I believe we know what sort of show we have in The Shannara Chronicles: good but not great. It is a good way to spend an hour a week, but not the kind of show you’ll talk about with your friends a couple of days later. That’s a shame, because the show could have been so much more. Still, “fun” isn’t something you find on television every day and The Shannara Chronicles truly is goofy, unplug-your-brain-and-enjoy-the-sfx-and-pretty-case fun.
This week, there is blood and fire and, for some reason, Bandon! Let’s go!
The gang finally made it to Safehold, which is San Francisco, thank you very much spoilery preview from last week’s episode. Now they have to find the Bloodfire. None of them even know what the Bloodfire is, much less where it can be found, but they’re going to wander into the nearest underground tunnel in the hopes it will be there.
Of course it will. This whole quest has involved the heroes wandering off in some direction only to find out that was exactly the direction they needed. They’ve experienced no setbacks — even the “bad” experiences like the entire trip to Pykon spat them out closer to their destination. It’s as if the writers only have ten episodes to resolve an epic quest that should probably encompass two or three season except they don’t know if they have that much time so they’re going to use the Power of Plot to propel the story no matter how high they have to pile the coincidences.
I’m not even angry that the heroes traveled from Seattle to San Francisco over a giant mountain range in almost no time at all. They’re clean, uninjured, and their clothes are in perfect shape. Impressive.
Anyhow, we’re still in Troll country. We know because there are three sleeping trolls the heroes have to Tomb Raider their way past without waking them. Of course, Wil drops the Elfstones on one of them but he gets them back because we have to have some tension but not too much. Also, props to Wil for doing all those core workouts while traipsing through the forest. They really paid off here!
Meanwhile, back in Arborlon, Allanon and Bandon are fighting. They always fight. Allanon wants Bandon to feel the force and Bandon is totally trying but then that darned Dagda Mor gets into his mind and…you know what? Forget it. Forget this stupid story line. Bandon isn’t in the original book. He doesn’t serve a single useful purpose in this show. Everywhere he goes, disaster and pain follows. The actor who plays him, Marcus Vanco, pretty good in the role. It’s not his fault his character’s storyline is so useless. Every minute I spend wondering why the Elves under siege let a stranger whose soul was once in the hands of the Dagda Mor run completely free and unguarded is a waste of my time. I’m sorry, Catania, that you had to be dragged into this lame storyline. You could have been awesome. So, Bandon. Allanon. They glare at each other. There. Done. We shall speak of them no more.
And we also should be done with the tacked-on palace intrigue storyline, too. Kael, the head of the Council, doesn’t much like Ander because she thought he was going to let her run things and not be King and she’s rallied the rest of the Council to her side. Ander sends Tilton to Slanter to get his help, which he gets because of their last meeting. The Gnomes show up just in time for the hero moment, which is a nice little payoff. Allanon shows up there as well in his role as Druidic Pep-Talker. I admit I smiled. Still, wouldn’t it have been more cool for the Gnomes to appear just when the demon army was pressing Arborlon most desperately? We know there are tunnels the Gnomes used before to get into Arborlon. Why not have them use them to make their way under the demon army to show up in the nick of time? Maybe they’d crash the sanctuary in time to save a shrinking ring of brave Elves as they’re beset by demons. Ander’s Last Stand around the dead trunk of the Ellcrys. Tilton fighting one-handed because her other arm has been rendered useless. The Council using decades of battle knowledge, old small unit tactics learned during the last war against evil. Demons pile up but they never stop. Then…a fierce battle howl that almost shakes the room. Slanter. The Gnomes and their strange weaponry. Demons fall in waves. They’re not out of the woods because the demon army is vast, but this moment is saved.
Wouldn’t you have loved that? I’d have loved that. I would have jumped up and fist-pumped to that. But we won’t get it. On the other hand, the demon army is back. I don’t know where all those crazy Skeletor look-alikes went when Ander and Arion were down there getting Dagda Mor’d, but they’re rested and ready. Skull helmet-obscured eyes, vengeance-filled hearts, can’t lose!
Those are the side stories. We don’t need them, but they keep getting in the way of the story we want to see, the Shannara versions of popup ads.
The gang made it past the sleeping trolls, and up a ladder into another room where there’s a book with Eretria’s tattoo in it and the words “Filii Apocalypsi” written around it. Her tattoo’s been a big deal in these random tunnels and she remembers what the crazy old guy told her back in Utopia. If you grok Latin, you’ve gotten “Children of the Apocalypse” already, a phrase confirmed later when a couple surprise flying guardian women show up and start bullying the trio with feelings.
I’ll wait while you make sense of that last sentence. It’s okay. Take your time.
The Bloodfire defends — I guess? — itself with weaponized teenage angst! The guardians tell Wil he’s indecisive and weak. They tell Eretria she’s lower than worm dirt and everyone hates her. They tell Amberle she’s leaning on her status and everyone hates her. I don’t know why the Bloodfire is defending itself and the guardians don’t spend any time explaining themselves, probably because we wasted so much time earlier. it’s okay, though. Don’t get nervous. The kids figure things out. Wil uses the Elfstones like a pro and wrecks the guardians. Eretria jams her blood into some sort of blood-sucking machine which brings out the Bloodfire like a flaming geyser. Amberle, who presumably still has the Magic Elven Tree Seed, walks right into it and disappears. Wil is beat to heck. Eretria appears to be dead. So is the Ellcrys. Roll credits.
No, really. That’s it. I have no idea what actually happened. But I do have question. Oh, how I have questions.
1) How did anyone know, or even figure out, what to do in the Bloodfire room? Amberle was told she must douse the Ellcrys Seed in the Bloodfire, which is not the same as “keep the seed in your pocket and walk right into the Bloodfire”. That second one seems dangerous. Eretria was told her blood and body would be important, but not how. Floating blood does not immediately lead to “jam that bloody mitt on that pointy flower-looking thing over there”.
2) What is up with Wil and the Elfstones? One minute he knows how to use them. Then he doesn’t. Then they’re stuck to his hand. Then they’re not. Can we get a little exposition here?
3) How in the world did they get to the Bloodfire room? It was sheer, blind luck that led them to the exact part of the vast underground tunnel complex that houses God knows how many Trolls.
4) Do things decay in this world or not? It has been a thousand years, at least, since the apocalypse, right? I mean, it’d take that long for the radiation to work its mutant magic and for magic to work its…err…magic. Yet we have books and rubber tubing and road signs and more books and paper maps and gunpowder, all left over from before and all still in perfect working order. That Bloodfire book should not exist. And don’t tell me it’s magic, either. Allanon would have known about it in his Codex, which is roughly a Wikipedia for Druids.
Those are the big ones. Really, I want more about the map/tattoo thing on Eretria’s back. I want to know more about who she is. I want to know more about the price of magic. I want to see that price, or the prospect of paying that price, weigh on the main characters. I want sacrifice that means something and nobility earned through deeds. I want some clues that will pay off a few episodes later. I don’t want to sit on my couch as the credits roll and wonder what in the world just happened. I really don’t want to feel as if we had story elements (Bandon, Children of the Apocalypse) shoved down our throats so we’d have something for next season. I like this show too much to be cynical about it. Please, Shannara writers, don’t make me feel cynical.
So that’s it. One more episode to go. We have to find Amberle, resurrect Eretria, get everyone back to Arborlon, revive or replace the Ellcrys, defeat the demon army, banish the Dagda Mor, make Allanon smile for once, and resist the urge to drop Bandon down the bottomless Pykon ravine.
In one hour.
(Photos via @Shannara)