Earlier this week The Shannara Chronicles launched itself into the world of television, and on MTV of all places. And somehow that isn’t even the most surprising part, what’s really surprising is just how much fun the first episode was. While the episode, and I suspect the show as a whole, is far from perfect, if you’re at all a fan of fantasy, The Shannara Chronicles is at least worth checking out. It does have that certain MTV quality to it, but if anything, that only made the first episode, “Chosen,” that much more fun to watch. Spoilers ahead!
Some time in the distant future of our planet, magic and elves ruled the land. Then magic (but not elves) disappeared. And now it’s back again? Okay, now you’re caught up between modern day history and the version of Earth where The Shannara Chronicles takes place. The world building elements in the first episode were surprisingly easy to keep up with, though to be fair it was an extra long episode so there was some time to play around and fill readers in on everything that had been going on.
We kick things off with Princess Amberle committing herself to run the gauntlet, which seems to be an ancient tradition used to pick seven to be anointed as the Chosen. More on that later, but the Chosen are basically there to protect an ancient tree that legend has it is holding back a demonic army. Right from the initial race to become Chosen I was invested in the outcome. Amberle has her flaws, but I was rooting for her all the way. Thankfully, she crosses the finish line at the last possible moment and is selected to protect the Ellcrys tree. Handy, since the tree has started talking to Amberle and showing her visions of a pretty demon filled future.
While Amberle is busy hiding out in her room because she doesn’t think anyone will believe her about the visions, (did no one notice her freaking out the first time she touched the tree?) we meet our other main character, Wil. Wil’s mother just passed away, but before she did she handed Wil the Elfstones and told him to find the druid. Pretty vague as last words go, but it was enough to set Wil off on his own path. The stones had belonged to his father, an elf, who had died drunk and alone. Wil takes off, against the wishes of his human uncle (Wil is a half-breed) and pretty quickly gets himself into trouble. This guy is not exactly a natural hero which makes me like him that much more.
Back with Amberle, there’s a party to be had with elves in fancy dresses. Unfortunately, the Ellcrys is still talking to the princess and things go south pretty quickly. The next vision she sees has her killing her boyfriend and fellow Chosen, so rather than asking anyone for help, Amberle runs. And now all our main characters are running around in the wilderness. Bad timing since for the first time ever, the Ellcrys is sick, dying. Add that to the return of Allannon, the last druid/magic wielder and there is officially a lot going on. Allannon swears that the Ellcrys dying means trouble is coming, setting up the plot for the series as a whole.
And even now, we’re only about halfway through the first episode. And so far, never a dull moment which says a lot about the likeable cast and the higher than anticipated production value of the show as a whole. Are we having fun yet?
Jumping ahead a little, Wil has gotten himself into some trouble with a rover girl, Eretria, who has stolen the Elfstones. He quickly finds himself naked in a bathtub with Allannon hovering over him. Allannon has pretty big news for Wil, basically marking him as chosen in his own right to bring back magic and let’s face it, probably save the world. At the same time, the first leaf has fallen from the Ellcrys, releasing the first demon who seems to be the big bad leader of them all who has started sending his henchmen after the Chosen. The six remaining Chosen, including Amberle’s boyfriend are quickly slaughtered.
Eretria is having some adventures of her own, likely marking her as just as much of a main character as Wil and Amberle. When Amberle sees through her tricks and steals most of what Eretria had already stolen from Wil (besides the stones) her father threatens to sell her off to some thug looking for a wife. But of course, the Elfstones are her get out of jail free card, and now all she has to do is find Wil and earn her freedom.
In the final hurrah of the episode, Allannon and Wil go to retrieve Amberle who has hidden out with her Aunt (and Allannon’s ex) somewhere out in the wilderness. Yet another demon strikes here as well, slaughtering the King’s sister pretty ruthlessly while Wil and Amberle ogle each other by a waterfall. The episode closes with what is supposed to be a cliffhanger with the main pair facing off against a demon, but how many of us really think the next episode will start with the two main characters being killed off? Still, as far as pilots go, this could have been a lot worse and I’m really excited to see where The Shannara Chronicles goes next.
Side notes: A few small nit picky things about episode one that are clear clues that MTV isn’t taking themselves too seriously on this one.
- How small is the country in which this story is supposed to take place? Despite only having horses to get them from A to B, everyone seemed to pop around the country with no trouble at all and would even casually run into other main characters like it was no big deal.
- Amberle made such a thing about wanting to be one of the Chosen and then hightailed it away from her duties at the first sign of trouble. And this girl is the only hope for the future?
- Don’t you just love when you’re saved from having to dump the boyfriend you don’t really care about by his untimely death? Saves a lot of trouble.
- Thank goodness Wil arrived back home when he did, three minutes later and he would have missed his mother’s last words and the entire story never would have happened.