The Shannara Chronicles is MTV Trying to Make the Fantasy Varsity Football Team as a Scrawny Freshman
This will be the only analogy to sports aside from the title I’ll make for the rest of this review. It puts the show exactly how I felt after watching the pilot “Chosen” into a context that people who know anything about MTV will understand. The Shannara Chronicles essentially has potential as that high school small scrawny kid that wants to make the Varsity Football team. They want to play with the super cool seniors, score some touchdowns and sleep with the cheerleaders, all of them. The Shannara Chronicles are going to have to do a lot of hard work if it wants to catch up to the big boys at HBO/Game of Thrones. If The Shannara Chronicles wants to not feel like a campy knock off of Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons, it’s got some work to do. Let alone take the year or two of investment into bulking up the show and overall story/talent, so they can make the team that wins the game (viewers/ad money). Why the network made a ‘Lord of the Rings’ style show that airs after an episode of ‘Teen Mom – Oh god we made another series out of this’ or whatever it is besides music that MTV airs these days, is beyond me. Do they still do those Real World/Lets all fight each other in combat shows? Nevermind, I’m getting off topic, lets start with why I even gave this show a chance in the first place.
I’ll never forget the first time I laid my eyes on The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks when I was a wee lad in the early 90’s. There was a kid a few years older than me that lived up my street named Will, he showed me the cover for Sword of Shannara and told me the book was awesome. My mom took me to the library and before I knew it I had absorbed the first three books in the original Shannara series. Over time, I would simply forget to pick up the next book, get a few issues behind and eventually I moved onto different series of epic fantasy. Before I read The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, Demon Wars series by R.A. Salvatore and A Song of Fire and Ice books by George R.R. Martin. There was the Shannara books by Terry Brooks that started it all for me. I think was saddens me the most, is how little I could remember since it had been so long since I read his books, that I spent a few hours refreshing my memory in Shannara Wikipedia.
Here is the essentially the setting for the world of Shannara as couldn’t be put more bluntly that the wikipedia I linked above, my friends and family back home in the Pacific Northwest will be happy to know: The Shannara series is set in a post-apocalyptic world called the Four Lands. This world is a futuristic version of our own, and not a secondary world. Genesis of Shannara trilogy reveals the Four Lands to be located in the modern Pacific Northwest region of the United States and Canada. Much of the landscape has been changed by a future holocaust, but some landmarks remain. For example, the Columbia River still exists.
Each land is named after the compass point it faces: the Northland, the Southland, the Eastland, and the Westland, and is the primary home of different peoples. The Westland is the homeland primarily of the elves, while the Northland is mostly inhabited by trolls and the Eastland is the home mostly of dwarves and gnomes. The Southland is primarily the homeland of humans.
Yes, the world of Shannara is our own, just thousands of years into the future with magic. We blew everything up in a Great War, some humans evolved/mutated into Dwarves, Gnomes and Trolls while the rest of humanity remains. Elves have been around all along, but were hiding. There is still vestiges of our “modern” world in Shannara, old rusted trucks and other relics that people just shrug their shoulders at. The world we once new has replaced science with magic and technology has degraded back to a more medieval time. Alright, enough setup, you didn’t come here for that, how is The Shannara Chronicles as a show?
It’s not that bad, really. Yes, are there some things that scream MTV IS TARGETING A MUCH YOUNGER AUDIENCE THAN YOU, you betcha. The cast screams, there are no such thing as normal looking young people. Everyone is pretty, never gets dirty, or ever gets their hair tousled. Everyone young wears sexy, tight clothes and delivers lines that feel more modern that fantasy. The Rouge/Rover Eretria, in the group telling Wil (one of the many chosen ones in the show) that the Elf Princess Amberle Elessedil (another chosen one) wouldn’t want “Wil’s sloppy seconds” after Eretria. It’s the dialog like that which made me wrinkle my nose and clench my teeth. I was expecting this though, it’s MTV. Aside from Manu Bennett (Arrow, The Hobbit) as the Druid Allanon and John Rhys-Davies going from Lord of the Rings dwarf to elf king Eventine Elessedil (Amberle’s grandpa), there isn’t anybody on the cast you would outright recognize. The older characters are the ones who actually get dirty and seem to deal with the complicated issues. Why the younger cast stays clean, partially naked at times and seem to deliver the lesser actionable lines is beyond me. Maybe MTV doesn’t want to challenge the younger audience it’s trying to hit.
What MTV does deliver is a show that’s, even with it’s MTV flaws. One thing, The Chronicles of Shannara is completely whitewashed, I don’t know if no other skin tone in the human race survived The Great War, but aside from maybe one Asian Elf, I didn’t see anything but white people. Is MTV saying that the only populated part of the Pacific Northwest that survived the war was the Aryan Nation part of Idaho, I don’t know. A show that is alright for the first few episodes so far. If you can shut off some of the critical parts of your brain, and enjoy the romp while you wait for Game of Thrones to return I think it’s worth the time investment. The Shannara Chronicles picks up from actually the second book in the original Shannara series, The Elfstones of Shannara. I’m going to have to get a copy and re-read it to refresh my memory even more before I can tell you how true of an adaption MTV made from the book. I emphasize adaption because I can’t with honest thought say how close The Shannara Chronicles follows the book it’s derived from. They aren’t copying a lot of dialog, that’s for sure.
Give The Shannara Chronicles some time to build itself up before you cast it off entirely. MTV sometimes does do something right, and when they do, it’s enjoyable to watch.