The Shannara Chronicles (S02E08) "Amberle" Review

The previous episode ended with the huge cliffhanger of the Warlock Lord rising with the face of Allanon, so 2×08, “Amberle” had to compete with that. But the title itself made everyone more than eager to tune in, in the desperate hope for seeing our beloved Princess for more than a couple of seconds – and maybe to finally get her back for good.
Wil and Eretria arrive at Arborlon, where the Crimson forces have taken the city and killed most of the Chosen, the sacred protectors of the Ellcrys. Wil wants to save them but Eretria insists he needs to go see Amberle as soon as possible. They separate, and the Rover frees the remaining Chosen, but the Crimson soldiers chase them through the forest. (It was strange to see some Chosen fall there, since they all ran the Gauntlet blindfolded and with their hands tied before.) The dark wraiths arrive and kill the soldiers. Eretria is not able to stop them, but she absorbs them. Her eyes turn ebony again for a moment, and then she is back to herself.
Hesitant, Wil enters the Sanctuary and gazes at the magnificent Ellcrys, now flourishing thanks to Amberle’s sacrifice when it was dying just a year before. But she saved it, saved all of them. Wil touches the tree, just like he has a hundred times the year before, begging it to do something, and this time a door opens.
Inside, he finds himself on a deserted beach and there, near the clear water, his princess is standing, clad in a beautiful white dress. But he still won’t allow himself to hope, doesn’t run to her, and only when he gets a glimpse at her face does he smile. He asks why she never responded before now and she replies there was nothing for her to say. Wil’s “how about goodbye?” honestly broke my heart — and Amberle’s too. Before she can answer, another Amberle appears behind him, and this is his Amberle, not the Ellcrys version of her, but the Princess who broke him. He says he loves her, he still does, and he can’t make peace with what she did. But Amberle is unmovable: what they had was beautiful but it was only temporary. Wil is angry, but Amberle urges him, he must face his destiny just like she embraced hers. Wil doesn’t think he’s good enough to save the world, he’s terrified he will fail and doom everyone.
After a sweet/painful reunion, Ellcrys!Amberle is back to tell Wil what to do: the warlock lord has a weakness, the sword of Shannara, which only Wil can wield. Amberle explains the sword broke because he wasn’t ready to face his truth. So now he must. Wil finds himself in the barn again to get closure with his father. Wil confesses he is doubting himself (again) and “I am no hero” is still the phrase of the day. Wil also shows a bit of an inferiority complex because his father was the hero of the War of the Races, but Shea tells him he must believe. He himself became a drunk and died alone because he couldn’t face his own truth. Wil understands his lesson and finds himself with Amberle again. He has one more truth to face: that she is gone and never coming back, and that he needs to let her go. Her eyes water, but she says it once more (for those of us still harboring a tiny spark of hope) that nothing can bring her back. (Nothing, are we sure? This will never not hurt). Ellcrys!Amberle appears at Wil’s back to reassure him that the princess loved him, and he accepts that moment in time has passed. After this emotional rollercoaster… the legendary Sword of Shannara is whole again. Amberle quietly smiles and nods as Wil turns to says goodbye for the last time. (Farewell, Princess of my heart. I will always miss you.)
Outside the Sanctuary, Eretria is unconscious among the dead Crimson soldiers. But we know the blood on her hands isn’t theirs. And as Wil hugs her, we see her ebony eyes again, and we know she killed the remaining Chosen.
In Leah, sitting on Queen Tamlin’s throne, Riga gets information about Allanon being in Storloc, and he departs at once. In the dungeons of the palace, Jax and Slanter talk about what will happen when they’re gone. Both have nobody left to miss them. Slanter says it makes it easier, but Jax argues not having known love is worse, somehow. To be only a shadow, a regret, what kind of life is that? It’s time for their execution, but a group of gnomes, led by Tamlin’s captain of the guard storms in and kills the Crimson guards. The captain is willing to risk his life so that Jax can escape and protect Lyria. Jax gives his word.
In Storloc, Mareth and Allanon train. Allanon realize he’s dying because he didn’t take the Druid sleep for years after defeating the Dagda Mor. The burden will pass on to Mareth who will become the last of the druids once he is dead. Allanon tells his daughter of their curse: having to watch everyone they know grow old and die. He orders her to detach herself, (like a Jedi?) to forget her feelings for Wil and move on. Mareth accusingly asks him if he even loved her mother. They both say they miss her every single day. Allanon admits Pyria was the only woman he ever loved, and that love weakened him. This is a foreshadowing: their daughter will prove to be Allanon’s weakness in the following scene. Mareth is captured while she trains, and the Crimson take Storloc. General Riga blackmails Allanon for the Codex. The Druid gives it to him, and Mareth says he should’ve let her die. Riga orders Allanon and Mareth burned and the stake and rides off to Graymark, where he suspects there has been a breach in their security. As they get ready to die, Allanon finally accepts his role as Mareth’s father: she’s more important to him than any book. Their hands find each other as the flames around them grow taller.
Now jumping to Graymark. Bandon asks the Warlock Lord – now revived and wearing the face of Allanon, his mortal enemy – to revive Catania, whose body he stole… ah! Remember I said a couple of recaps ago that there must be a reason why the writers made a point to have Ander say Cat’s body hadn’t been found? This was it.
Bandon really loved Catania, in his own twisted way, and he thinks she will want to be with him. He promises to be the Warlock Lord’s servant forever if he brings her back. Catania is revived, but she wants nothing to do with Bandon. We see a new side of Bandon that we haven’t seen all season, and it is almost sweet, the way he wants to be with Catania, because you can tell he sincerely loves her, but it is frankly very creepy. He asks her forgiveness, and she says she’d rather be dead (and with Ander, who has probably joined in heaven right now).
The Warlock Lord puts a spell on Cat and makes her his own creature, a plaything he can enjoy and torture Bandon with. Bandon is prepared to fight him for this, but the dark lord manipulates him: love is an illusion and he must empty your heart and free his mind (which is basically the cruder version of the order Allanon gave Mareth). Dark!Catania is there, ripe for the taking, inviting, whispering “Bandon, my love” and he understands he must show the darkness he is worthy. Through the tears, Bandon runs the Warlock’s blade in her heart and twists it until she is dead, again. He passed the test, but it is clear the Warlock Lord has lost his loyalty forever.
Riga struts into Graymark and orders his guards to take the Warlock Lord (as if!). He states his mission once more, that he will purge the world of magic, and he even bravely tries to fight the warlock. It is beautiful to see the villain not be a sniveling coward but face death honorably upholding his ideals — however wrong they might be. But no, says the Warlock Lord as he severs Riga’s head from his body, the world will be consumed by magic. Bandon watched speechless as his master tosses Riga’s head on the ground and asks whether “the bitch queen littered any children”. Princess Lyria must be found because she is the key to Heaven’s Well. But Bandon’s face suggests he’s not happy with this assignment.
Dear Shannara writers, we are running out of characters to kill! We cannot end every episode with the death of an important character. That said, I am so going to miss Desmond Chiam as General Riga. He brought so much to the show, and his performance was just stunning. He nailed that twisted mentality, that blind hatred… his villain wasn’t a magical being, but a human – all right, Elf – with reasons and feelings. Where can I nominate him for Best Villain?
No Lyria in this episode, but she was talked of. It was a very packed, very intense episode, and I think it was a good choice to keep her out. Her story couldn’t have advanced much anyway, and there can only be one Princess per episode. I think Amberle deserved every single minute of screen time she got and more. Lyria will be back being Shannara’s local Princess next week, and I cannot wait.
I am very concerned about Eretria, and I really don’t want to see her turn on her friends. I hope her darkness is something she can keep at bay, and not turn into another Bandon.
Allanon isn’t supposed to die in the books. In the trailer for the next episode, he has no more runes. Since he started losing the runes when the Warlock Lord was revived, my theory is that once his enemy dies, Allanon will get his runes back, and after some years spent in the Druid sleep to regain his strengths, he will be back on his feet, and he and Mareth can be druids together. She will probably choose that path over a potential love story with Wil, since he is supposed to marry Eretria in the end (the following book is actually about their children). I don’t know where that puts Lyria though. I really hope she doesn’t die.
Forever wishing we didn’t have to say goodbye to Amberle, see you next week for the last two reviews of the season!