The Shannara Chronicles S01E10 “Ellcrys” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on 5Star on Thursdays at 9pm
Writers: April Blair, Evan Endicott, Josh Stoddard
Director: Brad Turner
Essential Plot Points:
- Inside the blinding white of the Bloodfire, Amberle finds… herself? And she doesn’t have good news. Turns out that Amberle herself is the Ellcry’s seed. Awkward.
- Distraught, Wil uses the Elf Stones to revive Eretria, who quickly realises that she’s going to have to risk her life again if they want to get Amberle back. So without any hesitation, back down on the needle her hand goes. There’s hugging all round when Amberle emerges, but the mood doesn’t last as she tells the others how the last leaf has fallen. The demon army is ready to march.
- As they charge for Safehold’s exit, they’re attacked by trolls. Amberle and Wil escape, but to their horror, Eretria elects to stay behind to buy them time. With no choice but to leave her behind, they start to make their way back to Arborlon.
- Allanon tells King Ander that Amberle is on her way back. He starts to make battle plans – he knows there’s no way they can defeat the demons on the field, so the plan revolves around Amberle’s return.
- Down in the dungeons, Catania is delivering food to a locked up Bandon. Despite everything, she says she still trusts him and wants to help him, so he takes advantage of that by taking her hostage to get the keys from the guard. And then whips the guard to death. So much for trusting him, eh Catania?
- Ander and Commander Tilton have one last conversation before the battle begins, and Ander kisses her. Wait, didn’t Arion only die, like, two episodes ago?
- Amberle and Wil make it to the outskirts of Arborlon, only to find they’re blocked off by the demon army. They decide to hide underground until nightfall, where they confess their feelings for one another for the first time. (Another notch in the “Wil takes his shirt off” tally..!)
- Night falls, and battle begins! Elven and demon armies alike charge for one another, with Amberle and Wil caught in the mix. Incredibly, neither of them are killed on the way to the Ellcrys’s sanctuary. You would have thought the Dagda Mor would tell his army to be on the look-out for them, considering.
- One of the demons is wielding the Blade of the Warlock Lord. Ander manages to knock his helmet off, revealing… Arion? His eyes have turned black, though – he’s under the Dagda Mor’s command. Ander has no choice but to kill him. (For good, this time?)
- Allanon and the Dagda Mor draw each other into a dramatic magic fuelled one-on-one, which serves as a good distraction for Wil and Amberle to get into the sanctuary. Amberle finally has to tell Wil that she’s the Ellcry’s seed. She’s going to have to go in, and won’t come back out. Wil protests, but is cut off when Allanon is thrown through the sanctuary doors. With no time left to hesitate, Amberle faces her fate.
- As the Ellcrys accepts Amberle as its new seed, Allanon takes the Dagda Mor’s head off with one swing of his sword. The demon army is defeated, and the Ellcrys is restored.
- In the aftermath of the battle, Wil is emotionally destroyed. The person he loves most in the world hasn’t gone, exactly… but she’s a tree. Tough deal, buddy. He decides that he should focus on his friend who might actually still be sentient, and so rides back towards Safehold to see if he can find Eretria.
- It looks like Bandon’s taken the Dagda Mor’s place. His eyes are pure black as he watches over the Forbidden Land.
So there you have it. The Dagda Mor’s dead and gone, the demon army is defeated, the Ellcrys is restored, and Amberle’s a tree. Who saw that one coming!?
There’s no doubt that over the course of its run, Shannara has been a confused show. It’s had its ups, it’s had its downs and it’s stuck its fingers into as many genres as it can get its hands on, never quite seeming to decide what exactly it wants to be.
Sometimes there’s gory violence, sometimes there’s teen drama, and hey, sometimes there’s dancing in a Shannaran nightclub. With the finale, though, it seems to have settled back down to its roots: good ol’ fantasy storytelling, with a big damn battle thrown into the mix to end the series with the bang it deserves.
To reach the ending Shannara has been running towards for the past few weeks, there’s a whole lot of self-sacrificing going on. From Eretria slamming her hand right back down onto the needle after literally dying from doing the same last episode, to Amberle turning into a tree for the good of the Four Lands, everyone’s doing their bit for the greater good. Eretria’s sacrifices in particular prove that she’s learnt a thing or two and had some true character development; try telling Eretria of early episodes that she’d end up practically sacrificing her life for Wil and Amberle!
And here’s the kicker: it’s for friendship. Gone are the days of the aggravating love triangle now that Wil’s finally made up his mind – and hey, no complaining here! Sure, there’s a kiss between Wil and Eretria when she leaves them, but it feels like a bittersweet “goodbye” kiss over anything else. Plus in the face of death, there’s a definite maturity to Wil and Amberle’s relationship that hasn’t been there before. It’s just a shame for Wil that his girlfriend is transformed into a tree the day after they confess their feelings for one another and have kinda weird cave sex. By this point it feels like there’s a rule on Shannara stating that Wil’s never gonna catch a break..! Hopefully he’ll find Eretria alive, at least. Fingers crossed!
It wouldn’t be an episode of Shannara without some truly questionable choices, and the finale is no exception to the rule. The stand-out “what the heck?” moment this time is the out-of-place montage set to Woodkid’s “Run Boy Run”. Nothing against the song itself, but in the context of the show it just doesn’t work. It’s probably supposed to be dramatic, watching the demon army start to march as windswept Wil and Amberle ride their horses along shining shores, but if anything it has the opposite effect.
Speaking of – it’s during this short montage that Wil and Amberle travel back to Arbolon. Haven’t they just spent a decent chunk of the season battling their way through the Four Lands to get to Safehold? Apparently all they needed to do was take a short ride along the beaches, after all that..!
Also questionable is the culmination of the weird Bandon and Catania storyline. From the off it felt rushed and out of place, and given that Bandon was pretty much on the cusp of raping her last episode, it’s a wonder Catania still has any good will towards him left in her. But again she decides to make a stupid decision in helping Bandon free, and again her decision totally backfires. Surprise surprise! Bandon’s gone to the dark side for good, it seems. At least he could make a for a pretty badass season two villain!
To counteract its flaws, there’s the Lord Of The Rings-esque battle of the two armies to round out the episode. Whilst not quite as epic as we’d hoped, it ticks all the violence and bloodshed boxes whilst providing integral character moments dotted in-between; Arion’s reappearance, the long awaited face-off between Allanon and the Dagda Mor, Wil and Amberle making their way through it all to get to the Ellcry’s sanctuary… there’s a whole lot going on, and it makes for one of those fantastic spectacles Shannara is so good at. It makes for as satisfying an ending to the season as we could have hoped for!
The Shannara Chronicles has in fact been picked up for a second season by MTV, so we’ll see you back soon for more adventures in the Four Lands.
- Shannara follows through and provides the new War of the Races that we’ve all been waiting for.
- This episode is firmly embebbed in the fantasy genre, whereas with previous episodes it’s been a difficult thing to pinpoint. Good to see the show go back to its roots!
- The Allanon vs Dagda Mor battle is a particularly epic moment.
- Although it was a shame to see her out of the episode so early, Eretria’s sacrifices for her friends show definite character development and make for some heart-warming moments.
- Amberle’s sacrifice for the good of the Four Lands.
- Lots of threads are left hanging to be picked up in the second season, whilst still neatly tying up this season’s main story arc.
- The jarring montage mid-episode. Definitely wouldn’t have hurt to take that out – especially since it makes no sense for Wil and Amberle to be able to get back to Arborlon so quickly.
- Catania makes some really, really silly decisions.
- Wil’s using his Elf Stones left right and centre, but it’s been ages since we’ve seen physical representations of the toll it’s supposed to be taking on him.
- The plot twist reveal was really sudden. It could have been stretched out a bit for maximum impact. It doesn’t help that there was almost no foreshadowing at all.
- Tilton kissing her recently dead boyfriend’s brother seems like a strange choice. And then… she dies. Feels like a wasted character.
- The lack of characters introduced earlier in the season is disappointing – the various types of demons, Perk and his companion, to name a couple.
And the Random:
- So does this mean Amberle is gone for good? It would be nice to see her make some sort of appearance in season two, but given that she’s dedicated her life to guarding over the Four Lands, it’s difficult to see how.
- So far there’s been no explanation as to why Eretria was the key to opening the Bloodfire – something that’s going to be picked up on, maybe?
- There’s speculation that season two will follow the Wishsong novel, which takes place 20 years after the events of this season.
Review by Jessica Anson