[Review] The Shannara Chronicles Episode 1×03: “Fury”

written by Dayna Abel

Well, we hit a bit of a snag last week in that I was out of town and visiting friends who don’t have MTV. Savages. So I’ll be doubling up and posting the Episode 4 review tomorrow. Don’t say I never do anything nice for you.

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

Now that I have my intense fangirling out of the way, I’m able to focus more on the characters this episode. Much as I love Terry Brooks, my main criticism of his writing is that his later works tend not to produce memorable characters. Again, this is mostly geared towards the Voyage Of the Jerle Shannara series and afterwards – with the exception of Grianne Ohmsford, I find it hard to distinguish one hero from the others.

Fortunately, Season One of The Shannara Chronicles draws upon The Elfstones Of Shannara, which is arguably Terry’s best work. But what really makes this show appealing to me is that they’ve not only captured the essence of the characters but enhanced them.

Let’s start with Wil, our standard Reluctant Hero. From the opening shot of “Fury,” he’s clearly outclassed by the titular demon and yet his very first thought is to protect Amberle. He’s screaming and absolutely terrified and still he places himself between Amberle and the Fury, not because of Allanon’s order to protect her but because it’s instinctive.

It put me in mind of Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent in Superman after he fails to save Jonathan from a heart attack. “All these powers…and I couldn’t save him,” Clark says, broken. Wil is a Healer. He wants to save people. In his eyes, he has knowledge and elixirs and potions galore and none of it had the power to save his mother. Many people would be embittered by this. Instead, like Clark, Wil chooses to use what he has to help whoever he can. Saving people is his calling. Wil is absolutely dedicated to his promise to protect, which ultimately leads to him fully accepting his charge to accompany Amberle to Safehold.

Poppy Drayton as Amberle puts me in mind of Miracle Laurie as Mellie on Dollhouse. The facial expressions and line delivery are eerily similar, and both performances are of characters who are seemingly soft and gentle but have steel underneath that softness. Amberle is clearly in over her head here. She’s terrified. She blames herself for what’s happening, afraid that breaking tradition and becoming a Chosen is what sickened the Ellcrys. She’s afraid she has let her people and her duties down, she’s afraid of what her family thinks of her, she’s afraid of the Demons, she’s afraid of failure and the consequences of that failure. This all got dropped on her at once.

Amberle feels the fear and accepts her fate anyway.

That’s strength. That’s courage. To be that afraid and to go ahead and do what you have to do because you have to. Amberle’s courage is there in the book, but it’s heavily emphasized here when it’s right there in front of you. Drayton’s acting is marvelous and a source of inspiration, especially for me, since I suffer from sporadic panic attacks.

Bandon is a new character created for the show, so I haven’t a clue what role he’ll play on the quest. There are a million reasons to be suspicious of him, as Wil and Allanon are, but Amberle brings him along to Arborlon anyway out of compassion. It could be a costly mistake, but on the other hand, it looks like Bandon has visions of the future and one of those visions is what convinces Wil to stay with the party against his better judgment. I’m intrigued and I’m looking forward to seeing more.

Wil’s first use of the Elfstones is breathtaking. The CGI and SFX on Shannara is without a doubt some of the best I’ve seen on television and I would not be surprised if it was up for an award at some point for this and for cinematography. It’d be well-deserved.

“Fury” ends on the cliffhanger of Amberle entering the Ellcrys, prepared and willing to accept whatever happens if it means she will be able to take the Seed to Safehold. This is far more exciting than the passive acceptance of the book and gives Amberle more agency in her decision to take on the consequences of her quest. I love it and I really need to get watching episode 4 now.

The Shannara Chronicles airs Tuesday nights on MTV at 9 pm Central and can also be viewed online at http://www.mtv.com/shows/shannara.

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