While preparing to complete my masterpiece, a comparison between John Wick and Jack Reacher, I took a break and watched every episode of season 1 of The Chronicles of Shannara.
The Chronicles of Shannara is a show based on the series of novels by Terry Brooks, author of such notable books as Elfstones of Shannara, Elf Queen of Shannara, and the novelization of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Needless to say, I’ve read many of his books.
In a move I applaud, the show starts on the second book in the series, Elfstones of Shannara, because the first novel, The Sword of Shannara, is a ripoff of Lord of the Rings. I don’t mean that unkindly, many novels are, but realistically the first good novel in the series is the second one.
So let me break down the novel: there’s a guy named Wil. Wil has some magic blue rocks (the titular Elfstones) so he gets recruited by Gandalf (called Allanon) to escort an elven princess to get a seed for a magical tree. The magical tree is dying and if it dies it unleashes a horde of demons who will kill everyone.
It comes down to a race where the elves are fighting a partially released horde of demons (as the magic tree gets weaker more demons escape) while Wil and elven princess are fighting to get the seed back to base.
The tv show follows this plot surprisingly closely. John Rhys-Davies, in an attempt to play every character in fantasy, appears as the elven king Eventine. Eventine has two sons, the Jerk and the Drunk. He had a third son (the “good one”) but he was killed and the Good One’s daughter, Amberle.
The show incorporates a lot of modern elements that were not in the original novel. It borrows from the Young Adult genre of novels-to-movies, like the story opens in a Hunger Games vibe competition between Amberle and a bunch of elven guys who are really hostile to her because she’s a girl. The competition is stupid. It involves running through the woods blindfolded and with your hands bound.
Amberle wins the competition to be a Magic Tree servant, but then gets immediately freaked out by Magic Tree’s telepathic messages that come as intense visions of the future. She immediately abandons the post she has been training to achieve, and flees the capitol.
Meanwhile, Wil, the most Luke Skywalker of Luke Skywalkers, has just lost his mother to disease. He decides he’s going to go train to be a healer. His Uncle tries to Uncle Owen him and tells him that his dad was a drunken wastrel, and that Wil should throw away the
lightsaber elfstones his mother gave him before her death.
Wil instead rides off, gets lost, and then gets accosted by
sandpeople a troll. He’s rescued by gypsy analogue girl Eretria. Eretria roofies Wil and steals his elfstones.
Meanwhile my favorite part of the show wakes up in a cave. Allanon, the Gandalf, wakes up and magical stuff is happening all around him. He then tv-teleports to the capitol of the elves where he tells Eventine the John Rhys-Davies that (a) apocalypse is nigh and (b) they need to get a Magic Seed for the Magic Tree pronto. Jerk Prince is a jerk about it. Drunk Prince looks good simply by not being Jerk Prince.
Allanon teleports around some more, scooping up Wil, and going forward to try and save the world. He tells Wil that his dad wasn’t a drunken sucker, but an actual legit hero who saved the world, but magic totally mentally wrecked his life as a result. Magic in Shannara does nasty stuff to people. Wil’s elfstones, for example, burn him when he uses them.
Eretria, Amberle, and Wil combine to form the love triangle that will power a big chunk of the show. Both the girls are in to Wil and kind of hate each other though they eventually come around to become friends.
They travel to the place where the McGuffin is, along the way they fall into a high school (perfect setting for angsty adventure) and come across a colony of hipsters (who then have a rave). Those storylines are pretty annoying, but also kind of funny. It’s also amusing to see how amazingly incompetent the elves are.
Overall, I say it’s a pretty decent show to watch for fun, especially as a Terry Brooks fan. My major complaint is that there’s one episode where things get really, and unnecessarily, rapey. I don’t think it added much other than an ick factor. Most of the nudity and sexuality otherwise are kind of pointless additions, now that I think about it. Also everyone, everyone, has chiseled six pack abs.