The Shannara Chronicles recap: Utopia
A Rover, a magical elf, and a grieving prince all ponder their destinies this week, but unfortunately, only one of them gets to do it at a Pinterest-style boho chic party.
Let’s start in Arborlon, where Allanon is everybody’s life coach. He and a recovered Bandon are examining the Ellcrys, which has almost no leaves left.
“It’s fading so fast,” Bandon laments. Then Allanon makes a hard pitch: He wants to train Bandon to be the next Druid the way he was trained after his parents abandoned him. Bandon wants no part of that, but Allanon’s firm: “The choice is no longer yours to make.” Without training, Bandon won’t survive the darkness about to descend. That’s … pretty convincing, actually.
Next on Allanon’s to-do list is bucking up Ander, who’s drunk, but not the happy-go-lucky kind. No, he’s mourning his father and his brother and insisting that he doesn’t want the crown. (Sidenote: Thank you, Ander, for always wearing pants that make it clear that you don’t skip leg day.) Ander suggests giving the throne to Kael Pindanon, who fought alongside his father during the last war. But Allanon corrects him: Pindanon hid in the castle while Eventine and Shea Ohmsford defeated the Warlock Lord.
“Oh, good, another story I can never hope to live up to,” Ander says, arguing this his abdication is best for Arborlon. “You can walk away from your duty if you wish, but do not pretend that it’s noble or brave,” Allanon growls.
Next thing you know, Ander’s speaking at a depressing double funeral, honoring the bravery of his dead family. He starts to say the words to give up the throne when he has a flashback of all the men in his family dying honorably. He changes courses and says, “I will give my solemn vow to battle bravely in the name of the Four Lands. The demons are coming for us, and we will not back down. I will fight with you and beside you as your king.”
Fist pump! Long live King Pretty Eyes! He’s crowned, and Diana is the first to shout, “All hail the king!” Boy, Diana’s in an awkward place now, isn’t she? With her boyfriend the crown prince dead, is it tacky to go back to her old boyfriend who’s unexpectedly the king, even if she told him a few episodes ago that she misses him? The etiquette there is unclear.
So much for Arborlon this week. Let’s check in on the Wambertrio. The elf hunters bring Eretria, injured and in pain, to a human settlement in the middle of troll country. Zora is reluctant to part with Eretria, but Tye, the man in charge of the settlement, offers to pay double for her and the map/stained glass article combo.
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Bargain struck, Tye takes Eretria to the infirmary to treat her infected wound, welcoming her to Utopia as he straps a laughing gas mask to her face. She wakes up with an IV in her hand and a badly burned man in a wheelchair in the room with her. She backs out the door and into your crazy great uncle’s rustic murder cabin. Seriously, I fully believe this is a recycled Evil Dead-style horror movie set, what with the faded wallpaper and excessively kitschy bric-a-brac.
Eretria’s ready to fight, but Tye tells her she’s not a prisoner and can leave when she wishes. She’s confused; he bought her, so that makes her a slave. No, he says, it was only to save her from the elf hunters.
“The world out there is ugly, and trusting someone is death. I get it.” he says calmly as she threatens him with a knife. Further, he offers to send a search party out to find her friends, who she says will be looking for her.
NEXT: Wil and Amberle, sittin’ in a tree …
Speaking of, Amberle is desperate to find Eretria so she doesn’t think they’ve abandoned her, but Wil argues that they need to eat and rest before continuing. Amberle agrees and uses the break to talk feeeeeeelings. (You can watch the scene here.)
She apologizes for kissing Wil during their escape from Pykon. He says it was nothing to be sorry for and, in fact, his feelings for her are what keep him going. In light of that, how can she not lean in for another round? They alternate kisses and reverent gazes, then start to undress. Amberle has such an elaborate outfit that I don’t know how they’ll ever get her clothes off. On the other hand, Wil’s shirt removes easily, as we know.
You’ve gotta feel a little bad for Eretria here, the way Wil and Amberle have added sexytimes to their list of things to do before saving her. But before things escalate, they’re interrupted by the sound of someone getting caught in a troll trap.
Whaddya know, it’s Cephelo. He’s been tracking them all day and offers to take them to Eretria if they free him. Wil is skeptical because of all the times he, you know, TRIED TO KILL THEM. On the other hand, Amberle says they don’t want to wander through troll territory all night, so if Wil has a better plan, “I’m all ears.” Oh, come on, show! You’ve established that the phrase is “I’m all points,” to my vast and neverending delight. Be consistent!
Anyway, Amberle unwisely sets him free with a promises to gut him if — ha! inevitably when — he crosses them. Cephelo takes them to the human settlement, then hightails out of there.
Inside the settlement, Tye is introducing Eretria to their way of life. He tells her that the humans of old weren’t all about destruction; they also built great glass cities and machines that traveled to the stars. He says their settlement wants to reclaim that spirit of curiosity and innovation. They also seem to want to reclaim aggressive whimsy because, between the hats and vests and flowing dresses and suspenders and floral headpieces, it really does look like Pinterest vomited all over a too-precious backyard wedding. Google “pinterest boho chic wedding” right now and tell me I’m wrong.
Tye and Eretria have wandered to an isolated meadow now, and he produces from his pants … drumroll … a gun! “What is it?” Eretria asks. Tye explains and says it was “worth every kernel” of the harvest of corn he traded for it. He lets Eretria shoot it. She’s a natural markswoman, of course.
“If I had 10 of you around, those trolls would not stand a chance,” he says, tapping her nose. Oh man, do I not trust him. He’s playing her waaaay too hard.
Eretria, who apparently does trust him, explains that the map he purchased is the key to saving the world. She says that with her freedom, all she wanted to do was live her own life, but now she feels beholden to her friends’ quest. Tye warns her away from the Wilderun, saying the only man he knows who made it back is Hebel, and he’s never been the same. Since Hebel’s the melted-face man in the wheelchair, I’d say he’s got a point.
Tye then pulls Eretria into a party, letting her throw the switch to fire up the steam-powered strings of old-timey lightbulbs. Everyone cheers and heads in the barn. Eretria, fetching in a white crochet dress with tassels that I will bet you money is available on Etsy right now, watches in delight as Tye toasts the group and pulls out a film projector to show an episode of the original Star Trek. Star Trek, you guys! The humans boo Spock for daring to have pointy hears, then everybody throws themselves into dancing. Eretria glows with happiness and joins in. Meanwhile, a blonde woman named Frances tells Tye “it’s” happening tonight, but Tye tells her to find someone else. Ruh roh!
Wil and Amberle have crept into the … costume room? They’re caught by a human with pink hair and lie that they’re elf hunters hoping to trade. At first it looks like they’re busted, but then she tells them to change into party clothes and join them. They both comically exhale, then don flowy clothes from what is, in fact, the costume room, along with hats to hide their ears.
As they change, Amberle realizes that Wil’s Elfstones pouch is gone. And we cut to Cephelo muttering, “like taking candy from a baby.” Then he stumbles on Zora, throat slit, and is nabbed himself.
NEXT: Cephelo goes out with a bang
At the dance, Tye tries to convince Eretria to stay, arguing that her destiny sounds like slavery. “What do you want?” he asks. She looks startled and says nobody’s ever asked her that before, then pulls him onto the floor for some full-contact dancing. Wil sees this and looks conflicted. Wil’s heart is an ocean of secrets, y’all.
Elsewhere, Amberle overhears Frances threatening to kill the Rover. When Tye is called away, Wil approaches Eretria, chastising her for forgetting the mission. “We came to rescue you, but from the looks of things, it doesn’t appear you need saving.”
Eretria lashes back that he and Amberle have been telling her what to do since they left the castle. Then Amberle shows up and demands that they go, which is the wrong thing to say. Eretria says she’s done her part and is staying with her own kind.
They start to squabble, and it seems weird that Amberle doesn’t lead with, “Hey, I overheard someone threatening to kill you.” Eretria storms off, and Pink Hair rips Amberle’s hat off her head, exposing her ears. Tye and Frances box them in. “You must be Eretria’s friends,” he says.
Eretria swipes the map and newspaper clipping in the cabin and is startled when Hebel calls her name and warns her not to trust Tye. “Your friends are in danger,” he says. “Your mind is the vessel, your blood is the key. Don’t let them leave without you.”
Then Tye comes strolling in and Eretria improvises, kissing him while grabbing his gun. (Not a euphemism. Also, there’s an old computer keyboard on the wall as a decoration. I can’t decide if I love or loathe this place.)
At gunpoint, Tye comes clean. “Utopia’s peace has its price,” he says. The trolls demand a sacrifice for their continued existence, and since he can’t bear to give them Eretria, he’s substituting her friends. He tries to argue that she belongs there with the humans, but she pistol whips him and snaps, “I’ll take my chances with the trolls.”
Sure enough, Amberle, Wil, and Cephelo are tied to stakes as troll dinner. Cephelo tries to bargain his way out with the Elfstones, but of course, when Frances checks, they’re Amberle’s D&D dice. Outsmarted by Short Tips! That means Wil still has the stones, but his hands are tied, and he can’t reach them.
A troll lumbers up to bash in Wil’s head when Eretria drops it with a gunshot. Tye and company freak because this has destroyed their agreement with the trolls. The companies open fire on one another with guns and arrows, and Cephelo proves his character once and for all. Suffering from a fatal wound to the torso, he tells the threesome to make a run for it while he covers them. He apologizes for cutting the zip line rope in Pykon. “You’re the best thing I ever did,” he tells Eretria. “Go save the world.”
Cephelo Butch-Cassidy-and-the-Sundance-Kids it, and Eretria gives one last look back. He dies a hero, the dice on the ground around him. The trolls loom over the humans, who are out of ammo and know that they and their dream community will die that night.
In the end, Wil, Eretria, and Amberle approach the remains of the Golden Gate Bridge, where they’ll presumably find the Bloodfire as the show enters its final episodes of the season.
On the one hand, this episode feels a little placeholder-ish since it gets us nowhere near the end goal of saving the Ellcrys with only two shows left. Yet the inherent contradiction of the settlement is intriguing. Their civilization was based on science, optimism … and human sacrifice. Two out of three ain’t bad, I guess.
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.)
Hebel! Grimpen Ward! Kael Pindanon! I’m guessing that’s all we’ll get from those parts of the book (no Drifter??) because seriously, how much ground do we have to cover over the next two episodes? The demon battles and Safehold and the Bloodfire and the final denouement are a huge amount of plot, even if you take out the witch sisters and the elf whose name I can’t remember but think of as Dobby. I’m curious to see how they pace it from here on out, aren’t you? And what do you think about this heroic death for Cephelo?