As we await news about Shannara Chronicles season 2, let’s break down all the reasons you should watch (and rewatch) season 1.
If you haven’t heard about The Shannara Chronicles, it’s about time you started paying attention. This feels like a story of the little show that could. Based on the books by Terry Brooks, Shannara follows the story of three unlikely allies in Wil Ohmsford, Amberle Elessedil, and Eretria as they attempt to stop a demon horde from destroying their world.
Sounds pretty basic, right? We’ve seen the apocalyptic story a million times, but this one continues to defy expectations. Amberle is an elf, Eretria is human, and Wil is half-and-half. Prejudice, jealousy, ignorance, and danger preside over a story brimming with magic, secrets, spies, and death.
Wil is the last Shannara, meaning he has a power inside of him he doesn’t know about and has no idea how to control. Allanon, the druid, brings him to the king of the elves, Amberle’s grandfather. She is a princess, and the only woman to ever compete in and win the race for a spot to protect their sacred tree, the Ellcrys. Her timing could not be worse, however, as the tree starts dying and she must go on a quest to stop it.
Eretria, a dangerous Rover, finds herself unwillingly swept up in Wil and Amberle’s story. The constant battle for power between these three push the narrative forward, and Eretria must decide if she is more loyal to the family who bought her as a child, or the strangers whose mission is to save the world.
The Shannara Chronicles premiered on MTV in January 2016. Yes, you read that right: MTV. This is what first caught my attention because MTV doesn’t usually roll out the red carpet for fantasy series. Teen Wolf did a lot for the network in terms of opening it up to a wider audience of genre fans, and Shannara stepped in to bring us something that felt even more alien to the network’s usual lineup of reality shows and ridiculous comedies.
But The Shannara Chronicles is a beautiful addition to the fantasy genre, having been shot in New Zealand on as many practical sets as possible. The sweeping shots of the landscape, the phenomenal acting, and the special effects make this show feel like it should be on HBO rather than MTV. They really did pull out all the stops for this one, and every ounce of effort on the part of the cast and crew can be seen in each frame of the series.
But it’s not just what you see on the screen that’s phenomenal. Yes, actors such as John Rhys-Davies and Manu Bennett are nothing to bat an eye at, and the younger cast, such as Austin Butler, Poppy Drayton, and Ivana Baquero, often steal the show, but the crew is also an incredible addition to this show. Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville, Into the Badlands) created the television series, and with names like Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Avengers) and Terry Brooks (the author) producing, it was bound to be taken seriously. Not to mention that many of the crew working on this show had previously worked on Lord of the Rings. Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.
But even with everything set up perfectly going into production, the final product is what really matters. Luckily, when all was said and done, the show ended up being exactly what I was hoping for and more. Autin Butler was surprisingly hilarious, Poppy Drayton was fantastic at being compassionate and vulnerable, and Ivana Baquero was strong as hell. The script allowed for the other actors to have their shining and memorable moments without taking away from the main characters.
Speaking of the script, it was adapted from the books, but as book readers know, not everything was taken directly from the novels. I can’t attest to what kind of impact these changes had on fans of the books, never having read them myself, but in terms of an easy-to-follow, intriguing, and suspenseful story, I think the script knocked it out of the park.
Better yet, it often walked us down one path toward a trope and then cut off in the other direction. The relationship between the three main characters, which, yes, was a love triangle of sorts, never felt rushed or forced. In fact, the reasons they found to like and support each other meant admitting their own faults. It would’ve been much easier to have the two ladies fighting over Wil, with one of them making a wrong move, putting them out of the running, but it was never that simple. Each character had their strengths and weaknesses, and each one brought something different to the table.
But this show’s main focus was not on romance — far from it. It was about doing the right thing, saving the world, and not compromising your morals. The stakes were high; a lot of important characters lost their lives in season 1. It’s always difficult to accept these truths, but knowing that not everyone is safe was vital in order for the audience to take the show seriously. They don’t pull punches, and you best be ready for some heartache.
The great thing about The Shannara Chronicles season 1 is that it feels like a whole story. While I hope they do get a season 2, I feel satisfied by this little peek into these characters’ lives. There are definitely still questions to be answered, especially given those final few moments, but if you’re worried about jumping into a new show without knowing if it’ll be back again, rest assured that season 1 stands pretty well all on its own.
MTV has put a lot of time, money, and effort into The Shannara Chronicles, and while I’m not too worried about whether or not it’ll get renewed, I would like to know its fate as soon as possible. If, after reading this article, it sounds like something you may want to look into, know that season 1 is only made up of 10 episodes, which can be easily binged in a single weekend.