TV Review: The Shannara Chronicles (2016)

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Summary: Series of adventures, war, and evil that occur throughout the history of the Four Lands.
The interesting thing with this show is that when it first came out, I wanted to watch it. I knew it was on MTV, but I had no idea when it came on, so I never caught it. I was interested because I like high fantasy shows like this and it was accessible being on regular TV instead of something you had to pay extra for, plus I liked Austin Butler enough from Switched at Birth (read that review here) that I wanted to follow him to be a leading man on his own show.
I forgot about it for ages and picked it up recently on Netflix once I watched The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (review here) and wanted to watch something else. I watched the first episode at work and then I fell down the rabbit hole of the show. So interesting thing, once I finished, I wondered why it was cancelled after two seasons, in ways I kind of get it but after researching it, I see, but I still want it to continue. I feel like Netflix should just pick it up, or Amazon since both Networks have their own “fantasy” like shows and being that their streaming, it would help the show’s viewership. It needs at least a third season to finish what was started in the Season 2 finale. IT’S NOT RIGHT TO END ON A CLIFF HANGER! STOP CANCELLING SHOWS WITHOUT MAKING SURE THEY HAVE A PROPER FRIGGIN ENDING!
Anyways, on with the review and there will be some spoilers because I have a lot of feelings and thoughts on the show, but I don’t know if I can get it all out in this review. Oh yeah, get to use the word “consistently” because I’ll be using it a lot.
Pros:
Cast and Characters. I think it’s important that I say this. I didn’t dislike any of the main characters at least not consistently, they annoyed me sometimes but what character doesn’t. I feel like they all had the potential to be interesting and I think they were but also stupid and… well anyway lol while I have this in the pros, I’ll probably mention cons too just because I’m talking about the characters.
  • Austin Butler as Wil Ohmsford. He is a half-human/half-elf who is the last of the bloodline of the ancient Shannara family. He is destined to help save the Four Lands from demons. He possesses three Elfstones, which belonged to his late father, Shea Ohmsford. So, Wil is basically a farm boy, who grew up in a small town, used to people treating him like crap because he is half elf, which shows in his ears, even if they are short tips. When his mother dies, she tells him of his destiny and he ends up being thrown into something he never thought he would be a part of. The usual hero trope, reluctant and all that. He’s awkward, passionate, stubborn, determined but also reluctant. I like Wil overall, I think the show could have done better with his characterization because there are times where he does things that makes me roll my eyes because I think he’s being extra and it’s dumb. I like his snarky and sarcastic comments about certain things, he does play the role of the audience sometimes where he says what we might be thinking but that comes and goes, it’s not consistent and I think it should have been for him throughout. If there’s a chance for a third season to come about, I hope his stint in the Forbidding (which is where I think he is after his wonderful sacrifice in the finale) kind of helps his personality. I feel like Wil could have been extremely annoying if Austin Butler wasn’t playing him. I don’t know what it is about Austin Butler but not only is he physically dreamy, but I love every character he’s played, and I feel like those characters aren’t always meant to be likable. I think he looks like an elf lol, and I think he makes some of the best facial expressions and he’s always so smirky. I like smirky. I feel like he’s the reason why I enjoyed Wil because if it wasn’t him, I can’t say I would like him as much.
  • Poppy Drayton as Amberle Elessedil. She is the Elven Princess and the first female to be accepted as one of the Chosen, a group of elves responsible for protecting and caring for the Ellcrys tree. In the beginning I was like “oh yeah, here’s Amberle making new moves for female Elves” because she was the first in a lot of things in her kingdom. She remains as such mostly, she is determined to save the Four Lands and wants to protect the people she loves. She’s a bit wise and tries to be smart when it comes to dealing with people. I like that she knows how to fight and that she has this big destiny that she must choose or choose love. I mean, it’s also a little meh because really, choose love or duty… but I liked how it was handled. It was a choice but at the same time, you know throughout the show there might not really be another option for her because of what she wants. I’ve never seen Poppy Drayton in anything when I saw the show but she’s likable and a good “reacting” actress. She makes some crazy faces sometimes but tis just her face… can’t be helped lol. I thought she had nice chemistry with both Austin Butler (which means a lot) and Ivana Bacquero for the friendship that develops.
  • Ivana Baquero as Eretria. She is a human who is raised by Rovers, a band of thieves. We meet her when she saves Wil from a troll and she basically doesn’t leave a good impression because she flirts, lies, drugs and then steals from him lol. She’s untrustworthy for a while in the first season but ends up becoming an ally. I think it’s clear that she grows romantic feelings for Wil and I think that even lasts into the second season even though she’s in the relationship with Princess Lyria. I had a little hard time liking her until probably midway through the season. I thought she was trying too hard and maybe that was part of the character, but it was a bit annoying to me. BUT when she started to truly show up for her comrades, I was like yasss girl! Ivana Bacquero is cool in the role, I like her badassery and she does well with emotional moments.
  • Manu Bennett as Allanon. He is the last druid who has been in a Druid Sleep for the last 300 years. He awakens and sets out to find Wil. He becomes a guide and a mentor for the group. Allanon has a lot of secrets and it really becomes his downfall in later episodes but it’s clear he cares for Wil just like he cared and befriended Wil’s father. Allanon is the type of character who you’re not sure if you like because of their off-putting nature. He always seems a bit indifferent as well when it’s like “dude! Show some emotion!” but it’s usually being shown in his eyes. We learn a ton more about him in the second season with his connections to Mareth and what he feels about certain things. I’ve seen Manu Bennett in Arrow and he was like Allanon when we first meet him on the island which I was like “oh hey look at you” lol. I think the old wise man thing he does well, and he also later plays the villain in the second season (not Allanon but a different character) and he was okay in that role, I get why they did it, but I wish it was someone else.
  • Aaron Jakubenko as Ander Elessedil. He’s the youngest son of King Eventine who has a reputation for being irresponsible. He blames himself for his brother’s death Aine (Amberle’s father) and he really takes her under his wing and encourages her in everything she does. He ends up having to take on a more responsible role and I really grew to like him as the show went on. I liked him so much that I am still upset with what happened in season two. I’ve never seen Aaron Jakubenko in anything but he’s a likable guy.
  • Marcus Vanco as Bandon. An Elven boy with the gift of a seer, meaning that he can see possible futures when he touches someone. When we meet Bandon, it’s sad because he’s chained up in the barn, but I never really trusted him. I thought something was up with him from the beginning. He is afraid of his ability because he was taught to by his parents (or the people who raised him) but Allanon tries to take him under his wing to help him and it becomes a huge mess. In the second season, he goes down a dark path and I think what ends up happening to him was either a cop out or it was just lame. I feel like he wasn’t as much as a threat as they wanted him to be and I was a little annoyed by him and his naivety. Marcus Vanco did a great job though whenever Bandon was going through his emotional states. The indifferent scary thing though was kind of meh for me lol.
  • Malese Jow as Mareth Ravenlock. A half-human/half-elf searching for Wil in season two. She has magic and basically becomes his partner in crime. She has her own reasons as to why she wants to help him, and I don’t really want to reveal it, so I won’t but it’s an interesting development. I just think the casting was an interesting choice but sure it works. I like Mareth, she’s strong in her own way and determined to do what it takes but you also understand her position. I recognized her from The Vampire Diaries and I was like ‘oh lord, will she be whining here too’ and she did a few times, but I liked her overall because while Mareth had things she was going through, she played it up on her face. Plus, I thought she had nice chemistry with Austin Butler and I really thought she had her time to shine in the last two or three episodes.
  • Vanessa Morgan as Lyria. She is human who is in a romantic relationship with Eretria. I mean she plays her role, but I don’t think we really get to know her or anything to really care about her. You care about her because you care about Eretria, she also brings in some diversity, but I was kind of meh on her. I wanted to include her here because she’s likable and I think Vanessa Morgan is fun to watch sometimes but otherwise sure.
  • Gentry White as Garet Jax. He is a bounty hunter who starts out looking for Lyria for her mother. I was a bit unsure about him in the beginning because I thought he was basically going to play the role that Eretria played in the first season, which he kind of did but I enjoyed him. He not only brought in some much-needed diversity, he was one of the few people on screen who could fight lol. I liked Jax overall and I thought Gentry White played his role, he was cool, sympathetic when he needed to be and quite badass when it came to any physical stunts. I just wish we saw more of him and that towards the end he was a bit smarter, he was too trusting too easily.
Special Effects. I was a bit surprised to see how good the effects in the show were for where it started on MTV. OUAT’s effect had a charm even though most times it was kind of bad so this show having better effects was shocking. The prosthetic on the demons and the gnomes were really kind of great. Of course, the elf ears, both the short tips and regular ones were nice and looked authentic. Whenever someone used magic, looks kind of cool, I mean sure just beams of light but still kind of cool. All the wraiths and what not. I was really impressed. Good job show.
Setting and Aesthetic. It’s set waaaaay into the future and the world as we know was basically wiped out. Instead of moving forward with the idea of grand technology and all that kind of futuristic stuff, it seemed like the world went backwards with magic and even the coupling of science at times. The world is overgrown with plant life, there are fallen homes, trucks, cable dishes that are now covered with foliage. Bridges are fallen and rundown, it’s really kind of cool that you have our world, but it’s evolved differently than how it’s normally portrayed. We don’t really get the chance to see a ton of places that looks different, but the staples are: Arborlon, the Elvin Kingdom, Leah (a human kingdom which we see in season two).
Friendships Built. At first, I was worried there was gonna be a love triangle and it was there… a bit, but it was kind of one-sided. It’s hard to say really lol but Wil meets Eretria first and it was clear he was a bit into her and she was into him. Then Amberle comes into the picture and clearly Wil was waaaaay more into her and Eretria felt like she was overlooked but girl lol, you and Wil were meant to be friends. Anyway, Eretria and Amberle had a rough go at it in terms of being friends but by the end I believed they trusted each other. They’re no Golden Trio or anything, far from it, but by the end I felt like they trusted each other. I liked their unit. I also liked the new friendship unit that was built when Amberle was gone and Mareth came into the picture.
Consistent Storyline. I’m going to mention this in the cons too, I feel like contradicting about it but full transparency. Tunnel vision. It’s basically the through line the entire show which is cool. I mean, while I wish we got to see more of the characters in other adventures than just the main one, I like the fact that show makes sure we know there is a goal at the end.
Cons:
Locations. In ways the show traverses a lot of different villages and what not, but they generally all look the same or we don’t see a ton of them to really know they’re different locations. We know the difference between Arborlon, the Elvin Kingdom and then later Leah which are the two main kingdoms we see but the smaller villages, or places we pass through, it’s like “oh yeah we’re back with the healer gnomes… Storlock I think” but I would only know that if I saw a gnome lol. I feel like they should have made them more noticeable or did something to make them be their locations even if the people in those villages just threw something together.
SIDE QUESTS PLEASE! This show had tunnel vision lol. I can’t think of any filler episodes or anything that was a lapse in the main story, there might be two, but the fate of the world was always there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing I just wish we got to sit with the characters a bit more, see them in different situations that didn’t deal with the fate of the world hanging over their shoulder. I mean, shoot, Dean and Sam always must save the world and they always take the time out to go save a random family from a werewolf or something or killer clowns. I feel like The Shannara Chronicles could have done that too because then we could have seen Eretria, Amberle and Wil do something else where we didn’t hear “We all have our roles! We have to save the Four Lands!”.
Where’s the Humor? It tried to be funny, but it bordered on lame lol. Wil was probably the only one who really was funny but in that awkward kind of way, mostly in the first season. Plus, I think Austin Butler makes some of the best facial expressions and since he’s the fish out of water in the first season, it makes for some comedy in the first season. But outside of that, it feels like it’s forced, and I think it would be funnier if they didn’t try so hard.
Inconsistent Acting. Oh boy, there are times when I cringed at the acting. I think everyone was solid but there were some points where it was kind of bad. I feel like the biggest perpetrator of this was Ivana Baquero in the beginning of the show. I think she got better, but I cringed a lot at her acting. Poppy Drayton was a little better but there were times when I rolled my eyes at her as well. I think Austin Butler was the best out of the three consistently, but he’s not perfects lol even though he physically is *bounces eyebrows*. Also, Prince Ander had these moments where he would make this dumb face and I would be like “boy make a different emotional expression!” And Vanessa Morgan is okay mostly, she makes the same faces a lot too and I’m like GIRL (I feel the same way about her as Toni Topaz in Riverdale). Overall, I don’t think anyone’s consistent throughout the show when it comes to acting and it can be pretty cringe.
Cheesy and Awkward Dialogue. SO CHEESY!!! I rolled my eyes so many times at the dialogue in the show. I think a big part of it though is the fact that the way the younger characters spoke was very modern. I know the show technically is set in the future, but it was hard to take the aesthetic seriously when you have the young character saying things like “sloppy seconds” and then you have the adults who talk a little more in tune with the world. It was a bit jarring. I got used to it after a while but in the beginning, I was like “wait… what? not what I’m expecting.” I get why they did it, they wanted to appeal to the younger demographic, but I doubt that’s the group of people who watched the show. I don’t think this show had to do the language like that. I don’t think it had to be Shakespearean, but they could have taken it a bit more seriously to fit more into the world they were trying to create.
Nobody Can Fight. The show relies heavily on confrontations and people fighting, whether it be with swords or their fists, but NO ONE can fight. I mean it’s pretty bad. In the first season, it made a little more sense why Wil wasn’t that great because he grew up as a farm boy or whatever, but there was no reason why Amberle couldn’t fight when she grew up with an uncle who trained her for the gauntlet. I feel like she should have been able to hold her own a bit more than she did. Too many times did people like throw her around and hold swords at her neck. I mean… it was laughable. I think Eretria was the only one who could really kick butt. Even Allanon who was a druid and trained got his butt kicked A LOT. *sighs* Everyone needed a bit more training lol on the bright side the fighting choreography was actually pretty good.
Weak/Inconsistent Character Development/Stupid. I wanted this to be last because this is the biggest thing the show suffers from. All the characters don’t get a lot of development outside of Wil, who I don’t think got as much as he should have gotten, and the show is named after him! But Eretria and Amberle had their characteristics but they were inconsistent (I’m using that word a lot, I know but the show is inconsistent) because Eretria is the “tough” chick and that she feels like she can’t make her own choices or something, and we’re basically told that ALL THE TIME. Amberle starts the show out by wanting to run the gauntlet and she makes it a new thing for Elven women to run the gauntlet and is the first woman to become a Chosen but wow. She kept talking about destinies and it was her thing throughout the show. She had some development when it came to figuring out how to make her best choices but she had one track and I wish we could have seen a bit more from her even while she was on the path she was on. Lastly, Wil, I love him lol, he’s the hero of the story and we do learn about his history and he’s the reluctant hero throughout both seasons, we know that he cares about those he loves but outside of accepting who he might be, we don’t see much change. Plus, some of the development he might have gotten was trash because of the whole “boy stop flirting with both these girls and officially pick one”. I don’t know, I just don’t think we got to know our main three heroes as much as we should have.
Overall, I really liked the show. I think I watched it twice or at least a few episodes a couple of times. I like the characters overall; the special effects and aesthetic of the world was cool. I was really into it. I liked the chemistry between the main characters and the friendship that was built between our main three heroes. I think that’s so important for a show with three leads. I liked that the show knew there was a main story and it focused on it throughout the show. It didn’t falter much, and the task was completed at the end. I thought was great. You KNEW you were going to get some answers. Now on the other hand, I think the acting was inconsistent throughout the show. The dialogue could be cheesy, and I could not take it seriously just because the actors were trying to make it sound serious. Nobody seemed to know how to properly fight and it was super irritating that everyone got their butts kicked constantly. I wish we got to see more location, they were very limited and the ones we saw there wasn’t much that stood out about them. The character development was either extremely weak or nonexistent. If we had some side quests or fillers, it might have helped flesh them out more, but I can think of only two and I don’t think those really aided in the development. I just we got to know these characters a bit better other than the broken record phrases they kept saying. “I’m not my father!” “It’s my destiny!” “I want to be free!” Yeah, I know… show me something else. But fun show. It’s on Netflix, give it a whirl if you like genre shows like this.
Rating: 3.3 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen The Shannara Chronicles? This review is late but better late than never!
Let me know your thoughts below! Who was your favorite character in the show?
Thanks for reading!
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