to treat people the way I’d want them to treat me. With kindness, respect, and friendship. I believe the world would be a better place if everyone did this, but I can’t change the world by myself, so I content myself with just doing what I can with those I meant along the way in this life.
I do not agree with any kind of oppression, and I see plenty of it in this world. Women are treated as lessers by some men, just as some white people treat anyone who isn’t white as lesser for reasons that I’ve never understood. Point is, oppression is real, and it happens all around us, every day. I’m sure I’m not innocent of doing or saying things that were out of line with my own beliefs, as I’m only human, and prone to mistakes, same as everyone.
I try, however, which is more than I can say for others. Like this collection of dudebro Elves, and yes, I’ve always wanted to say dudebro Elves. I’m weird that way, but mostly it’s because I’m tired of this image of Elves as being perfect beings. I like these Elves, because they are flawed, and relatable, instead of being demigods who float around eyeing each others butts while clenching phials of oil tightly in their hands.
I may have wandered off topic. Let’s get back to the show.
The race is actually pretty brutal, and we see folks running full tilt into trees, getting knocked down onto broken branches, and other things that inflict a lot of pain. Amberle gets tripped at the starting line, but has a weird vision thing and gets her ass up and races. She shows a great deal of situational awareness, focusing on the race, while some of the dudebro Elves focus on trying to take her out, getting themselves mangled for their efforts.
After making the jump she kept missing, Amberle is nearing the finish line, when she gets dropped by one of the guys. Apparently having recently watched The Force Awakens, she kicks his ass, and manages to come in as the seventh and final Chosen. She steps on his dumb ass just to make sure he gets the message.
After the race, she and the other Chosen, which includes Lorin naturally, are taken before the Ellcrys, and Amberle’s grandfather, the Elven King Eventine Elessedil, who looks super unhappy to see his grand daughter among the Chosen, instead of off making babies.
Amberle sees the smile one of the little girls watching gives her, and with that, gives not a fuck what grand dad thinks. Nearby, Uncle Ander gets poked by his older brother, Arion, the crown prince. Seems Arion thought Ander was teaching her how to fence, not to win her way into the sausage only club. Ander shrugs it off, though, cause he’s a maverick.
Eventine gets over his initial irritation and proceeds to welcome them to the Order of the Chosen with a nice speech and some staff thumping. Like ya do when your a Dwarf masquerading as an Elf King. Oh, come on, like you guys really thought I was going to let it slide that John-Rys Davies was playing an Elf King on a tv series shot in New Zealand. You know me better than that.
Part of his speech is to give us some info on what makes the Ellcrys such a sacred tree. Long ago, the myth goes, the Elves fought a war against a race of demons that wanted to eat everybody. The war ended when the demons were banished to another realm called the Forbidding, where they remain trapped to this day, by the mystic power of the Ellcrys. Every leaf on the tree is a demon that is held back from nom noming the people of the Four Lands, and so long as the tree stands, the demons cannot return.
If you are sensing some foreshadowing here, you’d be right. While everyone believes this to just be a story, it isn’t. Now, as to why everyone thinks it’s just a myth, that would be because there is no more magic in this world. It died out with the last of the Druids a good thirty years ago, though most folks suspect it went away long before that. In fact, even the Druids are really more a legend, as no one has seen one in a really long time.
This will all matter later, but I figure we should get it out of the way now. Sacred tree holds back demon army that wants to eat everybody, there is no magic, and nobody believes in Druids. Got it? Good. There will be a quiz later, so be sure to take notes.
There won’t really be a quiz. Please, don’t actually take notes.
With his story finished, Eventine points out that while they may consider this story of magic and demons to be folklore, it doesn’t change their responsibility, as they are now the Ellcrys protectors. He pauses in front of Amberle to really drive that home, before patting her cheek, giving his unspoken approval of her actions. Tradition may matter, but so does the goals of an individual. He says this without a word, and frankly, it was nice to see.
All that done, it’s time for the Chosen to touch the tree and be accepted by it. As the Chosen do their thing, Arion gives Ander some shit for letting Amberle do this. Ander points out that he didn’t “let” her do anything, he just aided and abetted. Arion doesn’t find that funny, and invokes their dead elder brother, Amberle’s father, who would have been the next king, as well as pointing out that she’s humiliating Eventine, who will soon abdicate the throne so Arion can have it. Ander blows that off, as the only Elven traditions he respects are the ones with parties.
While they poke at each other, tree touching is happening, and it goes well, until Amberle touches it and has a horrific vision of demons devouring the few survivors of Arborlon as the city lies in charred ruins. It is realistic enough that Amberle screams and passes out, and frankly, as a man, I would have done the same. Nobody, no matter how much they may claim otherwise, is prepared to witness what she saw.
At that exact moment, Slade Wilson wakes up from a wicked hangover in Greenland.
Oh, come on. That was so funny.
Fine, okay. That is actually the Druid Allanon, who totally has his 300 year chip.
Yes, that was worth it.
Okay, I’ll behave. Maybe. Possibly. Probably not.
Anyway, Allanon has woken up from a hibernation called the Druid Sleep, which means that Odin is also a Druid. Allanon heard the Ellcrys calling out, and after a bit of chanting instead of coffee, grabs his morphing sword and heads out to save the world from evil.
I did say I probably wasn’t going to behave myself. Don’t roll your eyes at me.
Elsewhere, Wil Ohmsford has returned home with medicine for his sick mother, only to learn it’s too late. His uncle Flick leaves him to have a final moment with her. Before she passes, she gives him a set of three Elfstones, which she claims belonged to his father, who Wil only knows as a drunkard that abandoned them. She tells him to find the Druid, then is gone, leaving Wil with a lot of questions.
After burying her, Wil asks his uncle about the Elfstones, and Flick basically tells him they are evil and killed his father. In a slight nod to the books, I will say that Flick damn well knows better, because we helped Wil’s father save the world with those Elfstones, but I guess thirty years of hindsight has made him bitter about the how of what they did. He encourages Wil to toss them in the river and forget them.
Back at Arborlon, Amberle is feeling better, even though she can’t stop sketching pictures of demons. Lorin stops by to try and cheer her up with his penis, but she’s not really up for that, mostly because while she cares about him greatly, she’s not in love with him, and knows he wants to marry her. Taking the hint, he encourages her to attend the party that night being held in honor of the Chosen, and she agrees to think about it.
Back in Wil’s world, he’s getting ready to move to a bigger town so he can train as a healer, wanting to help others the way he failed to help his mother. Flick thinks it’s a bad idea, but eventually gives in, since young Half-Elves, such as Wil, need to make their own way in life. Wil also assures him he chunked the Elfstones, which is a total lie, because he can’t stop fingering them.
Not like that. Don’t be perverts. That’s my job.
In a lot of ways, I can understand Wil’s desire here. He feels like he failed his mother, and doesn’t want anyone else to feel the kind of loss he now does. While his motives are somewhat selfish, they are also somewhat selfless, as he wants to become the best healer he can, for the sake of others. At the same time, Flick’s motives are equally relatable. Wil is all the family he has left, and he wants to protect him, even as he sees that his nephew has grown into a man who needs to find his own way in the world. Both are in a difficult situation, and it says a lot of Flick that he lets Wil leave, and a lot of Wil that he chooses the harder road over the easy one.
Back in Arborlon, Amberle attends the party, but gets a lot of stares and glares, until Ander shows up to make her the lesser of two pariahs, and people remember they dislike him more. The two playfully jab at each other, he over her not knowing if she’s in love with Lorin, her over him having missed out with the head of the Elven military, Commander Tilton, who is dating Arion. I can’t speak to her tastes on that.
Lorin shows up and tries to woe her again, but she sends him to get her some food after getting a weird vision again. She goes to the Ellcrys and touches it, getting another full blown vision of Lorin dying, stabbed in the gut, apparently by Amberle herself. This sends her into a full meltdown, convinced that by breaking the traditions, she is being punished by the Ellcrys.
Lorin finds her, and fearful of the vision coming true, she pushes him away and flees, leaving him very confused. I doubt it would take much, as Lorin doesn’t seem like the brightest guy around. To consumed with doubt and fear over the visions she’s been getting, Amberle leaves the city completely.
While she’s running from that, Wil has a brief encounter with a Troll, but is rescued by a woman named Eretria, who gives in to his patheticness and takes him back home with her. Shes hardly a vision of politeness, but since she did save his life, he figures she’s better company than the dead troll. This will be the first of Wil’s many dorky mistakes.
Back in Arborlon, Ander thinks Lorin may have had a hand in Amberle going missing, even roughing the young man up a bit. This persuades Lorin to confess everything Amberle told him to Ander, who doesn’t fully buy it. As for Amberle, she’s heading to a small place on the coast to find the only person she believes can help her.
Wil, on the other hand, is trying to feel up Eretria while she takes him home. He does a terrible job of this. Of course, he’s bad at a lot of things, so it’s little wonder.
Over in Arborlon, the guy who tends the Ellcrys has found signs that it is not doing well. Since there is no record of it ever being ill, or even shedding a single leaf, this seems odd, and Eventine is deeply troubled by it, because he knows that the myth isn’t a myth. Arion thinks it ain’t no big thing, as it’s just a tree.
Dude. When your dad gets worried, that’s probably a good sign you should get worried. Ya know what, from now on, I’m gonna call you Prince Dick, cause your a dick.
Allanon shows up, knocking a guard on his ass, and makes some grave pronouncements, something he’s pretty good at. Arion and Ander try to act all tough, but Eventine shuts them down, since he and Allanon are old friends from back during the War of the Races. While the Elf King hasn’t seen the Druid in thirty years, and marvels at how he hasn’t aged a day, he is also visibly relieved that Allanon is here to sort shit out.
Cause when shit needs sorted, you get a Druid to sort it. I’m sure Marisha Ray would agree with me on this. Druids are shit sorters.
When Prince Dick gets all racist and demands to know who this human is, Eventine introduces him as the last Druid of Paranor, and if that sounds like a lofty title, that’s because it is. We’ll get into that later, so for now, rest assured, being the last Druid of Paranor makes Allanon big shit anywhere he goes.
Unless that is front of Prince Dick, who demands proof that Allanon is a Druid. Eventine slaps him down, then Allanon slaps him down even harder, before heading off to check out the Ellcrys. Ancient mystic trees are way more important than dick waving princes, after all.
Over with Wil, he proves he’s an even bigger idiot by actually doing what Eretria tells him, namely, getting naked in a bath tub. Somehow, he did not see it coming, but she drugs him and steals all his shit after he tells her that he has Elfstones. Seriously, dude, keep your stones in your pants.
While Wil is getting played, Allanon is communing with the Ellcrys and declares things even worse than he thought. I don’t know how bad he thought it was, but this guy strikes me as a real glass is half empty sort, so it must be really super bad. He pronounces that the Ellcrys is dying and tells Eventine to mobilize the army. Prince Dick thinks this is stupid, and dicks all over the place, like a dick. Allanon is miffed that Eventine let his people think magic and demons were fairy tails, then storms off to look for help. After he leaves, we see the first leaf fall from the Ellcrys, burning up as it hits the ground.
Elsewhere, this unleashes the first demon, and he’s not just any bad guy, he’s the head bad guy, the Dagda Mor, a former Elven Druid who turned to evil. He recites the same chant Allanon gave when he woke, then summons a henge to guard him until the Ellcrys dies and he regains his full power. Considering what he looks like now, I’m not sure I wanna see him get a powerup.
Since we are now at the half way point, I think it’d be a good idea to take a moment to reflect on what’s happened. Let’s call it a brief breather.
The Ellcrys is dying, and demons are coming forth that want to eat everyone. Elven King Eventine thinks this is bad. His oldest son, Arion, thinks it’s a load of crap. His youngest son, Ander, doesn’t know what to think. Allanon, the last Druid, arrives to pronounce very gravely that they are all going to die, which almost nobody listens to. Wil Ohmsford is off proving he’s a dork by getting drugged and robbed while in a bath tub, because he was thinking with his dick. Amberle thinks she broke the world with her vagina, which would really be something. Eretria is trying to out dick Arion, and largely, succeeding. The Dagda Mor just wants everyone to shut up and get eaten already.
All caught up? Good. Let’s head into part two.
Later the next day, Allanon has managed to track down Wil, who is still napping in the tub. There’s been a few jokes so far about his Half-Elf ears being short, but by now that water has got to be cold, so his ears being short are the least of his worries. Allanon wakes him up rather brutally, then rants a bit about Wil’s destiny. Wil just wants to know who the hell this guy is, and what the hell is going on.
Once Wil realizes he’s been had, he admits to being an idiot, which Allanon agrees with before declaring they must reach the Druid keep. Wil realizes Allanon is the Druid his mom told him to find, just before he realizes the Elfstones are gone. Allanon declares Wil has put their quest in jeopardy, and Wil continues being confused as to what the hell is going on.
Leaving Wil to get dressed, Allanon takes a minute to bitch to the flora and fauna about the fate of the world resting on Wil’s shoulders. I can’t help but feel his pain. Once he’s dressed, Wil joins him and discovers that Allanon found his horse, which ran away when the Troll attacked.
Like I said. Druids handle shit.
Allanon decides this is a good time to drop the Shannara bomb. As it happens, Wil is the last son of the Shannara bloodline, great Elven kings who were famous warriors, and defended the Four Lands from all manner of evil, making it a less terrible place to live. Just like Wil’s father once did. Wil points out his dad was a drunk who died alone and destitute, and Allanon calls that a bunch of shit, because his father was a hero who could wield magic, just as Wil can.
Wil again tries to blow this off by saying he can’t use magic, and if he could, why didn’t magic help him save his mom. Allanon throws his hat in the ring for biggest dick in the Four Lands by saying it could have, if he’d known how to use it, before promising to help him learn. Way to kick a guy when he’s down, Allanon. Regardless, it’s enough to get Wil’s attention, and he follows Allanon to the Druid Keep of Paranor, wondering if maybe the crazy guy might not be crazy.
Now, for all Wil knows, Allanon is just some random crazy guy. He has no idea if this dude is really a Druid or not. Still, there’s that little sliver of maybe, and that’s enough for Wil. He wants to help people, after all, and possibility, no matter how out there, is something he’s willing to try, so off they go.
Another leaf falls off the Ellcrys, unleashing the worst possible demon, a Changeling. It first appears as a very attractive woman, and the Dagda Mor makes out with it for a bit before sending it to Arborlon to kill all the Chosen for reasons that will become clear shortly. It gets a lot less pretty before heading out.
Let’s not judge the Dagda Mor here, folks. Even demons want to be loved.
Meanwhile, Amberle continues her journey, and happens upon Eretria. The two try to lie to each other about what they are doing out there in the middle of the night, before Eretria tries to drug Amberle so she can steal her shit, too. Amberle figures it out and kicks Eretria’s ass, stealing some of her food and her horse. Eretria does not like being out stolen, however, and gets a bit pissed about it.
Important side note, Eretria is a Rover, which is basically just a polite way of saying she is a human thief. Apparently, a bunch of humans got dispossessed from their lands, or so they claim, and rather than set up elsewhere, decided to hang out near the Elf lands, killing and stealing any chance they got. They are not savory people, is the point, and so far, Eretria has more or less proven that to be true.
Granted, she didn’t kill Wil, so she’s maybe not as bad others, and Wil did kind of walk right into her trap, so I’m willing to give her a bit of the benefit of the doubt here. We’ll see if that proves warranted or not.
Elsewhere, Allanon and Wil arrive at Paranor, and the place has seen better days.
Allanon waxes on a bit about how great the place use to be, and Wil remains unimpressed, because he’s a dork. They head inside, where Allanon is looking for the Codex, a book that contains the magic history of the Four Lands. Wil acts like a bit of a dick himself here, pretty much shitting all over everything Allanon holds dear. To his credit, Allanon doesn’t pimp slap him, but had he, you know he would have done it in a grave way.
Back in Arborlon, Eventine worries over the Ellcrys, when Ander shows up with Amberle’s demon sketch. Since Amberle left before Allanon arrived, Ander considers this proof that what Lorin said about the tree talking to her, and the Ellcrys holding back the demons, to all be true. In doing so, he proves himself to be the less stupid of Eventine’s boys.
Eventine orders the Chosen and the Elven Council to be taken to the Palace, where the Blackwatch, elite soldiers, can guard them day and night. While he might have had mixed feelings about Amberle becoming a Chosen, Eventine is taking no chances that the demons might cripple them and weaken the Ellcrys, and Arborlon. Dude deserves that crown he wears, right there.
Back at the Druid Keep, Allanon searches for the Codex, while Wil acts like an ass. According to Allanon, before the Keep fell, his mentor hid the Codex in one of the chambers. Wil finds out this was 300 years ago, making Allanon to old to be alive, and starts thinking that maybe the crazy guy is crazy after all.
Allanon figures out where the Codex is hidden, and stops Wil from leaving by shouting grave things about destiny, then unleashing some magic to get at the hiding place. Basically, he rips out a huge chunk of the wall and throws it across the room. Wil is dumbfounded, which isn’t hard for him, but does finally accept that Allanon isn’t crazy, and that magic is real.
With the Codex now in hand, Allanon starts looking for a way to save the Ellcrys, while Wil fumbles about in awe, wondering if he could do stuff like that. Then he notices that Allanon’s hand is burned, and learns that magic comes with a price.
Despite his injuries, Allanon proceeds to learns from the Codex that when the Ellcrys begins to die, one of the Chosen must take its seed to a place called Safe Hold and bath it in the Bloodfire, then return it so the Ellcrys can be reborn. Wil figures that sounds easy enough, since it doesn’t involve human sacrifice. Only problem is, Allanon has no idea where Safe Hold is, or what the Bloodfire is.
Trifling matters, I’m sure.
Before he can do anything more, Allanon finds himself psychically assaulted by the Dagda Mor. The two banter a bit, though really, it’s mostly the Dagda Mor pissing on Allanon and Allanon gravely declaring that he will be stopped. What does matter in this scene is two things.
First, the Dagda Mor is not even at his full power and he can kick the ever loving shit out Allanon, from a distance, psychically. The second is that Allanon has no idea what to do about this. Neither of these things bode well. I mean, if the Dagda Mor is this fucking powerful now, how damn strong is he going to get?
Done fucking with Allanon, the Dagda Mor lets him go, but not before letting him know the Chosen are already doomed. When he snaps out of it, Wil is freaking out, but Allanon has no time for that. The only hope to save the world is already in danger.
Back in Arborlon, Lorin is hanging out with the Ellcrys when Amberle returns. She warns him that a demon is coming and asks where the Chosen are. He tells her, and then she stabs him in the gut, revealing that she is actually the Changeling. Lorin dies very confused, much the way he lived.
Allanon and Wil arrive in Arborlon a bit later and warn Eventine, who takes them to where the Chosen are being guarded. Except the guards are gone, and inside, all the Chosen are dead. Wil decides being a glass is half empty kind of guy makes sense after all and starts to panic. Allanon stops him by gravely declaring that one Chosen still lives.
Yup. That would be Amberle, who ran away after thinking the Ellcrys told her her vagina broke the world. I get that Amberle is scared, but damn girl. How powerful do you think that thing is?
Speaking of Amberle, she has finally arrived at her destination, thanks to Eretria’s horse. Or at least, she thinks she did. Instead, she gets attacked by a Troll and passes out.
Meanwhile, Allanon is trying to scry what happened to the Chosen, while Prince Dick shows up to declare that this is clearly the work of Gnomes. Obviously, Prince Dick is not a fan of garden decoration. Allanon basically tells him to shut up before gravely declaring this to be the work of the Dagda Mor. Prince Dick dicks out about that, until Allanon reveals that the Dagda Mor was once a Druid who turned to evil, and he can’t find him because of his Henge of Evil.
Wil can’t figure out why the Dagda Mor doesn’t just attack, and Allanon, wondering why he’s surrounded by idiots, explains that he is not at full power yet. Wil figures it out, showing that while he’s shit with people, he can understand demons pretty well. Not sure what that says about him.
Basically, it’s what we’ve already figured out. Kill the Chosen, prevent the Ellcrys from being reborn, and win by default. While most of our heroes might be kind of stupid, the Dagda Mor certainly isn’t. Of course, he’s had a couple thousand years to sit in the Forbidding thinking up his plan, so he’s already got a head start on all these people who never even thought this would be a problem.
Prince Dick shoos everyone out of the room full of dead teenagers so he can talk to his father in private. He’s had enough of fairy tales and bullshit, and wants his dad to send Allanon away so they get down to killing some Gnomes. He also wants his father to abdicate so he can take the throne and do just that.
Eventine slaps him down, pointing out that a King doesn’t abdicate when things get rough. Prince Dick counters by asking him to think of his legacy and urges him to step down before all he is remembered as is the mad king who believed in demons. Oh, and wouldn’t go slay Gnomes. This guy, he is all about killing some Gnomes.
Now, I can’t tell if Arion really believes this or not, but to be frank, if he does, he’s the biggest idiot of them all. Think about it for a second. He is saying that a Gnome strike force infiltrated the Royal Palace of Arborlon, got past not just one elite military force, the Blackwatch, but a second, the Homeguard, who defend the royal palace, killed just six teenagers, and got out without anyone noticing.
The odds of that are so absurd, I can’t see how he actually believes this. Not when a Druid, and his own father, are telling him it was demons. Which means that Arion is either literally a massive moron, or he is too terrified to accept the truth. Or possibly that he is in league with the Dagda Mor. I’m not sure which.
Allanon and Wil try to figure out what to do, both wary because there is a demon on the loose in the palace. Allanon sends Wil to search Amberle’s room in the hopes of finding some clue as to where she went, since magic can do a lot, but not everything. As a final thing, he tells Wil not screw up, or the world will end. Wil finds this less than helpful.
Back with Amberle, it turns out she wasn’t attacked by a Troll after all, but her aunt, who she was looking for. Pyria apparently left Arborlon some time ago for reasons of her own, and Amberle thinks she might be able to help her fix the world. The two have been writing each other for a long time, it seems, and Pyria once mentioned that she had seen magic during the War of the Races. Amberle figures she may know something that could help because of this.
Now, granted, that’s a long shot, but really, it isn’t like Amberle had any other options. She really does think the Ellcrys is punishing her for breaking tradition, and the only person she knows who still believes magic is real is her aunt, so that is naturally where she would go for advice and help. Especially with her uncle Arion dicking about so much. Not like he’s gonna be much help. Hell, his advice would probably be that she just needed to get pregnant, as that always seem to calm womenfolk down.
I really don’t like Prince Dick, in case you hadn’t noticed.
Anyway, Amberle explains everything that happened, and asks her aunt to help her stop the visions from coming true. Since she had no idea an actual Druid was going to show up and tell her how to stop it, that she has taken her own initiative to do something about it speaks to her willingness to prevent the demons from eating everyone. Which is more than I can say for Wil so far.
While all of this is going on, Eretria is caught by some Rovers, but manages to turn the tables and get the upper hand. She’s stopped by Cephelo, who is kind of sort of the king of the Rovers, and claims himself to be Eretria’s father. Seems he’s not happy she’s come back empty handed and decided that the best thing he can do for her is sell her off to be somebody’s wife. Eretria is not down with this, and shows him the Elfstones she got in an effort to prevent it.
Back in Arborlon, Eventine is paying his respects to the six fallen Chosen, with only his dog for company. The dog has actually been around the whole time, but I never mentioned it, because it’s just a dog. It matters now, though, so Eventine has a dog, so you know.
He’s soon joined by Allanon, and Eventine confesses that Arion thinks he’s a nut. Allanon reminds him that in his younger days, he didn’t give a damn, but Eventine counters by pointing out not everyone got to sleep through the last thirty years. This is a fair argument, really, and Allanon really doesn’t have anything to say back, though it is nice to see him take a break from gravely declaring things.
They are interrupted by Commander Tilton, who caught Wil snooping around Amberle’s room. Wil, though, has found Amberle’s letters from her aunt, and has figured out that she likely went to see her. Having thus proven himself not to be useless, Wil and the viewers learn that Eventine and Pyria had a falling out a long time ago because she fell in love with a human. Wil kind of points out how racist that is, but it turns out the human she fell for was Allanon.
Allanon is clearly affected by this, but puts it aside to deal with the problem at hand. Eventine wants to send some scouts, but Allanon thinks he and Wil should go alone, to keep too many people from knowing of Amberle’s location. Since there is a demon wandering around, this is actually a good idea. Unfortunately, the Changeling is impersonating Eventine’s dog, and hears all of it.
Damn shapeshifters. Always ruining everything.
We head back over to Eretria at this point, who is telling Cephelo where she got the Elfstones. As it happens, Cephelo knew Wil’s dad, and knows that magic is real. He also knows the Elfstones are real magic, and wants it for himself. Since he doesn’t know how to use them, he figures he needs Wil, and tasks Eretria with finding him, promising not to sell her if she does. Eretria counters by saying that if she finds him, Cephelo will grant her her freedom. This is the first hint that things are not what they seem with Eretria, but Cephelo agrees to this, and she sets out to find Wil and capture him.
Meanwhile, Allanon and Wil are heading for Pyria’s place. Wil pokes at him a bit about having a romantic relationship, and the age difference. Allanon tells him to shut up. Wil asks him to either talk about Pyria, or his dad. Allanon confesses that he met Pyria when he was hunting for Shannara descendants because they were being murdered, then tells him a bit about his dad, just to make him shut the hell up for a while.
To Wil’s surprise, his dad and his uncle Flick use to be as close as brothers, and that they saved the world. Wil wonders why his dad died a sad and lonely drunk if he was a great hero. Allanon tells him that it was the price he paid for mastering the magic of the Elfstones. This obviously worries Wil, since Allanon wants him to master the Elfstones, too. Allanon sort of tries to comfort him by telling him he’s not his father, and that magic affects everyone differently.
Wil the proceeds to offer the best summation of his situation ever. He has to master Elfstones he doesn’t have to protect a princess that doesn’t want to be found, before demons can devour them all. Even if he does master the Elfstones and save the world, it won’t matter, because his brain will be fried by magic.
Wil has fully embraced his view of the glass being half empty, and the worst part is, he’s not wrong. Destiny, as Allanon loves to growl about constantly, has delivered him a truly, epically, shitty hand.
Allanon actually finds this funny, and even laughs when Wil wishes they hadn’t talked after all. Wow. Allanon can laugh. The world truly is doomed.
Soon enough, they reach Pyria, and she is less than happy to see Allanon. She even tries to keep him from seeing Amberle, but he Jedi mind tricks her and sends Wil to get her from the waterfall. After he heads out, she slaps Allanon around and accuses him of being a puppetmaster to kids too young to understand what they are doing. When he offers no argument to this, she gets even more pissed because he abandoned her to grow old while he hasn’t aged a day. He tries to explain that the Druid Sleep was necessary to recharge his magic, but she doesn’t give a shit, because he didn’t even say goodbye.
Over at the waterfall, Wil finds Amberle taking a bath and tries his best not to be too much of a peeping tom. He fails at this just as spectacularly as usual, when he slips on a rock and hits himself in the head.
I take it back. Amberle’s vagina really is powerful enough to break the world.
Joking aside, she hears him and gets the drop on him with a sword. He tries to talk her into going back to Arborlon, but she isn’t interested. He does however manage to convince her that being dressed would make the conversation somewhat less awkward.
Having gotten word of where the last Chosen is, the Dagda Mor is happy to see another demon released from the Forbidding. A big, ugly, winged beast called a Fury, which he sends to take out Amberle.
Who is still not buying Wil’s story about destiny, Druids, magic, and everything else. He does actively avoids telling her that Lorin is dead, though, figuring she doesn’t need any extra shit right now.
Allanon tries to make things right with Pyria, explaining that the Druid Sleep didn’t give him a chance to say goodbye, and confessing he still loves her. This is poorly timed on his part when the Fury shows up, knocks him off a cliff, and eats Pyria. Wil and Amberle hear the Fury and race over, only to see Pyria getting eaten. The Fury spots her and descends, preparing to attack as Wil pulls a dagger and tries to defend her.
The episode ends there, and as cliffhangers go, that’s pretty damn effective.
Now, there’s a few things I want to tackle here in the afterthoughts, the first of which is the main thing I’ve seen criticized elsewhere, the pacing of the plot. Yes, it is hurried, and might even could have benefited from being a bit slower, however, there’s two reasons I’m okay with it.
The first being that it’s pretty obvious MTV dumped a crap ton of money into this, and with it only being 10 episodes in length, I imagine they were trying to make sure they got their money’s worth from it. After all, adapting any kind of fantasy fiction to the big or small screen is a gamble, and I’m sure the higher ups at MTV are aware they may have wasted all this cash if this thing does badly. So, it makes sense that they want to keep the pace up to have the whole story get told and contain the bottom line. That is reasonable, and I’m okay with that. Should this season do well, the next may benefit from it greatly with more room to breath.
The second reason I’m okay with it is because there is a lot of very bad shit happening, and the pace is intended to infuse it all with the urgency having a demon army being unleashed should entail. There is little time for the characters to really cope with what’s happening, meaning they have to hurry and make rushed choices. By having the pacing be fast, it helps us feel their sense of urgency, and I’m pretty okay with that as well.
As an added bonus, it serves as a nice counter to the only other big fantasy adaptation out there, Game of Thrones, which is paced like a turtle trying to escape a mudhole. Seriously, five years of “Winter is coming”, and not only is not here, but that awesome army of fucking ice zombies is still just loitering around up north while everyone down south tries to kill each other. Part way through season five, I gave up on the show, because by the time it gets to the ice zombies, and winter, everyone will be dead of old age, and I’ll have expired from boredom.
Do not promise me ice zombies, then not deliver them.
Also, I’m not a hipster wannabe who only knows how to be jaded and bored with literally everything they see. That probably helps me not be a cynical douchebag over things.
Another thing I see getting criticized is the characters, their choices and actions. Let me just say that I don’t really see a lot of problem with it, since much of what we need to know is inferred, sparing us huge amounts of people talking about why and how they want to do everything. That’s something else I got tired of GoT, as something interesting only happened at the beginning and end of every season, with the middle being lots and lots and lots of people talking.
Wil wants to help others. This is why he was going to go become a healer, and why he does literally everything he does. He gave Eretria the benefit of the doubt and suffered for it, but he was being true to his nature as a caregiver, and that’s not a bad thing. He followed Allanon to Paranor because he thought it might allow him to help more people, and learned not only that magic was real, but that the world was going to end. He continues to follow Allanon because he genuinely wants to help others. That’s his entire motivation, and he is constant with it all the way through. Austin Butler does an admirable job of conveying Wil’s confusion, fear, and doubt, as well as his desire to do the right thing. Really, he’s perfect as Wil in every way.
Amberle, on the other hand, started out thinking she was breaking an old tradition that was backwards, and then got horrific visions she misunderstood. Visions are like that. They aren’t clear. Acting under her misunderstanding, she sets out to try and make things right. At no point does she deviate from this goal. She is sincere in her desire to save people from being slaughtered, and willing to do whatever she must. We see from her uncle Arion that she wasn’t going to get any help in Arborlon, so everything she does makes sense based on what we know. As an actor, Poppy Drayton does a solid job of conveying Amberle’s mixed emotions, especially her fear that she caused all of this. She is very well cast in this role.
Now, I’ll grant that Allanon does spend a lot of time making grave declarations, but the dude is over 300 years old, and has seen a lot of shit. He’s also basically a man out of his own time, and woke up to find the world in immediate danger. What’s worse, pretty much everyone he meets blows him off, so him being big on the gravity of the situation is actually pretty understandable. I his situation, I’d have been running around hitting people, so he gets credit from me for keeping his shit together. Especially since the two people he needs to save the world are messing everything up at every turn. There is no doubt that Manu Bennet is the perfect Allanon. Really, he does an amazing job of bringing the gravity, but not being melodramatic with it all.
Yet, fate is a funny thing. Amberle may have run off in fear, but that ended up saving her life. Wil may have trusted the wrong person in Eretria, but that may end up helping them as well, as I get the feeling Eretria will do pretty much anything to be free of Cephelo, and saving the world might be in her best interest, since as Starlord once pointed out, she’s one of the idiots who lives there.
While the pacing was fast, I had no real problem with it, or with the way the characters, or the story was written. Both from a viewing perspective, and as a writer myself who gets how television is made, everything here makes sense, and is constructed in a way that is not hard to follow. You just have to pay attention, something I am aware the more hipster affected among us have a hard time doing.
All in all, even my own joking aside, The Shannara Chronicles is off to a brilliant start.
I’ll be back next Wednesday to cover episode 3. Before you ask me why, when both that and episode four have already aired, allow me to explain. I’ve got two OVA’s of One Punch Man to catch up on, two more episodes of this to write up, promotional work for War Witch to do, my next novel to help get ready for market, the next War Witch novel to write, a ton of every day life stuff to contend with, and Gilder to frame for it all.
Next Monday and Tuesday will feature the OPM OVA’s, and Wednesday will be for short films and the next episode of Shannara. I’m only one guy, and my fingers get tired, so have some mercy on me, will ya?