The Shannara Chronicles: Changeling Review

For better or worse, The Shannara Chronicles turns into your average MTV soap opera in its fourth episode.

The Shannara Chronicles Season 1, Episode 4.

This The Shannara Chronicles review contains spoilers.

In my opinion, cheez whiz is gross.

If I’m craving cheese, I’ll go for the real stuff. I’m not a fan of artificial “cheese flavored” things such as Cheetos and cheesy puffs. Cheez-Its and Goldfish I’m cool with, but that mushy residue that gets all over your teeth makes me not even want to start. The real cheese, the kind you can slice and eat and waft strange odors from while you do so, is generally what I stick to. (Sorry, Kraft singles don’t count as real cheese to me either. Not sure where Velveeta stands yet.) In summary: cheez whiz is unholy, as it has made me nauseous on multiple occasions. Therefore, I don’t eat it.

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What does cheez whiz have to with this episode of The Shannara Chronicles?

Everything. Compared to the real, organic cheese the first three episodes served us on a platter, “Changeling” is, in fact, cheez whiz. The fakest, runniest, most dollar store brand of cheez whiz you can get. And if that wasn’t palatable enough for me, it’s also expired.

After spending three consecutive episodes piling every discarded fantasy/horror trope ever onto its crowded boilerplate, The Shannara Chronicles nearly damns itself to the point of irredeemability by finally embracing its true nature as an MTV teen series with reality program level acting and silly looking facial expressions that don’t emote much of anything at all.

When the impressive special effects, manic pacing and amusing gore is stripped away from this show, what’s left?  Pretty looking teenagers hanging out at a Lord of the Rings convention, having vaguely familiar Real World problems. Like love triangles, obviously. And cat fights about said love triangles. And impalings. And holy campaign quests to revive an ancient massive tree god. If that’s not exciting enough for you, just wait until they take The Challenge against the Road Rules crew.

You may have noticed that I don’t sound too enthusiastic about the Shannara this week. In my defense, have you actually watched this episode? I’m assuming you have. You saw what I saw, correct? Okay, good. Just checking. I want to make sure we’re on the same page here.

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I’m not sure if “Changeling” is the point of no return for the rocky-yet-entertaining fantasy horror soap opera with a greasy aftertaste, or if it’s just a hilarious lowpoint that the rest of the season will make up for in blood, action and special effects. I’m going to lean towards the latter, because even if this show is the cheesiest thing I’ve seen in years, it’s still one of the most entertaining in both intentional and unintentional ways. Witnessing how far a show could plummet and look cheap despite its high production value in the span of 40-odd minutes is disorienting and somewhat admirable at once.

One can’t ignore the impression that this was a cheaply made episode. There’s minimal action, the cast talks more than you want them to, certain sets are used too frequently (which inadvertently creates a claustrophobic atmosphere,) and turgid relationship drama is brought to the forefront.

Speaking of which, guess what? Wil slept with freaking Eritrea! Can you believe it? After all he’s been through with Amberle… The nerve of that half-breed! I can’t even. Amberle is clearly his soul mate because she stared at him while he took his shirt off at the river that one time. And he totally is hers, because he told all of her haters on the Elven Council to suck it last week. Why does Eritrea have to elfblock her?! 

Amberle’s life is like so hard, by the way. Being an elven princess perpetually dressed up in Hunger Games fetish gear is taxing on the soul. You have the weight of your entire elvenkind resting on the back of your petite shoulders while having to put up with skanky Rover girls getting all over your man at the same time. At least she passed the Ellcrys’s big test without dying. All she had to do was go on a vision quest that seemed fairly inexpensive to shoot and bam, she got the magic seed to carry to the Bloodfire. Simple enough, right?

The Ellcrys also happened to impart onto Amberle a very clear vision of her standing at the Bloodfire with both Wil and Eritrea, so you know what that means: we get way more scandalous shipper crap to make gifs out of and share on tumblr. That’s why this show exists, after all. Who are you rooting for, by the way? Team Elf or Team Rover?

(Off the record, I’m Team Rover, because she’s passionate and does fierce Emperor Palpatine cosplay.)

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Meanwhile, the eponymous changeling that Dagda Mor released has infiltrated Arborlon, disguising itself as one of their neat looking guards that are a cross betwen an old school Power Rangers monster and The Phantom of the Paradise. (In my book, this is a good thing.) The changeling stabs a random dude through the head. There. We’ve met our quota for over-the-top gore in this episode. Happy? 

Eritrea infiltrates Arborlon and brings the house down like Tila Tequila at a church bake sale. Turns out, she slept with Wil because she wanted to get her hands on his ba–ah I mean, stones. You know, those blue things. (Because what you’re actually thinking of aren’t blue anymore.) She steals them for her “dad” Cephalo, but winds up being wrongly imprisoned for stabbing that one dude in the head. Because she trusts in the Ellcrys (and realizes that there is a freaky fake knight in her midst), Amberle sort of frees her and drags her along on her quest to the Bloodfire with the mouth breathing blonde guy. Allanon is not coming along, as she didn’t see him in her vision. Apparently the tree didn’t invite him? That’s okay, because he’s looking pretty bored lately. Guess he needs another magic nap.

“Changeling” ties up loose ends that have been left dangling around since the series premiere, so you’d think it would be more eventful and climactic. But no. It chooses to focus on flatly acted love quarrels instead of the few important plot beats it has, bogging itself down with too much sharp cheddar flavor, too fast. This makes an impressively glossy TV show look shoddy in the process. Yet that’s what happens if you force your actors to chew scenery: they’ll leave noticeable bite marks.

You should follow Stephen on Twitter @OnlyWriterEver. He’ll follow you back. Also, check out his site and his secret Power Ranger tumblr, too. 


2 out of 5