This article contains spoilers for The Shannara Chronicles Episode 7, "Breakline."
Previously on The Shannara Chronicles ... Wil, Amberle and Eretria are all simultaneously falling to their death down a snowy ravine.
Now on The Shannara Chronicles ... Wil wakes up alone in a stream on a lovely spring day. Is this a trick? Time jump? Dream? Magic hologram? Regular-type hologram? Nope! It's just The Shannara Chronicles not making a lick of sense, which, much like me weeping into a fifth of vodka after watching every episode of this show, will be henceforth known as "the usual."
"Breakline," unlike the previous episode, gets some important storytelling done, but it also continues Shannara's trend of trying and failing to blend fantasy with modern pop culture. I assume they think they've concocted some kind of delicious fusion, but I feel like a parent whose kid just served up a jellybean and peanut butter omelette.
But I eat it anyway. For you, dear reader. For you. And it's not all bad news. In many ways "Breakline" has the dubious honor of being the best episode of The Shannara Chronicles so far. But before we talk about why, let's go over all the major plot beats:
- "Elves don't just fall out of the sky every day," says one elf hunter to another (they're exactly what they sound like). They do in this episode, though! And since we've got an elf majority in the party, that awfully meta statement leads us down both Wil and Amberle/Eretria's separate plotlines.
- Wil meets a Wing Rider named Perk whose ear has been shorn by the elf hunters. Wil treats Perk's wound and gets him stoned in the process. Yes, really. But instead of mellowing out, Perk goes full berserk (you lace that weed with something, Wil?) and attacks the dude who chopped off his ear. I mean, that's not unfair, but it slows down Wil's search for those two girls who are hot for his slamming bod.
- Eretria and Amberle, meanwhile, run away from the hunters, only to somehow fall down into a pit that leads to a high school gym (we'll talk about the logistics later). There, Amberle discovers an old news clipping which reveals the location of a stain glass window she's been having visions of. Unfortunately, the elf hunters track them down. One of those hunters, Zora, is an old girlfriend of Eretria's. Zora captures both Ambelre and Eretria, but Wil shows up with Perk and his cool Roc (kind of like a small dragon), Genewen. They manage to rescue Amberle, but Eretria winds up stabbed and trapped with Zora.
- Allanon lays on a stone slab shirtless for almost the entire episode. Great! Eventually his former master,
Qui-Gon Jinn Bremen, visits him from beyond the grave. Allanon's all, "I'm too old for this $#@!, bro" but Bremen's like, "Nah, my dude. You are too beautiful and beefy and tangy and delicious to die". I'm paraphrasing. Maybe. Bremen heals Allanon and suddenly he's fully dressed? Man, whatever. Fine.
- Not!Eventine tells his Not!Sons to sneak out on their own to assassinate the Dagda Mor, because that makes sense if you're a really inept bad guy who has no poker face. Arion and Ander, despite kind of being conflicted about this terrible idea, still go for the plan anyway, because Eventine is the king and they're very, very stupid. The Dagda Mor waits by his lonesome to make Arion and Ander feel safe, but then reveals that Eventine is dead, takes that evil looking sword (turns out, it's his sword) Arion found last week, and kills Arion with it.
- Allanon shows up and protects Ander from also getting killed. He also unbinds Bandon's soul from the Dagda Mor before bringing Ander back to Arborlon. Once there, Ander kills Not!Eventine and assumes the role of king.
That's all the major stuff, but there are a lot of little moments that both make and break this episode.
- The swordplay and sparring represent the best fight choreography we've seen so far. Amberle and Eretria, especially, get into some exciting and dynamic brawls.
- And speaking of Amberle and Eretria, they finally bond for realsies this episode. Eretria admits that she cares (awww), we find out that Eretria's parents, much like Amberle's are dead/missing. It's a nice moment where they realizes they have a shared loss.
- Bremen reveals to Allanon that there's been "an awakening" (and you people say I'm imagining the Star Wars parallels) but doesn't reveal about whom he's speaking. Could be Wil, could be Bandon, could be...anyone. It's nice to feel as though not everything has been completely spelled out for the audience.
- Both Wil and Allanon don't wear shirts for part of the episode. You get a little Arion side-butt, too. It ain't a full moon, but I'll take it.
- The changeling is finally dead, which is mostly good because of how hard it was to believe that nobody realized they weren't really Eventine.
- With the changeling out of the picture, I guess that's the end for John Rhys-Davies. I wouldn't describe this as the best group of actors, so when you lose one of the best genre actors in the biz, it's not great news.
- The love triangle between Wil, Amberle, and Eretria is still being played up more than it should. It's not like anybody here doesn't know what's up. They're all adults -- resolve this sophomoric and atonal conflict. It's boring and way out of step with the rest of the show.
- Amberle compares the dance hall they find with "a butterfly trapped in amber" but they literally fell through the ceiling. There was plenty of outside air breaking through. That this place looks mostly untouched makes no sense whatsoever. I'm not against referencing back to pre-apocalyptic Earth, but do it in a way that doesn't defy your own internal logic. Or logic in general.
- Eretria's got an ex-girlfriend. I want to be thrilled about that because, yay, gay stuff, but Zora is abusive and has Eretria in chains by the end of the episode. Unless someone wants to establish that Eretria's into B&D, maybe let's get her out of the rapey damsel role for a while, yeah? Yeah.
- How many times must Wil turn up to save the day? If we've got Amberle and Eretria working together now, it would be nice if they didn't constantly need rescuing from big, strong, handsome man.
- At the end of the episode, Amberle shows Wil something she found that reminded her of him -- gaming dice. They're blue, like the Elf Stones, but they're gaming dice. As in, roll for initiative to see who gets to make fun of this meta nonsense first. I watched this episode right before I went to sleep and, when I woke up, I thought for sure I must have dreamed this. But no. They really went there. Maybe in a future episode Wil can cast magic missile at the darkness? Better bust out that thac0 chart, Amberle! Don't forget about your dex modifier, Eretria! Please wear your cloak of invisibility that is just an invisible cloak so you will be naked, Allanon! Okay, I'm done now.
- There's something about the costumes that has been bothering me for a while now, but it wasn't until Perk and the elf hunters showed up that I was finally able to piece it all together -- there's too much style, not enough cohesiveness in the fashion of the universe. So, for example, we're in a post-apocalyptic world where most of what was has gone bye bye, and yet Amberle's corset has spiral steel boning on the outside, which is post-industrial. It's neat, but it doesn't fit with the world or the story being told. Likewise, Perk wears a jacket that looks like it was just bought off the rack. And everything about the elf hunters feels wrong. They keep elf ears on a sash with ear gauges. If this were a modern day story, that would be kind of neat. But this is centuries after our world died. Where did those gauges come from? What's with Zora's obvious weave? There's just no cohesive story in these clothes. If you want to see how you do post-apocalyptic costume design right, watch The 100. There's a story being told in those clothes that defines both the world and the characters who wear them. Costumes are so important, and Shannara's feel more like they're designed for a music video than they are a fantasy world.
And that's my ramble for "Breakline". Join me next week when Wil and Amberle make out some more while I sob into my beer.