The Shannara Chronicles is the MTV adaptation of some medieval fantasy books that I have never read. The story centers around three teenagers who all seem to be sleeping with each other. There are humans, elves, gnomes, and other fantasy ethnicities that I can’t recall (there are at least five). The elves and the humans have one thing in common: they are all super sexy. They also like to have inter-species sex on an at-least-one-time-per-episode basis.
There is a plot to The Shannara Chronicles – something along the lines of an ancient magical tree, an elf kingdom, a young human-elf boy becoming a man – but it really doesn’t matter. Here’s what does:
1) The look. Shannara is a visual feast that can be thoroughly enjoyed with the sound off. I’ve never seen production values like this in a cable fantasy series. The production design is thorough. They have balanced special effects and in-camera tricks to the degree that every frame carries authenticity.
2) The characters. The three main characters are perfection: Will, the half-elf, half-human teenager; Amberle, the elf princess; and Eretria, the human “rover.” A 3-person relationship could easily come off as creepy; yet what the characters share is sincere. The love and trust they develop is palpable.
3) Fantastic casting. Seriously, this may be the best casting in history. None of the actors seeks attention. They play inwardly and let the emotions express from there.
4) A genius soundtrack. The dark rock songs are modern and hauntingly beautiful. The opening theme song by Ruelle is a prime example.
5) Costumes to drool over. A very interesting thing is done where the typical fantasy genre clothes are mixed with modern elements (for example, Will wears a hoodie). Can I the costume designer for Shannara please dress me everyday?
Here’s what’s wrong with the show:
1) Unnecessary sexual violence. In one episode, one of the male characters attempts to rape a female character. There is no need for this – all he had to do was continue to be a horrible person, without threatening sexual assault. To make matters worse, the character remains morally ambiguous, even sort of a bad guy with a good heart. This sends a terrible message to men, and it can trigger reactions in sexual assault victims. All for no reason! (For the record, any man who has ever attempted to rape a woman is irredeemably evil. End of discussion.)
2) The lesbian predator stereotype. In another episode, Eretria comes onto Amberle without Amberle having shown any interst. “What’s the matter princess – worried you’ll like it?” Eretria seductively coos. This is a trope that needs to disappear. (Again, for the record, lesbians don’t generally pursue women who aren’t interested in other women; and if they do, doing it in a predatory manner is just as stupid as it is gross.)
If you can see past those two major problems, what you are left with is an outstanding show.
I looked forward to watching it every week, and I’m sure I’ll buy the Blu-ray when it’s released. This is a show I carried with me while it aired, and now that it’s over, I frequently think back on it. I love the characters. They are wonderful people. I wish they were real and that I could join them on their adventures. Despite its flaws, The Shannara Chronicles invites you into a fantastical world that you will never want to leave.