Tonight’s episode of The Shannara Chronicles is brought to you by the Spin Doctors and your senior prom (which, if you’re my age, are basically the same thing).
We open in the aftermath of Wambertrio’s fall down the gorge, which somehow dumped them out safely into a lush, green river valley. Wil comes to next to the dead Reaper, the Elfstones burned into his hand. Gross, but hey, at least they’ll be harder to steal that way.
He follows a trail of bloody rocks into the forest, looking for his ladies, when he’s attacked by a crazed elf. The youngster accuses Wil of being one of the elf-hunters who cut off his left ear. Wil displays his own short tips, then makes a really unhygienic-looking poultice to stop the bleeding and take away the kid’s pain.
The one-eared elf, Perk, explains that gnomes believe elf ears have medicinal properties, so bands of elf-hating humans supply the demand. “By this time next week, my left ear will be ground up in some horny gnome’s tea,” he says.
Naturally, this makes Wil fear for Amberle, as well he should. She and Eretria are on the run from the elf hunters, who are incredibly bad shots with their bow. Still, when Amberle drops her father’s sword, she doesn’t dare go back for it.
As the women run, the ground suddenly collapses under them, and they fall flat on their backs into … a perfectly preserved high school prom! It is, to say the least, a surprising set piece. There are streamers, banners, round tables, bleachers, lockers — all dusty, rotten and rusted, but intact. (Prom theme: We can be heroes. NICE.) Amberle says places like this were buried, sealed and preserved during the Great War, like a butterfly in amber.
Okay, it’s supposed to be multiple millennia since our civilization fell. I don’t care how well preserved things are, having a basically perfectly intact school makes zero sense. I mean, crepe paper? If you want to play with the ruined bones of our society, then change the timeline from the books so stumbling across these remnants makes physical sense. (Lord knows they haven’t been afraid to change basically everything else.)
Anyway, bright side: Eretria immediately asks if Amberle’s okay after their fall through the ceiling. Isn’t it nice to see Wil’s ladies working together?
The elf hunters return to their camp, where Perk and Wil are lurking, hoping to free Perk’s partner. The head hunter, looking a little like Auntie Entity, discovered Amberle’s sword and realizes she’s royal. “Her ears will keep us in furs and drink for many winters to come,” she crows.
The group pulls out, leaving behind the hunter I like to think of as Portly Allanon. Pallanon pulls Perk’s ear out of a pail — to look at it, I guess? — and Perk goes nuts, charging in and immediately getting recaptured. Pallanon’s about to take Perk’s other ear when Wil gets the drop on him.
They use a knife to Pallanon’s ear to get him to spill on Eretria and Amberle’s last known location. That done, Perk makes like he’s going to let him go. “It’s okay, tough guy, torture’s not really my thing,” he says, then smoothly slits Pallanon’s throat. “Taking out a serial elf killer, on the other hand, is a top priority.” Wil’s horrified, but Perk’s got a point. Elf-killing ear-takers aren’t likely to stop their elf-killing, ear-taking ways. (I saw that cross-stitched on a pillow once.)
Perk then turns to free his caged partner, who’s definitely not an elf, and they set off to find the women.
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In the high school that time forgot, Amberle’s flipping through an old yearbook. “They look happy,” she says.
“They look dead to me,” Eretria replies. But Amberle tells her to drop the tough girl act; Eretria zip-lined back to save the elves, after all. The Rover tries to deny it but eventually cops to caring a little.
They wander in search of a way out of the underground prison, and despite the timeline wonkiness, the disintegrating school is a trippy, creepy set piece, particularly when Amberle shrugs on an old letterman jacket. In the rubble, she also finds and pockets three blue polyhedral dice that look quite a bit like the Elfstones. (Non-nerds: Those are commonly used in Dungeons & Dragons and other PRGs. You may have been too busy going on dates in high school to be familiar with them.)
NEXT: Elf/Rover bonding is rudely interrupted
As the duo wander, they try to convince each other that Wil survived the fall and will sail in to save the day. After all, Amberle saw Wil and Eretria in her vision, standing in front of a stained glass window, so they have to make it at least that far.
Then we see just how much Amberle’s seen on this journey. Having learned how badly the elves have treated the rest of the races in the Four Lands, she wonders whether the elves deserve to be wiped out. Then she and Eretria bond over being orphans.
Amberle says, “Who’d have thought? The princess and the Rover, bound by a tragic fate and —”
“— hot for the same guy,” Eretria concludes. “One hell of a mess, aren’t we?”
Their meaningful gaze is interrupted when the elf hunters crash in. Amberle and Eretria pick them off one by one, but Amberle stops mid-escape when she sees a map and a newspaper article behind glass. It’s a clipping from our world about a San Francisco building that survived an earthquake, and the photo shows the stained glass from her vision.
“Ending up here was no accident. This is how we find the Bloodfire,” she declares. (Remember: They have to immerse the Ellcrys seed in the Bloodfire so the tree can be reborn and the demon army sent back into the Forbidding. In case you’d forgotten.)
And then a voice says, “Long time no see, Eretria. I always knew we’d meet again.”
It’s Auntie Entity, whose name is actually Zora. She and Eretria grew up together and had a thing, but Eretria left Zora to fend for herself in the wilderness. It is not a happy reunion.
And then sweet, simple Amberle yet again tries to get a captor to let them go because of their mission to save the world. Amberle, honey, stop. Like fetch, that excuse is never going to happen.
Zora’s trussed up Amberle and is preparing to kill Eretria when Wil literally sails in to rescue them. Perk’s partner turned out to be an enormous flying bird called a Roc, which allows Wil to rappel into the school.
Everyone ecstatically hugs, but as the Roc pulls the three of them out, Zora shoots Eretria in the side with an arrow, knocking her back into the building. The elves escape and immediately start planning to rescue Eretria, who’s been bundled up with the haul from the school and is being taken to the elf-hunters’ home base.
As they pace, Wil asks about Amberle’s blue dice.
She tries to downplay it but eventually confesses, “They reminded me of you.” Awwww! (Polyhedrons remind me of my man, too, but that’s because he played D&D in high school, not because he harnesses the ancient power of magical stones.)
Anyway, Perk gives Wil a whistle to use if they ever need him, then flies off. Oh, we’ll definitely see him again.
Now let’s head to Arborlon, where Ander’s back from the Breaklines with news that the demon army is too big for the elves to fight. In fact, it’s hopeless even if the federation of races agrees to send all of their warriors, too — which is a big “if” since everybody hates the elves. And then Arion tells him that the late (?) Allanon was in league with the demons, which means Amberle could be in danger.
All seems lost until Changentine comes up with a plan: assassinate the Dagda Mor with the Warlock Blade, which was forged to combat dark magic.
Ha ha ha, what a terrible plan! Yet Arion and Ander fight over who should go on the mission until Changentine steps in. “You shall both go,” he says. “Two sons, one blade, one purpose.”
It is clearly insane to send both heirs to the throne on what can only be described as a suicide mission, and both princes know it. Also skeptical is Diana, who pillow-talks Arion that it’s okay to disobey his father’s orders if those orders mean certain death (and it should be noted here that she’s so boss that she sleeps in full pewter eyeshadow). But Arion wants to prove himself worthy for the throne, so he and his amazing leather jacket ignore Diana’s Han Soloing about her bad feelings. In fact, he wants to give his people hope now that they have a sword strong enough to defeat the demons.
Guys, when did Arion stop being the worst? I’ve even come around on his man bun.
NEXT: That’s one not-dead Druid
Oh, hey, what’s up, Allanon! Look at you, all non-dead and writhing on your stone Druid bier! I guess he … teleported himself there? You’d think the Dagda Mor would have anticipated this possibility. Anyway, he’s having trouble healing himself when he has a vision of Bremen, the Druid who trained him. Allanon tells Bremen he’s tired of being the Rodney Dangerfield of the Four Lands and is ready to join Bremen (and Adele) on the other side.
“What more can I do alone?” he asks.
But Bremen won’t let him, saying that another has emerged, powerful and full of promise (Bandon, presumably?), and without Allanon, all will be lost. Then Bremen twists his fingers and seals the wound in Allanon’s side. Allanon springs up fully dressed. Based on the glow in his eyes and his staff, this must make him Allanon the Blue! He saddles up and rides out.
En route to their certain deaths, Ander and Arion gloomily banter.
“I’m willing to bet they’re not expecting two idiot princes to fly in there solo,” Arion says.
“We’ve got that to our advantage,” Ander agrees.
But when they get to the demon rallying point, it’s abandoned. They enter the Dagda Mor’s ruined henge, where they find the dark version of Bandon trapped in the cage from his visions. Then the Dagda Mor appears to mock Arion.
“Foolish prince. I tell you to fetch my sword, and you do it. I command you to kill your Druid, and you run him through.”
The Dagda Mor than pulls the old James Bond villain tactic of spilling all his plans: Their father is dead, and they’re his puppets. He magics the sword over to him, then runs Arion through with it. Noooo! Your redemption arc had scarce begun, sweet prince!
Allanon rolls up, 10 seconds too late, as Arion falls. Allanon bellows, um, something, and uses his fancy staff to shoot a massive bolt of power that blows the Dagda Mor back, leaving Ander protected by a force field. Ander and Allanon retreat, and Arion’s body sprawls at the Dagda Mor’s feet. I mean, he looks dead, but at this point, it’s anybody’s guess how/when/where/why/if we’ll see him again. I fear we won’t, though.
Back in Arborlon, Bandon wakes up, normal; Allanon’s magic must’ve blown his soul back into his body. Good magicking, Druid!
And finally, Ander returns to the palace to tell his father that Arion died in an act of true bravery, saving Ander’s life. Changetine stands, hugs him, and says, “I’m sure you did everything you could.”
“No, I didn’t. But I’m going to try to do my best now,” Ander says, whipping out Allanon’s Transformers sword and stabbing his fake father with it. Changentine burns away, and with it goes John Rhys Davies. Farewell, sir!
Ander’s left shell-shocked. “Aine, Arion, my father, all gone. And now …”
“And now you are king,” the Druid replies.
This week was a little plot holey, no? (How did Allanon zap away from the castle? Come on, that’s where the gorge dropped Wambertrio? Where did Allanon’s horse come from? Seriously, how was that high school intact after 3,000 years?) But things definitely happened. We’ve got peace between the princess and the Rover, Allanon’s back in the picture, and the Elessedil brothers reconciled before one (presumably) died.
Given the show’s track record, it’s probably not a question of will anyone die in the next episode, but how many. Diana? Ander? Allanon again? Eretria? EVERYONE? See you then to find out!
(Reminder: This section is for those of you who’ve read Terry Brooks’ novel that the show is based on and contains MILD SPOILERS FOR NON-READERS. Be sure to keep the comments safe for the un-Stoned.)
Man, this section gets shorter every week, doesn’t it? But Perk!! We don’t get a good explanation of what Wing Riders are, and he’s older and feistier than book Perk, but still! Fun to see him.
As to the rest of it, the Elessedil deaths have proceeded in accordance with the books, just not in the same time, place and manner. It’s surprising to see them all gone so soon, though, isn’t it?