The Shannara Chronicles Starts Off With A Dense And Entertaining Pilot

The next book to be adapted off your bookshelf is Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara Trilogy, which kicked off this week on MTV. We liked how it started off, and it’s a dense, entertaining introduction to the world.


The first episode is an exercise in worldbuilding exposition. The recent spate of bookshelf-to-television stories such as Game of Thrones and The Expanse have had to go through the same sort of thing in recent years, introducing their characters and worlds in just about an hour, without turning off the audience.

The episode moves at a pretty fast pace: There’s the Ellcrys tree is holding back a horde of demons in a post-human future/fantasy world. There are amazing shots of New Zealand, history, trolls, and fantastic cities that channel Lord of the Rings more than they do Game of Thrones. There’s critics out there that’ll lay the charge that this sort of thing is too complicated for regular television, with a ton of characters, storylines, and so forth, but this is the perfect show for binge watching (indeed, MTV has put up the first four episodes for subscribers on its website), where viewers can immerse themselves completely in the world and story.

Illustration for article titled The Shannara Chronicles Starts Off With A Dense And Entertaining Pilot

The biggest problem with this episode is that the story takes a long time to really get moving, when Wil Ohmsford and Allanon realize that they need the elfstones that Wil possessed to help save the tree. Everything to start is set up, and worldbuilding, and it takes a little while to get running.

Upon returning to city of Arborlon, Wil and Allannon find that all of the Chosen have been killed, save for Amberle, a Princess of the Elves. Their quest is first to help save the tree, and in order to do that, they need to find Amberle. There’s some other behind-the-scenes politicking going on as well, not to mention some demons looking menacing as they’re resurrected.

There’s a lot going on in this episode. MTV managed to pack a considerable amount of material into the pilot: a whole host of storylines and characters with backstories. It’ll be worth watching the episode more than once to pick up everything that’s going on—and fortunately, Shannara is plenty of fun to watch.




I liked it but I didn’t love it.

The world building was well done and the effects are good for a television series but the actors...

There is absolutely nothing fantasy or futuristic about these characters. The world may have changed but current day millennials have not. I picture the initial group script reading going something like this:

Random Elf Actor: So, how should I play this? Tell me more about elves in this world. What is their demeanor? do they have an accent? Any racial mannerisms?

Director: Don’t worry about any of that. Just be yourself.

Random Elf Actor: Seriously? Should I watch anything for reference? Lord of the Rings? Game of Thrones?

Director: Here’s a DVD of “The Real World.”