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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Shannara Chronicles is a fantasy series based on a magical future Earth. Frequent violence includes hand-to-hand combat with stabbing, bludgeoning, and slashing and blood and gore shown at length, plus scenes of large-scale environmental destruction and a shape-shifting demon. One character has visions of an apocalyptic past with body parts, bloody bones, and dead bodies, including one of a child who reaches out and pleads for help. Of-age characters drink wine at celebrations; one character drugs another's wine to rob him. Expect kissing, flirting, and implied sex (offscreen), with no private parts shown. Characters are expected to fight and kill rivals in the name of a quest we are told is noble.
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What's the story?
Based on the Sword of Shannara Trilogy books by Terry Brooks, THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES takes place on Earth, centuries into the future, after a devastating nuclear war destroyed life as we know it. Humans have evolved into numerous races (gnomes, trolls, and dwarves, with some full humans still remaining), and elves, who were living in secret on Earth all along, came out of hiding after the Great War to become the most powerful race of all. Now the creatures who remain live in the Four Lands -- trolls in the Northland, dwarves and gnomes in the Eastland, humans in the Southland, and elves in the Westland -- largely in peace. That is, until the magic that was lost along with the fall of human society returned in the form of an ancient demon and his evil horde. Now only three heroes can stop its spread: brave elf princess Amberle Elessedil (Poppy Drayton), human outlaw Eretria (Ivana Baquero) and hapless half-elf Wil (Austin Butler).
Is it any good?
First things first: Fans of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and even Xena: Warrior Princess will feel they've seen this drama's plot twists and characters before -- but in a good way. Fantasy quests are generally as trope-y as they come, with noble warriors, chosen ones, epic violence, terrifying supernatural villains, and fair maidens, all of which The Shannara Chronicles has in spades. But this drama succeeds by adding a freshness to the same-old, same-old. Our Hero turns out to be a trio -- two powerful, brave young women who recruit a somewhat-less-so man to join them on their world-saving odyssey in a feminist twist that oft-ignored female fantasy fans will greatly appreciate. The heroes are also as foxy as they come, which is perhaps not realistic given the intrinsic sweatiness of a quest, but nonetheless will be appreciated by the teen and 20-something audience MTV is trying to reach.
Finally, Shannara changes things up with dialogue that's both modern -- at one point, a character refers to "sloppy seconds" -- and that pokes gentle fun at fantasy clichés. "Why don't you just call it a book of magic?" a character asks of the mystical Codex of Paranor. "Is it a Druid requirement that everything has to sound so mysterious?" Ha! Shannara is great fun and good whole-family watching for teens who like a fantasy bent.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why this adaptation of books published in the 1970s and 1980s was made now. Which popular show(s) does The Shannara Chronicles remind you of? Is MTV taking inspiration from the success of similar dramas? Which ones?
Most of the characters on The Shannara Chronicles are young -- in their 20s -- and attractive. Why? How would this narrative change if characters were older?
Does it surprise you that the author of the books this series is based on took much of his inspiration from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series? How is this show like or different from that series?
- Premiere date: January 5, 2016
- Cast: Poppy Drayton, Austin Butler, Ivana Baquero
- Network: MTV
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Compassion, Courage, Integrity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-14
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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