The Shannara Chronicles: Manu Bennett Continues to Portray Essential Badassery [Review]

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From Al Gough and Miles Millar comes The Shannara Chronicles MTV series, an epic fantasy journey based on the Terry Brooks novels. The first 10-episode season debuted January 2016 and stars Poppy Drayton, Austin Butler, Ivana Baquero, Manu Bennett and John Rhys-Davies.

The Four Lands, normally a land of magic and peace, faces a threat beyond man: Demons. Banished ages ago, they were held back by a magical wall known as the Forbidding. Yet the source of that magic, the magical tree known as the Ellcrys, is dying, and thus the wall wanes. When the acolytes who tend to the tree are all killed, the wise Druid Allanon turns to Amberle, the last remaining disciple, to save the tree. Only she can take the seed of the elven tree to the faraway Bloodfire, to replant the Ellcrys and stop the Demons. To protect her, Allanon sends the young Wil Ohmsford, a descendant of heroes past. As the two youth head on a perilous journey, Allanon and the entire Elven Nation stand together to hold back the Demons and stop them from destroying the Four Lands.

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When I first heard about The Shannara Chronicles, it wasn’t from Terry Brooks’ novels. I never read them. The first time I heard the name, was when it was attached to that badass first look trailer from last year’s San Diego Comic Con. I was blown away and then I was confused because the show was going to be on MTV. I don’t watch MTV. They have Teen Wolf, Scream and…. I don’t watch MTV.

When The Shannara Chronicles debuted their first four episodes online  – I blasted through them and was blown away by the action, scale, effects and amount of work that Al Gough and Miles Millar (Into The Badlands) put into making this epic series work. The feel of Lord of The Rings, the violence of Game of Thrones and the appeal of Hunger Games when it comes to the show’s young leads. It just worked and it worked damn well for all 10 episodes.

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The series takes place in a fantasy driven world which is actually Earth – YEARS AND YEARS – so many years into the future and I love the twist that the world has transformed into this mix of magic and medieval after our modern civilization fails. The overall premise has an elven princess, a half elf healer and a human rogue going on a quest to save the Four Lands after demons begin to return and wreak chaos when the mystical Ellcrys tree starts to die.

Trolls, gnomes (not your run of the mill garden suckers – these dudes are ugly) and the occasional human (most of which are assholes which is fitting) pop up to make things interesting. The druid Allanon awakens just as the demons do and he’s the mastermind behind assembling our quest team to fight the incoming evil. Manu Bennett continues to portray essential badassery and his role as Allanon is beyond my favorite performance on The Shannara Chronicles. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t as excited for the show to begin with if not for his involvement.

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One of the aspects I loved most about this show, and was shocked by to say the least, was how jarring the violence could get. When a demon is ripping into somebody and tearing them to pieces – it is horrifying. Even in the finale when a dude is getting his head bashed in with a chain – I was like, “Ok buddy, calm down – you’ve bashed his head in enough – he is certainly dead.” I wasn’t sure what the limitations would be on MTV, but violence was certainly not one of them. The action sequences coupled with amazing special effects (this is a TV show? I still have a hard time believing that) make The Shannara Chronicles unparalleled to anything else on the smallscreen right now.

My one gripe would be that I have a really hard time relating to the three main characters. This is the same issue I have with shows like The Flash or Arrow – I’m in it for the geekery, I’m a 30 year old married guy with three kids so I don’t give a shit about teen love triangles or being overwhelmed with the weight of the world being forced upon my sexy hair. The Shannara Chronicles is a little too shiny for my own liking – I think they need to get those kids beat the hell up next season and have them look like they just shit themselves or something, cause everyone looked a tad too perfect for this gritty world.

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I may not have known a single thing about this fantasy world beforehand but I’m intrigued now and I may even grab one or two of Terry Brooks’ novels – he is after all one of the most famous fantasy writers on the planet – so why the hell not? The show isn’t a direct adaptation of any novel in particular and I’m happy that it’s becoming it’s own beast in a way. The Shannara Chronicles is easily MTV’s greatest achievement since the dawn of the music video. Putting this show on their network was the smartest decision that they could have ever made right now and I’ll happily watch every damn episode. Also – Manu – all day every day – Manu time.

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