The Shannara Chronicles “Safehold” Review (Season 1 Episode 9)

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On the penultimate episode of “The Shannara Chronicles,” the show- and the three main characters- got back on track, as they finally arrived at their intended destination, the titular “Safehold.” Of course, MTV couldn’t resist one last modern day reference, as we discovered that Safehold was actually a fallen San Francisco, with the street sign featuring enough of the letters in the name so as to drive it home where they really were.

Of course, this being MTV, they quite literally had to spell it out for less-than-bright viewers, as Wil filled in the blanks next to the less faded letters in the names of San Francisco and Oakland to form the word “Safehold” on the sign itself. We get it, writers! You don’t have to beat us over the head with it!

Or maybe you do- I can’t say I’m much of a regular MTV watcher anymore, so maybe viewers weaned as of late on crap-tacular “reality” TV shows really do need the push in the right direction. But I like to think that viewers, even with the vapid likes of “Jersey Shore” and what have you, have more of a functioning brain than MTV is giving them credit for. At least the kind of people that would be driven to watch this in the first place, of which I can’t imagine there is a lot of crossover, save maybe those girls/gay guys who think Austin Butler is cute or whatever.

Whatever the case, having found the general location, it was time to find the church (or what have you) with the stained-glass window, as seen in Amberle’s vision. Faced with the ocean in their path, the only way in was down, as in through the subway tunnels, which I confess I didn’t even know San Fran had, so against all odds, I did learn something from an MTV show. Go figure.

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They light torches and venture inside the tunnel, eventually splitting up, as people are wont to do in movies/shows like this. In this case, though, nothing really happened, as it simply gave Wil and Eretria time to talk over what happened back in Utopia with her wanting to stay and almost getting fished into their troll-feeding gambit. He apologized for being harsh, and she apologized for being stupid and all was right in their world again.

Amberle finds a passage in which a group of creatures are sleeping, blocking the way forward. She goes and retrieves the other two and points out that there’s a symbol on the wall that matches the tattoo on Eretria’s back shoulder. Assuming that the way they need to go, she’s at a loss as to how when they notice some pipes on the ceiling, which they shimmy across, with Wil having a tense moment in which he drops the Elf Stones onto one of the creatures and has to get it back without alerting it, which he does.

Meanwhile, back at the kingdom, Allanon is working with Brandon, pushing him hard in order to try and determine if there’s still a connection between him and the Dagda Mor. He gets nowhere, and joins Ander, who has to break the news to Kael (Miranda Wilson), the councilwoman he had initially recommended take over in his father’s wake, as the new king. She’s not happy, and it’s clear she’s not going to take the news lying down.

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In anticipation of potential trouble, Ander sends Commander Tilton (Emilia Burns) to meet with the gnomes, specifically Slanter, and give him a letter notifying him of recent events and attempting to solidify their alliance in time to rectify the situation before Kael stages a coup with the council, who he hasn’t talked to as of yet. As all of this is happening, the Ellcrys has nearly shed all of its leaves, which means that the Dagda Mor is that much closer to freedom, and they need to move fast against him.

Having successfully crossed the room, the three intrepid travelers find a ladder at the other side and climb up it. There’s a room up there, which Eretria is convinced she’s been in before. They find a book with her symbol inside, with the words “Filli Apocalypsi” around it. An internet search says that this has to do with the Book of Revelation in the Bible and the so-called “Beast of the Apocalypse” and the number 666, which can’t be good. Is Eretria the female equivalent of Damien Thorn? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Either way, her eyes get all glowing and freaky and she has a vision of the temple and recalls the words of the man she saw in Utopia, who told her that her blood was the key. She sees the symbol on her back again and says she knows how to get to the temple now, as map-like lines appear all over her exposed skin. She also says she feels invincible, which later proves not to be the case.

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Ander begins to train his troops for the impending battle, and it’s not looking good. Unwisely, as it turns out, choosing Bandon as a sparring partner to help show them the ropes better, all is going well until the Dagda Mor communicates with him in his head and beckons him to attack and kill Ander, which he does indeed try to do. Allanon stops Bandon just in time and carts him off, his suspicions having been proven the hard way, asking to deal with him privately.

He unwisely leaves Bandon in a room alone, and Catania visits him, admitting that he can feel the Dagda Mor in his head still. This being MTV, they immediately start making out, because that’s what you do when someone tries to kill the king and tells you they have a monster in their head. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, is this a dark fantasy show or a slasher movie in disguise? Because a lot of these people act like they’re in one, that’s for sure.

Needless to say, the worst happens, and even after he tries to stop, they start going at it again and Bandon almost immediately trying to choke Catania out, but it turns out she’s not into the rough stuff and pushes him off, rushing off. Allanon intervenes and we see that Bandon has powers which allow him to break stuff and toss Allanon into the wall like a rag doll.

They tussle, with Allanon ultimately able to fend him off with his magical staff, which is not a euphemism, though it might have been fun to watch that version. Rule 34, where are you? Hey, there’s already choking and demonic sex- it practically writes itself! Get on that, internet.

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The three arrive at the temple and Amberle arranges Wil and Eretria in the formation she saw them in her vision, but nothing happens- at first. Then a light shines in the stained-glass window, which appears to be in the form of the symbol on Eretria’s shoulder. Suddenly, the Guardians of the Galaxy Bloodfire appear, looking like a combination of hot witches and rotting corpses. They demand to know who the three are and Amberle tells them.

Not impressed, the Guardians mess with all three telepathically, using personal information they gleaned from reading their minds against them, in an attempt to turn them against one another. It works in the case of Amberle and Eretria, who start to fight, and in order to stop them, Wil stabs Eretria, and her blood mysteriously floats up into the air and moves towards a sculpture near the center of the room.

One of the witches gasps and states that Eretria is a “Child of the Armageddon,” which only backs up my anti-Christ theory. Eretria walks over to the sculpture and is driven to put her hand upon a needle there, which causes her blood to flow into the sculpture, which in turn causes fire to emerge from the floor across the room- the Bloodfire, one assumes.

As predicted, Kael tries to stage a coup, with an assist from the Black Watch guards, and informs Ander her ascension to the throne will be ratified by nightfall. She has him taken away and chained up in the meantime. Tilton goes to where Ander directed her and talks to Slanter and the gnomes, informing them of the King’s death, as well as Arion’s and Ander’s having taken over- for now.

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Slanter isn’t thrilled to be swept up in an Elfin Civil War, but nonetheless agrees to assist in the fight against the demon army. They go back to the kingdom, sneaking in the secret passage to free Ander from the very prison Slanter was himself held in, so I guess they’re even. They plan to stage an attack with Ander’s troops joining Slanter’s army of 5000 gnomes that very night, but have to move fast.

First, of course, they have to stop the coup, which they do by heading to the council headquarters, showing them proof that he has joined forces with the gnomes via Slanter and the signed treaty. Kael objects, of course, but the council overrides her and bows before Ander as their new king officially, pledging their fealty to him. “If we fall, we fall together.”

Back at the unholy temple, Wil fights off the witches with the Elf Stones, killing one, but then the other knocks the stones out of his hand. As he scrambles to retrieve them, Amberle rockets toward the Bloodfire, giving Wil one last look before she enters it. He gets the stones and kills the other Guardian, as Amberle disappears into the flames.

When he can’t find Amberle, Wil turns his attention to Eretria, who was injured by one of the Guardians in the melee, and appears to be dead, or at least passed out. I’m going to go with the latter, as Eretria figures prominently in what is to come in the books, and unless they’ve gone completely off-book, which admittedly wouldn’t surprise me at the rate they’ve been going, then she’s down but not out.

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As everyone back at the kingdom gathers around the Ellcrys, the last leaf falls to the ground, officially freeing the Dagda Mor, who commands his troops at the ready to attack the Four Lands, beginning with the kingdom, of course. One assumes Ander’s troops also prepare to do some preemptive attacking of their own, so I imagine we can expect a lot of battles in the final episode, which is good. It might not be up to the standards set by the “Battle of the Five Armies,” but it should be entertaining enough by MTV standards. Whatever the case, I’ll take that over wonky pseudo-raves any day of the week.

This was definitely a return to form- such as it is- for the show, and a step in the right direction, to be sure. Yes, the show went wildly off-track over the last few episodes, but I’m convinced it will at least end strong. Even though fans of the original books have expressed plenty of anger over the many changes made, I do think that the show will deliver the goods in the finale.

My hope is that, if the show is renewed, the writers and show-runners will take into account the many criticisms going around about what does and doesn’t work and rein in their worst tendencies for the second season. I think it’s a safe bet the show will be back, and I‘d like to think they’ll learn from their mistakes and jettison a lot of the modern touches that nearly, if not outright, ruined the show for a lot of people. Let’s hope so.

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What did you think of the latest episode of “The Shannara Chronicles”? Were you glad they returned to a more straight-forward fantasy show rather than trying too hard to modernize things? What do you hope to see in the finale? Do you think they’ll follow the books, or do their own thing? Would you like to see a second season or do you think they should quit while they’re ahead- if they indeed are ahead? Sound off down below, and I’ll see you for the big finale next week!