The Shannara Chronicles: Season 1
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The Shannara Chronicles: Season 1

There is a particular fascination with creatures of pure imagination, inhabiting the fantasy in the supernatural. Most recently this perennial obsession with the principal creatures such stories has been reinvigorated by the wildly successful franchise movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Middle Earth' novels. It is only natural of the studios to want to take advantage of the preoccupation with this type of fantasy. Among the latest incarnations of such all-encompassing fantasies is based on the Shannara series of fantasy novels by Terry Brooks, specifically the novels comprising the most well-known subset, ‘Sword of Shannara Trilogy.' Of all the television networks and streaming video services that have gotten into the business of original programming from the most unlikely sources, MTV. Originally known for its programming slate consisting primarily of music videos the cable channel had moved into an endless stream of highly contrive so-called reality television shows. Over the last few years, MTV is managed to come up with rather well-constructed series in the fashion of popular youth-oriented fiction. ‘The Shannara Chronicles’ has every element necessary to be successful in this highly competitive part of the fantasy genre.

The novels used as the source material has already constructed a wide, sweeping a realm of back stories and amazingly intricately constructed characters. The result is an amazing amount of potential that is only scratching this first season of the series. Fortunately, approval for the second season is confirmed. There are the advantages of being on a network such as MTV; they are just starting to foray into the realm of actually scripted programming so they can afford to give some latitude to a series allowing it the opportunity to secure an audience. The themes in this series are based such a complex and intricately woven a set of novels require more than the usual amount of time to lay the foundation for the series and establish the narrative voice that will eventually be used to drive the action and propel the character development.

The setting of the story is long after some apocalyptic event has destroyed the foundation of various human societies and nations. We receive a very subtle inkling of this when the global shown for brief moments the outline of the United States is visible. The human race has mutated into several distinctive races including Dwarves, Gnomes and Trolls. One new branch of sentient life became the most powerful use of the use of magic, the Elves. After the Great War Pitted, each faction against the other until fragile peace was achieved. At this time entities of pure evil, the Demons once again threaten the safety of everyone on the planet. The elves managed to capture them and imprison them in a large magic tree of their devising, the Ellcrys. A side effect of this was that this construct had drained most of the magical energy of the race of elves. Each year seven are chosen from among the elves for the much-lauded position of ‘The Chosen.' Chosen by a rugged test of strength and ingenuity the Chosen relinquish their former lives and dedicate themselves the protection of the tree. It has become a tradition that only the male elves participate in the gauntlet but as the series opens the Royal Princess, Eretria (Ivana Baquero), secretly pretends to practice to prepare for the race. On the day of the trials to shock the entire community and most especially her father, King Eventine Elessedil (John Rhys-Davies).

Eventually, Eretria is chosen by the tree and since there was no implicit gender restriction the community had to acknowledge her right to that lauded position. In a fashion similar to the more familiar manifestation of the elfish race they resemble human beings notably pointed ears. If a human and elf produce a child, the hybrid infant typically has rounded ears and his work upon as a significantly lower caste. The sacred tree is beginning to lose its power and die. If that happened, it would result in the annihilation of every race in the world, As each leaf falls another demon once held safety captive would be unleashed upon the world. The first lease to fall a powerful demon, Dagda Mor (Jed Brophy), is released and immediately begins the plan the destruction of the tree and the elves. The first attack is to get rid of the trees principal protection, The Chosen. After receiving a shocking glimpse of the future Eretria is shown herself killing the one she loves. To avoid discrimination from becoming real, she runs away from home, out into the wilderness. That has the fortuitous side effect of being absent during the slaughter of the Chosen, leaving her is the only one who could vanquish the demons.

All the main characters are introduced in the first couple of episodes keeping the pacing particularly quickly in laying the foundation for the principal aspects of the story. There is a remnant of the race of men that have become scavengers, nomadic tribes wandering around the wasteland looking to eke out some form of living. One of these Reapers, Catania (Brooke Williams) manages to capture a half-blood human, Wil Ohmsford (Austin Butler) manages to come in possession of three gems, The Elf Stones, a source of exceptional magic. It turns out that he is the direct descendant of one of the most powerful Elfish Kings, Shannara. All of this is unknown to Will until he comes across the last of the most powerful magic wielders, one of the last of the Druids, Allanon (Manu Bennett), which recognizes Will’s importance and begins to mentor him. Initially, he is charged with protecting the Princess last Chosen One and as expected some chemistry begins to form between them. Catania is also tracking down real and Eretria on orders of her father, Cephalon (James Remar), the king of their tribe. If she fails to retrieve the elf stones her father would disi=own her and banish her from their community.

This series is rich in nuance requiring an exceptionally in-depth scrutiny while watching but would be advised to go back and re-watch several episodes after your program along in the story. The characters are extremely well constructed keeping true to their individual racial characteristics and the pervasive remnants of their humanity. Fundamentally, this is the prototypical good versus evil scenario that differentiates itself from the rest with its dedication to the details. The greatest potential for success is in how it provides an excellent example of the heroic journey best described by Robert Campbell and his scholarly work, ‘The Power of Myth.' True to form there is a young man from humble beginnings forced on a journey that contains numerous sources of danger. Along the way, he meets an older, much wiser warrior who becomes his mentor teaching him about his potential and helping him achieve it. In this well-established storyline, there is also usually some magical items which sought after by both the good and evil sides that must be protected by the burgeoning hero. The Elf Stones serves this purpose particularly well. With the tree dying one leaf at a time there is the nearly requisite ticking clock to heighten the sense of danger. Considering the tree has a lot of leaves this plot device is hardly constructive and is conducive to go on for several seasons. But the elves forming the aristocracy there is also a strong element of class discrepancy infused in the story. Traditionally maligned half breed is positioned to become the one that saves the world and become romantically inclined elfish Princess of unquestionably pureblood. The Druid is several centuries old and is a natural source of exposition to help keep the characters, and the audience informed about facts crucial to the story unfolding properly. Despite the highly textured and complex nature of the source material this translation to television is achieved in a very natural fashion introducing the audience to the characters and situations in a controlled and highly needed manner. This is a series that you will most likely become instantly captivated by, especially if you are a fan of Peter Jackson’s franchises of the film.

There was one aspect of the home release of this series that I found to be quite disappointing. The initial release in June was only on DVD, and, of course streaming video. Then about six months later in December, the studio releases the Blu-ray edition. The extras were the same with the only significant addition in content a small booklet with character information. The same details are readily available from the show’s Wikia site. This marketing ploy was popular years ago when Blu-ray was still rather new. At this point, it comes across as an inducement to get fans to repurchase the same material, albeit in high definition,

bulletBehind The Scenes
bulletExploring New Zealand
bulletTerry Brooks Interview
bulletThe Making of The Dagda Mor

Posted 06/10/2016                12/07/2016

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