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The Shannara Chronicles, Season One: Episodes 1-3 (2016)



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. Inspired by a series of novels, this is one of those shows that might have been better than it chose to give itself credit for.  
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 manages to pull 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) is sitting beside his dying mother’s bedside being given a satchel of blue “elf stones.” She tells him they were his father’s, a man Wil grew up believing was a disgrace. Following the death of his mother, Wil sets out to undertake training as a healer, only he doesn’t get very 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. Given how far we’ve come since the novels publication, both in pop culture and what’s now acceptable on TV today, I’m not surprised to see this take a more liberal approach to fantasy. 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 (which I say might be surprising because I'm a period drama nut), which more shockingly 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.  
 

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 be aware MTV’s fantasy offering does take a more adult angle that the ordinarily 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 rating is TV14.)
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10 comments:

  1. Ahhh, your review makes me think what I was suspecting is true...that MTV shows are just too teeny bopper-ish. I was looking forward to this one (I enjoy a good fantasy story once in a while) but I've *never* liked an MTV show, with the exceptions of Eye Candy and Catfish. I'm still going to try it, but I will most likely feel quite the same as you and get annoyed with the costumes and modern drama. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rissi!! Your review was super helpful. :)

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    1. Because I'm a sucker for punishment (or that's all I can figure), I am planning on tuning in whenever episode four releases to iTunes. I did enjoy this, but some of the dialogue is so "out there," I was a bit surprised. Plus, the costumes are outrageous. On the other hand, I'm sure this is what the writers/costumers wanted as they are trying (overmuch in my opinion) to appeal to their young audience.

      Speaking of Eye Candy, this reminds me, I've yet to finish that series! But what I saw was really good. Creepy... but good.

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  2. I LOVE medieval-esque stuff, even if it's not really authentic to the period.... I'm a sucker that way I guess :) Sometime I think I'll definitely check this out. Thanks for the review, Rissi!

    Dance A Real

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    1. If you don't mind it not being authentic, you might enjoy this then, Hannah! And I'd be curious to know what you think if you ever tune in. :)

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  3. So, I watched the first two episodes. And I got bored. I started to give episode three a try, but then my eyes just started to glaze over and I realized that I was paying exactly zero percent attention. You are SOOO right about the dialogue. They sound like kids at the mall or something. Just no. And what is the point of that tree? I don't even understand. And it sounds like there is just ONE plot point so like, what happens if they fix the tree? I don't know, I will look up some more reviews, but unless someone tells me it is suddenly amazing, I think I am out. Great review, you helped me not feel bad about not watching the third one :D

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    1. Nothing wrong with giving up on this one, Shannon; I know how you feel! I plan on watching episode 4 when it releases and see what comes next. It was "good enough" (for me) that I'm curious, but it's also the kind of show that can be given up in my line up if I feel I'm trying to keep track of too many, ya know!?

      As for the plot, I don't know where they'll go if Amberle manages to protect the tree. The book series on which this is based has a record number of titles to it though so it would seem the possibilities (ideally) are endless! Whether or not the writer's wise up is an entirely different story. :)

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  4. I agree with your review. The costumes and the writing are...questionable. I do think it is entertaining and a pretty easy to follow plot, though. Although, I wish they explained more about the world. There is a lot of our modern day structures around the landscape, it would be nice to know why. I think because of their target audience some things are super cheesy as well. But hey, it's MTV and it's pretty good for what it is so far!


    Molly @ Molly's Book Nook
    I also reviewed this if you want to check it out :) Here is the link:

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    1. Well said, Molly. As a piece of entertainment I did enjoy this - I really couldn't help but like it (the world intrigue is catching). But if I look at it as a period piece, it's got nothing going for it. I'll most definitely have to read your review! Thanks for sharing. :)

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  5. I really loved the Shannara books growing up. I'm hoping the show will bring attention to the books, but I was so sad to see it picked up by MTV of all things.
    I'm still interested in watching them...can I find them online someplace?

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    1. I've not read any of the books, Alyssa, however from what I do know (via on-line reading), these differ quite a lot from their source. That being said, as "silly" entertainment, I enjoyed the story. (MTV picking this up IS unfortunate. Even Freeform - formerly ABC Family, might have been better.)

      Yes. You can find the first four episodes on MTV.com or buy them on Amazon/iTunes. Let me know what you think if you see them, Alyssa. :)

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