Tuesday, January 12, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Shannara Chronicles' - Amberle and Wil are Taken as They Make Their Way Back to the Palace in 'Fury'

MTV's The Shannara Chronicles - Episode 1.03 "Fury"

Eretria and Cephalo kidnap Wil and Amberle. Wil must learn how to use the Elfstones before a Fury kills them all.

"Fury" is a bit more scattered and chaotic than last week's series premiere was. Allanon and Wil have found Amberle. Now, they just need to get her back to the castle as soon as possible in order to start the process of saving the Ellcrys tree. This episode encompasses that journey. The hour is largely filled with plot contrivances to fill it with action but delay Amberle's return until the very end. It allows the characters to have even more run-ins with the citizens of this world outside the castle's walls. But none of it is particularly interesting. It's just setting things up for the future or simple stalling techniques. It's intense but not everything has a purpose which keeps this episode from fully taking off.

Things were pretty precarious for Wil and Amberle at the conclusion of the previous episode. They were under attacked by the winged demon. It didn't seem like there was any reasonable way out of that situation considering neither of them knows what to do to defeat a demon. And unsurprisingly, it's Allanon who slays this creature. It's a pretty fantastic sequence to watch as Allanon first cuts off its wing-arm and then goes in for the beheading. It establishes just how skilled a warrior Allanon really is. But it also showcases just how far Wil and Amberle have to go in order to make it in this changing world with reappearing magic. However, they first have to accept that this is their destiny. They have to accept that they are the only ones capable of saving this world. That's a huge ask. It's something that the hour goes through the motions of a little bit. Both are determined by the end. But it never fully seems as if the show does enough to explain just how valuable this connection between them is going to be.

Amberle and Wil bond because of these extreme circumstances. They face multiple dangers in the outside world where they can only rely on each other in order to survive. That does establish some bond. They are in this together. But it doesn't make it all that believable when they pledge that they will protect each other - with their lives if need be. Both of them wanted to run away from these problems. They didn't ask for any of this. Amberle even believes this is only happening because she ran the Gauntlet and broke from tradition. That creates awkwardness back at home when she returns and has to plead her case to the elf leaders. But this is just something that everyone needs to accept. That goes for the audience as well. It's not all that interesting watching as people go back and forth on whether they should accept that this is happening. It is. The sooner everyone accepts that the more entertaining the show will be. So, it's a good thing that the show doesn't linger too long on these mixed feelings. Perhaps now, it can lead to more action in the future.

But it does take awhile getting to that point. The journey getting there isn't particularly exciting - especially when Allanon is sidelined and Wil and Amberle are taken by Eretria and her Rover family. The fact that both Wil and Amberle ran into Eretria in the woods signaled that she would play a crucial part in the narrative. And yet, her story just isn't interesting in the slightest. It's very formulaic and follows predictable sci-fi tropes. She's trying to leave this life behind because her father is abusive but he'll never let her leave. Amberle and Wil spend a lot of time in this episode with these people. Wil does get the elf stones back and is able to use them when another winged demon attacks. But this part of the story really doesn't do a great job at showing off the characters' wits and intelligence. Amberle's handling of the situation is pretty awkward. Her actions never make a whole lot of sense. But she's at least able to escape this story. The same can't be said for Eretria who is trapped in it to play out the same story beats over and over again.

Meanwhile, Allanon was only injured in battle in order to allow Wil and Amberle to get kidnapped. He tells them to continue on their journey and to leave him behind. He forgets to mention that the place they take him to is magical and can heal his words. His failure to do so leads to all the further plot complications. He is in pain and dying one moment and then magically healed the second. It doesn't help establish meaningful life-and-death stakes. Plus, it's never shown what the cost of this magic is for Allanon. The same can also be said of the introduction of Bandon, the sole survivor of a devastating village attack who Amberle welcomes into the palace. It's clear early on that there is something off with him. Allanon notes that he very likely has magical abilities as well. That's on display a little bit when Amberle touches him and he gets a glimpse at the grim future. But it's hard to feel like this plot introduction is all that important. Bandon does get Wil to change his mind and stay to continue to protect Amberle. But that largely comes because Wil is a much more interesting character when he's interacting with Allanon and Amberle. It means nothing more than that.

By the end of things, Amberle is successful in her plead to the elf council. Not even her magic-disapproving uncle can sway the balance of things. That continues to be an awful character construct because he's the only voice of concern amongst this high council. Everyone else is so willing to believe in Amberle simply because of a passionate speech by her, Allanon and Wil. It works. So now, Amberle will have to face a trial from the tree that will determine whether or not she can carry the seed. That sounds like an exciting setup for the next episode - which will hopefully be more consistent and engaging than this one.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Fury" was written by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and directed by James Marshall.
  • More backstory is given about Amberle's father and how he died protecting his brother. That guilt eats the brother up every day and informs his current dynamic with his father. It's not all that compelling yet.
  • James Remar is playing Eretria's father a little bit too over-the-top. It's campy on a show that's played largely straight despite the outrageous spectacle of the world. It definitely keeps me from taking that story all that seriously.
  • The show really was unafraid to show those mangled bodies in all of their disfigured glory. It's easy to understand how Amberle and Wil reacted the way they did.
  • This is still a show on MTV though. So that means the audience gets a lingering shot of Wil's abs right before he goes for a swim.
  • The leaves on the tree seem to be falling more and more. It won't be long at all before the tree is dead and the land is overrun by demons.