The Shannara Chronicles (S02E03) "Graymark"

Most of the action in this episode takes place in “Graymark”, the old seat of the Warlock Lord, hence the title. Allanon is brought to the fortress by Riga’s men to meet the General. He wants the Codex so that he can destroy all magic once and for all. The druid tries to convince Riga to let him go so that he may defeat their common enemy, the true enemy, the Warlock Lord, but Riga retorts that magic is the true enemy. Interestingly enough, the General doesn’t blindly hate magic; on the contrary, he respects it. He understands magic is a dangerous force and he despises the druids who think they can control it.
The most awaited reunion of the season – at least until Amberle comes back, that is – finally happened, and it was a tumultuous vortex of emotions for all parties involved, me included. Wil opens his eyes and he probably thinks he might still be dreaming as the silhouette of Eritrea walks closer and closer. But the “welcome back, short tips” proves that it is really her. He has no words to describe how glad he is that she’s not dead, and all they can do is hug and hold tight. The writers might erase the sexual tension, but they can’t erase the feeling of love and friendship that these two came to share after their rocky adventure.
The next pang to the chest arrives when Wil asks the obvious question, how did she find him? “Amberle,” is Eritrea’s answer, and Wil can’t believe his short-tips. She came to her in a vision, the Rover continues, and we see the hurt and disappointment Wil tries to hide from his face. He doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t have to, because we know why this is so painful: he’s been unhealthily abusing the Elfstones like an addictive drug in the desperate attempt to see even a glimpse of Amberle, unaware of the fact that she can appear in people’s visions, and yet she chose Eritrea instead of him. The reunion is interrupted by Mareth and Garet Jax about to break into a fight outside of the barn. The tension between those two – Gareth is the fitting ship name – is palpable from this very first meeting and in all subsequent ones, a literal scene-stealer.
In Leah, the Queen and her daughter discuss plans. Tamlin had to get rid of Eretria because Lyria must marry Ander and sit on the throne of Arborlon so that Leah can come to the Elves’ aid in their moment of greatest need and set up a garrison and therefore gain control of the lands.
Wil, Eretria and Mareth convince Jax to take them to Graymark. Wil now wants to find Allanon as bad as Mareth does, because he’s his only chance at retrieving his uncle Flick. But as a good bounty hunter, Garet doesn’t have good morals and he doesn’t believe in good causes, he’ll pretend to hand Wil in, get his reward and leave.
Wil and Eretria’s year apart has changed them both, and their initial roles are almost inverted: she has come to terms with her new life; he is haunted by the past, a past he has tried to hide from but that is inevitably catching on to him. Wil has lost his optimism and good faith in people, his grief has made him blind to the suffering of others. Which renders his choice to be a healer quite ironic. Wil pines, saying Eretria doesn’t know what it’s like to have everything you’ve ever wanted and then have it all taken away, but she does, and he realizes his mistake. They talk about the big elephant in the room, Amberle. It is clear that Wil is still bitter and angry at Allanon, whom he blames. But Eretria has made her peace with the Princess’s fate, she recognizes that sacrificing herself was her own decision, not Allanon’s. Their short-lived argument is resolved. Eretria reassures Wil that Amberle loved him, in fact she sent her to find him. He points out it’s not fair that she had to leave her new life to come find him, but life, Eritrea reminds him, is not fair. She has doubts about Mareth’s intentions, but Wil explains that against reason he’s giving her the benefit of the doubt, and Eretria finally gets a glimpse of the boy she fell in love with, the one who was constantly giving out chances. “There’s the Wil I know and love.” It almost looks like she’s about to kiss him, and he almost looks disappointed that she didn’t. She flirts a little, in the harmless way that she likes, and we finally see Wil with an expression that’s not the pain, sadness, or annoyance that he’s sported so far. She even touches his “precious elfstones” but with no sexual vibe to it, just because she loves pushing him out of his comfort zone. He’s intrigued, but more because he’s missed Eritrea being Eritrea than because she touched his nuts. They’re both just getting used to being around each other again, and I honestly don’t think the writers will choose to make Wil and Eretria romantic this season, because they really can’t pull the Will/Eretria/Princess love triangle for the second time. I like their new dynamic as it is.
In Leah, Ander wonders where Catania is. His guard, the traitor who killed Cat, tells the king that she ran back to Arborlon, wishing not to interfere with his marriage to Princess Lyria. Tamlin, always one step ahead of everybody with her schemes, demands to see Riga.
In Graymark, Riga and his men are torturing Allanon, but the druid won’t say anything about the location of the Codex. Jax walks into the fortress to hand Wil to the Crimson and collect his reward. The Shannara is taken to Allanon’s room, and Riga uses him to get information out of Allanon. Outside, Garet gets a wake-up call from his conscience – he told Mareth in an earlier scene that he wasn’t always ruthless and skeptic, he used to have morals and a purpose once – and he decides to go back and help Mareth and Eretria get Wil and Allanon out.
The three of them go in: Mareth is alerted of her father’s presence and her magic leads her to his staff. So far she has had a couple of badass moments and many jokes, but for the last minutes of the episode, Mareth is the hero of the story. She knocks Riga out despite him being impervious to magic – he’s not immune to fire though – fights off the Crimson soldiers, and gets all of them out. The choreography of the escape battle was amazing.
Shannara keeps building up and up this season. The new characters are beyond interesting, the old are in a different place than last year, the cast grows more colorful and diverse. Everything is so well done that I can’t imagine for how long they can keep it up. Hopefully the entire 8 episode season and the next.