The Shannara Chronicles, S1 Eps1 and 2 – Chosen

The first two episodes of The Shannara Chronicles set the stage for the epic journey ahead.

The opening scenes already effectively showcase the breathtaking sceneries of this new fantasy world, one built from the ruins of a world laid waste by some sort of nuclear apocalypse. Not all the details about the setting are revealed in the first two episodes, but the places shown are among the most haunting and beautiful in the fantasy genre.

The Shannara Chronicles, S1 Eps1 and 2 - ChosenThe thrilling first scenes introduce us to Amberle, an elf princess who defies ancient tradition by running a gauntlet, a race formerly reserved to elf men. She succeeds in the task and becomes one of the seven Chosen who are meant to guard the sacred tree, Ellcrys. But when she touches the Ellcrys, she gets a quick series of disturbing visions of the world falling into destruction.

She struggles to make sense of these visions and when one shows her murdering her lover, she flees from the Ellcrys to seek refuge with an estranged aunt. A lot of story to be digested, but Amberle is already shaping up to be a dynamic and capable heroine who is clearly destined for greatness.

The Shannara Chronicles, S1 Eps1 and 2 - ChosenAnother hero introduced is Will, a half-elf, half-human boy, who is given a pouch of mysterious elfstones by his mother on her death bed. He leaves his hometown to train to be a healer (feeling that he failed to heal his mother), but things don’t exactly go as planned.

The Shannara Chronicles, S1 Eps1 and 2 - ChosenOn the road, he is saved from being devoured by vicious creatures by the Rover, Eretria, who charms him and leads him astray so she can rob him of his valuables, particularly the elfstones. Eretria is a fascinating character with a shady background, as the rest of the episode reveals. But she has clearly had a hard life and has had to struggle much to survive.

While her meeting with Amberle highlights the differences in their backgrounds and upbringing, it also shows two fearless and skillful female characters who are both forces to be reckoned with. There will be clashes of style and opinion but if these two join forces, they can well be unstoppable.

The Shannara Chronicles, S1 Eps1 and 2 - ChosenAnd the most fascinating character of all is the reawakened druid (and the last of his kind, as it turns out) Allanon, who has been frozen in magical sleep for decades. He is reawakened because the Ellcrys has started dying, and every leaf that falls represents a demon being freed from its prison. Allanon seeks to stop the last leaf from falling and unleashing unnamed horrors on the world.

He seeks out Will, who is also a “chosen” one in his own right, though as these stories go, he is unaware of the weight of his own destiny. They find a magic book that reveals secrets about their current circumstances, as well as the foe they are about to face (a former Druid corrupted by the Dark Side, as is usually the case in these stories.)

The long episode consists of a lot of pieces being moved into place as well as cramming in as much exposition as possible before the main action takes off. The heroes and villains are introduced quickly, as well as the elaborate world they are living in.  It’s unbalanced in some parts, with unnecessary scenes of awkward elf social gatherings where people seem to be dressed in modern formal wear, and there are a lot of impressive special effects that sometimes are more spectacle for spectacle’s sake than necessary to tell the story.

Given the rich and complex world of Shannara, it is understandable that there will be a lot to take in, including the numerous characters and their relationship with one another. The members of the elven royal family, in particular, have been introduced, but we don’t feel much of a connection to any of them other than Amberle. And probably her aunt, who shares a touching moment with Allanon, only for her to be snatched away by a monster unleashed by the main villain.

The last few minutes pick up the pace considerably, as if to let us all know that the time for lengthy exposition has come to the end and we need to be plunged into the heart of the action.

The Shannara Chronicles starts out with more style than substance but hopefully, once the main adventure truly begins, the show will become more engaging. For now, we are treated to breathtaking visuals and to a cast of intriguing characters whom we will surely get to know better as the show progresses.