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Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Shannara Chronicles: Fury

It's back to the Four Lands in search of CGI demons, Manu Bennett enjoying himself, great sexual tension between a Rover girl and an Elf princess, and ... some other guy. He's there too I guess.
I'm not even going to try and summarize the plot of this episode since the show doesn't lend itself to any sort of in-depth meta (instead being made up of standard "go there and do/get/destroy the thing" fantasy staples) so prepare yourself for reviews that'll be high on snark and low on analysis.

They're churning through the novel pretty quickly, so quickly in fact that Allanon has no time to react to the woman he once loved getting brutally ripped apart by a demon. Amberle at least manages to summon this expression:
And again when she learns her boyfriend is dead:
Which is immediately followed by her checking out Wil:
None of this is helped by Wil trying to make Amberle feel better about her terrible loss by telling her how bad HE feels about HIS mum.
So after some wandering around, Amberle and Wil find themselves as "guests" of the Rovers; part of a thinly-veiled threat from Cephalo who wants to push Wil into unlocking the magic of the Elfstones. Part of this plan is forcing Eretria and Amberle to fight with each other to the death, but it turns out that – either out of spite toward her father or a deeper sense of right and wrong – Eretria refuses to go through with it.
She secretly tries to organize Amberle's escape, only for Amberle to turn the tables on her and take her hostage to secure her and Wil's departure. (Wil is just sitting around while all this is happening).
And then when a demon attacks, Amberle goes right ahead and saves Eretria's life! Ah, this is everything I want from a love story.
They've done this at least six times in the show so far.
I'll cut Wil a break and say that the effects for when he uses the Elfstones are pretty good, what with the glowing blue eyes and veins, and it can be no easy task to hold up a handful of stones to the sky and pretend that something important is happening (makes you wonder how they'll handle the wishsong...)
Just take a moment to appreciate how difficult it must be
to look badass while holding pebbles.
And then they find a guy chained up in a barn. Yeah, it's weird, it's definitely not in the book, and it leads to Amberle making the ludicrous decision based on zero information to take him back to Arborlon with her, only to immediately send him off on his own the moment they get there. This'll end well.
I'm betting this is the last time we'll see those two.
So Wil Refuses the Call and then immediately changes his mind, Amberle is told she's The Only One who can save them (heard that one before), everyone is urged to embrace their destinies, and Amberle ends up wandering into the Ellcrys as the Sceptical Elf Council of Funny Hats watches soberly. Good times. 
Seriously, the director seemed captivated
with this woman's hat. It's in nearly every shot.
Miscellaneous Observations:
Hey look, it's the original map from the novels! Cool. I have to admit, Terry Brooks's world-building was never superb, but the showrunners are clearly familiar with his material and taking their cues from it – see also, the fact Allanon is riding a black horse. So props for that.
If you squint there's some interesting gender reversal going on between Wil and Amberle, though it's a little muddied by the show's insistence on grafting the typical combat heroism onto both of them. Brooks's stories have never been about the importance of prowess in battle, and in Wil's case he was characterized more by the traditionally feminine qualities of healing and defensive magic.
Not only that, but his role is defined as that of The Caretaker to Amberle, who in many ways is the true protagonist of this particular story (or at least the most important component of it). The bare bones of this reversed dynamic are laid out in the show itself, and though I don't think it's anywhere near as deliberate as Katniss/Peeta from The Hunger Games or even Alice/Cyrus from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, the addition of Eretria – who in any other show would be the gruff, prickly, sceptical male team member, makes for an intriguing mash-up of expectations.
Or maybe I'm just looking for any angle in which Amberle/Eretria is a real possibility. Amidst all the magic stones and evil demons the most unrealistic thing about the story so far is that the girls are into Wil and not each other, especially when they're given the most romantically charged scenes.
Such as...
Eretria organizing Amberle's escape:
Amberle saving Eretria's life:
And Eretria later putting on Amberle's bracelet with a smile on her face:

In case you were wondering, yes – I'm definitely going to keep this up, but no I'm not going to get obnoxious when it inevitably doesn't happen. Shipping is just for fun, guys.
Eretria definitely has a colder streak here than in the books, but I think it makes sense in the context of her relationship with Cephalo, and is in fact better than the scenario Brooks presented. There Eretria was more flirty and carefree, and the fact that her foster father was prepared to sell her off to a husband portrayed as something unpleasant, but ultimately glossed over. Here we at least get to see some of the psychological effect this would have on a young girl: specifically that she would hate the world and everyone in it.  
Silver River MUD has healing properties? Are you kidding me? And does this mean we won't be getting an appearance from the King of the Silver River?
Sheesh, this show is pretty gory for something aimed at teenagers.
Another tried-and-true fantasy cliché: the old "you think the wrong brother died!" dynamic between Eventine and Ander. It wouldn't be a fantasy show without it.
One of these days I must write a meta on the subject of magical lineage in fantasy-fiction. It's a tried-and-true method of selecting Chosen Ones, and yet there's a current disdain for how it plays out, largely due to the fact that an individual's "specialness" simply comes down to his or her gene pool. There may have been an eye-roll or two when Wil started talking about how he's the last of the Shannara bloodline, for it's a simple-bordering-on-lazy technique to bring forth a hero from the masses.
Yet despite wanting to say that the trope has been played out, I can't deny that I'm fervently hoping Rey from The Force Awakens will turn out to be a Skywalker, and that (if done correctly) the trope resonates deeply with our collective desire to belong, to be part of a family – and perhaps the sense that we don't have to actually do anything to be considered special, just be.

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