The Shannara Chronicles is MTV’s first foray into the world of high fantasy. Based on the The Sword of Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks, the show actually skips the first book in the series, moving right into the second novel, The Elfstones of Shannara.
The story revolves around three heroes: Amberle Elessedil (Poppy Drayton), princess of the Elves, who has just become the first female to become the one of the seven guardians of the Ellcrys. Wil Ohmsford (Austin Butler) is a halfling, (half human, half elf), who has just lost his mother. On her death bed, she gifts will with the Elf Stones, a great source of magical power. And finally, we have Eretria (Ivana Baquero), a rover girl who lives at the mercy of her father, the head of their clan.
Aiding our heroes is Allanon (Manu Bennett), a very handsome druid who has just awoken from 30 years of Druid-sleep.
This was a make or break decision for MTV. This is a high budget fantasy show; many of the sets were actually made by hand and not just rendered via green screen. If the show succeeds, it could mean more fantasy content from MTV; if it fails, the network will have wasted an enormous amount of money.
Good news for MTV: Shannara makes one hell of an entertaining show.
Our lead three characters, particularly Amberle and Eretria, shine in the pilot. Amberle is ambitious and intelligent. She’s self-sacrificing, and it was nice to see that for once, the girl was the one telling the guy “I’m doing this for your own good.” It was a wise choice for the story to start with her; though Wil is the protagonist of the books, and his journey will drive the series, Amberle makes a much stronger and more capable protagonist of the show.
Eretria, though she doesn’t get as much screentime as Wil or Amberle in the pilot, is the runaway star of the episodes. Her cunning is obvious to anyone that isn’t Wil, and it will be very interesting to see how she overcomes her abusive father, and where she will end up falling in with our two other characters, who present a pretty clear picture of “lawful good.”
And Wil. Oh, Wil. For a dopey white boy protagonist, he’s actually not so bad, if only because whenever he’s on sceen, Allanon is as well. Allanon is fantastic. There are no criticisms of Allanon to be had.
Wil, on the other hand, brings us that tired trope of oh yeah, here’s just some white guy that’s going to save the world. And women are inexplicably in love with him, and he’s super powerful. For some reason.
Shannara seems to be hinting at a love triangle in upcoming episodes, to which we say: No. There is no good reason for that. It may end up being a thorn in an otherwise decent show. It’s 2016. Korrasami happened. There’s no reason Amberle and Eretria can’t be together, especially given that Drayton and Baquero have electric chemistry on screen.
As far as fantasy lands go, the Four lands is fairly believable simply because it puts viewers exactly where they need to be. There is no lengthy introduction, or explanation of how earth became a mythical kingdom. There’s a war of the races mentioned, as well as several clues to what earth used to look like (a downed helicopter, a field of destroyed satellites.) While the post-apocalyptic setting is a bit odd, given the rest of the story, it’s not so jarring as to take the viewer out of the universe.
The only small qualm with the show is that for some odd reason, magic is believed to be a “myth,” much like the story of Ellcrys tree. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense that there’s a bunch of elves standing around, saying “Yeah, this was definitely gnomes. Magic isn’t real.” Aren’t elves in and of themselves inherently magical? Guys? Guys??
It’s something they probably should’ve changed from the books. Not even on a grander scale, where every elf has to be a wizard. But a general knowledge of magic would make more sense in this universe.
It will be exciting to see how our three protagonists come together, and where the journey takes them from here. We’ve got demons, druids, probably Manu Bennett with his shirt off at some point, and much more. All the pieces are in the right place, and hopefully, this show will continue in this very enjoyable direction.
The Shannara Chronicles airs Tuesdays on MTV, 10/9c.