The likes of fantasy television seem to be in high demand. MTV has joined the game with this high-fantasy world of daemons, elves and princesses with The Shannara Chronicles, season one. Inspired by a series of novels, this is one of those shows that might have been better than it is.
The Shannara Chronicles, Season One (2016) MTV Review
Chronicles Tradition is a powerful kind of weapon in the Elven kingdom. They’ve lived for years in safety and peace, in part because of this. But tradition isn’t something Princess Amberle (Poppy Drayton) of Arborlon wishes to abide by. Despite their never having been a woman among the ranks of the Chosen, she’s ready to break with the old rules. This is why she runs the gauntlet with a determination to find a place among the Chosen’s limited numbers. With the help of her uncle (Aaron Jakubenko), who indulges her, she trains, and pulls out the final spot among the Chosen.
All is well and good until she sees an image of the protected Ellcrys (a tree in the center of Arborlon) dying. Miles away, Wil (Austin Butler) sits beside his dying mother’s bedside. He’s given a satchel of blue “elf stones.” She tells him they’re his father’s, a man Wil grew up believing was a disgrace. Following the death of his mother, Wil sets out to train as a healer, only he doesn’t get far. Instead, a long-presumed dead Druid, Allanon (Manu Bennett) seeks Wil out. He has a purpose for Wil, and he has secrets to go with it. Secrets about Wil’s legacy that just may be the key to saving their lands…
Because this show – adapted from a series of novels, found a home on MTV, it veers off what I suspect, was originally a classier story. Considering how far we’ve come since the novels publication, both in pop culture and the acceptance on TV, this liberal approach to fantasy doesn’t surprise me. Some of the issues can be brushed aside in favor of falling under the spell of an entertaining show. Others are harder to ignore.
Believe it or not, I’m not one for middle ages. More shocking, this means I’ve never seen a Lord of the Rings adaptation let alone read a book. It’s fortunate then that this show is anything but middle-age appropriate. Sure, the inspiration is there, but the glossy costuming and ridiculous scripting makes this one of those shows that a period drama lover finds difficult to take seriously. Of all the things that are faulty about The Shannara Chronicles, these are probably among the worst. Since most of the costuming involves dressing the characters in leather jackets and boots (because of their travels) over the ballroom fashion one scene sports, overlooking the costuming isn’t as big of a hurdle as the dialogue.‘The Shannara Chronicles,’ Season One: Episodes 1-3 (2016) #FWarchives Click To Tweet
Listening to the characters’ “small talk” is almost painful because the scripts are so modern. I’m going to guess that this is an intention deviation on the writer’s end because of the target audience they want to reach. Still, it seems like there could have been more authenticity without the exclusion of some decent period authentic scripting.
Beyond these two issues, I did like the first episodes. I’m curious enough to want to tune in for the rest, but whether or not I will is another story altogether. The cast is good enough though it’s really Poppy’s Amberle and Manu Bennett (Arrow) whose characters I’m most interested in following. Amberle’s uncles have potential to have interesting stories, and of course, seeing John Rhys-Davis in something again is always nice.
If you’re looking for something that’s period authentic, skipping over “Shannara” would be wise. If you want an accurate book-to-TV adaptation, you’ll likely be better served to look elsewhere (or so I read). Those looking for an addictive TV fantasy might find something to like about The Shannara Chronicles. It keeps the viewer on their toes while still featuring the potential for some good character development. Only be warned, if you don’t like “dark magic” kind of stories, then this isn’t for you. If you want an idea of what this is like, think BBC’s Merlin. Only, just know MTV’s fantasy offering does take a more adult approach than the family-friendly show from across the pond.
Content: there’s one implied sex scene, and various other sexual innuendoes – including a non-graphic scene of a nude girl bathing. Multiple instances of creepy daemons attacking are present as they devour their prey; there’s a changeling who can become anything they wish – and we see this changeling nude – briefly – twice. The Shannara Chronicles, season one is TV14.