This article contains spoilers for The Shannara Chronicles episode "Utopia."
Previously on The Shannara Chronicles ... Amberle and Eretria fall down a shaft and wind up at the prom.
Now on The Shannara Chronicles ... it's the wild, wild west full of guns, cowboy hats and ... more dances? Is this gonna be a thing now? "Oops, we wound up someplace we didn't expect. Oh, well! DJ, if you please -- something for us to both bump *and* grind to."
"Utopia" is split across three plots, that goeth thusly:
- Allanon is the only responsible adult in Arborlon (and on the show, full stop, really) and basically spends the episode getting everyone in line. First, it's Bandon, who would rather just watch the Ellcrys die than do anything. Allanon tells Bandon that he's going to be the next druid, whether he likes it or not. He then does the same thing to Ander, who would rather be drunk than be king. Allanon basically just stares at Ander like he's an idiot until Ander finally gets off his elven duff and accepts the crown. So, that's good.
- Eretria is taken to the titular "Utopia," a city full of humans who want to eschew the whole elven fantasy motif in favor of a western set that looks like a cross between the town of Spectre in Big Fish and Back to the Future III. There she hooks up with one of the Utopia's leaders, Tye, who reveals that the town is kept safe in part because they have discovered guns and electricity. Eretria digs this whole situation and considers giving up on the destiny she, Wil and Amberle share in favor of staying in Utopia, where there's a nice costume shop, a record player and TV to watch!
- Wil and Amberle desperately seek out Eretria (and the map to Safehold which she, apparently has) but make a quick pit stop for makey-outey times, as you do when you think your friend is in mortal peril. They're interrupted when they discover a trapped Cepholo, who helps them find Utopia and, hence, Eretria. Turns out, Eretria was supposed to be sacrificed to the nearby trolls, and that's how Utopia actually stays safe. Instead, Wil, Amberle and Cepholo are placed on the chop. Eretria saves them, because she's an expert marksmith after only using a gun once. Unfortunately, Cepholo gets shot up and heroically lays down fire while everyone else escapes.
It's a fine structure that holds its contents adequately. Then again, I could say the same thing about a dumpster. And, much like a dumpster, this episode is mostly garbage, with very little good worth diving in for.
- Everything happening in Arborlon still feels like it's set in a fantasy world. Cold comfort, maybe, but it's something when the rest of the show is busy sharing archive footage of Star Trek (we'll talk more about that later). Allanon feels like the only one taking things seriously, so even when things aren't that eventful in Arborlon, I'd rather watch his hunky self than almost anything else on this show.
- Cepholo is dead! Some people will be happy that he gets a hero's send-off by apologizing to Eretria before saving his life, but I'm mostly just glad that the proud rapist finally bit it. Sorry, y'all -- there's only so many times a guy can crow about how he and his rover clan assault women for funsies before they become irredeemable trash.
- Eretria and Amberle make a big deal about how they're close friends. And, yeah, sure, it's all about "since @#$ing when," but it's way better having them as allies than just bickering every episode over which one of them gets to ride the bone train to Wil town.
- Every time Wil starts macking on Amberle it feels completely out of step with the rest of the show. Please trust that I want that stuff to be hot, with Wil being all ripply and six-packed and such -- but it just isn't. I get that the show is rated TV-14, but it can't be that hard to make sexy times between two twenty-somethings hot. And plenty of other fantasy fare successfully strokes the, uh...id, as it were.
- On two separate occasions, a knife is held to someone's neck. Eretria does it to Tye and Wil does it to Cepholo, and on neither account did I believe for a moment that anyone's throat was about to get slit. Now, at least Wil has the excuse of being relatively new to this dangerous lifestyle, but Eretria? Come on! Ivana Baquero has been better the last few episodes, but the way she borderline caresses Tye's neck with that blade is just sad. Eretria is supposed to bea morally grey figure who has done a lot of violent and questionable stuff. Where's the bloodlust? Where's that rover rage? It's little things like this that absolutely take the audience out of the moment.
- Every week this show tries to roll the dice on making anachronisms work. Last week, the old high school set had its charms, but the wild west Utopia this week was beyond ridiculous. How does this one place have access to modern human conventions that no one else has? Guns? Electricity? Projectors? There's nothing so special about Utopia nor its citizens that would make the audience believe that only they could figure out how to bring back the trappings of the world of man.
- Why is Utopia western styled at all? There has to be an explanation for that. The townsfolk found or bought a bunch of costumes and mistook them for being from the time right before the apocalypse? Or maybe they read somewhere about the wild west and thought it was cool enough to imitate? Something, gang. You can't just decide to have a western-themed episode with absolutely nothing to back it up.
- Eretria has never seen a gun before. Ever. But she's a perfect shot from the word go. No. Stop. That is not how guns work. I'm all for Eretria being tough and skilled, but there's still got to be a learning curve.
- And speaking of guns, why are the only ones available oldey timey colt revolver types? How would those be around (and be in pristine condition) but there's not a glock in sight?
THE BONUS WTF?!
- Captain Kirk and Mister Spock makes an appearence in this episode. Tye uses electricity to show the people of Utopia a glimpse of the future and that future is Star Trek. Yup. Plus, it's footage from The Motion Picture. I guess that's the cheapest Trek one can license. Where did Tye even get a celluloid canister with a clean picture of a movie that's hundreds of years old? Whoops! No time for science, now -- we're only talking about Star Trek! I love Star Trek and the idea of humanity being inspired again by it's ideals is cool, but The Shannara Chronicles, bless, does not engender hope in a brighter tomorrow. Even Star Trek V: The Final Frontier would be too good for this show.
And that's all for this week! Join me next week when we'll make it to Safehold, maybe, and the end of this first season will near its blissful conclusion.