The Shannara Chronicles (S02E06): “Crimson” Review

Episode 2×06, airing back to back with 2×05, obviously picks up right where the previous started. This season of Shannara is like binging a Netflix show, where the episodes flow into one another almost like an extremely long movie (and the quality of the content is great). This episode, titled “Crimson” tried – and I would say it modestly succeeded – to be a Game of Thrones episode. There were so many parallelisms and similarities with GOT as well as many items of popular culture, in the clear way that media nowadays tends to always be self-referential. But let’s start with the episode.

Wil finally reveals some truth to Shea and, quite frankly, spoilers the future for him. He tells him that the Warlock Lord is about to declare war and that Shea will play a big part in fighting him. Shea cannot believe this; he is no hero. It is astounding to see how similar Wil and his father are and how they react to things the same way. As we watch the young Shea, Wil’s words from season 1 echo in our memory. (That, and the Shannara writers really love the trope of the unwilling hero.)

Wil finally tells Shea that he and Mareth are looking for a creepy skull, but Shea obviously has no idea where it is – yet. The logic of the time-travelling was a little bit hard to grasp: future!Shea went back in time to hide the skull somewhere in Shady Vale, but past!Shea doesn’t know that yet, so future!Wil goes back 30 years and demands past!Shea knows about something that he hasn’t done yet. How could he know, even though the skull is already there? The way time works in this universe is not a linear succession of events, but a tridimensional space where past, present and future coexist at the same time. One does not go back in time to alter the events – the events have always been altered. Does it make sense? It’s like Bran going back in time in Game of Thrones and hurting Hodor’s mind irreparably: it had already happened before we saw Bran set that in motion.

Shea does not particularly care about finding the skull, he is focused on the scarecrow competition that he and Heady are participating in, so much that Wil snaps and again spoilers his father’s life for him: “You do win, okay? You win the damn competition, and Heady tells her father that she’s in love with you.” Subtle, Wil. At that point, the only thing he can do to convince him this is true is to tell him he’s heard this story his whole life. Because Shea is his father.

Wil remembers his parents’ scarecrow from when he was little and realizes the skull might be inside, if his father kept the scarecrow for so many years. He finds it in the middle of a cornfield that would soon become a lake: that’s why they had to travel to the past instead of just going to present day Shady Vale. They get the skull but Shea has sneaked out to the village competition despite the danger of the wraiths looking for him. Wil is annoyed, but Mareth wisely remarks: “Like you’d listen to two time-travelers from the future rather than your heart.” I love this girl.

Country music is playing at the festival – no, not Taylor Swift’s old albums – and Heady and Shea have just made up after their fight when the mord wraiths arrive and one of them injures Shea, before Wil can destroy it with the Elfstones. They all go back to the barn, and Wil quickly heals his father. Heady thanks Wil for the “miracle” (to which Mareth smugly replies “Try magic.”) and she promises she will never forget what he did for them. Wil warns them they have a dark road ahead, but he says they will get through it, which is the saddest thing in the world, because they really don’t. Wil tells Shea he will be a wonderful dad, and the lie is like a stab in the chest for both Wil and us. Heady praises Wil and calls him “special”, he replies it’s because he had the best mom. How was he not crying in this heartbreaking scene?

Just before Wil and Mareth go back to the future/present, they see Allanon ride by: “And so it begins.” (Another Game of Thrones reference!) The two also have a lingering moment of staring, in case we had forgotten that Mareth is harboring feelings for Wil. Back to the future (ha!), in Paranor, Allanon has tried – and expectedly, failed – to bring Bandon back to the light. The most ironic part of the scene was surely when Bandon declares Allanon is the closest thing he has to a father for the care he’s taken of him, despite how he used him. (Doesn’t this sound like Dumbledore and Harry?) But let us not forget that poor Uncle Flick is dying outside the cage, and he curses Allanon for bringing misery to his entire family: Shea, Wil, and himself. The druid blames destiny and sacrifice. Sacrifice is necessary for the greater good (yep, he’s Dumbledore!), hence Shea and Bandon had to go crazy, Amberle had to sacrifice herself, Wil had to suffer, Flick has to die. One life to prevent the return of the Warlock Lord seems like a fair sacrifice, as long as it’s not the death of the protagonist (cough, Shannara, I still haven’t forgiven you for Amberle. But no worries, she’s coming back. More on that later.)

Wil frees Bandon, ready to respect his end of the bargain, but before he can give up the skull, Flick nobly sacrifices himself. I guess Allanon’s speech really had an impact on the old guy. Wil is stunned. Bandon takes advantage of this weakness, steals the skull and shatters the Sword of Shannara (wow, imagine if this wasn’t the most powerful weapon in the world…). Before running away, Bandon pauses to offer Mareth to join him. She of course refuses. Kylo is that you?

The efforts made in the past three episodes have been useless – Bandon now has everything he needs to resurrect his dark lord. Our protagonists are hurt, divided, angry… could things be worse? Oh, yes, Allanon is also dying.

Meanwhile, Eretria has been up to some dark stuff. Cogline tells her that her newfound power is no blessing: she could either become a vessel for darkness, or the only thing standing between the Dark Lord and Heaven’s Well. But now she has tasted the darkness, the power, and he warns her about its temptation. He probably should have emphasized that part, because later, when Eretria enters the prison looking for him, she is drawn by the power of the wraith. She walks into the cell and with a single touch, destroys the wraith just for kicks. She also has visions, quick flashes of her with the snake-like yellow eyes and red skin of the red mord wraiths. It’s the same image Wil saw, and if two magical people have the same vision in one episode, you just know it’s not a possibility but a foreshadowing. Cogline said her greatest battle would been within herself, and we can just tell she will struggle between good and evil in future episodes.

In Leah, Ander and Lyria promise each other they will be friends and partners. Their marriage is one of convenience, but they need to be a united front if they want to protect their people. Moreover, Lyria loves Eretria, and marrying Ander is the only way she has of ensuring her mother will not send anyone else to kill her. Ander already knows she is going to be “one hell of a queen.” The palace is busy preparing the wedding, and Ander even dares to ask Tamlin if he should call her “Mother” to which the Queen replies with a very annoyed expression that “Your Highness will suffice.” (Margaery/Cersei anyone?! The GOT comparisons never end.)

Tamlin, happy that her scheme to get her daughter on the throne of Arborlon has succeeded, has Gareth Jax called to kill General Riga once and for all. She doesn’t need his help anymore, and he’ll only be in her way if he’s an enemy of her daughter and her husband. Jax ambushes Riga, but his right hand, Valcaa, jumps on Jax. The General leaves to make Tamlin pay, and Valcaa is a little bit too confident in his capacity to take on the weapon master. Jax, despite having both hands tied, frees himself and snaps Valcaa’s arm in half – it was gruesome, I never want to see a bone again – and kills him. This might just be the first bad guy we’ve seen die this season. Thank god there’s Jax.

The royal wedding begins. Lyria and Tamlin make their entrance and they are a vision, the princess’s dress is dreamy. I’ve already said this in past reviews, but big kudos to the set and costume departments, because everything in Leah is so beautiful. But the most dramatic entrance is reserved to the priest/officiant who slowly walks to the bride-and-groom-to-be, takes his hood off and reveals himself to be… General Riga himself, the greatest drama queen in the Four Lands. I wish I knew how to gif, because the way he takes his robe off is just so extra, amazing.

A fight ensues, Ander engages the General in combat with the words “Your reign of terror ends today, Riga.” Their fight choreography is epic. Slanter throws a sword at Lyria, who catches it and slashes through Crimson soldiers like the worthy girlfriend of Eretria that she is. Riga successfully stabs Ander, and Jax and Eretria rush in to save the day. Except, there’s not much they can do. Lyria tries to fight Riga to turn his attention away from the wounded Ander, but he is clearly too strong for her. Just when Riga is about to kill Lyria, Ander manages to stand on his knees to divert the blade, but he cannot defend himself. General Riga drives his sword through Ander’s heart. We hear Lyria’s screams (and echo them), we see Ander collapse – his crown fallen from his head – and grip his sword as the light leaves his eyes and the episode ends.

This episode wins the title of New Red Wedding. Action-packed, emotional, moves the plot forward… Shannara keeps doing everything right. Now onto some considerations for future episodes.

Every Elessedil that we know is dead, who is going to rule Arborlon now? Not Lyria, they weren’t married. Who is the only other person with Elessedil blood that we know is alive? Mareth. Remember, she might be Allanon’s daughter, but her mother Pyria was King Eventine’s sister. Can she be Queen please?

We already knew that Catania’s body hadn’t been found, but Ander made a point of repeating it… is that a clue from the writers that we might see our beloved Elf again?

Last but definitely not least, Amberle is coming back next Wednesday. As a vision, for sure, but considering that episode 8 is titled after her, she might make an epic return. It’s not like they care too much about staying true to the books, and it would literally make everyone – on and off screen – happy.

Can we have 200 seasons of Shannara like this?

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