MTV took a big risk in bringing “The Shannara Chronicles” to TV, and for so many different reasons. For one, it was a move to bring pure fantasy to a network that had only dabbled in the supernatural thanks to “Teen Wolf,” and to go along with that you are running the risk of putting on a high-cost, ambition production. There’s a reason why fantasy shows are few and far between these days; it takes a lot to be really good to the point that you have a consistent audience week in and week out.
What we can say one episode into this particular fantasy adaptation is that there’s potential. Unfortunately, we just do not know yet where this potential will lead. The biggest thing working against the premiere, to be frank, is its run time. You are asking people to watch almost a two-hour show in early January (school / colleges are starting back) until almost 12:00 a.m., one that they have no real attachment to unless they read the source material. This didn’t work for “The Bastard Executioner,” and feel that it is not going to work here. That is just far too great of a commitment to have to make.
Meanwhile, the story of the show itself holds some intrigue with its lead Wil (Austin Butler), our capable half-elf lead who is starting to realize that he is an important figure who can protect the world from being inhabited by demons. The problem is that his magic stones, passed down from his father, have been taken, and he’s also still in his formative years of being a hero. Luckily, he has a mentor in Allanon (Manu Bennett, awesome as always) to help teach him some of the ways, and there is also Amberle (Poppy Drayton), who just so happens to be the last member of the Chosen, a group that protects the Ellcrys Tree and in turn keeps demons from entering the world.
Much of the premiere, despite the length, was good fun provided that it was not taken too seriously as a result. Much of the story does feel derivative to things that we’ve seen done elsewhere. For example, you’re probably very familiar now with elves thanks to “Lord of the Rings,” and there are some serious vibes of that in here. Plus, you could also label any recent role-playing video game (see: “Dragon Age”), “The 100,” a more fantasy-oriented “Hunger Games,” or other similar work.
The truth is that this is a show that will probably become better and better over time, and unfortunately the issue now becomes whether or not it will have the time to do just that. Grade: B-.
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