Sunday, June 11, 2017

Just Finished Watching... The Shannara Chronicles

Admittedly The Shannara Chronicles wasn't high on my to-watch list, but I've been making a pretty good dent in that list lately, and since it's in no particular order, I decided Shannara was next.
First off, like Shadowhunters, this was a show that started out in the seriously-not-great category. The dialogue... ugh. Some of it was cringe worthy and delivered very questionably by the actors. But I pushed through the awkwardness, and while not as addictive as Shadowhunters, Shannara Chronicles still ended up sucking me in well enough.
This kind of high fantasy usually isn't my thing. I'm not a Lord of the Rings fan, and have never seen any of the other movies related to the series (Hobbits or something?). The Shannara Chronicles probably helped keep my interest by the fact that it was kind of post-apocalyptic in that its set thousands of years into the future following the fall of man. That is now ancient history, and living memory has the Elves in control of the land after winning a war against the trolls and gnomes. Humans are still around, but they are now the lesser species.
What really stood out for me in this show? The best love triangle I've ever seen on any TV series or movie. But more on that in a minute.
When we meet the first main character, Amberle, you kind of forced to like her. She's going to enter a gauntlet to do something no girl has ever done -- become a member of the Chosen (this show can't be accused of being subtle) who care for the mystical tree in the middle of their kingdom that is said to imprison a demon army. People have come to believe this is simply a myth or fairy tale. Plus, no one has seen magic for decades, so they believe it has died out. Amberle is successful and we also find out that she's a princess.
Next, we have Wil. I thought Wil was a little wishy-washy at first, and not necessarily hero material. But you know, a hero called and created under adversity -- not through their own choice -- often makes the best hero. Wil's character arc is the classic Hero's Journey (read the book by Christopher Vogler), plot point for plot point.
We find out that Wil is the last of the Shannara, even though he didn't know it because his father changed their name and never told him. The Shannara were a long and ancient line of kings that once ruled the land (I think).
This piqued my interest, and I wondered what Wil was going to do with this information. He didn't have the best start to the series, with his mother dying, and then deciding to set off to make a new life, but instead gets robbed by out third hero, Eretria. After that, a druid turns up (incidentally, played by Manu Bennett [who was on Arrow, among other things] and is a very good actor. Actually, I'm now convinced Manu Bennett can improve the quality of a show just by standing in a scene and looking awesome.
He certainly saved this show early on) and tells him who he really is and that Wil needs to protect a certain princess.Meanwhile, Amberle also ends up running across Eretria, but the outcome of their skirmish is very different. When Wil dealt with her, he ended up being the sucker who got taken advantage of, but when Amberle comes up against her, Eretria loses out when Amerle steals her horse.
The love triangle isn't immediately apparent, though it is subtly established with Eretria seducing Wyl to trick him, and then Wil's obvious attraction to Amberle when he meets her. There were even interesting sparks between Amberle and Eretria in their first meeting, though they were more in the form of clashing personalities.
As the episodes continue on, Wil doubts his ability to help Amberle, even though the druid insists that it's his destiny. Amberle resists wanting help as she attempts to figure out her own path, while Eretria is constantly crossing both their paths. Finally, Eretria sleeps with Wil to steal from him yet again (Elf stones, which he sometimes wields with magic to kill demons) but as she's trying to leave the palace, she is accused of attempting to kill Amberle, when in fact it was a changeling, or shape-shifting demon that had impersonated her.
Soon after this, Amberle has a vision, and realizes that for some reason, she needs both Wil and Eretria to go with her on the quest to save the mythical tree, before it dies and releases all the demons.
At first, Eretria is going against her will, simply a prisoner. But as the journey continues on, become more dangerous and complicated, the three grow closer, and soon Eretria has to make a choice -- her chance to escape, or stay and help them complete the journey. Of course, she chooses to stay, and by now the love triangle is well and truly established.
In one particular episode, Eretria makes a move on Amberle -- hard to say why, there could have been a number of reasons to do with Wil, because it's obvious Wil cares for Amerble and Eretria is a little jealous, or just testing Amberle's vulnerabilities. Either way, when Amberle rebuffs her, I think Eretria is more hurt by it than she expected to be. Later in the same episode, Amberle thinks Wil has been killed, and after she discovers he's alive and she escapes the crazy guy trying to kill her, she kisses him, partly because it'd been building up for so long, but a lot of it would have been simple relief.
Earetria of course comes in and sees them, and she's obviously not surprised by this development. Really, I don't think anyone was. It's at the end of this episode when Eretria ends up making her own choice about the quest. She has the chance to escape and leave the two of them. Logically you might think that after seeing Amberle and Wil kissing, it might have driven her to leaving. Instead, in that moment which also might see Amberle and Wil die, I think she realizes she cares deeply about both of them, that they have or can give her something she's lacked in her life -- real friends, people who care about her because of who she is, not what she can do. So, despite the risk to her own life, she chooses Amberle and Wil.
After that, the trio is now bound by blood -- not really, but symbolically -- and continue to grow closer. However, this isn't without bumps in the road. There's an episode where Eretria looks like she might choose to go her own way after all, settling in a human village that seems open and accepting, plus the leader of this village is charismatic and convinces Eretria its where she belongs, and that her friends probably went on without her.
It's very clear by this stage that Wil has feelings for both girls, though he and Ameberle have shared several kisses. Amberle never really seems jealous of the fact that Wil also clearly cares for Eretria at this point (though at the beginning, after she found out they'd slept together, she did make a few snarky jealous comments). In fact, Amberle seems to care about Eretria just as much at this late stage in the journey.
Seriously, this love triangle was just done so well. Usually I'm a bit "meh" about love triangles. And I'll always pick a side. I just always feel like they're not working somehow. But in this instance, I couldn't pick a ship. I kept swinging back and forth between Ambil and Wiltria (totally just made up those shipper names. I don't know what the fans call them) and in the end, just decided to ship all three of them together. I want them to be happily polyamorous altogether.
Funnily enough, this is not the first polyamorous relationship I've shipped, and the other one was very recent as well. In Cable Girls, though I didn't mention it in the post I wrote, one of the girls was in a committed relationship with a man, but then another woman came along, and while at first they were friends, this woman made a move on the girl, throwing her into a clear state of sexual confusion. She did try to resist, but it was obvious she was also curious and attracted to the woman. Her boyfriend eventually caught them kissing, and while he was a little hurt that she'd betrayed him, he was very accepting. Maybe because he was secretly also attracted to this woman. Suffice to say they all ended up in bed together and seemed to commence a polyamorous relationship, and I'm very interested to see whether they maintain this into the second half of season 1, when it releases later in the year.
But back to the Shannara Chronicles.
In the final two episodes, I was really starting to wonder where the writers were taking the Amberle/Wil/Eretria relationship, because the three of them were connected in a way I'd never seen done between characters before.
Now for some serious spoilerage. In the final episode, after completing the task they'd set out to do, the three of them were being chased by trolls. Eretria stayed behind, giving Wil and Amerle a chance to escape, because even though they'd done what they needed, the kingdom wasn't going to be safe until Amberle made it back to the tree. Both Wil and Amberle were clearly upset and torn about leaving her, but in the end, they didn't have a choice.
Wil and Amberle manage to make it back to the tree, but much to Wil's shock, Amberle tells him good bye. Because in order to save the tree, she has to become the tree. This had been revealed a little bit before hand, so the viewers had already had time to digest, but Amberle had said she wasn't willing to do it. But in the end, it was the only way to save everyone, so she went through with it.
The season closed on Wil leaving to find Eretria. I was hoping that season 2 would see Wil and Eretria searching for some way to release Amberle from the tree without releasing all the demons again. But a bit of googling told me a different story. Apparently a year has passed when the series starts back, and Wil has moved on by himself. Circumstance force him and Eretria to team up again. and Amberle doesn't get a mention, so I'm sadly assuming she's gone for good.
Either way, I was sucked in enough that I'll at least make a start on season 2 whenever it starts on Netflix. But I won't lie, if Amberle really isn't coming back, then I'm going to be sorely disappointed about the waste of a perfectly awesome love triangle.

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