The Shannara Chronicles (S02E01) "Druid"

The Shannara Chronicles has finally come back to our screens after the long absence of a year and a half. In the meantime, the show has moved from MTV to Spike and gained many additions to the cast: Vanessa Morgan as Lyria, Malese Jow as Mareth, and Desmond Chiam as General Riga only in the premiere, with many more new faces entering in the next episodes.
After Amberle (Poppy Drayton) sacrificed herself to become the Ellcrys and save the world in the season 1 finale, fans had been praying for some way to save her or revert the process so that we might still have Amberle as one of the protagonists. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be done – despite the many other changes made to the source material, The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks – Amberle had to stay dead, or better, tree. But we were positively surprised in receiving two visions of Amberle, flashbacks aside, in this premiere.
The season opens in an interesting, almost anthological way. Our four main characters season were separated by geography and we slowly catch up with each of them as the episode progresses, and we get to know the new characters as they are paired with the returning.
A year has passed, and Eretria (Ivana Baquero), whom we had left captured by a figure unknown to us, is fine. More than fine, actually. She was not held hostage but chose to stay in this peaceful community led by Cogline, a man who had years ago promised Eritrea’s mother he would keep her safe. (He doesn’t seem to have done such a great job, if she was sold as a slave to Cephalus as a mere kid, but we’ll allow the writers a little plot hole). Eretria now seems happy and in love with Lyria, a girl who is finally her equal and who says she will follow her anywhere. But deep down the rover is disappointed that Wil never came looking for her, and she’s not a hundred percent sure what happened to Amberle. When confronted by Cogline, she even says with a tint of bitterness that the two of them might be living a perfect life together, not caring about her. But when she is dragged into the ocean and is about to drown, she is awoken by a heavenly vision of Amberle.
Wil (Austin Butler) has decided to finally become a healer and to lie low among the gnomes. This soon proves to be smart decision since the Crimson, an anti-magic group, is actively and rather violently looking for him. We can instantly tell that Wil hasn’t yet recovered from losing his love. Amberle’s sacrifice still haunts him, and he shows actual signs of trauma. When adventure comes looking for him yet again in the shape of a girl, he once more plays the role of the unwilling hero, but the audience isn’t fooled, just like in season 1: he is the last Shannara, and “I’m not interested in saving the world” is not convincing enough, even to his own slightly-tipped elven ears.
Ander, Amberle’s youngest and most beloved uncle, still new to being a king, is trying to find ways to rebuild his kingdom as the land suffers under the terror spread by the Crimson. The metaphor for racism, in the means of hate, fear and intimidation could not be clearer. Catania, Amberle’s friend and handmaiden also makes an appearance, probably to remind fans of her short-lived romance with Bandon, the scrawny-turned-scary druid who had taken a dark path towards the end of season 1. Now he has gone full evil and created a cult to resurrect the new big bad dark lord. Had Allanon, who deserves an award for worst timing, arrived one minute earlier, he could’ve stopped the satanic ritual to awaken the Warlock.
In the meantime the Crimson, who has potentially been looking for Wil for an entire year, managed to find his old village in the course of a forty-five minute episode. But it’s the Warlock who finds him first and engages him in a magical fight. Wil only makes it out alive thanks to the mysterious girl he had met the day before, Mareth, that the audience has seen use magical powers. Mareth needs a favor from Wil: to lead her to Allanon, because *drum roll* he is her father.
Eretria is repeatedly told that she needs to let go of her old life. But seeing Amberle truly unlocked something inside of her, stirring that bond that used to run so deep. Lyria senses something has changed and inquires about her girlfriend’s past relationships (this is still a teen drama after all). Yes, Eretria admits that she was in love with Wil, but not anymore. And no – here the writers chose to make fun of all Princess Rover fans – it wasn’t like that with Amberle, she says with a chuckle as if it was the most absurd thing in the world (as if she hadn’t spent half of last season making heart eyes at the elven princess). But Wil was the first person to ever look at her and see someone good, more than just a rover… and in fact, Eretria and Lyria do discover that Wil had come looking for her but he had been turned away by Cogline’s men.
The most emotional moment of the episode was undoubtedly Wil using the Elfstones to see Amberle, reaching for her with the softest smile on his face and telling her “I’m lost without you” before falling on his knees.
It was a good season premiere, with an okay pace, but not as strong as it could have been. The one year time gap felt like too long for some of the characters who still looked like they were trying to process the events of the previous war.
This season our heroes are up against not one but two enemies, the Crimson and the Warlock Lord, and Wil needs to retrieve the Sword of Shannara if he wants to defeat them. Everything will get more complicated as political alliances are struck, new friendships are made, and old friends reunite. Tune in Wednesdays at 10pm.