The Shannara Chronicles Review: “Chosen”

Terry Brooks’s Tolkienesque fantasy arrives on television, courtesy of MTV. The first episode, with its High Fantasy tropes, post-apocalyptic setting, and millennial hipster cast, proves a strange ménage indeed.

Title: “Chosen”

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
From the novels by Terry Brooks

Austin Butler as Wil Ohmsford
Poppy Drayton as Amberle Elessedil
Ivana Baquero as Eretria
Manu Bennett as Allanon
Aaron Jakubenko as Ander Elessedil
James Remar as Cephelo
Daniel MacPherson as Arion Elessedil
Jed Brophy as The Dagda Mor
Brooke Williams as Catania
Emilia Burns as Commander Tilton
Mattias Inwood as Lorin
John Rhys-Davies as Eventine Elessedil


Millenia after the Great Wars, humanity has evolved into Elves, Gnomes, Trolls, and the like, and rediscovered magic admidst the occasional ruins of our civilization. Amberle, Princess of the Elves, becomes one of the Chosen, who guard a magic tree that holds back imprisoned demons. Unfortunately, the tree is dying, and the demons, returning. Allanon the Druid hopes to stop the onslaught, and seeks the help of a reluctant hero who until recently possessed magic stones.

High Point

The show features an excellent visual style, both in its sumptuous post-apocalyptic world and its Orc-like demons.

Low Point

MTV produces this series, and their attempts to capture the youth audience has resulted in a sort of High Fantasy 90210, with 2016-coiffed elves sporting hipster togs and spouting CW dialogue.

WTF? Point

Why does the central druid’s name sound like the short form for Alcoholics Anonymous?

The Scores

Originality: 1/6 The series, wisely, begins with Brooks’s second novel, so that it doesn’t seem excessively derivative of Tolkien and his mythic sources. Nevertheless, we’re watching an adaptation of a 1970s / 1980s novel series that drew heavily from Tolkien and Cold War post-apocalypse tropes, and the series itself, in its efforts to resemble the CW, hits the Arrow in the bull’s-eye.

Effects: 5/6 The effects and CGI are above most television productions.

Story: 5/6 The episode is well-paced, and does a good job of building its world without losing track of the narrative.

Acting: 4/6 The acting varies quite a bit.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Production: 6/6

Overall: 4/6 The episode leave no cliché of fantasy or teen drama unturned, but it makes for moderately entertaining viewing.

In total, “The Chosen” receives 29/42

6 replies on “The Shannara Chronicles Review: “Chosen””

  1. On the WTF? point: that’s the guy’s name in the novel, too.

    Overall, I can’t recall enough of the novel (it’s been a quarter century since I read it) to pinpoint how things are different. However, it seems like the important points of the plot are going to be there so the story shouldn’t suffer overmuch as long as the pacing holds.

  2. As a cable-cutter, I’ll have to watch it later on. I’ve read at least 10 books in the series and I’m glad they skipped Book 1. It really is a Tolkien-clone, but with an even stronger background in “The Hero’s Journey” (debuted the same years as Star Wars, no less).

    The books get successively better in the first trilogy and even better still with Scions of Shannara and The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara series.

    Fingers crossed that MTV doesn’t completely screw this up.

    [Edit] I just realized that the first two episodes are up on YouTube. I may check it out after all.

  3. Visually, I thought it was excellent. However, at least for me and my wife, we didn’t really care all that much for it beyond that. We didn’t like it well enough to keep watching at the moment.

    Side note: What’s up with the site’s format/template? The content is in a really, really skinny column in the center and hard to read.

    • Yeah, a change made by our host is causing some problems with the display. David is on it. It seems to be fine once someone signs in.

      So we may not have Shannara’s visuals, but we’ve got some real content….

  4. Honestly as much as I wanted to love it. The acting fell through at virtually all of the critical portions of the show. Also the various leads make such stupid brain dead mistakes it breaks immersion for me.

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