The Shannara Chronicles
Season 1 Episode 1: “Chosen: Part 1”
Directed by Jonathan Leibesman
Written by Terry Brooks (novel), Alfred Gough, and Miles Millar
Starring Poppy Drayton, Austin Butler, Ivana Baquero, Manu Bennett, John Rhys-Davies, Aaron Jakubenko, Emilia Burns, Mattias Inwood, Daniel MacPherson, Ella Rouhier, Marcus Vanco, and Brooke Williams
Air Date: Tuesday, January 5, 2016, 10pm
There has been a fair amount of buzz surrounding MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles, particularly since the show’s panel and trailer release at New York Comic-Con this past October. The premiere is finally here and I have a spoiler-lite look at Part 1 of the first episode, Chosen, for you here.
Starting with the very first scene, we are shown the grand scale of a magical, post-human world. Helicopters, towers, and buildings are in ruins, but have been in this state for quite some time, with layers of moss and green vines covering them.
Based on this episode, Amberle Elessedil the elf princess (Poppy Drayton) and half-elf Wil Ohmsford (Austin Butler) appear to be the main characters. Others certainly seem important, but these two stand apart, entering the first stage of the hero’s journey. Each has left his or her place of origin on a quest (whether known or unbeknownst to them), and Wil meets his mentor, the last known druid, Allanon (Manu Bennett). Only time will tell if and when Amberle will meet someone to guide her on her own path.
Amberle is introduced early on, and it is revealed quickly that she is more than a just stereotype, with talent, skill, determination, and an overall toughness. Surrounded by a bunch of macho elf guys, Amberle is not afraid to run with them as equals and stand up for herself.
Wil begins as a nobody on a farm in the middle of nowhere (although everyone is pretty much in the forest anyway) and continues as a naive, albeit curious, young man. It’s difficult to see beyond Butler’s California boy accent and looks, especially with his surprisingly modern clothes (I keep telling myself that this is set in the future, so there would be some influence from our time, right?). Still, it does seem like this vibe might go along well with his character. We will just have to wait and see how he progresses.
The central storyline of the season surrounds the ellcrys, an ancient tree said to hold a demon race placed there after a battle long ago. Most people in the land believe this to be “merely folklore,” but seven guardians known as “the Chosen” are still selected each year to watch over and water the tree. Is there really a dark force within? If so, will it be released and how will it be stopped?
My overall thoughts on Shannara are mixed. On one hand, the premiere episode showcases the beginnings of a mysterious and adventure-filled plot set amongst captivatingly beautiful and sweeping landscapes. On the other hand, it is definitely aiming for a younger audience, as evidenced by the impossibly good-looking main cast, many of whom look as if they would more likely appear on Pretty Little Liars than a fantasy series, and a fair amount of forced/corny romantic content. MTV’s Head of Scripted Development Mina Lefevre told the AP last month that the target audience for the show is ages 18 to 24, but that some “younger teens and older fans of the books” (by Terry Brooks) would be drawn to it. There is some overacting on the part of a few of the younger leads, but also several satisfying moments with commanding actors such as John Rhys-Davies (King Eventine) and Manu Bennett. Based on the plot, setting, and cast, my curiosity has been piqued and I’m definitely interested to see what happens next.
Watch the premiere and read my review of The Shannara Chronicles Episode 1: Part 2 tomorrow, January 5, to learn more!