Phantom Sway

A Giant Bowl of Awesomesauce: “The Shannara Chronicles” Chronicles, Week 4

Remember that recap last week when I told you Episode 4 was a waste of an hour and I stepped back just a little bit from the shores of Fanboy. Well, I’m back in this week, waist-deep and splashing about gleefully. Oh, I still don’t think “The Shannara Chronicles” is a perfect show. The flaws are there to find. But, holy cow, has this show been fun to watch. This week, the writers gave us big action, big menace, and big plot drama in such generous helpings that my heart grew three sizes larger. I’ll eventually have to get a doctor to look at that, but until then, let’s get on with the recap!

The title of this episode is “Reaper”, which filled me with such excitement you can’t even know. See, I’ve wanted to see The Reaper in a movie or television show since the early 80s, when I was a teenager. Yes, I’m old. Shut it. I got very disappointed when the Changeling took over some of the work the The Reaper did in the book, most notably creating horrible carnage inside Arborlon. I despaired that I would not get to see The Reaper as I had long imagined. But none other than Terry Brooks himself set me right and let me tell you, that was a pretty cool thing.

Let’s begin. When we last left our erstwhile heroes, they were on their way to Fort Drea Wood to meet with a man who might just know where to find Safehold. Everyone, including Crispin, for some reason, is shooting hot fire at Wil. I honestly don’t know how this dysfunctional crew will ever make it to Safehold. Crispin, somehow, has turned into a snotty martinet, instead of the cool and skilled Captain of the Home Guard he was in the book.*

Slanter Gnome Shannara
This is Slanter. He is a Gnome. You’ll need to know this later.

But first we must endure a flashback which doesn’t advance the story but does give us some useful background information. First, A Gnome Rebellion existed and its agents wormed their way into Arborlon thanks to the carelessness of just about everyone. Second, Ander and Commanter Tilton were lovers before she was a commander. Third, I can’t tell whether Arion is consumed with jealousy, a horrible inferiority complex, or a incurable case of the stupids. Regardless, I don’t like him. Wherever he goes, trouble follows. Fourth, the Gnome leader’s name is Slanter. Remember it. I’m sure there’s a reason for his existence later, especially since the elves didn’t kill him but put him in prison. Fifth, Slanter killed Amberle’s father and she was right there to see it. Seriously. No one, and by that I mean especially the useless Arion, tried to get her out of the way while Slanter pinned him to the floor with a sword.

Why, exactly, is Arion a character that appears in any scene except to be useless and to whine about how he ought to be King instead of his incredibly competent father? There is an answer to that question, believe it or not, but we won’t see it for a while.

We also need to visit to the Dagda Mor for a wuick bit of foreshadowing. He is scolding the Changeling for not killing Amberle like it was supposed to. The Changeling avoids death with a plan to sow all kinds of chaos in Arborlon. The Dagda Mor agrees to the plan, dispatches another demon (SQUEE!) to kill Amberle, and engages in a little backside sexy time with the Changeling. Okay, okay. Implied backside sexy time. Because MTV.

You have no time to dwell on that, though, because we have plot to follow! Our heroes have clomped loudly into a clearing around which Cephalo and the Rovers had cleverly hidden themselves, Red Dawn-style. The lucky rovers easily capture the crew, including several elite Black Guard without a hassle. Cephalo is the best villain in the series by miles right now. He’s clearly smarter than all of the heroes combined, ruthless enough to put the screws to his own “daughter” without hesitation, and venal enough to let his petty greed put the entire world at risk. I can’t wait until he gets his, which I thought might happen this week, but no. He and Eretria, who is still about as trustworthy as a basket of vicious snakes, take Amberle hostage and leave everyone else to die at the jaws of wolves.

Not pictured: the Four Lands. Also not pictured: A stupid elf soldier.
Not pictured: the Four Lands.
Also not pictured: A stupid elf soldier.

At this point, I need to say a little something about the Elven Black Guard. These warriors are supposed to be the very best fighters the Elves can find, trained relentlessly, always on guard, always ready for action. Thus far, though, we’ve seen them killed, replaced, fooled, and captured. They utterly failed to protect Amberle twice and let killers get into the same room as The Chosen and other members of the Royal Family without even an alarm. When I brought up their uselessness on Twitter, a co-creator of the show told me they’ve mostly been idle for 30 years and they’re a symbol of the complacency of the Elves. Okay, I might buy that with a couple exceptions. First, the Gnome Rebellion’s partially-successful attack on the King should have given the Black Guard every reason to sharpen themselves, especially since their new Captain was complicit in the attack! Further, we know there are menaces such as Trolls not far outside Arborlon. The Elves have no reason not to mount patrols to keep the surrounding area relatively Troll-free. The path between Arborlon and Fort Drea Wood has its own perils useful to keep soldiers on their toes as well. How the Black Guard came to be the J.O.B. Squad of the Four Lands baffles me.

We’ll come back to them in a moment. At present, Cephalo has Amberle in the Rover camp and is about to defile her when Eretria whacks him upside the head. Earlier, Amberle offered her twenty times whatever Cephalo paid her, and her greedy Rover training just took over. They take Cephalo prisoner for some reason and ride off to rescue Wil and the Elven Baggage Brigade. Fortunately, the guys have freed themselves and are ready to face down the horrible wolves when Eretria walks out of the woods all cocky and tells them the wolves are all dead now, so don’t you worry your pretty little heads. I’d have loved to see a good wolf/elf fight here. It might have been nice to see the Black Guard do something other than get punked.

And speaking of getting punked, it’s about to happen. Our merry band happens upon an old toxic waste site. Everything in and around this place says, “Ride around this. Do not go through it.” Of course, one of the Black Guard rides right in like a dope, as our heroes and Crispin the Snotty Idiot Elf Commander, do nothing at all but watch. Why? Why didn’t they send in Cephalo, who Eretria and Amberle were planning to kill anyhow? Why didn’t they simply go around it? Why did this obstacle, which exists on a known route from Arborlon to a large Elven fort take Crispin by complete surprise?

Ugh! Why am I still here? Oh, yes, the last quarter of the episode which was A GIANT BOWL OF PURE AWESOME SAUCE!

The gang gets to the Fort, which is abandoned. Or not. Something in there lobs out a few Elf heads. The gate opens.

OMG IT’S THE REAPER AND IT’S EVEN MORE MENACING THAN I IMAGINED OMG!!!!! RUN AWAY YOU FOOLS! RUN ALL THE WAY TO SAFEHOLD! LEAVE CRISPIN AND CEPHALO BEHIND TO MAYBE SLOW IT DOWN A LITTLE! RUN!! RUN!!!

FINALLY! AFTER MORE THAN 30 YEARS!
FINALLY! AFTER MORE THAN 30 YEARS!

*ahem* Sorry. I got a bit excited. Well, there’s the Reaper and it immediately sets to Reaping. Our heroes scatter every which way but we stick with Wil, who has the Elfstones, and Cephalo, who very much wants Wil to use the Elfstones right now because the Reaper is about to reap them. No good. Wil doesn’t know how. Thankfully, Cephalo has a plan, and some goodies that cause a rather large explosion and there’s no more Reaper.

No. Wait. The Reaper can’t go down like that. One measly explosion? That’s it? I had better get more Reaper in this series, or these recaps will take a very dark turn. I’m warning you, Shannara Writers!

Back in Arborlon, the Whiny Prince Arion has decided to apologize to his father for his whininess and to bury the hatchet. Wait, what? That’s a completely unexpected turn of events. Oh, Eventine’s happy! They’re going to hug. Wait, what is he doing. Is that a knife? Is that…but…what…NOOOOOO! JOHN RHYS-DAVIES NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

That wasn’t Arion at all! That was the Changeling who has now taken the form of King Eventine and you’d better believe things are about to get a lot more difficult in ol’ Arborlon town.

I can’t wait to see how the writers set things astir next week. I didn’t even mention the gnome that’s on the roam! Maybe everyone will remember there are more races than just elves and humans! Maybe the Reaper will continue to Reap! Maybe I’ll come to love Evil John Rhys-Davies! Maybe we’ll ditch a few side-characters! A guy can only hope.

*I’m serious. Here is what happens when The Reaper finally tracks down our heroes in the book. Massive book spoilers follow.

The Reaper appeared, stepping forward into the light—huge, cloaked, faceless. Crispin brought up the ash bow and sent his arrows winging at the thing so quickly that Wil could barely follow the archer’s movements. All were brushed aside effortlessly.

When his arrows didn’t work, he went out to meet the implacable demonic hunter alone on a bridge over a vast chasm.

On the catwalk, Crispin closed with the Reaper. Feinting and lunging, the Captain of the Home Guard sought to catch the Demon off balance, hoping that it might slip and tumble from the walk. But the Reaper stayed low upon the slender bridge, warding off the Elf’s thrusts with one massive arm, waiting patiently for its chance. Crispin was a skilled swordsman, yet he could not penetrate the creature’s defenses. The Reaper edged forward.

[The] bridge buckled slightly and Crispin was thrown off balance. As he stumbled back, the Reaper lunged. Claws fastened about the Elf’s tunic. As Wil and Amberle watched in horror, the Reaper lifted Crispin clear of the catwalk. The Elf captain’s sword flashed downward toward the Demon’s throat, the blade splintering as it truck. The Reaper shrugged off the blow as if it were nothing. Holding Crispin above it shrouded head, it threw the Elf from the catwalk into the void beyond. Crispin fell soundlessly and was gone.

None of that character exists in the Crispin of this show. Why? I can’t tell you. I’d have enjoyed more of him.

(Photos via MTV except the toxic waste dump which is via the Simpsons Wikia)

Week One’s recap is here.

Week Two’s recap is here.

Week Three’s recap is here.

Jimmie Bise Jr

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