The Shannara Chronicles recap: Reaper
Did you see that ending coming tonight? Because I sure didn’t. But before we talk about the sad end of Manx and his owner, let’s check in with our favorite elves and the Rovers that bedevil them, taking a look back to…
Ten years ago
Once upon a time, Prince Ander and Commander Tilton were in love. So in love, in fact, that they chose rolling around naked over being on time for his council meeting and her watch duty. Sadly, while they’re making kissy faces, members of the gnome rebellion sneak into the castle and attack Eventine. Aine, Amberle’s father, rushes in to fight alongside the king but is cut down just as Ander, Tilton, and the cavalry arrive.
So what did we learn from this flashback? Well, if Ander and Tilton hadn’t been putting the moves on each other, maybe they could’ve stopped the attack and saved Aine. And although we don’t know why they broke up, it’s an easy guess that their shared guilt over the attack tore them apart and drove Tilton into the arms of Arion, Ander’s brother and the certified worst.
We also learn that Amberle’s dad was an all-around awesome guy. We’ve been hearing about Aine for weeks, and now we get to see him being cool when Amberle and a tiny Lorin (RIP, abs!) sneak into the Ellcrys sanctuary. He’s also the first person who encouraged Amberle to become a Chosen. Oh, and Amberle had visions from the very first time she touched the Ellcrys, which means that tree plays a long game.
These developments all wrap their tendrils around the events happening in the present this week, starting with…
The Dagda Mor screams at the Changeling for not killing Amberle. Wait, didn’t Allanon kill the Changeling? Whatever. It offers to go back undercover to turn the royal family against Allanon. The Dagda Mor licks its cheek, which must mean “this proposition is acceptable” in demon. Also, another leaf falls, and another demon is released. This is bad news for the people on…
The road trip from hell
Poor Eretria looks half dead from running in chains behind the horses on their journey. Wil asks Amberle if they can’t unchain her, and Amberle snips, “Are you sure you don’t want her hands free for some other reason?” Oooh, princess burn.
She’s not the only testy one, though; Crispin, the expedition captain, refuses to listen when Wil warns him that the demons are serious business. “Your cowardice is noted, boy,” Crispin snarls. He also ignores Amberle’s suggestions about the safest place to stop for the night.
When they’re alone, Wil reminds Amberle that he’s on her side, and she blows him off yet again. But is it because the Ellcrys warned her to harden her heart against distractions, or is she still fuming about that little Rover indiscretion?
As Wil starts to apologize for letting Eretria take advantage of him, Cephelo’s Rover gang springs up from hidey-holes in the ground and easily overpower the elves. “Be honest, you missed me,” chuckles Cephelo, who thinks he’s hilarious.
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The Rovers take the Elfstones, the horses, and Amberle but leave the rest of the party tied up. Cephelo then slices open Crispin’s leg and leaves them to become food for the marsh wolves. Once they’re gone, Crispin promises that Eretria will burn for this. But seriously, how is this her fault? She had no say in where they went or when they stopped. Sure, the Rover band followed her, but she had no idea she’d become a prisoner on a mission to save the world, so there was no advance plan here. This feels like knee-jerk Rover blaming.
At the Rover camp, a bound Amberle tries to get Eretria to free her, first by mentioning their shared quest and then by offering to pay 20 times what Cephelo’s paying her. But of course, Cephelo’s giving Eretria her freedom, and she rides off while Cephelo gets all rapey with Amberle.
UGHHH. Come on, Shannara Chronicles, we were rooting for you! We thought you’d be the show that didn’t resort to rape as a plot device! But noooooooo, here’s Cephelo, tossing Amberle on the ground and fumbling at his pants while telling her he enjoys her screams. Look, I’m not mad, I’m disappoi — actually, no. I’m mad. Rape is the laziest way to emperil female characters, and this scene is no exception. We know Cephelo is a horrible human being. Nobody needed this character beat to prove it.
NEXT: Don’t mess around with toxic waste
Thankfully, Eretria sneaks back into camp, drugs all the Rovers and knocks Cephelo out as he looms over Amberle. Eretria retrieves the Elfstones for her non-boyfriend, confirms that she’s getting 20 times her cut from Amberle and ties up Cephelo to take him along, explaining to Amberle, “If he is with us, he’s not hunting us. Consider him insurance.”
Not to sound bloodthirsty, but don’t you kind of have to kill him for everyone’s sake? He’s clearly not giving up on the Stones and is an all-around violent, awful person. They should seriously consider it, at least.
Back with Wil and the soldiers, the wolves start to attack, tearing one of the guards to bits. That’s when Eretria and Amberle arrive, and somehow the wolves are gone. Seriously, what happened here? I guess the women took them all out?
Whatever. The next day, Wil is bathing in a river, sans shirt. Eretria heckles, “Looking good! What do they feed you boys in the Vale?” He’s not a piece of meat, woman! (But please keep one of these scenes in each episode, okay, MTV?) Wil tells her he’s not letting her screw him a third time. She tosses him the Elfstones and smirks, “That’s too bad. You’re pretty good in bed.” Zing!
They return to camp to find Crispin wailing on Cephelo. Amberle puts a stop to it, finally asserting some authority with Crispin, and they set off again. This time, Eretria rides behind Crispin while Cephelo walks in chains. Just outside the fort, they come across a wasteland with an ancient “toxic gas” sign and several corroded barrels of what’s presumably nuclear waste. The scout that Crispin sends in is bucked off his horse and dies of gruesome radiation poisoning almost immediately.
“Three-thousand years have passed, yet humankind’s weapons are still claiming lives,” Crispin sneers at Cephelo.
Okay, Crispin blaming Rovers for the actions of humans from three millennia ago is insane. But it’s presumably the kind of reflexive loathing that the elves have dished out to the Rovers for centuries. Are the Rovers a scourge on society? This group certainly is, but how did they get that way? Did the elves’ attitude drive them to this? Discuss, and please show your work.
Anyway, the blame game stops when they arrive at the fort where they’ll meet their guide to the Wilderun. The place looks deserted until the decapitated heads of their would-be guide and a few other elves are trebucheted over the wall. You know, there aren’t enough scenes with trebuchets on TV today. Well played, show.
Then the doors of the fort open to reveal the most frightening demon yet: the Reaper. It’s enormous and horned and has actual fire burning in its chest. It trails smoke in its wake and is pants-wettingly terrifying. Crispin, finally realizing that the demons are kind of a big deal, hollers for his scouts to engage. Cephelo, meanwhile, gets Eretria to cut him free, then tells her and Amberle to head for the woods. “Short Tips and I will distract that big bastard with the Stones,” he says, apparently having missed the memo that we’re totes not calling Wil “Short Tips” anymore.
But when he hollers, “Fire those stones up, kid,” Wil can’t get the Elfstones to produce. Hmm. Did he try turning them off and on again? He and Cephelo are forced to fall back on plan B: Run!
While the soldiers are getting themselves killed, Cephelo fashions on-the-fly gas masks with found objects in the woods and lures the demon into the dump site, where he tosses a lighter and the barrels explode in a CGI orgy of flames. Is that enough to kill the Reaper? Doubtful! Its chest is made of fire!
So much for our road trippers. Let’s check in now at …
The Ellcrys sanctuary
Our favorite death-sensitive elf, Bandon, is setting up a date with Catania, who’s grateful that he saved her from the Changeling’s knife last week. Then Allanon of the Bad Timing strides over to tell him that it’s time he learns to control his magic. If used properly, Bandon should be able to contact Amberle through the Ellcrys.
NEXT: The gnome enemy of my demon enemy is my friend
So poor Bandon has to leave his flirt session with Catania (I totally ship it, by the way) to go to a “wax on, wax off” session with a grumpy Druid. He starts to get a handle on his magic, but his second vision ends with him facing the Dagda Mor. This causes the real Bandon’s eyes to turn a nasty shade of red/black as he collapses and Allanon catches him. And that’s where we leave the magical power hour this week, so all that’s left is to check in at…
Good news! Prince Arion is slowly becoming not the worst! He finally believes Allanon about the demon threat, and he urges Eventine to B-E aggressive and take the fight to them. The king disagrees, arguing that they need to focus on keeping the palace and the Ellcrys secure; then he and Manx sweep out.
Ander agrees that they need to take action, so he and his ex-girlfriend come up with a plan: Ander will lead a small unit to track the demons to where they’re gathering at the Breakline Mountains to gauge the size of their army. However, in order to survive in the Breaklines, he’ll need a guide. Like, say, Slanter, the gnome who killed their brother and has been locked up ever since.
Arion is furious at the thought of freeing Slanter, and he’s also not happy that Tilton plotted with Ander behind his back. Gotta say, I’m digging the brotherly jealousy in this episode.
Next thing you know, Ander’s creeping into Slanter’s cell. The gnome is understandably salty that he’s been locked up for 10 years and immediately demands Eventine’s head on a pike. But when Ander tells him that the Dagda Mor is back, Slanter says, “Then we’re all undone.” That’s gloomy.
Tilton and Arion find Ander leading Slanter (who’s wearing killer steampunk goggles) out of his cell, and Arion blows a gasket. An exasperated Ander begs him to suggest an alternative plan.
“If you have a better idea, I’m all points,” Ander says. YOU GUYS. THIS IS MY FAVORITE THING EVER. I insist you incorporate this into your daily conversations immediately. I see you, clever script writer. I see you.
It’s Ander’s turn to argue when Tilton says she’s going with him on the Breakline mission. They all finally agree to the plan, and Arion promises to handle the king himself. Then he gives Tilton an enthusiastic kiss goodbye while Ander not-so-subtly cranes his neck to avoid watching. I dig the way the brothers disagree but are still capable of working together. Plus, there’s a long-simmering romantic rivalry that could boil over soon. Look, I don’t want to see anybody get cheated on, but former lovers Tilton and Ander traveling together through dangerous countryside and cozying up to a campfire by night? I’m eager to see what goes down.
Finally, Arion enters the throne room to talk with his father, who can’t find Manx anywhere. And since we know Manx is the Changeling, the dog’s absence should’ve been our first clue that something was up.
Arion says he’s there to bury the hatchet with Eventine, but when the king again refuses to abdicate the throne, Arion buries a literal hatchet (okay, sword) in Eventine’s gut. Gotta love that Arion’s been such a despicable character that for a split second, you almost wonder if this is maybe the real guy. But it’s not, of course; it’s the Changeling, who assumes Eventine’s form and seats himself on the throne.
“Long live the king,” the Changentine croons.
DUDES. This was certainly unexpected. Arion was finally coming around to Allanon’s way of thinking, but now we have a faux king to sow discord and mistrust. How delicious! And as a bonus, we get to keep John Rhys-Davies around, but this time, he’s 100 percent more evil. Bad for the kingdom; good for the audience.
The Brooks Nook:
(Reminder: This section is for those of you who’ve read Terry Brooks’ novel that the show is based on and contains MILD SPOILERS FOR NON-READERS. Be sure to keep the comments safe for the un-Stoned.)
DUUUUUUUDES. That sure doesn’t happen in the book. While I’m sad to lose Eventine this early, he’s actually out of commission for so much of the latter part of the book that this could pave the way for something much meatier and more twisted. And I like the added depth that the show’s bringing to the fraught relationship between Ander and Arion.
Also, can we talk about Crispin for a second? He’s so mean! I’ve been hoping that the show will re-create this scene from the classic novel cover, but if they do, I’m assuming Crispin will be insulting Wil and ignoring Amberle in it.
But hey, at least Wil got performance anxiety the second time he tried to use the Stones. I like my Wil Ohmsford with a little touch of self-doubt, don’t you?