The Shannara Chronicles “Ellcrys” Review (Season 1 Episode 10)

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On the season finale of “The Shannara Chronicles,” the series worked its way back around to the books in the end finally and ended on a reasonably strong note, with plenty of cliffhangers and set-up for the future, should there be one.

On the negative side, chances are that, if the series does continue, which seems likely at this point, then it will almost certainly veer away from the books almost completely in the near-future, being as how a new cast of characters figures prominently in the next book and MTV isn’t going to want to lose their main cast, for obvious reasons.

Not that, mind you, I would necessarily want them to. I think there’s more material to be mined here from these characters, and if Peter Jackson can supplement the hell out of Tolkien’s “LOTR” and “Hobbit” books with his own material, why shouldn’t “The Shannara Chronicles”? Besides, they’re about to do the same thing with “Game of Thrones” for the first time, and I know I’ll be watching that, so I can live with it under the right circumstances.

In this case, it might actually be a blessing in disguise, as the show could separate itself from the books, and by extension, from the criticism it’s weathered from veering so far away from the books at times. By simply sticking with the current cast as it remains and setting more stories in Brooks’ world- or MTV’s version of it, at least- then the show can get past the negativity on a certain level and become its own thing.

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Sure, it will probably lose some viewers that were watching it because it was an adaption of the books they love, but guess what? They already did that in large part as it stands. I think around about the time they started adding former high school prom visits and raves to the mix, most fans of the books were like, “Yeah, I’m done.” Understandably so, I’d say.

But as both a film and movie critic that also happens to be a voracious reader, I’ve long gotten used to adaptations falling short of the source material. It sort of comes with the territory. As they say, the books are almost always better, and that’s because few things ARE better than using one’s imagination, and what one does with something in a show or movie is never going to live up to everyone’s idea of what the adaptation should be.

But that doesn’t mean the show or movie can’t stand on its own and still be good. Just look at Stanley Kubrick’s take on Stephen King’s “The Shining.” The book is amazing, but so is the movie, even while bearing only a passing resemblance to the book at hand- albeit much to the author’s chagrin. Ironically, when King himself sanctioned a remake that was infinitely truer to the book, it fell completely flat, so it just goes to show, sometimes even the author can’t bring their material to life in a satisfying way.

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So, yeah, MTV’s “The Shannara Chronicles” is no Terry Brooks version of the books, to be sure, but it’s not half bad, either, and has the potential to be something better if it can shed the shackles binding it and become its own thing in the process. The real trick is to get rid of the obvious sops to the MTV audience while still appealing to them, which could help them get back some of the viewers they lost in doing so.

As I’ve said before, despite MTV’s seeming feelings to the contrary, their audience is smarter than they think- at least in terms of the ones that would be watching something like this in the first place. Oh, I don’t doubt that, just as with “Teen Wolf,” there are people out there watching because of “cute boys” or the like. But that doesn’t mean the show can’t still be good.

I mean, who would have thought “Teen Wolf” itself would be good, judging by the source material there? Yes, the original movies were fun, guilty pleasures, but who’d have thought it would make for an engaging, emotional show with characters you cared about and essentially played straight, albeit not without a sense of humor about itself?

Granted, that show has gone off the rails a bit in more recent seasons, but by giving it a sort of “Buffy”-style makeover, “Teen Wolf” became its own thing, completely separate from the original movies, and I think that’s exactly what needs to happen with “The Shannara Chronicles.”

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I think they should take the gist of the world author Brooks created and move forward from it and do their own thing with it, still allowing the source material to inform the proceedings, but at the same time, creating their own material within the worlds Brooks created.

They’ve got a basically winning cast left over, and despite some definite kinks to be worked out, in terms of general silliness, I get the sense that it’s nothing that can’t be rectified with some careful plotting and planning, which they will have plenty of time to do heading into a second season.

But yeah, enough with the raves and obvious “teen” moments and so forth. The show honestly doesn’t need them, and I think it’s an insult to the potential audience that would be watching this in the first place to think that they would.

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Getting back to the finale itself, it basically played out as one would expect. There was a massive battle between the demons and the elves, with a solid assist from the gnomes that, while it won’t give anyone who saw “The Battle of the Five Armies” pause, was still reasonably entertaining. Most of the main characters got their chance to shine, though they could have stood to give Slanter a definitive “hero” moment.

Still, Tilton went out swinging, just after rekindling her romance with King Ander- thus sealing her fate- before tragically being killed by her own ex-boyfriend, Arion, who was then subsequently killed by his own brother, Ander, as Arion became self-aware long enough to request his death after having been possessed by a demon. Though a bit rushed, to say the least, this was a lot of solid pathos to cram into such a short amount of time, and reasonably well done, all things considered.

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Meanwhile, Allanon got a solid battle with the dreaded Dagda Mor, ending up just enough on the losing end to give one pause, with an assist from Wil and his Elf Stones, before rallying in the end and decapitating the baddie with one quick sweep of his sword. Speaking of Wil, he got a number of such moments, where he got to save the Princess on a few occasions, while holding his own in battle.

As for Amberle herself, she obviously got to save the day in the end, by entering the Ellcrys and bringing it back to life, vanquishing the rest of the demons in the process, thus saving everyone left standing in doing so.

Earlier in the show, Eretria also got a similar hero moment when she all but sacrificed herself to allow her friends to escape by going back into the tunnels to close the gate, despite facing almost certain death. Hey, you gotta pay that troll toll, people.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be a season finale without a cliffhanger or two, so we got just that in the revelation that Bandon was still out there and for some reason, wasn’t affected by Amberle entering the Ellcrys, despite it taking out all of the other demons in the process.

The only thing I can think is that he was in the protected area that the Dagda Mor was formerly in around the time she entered the tree, and was thus saved from death by that. He’s clearly possessed or demonic or what have you, though, so one assumes he will be the new villain moving forward.

In addition, we saw that Eretria was still alive, and was captured yet again and brought to the trolls’ leader, who took off his mask to reveal…well, what we don’t know just yet, but we do know that Eretria recognized whoever it was, so it will be interesting to see who it is.

The only thing I can think of is Cephelo, even though he seemingly died. Though why he would be the leader of the trolls now is beyond me, so maybe not. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on that one.

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All in all, a reasonably solid finale, even if there were some glaring plot-holes. For instance, was it really wise to be making love under the circumstances in that cave? Couldn’t they have saved more people if they’d left a little sooner? Sure, I get that the world as they know it could potentially be ending, and teens will be teens, but it was a bit much.

However, that made much more sense than the fact that, even after getting to the Ellcrys at the end, Amberle stalled big-time while saying goodbye to Wil. How many of her people and the gnomes died in that vast window of time it took her to enter the tree? Think of all she could have saved if she’d simply ran for it the minute they got inside the Sanctuary, am I right?

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Sure, I get it was for dramatic effect, but still. Nice going thinking with your loins over your brains there, Amberle. And they say us men are bad! For shame. Catania didn’t fare much better with Bandon, for that matter, basically unleashing what would look to be the next Big Bad on the world on her end. Whoops!

So, yeah, the finale was not without its faults, and neither was the show on the whole, but overall, it was reasonably enjoyable, I thought, in spite of them all. At the very least, it was a damn sight better than I thought it would be, given the network it aired on.

Like I said, with a little bit of reworking, this show could be genuinely good- they just need to get rid of some of the show’s worst tendencies and they’ll be fine. Whether they will remains to be seen, but I, for one, wouldn’t be averse to giving a second season a shot. How about you?

Let me know what you think down below and I’ll see you next season, assuming there is one!

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