Review: Shannara Chronicles
I wrote up a first impressions article on The Shannara Chronicles by MTV some months ago. At the time of writing that article I had seen four episodes. At the time of writing this article the show has wrapped up it’s first season. For those unfamiliar with the The Shannara Chronicles, it is a post apocalyptic fantasy where elves, humans, trolls, and gnomes co exist in a tentative peace until a magical tree that protects everyone from evil, Ellcrys, begins to wilt. With demons rising in power an unlikely team of adventurers must set aside their differences to save their world.
Destiny brings three heroes together and through the various trials and tribulations, their true powers unlock which reveals they were never ordinary to begin with. The plot is a very safe and a classic fantasy trope, the humble farm boy becoming all powerful is a prime example of this. However, it’s classic for a reason and that doesn’t hurt The Shannara Chronicles in the slightest. The overall story is easy to comprehend while still having so many mysterious aspects in every episode. For example, there are four races, but all of which seem to have come from humans. This is easy to understand since the show is set in a post apocalyptic world which makes it easy for the viewer to make assumptions that the races may be due to radiation.
However, it does not explain how legitimate magic, such as Druids, can exist and wield the immense power they hold. There are a number of other magical creatures in the show that are too fantastic to explain with radiation. This intrigues me because there is so much more that can be explained through the lore of the show that hopefully marries science with magic.
In true MTV fashion, every good character on the show is ridiculously good looking, young, and uses a thick American accent. In fantasy I tend to enjoy a wide variety of accents and body types because it further demonstrates just how diverse the world is. Of course, I can understand the reason for making so many eye candy characters since it is on MTV. Non fantasy viewers need something to draw them in and I believe they were able to accomplish their goals aesthetically.
The acting is of good to great quality, a few actors are far more talented than others but overall everyone did a good job in bringing the characters to life and making you love or hate them. My only issue would have to be with the main male protagonist, Wil(Austin Butler). I got major Hayden Christensen vibes when ever he’d attempt to convey emotion. Very monotone responses, dry humor, and his romantic scenes were pretty bleh. Again, he physically looked great but for one of the three main characters of the show, they should have casted someone more likable. His mentor, Allanon(Manu Bennett), however, did wonderful as the last Druid who helped teach Wil the ways of magic and guide politicians to do what they must to defend their land.
For the two other main characters: Eretria(Ivana Baquero) the Bandit, and Amberle(Poppy Drayton) the Elven Princess, they have enough to ward off being shallow while still not deep enough to be taken seriously. For Amberle she fights to be treated as an equal in the first few episodes of the show and then allows herself to follow Wil’s lead in a majority of situations. Eretria was the adopted daughter of a Bandit leader who looked out for herself and betrayed people left and right, at least in the first few episodes. Unfortunately, both of these strong females are seduced by the charms of Wil and a love triangle forms.
Don’t get me wrong, I love complicated romances that lead in heart break but the way they handled it in the show was a bit awkward. Both women are physically attracted to Wil to the point of sleeping with him, however nothing he really does earns their like/love. He constantly flip flops between supporting both women in their beliefs. One episode he is all about Amberle and how much he loves her and then the next he ditches her for Eretria. I would have personally loved to see a love interest for Eretria to make up for the amount of heartbreak she receives during this season.
I’d like to mention two other characters: Prince Ander(Aaron Jakubenko) and the Seer, Bandon(Marcus Vanco). Prince Ander had no interest in the crown until his family is decimated and even after he takes the throne, a coup rises to remove him. He was able to overcome and lead his people into the final fight. For Bandon, he was discovered by the heroes during their travels while bound by chains with no explanation . When they nursed him back to health they discovered he had the ability to see visions that both helped and hurt the heroes as the dreaded villain The Dagda Mor(Jed Brophy) was able to control him for his own evil ends.
The combat in Shannara Chronicles is actually not bad at all. Whether magic is being tossed around or swords are clashing against one another, they look damn good. When a person dies, you see blood pour from them, they have grievous wounds and it’s pretty gnarly for a show on MTV. I was surprised by this because what typically happens with other fantasy shows is a simple stab or a hand covered wound before a dramatic collapse. In the Shannara Chronicles the deaths are as unique as a sword through the chest or having your body riddled with arrows, nothing too new but enough to earn my respect.
I have to admit that the fight scenes, especially the season finale, were a tad lack luster but it’s to be expected from an MTV production so I won’t hold it against them in this review. Spells flew, people died, swords clashed, and all the basics of a battleground. They didn’t have any dismemberment or disfigurement unfortunately, so the cast of beautiful people continued to be beautiful despite the stakes being incredibly high.
However, I do want to add that a good amount of characters die throughout the season. Hopefully I don’t sound too grim or dark but I need to know the threat to the world is real enough to claim the lives of the heroes before they thwart the villain’s plans. In The Shannarra Chronicles they are pretty liberal with the death of side characters but their main ones rarely have lasting effects.
In conclusion, The Shannarra Chronicles was a good show! It had a unique world unlike anything I had seen before, intriguing characters, magic, mysterious lore, and dropped bodies left and right. Was it great? The acting was decent. Combat was good to great. Setting was flat out fantastic. Enemies were unique and interesting. Romance was a mix of entertaining to dreadful. Is this the Game of Thrones of MTV? Nope. It’s a bit too simple to even be worthy of being compared to Game of Thrones. However, it is very entertaining and a nice break from the heavier shows we stress ourselves out about every year. I for one am excited to see the next season and recommend Shannara Chronicles to any fan of fantasy.