The Shannara Chronicles season 1 finale recap: Ellcrys
The elves go to war against an unbeatable enemy, and Amberle makes a heartbreaking choice
Stopping the demons required Amberle to make a tree-mendous sacrifice in the Shannara Chronicles season 1 finale tonight.
Sorry. This is no time for punning.
But hey, remember in the pilot when Allanon warned Wil that magic comes with a price? The bill came due last night, and Amberle paid it. So what I really want to know is, have your tear ducts recovered yet?
We begin this week with Amberle in the Bloodfire, conversing with her dream self. Dreamberle tells her that fate has chosen them both. “You are the seed, Amberle,” she says.
In the physical plane, Wil cradles a non-responsive Eretria. As his tears give way to anger, he holds the glowing Elfstones to her heart, and they act like defibrillators. Handy!
Eretria shakily stands and realizes she needs to bleed a little more to get Amberle out of the Bloodfire. She slaps the huge hole in her hand back onto the pod statue, and the gout of fire reappears. On the vision beach, Dreamberle tells Amberle that she has to choose to sacrifice herself, which requires her to let Wil go. Amberle says absolutely not. She can’t do that. “Then you have doomed us all,” Dreamberle says, adopting an “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed” expression before vanishing in flames.
That gloomy prognosis ringing in her ears, Amberle rejoins her friends, and the race is on to get to the Ellcrys. The Wambertrio charge back through the tunnels, but this time the trolls give pursuit. They wrestle open a portcullis, which they can’t close once they’re on the other side. So Eretria steps up, running under the gate and cutting the chain to drop it, trapping her on the side with the trolls.
“We all have a part to play,” she says, ordering them to run. Wil swears he’ll come back for her; she kisses him goodbye and turns to face the trolls. We hear the sounds of a fight as the elves escape the tunnels while more trolls race in. Poor Eretria! Wil’s ready to turn back and help, but Amberle reminds him, “She wants us to go.” They steal two of the trolls’ horses and vamoose.
In Arborlon, Diana encourages King Ander to go motivate his troops. Without a word, he kisses her. She looks shocked, but he reminds her that they once had plans to get married and he apologizes that it took the end of the world for him to see what a fool he’s been. Neither of them discuss the dead brother elephant in the room, which is probably for the best.
Meanwhile, in one of the palace’s dungeons, Catania pays a visit to Bandon. He’s in chains, just as he was when we first met him. Full circle! Bandon begs Catania to help him escape and travel to where he can’t hurt anyone, then asks her if she trusts him. She says yes, but seriously, lady, why?
He grabs her and hollers to the guard that he’ll snap her neck if he isn’t released. The guard frees him, then pushes Catania out of the way. This sets Bandon off, and he whips the guard to death with his chain, then looks up at Catania with a blood-spattered face. “He shouldn’t have touched you,” he grits.
I … don’t know what’s happening here. Are we still rooting for Bandon? I feel like maybe we’re not anymore?
Next, we’ve got a traveling montage that’s probably supposed to connote a fairly major passage of time as Amberle and Wil purposefully ride their horses toward Arborlon while the demons march toward the same goal. But it feels like it takes them just a couple of hours to arrive, which is weird. Haven’t they been wandering all over creation for the last few weeks? How is Safehold only a short horseback ride away from home?
As they approach the city, they see the demon army rallying to attack and realize they’ll be spotted unless they wait until dark, so they take shelter in a cave. Knowing in retrospect the choice Amberle has to make, it’s not entirely surprising what happens next.
Amberle tells Wil she wishes they’d met before they were tasked with saving the world, and Wil assures her they’ll have plenty of time afterward. She doesn’t respond to this, instead saying, “I’m not afraid anymore. Eretria was right; this is my part. I know what I have to do, and it’s okay.”
He doesn’t seem to notice that she’s not promising him anything, particularly when she says, “I love you, Wil Ohmsford. And I’m not ready to let you go, not yet.”
Wil leans forward and kisses her as the rays of the setting sun slant across their faces. “I love you, too,” he says. “I always have.” Then we’re treated to elven sexy times, featuring quick camera cuts and a cozy afterglow. As she snuggles in Wil’s arms, Amberle wistfully tells him everything’s perfect, then says, “I’m ready.”
But we’re not, Amberle! We’re not!
NEXT: Amberle makes a decision that breaks Wil’s heart
Inside the castle walls, Allanon reminds the elves and gnomes that their hopes rest with the princess and the lost son of Shannara. Their job is to buy them time, hold the line, and defend the Ellcrys at all costs until Amberle and Wil arrive. Then Ander addresses his cheering troops.
“If we die tonight, let us fall so the Ellcrys can rise again! So that every race in the Four Lands may have a future to call its own!” he bellows. I truly expected him to end with, “Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!” Sadly, he does not.
Outside the city, the Dagda Mor’s rallying cry is simpler: Kill the elves for banishing us! Leave no ruins to remember them by! Those are very different methods of motivating troops, but both seem effective. The two armies meet in the woods outside the city, and the Dagda Mor kicks things off by dramatically leaping over a ravine (the same one the Chosen contenders had to leap in the premiere, presumably). He lands amid the elven front line, and all hell breaks loose.
Gotta say, the showrunners did a solid job with the battle scenes here. It’s hand-to-hand warfare, brutal and intense. While the troops fight and kill and die, Wil and Amberle start battling their way through to the Ellcrys. Wil dispatches demons with the Elfstones, looking ever more confident with the magic.
Allanon stumbles across them mid-battle, but nothing’s ever good enough for grumpy Druid daddy. “The idea was to get here before the demons arrived!” he yells.
“See, I told you he’d be happy to see us,” Wil quips. Oh, Wil, always so glib in a tense situation. Forget the last son of Shannara; I’m pretty sure Wil’s a great-to-the-umpteenth-power grandson of Buffy Summers. That’ll put marzipan on your pie plate, bingo!
Allanon turns to Amberle, asking if she’s ready to see it through, which means he had more than an inkling of what her part of the plan requires. Tricky, Druid.
Elsewhere, Ander’s in the thick of the battle, where elves are getting torn to pieces, when he comes face to face with his demonic undead brother, the former prince Arion. Holy wow, did I not expect that. And then demonic undead Arion turns and kills their shared love, Diana. It … how … UNDEAD DEMONIC FORMER LOVER MURDER!
Ander’s awash in horror and grief. He stabs his brother, and as the demonic light fades from Arion’s eyes, he pleads, “What are you waiting for? Release me.” Ander runs him through, and Arion dies (again) as he lived: rocking a man bun. “Good-bye, brother,” Ander chokes. Woof. I did not expect Arion to turn up as the Four Lands’ version of a White Walker. What a nasty little surprise this show had for us here. Man, Ander’s had a bad couple of weeks.
Outside the sanctuary, Allanon squares off against the Dagda Mor, and it’s not looking good for our Druid. The demon blasts him over and over with bolts of magic, but Allanon keeps rallying.
And then, there’s poor, sweet Wil, so happy they made it to the Ellcrys sanctuary. He eagerly turns to Amberle. “All right, where’s the seed?” Wil asks. “Oh, please don’t say you dropped it. I don’t think I could take that right now.”
But no. No. Amberle explains that she’s the seed. “I have to become the Ellcrys. That’s how we save it. How we save everyone,” she says, trying to smile through her tears. Wil speaks for all of us. “I don’t understand. You can’t just become a tree.”
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She begs him to support her because otherwise she won’t be able to go through with her sacrifice. She kisses Wil goodbye, but they’re interrupted when Allanon gets blown into the sanctuary and the Dagda Mor magically seals the door.
Wil steps up with the Elfstones, and he and the Dagda Mor have a magic-off as Amberle runs to the tree. Wil begs her to wait, but of course, she can’t. There’s no time. She touches the Ellcrys, and the door in the trunk opens. She enters sadly, resolutely, as Allanon unsheathes his sword and beheads the Dagda Mor. Suck it, baldy.
Inside the Ellcrys, Amberle’s softly smiling as a blinding white light envelops her. The demons vaporize into ash all over the Four Lands as the tree comes back to life. The Forbidding is back in place. The Ellcrysis is over. The elves have won.
NEXT: Picking up, moving on, hoping for season 2
After the battle, Wil presses himself against the trunk, begging Amberle to talk to him. “I can’t hear her. I can’t hear anything,” he tells Allanon, who promises that Amberle — wait, I mean Ambertree — will speak when she’s ready.
Wil then turns on Allanon, furious that he knew what would happen and didn’t warn them. Allanon calmly tells Wil that Amberle understood the decision and paid the price. But all Wil sees is that he couldn’t save another person that he loved. He asks to be left alone, and Allanon tells him as he leaves, “Your father would’ve been proud of your actions today, as am I.”
The Druid’s not done life-coaching. Next is Catania, who blames herself for freeing Bandon following a dream that he was all alone in a sea of black. (Um, that actually is kind of on you.) Allanon assures her that they both failed him. Um, thank you?
Pep talk the third: Allanon approaches Ander, who’s looking broodingly over his kingdom. I guess Diana really is dead? I was hoping she’d be recuperating in a royal hospital. Bummer. The king thanks Allanon for everything. “It was my duty,” Allanon replies. That’s Druid for, “You’re totes welcome, my liege.”
Ander’s still processing the reappearance of his brother and the loss of Amberle. “She is watching over us all,” Allanon soothes.
Also watching? A mysterious figure trudging through the wastelands in a shredded cloak. It’s Bandon! His eyes are fully black, and he’s holding the Warlock Sword, last seen in White Walker Arion’s demon-y clutches. Welp, looks like we’ve got us a season 2 big bad (assuming there is a season 2).
Finally, the time comes for Wil to leave Arborlon. “For what it’s worth, I’m grateful to you for showing me who I am. I’m sure we’ll meet again one day,” Wil says as he clasps Allanon’s hand.
“I sense that our journey has just begun,” Allanon agrees, pointing out that the Dagda Mor’s presence has stirred other evils. Gee. Lucky Wil. But he’s cool with it. “Then let them come,” he says.
Allanon then uses his not-at-all invasive mind-reading to ascertain that Wil’s off to rescue his girlfriend… the, uh, one who’s not a tree. “I’m not going to lose her, too,” Wil says.
Allanon looks quietly proud as Wil rides off into the now-demon free Four Lands. Thank you, New Zealand, for the gorgeous scenery this season! Someday, I will vacation in you.
And finally, we cut to the girl in question. Eretria survived her encounter with the trolls and is now being dragged before what we can probably assume is the lead troll. The troll mayor? The minister of trollery? The troll czar removes his/her/its mask to reveal … something we can’t see! But Eretria sure does. “It’s you!” she gasps.
And that, friends, is how you end one story line while setting up the next one. Thanks for following these recaps all season! Were you satisfied with the resolution? Intrigued by the new mysteries? Hoping season 2 will feature a Bandon redemption arc? Still weepy over Amberle’s choice? Crushed that Princess Rover never materialized? Hit the comments and let me know! I’m all points.
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, although we’re all basically spoiled now. Still, be sure to keep the comments safe for the un-Stoned.)
Well. They kept the ending. I honestly wasn’t sure whether the showrunners could bear to give up the third side of the love triangle, but they pulled the trigger. I quite liked watching Amberle struggle with her decision; book Amberle’s internal doubts didn’t factor much at all. Overall, the plot deviated all over the place this season, sometimes for the good and sometimes not so much. But the one thing the show did was add dimensions to characters who were often flat on the page. Book Wil is benignly competent. Book Eretria mainly says, “You are for me, Wil Ohmsford.” Book Allanon and book Amberle are total opaque and unknowable. In the show, we see them grapple with their motivations and conflicting desire in a much more satisfying way. (Okay, I did like book Ander better than show Ander.) How did you think the characters stacked up in the end?
Season 2, if there is one, seems to be entering uncharted waters. Will it borrow from other books while keeping Wil, Eretria, and Allanon at the center of it? What story lines would you like to see next? For me, it’s all about a Stee Jans/Ander relationship. Stander in season 2!
The Shannara Chronicles