I have been waiting for this series a lot. Not that the trailer stunned me (although it looked mostly good), but there is a serious lack of fantasy series nowadays and this seemed to be something that could fill the void. I waited seven episodes to write about The Shannara Chronicles, so I could see more of it and watch it develop. If you haven’t watched it yet, you can still read on, I will try to be as spoiler-free as possible.
After having seen most of the first season I still can’t decide whether I like it or not. At least twice per episode I ask loudly “Why it had to be MTV?” There are some pretty irritating scenes which are clearly intended for teenagers, which I wouldn’t mind, if I didn’t feel that they wanted to make an epic fantasy at the same time. If they wanted younger audience, then they should have made it Twilight-ish, so 30-year-old geeks like myself wouldn’t even think about watching it.
But they brought half-epic fantasy into play, so I keep watching it still and roll my eyes every now and then. The three young protagonisits don’t add too much to the quality of the show unfortunately (and I was very diplomatic with this, I think), if we didn’t have John Rhys-Davies (King Eventine), James Remar (Cephelo) and Manu Bennett (Allanon) I probably would have abandoned Shannara already. The world itself, the CGI looks great, a huge plus for this one, it kind of saves the show. Oh, and the demons too! The same can’t be said about the costumes and props unfortunately. The weapons are very sterile, and look like toys more than an actual weapons, most of the armors would protect from a butterknife, and clearly have no practical use, they are only intended to look cool. The only thing I liked was Allanon’s outfit, although he looks more like a warlock than a druid, but I don’t mind. I also liked the idea that the “old civilization” was today’s world, it doesn’t disturb the fantasy feeling, it adds some flavor instead.
I haven’t read Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara Trilogy, so I can’t compare the book to the series, which is a good thing I think, since Game of Thrones was a bit disappointing for me having read the books years (twice) before the TV show launched. So far I have no major problems with the plot and the story, it has some original ideas (for me), like the elfstones or the concept of the gnomes in this series. The plot twists and “big” surprises are predictable, has many clichés, but still, altogether it’s one of the things because of which I still watch Shannara, it’s exciting enough to keep me engaged in the storyline, also a good for inspiration for later campaigns maybe.
As a DM, I think it’s a great plot for an epic campaign, although I would probably just borrow the starting concept and would introduce the grand scheme slower then the series, but of course, things have to go faster on the screen than at the table. Also I would definitely set the tone of the game somewhat darker, more hopeless. In Shannara I fell there is just too much hope, I can’t feel real desperation in the characters. Still, I’m going to hold on and watch the show, since there are no real alternatives in the fantasy genre.