Network: MTV, but Season 1 is available on Netflix. MTV also confirmed that it renewed the show for a second season (Season 2 release date TBD).
The show takes place in a fantasy realm that exists long after our own world has been destroyed in a terrible nuclear war. Humans have evolved into several “races”—gnomes, trolls, humans, and dwarves. Elves were just in hiding all along, and came out after the Great War to emerge as the most powerful race.
The land itself is called the Four Lands, and is divided along compass lines: Northland where trolls and gnomes live; Eastland where dwarves and gnomes vie for power; Southland where humans do their thing; and Westland, the seat of the elves.
Magic emerged after the fall of society and the downfall of technology, but has since been lost. Now it threatens to come flooding back in the form of an ancient demonic druid and his demon horde, and only our scrappy band of heroes and chosen ones can stop it.
Still confused about what The Shannara Chronicles is really about? Here’s a great article that discusses everything you need to know about The Shannara Chronicles.
Review: 3 out of 5 Dogwoods
The adaptation of Terry Brooks’ famous Shannara book series apparently stayed pretty true to the beginning of book two, The Elfstones of Shannara … at least in the series premiere. But for fans of the books who know the eventual fates of Wil (Austin Butler), Amberle (Poppy Drayton) and Eretria (Ivana Baquero), that does not remain true for the entire season as the show’s creators decided to flip the script and change up the ending. I have not read the book series yet, but I purchased copies of the book series this month and they are on my to-read list.
Purchase your copy here.
The acting is pretty decent and the casting of fantasy film veterans from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit lend the show some fantasy genre credibility. From Lord of the Rings, John Rhys-Davies plays the elven king Eventine, and The Hobbit alumni Manu Bennett plays the druid Allanon.
The story itself is pretty campy and the show was borderline too cheesy at times. Do not expect the drama, grittiness, or seriousness you have become accustomed to with Game of Thrones. The Shannara Chronicles is more of a mix between Lord of the Rings and Legend of Zelda, in a good way. Almost everyone in the show is in their mid-twenties to early thirties, young, and beautiful. The overabundance of youth, beauty, and perfect cleanliness can make the world feel fake at times and take you out of the story if you let it.
The special effects are good though, especially for television. The demons are sufficiently creepy and there are some good fight scenes. The special effects, the fights, the magic, and the action really ramp up the show’s energy and keep it grounded in the fantasy genre.
The setting is gorgeous. The series was filmed in New Zealand and you will not be disappointed with wide angle shots of the scenery. However, the characters and the plot move through everything so quickly that it is difficult to get our bearings chronologically and geographically. It seems as though characters can move about all the realms in just a matter of hours, traveling from the elven capital Arborlon to any other point on the map instantly, even though there are landmark reminders about where we are (e.g., Seattle’s Space Needle and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge).
Meanwhile, even though this fantasy world is supposed to be geographically based in what is currently the United States 2000 years after a massive war, the only skin color we see is white (with the exception of one Asian and one African-American elf). I would have appreciated more diversity in the show, which also would have lent the show more credibility and helped make the fantasy world feel more real.
Should you watch The Shannara Chronicles?
If you like fantasy and science-fiction, then YES. The Shannara Chronicles is a light fantasy that you can easily watch and enjoy if you can turn off your brain and immerse yourself in the world for an hour. I am very much looking forward to seeing what the creators come up with for Season 2! Fingers crossed for more diversity and grittiness.