The Shannara Chronicles, S1E5 review

This week’s episode of the Shannara Chronicles was called “Reaper”, following the trend of naming episodes by whatever demon makes a major contribution to the plot of the episode in question. I’m ambiguous about this practice, because I like the idea of a leaf falling off the Elcrys every now and then to increase the tension, but I do not want the writers to pull a new kind of demon out of one orifice or another every episode just to keep it up.

The episode got off to an initially confusing start with a flashback to events taking place ten years before the main plot. We finally got to see a gnome, I had just started wondering when the gnomes and trolls and dwarfs and whatnot would start appearing. The gnomes and elves had a bad moment and we basically got to see some of the backstory hinted at whenever Amberle’s father has been mentioned.

I like that they are trying to deepen the story and make the world seem larger. I would however have liked it even more if we got to see some more feeling in the dialog between the two sides, there is supposed to be some hatred or at least bitterness there but the actors didn’t seem to be into it. This is a problem throughout this show to be honest, but it was especially felt here. These problems depends a bit on the character to be sure, Allanon tends to put up a better performance than many of the others. This was mostly the case in this episode too, but one of the druid’s lines, a bit after the flashback with the gnomes, stood out a bit:

“The Elcrys is hundreds of thousands of years old. It has witnessed life and death on a scale impossible to fathom.  Yet in order to confront its power you must learn to control your own.”

Is it just me or does this just make no sense? Because the Elcrys is old the seer must learn to control himself? I guess it was supposed to sound epic but, well…, I’ll leave it at that. Instead skip forwards a bit in the episode to where the rover commander made a return. There is a lot to be said about this but in particular I want to highlight that he gave an honest reward to one of his followers, Eritrea, and didn’t as far as I can tell intend to double-cross her. This is significant because a lot of other stories would have him betraying her to show that he is extra evil, which would have confused the watchers with regards to why he has any followers at all.

This is a pet peeve of mine, fiction featuring a villain who always turns on his underlings and not showing why people follow said villain. Ruling by fear is a thing, I know, but if a story is to be convincing one should get an impression of why an evil leader doesn’t get his throat cut in his sleep by his equally evil followers. Having the leader of the villains deal out rewards at some point solves a bit of this, and I’m glad that the writers of this episode apparently agree with me. I was afraid that they were gonna blow it and he turn on her but instead she turned against him.

Like I said earlier, I have read The Elfstones of Shannara once upon a time, when I was fourteen or fifteen years old. I don’t remember much and don’t intend to spoil anything, but I want to say that one of the few parts of the book I still remember is when the Reaper caught up with the heroes at that fort. It was more of a horror sequence than the pure action we got here, and I would have preferred if they had done it like that, with the Reaper hunting them down one by one inside the dark hallways of the fort.

Now we got something that reminded me of Sauron in the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring. This can be interesting in another way, usually fantasy revolves around skilled protagonists mowing down hordes of unskilled enemies, now the best fighter will be a demon smashing through groups of elves. That is innovation to some extent, I guess. Also, something weird happened there towards the end, with the rouge leader apparently redeeming himself in helping the heroes distract the demon. He is still a scumbag rapist and murderer, and this seems to be the kind of show where justice will be met out in the end, but I was a bit surprised that he didn’t trip Will or screw him over in some other way so that the  Reaper would get him.

The last scene in the episode was the most absurd one, to put it simply. I first thought it really was the king’s son who killed him and that something really unexpected was gonna go down. Then it turned out to be the changeling, and that is acceptable, but think about what happened there. The changeling killed the king and then assumed his likeness, presumably to start impersonating him. Then, instead of cleaning up the blood and hiding the corpse immediately, the changeling calmly walked up to the throne and sat down on it. I imagine that a second or two after the scene ended, shouts of “what the fuck is going on here?” were heard as a guard happened to enter the throne room.

This is all for this weeks episode, I give it a 6.5/10 points, a bit lower then the series average which I would say is 7.  I realize that I was a bit brief, and late, but I have a lot of things going on at work this week, so this is the way it has to be. I will return next week with another review, this weekend I will probably write something about politics or philosophy, and in the meantime you can follow me on twitter at @PromethiumWings.

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