The Shannara Chronicles Season 1 – television series review

"The Shannara Chronicles" television series poster.
“The Shannara Chronicles” television series poster.
Among my friends, I’m somewhat of an anomaly. I have only read the first part of the first book in Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara, and I never finished it because I got bored. The Shannara Chronicles Season 1 is an adaptation of the second book in that original trilogy, The Elfstones of Shannara, though it is more “inspired by” given how far it deviates from the book.

For those—like me— who are mostly unfamiliar with the original series, it is set some 2000 years in the future, after a “Great War” that destroyed most humans. In the television series, the elf princess Amberle (Poppy Drayton) becomes the first female Chosen, a group tasked with protecting the Ellcrys. This ancient magical tree seals away the demons defeated in a war concluded 300 year prior to the beginning of the series. The ancient druid—Allanon (Manu Bennett)—awakes and seeks out the elven king Evantine (John Rhys-Davies) before rescuing Wil Ohmsford (Austin Butler), a descendant of the Shannara royal line. The Ellcrys is dying and Allanon must convince Amberle and Wil to go on a quest for the Bloodfire in order to restore the Ellcrys and reseal the demons in the Forbidding.

In the category “They Were Very Lucky to Get These Amazing Actors”, we have Bennett and Rhys-Davies, who could each read a phonebook and bring people to tears. The scripts in The Shannara Chronicles Season 1 were hit-or-miss, but any lines delivered by these two hit the mark every time. It really is too bad they didn’t have more prominent roles. Bennett brought a seriousness to his role as Allanon (the first name I recognized while watching it), and Rhys-Davies was very good as Evantine.

The three main characters—played by Drayton and Butler, along with Ivana Baquero as Eretria (a stereotypical thief)—were a mixed bag. The strongest actor among them was Drayton. I thought she did the best job making me believe her character. Butler and Baquero were often very good, but also had a number of spots where the performance just fell flat. Instead of feeling the epicness of it all, I felt I was watching some insipid high school or early college drama. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, though, since that’s the main audience of of MTV (remember when they actually played music videos? Yeah, me, too…).

The main theme by Ruelle worked well for a theme, but I won’t be humming it or buying the The Shannara Chronicles Season 1 soundtrack so I can listen to it again. The incidental songs and background music, composed by Felix Erskine and Lukas Burton, were about the same. I really love soundtrack music, but this one won’t be part of my collection. You could have substituted just about any generic “epic” soundtrack and not even noticed a change.

I might have given the series a higher rating if it hadn’t have been for all the, “Oh! Let’s stop and make out!” moments. I was a teenager once (a teenage boy, even!), and I can promise you that my every waking thought wasn’t about sex. Not even half of them. Yet it seemed that every other episode had intense snogging scenes in the strangest places and at the most inopportune times.

The special effects in The Shannara Chronicles Season 1 were decent for a TV series. Most of the budget seemed to be spent on the costumes, which were generally well done. There were a few nods here and there to the modern world, mostly near the end of the series. I did find it fun to see how various “ancient” items were used by the characters in the series.

There were no episodes that really stood out to me as excellent. While the story was moderately interesting, I am still debating whether I will watch the second season (if there is one, which I think there will be, given the “To be continued” shown at the end of episode 10). If you like the The Elfstones of Shannara, you might like The Shannara Chronicles Season 1 despite it not really following the book plot all that well. I don’t really recommend the series, but I don’t recommend against it, either.

Original Air Dates: January 5, 2016 – March 1, 2016 (USA)
TV Parental Guidelines Rating: TV-14
Network: MTV
Language: English

MySF Rating: Three point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 60%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 2 (drunkenness, some social)
Language: 2 (mostly minor, but a fair amount of it)
Nudity: 3 (several instances of partial nudity, last episode contains hip-view nudity during sex, a lot of shirtless guy moments, female demon nude from the back and partial from the front (covered with dreadlocks))
Sexuality: 3 (several intense makeout scenes, a couple intense non-explicit sex scenes, brief lesbian kissing)
Violence: 4 (some brutal violence, multiple battle scenes, multiple deaths and murders, demon possession)

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