WARNIGN: Minor Spoilers
A while back, I blogged about an upcoming MTV show called The Shannara Chronicles in the context of fantasy literature being brought to the screen.The show is based on a popular series of books by Terry Brooks. The Shannara Chronicles aired last week with the first two episodes combined into an extended, 80 minute special. Let me tell you, it did not feel like a full 80 minutes.
The show follows three main characters. Wil Ohmsford (Austin Butler), a half breed Elf/Human, Amberle Elessedil (Poppy Drayton), an Elf princess, and Eretria (Ivana Baquero), a highway bandit of sorts. The show has a strong theme of determined destiny and each of the three characters will have some role. After some uninteresting Hunger Games-esque action, we learn that an ancient tree, called the Ellcrys, is dying. As a result, demons who had been previously confined to some nether dimension are popping out of the ground like hellish petunias. The hell-petunia-demons are led by someone called the Dagda Mor who has a distinctive love for facial piercings and a penchant for unleashing flying doom-monsters into the world. Our heroes are tasked with jumping through some various magical hoops in order to save the tree and send the demon-petunias back to hell. It’s a pretty simple plot, but it works.
This is an extraordinary situation for the main characters as they have to deal with their reluctance to accept their part in the fate of the world. Wil and Amberle have to grapple with their pasts and embrace their heroic future whether they like it or not. We don’t quite know Eletria’s role in things yet, but you can bet your pointy ears that she’ll be important.
Luckily for our heroes, they don’t have to go it alone. They are assisted by the single coolest character in the series thus far, Allanon played by Manu Bennett (The Hobbit). The arrival of this character completely changes the tone of the show from tween drama to dark, gritty fantasy.
Allanon, and especially his interactions with Wil, are my favorite part of the show. There are also some engaging performances from supporting characters, such as Eventine Elessedil played by John Rhys-Davies of Lord of the Rings fame.
The Shannara Chonicles has its issues. Namely, I’m not a fan of tween-romance love triangles like the one developing between Wil, Amberle, and Eretria. I know it’s probably in the original book as well, so I’ll keep my grumpy objections to a minimum. The other thing is a matter of aesthetics. The show almost looks too modern at times. I’ll give it a pass as it is set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, but objects, locations, and characters just look too shiny and clean at times. The effects are amazing though. There were also a few moments, especially in the beginning, where the show took itself very seriously and I probably laughed at some inappropriate times. Overall I would recommend giving The Shannara Chronicles a try. A new Game of Thrones it is not, but it doesn’t need to be. It is its own exotic beast. You can watch the first two episodes on YouTube now.