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TV Series Review

We all have demons to fight. We may struggle with temptation or addiction. We can be plagued with the demons of our own insecurities or pernicious mood swings. The weapons we use are not glamorous, but they can still be effective: our own mental fortitude, help from loved ones, scripture, prayer.

It’d be a lot easier if we just had a magic tree.

That’s how the people of the Four Lands deal with their demons—nasty looking beasties who’ve been locked away in a place called the Forbidding for, oh, centuries now. For that, everyone should thank the Ellcrys, the hefty tree that keeps the demons at bay and has allowed the various races of the Four Lands—elves and men and dwarves and gnomes, almost all of whom are between the ages of 18 and 27—to make nice leather outerwear, work on their flawless complexions … and fight amongst themselves.

Alas, the overgrown shrubbery is dying, and it’s pretty imperative that its greenery be goosed to avoid a wholesale demon invasion. Because no one wants that.

The titanic task has fallen to a trio of adventurers: the beautiful elven princess Amberle, the beautiful Rover (thief) Eretria, and the beauti—er, handsome half-elf Wil, last of the ancient family of Shannara, who totes around three precious Elfstones that have themselves been effective in warding off the occasional demon. Together, they must stave off the most serious danger to ever threaten the Four Lands and do so in the most attractive way possible, lest audiences get bored.

Curiouser and Curiouser!

Author Terry Brooks has written, as far as I can figure, at least 25 Shannara books, and that's not even counting short stories and graphic novels. The result is a series of popular fantasy novels that thematically fall somewhere between J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons’ “choose your own adventure” books. Brooks’ works are straightforward sword-and-sorcery stuff, lightly set in a post-apocalyptic earth. And given Shannara’s avid fan base, it was only a matter of time before some version of Brooks’ world made it to a screen near you.

But how surprised were all those fans—those who had waited so long for their favorite books to be dramatized on television—by what MTV gave them!

Oh, The Shannara Chronicles still has some passing resemblance to The Elfstones of Shannara. There’s the tree. The demons. All the main characters.

It’s obvious, though, that the folks at MTV wanted more. More Hunger Games. More Walking Dead. More Game of Thrones. More King Kong. And much, much more exposed skin and deep, passionate smooching.

The finished product is as strange a show as I’ve reviewed—and in this age of sci-fi and superhero saturation, that’s no easy feat. I'll prove it to you: In one episode, our high-fantasy characters visit an Old West commune and attend a hoedown where everyone watches Star Trek and boogies to modern techno music.

An overreliance on consistency is not among this show's many sins.

You Shall Not Pass!

Shannara clearly tries to pal around with its teen viewers, but there’s little that's actually friendly about it. Various characters always seem willing to start stripping off clothes whenever the trolls aren’t attacking (making it obvious that none of these main protagonists have ever even heard of a promise ring). Foul language can be a bit of an issue, too—unfortunate in a genre that often manages to stay away from profanity. As for the violence … well, let’s just say that all those swords, axes and the occasional pistol aren’t just stage decor. They are often used, and in quite bloody ways.

It’s nice that Wil, Amberle and Eretria want to protect the Four Lands from such a Forbidding darkness and all. But the show they’re in already has its own demons to deal with.


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Christian Beliefs

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Episode Reviews

The Shannara Chronicles: Feb. 16, 2016 "Utopia"
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