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Review: MTV’s THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES Series Premiere

The long, long, long wait to see Terry Brooks’ words come to life is over.

MTV has finally figured out a way to adapt the legendary author’s best selling Shannara book series into a TV show after its years-long stint in film development purgatory—this is great news, since The Shannara Chronicles is a story that is meant to be told over the course of 10 hours rather than crammed into two-and-a-half. The epic adventure for good to triumph over evil, the large cast of main and supporting characters who each bring something unique to the story, the sweeping history of all the wars that shaped the world we know into the post-apocalyptic future landscape populated with fantasy creatures … if this was made into a movie, most of the meat that makes the Shannara series so juicy would get left on the kitchen floor.

But it’s interesting to note that The Shannara Chronicles executive producers Terry Brooks (yes, the same author who first created this world back in 1977), Jon Favreau, Dan Farah, Miles Millar and Al Gough decided to jump ahead in the franchise and begin the series premiere with the second book, The Elfstones of Shannara.

That’s right. All you fans who have been expecting the MTV fantasy series to start with Shea and his brother Flick will be sorely disappointed to find out that the series premiere actually skips over the entire Sword of Shannara story. The reason behind this major decision? It all comes down to the three young protagonists of the story.

The Shannara Chronicles

We enter this world through the eyes of young half-elf, half-human Wil Ohmsford (The Carrie Diaries alum Austin Butler), after he suffers a great loss and decides to pack up his life and become a healer far away from his home town. On the way, he gets intercepted by a crafty and quick human Rover (a.k.a. wanderer) named Eretria (Ivana Baquero).

Sparks indeed fly (they’re both young and outrageously attractive so that’s no surprise), but things quickly take a turn when the mysterious Druid (a.k.a. magic-wielder) Allanon (Arrow and Spartacus alum Manu Bennett) hunts Wil down and takes him to the Elven city of Arborlon to begin a quest that only Wil can complete. It has to do with the sudden decay of a magic tree that keeps evil at bay, an Elven princess named Amberle (Poppy Drayton) who is a big advocate of Elven feminism, a shapeshifter wreaking havoc inside the walls of the Elf city, and three stones passed down to Wil that have the power to vanquish any evil creature … but the magic it uses comes at a steep price.

While the plot may be a bit confusing for non-book-readers at first, once the two-hour premiere gets under way, viewers will be able to catch on to the story with ease. And even if you have a hard time understanding exactly who everyone is and what they want, at least you can distract yourself with the gorgeous sets.

The Shannara Chronicles

Whether a scene takes place out in the mountains of Wil’s home town Shady Vale, inside the elaborate Elf palace in Arborlon, in the magical Ellcrys tree sanctuary, or even near ruins of what used to be 21st century buildings and structures, it’s clear that MTV has spent a pretty penny on making this show look as epic and believable as the Lord of the Rings franchise. For the network’s first major foray into fantasy, they pulled no punches and it’s working in their favor.

And sure, there’s the obligatory love triangle that forms between the three young leads … it’s an MTV drama, after all. But no character wastes time wallowing in the melodramatics of it all. They need to save the world first, and worry about who is crushing on who later. Even if teen drama cliches aren’t your thing, you should still stick around and give The Shannara Chronicles a chance. It’s more than just a love story between Elves, humans, and hybrids.

Bottom line: Think of The Shannara Chronicles as Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones, with a lighter touch (more comedic situations and one-liners) and a slightly younger target audience. But that doesn’t mean it’s just for MTV’s demographic. Bennett, John Rhys-Davies (who plays Elven king Eventine), and the rest of the Elf royalty bring the right amount of maturity to balance out any younger drama that might get kicked up along the way of Wil, Amerble and Eretria’s quest.

Adapting Brooks’ original series was a major undertaking for MTV that could have crashed and burned, but from the first four episodes (of the 10-episode first season) it’s clear that it was the right home for the fan-favorite, ultra-popular franchise to finally come to life.

What are your thoughts on The Shannara Chronicles? Let me know in the comments section below.

Images: MTV

The Shannara Chronicles airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on MTV.

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