The Shannara Chronicles

Shannara Chronicles on MTV

It looks better than the movie Warcraft, but wants to be Lord of the Rings.

If you’re looking for a series to hold you over until Game of Thrones starts in April, The Shannara Chronicles may not be your cup of tea. If you’re looking for something to fill the void left by The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies then The Shannara Chronicles may be the series for you.  

To be fair, The Shannara Chronicles has more in common with The Lord of the Rings than Game of Thrones. Although plenty of people will compare the two series, there really is no comparing the two series. Yes, both series are based on books written by “fantasy” authors, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

“Why isn’t this series as good as Spartacus? I need to talk to my agent.”

Game of Thrones is set in a world that could easily be medieval Europe or George R.R. Martin’s version of a medieval Europe. One could even argue the Seven Kingdoms are stand-ins for countries and empires vying for power in medieval-Europe. As fantastic as it, Game of Thrones is set in a far more realistic world that the Shannara Chronicles.

Fantasy elements, other than three-eyed ravens and baby dragons, were all but absent in season one of Game of Thrones. Going into season six, we’ve seen dragons, giants, and witches, but not too many more of the creatures that populate other fantasy books. We could add giant wolves and zombies into the mix, but neither creature is a fantasy staple.

The showrunners have seamlessly incorporated these “fantasy” elements into the story in such a way that they don’t jar the viewer, but have become part of the series we have come to know and love. The overall story would be the same even if these elements, other than the dragons, were removed.

The Shannara Chronicles embraces its fantasy elements. From the very first scene of episode one, the series screams it wants to be The Lord of the Rings. Brooks, like other fantasy authors  (Probably all of them), was inspired by J.R.R Tolkien. However, The Shannara Chronicles has taken this inspiration to another level.

Add anything really and a name can be magical.

Humans, elves, druids, demons, a changeling, and trolls are all packed into the first four episodes. Even the demon antagonist looks like an extra from The Lord of the Rings. Most characters have typical, almost unpronounceable “fantasy” names. I will never know why characters from fantasy novels can’t have normal sounding names.

The Shannara Chronicles separates itself from other fantasy series by not being set in mythical places or in a made up country, but in a future Seattle, Washington.The viewer is never exactly told the story is set in Seattle, but in the opening sequences of the camera zooms along a vast forest speeding over remnants of the old world. We see, leaning on its side against a mountain of something, the Space Needle.

This is what happens when fans get mad their team didn’t go to the Super Bowl.

We’re never told what happened or even why it happened, but whatever happened it occurred thousands of years ago. It’s different enough so we can forgive the fact that the steel would have probably rusted long before the events in the story unfold.

The rest of the series is typical fantasy fare. There’s constant talk of the Elf Crease ( To be completely honest, I don’t know know if that’s what it’s called or not because all these names start to sound the same) dying and when it does all the demons will be released. There’s talk of powerful elf stones. I wanted to say, “One elf stone to rule them all,” whenever someone mention the stones. There’s even a quest that has something to do with the elf stones.  Maybe we would know what it was if everything in the series wasn’t boring enough to put the viewer asleep.

Roles for demons were very limited after Lord of the Rings wrapped up.

The first four episodes of the series are pretty bland. There’s no real tension in the series and although it seems things happen nothing really does. Characters get into and out of situations without any difficulty. Wil and Amberle get kidnapped by Rovers and are freed moments later. A demon attacks, but only the expendable character dies.  Allanon (Which I’m sure is a support group for spouses and loved ones living with alcoholics) spouts and spews some nonsense. It should be interesting, but it’s not in the least.

The acting doesn’t help matters either. The characters are cardboard and the actors portraying the roles don’t add any dimension to them. The only emotion that seems real is when Allanon screams at a wall. There’s crying, but the characters are crying about other characters we never really know. Not even John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings!) can save the series.

The Shannara Chronicles has some good special effects and some great scenery. The sets don’t match the effects though. Most of them feel like sets on the back of Hollywood lot. You just know if you were to look behind the walls of the elf castle there would be posts holding them up. The scenes in the forest don’t match what we’ve seen from ariel shots. The scenes seem like they were shot in the same Hollywood backlot. I’m not even sure the trees in the scenes are real. 

No fantasy story would be the same without a quest.

So, why watch The Shannara Chronicles? I don’t have a good reason why. There’s a story somewhere, maybe future episodes can develop it, but for right now it’s a chore to watch. If you want to watch Lord of the Rings then watch Lord of the Rings. Don’t waste your time on this knock off.