[Review] The Shannara Chronicles Episode 2×07: “Warlock”

written by Noel Thingvall

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

After a season of manipulations, trying to sell her own daughter into a forced marriage, trying to lull the elf king into putting his kingdom under her rule, funding the attacks of the Crimson to create an enemy she can rise up to conquer, ruling her people atop a deal she struck long ago with the Warlock Lord himself… this is the episode where Queen Tamlin has to pay her dues. When the cards fall is usually when a person reveals the truth of who they are, and as Tamlin is imprisoned and Ander’s body is thrown off the executioner’s ledge like a bundle of trash, Tamlin finally takes a stand against the poor choices of her past. During the assault, she’d given Lyria the key to Heaven’s Well and sent the princess off under the protection of Eretria, the lover the Queen once tried to bribe away.

While in jail, Tamlin begs Garet Jax to find a way to escape and protect Lyria. He does so, finally agreeing to a cause worth fighting for. Slanter is, of course, left silently brooding in a corner instead of being made a part of this pact, sadly furthering his lack of use this season. I feel really bad for this actor having to go through full makeup every single episode only to have almost nothing to do during any of them. And I’m only just now seeing that Jared Turner, who played Slanter in the first season, has been completely replaced by stuntman Glen Levy. I wonder how that ties into the backgrounding of the character.

As Tamlin is led out to the executioner’s ledge with her people forced to gather in witness, General Riga approaches her with the executioner’s prod. She chooses to take away his power, turning her back on him and stepping off into the raging waters below. Tamlin has been a hard character to get a read on, as she intentionally frustrated nearly every encounter with her political machinations, but she goes out strong. She uses her dignity and strength to deny Riga an easy kill, and does so in a way which still crafts an image of a martyr for the masses, who died for her people. Riga wanted them to witness a defeat. Instead, he showed the people how much he’s still struggling to maintain control.

Lyria has come so far from the token love interest I worried she would be in the first episode. She was pulled into being a tool, lost her love and then regained her, stood alongside a king and, with his friendship, planned to stand against her mother and unite the lands. Now she’s had everything ripped away and been thrust onto the throne of a people currently imprisoned by the Crimson. Eretria is with her, and they’re safe in the abandoned jailhouse, but as Cogline teaches her about the Heaven’s Well and offers her sanctuary back in his hidden town of tech gurus, the weight of everything keeps piling on Lyria’s shoulders. On top of that, Eretria has another vision from Amerble/the Ellcrys, another call to find Wil, and she has to leave Lyria behind.

Wil and Mareth somehow found horses between episodes, as they haul Allanon’s comatose form back to Storlock, where it’s learned that Allanon is dying from the rapid spread of the Warlock Blade’s poison just as quickly as Flick was. There are two bits of writing in this episode which I absolutely hate, the first of which happens here. Remember early in the season when Riga said he was trying to find and destroy the Druid Codex – the druids’ tome of spells and histories – in his quest to wipe magic from the land? I thought finding the Codex was going to be a sidequest on the show. Hell, I could swear it came up when our heroes set off for Paranor a few episodes back, though don’t hold me to that. Anyways, nope, there’s no adventure, no mystery behind the location of the Codex. The chief surgeon gnome dude, Wil’s teacher? Yeah, he just hands it to Wil, saying Allanon gave it to him for safekeeping and that it might be of some help. Please refer back to my previous post covering my doubts about how this writing staff is being run as nobody seems to be on the same page from episode to episode.

Cracking open the book, which appears to be printed in a druidic form of Courier New, Mareth realizes she can read druid script. Because of course. Her mother, Pyria, wanted Mareth to have nothing to do with druids, yet somehow let her read Allanon’s love letters, which were written in druid. (Sidebar: somebody please make fan art of this gruff, emotionally awkward version of Allanon writing a love letter.) Mareth finds a spell which will let her enter Allanon’s dreams so as to bring him back to the world of the waking, leading to a tender scene of Wil telling her to be safe as he uses a scalpel to carve a necessary rune in her hand. Linking her rune to one carved on Allanon’s chest, we get a great SFX shot I’d love to learn more about, holding on Mareth as she collapses backwards, the room shifting to a field of dreams as she lands on rippling grass.

In a really nice touch, the first thing Mareth encounters in the dream is a Fury, one of those winged creatures which killed her mother way back in Season One. Mareth is saved by Allanon, who knows full well that he’s in a coma – he just has things to attend to before waking up. Mareth shrugs and follows along, and fans of the books might especially enjoy what comes next. While it has a physical location in the books, in this TV series, a dream state is apparently where druids access the Hadeshorn, a strikingly still lake which houses the shades of fallen druids. Here, Allanon summons Bremen, his mentor, who played a major role in First King Of Shannara against the first rise of the Warlock Lord. Bremen holds out a sword hilt (for one of those collapsible druid blades), and says the next in the line of druids has been chosen, one imbued with innate magic. They both look to Mareth.

Upon waking, Mareth is in agony as one of the old rune scars disappears from Allanon and burns fresh into her skin. Mareth has been called to be the next druid, and one by one, the runes of magic will pass from Allanon to her as he finally agrees to train her to follow in his footsteps. As he passes on the sword and she extends the blade, things get further complicated for Mareth – now the Most Important Character in the show – as Eretria arrives with news of Ander’s death. Everyone thinks the royal line of Elessedil has now been wiped out, but Wil knows the truth: Pyria Elessedil, the king’s sister, had a daughter. I am so eager to see where they’re going to go with this, and if it all ends with a druid queen, or if she’ll have to give up one path in order to choose the other. I’m not sure if there’s ever been a druid queen or king in the books, so please let me know in the comments.

More importantly, even Eretria can see that Mareth has a case of the wuvs, and gives her some words of understanding as she knows what it’s like when those feelings have the misfortune of being for Wil. As longing stares are delivered to a pop tune, we’re treated to my favorite line of dialogue of the season: “Is it weird that I’m jealous of a tree?” As Mareth begins her training, Wil and Eretria are off to see said tree.

Throughout the episode, even though it remains strangely uncommented upon, there’s been a solar eclipse passing through the sky. It’s there when Tamlin dies, and when Mareth receives her call. Arriving at Graymark, there’s a great sequence of Bandon swiftly wiping out the Crimson horde with iron rebars from the rubble. Then, in the shadow of the eclipse, he uses the Warlock Blade – still stained with Allanon’s blood – to carve a rune circle around the skull and heart. In a flash of energy, the Warlock Lord is reborn. We follow him slowly, his pale, naked body smoldering into armor as he steps into the main chamber, where he takes his throne and then lights the room in flame. And if you could only see my face as I WTF’d at the big reveal as, beneath the scarring, piercings, and empty black eyes, the Warlock Lord is played by Manu Bennett. That’s right, HE HAS THE FACE OF ALLANON.

I have no idea why! Is it because there’s some deeper tie between the two? Father/son? Or is it because Allanon’s blood was used? Either way, I’m excited to see what the reason behind this is! CAN YOU TELL I’M EXCITED?!

Also, who the hell was that greasy Gollum-looking dude staring from the trees when the Codex came into play? I kept expecting him to pop up again during the episode, but he never did.

This episode is the first for the series written by industry rookies Alex and Julie Diaz, who joined the show as staff writers at the beginning of Season Two with their only prior work being a few college shorts and the Canadian tween sitcom What’s Up Warthogs. As I mentioned, I have two major issues with the writing this week. The first is with the Codex. The second is after Eretria finds Wil. It’s a great scene of them reconnecting and being close, with the intimacy of old friends instead of reimpassioned lovers. The thing is, it’s a moment where they don’t have too much of a ticking clock, nor are they under immediate attack, yet it’s not until a good fifteen minutes later as they’re leaving for the Ellcrys that Eretria finally updates Wil on King Ander’s death. Nope, I’m sorry. They had plenty of time open to them at that first meeting, and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t have sat down and caught each other up then and there, especially Eretria with the massive, world-changing news that the king of the elves had been killed and Tamlin captured by the Crimson. THAT IS NOT A LEDE THAT YOU BURY. Even if you don’t want to show it, there are ways to imply that it happened off-screen. This is a big issue rookie writers fall for, in that they don’t consider what characters are doing between the bits where we’re watching them, or leaving conversations to pick up right where they left off despite hours having passed and characters being in a different location. Alongside it being inexperienced writing, it’s again a sign of poor showrunning on the series.

That said, I think their work on the episode is otherwise quite good, and I would like to see how their work grows as they move on to future things. All of the threads intercut nicely. The dialogue is a little stiff, but sticks to the characters and keeps things moving, with some especially beautiful direction from series vet James Marshall. Tamlin’s death is beautifully handled, as is the reunion between Wil and Eretria. The major shifts to Mareth’s arc are well done and swept me along, with the reminder of her having a royal bloodline, which could have been an obvious twist, suddenly being highlighted in a surprising way. The resurrection of the Warlock Lord is a showstopper of a success, and I yet again love the callbacks to the books with Bremen and the Hadeshorn.

I still have zero expectations that we’ll get a Season Three, but I’m hopeful and excited to see if they can stick the landing of this one as we head into the final stretch.

The Shannara Chronicles airs Wednesday nights on Spike at 9 pm Central and can also be viewed online at http://www.spike.com/shows/the-shannara-chronicles. Noel can be reached on Twitter @NoelCT and his other projects can be found at The Noel Network.

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