I realize it’s too early to say The Shannara Chronicles has developed a rhythm to how the episodes proceed, but I think we’ve seen a pattern emerge. First, we’re given an action sequence, to grab our attention, then a few minutes of young angst and relationship-building before settling into a solid story that develops characters and moves the plot forward. Here’s how it looked last week:
1) Amberle trains for, then competes in, the blindfold challenge to become one of the Chosen.
2) Amberle has deep conversations with her boyfriend and her cousin about her romantic inclinations and general sense of feeling restless and unsettled.
3) The Ellcrys is dying and here are the characters who will ultimately save it.
Now this week’s episode:
1) A FURY! HOLY CRAP! Oh, never mind. Badass Allanon just chopped it to bits in a very sweet action sequence. But, OH NO, HE’S HURT! GET HIM TO THE MAGIC DRUID HEALING TABLE!
2) Allanon tells Wil to get Amberle safely to Arborlon but they both rebel because Wil knows about some special mud that can help. They open up to each other some and he strips to his skivvies to get the aforementioned mud. Flirting ensues.
3) The pair is captured by Eretria and Ugly Dude to Whom She Doesn’t Want to Be Forcibly Married, and the story proceeds from there.
If this is the pattern for every episode, I’m okay with it. We have a lot of information to process about the Four Lands and our characters, like we do with every fantasy or sci-fi show. A bit of familiar story structure is a big help.
I do have a couple small quibbles. Allanon is in full jerk-mode early in this episode. First, he drops the news on Amberle that not only was her aunt killed by the Fury but so were all her friends in Arborlon, including her boyfriend. Life is tough, he all but says, so walk it off. Second, he neglects to tell Will and Amberle his Magic Druid Table can heal him completely. He knows what kind of people Wil and Amberle are. They’re not simply going to leave him on a giant rock to die if they can do something about it unless he tells them, in no uncertain terms, that he will be fine. Later on, he barks at them for putting the mission in danger, but how, exactly, is that their fault? Neither Wil nor Amberle know what their mission really is, much less how important it is, because Allanon hasn’t told them.
The second quibble is the nature of the quest. According to Allanon, who I admit may be lying at this point, neither Wil nor Amberle have a choice. They have to go on this mission because their destiny demands it and destiny will not be denied. I can’t imagine that’s a good motivator; then again, Allanon is a centuries-old Druid who spends most of his time sleeping on a barren, snow-covered rock. Maybe he has no idea how to deal with actual people. Maybe he has no idea just how adrift these kids are, even though he’s been the person bringing them most of the bad news. Perhaps he pulls the old Obi-Wan “from a certain point of view” line of BS to keep everyone moving forward and not thinking too much about just how daunting the mission truly is. Regardless, we’ll hear this from him, in different forms, a few times during this episode. It’s frustrating, but let’s leave that on the Magic Druid Table and press onward.
Back in Arborlon, Arion is hanging out under the dying Ellcrys getting drunk and bitter. A leaf falls, and he tracks it as it lands and burns up, but the show takes no special note of it. A mistake? Nope. We’ll find out later that a new demon is free and on the hunt. I like that the leaf-drop, which has been given a ton of attention when it happened before, is now just another sign of the Ellcrys’ (and perhaps even the Elven Kingdom’s) decay. Speaking of decay, Arion and Eventine’s relationship has been decaying as well. Arion blames himself for the death of his brother, and is convinced his father blames him, too. I could have done without this familiar, boring, father-son squabbling. We have enough Tolkien in Shannara already; we don’t need the Denethor/Faramir dynamic as well. Arion and Eventine each have plenty to care about right now. If they need to yell, the building sense of despair (and that flask of alcohol) is more than enough. The elves are smack in the path of a demonic freight train. Perhaps King and Prince can butt heads over how best to get off the track, or minimize the carnage. Also, there is a traitor on the loose. Searching for the murderer of the Chosen would be a good use for Prince Drunky McAngstypants’ time.
Meanwhile Wil and Amberle are at the Silver River to collect some magic mud that will help Allanon. They are promptly captured by a plot-convenient Eretria and Ugly Dude, etc. Off they go in chains to Roverland where they are schmoozed by an obviously-evil Cephelo, who wants to know how to use the Elfstones and is convinced he can con Wil into telling him. Eretria is caught squarely between wanting to please her father, who sees her as little more than an asset, and her emerging sense of right and wrong. Slowly, she’s getting that Wil and Amberle are the good guys here and she really wants to be on their side. Nevertheless, she’s learned a lot of villainy from her Dad and the other Rovers. If we’re keeping the Tolkien comparisons, she’s the morally-conflicted Gollum right now, though she looks absolutely great in tight pants.
Another Fury shows up here, fulfilling the promise of the earlier falling leaf, and Wil uses the Elfstones for the first time to burn it to ash. The effort leaves him unconscious and leads ultimately to a confrontation with Cephalo and an Allanon ex Machina rescue. Of course he growls at our heroes for not knowing stuff he hasn’t told them. Of course Cephalo ups his creepy threats game by reminding Eretria that he essentially owns her. Of course we’re headed for Arborlon.
On the way, we come across a homestead where a horrible slaughter has taken place. Here we meet the first significant departure from Brooks’ source material. His name is Bandon and his family has been brutally murdered and hung by their feet by, we’re told, demons. Let me say right now I have my doubts. We know how many demons are loose in the Four Lands because we’ve either seen them break free of the Forbidding or we’ve seen their leaves fall from the Ellcrys. Unless the show is cheating us by having leaves fall without showing them to us there aren’t a bunch of demons roaming the countryside. Also, the demons we’ve seen thus far are either significant or they’re Furys, I don’t expect much patience and cruelty from something called “Fury”, do you? So…who tortured Bandon’s parents and hung them up for display? Is he telling the truth about why he was locked up in the barn? We know he’s hiding something (and isn’t everyone?!) from his fellow-travelers, probably his ability to see the future Ellcrys-style, but is he hiding more than we know? Also, and this is probably just a casting issue, the actor playing Bandon looks a bit too old to play someone in his late teens. I assume that’s how old he is since he’s still living at home and clearly under his parents’ control. Still, he’s a character who should be watched closely.
What happens instead? Amberle takes to Bandon like he’s an abused puppy dog and brings him to Arborlon. She then leaves him with a couple female elves who keep looking at him like they have some sexual frustrations to work out and only this scrumptious morsel of man meat will do. Don’t blame me if he gets up to sinister doings! What? You say he encourages Wil to stay after Allanon hits him with the destiny lecture? Surely he’s a good guy? We’ll see.
And speaking of Wil, I like how he’s slowly gaining his confidence, so much that he mouths off to Allanon and stands up for Amberle before the entire Elven Council. We learn that he is the last descendant of the noble Shannara line, but that doesn’t translate into anything but a chance and a really proud look from John Rhys-Davies. He spends that chance on his new friend Amberle, who needs a shot of Ellcrys-approved redemption, and gets the closest thing to a fist-bump from Allanon he’ll probably ever get. Good for him and good on the writers who are still doing quite a good job with material they could very easily turn into predictable television pap.
Oh, the episode ends on a cliffhanger again. Want to bet we see the same opening formula next week? I bet you we will and that’s not a bad thing at all
(Photos via MTV)
P.S. Whoever can tell me the inspiration for the post title will win the famous Phantom Sway No-Prize!