Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Shannara Chronicles: Pykon

Yup, still here. But this might be my last Shannara review. For the past five episodes I've been casually enjoying it as silly fun, but this episode took things to an unnecessarily dark and ugly place.
Regardless of all the violence and danger their characters are facing, it's clear the writers consider the love triangle nonsense to be the emotional heart of the show (or else they're still under the false impression that triangles are an essential part of any self-respecting teen drama) and it's beginning to take its toll on the story. When you find yourself trapped in a mad-man's torture castle, the very last thing on your mind should be whether or not your crush likes you back. 

Wearing her strapless corset, which I've only just realized is a totally perfect outfit for tramping through the wilderness on a world-saving mission, Amberle ends up frolicking with Wil on a rusty merry-go-round to soft pop-music and an overdose of lens flares.
Sure it's just a dream, but that doesn't make it any less awful. I get they're trying to establish the importance of Amberle's need to keep her mind on the quest only for her to grow attached to her companion, but she's just coming across as an easily-distracted hormone-addled teenager.
Having read the book, I'm fairly certain what all this is setting up for, but they're using the laziest of narrative techniques to get there. A dream sequence, seriously? Sure, let's go for that over genuine bonding through shared experiences.
Now it's suddenly snowing and they're pulling material straight from The Lord of the Rings, if the Mines of Moria were located on top of Mount Caradhras.
And why is Cephalo still here? Why is the narrative making him useful? And why is Amberle perfectly okay with his presence? He tried to rape her!!
Once in the mountaintop outpost, we meet an Elf dude who may as well have "serial killer" tattooed on his forehead and his obviously-traumatized granddaughter who invite them in for food and shelter – and a luxurious bath.
I trust him completely.
It's there we get to the show's third alternate shipping possibility: Amberle and Eretria.
I first saw their bath scene together in a GIF set on Tumblr, and without any context my low-key shipping kicked into higher gear. But having seen the episode in full, it's not quite as promising. Based on what else Eretria said and did this episode, her move on Amberle felt like an attempt to sabotage Wil/Amberle by seducing both parties, and having failed, I doubt they're going to explore this possibility in any future episodes.
It seems like the show took a sidelong glance at The 100 and The Legend of Korra and said: "bi-sexual girls seem pretty popular these days, let's throw some of that in."
It turns out the castle is a trap, and their host is a crazed isolationist and big fan of the Saw franchise. After their last Red Shirt is disposed of, and Amberle is violated for the second time in as many episodes, the gang finds a way to escape the horror movie they've wandered into. Basically, Wil stabs the guy in the neck.
Yes, even though we actually see Eretria do some nifty backflips to get out of her restraints, Wil is the one who gets to be the hero, even though his escape happens entirely off-screen. (And why was he separated from the others in the first place?)
Aww, yeah.

Aww, man.
Of course, Eretria bursts into the room just in time to see Wil and Amberle kissing, which is presented by the show as the absolute WORST and MOST IMPORTANT thing that's happened in this literal torture chamber. Whew, I'm so relieved the threat of everyone dying prolonged and excruciating deaths at the hands of a mad-man didn't distract them from the teen love triangle for more than thirty seconds!
As it happens, the crazy dude's granddaughter (or whoever she is) helped out Wil, but the writers really don't want to deal with a kid tagging along on the rest of the adventure, so she's quickly killed off just as they're about to leave.
Wil, trying to be sad about it.
Miscellaneous Observations:
There's no reason to root for Wil and Amberle as a couple beyond the fact she's the lead female and he's the lead male – and it's a shame as Brooks can manage a decent romance when he wants to: Brin/Rone and Morgan/Quickening spring to mind.
There was mention of the Federation and the War of the Races which was nice, but then the show threw me with the introduction the Warlock Lord's blade. Not the Sword of the Shannara? Which maybe could have been co-opted to the same purpose as what this sword is doing here? Corrupting Arion?
Wil: "It knew we were coming." Crispin: "That's impossible." Wow, I'm so glad Crispin is in charge.
I kind of love that Tilton is wearing armour for her EAR TIPS.
Eretria's mark – that's got to mean something more than what she said, right?
I would wonder what's going on with Allanon and Bandon, but I just don't care enough. And the demon scenes are awful. It's like having someone violently shake you while screaming in your face.  

Sure, whatever.
According to Tilton, Ander has spent the last ten years "lost in booze and anger and doubt", even though he seems to be the most placid and reasonable character on the show, is the only one coming up with all the proactive ideas, and has never been drunk on-screen.
Let's all pretend that Eretria saying: "so be it" to Cephalo's jibe that: "he'll never choose you" is because she's not actually that interested in him. She goes back for Amberle, dammit!
It was only after this episode that I finally realized the show is produced by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. Now where have I heard those names before? Oh right. They're the Smallville guys. Suddenly all the crude and exploitative material in a story that's meant to be about the bravery and goodness of its heroes makes perfect sense.
So unless something drastic happens next week, I won't be reviewing the rest of this season. I'll probably watch the final four episodes (because I hate leaving things unfinished) and may even comment on them if they're any good, but when it comes to dystopian futures, I'll be sticking with The 100 for now.

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