This week on The Shannara Chronicles, the heroes make a pointless side trip, while Ander actually accomplishes something, and Arion digivolves into the biggest idiot ever.
I’m willing to wave away the pointless side trip, because it was actually interesting. Still completely pointless, mind you, but more entertaining than the entire fourth episode, while actually managing to give at least one character some actual growth. Just the one, and it’s minimal, but hey.
We take what can get, I know.
Far more interesting was the road trip with Ander, Slanter, and Tilton. Not only does it actually forward the plot, it has more character growth than we’ve seen since episode three, and establishes a number of important future plot points. All while being the B plot of the episode.
I’m starting to think Ander should be the main character of this series.
Then there’s Arion, Prince Dick himself, who proves thinking is not only not his strong suit, but a completely foreign concept to him. How this guy has lived so long without accidentally stabbing himself in the eye is completely beyond me. He isn’t just stupid, he’s catastrophically incompetent.
This isn’t a knock against Daniel MacPherson, the actor that plays Arion, by any means. He does a great job of giving Arion much more depth than the script calls for, and brings at least some semblance that the character is acting on what he thinks is best. He is woefully hobbled by a bad script where his character is concerned, however, and Arion still just looks utterly devoid of any kind of intelligence, but he tries.
It’s always rough when, during character creation, you get a three on Intelligence and Wisdom both.
The only real problem I have both of these developments is that it doesn’t so much foreshadow how things will shake out, as it effectively tells us. Foreshadowing is a great mechanic, when used correctly. Here, it’s applied like a blunt instrument.
Ander will end up being the worthy successor to the throne, while Arion will sacrifice himself to correct his mistakes and save the world. There’s a slim chance Arion won’t die, but I’m not expecting it because of other events that transpire in this weeks episode. I’ll get into that more later.
Okay, so, let’s dive in and see what fresh hell awaits us this week on The Shannara Chronicles.
We begin with what I can only describe as the most drawn out, dull, and pointless scene I’ve ever had to watch, as Amberle has a dream she and Wil go to a playground and spin about on a whirlygig, before making out. Until he turns into the Dagda Mor, that is, and she wakes up.
I get that it’s suppose to tell us that Amberle has hard feels for Wil, but we already knew that, so it isn’t really so much informative as it is annoying. Not to mention kinda dumb. Mostly because I have no idea why Amberle would have serious fer realz feels for Wil.
No, seriously. Outside of the script calling for it, why is she so enamored with him? What’s he done to make her fall for him? Besides be there, I mean. If he’d maybe not slept with Eretria, I could get that she sees him as honorable or something, but as it is, I really don’t get it.
Nothing against Wil. He’s a nice enough sort. Kinda stupid, but not out right bad. That’s hardly grounds for a Princess to be all gooey in her pants for him, though. It’s another of the things this show does that just plain makes no sense, and those are starting to mount up a little more than I like.
To be clear, any sort of narrative fiction is at times going to have something happen that doesn’t make complete sense, and that’s fine. Most of the time, you can kind of wave it off and roll with it, unless your a pedantic asshat that harps on that single thing while ignoring everything else.
The Shannara Chronicles, however, has a growing list of things that baffle me, like the much harped on lack of guards in the palace of Arborlon, Catania’s sudden feels for Bandon, Arion’s blatant idiocy, and the whole thing with Amberle’s father dying saving Ander, except not really.
Now, Amberle is in love with Wil, for no discernible reason, except she’s a girl, and girls are all about falling in love, I guess. Which bothers me for more reasons than I care to get into here. Don’t worry, though, cause I will be getting into them before this recap is done.
Oh, will I ever.
Anyway, Amberle had a dream, but Wil wakes her, and all is right with her world, cause ovaries. Cephelo makes fun of her, before Crispin sticks his head in to let us know a storm is coming and they need to move out. Cause that’s his whole purpose here. To be a jerk and remind them that they don’t have time to lollygag around.
You’d think they’d know that, already, but okay, I suppose.
Back in Arborlon, Evil Eventine is poking through the Codex when Arion arrives. Evil Eventine asks after Ander, and Arion covers for him by claiming he’s gone to petition the Federation in the hopes of raising allies to fight the demons. The Federation that we have not heard a single thing about before now.
Evil Eventine has found a sword in the Codex that he tells Arion can defeat the Dagda Mor, and is hidden in a vault under the palace. When Arion wonders why Allanon didn’t mention this, Eviltine tells him that Allanon is apparently not to be trusted.
Now, I’ll grant that this plays right into Arion’s vanity, especially when Eviltine pretty much says he should have listened to Arion all along. That is all Arion needs to vow to find the sword, prove Allanon is not their friend, and personally save the day. There’s daddy issues, then there’s whatever the hell Arion has. Regardless, he’s off on a quest to find a magic sword.
Huh. Magic sword. This wouldn’t be the super important Sword of Shannara, would it?
No, it wouldn’t. Because that might have actually been interesting.
Back with the Wil gang, Winter Is Coming, and they have to cross a dangerous mountain to get to the even more dangerous lands beyond. Why? I have no idea. Apparently, because Safe Hold is over there, but how they know that is never explained. Since the guide they were suppose to meet is now dead, I’m not even sure what they hope to accomplish. Maybe wander into Safe Hold by accident?
Regardless, crossing the mountain is super dangerous, so Cephelo suggests they go to Pykon, a fortress in the mountains that supposedly has a safe passage through. Crispin calls it a myth, but Cephelo claims his parents died there during the War of the Races, so off they go to find it.
Meanwhile, the Reaper gets over being blown up. Cause all it needed was a nap, apparently. Nothing like a slightly narcoleptic behemoth to strike fear into everyone hearts.
In Arborlon, Allanon is tending to Bandon when Catania comes by to remind us she has feels for Bandon. Who then sits up, grabs Allanon, and channels the Dagda Mor into the Druid’s mind, allowing the Demon King to take him over long enough that he nearly chokes Catania to death.
Arion arrives and gets tossed around by Allanon’s magic before this influence fades. It’s enough to convince Arion that Allanon really is an enemy, but then again, Allanon farting at the wrong time would have done that, so the whole scene feels kinda pointless
Still, there is at least some continuity happening here. Back in Paranor, we saw the Dagda Mor basically mindfuck Allanon, so now that the Demon King has Bandon under his control, he can not only do that, but can actually control Allanon for brief periods. That’s a pretty big thing.
Or it would be, if it didn’t end up being completely wasted thirty minutes later. We’ll get to that in time.
For now, Arion recruits Catania to help him find the super important sword, because she knows more about the palace than he does. Even though he’s the Prince and she’s just a handmaiden. Since she’s now scared of Allanon, she agrees, and off they go.
Over in Anderland, he, Slanter, and Tilton come across some slaughtered Gnomes, killed by demons. Ander tries to use this to build an actual alliance with Slanter, even going so far as to unchain him so he can say a prayer over the dead. Slanter takes the opportunity to grab a dagger off one of the bodies, and use it to escape.
This is what I was talking about before. Where Arion was gung ho to kill some Gnomes, Ander sees an opportunity to end hostilities between them forever. This is something he believes in enough to risk his own life. The kind of thing a future king would do. Sure, it almost gets him stabbed, but Slanter doesn’t kill him, so it would seem that there has been at least a tiny inroad made.
Meanwhile, the Reaper is tracking the others. Cause that’s all it seems to do. Look menacing and wander around. Nice waste of a badass monster, guys.
Speaking of our heroes, they are crossing an insanely thin ledge high in the mountains, eventually leading them to Pykon, in a shot that explains why they had so little money for decent script writers.
Special effects shots behind them, they enter the fortress of Pykon, which is A Bandonded, then meet a creepy little girl who leads them to the self proclaimed keeper of the keep, Remo.
Remo is super welcoming, inviting them to take their ease, before informing them that the passage they have come looking for was lost in an avalanche a couple years before. Since they have nothing better to do, like save the world, they decide to hang around. For some reason, Crispin doesn’t remind them that they must hurry. He must be tired, poor guy.
This leads us to the bath scene between Amberle and Eretria, where Eretria comes on to Amberle. Seems Eretria is bisexual, which is what passes for character development this week in the A plot. Still, I’ll take what little we can get, so at least Eretria got some kind of character development.
I do have a problem with this scene, however, as what could actually be an interesting plot twist will likely end up just being used for titillation, then dropped.
Remember how I was just saying that Amberle had no real reason for being interested in Wil? That doesn’t apply as much to Eretria. These two have basically back-stabbed and betrayed each other repeatedly at this point, building a lot of tension that I could actually see turning into grudging respect, and even romantic interest at some point. Not this point, but some point, later on.
It won’t, of course, as this is just here to remind us that this series is on MTV. Establishing Eretria as bi, and possibly having grown to respect, and even admire, Amberle would be different, and shake things up in a way that might add some actual dimension to the characters.
That isn’t what’s going to happen, and that’s the problem. You don’t just throw out a characters sexuality as a way of being cool. While it is good that Eretria is getting a little shading to her character, it’s bad that it is utterly without any kind of purpose.
Not to harp on the fact I am a fantasy novelist as well, but in my own book, War Witch, bisexual is the default sexuality of everyone in the world, something that actually plays a part in all the character interactions, motivations, and development. It isn’t a throw away line to try and make the story look edgy and mature.
Of course, considering that Amberle has been heavily retconned into being a helpless damsel, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised they would try something like this. I hope Eretria finds a nice girl before this is all over.
Their bath is interrupted by someone spying on them, because this show is written by a bunch of eleven year olds, and we’re off to our next plot point.
Cephelo is expressing worry over them trusting Remo, prompting Crispin to be a dick. Wil worries the demons could find them, which Crispin also is a dick about, calling the fortress impenetrable. Wil points out they walked right in, making him this weeks smart person.
It’s a rotating title. I’m sure Wil will get to be dumb again next week. No time for that, though, since Remo has arrived to tell them dinner is ready. Naturally, everyone runs off to eat, leaving Wil to guard the door against possible demon attack, because that’s where you put the party healer.
Back in Arborlon, Arion and Catania have found the super secret vault, and spend all of five minutes figuring out to open it and get the sword of super specialness. For a plot point that came out of nowhere, it sure was resolved fast. That’s something, at least.
Back at Pykon, Wil is watching the door when the creepy girl, Meg, shows up with some food. They bond a bit over a sea shell Wil’s mom gave him before he passes out, because the food was drugged.
This guy sure does get drugged a lot.
Everyone was drugged, actually, and Remo gloats a bit over their unconscious forms. Because he’s a bad guy. Something that has been hinted at with all the subtly of an airplane crash.
Wil wakes up in Meg’s room, for some reason, and convinces her that he can take her someplace nicer. She’s never been outside the keep, and wants to see the world, but is terrified of Remo, because he’s crazy as well as evil. To drive this point him, we see him killing the last of the Blackwatch guards that went with the party.
Damn. Those guys are like red shirts.
The rest of the group wakes up hanging from a lazy susan. Remo reveals he’s built up a resistance to iocane powder, which is why he didn’t fall asleep. He starts to take Crispin, but Amberle stop him be revealing she is the Princess. Remo decides he wants to play with her instead and knocks her out.
Back in Arborlon, Allanon is in the middle of defending himself against Arion’s accusations of being evil. When this started, I have no idea, but is probably the work of editing demons. Arion point blank accuses Allanon of being in league with the demons, then pulls out the magic sword.
Allanon reveals that the sword was sealed aware because its corrupt. Allanon realizes Eviltine is the Changeling, then gets stabbed by Arion. Eviltine orders him executed, and Arion takes way more glee than he should in stabbing him again, at which point, Allanon bursts into flame and vanishes. Arion is naturally bothered by this, but Eviltine assures him everything is totes fine, thus ruining that thing I mentioned earlier would get ruined thirty minutes later.
Back in Pykon, Amberle is crying as Remo gets ready to torture her. This is what I meant by her being retconned into a damsel. Remo gives some backstory about how Eventine betrayed him, and he wants vengeance for his dead wife. He plans to do this by lobotomizing Amberle, then raping her, so she won’t protest having babies for him.
Really? Rape? Again? Twice in two episodes, Amberle specifically has been targeted for rape. This goes beyond coincidence. I’ll get into it more in a bit.
Meg shows up and claims to have killed Wil, making Amberle super sad, because of her feels. While she’s crying, Eretria is escaping, and freeing everyone else. Because we have to have one competent character.
Meg lied, though, and Wil is alive. She lets him in the room, and between he and the little girl, they manage to defeat the crazy old Elf. Yes, that was how the fight actually went. Wil needed a little girl to help him.
Regardless, he frees Amberle, and she is happy, because she’s been saved again by someone who thinks she’s hot. They kiss as the others arrive and Eretria is now sad, though I’m not sure which one she’s sad about.
Meanwhile, Ander and Tilton are wandering around, and have a moment where she admits she’d still be with him if he hadn’t turned into a drunk and a crybaby over his brother dying. She also admits she’d drop Arion for him if he turned back into her Ander again.
They don’t get to finish this super romantic moment, though, because Slanter has returned, having found the demons base of operations all by himself. He takes them there, and we actually get an important plot point, as the base of operations for the demons in the Breakline turns out to be where the Dagda Mor is holed up in his Black Henge. Also, he has thousands of demons already free.
This is important because until now, we had no idea where the Dagda Mor was. When Ander decided to head to the Breakline in search of the demons camp, he had no idea he was going to be finding this, and more importantly, it proves to Slanter that Ander wasn’t just yanking his chain. Gnomes and Elves alike now face a common enemy, and one neither can defeat alone.
Though, I do have to wonder one thing. If the Dagda Mor has that many demons at his beck and call, why is only one, the Reaper, hunting the only person who can stop him? Shouldn’t he send, like, all of them?
Sorry, that would make sense. Even the only consistently intelligent character has to be dumb for the sake of the plot it seems.
Having seen what they are up against, Ander lets Slanter go to warn his people of what they face. Slanter pauses to ask what the Elves can possibly do alone, to which Ander just says whatever they can, adding that maybe they deserve annihilation for all they have done. Slanter is impressed enough with this, he says that in another life, he and Ander might have been friends, a sentiment Ander agrees with.
This is the best scene this show has had in a while, because it’s actually believable. Even with the hackneyed writing, Aaron Jakubenko, the actor playing Ander, infuses it with real emotion, and wistfulness. He conveys that he wishes things had been different, and the hope that they may still be, with only three words. If only the rest of the show had been this good.
Back in Pykon, Meg leads the party to the passage Remo said was lost, but they are stopped when the not completely dead Remo arrives with a crossbow. He ends up shooting Meg in the back.
Oh, sorry, that was from Grimgar.
Wait. Is it International Shot In The Back With A Crossbow Week? Dammit! I could have made so many Valentines Day jokes. Thanks for not telling me, anonymous readers! I count on you guys for these things!
Anway, Amberle stabs Remo, and they leave poor dead Meg, just as the Reaper shows up. Crispin tries to hold it off while they escape, but gets killed, which is kind of funny, but only because Wil and Amberle stood there and watched it happen instead of, ya know, fleeing, like he told them to.
Eretria and Cephelo, on the other hand, run like hell and find a zipline ride waiting for them. They cross the ominous crack of doom, Cepehlo promising to send the zipline back for Wil and Amberle, which he then doesn’t do. Because he’s not a nice man. As if we didn’t know that.
Eretria decides to zipline back for them, even as Cepehlo tries to talk her out of it. For her, it’s better to die with them, than live with him, and to be honest, I don’t blame her. It’s one of the few consistent character moments this week.
Amberle, Wil, and Eretria grab the zipline as Wil fires up the Elfstones, which for some reason work this time as the Reaper hooks an ax over the zipline, stopping them from escaping, and sliding out to them. Cephelo cuts the line, and everyone falls into the ominous crack of doom. Roll credits.
Ah, so many things to be annoyed at this week.
I’m going to focus mainly on Amberle, though, as I’ve already expressed my displeasure with Arion and the whole magic sword plot point that came out of nowhere, and went nowhere.
Back in the first three episodes, Amberle was presented as a brave, resourceful, fearless young woman taking charge of her own destiny. She was clever, cunning, and interesting. Then she met Wil, and turned into a damsel.
She has been captured repeatedly, threatened with rape twice, and in every instance, did nothing but whimper, cry and wait to be saved. Twice by Eretria, both times from Cephelo, and once by Wil. Yet it’s him she has a lady boner for.
It’s bad enough that they’ve taken an interesting female lead and turned her into a walking cliche, but even worse that they bandy rape around as if they are desperate to show everyone they are just as edgy and dark as Game of Thrones. Even more unforgivable, Amberle had to be rescued from such threats, as she was too busy whimpering to save herself.
If you want to use rape, then use it. Not as a threat, or as something she needs Wil to help her overcome with a good talking too, but as a way of talking about the way it destroys a person, and the hard road they must face putting themselves back into some semblance of order afterward. Actually tackle the topic, and make people think about it. Use your platform as a way to engage viewers in a conversation about something that is real, and terrible.
But no. That’s not what we get. What we get is yet another cliche riddled mess. I cannot even begin to express how disappointed I am by all this. Not just the casual rape threats, but the casually discarded question of sexual identity. It’s all done as throwaway threats and meaningless character direction. It’s not just sloppy writing, it’s plain bad, and I expect better from one of the masters of the fantasy genre.
This may well be my final recap of this show. I don’t think I can stomach much more. We’ll see how next weeks episode shakes out, and I’ll decide if I’m going to cover it after I watch it.
In the meantime, enjoy this shout out to Manato and Meg.