Friday, March 11, 2016

Review: Saving the Ellcrys

Have you seen the Shannara Chronicles from MTV? I am on my second watching and one thing still bothers me. If the tree knew she was dying since Amberle was born and the race to be Chosen is run every year, why didn't the tree contact Amberle a year before or let Amberle know when she touched the tree as she entered puberty (or whenever) that the Ellcrys was dying and the Forbidding would end as she died? Of course, The Elfstones of Shannara would probably not have been written and yet it seems bad planning for the sake of creating an adventure pretty slim to rely on someone getting to Safehold to bring the Ellcrys seed to the Bloodfire and bring it back while the tree is dying and the demons attacking.

I don't know how far it is from Arborlon to Safehold (San Francisco -- probably the Bay Area Transit System -- but it wouldn't have taken days to get there and back and the tree dying so suddenly without warning was not the best plot. Time is a funny thing in books and especially in movies and series because there is so seldom a mention of how long it takes to get there and back.

I read The Sword of Shannara when it was published, but never delved further into the Shannara series. Instead, I decided to follow The Black Unicorn and dip my toes briefly in Terry Brook's other books and then moved on to other authors and genres and stories that appealed to me more. It has nothing to do with Brooks's writing -- or maybe it did and I didn't realize it at the time. I do remember thinking that the book ended on a somewhat sour note and maybe that is why I didn't follow Brooks's other Shannara books. Or maybe it was because the books didn't come out quickly enough. I doubt that last reason because I have followed George R. R. Martin's Ice and Fire Saga in spite of his delay in publishing the final book of the saga.

My dis-ease may be due to what I saw as flaws in the plot and the finale as I have with the Ellcrys issue in the Shannara Chronicles. I have begun reading The Sword of Shannara again because of the MTV series and still find a sapient tree that has held the demons in the Forbidding for years unable to communicate with the one person born to take their place as the new Ellcrys a bit of a sticking point. I don't mind that the sapient tree with the silver bark and the blood red leaves in the book being turned into an old tree with red leaves and brown bark an issue. How many silver trees with blood red leaves are there in the world? I guess CGI couldn't do the trick or maybe there wasn't enough money in the budget to do a credible job on the screen. Things like that happen all the time. I won't quibble about that.

I won't even quibble about the pronunciation of Allanon's name, even though it sounds like Al-ANON, the Alcoholics Anonymous group for friends and family of alcoholics, instead of ALL-anon, like all anon -- all in good time or all soon. That may be just a personal preference and Brooks instructed the actors and director how to pronounce the druid's name. I don't even mind that Manu Bennett is nowhere near 7 feet tall as the Allanon in the books is. These are tiny gnats compared to the glaring plot hole that is the dying Ellcrys.

At any rate, I do find the series interesting and the relationship between Wil and Amberle and Eretria (another pronunciation quibble for me) interesting enough to keep my attention, though I feel the 10-episode series rushed and a bit slap-dash. The chemistry between the characters/actors is fairly realistic and mostly works. Allanon is not quite as forbidding and close-mouthed as I imagined him, but c'est la vie.

I'd give The Shannara Chronicles a B- overall and look forward to finding out what happens to Amberle, Wil, Eretria, and Bandon -- and even Allanon -- in the next season. I hope for more than 10 episodes, but I'd prefer a 10-episode season to a 22-episode season with huge gaps in the season something I see as devolving from the Lost producers. What happened to the 26-episode season that has a short break between Thanksgiving and New Year's? Just give me the season and let's move on.

I much prefer the way Netflix does their shows: upload the whole series and let users watch the show at their own pace. Even if that pace is all at once in a binge or 3 or 4 times before the next season is uploaded. I can watch the series when they come out or wait a few months until I feel the spirit move me to dig in and watch.

The 12- to 13-episode season is also perfectly fine, especially if the show is like Downton Abbey. The show is nearly a full 60 minutes long and each episode feels timeless, more like a couple of hours. The show flows at a good pace and each nearly hour-long episode is full of drama of all shades. I am a little sad the series ended at Xmas for the UK and has just ended here in the States because it is a classy, well written show full of fascinating characters and talented actors. One could not ask for more . . .  unless it is more of the same for the foreseeable future, like for the next 20 or so years. Downton Abbey never gets old and never disappoints -- except when Matthew Crawley suddenly died on the day his son is born, but I was willing to forgive and forget.

I suppose since I began with The Shannara Chronicles I should end with that.

I am a bit disappointed in the premise of the story and the lack of episodes, but overall I have decided I will continue to follow the series -- if more are made. I'll reserve final judgment for when I've read the book and watched more of the continuing adventures of Wil Ohmsford and Eretria the Rover Girl. I wonder if Cephelo will find a way to avert his death -- again. That would be interesting as well.

Oh, a couple more things. Wil isn't half elf. He is a quarter elf. His father, Shea, was half elf and his mother was all human. Therefore, half of a half is a quarter. Unless his mother had elf blood too (probably not since her ears weren't pointed) and then he'd be still less than half, depending on how much elf blood his mother had. Each generation with each mating of a human would diminish the elf blood so any children Wil had would also be less than half and would in fact be an eighth and their children would be a sixteenth and so on and so on. How much of a mongrel is obviously not the general issue since anyone with Shannara blood would be able to wield the elfstones and any other Shannara magic, but I would imagine that such magic and control would be limited by the amount of Shannara blood running through their veins.

Why didn't Wil call Perk and his Roc instead of taking the trolls' horses? Flying would get them back to Arborlon quicker and they wouldn't have to rely on horses that cannot cross the mountains or need to be fed and rested before continuing. I know it seems like Wil and Amberle mounted the horses and rode a few hours to get to Arborlon on time, but that would mean the trip to Safe Hold/Safehold need not have taken so long or taken the lives of so many elves in the process. There would be no need to go to Pykon or go through the Wilderun. They could've just ridden along the shore and through the woods to Safehold/Safe Hold. I'd call that a big plot hole. Wouldn't you?

Then again, Shannara blood could be a recessive that would not be apparent in every generation, rather the way that blood from other races after so many generations would be either recessive or dominant and yet still not half or full blood. It's a genetic thing and genetic things can be a bit tricky. Just ask a quadroon or octoroon or Commander Spock. Will can only conquer so much. It's not a matter of passing but a matter of magic and belief which is the heart of magic.

That is all. Disperse.

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