Warning: This article contains spoilers for Episode 5 of The Shannara Chronicles.
Last time on The Shannara Chronicles, our intrepid heroes, antiheroes, and villains cooled their heels in Arborlon for the entire episode. That was pretty boring. Thankfully, this week's episode, "Reaper," gets most of the gang back on the road to Safehold.
But first, a flashback! And on the topic of flashbacks, a quick sidebar -- can we talk about this weird tendency for some shows to let their audience know they're seeing something from the past through the aggressive use of lens flare? I noticed it not long ago during a rewatch of the first season of The 100, and now Shannara is getting into the act too. I get the need to set the past apart from the present aesthetically, but lens flare is a very jarring form of shorthand. Until this weird visual cycle dies the ignoble death it deserves, we shall, henceforth, refer to these scenes as flareshbacks.
Anyway. On to the flareshback! We finally get to see how Amberle's father died, which is not unimportant. In fact, he is killed when the leader of the Gnome Rebellion, Slanter, and his small team try to assassinate King Eventine. What exactly the gnomes are rebelling against remains unclear on the show, but that's OK; good, even. Antagonists whose motivations seem simultaneously unclear but not without honor are super necessary if Shannara wants to build a world new fans can really care about.
The rest of the episode plays out similarly, with a lot of shades of gray. Here's a quick rundown of the major beats
- Cepholo ambushes Amberle and Wil's Safehold team, right after Wil's protests over Eretria's mistreatment has gone unheard.
- Cepholo leaves everyone but Amberle to die, because he wants to, let's be specific, rape Amberle because he can.
- Eretria (finally) betrays Cepholo, saves Amberle along with Wil and everyone else. She also keeps Cepholo as a prisoner (more on that later).
- Arion argues with Eventine about sending out an army. Ander has a better idea -- releasing Slanter from prison in secret and trying to enlist his aid to help fight the Dagda Mor and his demon army.
- Wil, Eretria, Amberle and Cepholo run into the titular Reaper, who has killed a whole town, including a man they needed to meet on their Ellcrys seed quest.
- I'm pretty sure the Dagda Mor and the Changeling are having some kind of weird, creepy mind sex? They love each other ... ?
- Wil and Cepholo work together to trick the gigantic Reaper into going into a poison field, thus defeating it.
- (MAJOR SPOILER) Eventine and Arion have a heart-to-heart that turns deadly. Arion is actually the Changeling, who kills Eventine and takes his place as the king of Arborlon.
Look at that list! That is a lot of meaty plot and character stuff! So the big takeaway is that The Shannara Chronicles seems to be back on track. But let's go Good, Bad, Ugly on some of the finer points.
- Eretria is finally developing a little. Her connection with Amberle is starting to grow, but in a mutually guarded way that makes sense. Yes, Eretria is willing to help, but she still wants to be compensated in return. In truth, I thinks he's just saying that, but it's believable that Eretria wouldn't want anyone to know that she desperately needs a new, non-Rover crew to ally with.
- There's some character building also between Allanon and Bandon. There's some development on Bandon's powers of future sight which make it seem like something more than a means to make the exposition go.
- Wil takes off his shirt again, and Eretria is basically like, "You can get it, Wil," thus speaking what we were all thinking. More shirtless Wil and relatable Eretria is always welcome
- The show finally mentions how long it's been since the cataclysmic event that caused the world to become what it is on the show -- 3,000 years. And, in that time, there's still poisonous, radioactive waste from humanity's destructive ways. Consequences. It's nice to see some.
- The Changeling killing and become Eventine is a great move. Sets up all the seeds of paranoia and fear which are sure to come
- When Ander and Arion are arguing, Ander says "I'm all points" instead of "I'm all ears". What a stupid change to a common turn of phrase. I think I really, really like it.
- Bandon's other story involves a maybe romance with Amberle's friend, Catania. And just after Bandon and Allanon were holding hands, too! I ain't saying everyone can't have a little love in their life, but the one we're getting here is super paint-by-numbers. Would it kill you to give us a little druid-on-seer action, show?
- This show really wants the audience to like Cepholo, but they keep showing him to be a straight up rapist. You know who's hard to love? That guy. It's going to be a very difficult row to hoe to make Cepholo trustworthy, let alone likable.
- Gnomes are really, really ugly looking. I'm not saying that's bad, but so far they look like constipated pig monsters and that makes me feel both nauseous and tickled.
As you can tell, I think "Reaper" was a massive upgrade from last week. That being said, there was some footage from future episodes in which (MORE SPOILERS) Eretria actually talks with Amberle about how they're in a love triangle with Wil. I mean, really, Shannara Chronicles? We all know you're airing on MTV, but you don't need to hang a lantern that hard on this stuff. We get it. Less Twilight, more Game of Thrones, please and thank you.
And that's it for this week. What did you think? Better? You still watching? Or are you just reading these reviews to see how thirsty I am for Wil and Allanon?