Reviewing Hell: The Shannara Chronicles, Episodes 1-2

It may strike you as odd to see a review of The Shannara Chronicles here at Hell Mythos, but Terry Brooks’ fantasy series is heavily rooted in the demonic. *Light spoilers follow*: the main antagonists in Elfstones of Shannara, the novel The Shannara Chronicles are based on, are demons, and Brooks linked those demons to our our own world in his World and Void Trilogy. Those books start with Running with the Demon (review up shortly), and are super demon-focused. So, all in all, Shannara is deeply inflected by visions of demons. As such, it goes up here at Hell Mythos!

It’s also the golden age of demonic-themed TV shows in January 2016: Lucifer debuts later this month. I’ll also do weekly reviews of that series once it starts. I’ll be interested to see if such Hellish television can be successful.

So how is The Shannara Chronicles? I won’t use my standard  rating criteria until the season is over, but here are my thoughts on the first episode:

General atmosphere/demonic spookiness: This is where the series shines. The landscapes are beautiful, complete with well done CGI to keep the vistas impressive. Since Shannara takes place in our world after technology has fallen, we get a good amount of wrecked buildings, roads, etc., amidst the bright green landscape. The first episode showed an impressive range of locales as well.

The demons were equally impressive and frightening. In the first episode alone, we get numerous demons and even a full-fledged demon fight. That’s a far cry from Game of Thrones‘s slow burn with their supernatural enemies. I thought the demons looked good, even if the CGI was a little on the fake-side in a few scenes. The design of the Dagda Mor was genuinely disturbing (influenced by Hellraiser). I look forward to seeing more of them.

Plot/action:Shannara is more of a straightforward epic quest than Game of Thrones. There was a little too much exposition in this first episode (there has to be to explain a complex fantasy world), but plenty happened. It looks like Shannara will be very fast-paced, which should help the series out.

Acting: The knock on The Shannara Chronicles is that it’s the “teenage romance” Game of Thrones, and that certainly is reflected in some of the acting and dialogue. The main characters are the kind of blandly pretty stars you often see: cast more for their looks than for their acting talent. When they’re dealing with each other, they don’t have a lot of chemistry yet. The show also tries too hard (at times way too hard) to sex things up. We’ll have to wait and see if the cast can develop some more chemistry. The actor playing Allanon did an excellent job, to the point that he seemed to be in a different and far more serious show.

Faithfulness to the book: They changed a fair amount from the book, mostly to get us into the action faster. They sped stuff up, gave Amberle an initial boyfriend (why?), gave Allanon a spurned lover (WTF?), and added an early fight with a demon. While the increased romance angle was a little jarring to a fan of the book, I’ll take a wait and see attitude. Overall, the first episode was faithful to the characters and general plot, if not particularly faithful to details. Eretria looks like she’ll have a much bigger role here than in the books.

So, all in all, a promising start to a new series. It’ll be interesting to see if the television show can capture the urgency of the book, and whether or not they can successfully get Terry Brooks’s vision successfully on the screen.

Initial rating: 7.5 out of 10 demons.

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