Now Reading
Why You Should Be Watching The Shannara Chronicles

Why You Should Be Watching The Shannara Chronicles

Based on Terry Brooks’ best-selling book series, The Shannara Chronicles is MTV’s first foray into big-scale fantasy and a daring attempt to run with the big boys, chiefly HBO’s smash-hit Game of Thrones and The CW’s YA success The 100. Any obvious similarities to these other shows are soon forgiven when you realise just how enjoyable Shannara’s premiere episode is.

Complete with a Hunger Games-esque opening, ‘Chosen Part 1’ acts as an introduction to the fantasy world of Brooks’ original trilogy. Set in a post-apocalyptic future where elves exist alongside humans and other creatures, Shannara throws us straight into the action as Elven Princess Amberle takes part in a traditionally male-dominated race to become one of the Chosen, a septet of servants dedicated to the Ellcrys – a tree that holds back ancient demons (to put it simply).

Amberle runs the gauntlet and proves herself just as capable as her male counterparts, becoming one of the elite Chosen. However, her joy is short-lived when she touches the tree at her initiation ceremony and foresees a mass elf slaughter. Elsewhere, half-human/half-elf Wil sets out on a journey with three highly coveted Elfstones in his possession, while the last ever druid, Allanon, reappears after 30 years of being presumed dead, not having aged a day. There’s a lot to take in and that’s just the beginning.the-shannara-chronicles-episode-1-still-03The cinematic opening titles set the tone for this multi-faceted and fanciful series straight away. Whilst the story is what we’ve come to see, what takes centre stage throughout is the filming location of New Zealand. The colours are vibrant, the vistas spectacular, giving the series a sense of scope and beauty seen previously in Lord of the Rings. And there it is, the inevitable Tolkien reference. John Rhys-Davies might have abandoned his dwarf brothers and jumped ship to the elves, but that’s not the only LOTRs parallel Shannara shares. The set design feels distinctly Middle Earthy, whilst the demon that awakens at the end is classic Orc material.

Comparisons aside (promise), the most exciting moments in the episode come from the monochrome flashes of the demon army executing legions of elves, where the bright red blood is palpable. The gorier scenes give the series a grittier feel, taking it away from the almost too attractive YA approach that the rest of the episode adopts. More of these scenes will allow the show to subvert what viewers might be expecting.

‘Chosen Part 1’ doesn’t produce an awful lot of story and the dialogue feels a tad weak but first episodes are for world building and scene setting, and with that in mind it more than delivers. Considering the first Shannara novel was published in 1977, MTV have done a commendable job of modernizing the story without losing the vital elements of the books. It’s nice to see gender roles addressed too, with Amberle beating the boys and snarky Rover girl Eretria giving Wil a run for his money. We need more strong female characters on TV.the-shannara-chronicles-episode-1-still-02Though eclipsed by the scenery, the cast all perform well. Native New Zealander Manu Bennett, known for his roles as Slade Wilson in Arrow and Azog the Defiler in The Hobbit, is a commanding presence, bringing an innate sense of strength and power to the role of Allanon. In her biggest role yet, Brit Poppy Drayton balances strength and vulnerability as Amberle, whilst Ivana Baquero (Eretria) is a little ball of fire ready to burn anyone who crosses her path. Austin Butler, as the boy destined to save everyone, does a decent dude-in-distress, though he’s yet to show any charm.

If this is the most expensive show MTV has ever produced, it’s money well spent. Everything from the costumes to the props to the set design is authentic and richly imagined. It’s new territory for the channel, suggesting a desire to break out of the reality/comedy box it’s found itself in of late. The success of Shannara will most likely determine the future of MTV fantasy and I’m hoping it’s a bright one.

The US aired a two-part premiere in January, meaning we in the UK have ‘Chosen Part 2’ to look forward to next week. This is just the magic we need for a Thursday night televisual feast, so if you love fantasy, particularly of the YA variety, The Shannara Chronicles could be your new favourite show.

The Shannara Chronicles airs on 5STAR at 9PM on Thursdays.

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.