The Shannara Chronicles (S02E02) “Wraith”

The second episode of the sophomore season of Shannara opens up with the characters almost exactly where we had left them in the premiere: Wil and Mareth are on the run from the Warlock Lord’s minions, Eretria and Lyria have been captured, Ander is still not back to Arborlon.

Wil is shocked about Mareth’s revelation that she is Allanon’s daughter. She reveals her mother is Pyria, Allanon’s only love and the late King Eventine’s sister. This makes Mareth Amberle’s cousin and a member of the Elessedil royal family, if Ander ever wishes to walk away from the throne he so much hates… but none of these considerations are made in the episode. It’s too early for any of that, but we should keep them in mind for future reference. On another note, Mareth doesn’t look like she’s going to make things easy for Wil, what else is new?

Eretria and Lyria are a little tied up when we meet them, literally. But a mysterious man kills their capturers in a spectacular fight sequence and proceeds to free the ladies, only to knock Eretria unconscious a moment later. He is Jax, a booty hunter hired by Lyria’s mother to bring her home.

Ander is looking for ways to help his people, but he grows more hopeless by the day:

“They’re tired and afraid, and I’m the king they’re left with.”

My heart broke for him. He and Slanter meet up with Allanon, and together they decide to ride to the human kingdom of Leah, famous for the slyness of its Queen Tamlin, to forge an alliance. There had been hints and many fans had already guessed, but we discover that Lyria is the Princess of Leah and that she ran away multiple times for her rocky relationship with her mother.

Eretria, resourceful as ever, has managed – off screen – to track Jax and Lyria all the way to Leah and disguises herself as a prostitute in the royal bordello to corner him and ask him where he brought Lyria. Once she finds her in her rooms, there are too many questions to be asked, and the only meaningful word Eretria can say is: “A princess?” An unspoken “Again?” hovers in the air between Eretria and the audience, because despite the writers implying in the last episode that there was nothing romantic between Amberle and Eretria, they just pulled the same trope for the second time. And so once again we say “Who would have thought? The Princess and the Rover.”

Eretria is taken by guards, but before they drag her away she tells Lyria to inform Ander that she’s there. Queen Tamlin agrees to an alliance with the elves only if Lyria will sit on the throne of Arborlon. Ander is prepared to refuse, but Catania, Amberle’s best friend who has been his lover and his rock for the past year, reminds him of the sacrifices that his family has made to build a better world, and that it’s time they start giving back. Tamlin tries to get rid of Eretria by convincing her that Lyria’s love declarations were false, then she tries to bribe her with diamonds. Lyria informs Ander that of Eretria’s presence and he declares she’s under his protection. They have a long conversation – offscreen unfortunately – about what really happened that night she was captured.

Eretria finally knows that Amberle now lives as the Ellcrys, which makes the command she gave her in her vision even more imperative: they must find Wil, he’s in grave danger. Allanon, Eritrea and Catania decide to leave immediately, but not without a tearful goodbye from Lyria to her lover, who is still very upset for the lies she has been fed for the past year. Eritrea asks Lyria to go with her if she really loves her, but the princess says she can’t, her mother will find them anywhere and kill Eritrea to get her daughter back.

In the stables, Allanon is attacked by General Riga himself, the leader of the hate group Crimson. Riga puts an anti-magic collar on Allanon and captures him. Eretria and Catania witness this but realize there’s nothing they can do to save the druid, so they decide to split up. Catania is going to tell Ander what happened, and Eretria will get to Wil alone as fast as she can. Catania is about to walk into the room Ander is in, but his right hand stops her and asks her what the matter is. She doesn’t hesitate in telling him, and he unexpectedly stabs her with his sword. We don’t even have time to register the betrayal because the pain of the loss it too big. Catania, who’s been a loyal companion since the very first episode of the series, murdered in cold blood by someone she trusted. Ander will have lost yet another person he loves.

Meanwhile, somewhere else in the Four Lands, Bandon has been looking for Wil, as he thinks Wil knows where the skull of the Warlock Lord is hidden. Wil and Mareth manage to find his Uncle Flick. Wil wants to seek refuge with the human federations, but Flick reminds his nephew of his purpose: if they don’t stand in the way of the Crimson, who will? He tells him it was exactly the denying of his purpose that drove Shea Ohmsford mad. Bandon finds them and gives Wil a chance to join him. He likes him, he says, he was kind to him when no one else was. It’s Allanon they should both despise, because he used them and made them what they are now. Wil subconsciously agrees but he won’t join Bandon in his quest for revenge and world destruction. The druid tortures Wil until he realizes he doesn’t know the location of the skull. But Flick does: only a Shannara and a druid can retrieve it. Bandon’s lackeys take Flick, and he gives Wil a ultimatum: if he doesn’t bring him Allanon within three days, his uncle will die.

Such an eventful episode, making us cry revelations after revelation, climax after climax. I must say the costume and set designers did a spectacular job for the excessive and extravagant court of Leah. The episode definitely had a better pace than the previous one, and I like how they split the introduction of all the new characters between the first two episodes: meeting Tamlin and Jax in the premiere would’ve been too much. If the rest of the season takes after this episode in terms of character, narrative, and action, this show is going places.

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