The red thread that loosely runs through episode 4, “Dweller”, are the traumatic experiences that each of the main characters experienced at some point in their lives. Tonight we uncovered some parts of Wil, Mareth, and Gareth Jax.
The episode opens with Bandon appearing in Tamlin’s palace, unseen by her guards, to remind her of the deal she made with the Warlock Lord thirty years ago to protect her people. He will come to collect, he promises. This confirmed that for whatever reason, the queen of Leah has connections with both the antagonists of the season – the Crimson and the Warlock – and it is clear that sooner or later she will have to choose whether to take the easy road and side with them or listen to her moral conscience and fight alongside her daughter for freedom and peace in the Four Lands.
Our heroes must part ways: Allanon suspects the Crimson has a foot in Leah and that Tamlin might be complicit, so Eretria must go back to Leah to warn Ander, and Jax will go with her. Eretria wants to go with Wil but he is irremovable: “I already lost you once, the last thing I want is to lose you again. If we’re both lucky enough to survive this, we’ll meet up again.” She gives him the Elfstones back and they say farewell with a seemingly casual “I’ll see you when I see you” while all the things they left unsaid over in the air between them.
Mareth dares Allanon to read her mind to find out what she wants from him. She claims she’s his daughter, and the fact that she was able to use his staff proves it. He is shocked and he rejects her. But Mareth is very clear and practical: she does not want sympathy or love, it’s not a father she needs, it’s a druid who will teach her to control her magic. “I’ve spent my entire life without a father, I’m not looking for one now, I was just hoping maybe you would help me.” When Wil later asks Allanon what he thinks of his supposed daughter, the druid confesses that he doesn’t think Mareth is lying, but he cannot believe her because he always thought the Druid Sleep made him unable to father children. But denial and excuses are not going to last long, just like Mareth’s conviction that she doesn’t want a father.
We get a glimpse of Gareth’s PTSD when he jolts awake from a nightmare and almost stabs Eretria. Never mind the fact that just last episode he told Mareth he doesn’t do backstories, he now explains to Eretria he was in the border legion but he outlived all his companions when a pack of demons disguised as gnomes attacked them. We can only assume that was the event that changed his life and made him, a loyal soldier, into a ruthless and solitary bounty hunter who has no morals and cares only about his personal gain.
In Leah, Ander asks Edain about Catania again. The king knows something is wrong, his friend’s explanation does not make sense: Cat was the one to encourage his union with Lyria for the greater good, she would not throw a tantrum and leave out of jealousy. Ander and Lyria go on a walk to get acquainted: it happens off screen but we get the sense that they were very open and honest with each other. Lyria in fact thanks Ander for understanding that she wants to be with Eritrea. The Rover arrives just in time to hear that, and the reunion isn’t as tender as it could be because Eritrea and Ander piece everything together and realize Edain has betrayed him.
Bandon still has Wil’s uncle Flick, and the two have a discussion about whether the world is worth saving. There’s lots of good people, Flick says, but Bandon retorts no one is innocent. Bandon, wanting to prove his point, takes them to see the family who now occupies the house he grew up in – the house that was a prison for him. Their hospitality is impeccable, but when the subject of magic is raised, they show how close-minded people can be. To simple-minded people, something they don’t possess or understand has to be the cause of all evil in the world.
On the way to Paranour, Allanon decides to take Wil and Mareth on a detour: before they face Bandon they need the Sword of Shannara, which is buried with Shea Ohmsford. Wil agrees to look for the sword; he will wield it no matter the price if it means he’ll be able to save his uncle. We didn’t miss the proud smirk on Allanon’s face as Wil accepted his legacy. In the underground labyrinthic caves where Shea is buried, Wil proposes they split up so they can search better. As any film literate person knows, that is never a good choice. In fact, Wil is taken by a big spiderlike creature à la Frodo in Lord of the Rings.
Edain thinks he is meeting the Crimson to hand in the weapons that General Riga requested and is instead met with Ander in disguise. The king bests him in a fight and Edain admits that Catania is dead. As any good hero, Ander doesn’t kill his enemy, and the scene ends with us waiting for more, waiting for justice to reach the traitor.
Mareth tells Allanon about the first manifestations of her magic, her mother’s reaction of absolute dread at that curse passed on her by her father. She’s afraid of her powers getting too out of control, she’s terrified of hurting someone she loves, and that’s why she came looking for Allanon. Wil is forced to relive his worst memory, and we witness him playing swordsman as a young kid and his father, sad and scarred and mad, shouting at him never to touch the sword again and beating him. Mareth and Allanon find Wil and together the three of them defeat the beast that Wil destroys with the stones.
Meanwhile, Bandon is triggered by the magic-phobic reactions of the peasants and tortures them by slowly killing the child and making his parents watch. Every step of the way we were hoping he would stop and spare them, but it appears any trace of the Bandon we met in season 1 is gone.
Ander questions Queen Tamlin on whether she had any idea that Leah is supplying weapons for the Crimson. She lies to his face about having nothing to do with them, promising that her kingdom won’t abide terrorism within its walls. Ander is still doubtful, but he lets it go. They punish the traitors by pushing them down the waterfall on the side of the palace, and Ander’s heart breaks as he kills his oldest friend.
Lyria and Eretria say goodbye once more, but it’s loving and sweet this time. The Rover believes in the Princess and reminds her she’s indispensable to her mother: Tamlin needs her more than Lyria needs her. In fact, Lyria dominates the next conversation she has with her mother: if she marries Ander, it’s going to be her choice, on her terms. She’s learned to negotiate, and once she’s on the throne of Arborlon, she won’t be her mother’s puppet. So if Tamlin wants Lyria’s support she needs to start treating her like an equal.
Finally in front of Shea’s tomb, Wil forgives his father for everything he’s done. Allanon helps him understand that even though Shea didn’t want to have children to pass on the burden of magic, he loved Wil and always carried him in his heart and did everything he could to protect him. It is obvious Allanon is also silently accepting his own role as a father, and Mareth is beautifully not afraid to show her tears.
Wil realizes the Sword of Shannara is the very sword he once played with as a kid. He wields it once more, finally embracing the destiny of magic and responsibility that he had tried so hard to escape.
The interactions between characters were golden, and everyone portrayed their pain so well. In terms of action, this was a kind of filler episode, because our heroes didn’t engage with either of the villains and the only real progress – punishing the traitors and getting the weapon – happened at the very end, but I’m glad we got to explore everyone’s story a little deeper. The Mareth/Allanon dynamic calls for a touching development that I cannot wait to see. Another beautiful episode, this show is a gem that keeps on giving.
Prediction corner. I have a gut feeling about these things: Amberle will come back in the season finale (the episode is indeed titled ‘Amberle’); Mareth and Jax are going to have a romantic entanglement; Allanon will ultimately die to protect his daughter; Tamlin will eventually choose to stand beside Lyria and it might cost her life. I will update and expand my theories as the season progresses. Make sure to leave a comment below or tweet me at @ladymultifandom if you want to discuss theories!