You know where this going, right? I thought so. In predictable fashion, I will toss out what has become a standard caveat in many of my posts; I just love my caveats.
This criticism, observation, diatribe or whatever it should be called is not directed at the actors and the crew who work behind the scenes. My verbal dribble related to this series is focused more at specific content creators who, for whatever reason, felt it necessary to stuff entirely too much content into a visual representation of a world many of us have lost themselves in over the course of its creation.
This superbly crafted creation, delivered by an author who indirectly helped me develop a foundation for good storytelling, has enough written content to keep viewers glued to their TV’s or smart devices for many, many seasons. Bias aside, I am certainly not directing these comments at Terry Brooks. I was not a fly on the wall or spy satellite in geosynchronous orbit listening in on the negotiations leading to the eventual creation of The Shannara Chronicles. I do not think for one second Mr. Brooks simply stated, “Sure, do anything you want with my creation. All I want is more money.” Granted I do not know the man; however, I am a writer and most us are very protective of our worlds. It is not an ego thing but a respect thing.
Alright (cracks knuckles). Let me provide a glimpse of where my mind is at in relation to this series. The Deadline Hollywood Article written January 16, 2018 by Nellie Andreeva, I linked below briefly highlights the series’ history and hints to the possibility of it being picked up by another media outlet; I will let the article do the explaining for me.
Initially I was elated when I heard Terry Brooks’ creation was coming to life. I have been reading the Shannara series since I was around 15 years old. Now at the age of 51, the chance to see words erupt on a visual screen from one of my favorite authors, I suspect is something many of us wish would happen more often. Albeit I was a tad apprehensive when I read the show would not be following the chronology of the highly successful fantasy series, opting to intermix story elements from the much larger series in an effort to reel in a younger audience. Every time I hear content creator’s utter words or phrases like revision, reimagine, or make it edgy, I literally want to walk outside and scream. Seriously, if something is truly edgy but you feel the need to call it edgy, you are missing the point entirely.
In a number of my posts I refer to wearing two hats; one of creator and the other of enthusiast, while discussing the need for viewers and other content creators to hold those in our fields of endeavor accountable when they make intellectually deficient decisions related to beloved storylines. The Shannara Chronicles is not exempt from such scrutiny and I for one, need to hang up my enthusiast hat to ask the creators of this series one question: What were you thinking?
Those who may not be familiar with the book series, I would suggest visiting the links below to Terry Brooks’ website or the associated Wikipedia page for context. I will be making specific references to content and it may lose some if you have not read any of the Shannara books. Terry Brooks also has a suggested chronological reading order for new and returning readers on his website.
I read the books as they became available but have gone through an extremely lazy reading period. For context, I have read: The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara, The Wishsong of Shannara, First King of Shannara, the Heritage of Shannara series and the Genesis of Shannara series. I am working on The Word and The Void trilogy but here is where my knowledge ends. So, I will be attempting to stay within my knowledge base; however, if I am missing a key understanding, my hope is those who know more than I, pose a respectful amendment.
Establishing the series during the era of the Elfstones was not a huge deal breaker, especially when you consider the time difference between the Sword and Elfstones books. In my opinion, the series began to struggle once I noticed elements of the Genesis and Heritage series comingling with content from those two books. Terry Brooks is wonderfully succinct in his descriptors, which allows readers to populate a visual representation of his world from their unique perspective. This is why I was very careful when I began watching this series, allowing for creative interpretation from those in charge of its production.
Terry’s first works were truly based in the fantasy realm. When I read them, it brought back imagery of Dungeons and Dragons. In his world exposure to elves, dwarves, gnomes and other fantastical beasts was standard fare. There was an element of subtlety when a character would stumble upon a remnant of the Four Lands’ past resulting in brief speculation about its origin. You were immersed in a world both lush and forested, while in the same vein, exposed to its harsh and often unforgiving nature. Magic was wonderous, continually evolving and protective while exacting a toll on the world in which it thrived.
When I watch the series, it appears more like an adaption of the popular Fallout game series, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world rich with collapsed structures, unsavory denizens, and an environment reclaiming territory from its destructive human inhabitants. You clearly see this type of world in the Genesis series but not so in the original Shannara novels. If this was Terry’s vision all along then I will sit back and keep my opinions to myself. Yet, if the series setting indeed takes place during the time of the Elfstones, painting it more like the setting from the Genesis series is a little confusing.
The Hadeshorn, located in the Valley of Shale, is the final resting place for the druids and a place where they would go to communicate with spirits of the dead. Cogline went there in one of the Heritage books after receiving a message from Allanon in his dreams. The waters of the Hadeshorn were described as dull and lifeless lying within the polished black rock littering the floor of the valley. The imagery and description were very distinct in the books but in the television series it comes out looking like a place one would visit while on vacation. Iconic and integral story pieces like the Hadeshorn and Paranor need to be handled delicately and respectfully, which in this series they have not.
Lastly, you have the introduction of the Shannara sword, which by itself is perfectly acceptable. They explained its purpose very well and kept it consistent with what readers would know of its use. A misstep occurs when it is broken, repaired a little too easily and when used easily shrugged off by almost any antagonist. The broken aspect is yet another holdover from the Heritage series.
Let me be clear. I fully understand where observations like these seem a little nitpicky, if not small in the grand scheme. I do not fault the series creators attempts to make the story a tad more modern and/or relevant for younger viewers; however, when you ponder how long these stories have been around, people of all ages and knowledge levels are watching.
The world of Shannara is vast, colorful, message driven, filled with memorable characters, and simply damn good. Just like I mentioned in my introduction, Terry Brooks has and still is creating enough content to keep the Shannara Chronicles around for many seasons to come.
All I ask is content creators take a step back, breathe and stretch out one or two specific elements for each season. Their focus should be creating depth and quality for those particular content pieces, which would effectively allow characters to stretch the limitations holding them back.
If the formula of comingling elements across all of the books continues until the only thing to show for it is a schizophrenic hodgepodge of Shannara triva, the television series will die before its time and become the latest victim of the creative liberties approach to delivering high quality storytelling.
Feel free to post your questions, comments or concerns. I will respond, if need be, when I able.
The Shannara Chronicles: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shannara_Chronicles
Terry Brooks: http://terrybrooks.net/
Deadline Hollywood Article: http://deadline.com/2018/01/the-shannara-chronicles-shopped-other-networks-season-3-1202244442/
Fallout Series: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallout_(series)