We want to like this show. It has so much potential. The premise is interesting and the characters can be developed into ones we can love. Eretria made this episode. Ivana Baqueroe plays this character well. Eretria is multidimensional role with many layers to uncover.
The plot was a bit predictable in this episode and the world building fell apart a bit. Several scenes were questionable or unbelievable. Additionally, our hero and heroine still need work, the characters and acting leaves us wanting.
Trials and tribulations of fantasy worlds: Do the rules of your world make sense?
The wins in episodes 1 and 2 regarding world building turned south in this episode. We had to question the structure of the Ellcrys testing and rewards and the rules of magic has started to become a little loose. Some actions had no explanation at all. The fantasy fans were probably cringing in their seats as they watched this episode.
When they returned to Arborlon, Amberle (Poppy Drayton) has to go through a trial to see if the Ellcrys will allow her to carry the seed. Thank goodness she made it since she was the last Chosen and there were no other options to save the world. Come on, now. If there has to be a trial or a test, then you can’t make it so only one person is available to finish the task unless you want a very short show. So, we actually knew what to expect on that one, but we had to set up her next round of bad decisions and provide some meaning behind them.
During the test, Amberle was challenged with two people. Lorin (Mattias Inwood), who told her she never loved him, but she cared for Wil (Austin Butler). Which she had already told us she never loved Lorin. So, not a big surprise or should it be a test of her ability as the chosen one. Wil was the next test. He called her weak and told her she couldn’t do the things needed to save the world. Amberle’s test was to kill Wil. First she’s all, “Don’t ask me to do this!” Then, he pushes her down and this apparently sets her off. Now she’s ready to battle? This scene really needed some work. Also, during the fight, Amberle grabs the blade of her sword in her hand to block a blow by Wil. Either it was a really dull sword or she has super tough hands because she did not shed one drop of blood with her hand wrapped around that blade.
“Congratulations, Amberle. You passed the test. Now don’t let anything distract you, not fear, not love. The fate of the world depends on it.” – Ellcrys as Wil
In our fathers’ shadows: Will they live up to the expectation of their fathers?
There is definite conflict building up with Amberle’s uncle, Arion (Daniel MacPherson). He feels slated because his father doesn’t feel as though he’s ready for the crown. He continues to push against the fact that there’s no magic and demons in the world. He asks his father to let him rule and is crushed when the king tells him he will not abdicate the crown. Arion doesn’t trust Allanon (Manu Bennett) and doesn’t want the fate of the people left in the hands of Amberle. Arion is a bit too pushy for someone who knows nothing about the issues that are unfolding. He’s like a bully with no one to push around. A little annoying from time to time, but he’s an end to a means. Yes. This is a set up for something coming around the corner. What we don’t know, but we cannot ignore the signs the writers are throwing at us like the characters in the show. We viewers are better than that, right?
Arion is not the only Elessedil that has father issues. His brother, Ander, also maintains a strained relation with King Eventine. Ander believes his father blames him for the death of Amberle’s dad. The king halfheartedly reassures his son by telling Ander that Gnomes killed Amberle’s father not him. Ander responds by telling his father that he knows the he wished Ander died not his other son. Ander holds on to the guilt of his brother’s death tightly. Ander wishes it was him who died. We’ve seen this before, the impacts of the death of a sibling on the survivors. Ander handles it very differently than his brother Arion. He wants to take responsibility for his dead brother. We see this in his connection to Amberle. Arion is just angry and feels what rightfully belongs to him is being held back by his father’s love for his dead brother. This is what makes Ander so much more likable than Arion.
Eretria (Ivana Baquero) still struggles to release herself from Cephelo’s (James Remar) grasp. She’s in such conflict with the acts she has to carry out for him. She wants to be free of him but doesn’t have anywhere else to go. She should know that no matter what she does Cephelo has no intentions of setting her free. She knows he doesn’t want to let her go, yet she continues to play along with his game. The end of this episode show us he never plans to let her go as Cephelo watches her being dragged off with Wil and Amberle on their quest to Safehold.
“Don’t worry. Daddy’s coming.” – Cephelo
Trust is a tricky demon: Our hero and heroine need remedial lessons on how to judge people.
Bandon (James Remar) turns out to be very useful. He has the power to see how people die when he touches them. It was a great coincidence that Amberle insisted they take him with them and he ends up helping to keep her safe. Bandon is able to see Amberle’s death and convince Wil not to leave. It’s amazing how easily everyone trusts this stranger they found chained up in a barn by his parents. Bandon also reveals the fact there is a Changling (Shushila Takao) in the castle doing all the killing. Regardless of his odd entrance into the story, Bandon is a likeable character. He has an endearing ability to care about others and genuine fear of his ability. To see death can be both a blessing and a curse.
“You don’t just see death. You see possibilities.” -Allanon to Bandon
Again, Eretria pops up in the castle, right in Wil’s room. How the heck does she know these things? She seduces the unsuspecting hero, he falls asleep, and she steals the Elf Stones again. You would think Wil would catch on but apparently not. The show continues to utilize the most cliché plot elements to drive the action forward, but it doesn’t take away as much as how easily the characters are swayed into the situations. Come on Wil. The girl robbed you and then kidnapped you. Is that not a big red flag to not get involved with the Rover? At least not close your eyes around her?
The Changling posed as Eretria and attacks Amberle. Etertria lands herself in jail for attempted murder of Amberle. Wil lies about how Eretria took the stones from him. Good cover…not. Um…the rover girl will tell on you. There’s some kind of cat fight brewing between her and Amberle. Having sex with you is her trump card. When they find out about the Changling, they need Eretria’s help. They want to use her for bait. Plus, everyone’s flashes of the future show Eretria as a part of the trio to take the seed to the Blood Fire. The Changling poses as Wil and comes after Amberle. Again, her trusting self doesn’t think and allows the guards to let him in. Luckily, when it attempts to kill her, Allanon is there for the rescue…again. And a day late and dollar short, Wil runs up once the action is over to warn them of the danger. Late much, Wil? When Eretria tries to leave, Amberle wants to put her back in jail. That’s when everyone reveals that the visions include Eretria on the trip to the Safehold. Eretria is still a favorite. Her character is consistent and strong. You know her convictions. Although she’s the thief, she’s the only one who has stayed honest and true to herself.
“You need to start trusting the Ellcrys otherwise the three of you won’t make it to Safehold.” – Allanon to Amberle
Final Verdict: As with the death of the Ellcrys, so has the interest with the Shannara Chronicles slowly withering away.
We had high hope for the show in the beginning. The visuals and costuming were and still are excellent. The characters had potential. We had acting right from the beginning of the first episode. Amberle looked to have the makings of a strong heroine and there was a super attractive, young hero. Add a little magic, a hot Druid, and a sassy Rover; you have the ingredients for a great show, right? Apparently not.
This episode leaves us with Amberle, Wil, and Eretria leaving fir Wilderrun. Eretria is chained being pulled by guards due to Amberle’s animosity towards her. The Changling is set to be burned, but surprise! It’s still alive. Why wouldn’t they send more than one guard to dispose of the Changling is baffling. This type of behavior is one of the big issues of this show. There are demon hordes attacking, a shifter that can pose as anyone running around killing people, and the world’s basically coming to an end but these people has the most lack security ever seen. They trust strangers, run off by themselves, and knowingly fraternize with individuals they know mean them harm. Truly don’t understand this behavior.
If we had to name the demise of the show, it would be the Wil and Amberle. In episode 3, we began to not Wil’s inability to make good decisions. Yes. We noticed he was a bit dingy in the beginning. Hopes were he would brighten up once he expands in his role as hero. Unfortunately, the writers have not begun to give him characteristics that are more familiar to a heroic role. Wil continues to make bad decisions. Him allowing Eretria to continually fool him is ridiculous.
Amberle is portrayed as a spoiled child. Her acts of heroism are sporadic and feel awkward. Her test in the Ellcrys is a prime example. One moment she’s scared and not wanting to carry out her task and the next moment she slinging her sword and hacking at Wil like his the devil himself. Once she does kill him, which looks like accident, she has this confused look on her face. The Ellcrys tell her she passed. Why she passed is a little baffling. If it’s because she show strength by killing Wil, the Ellcrys made a mistake by giving her the green light. None of this sequence was believable nor is much else surrounding Amberle’s character.
There is a light in the shadows for the Shannara Chronicles. Their secondary characters are excellent. They are filled with depth and played well. Allanon is interesting enough to have his own show. Manu Bennett does and outstanding job playing this character. Eretria also brings excitement and a bit of snippy humor to the show. Her commitment to her values makes her likable even when she’s a thief. She’s not going to give up easily and is not scared to stand up and fight for what she wants. That’s the makings of a good heroine. The tension between the Elessedil men provides an interesting side story.
Maybe the show will rectify the problems in future episodes. It wouldn’t be surprising if it’s already lost most of its hardcore fantasy fans. Once you begin to show flaws in your world building and characterization, it’s hard to hold on to fan of a genre built on those two items. We’re still on the fence of pushing on to additional episodes of cutting our losses and running. If you do continue on, come back and tell us what you think!
Questions, Comments, and Concerns:
- Who’s in charge of security around here????
- Wil is easy pickings. It didn’t take Eretria 5 minutes to get him into bed.
- Amberle reads one more vision wrong and they should just ban her from having them. Seriously, do the Ellcrys have to stamp stuff in stone for her to understand?
- How loose can you make the rule of magic before they fall apart completely?
- An Elf, Halfling, and a Rover enter the woods…Yes. The making of a bad joke, especially with this group.
- Will the writers turn this show around???
- How ditzy can you make a hero before he no longer feels like a hero?
The Shannara Chronicles Review: 1×04 Changling