The Ellcrys Died, the demons rose, the heroes fought and pushed back the darkness. Heroes died, some were lost, and new evil is getting ready to fight. It’s all there, in the Shannara Chronicles
Created By: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
Air Date: First Season Ended Recently
The last time I reviewed The Shannara Chronicles I’d only seen three or four episodes. At the time I thought the pacing was phenomenal, how the series kept advancing its plot without getting muddled in side stories or unnecessary padding. I was relieved to see they kept this going until the end of the season. Part of what makes it work is the framework of the story. It’s a quest, with an origin and a destination, so everything that happens in between, everyone they meet and every place they visit feels like a natural part of that journey. But it’s not just the framework of the story but also the fact the characters continue to grow. They keep evolving, changing, becoming better or worse people, making friends, enemies or admitting their feelings.
As the season went by, I loved the world more and more. This is definitely not your typical fantasyland, but one built on the remnants of our world, our history. The series makes a point of showing humans watching Star Trek on a projector, convinced that it was a historical record instead of a TV series. Of course, for them, seeing a pointy-eared guy talking to Kirk meant he was talking to an Elf, not a Vulcan.
But the strongest part of The Shannara Chronicles’ world has to be the other races. The gnomes are awesome, a cross between mole people and Assassin’s Creed. They’re stealthy, deadly and wear hoods. The only thing missing were hidden blades to be honest. But the enmity between them and the elves, born of decades of conflict and how it feels to have to work together to survive the demon onslaught, adds such amazing layers to the story and the world that now I wish they did prequel series, adapting the earlier novels in the chronology, telling the story of how the world became what it was. Trolls will play a bigger role in the next season, I’m sure of it, and this season, they’re the big intimidating hulks, imposing and lethal, a threat that no one takes lightly.
The Demons are intense and scary as hell, particularly their leader, the Dagda Mor. He is always in control, and a few steps ahead of everyone. He manipulates events and even interferes directly when the time comes and never does he feel like a weak villain. He doesn’t play with people, doesn’t underestimate them, instead counts every enemy as a potential roadblock and plans accordingly. It makes him an effective leader and most importantly, an imposing villain.
The best part about the demon invasion is that they abandon the dodgy CGI for the most part, focusing on practical effects and monster suits. It makes the demons much more realistic. There is still some CGI of course, particularly the magical duels between Dagda and our good friend Allanon the Druid, but they’re minimalist in their approach, which I approve of. The spectres the main party meets near the end of their quest though are hit-and-miss.
The secondary villain though, the one that will rise to the position of Dark Lord in the next season is weak, terribly so. It feels like a minor villain taking the place of the big bad. It doesn’t help that the actor’s performance for this character is uneven as hell. His performance lacks punch in some of the more dramatic and key scenes, which in turn somewhat ruins the character arc and makes the turn to the dark side unconvincing.
Overall the rest of the performances are very good, with the main party having the best actors. These are very human characters and keep the fantasy story grounded and feeling like something that could happen any day in our world, just replace the demon invasion with any other real-world threat. They hurt, they feel, love and cry, and make you connect to them and you’ll be as invested as they are with the success of the quest and the fate of the world.
I loved the twists near the end, the meaning of the prophecies they follow as guides to their adventure. I didn’t see any of it coming and that in my book is a big big big plus!
The Shannara Chronicles Season One is astoundingly strong, and I sincerely hope we get more of them. This is a classic quest story, a fantasy series that doesn’t need rampant violence and swearing to keep you entertained and it deserves to continue doing so for a long time.
4.5/5 – AMAZING