This The Shannara Chronicles review contains spoilers.
The Shannara Chronicles Season 2 Episode 3
Ah, yes. That’s better. Much, much better. You did well this time.
Which is to say, you behaved as a more competently television scripted series would (even though your sense of pacing remains highly questionable).
Good for you.
So maybe I was rough on you last week. Maybe, some might say, too rough. But, hey – you deserved it. You took the momentum that the premiere had started up and sort of left it sitting there for a while. “Wraith” wasn’t a terrible episode, but it wasn’t what I had in mind when I envisioned a “newer, darker, ballsier” Shannara Chronicles. Instead, it was what I would have expected to see on FreeForm if that channel had an edgy late-night lineup.
But you know what? What’s in the past is in the past – for now. Let’s focus on the here and now, where you’ve given us an episode that plays out like the finale for a three-episode mini-season. “Graymare” makes up for all the time we spent in its predecessor, getting acquainted with the romantic intrigues that certain pivotal characters are being sucked into whether they want to be or not. It also does what I didn’t expect to happen for a few more episodes, at least, and that is reunite Wil and Eretria for the first time since “Ellcrys”.
That’s right, folks. Our favorite two crazy kids are back together at last, pretty much immediately after this installment begins. Wil wakes to in that barn that he had that stand-off with Bandon in to find our friendly neighborhood rover girl staring at down at him. Now this is a reunion, am I right? She tells him that Amberle came to her in a vision and told her that he was there. Of course this had to happen off-screen, because Poppy Drayton wasn’t contracted for a friggin’ cameo this time. Sigh. Thanks for pulling a David Duchovny circa-2001, Pops. Oh well. I’ll take invisible Amberle over no Amberle any day.
Meanwhile, Allanon – Mareth’s dad – is brought before Riga (another original character created specifically for this TV adaptation) to the eponymous (and ominous) Graymark to answer for his magic use. There’s this whole Third Reich meets Into the Badlands schtick going on. It’s a bit on the nose, but Shannara is not what we would call an exercise in subtlety these days, if it ever was. Hey, since Riga is the leader of the Crimson, can I call him King Crimson? No? Yeah, I feel like a psychedelic prog rock reference is lost on whoever is reading this, so let’s forget I tried and move on, shall we?
Elsewhere, Wil and Eretria break up an “altercation” between Jax and Mareth. After which, they make hasty introductions and decide, hey, let’s all go on road trip to Castle Graymark with Jax leading the way. What could go wrong? Actually, nothing much. They manage to get to Graymark in record time.
Can I just say how much more comfortable I feel now that Wil and Eretria are in the same shot again? What a breath of relief. I love that they drop a massive amount of season 1 references like they were more epic than they were. Hell, Eretria even talks about Cephelo like he was their Zordon or something. But I understand why: it can’t always be about Amberle.
Remember Lyria? No? That’s okay, you don’t have to. She confronts her mother Queen Tamlin at the Hold about what she told her boo Eretria. She reminds her that her main purpose in life is to marry King Anders and get busy with the elves. Tamlin threatens Eretria’s life if Lyria refuses. It is also revealed that Tamlin used Edain to kill Catania..and now I’m watching Dynasty.
Back at the titular yet evil fort of doom, Allanon is being tortured by Riga’s men by being punched a lot because he wants that codex, dammit. Wil and Jax make it through, and Wil is also tortured in the same room across from his Druid buddy. Instead of being punched a lot, he gets his blood drained instead. This goes on for a pretty long while…yeah. Shannara, you so dark!
Eretria and Mareth and Jax all do a daring New Hope style daring rescue and save these two macho Middle Earth men from the clutches of – what’s his name – Riga. In the process, Mareth’s own Druidic powers emerge as she teres shit up with a magic staff. Hey, look! Fight scenes! An actual climax! Special effects! Triumphant battle cries screamed out in the rain! Now we’re talking. The power of Spike TV compells you!
If you can’t tell by my decidedly more enthusiastic review, “Graymark” is a much stronger entry than “Wraith” was, and more in line with the new grittier tone of the series. Not only does it capture the new spirit of Shannara Diaries well, it also does what its predecessor forgot to do: warm us up to the new cast members. Jax and Mareth are written far better here than before and are given a lot more to do that is actually relevant to the main storyline. See? Was that so hard?
I mentioned last week that despite my sharply worded criticisms of this series, I can still look past the wrinkles and see the potential for a nice, satisfying genre show that’s in there somewhere. “Graymark” marks the first time (and hopefully not the last) that this potential comes to the forefront in this new and improved season.
Keep it up, Shannara. The world is your oyster.
Your mutated, post-apocalyptic, dark and gritty oyster.
Read the full Den of Geek NYCC Special Edition Magazine right here!