The Shannara Chronicles ended its inaugural 10-episode run (which didn’t feel like nearly enough) with several major cliffhangers. The sweeping series was a surprise from the start — high fantasy done well on MTV? Surely not. And yet, Shannara walked the right line between adventure and romance, and even found clever ways of extending its budget to make its world really feel magical right through the end. And we need more.
Admittedly, I wasn’t on board with the idea of The Shannara Chronicles series at first (I was expecting it would be something more like Freeform’s unfortunate Shadowhunters), but I was thrilled to be wrong. Adam Chitwood’s praise of the series as an alternative to Game of Thrones piqued my interest enough to check it out, and while Shannara’s set up and political plots aren’t nearly as dense or (frankly) unwieldy as Game of Thrones, it populates its world with interesting factions and a very real evil threat, while also (slyly) building up a potentially even more encompassing darkness.
Shannara’s main strength, though, is in the chemistry among its leads. It continuously built up, tore down, and build up again the alliances among Eretria (Ivana Baquero), Amberle (Poppy Drayton), and Wil (Austin Butler). Those alliances were of vital importance, too, because as the show made clear throughout its first season, no one is safe (except maybe Manu Bennett’s Druid, but his cross to bear is the endless frustration that no one ever listens to him). By the finale, the now-King Ander (Aaron Jakubenko) had no one left. His father Eventine (John Rhys-Davies) is gone, he had to re-kill his brother Arion (Daniel MacPherson), his former love Commander Tilton (Emelia Burns) was gutted and possibly dead (plot thread left dangling there), and his niece Amberle has become a tree.
It’s not the ending that, as a non-book reader, I was expecting, but it did make the first season feel surprisingly like a long build-up to something even greater. The Dagda Mor (Jed Brophy) and the death of the Ellcrys seemed like the biggest threat / opposition that could exist in this world. And yet, the rise of Bandon (Marcus Vanco) has added an entirely new dimension to what evil might look like in this new age. Then there are, of course, the other, non-elf or human entities in the land to learn more about, one of which (the gnomes) we never even saw. As for the trolls, there appears to be something very unexpected behind those masks … who did Eretria see? Cephelo (James Remar), who we last saw in the hands of the trolls, or perhaps the mysterious scarred man at the human party who told Eretria her blood was the key? (After all, the trolls were guarding — albeit poorly — the Blood Fire. Do they have a connection to it as well?)
MTV hasn’t made the decision yet to bring back Shannara, likely because its just very expensive to produce (and the channel’s parent company Viacom has been making some major cutbacks lately). Though MTV is still best known for its reality programming (some good, like Catfish, and some too horrendous to even mention), it has also quietly carved out a niche for itself in the scripted realm, especially as it pivots more towards genre programming (like Teen Wolf, and now Shannara) a la the CW. Thus, it seems like something that should continue to be nurtured and explored, particularly as MTV is looking hard to increase its numbers, and Shannara is likely bringing in some fans outside of MTV’s typical viewership.