WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS
Elves, rolling green scenery, quests, magic objects, demons and an unlikely protagonist. If your first thought for The Shannara Chronicles is Lord of the Rings, then you aren’t too far off the mark. The MTV show was adapted from a series of books by Terry Brooks whose major inspiration stemmed from Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The show was also shot in New Zealand, like Lord of the Rings.
The Shannara Chronicles has been adapted by prolific fantasy writers, Alfred Gough and Miles Miller (Into The Badlands, Smallville). The Shannara Chronicles exists in a post-apocalyptic world where demons were once contained by Druids and the Elves rule the earth. The few remaining humans, aptly named Rovers, are mostly shunned with many turning to a form of thievery.
The Ellcrys is dying. The tree has protected the Four Lands from the Demon World since the last war ended: it is the only defence. Leaves begin to fall the day that Princess Amberle Elessedil (Poppy Drayton, Unhallowed Ground) breaks the rules and runs the Gauntlet. Against all odds, she reaches the finish line making her the first female chosen. And the first to hear the Ellcrys speak. Terrified, Amberle flees the palace, only to be returned by Wil Ohmsord (Austin Butler, The Carrie Diaries, Life Unexpected), a half-elf with a significant destiny, and Allanon (Manu Bennett, The Hobbit, Spartacus), the last druid. In a race against time, together they travel to unlock magic that the Elves had all but forgotten. But every day the Ellcrys grows weaker, more and more demons break free.
The Shannara Chronicles is violent but beautiful – a stark contrast.
MTV must have been desperate to jump on the Game of Thrones bandwagon. They just didn’t want to commit the budget. A shame really.
Tasked with converting Brooks’ futuristic fantasy on a budget, Gough and Miller have successfully presented a streamlined, well-paced narrative split right down the middle between Wil and Amberle. Two people whose destinies just happen to be interwoven. Both storylines follow the classic Hero’s Journey only Gough and Miller have uniquely interpreted some of the stages. For example, Wil’s gatekeeper comes in the form of a terrified Seer. Without that Seer, Amberle and the entire Elven court would die within the first 4 episodes.
You can appreciate how The Shannara Chronicles attracted actors of Jonathan Rhys-Davies (Once Upon a Time, Lord of the Rings) and Manu Bennett’s calibre. Something we should attribute solely to the quality of the pilot script. And why shouldn’t we? The first two episodes alone are riveting. So riveting, in fact, that I didn’t even notice two hours pass by. There’s never a dull moment in this show.
The fact that Aborlon’s saviour in this high-concept fantasy is a woman is, frankly, refreshing. But there are some scenes which are saddening to watch. Amberle physically demonstrates that she deserves to be equal and the Elven court is angry and embarrassed. She flees believing that everything is her fault and the Elven Council actually try to claim that their opinions are more important than the Ellcrys.
Their society is backwards but then so is ours. It’s terrifying to think that as societies have crumbled so too has equality. The Shannara Chronicles highlights this pattern and appears to question it. Here’s hoping Amberle becomes Queen.
The Shannara Chronicles doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a show that knows exactly what it is. And that’s intriguing because there’s one thing The Shannara Chronicles tries not to do. It’s not trying to attract diverse audiences. Some will love this show and some will laugh at it. But it appears MTV may not care about the haters.
The Shannara Chronicles premieres on 5Star on the 25th February at 9 pm. Check it out and let us know which side you fall.