Elf hunters attack Amberle and Eretria on Shannara Chronicles 1×07, “Breakline.”
While watching the sneak peeks of the seventh episode of the Shannara Chronicles, we can’t help but wonder who, exactly, the elf hunters chasing Amberle and Eretria are.
Breakline splits the central Amberle, Eretria and Will trio into two groups while also introducing quite a few new characters: the recently uni-eared elf Perk and the hunter with a grudge, Zora. But the episode also attempts to resolve the fate of Allanon after his wounding last week, as well as telling the story of brothers Arion and Ander as they square off against principal villain, the Dagda-Mor and their consequent finding that the Changeling has been posing as the King, an arc that could’ve used an episode to itself. That’s a lot of material for any show to pack into forty minutes but given The Shannara Chronicles’ shaky track record in juggling more than two plot-points; the episode’s lack of impact maybe could have been predicted. Don’t get me wrong I like the show and rightly so, but I am a fan boy of the books.
For possibly the first time since Amberle departed on her quest, the events in Arborlon, rather than those of the Princess and her group of hormonally-charged teens, are the most absorbing. After spending rather too much time on the unexciting relationship between Arion and his lover Tilton, the brothers’ trek to the Dagda-Mor’s henge is the perfect pay-off to the character development both men underwent in the previous episode. Arion’s Boromir-esque journey from misguided and impatient heir to tragic hero is completed with his death also acting both literally and emotionally as Ander’s final step towards the Elven throne.
The two Princes’ story is undoubtedly the heart and soul of Breakline and would have benefitted from far more screen time as sequences such as Bandon’s rescue and the Changeling’s demise are rushed or undersold. The episode even avoids any recognition from Ander that his father has been killed and while the focus on Arion’s relationship with Commander Tilton wasn’t a particular area of interest for many viewers, the Prince’s death really deserved a reaction scene from his partner, given the build-up scenes earlier in the episode where she specifically instructs him “don’t die”.
Manu Bennett’s Allanon has been one of The Shannara Chronicles’ more compelling figures and as expected; his character is revived after last week’s skewering. Thanks to his Master’s Force Ghost, the gravelly-voiced druid also has a shiny new staff that has the power to make people fall over. His return to the fray is highly welcome and wrapping up the ‘imposter King’ angle is a wise move as had that particular storyline continued any longer, it could easily have become annoying. Now Allanon is trusted once again by the rulers of Arborlon, he can return to his position as the show’s premier ass-kicker.
Instead of focusing on these thriving characters, more time is spent with Amberle, Eretria and Will who have handily all survived falling off a cliff and are in remarkably good condition considering. Putting that narrative leap to one side, the trio’s storyline this week feels like very familiar territory indeed, with the ‘capture and rescue’ ploy being wheeled out once again. Naturally it is Will who heroically saves the day, as he did last week, and viewers will be forgiven for suspecting at this point that The Shannara Chronicles is running out of ideas or habitually reverting to a familiar formula. It may also have been a pleasant change if the two girls had dug themselves out of trouble, rather than Will once again rocking up at the last minute to resolve the situation.
However this week’s most controversial element is likely to be the dilapidated high school prom setting. In the context of the show’s fictional world of course, such a location is entirely plausible (if you accept the ‘butterfly in amber’ explanation), and yet there is something that doesn’t quite feel right about the locale. Perhaps it’s that the scene is so far from the spirit of the source material that it comes across as awkward or maybe the problem is the sizeable leap in the show’s “real world” references from the odd truck and satellite in the background to a full-blown, well-preserved American high school.
The High School sequence isn’t entirely without merit however. Amberle and Eretria’s relationship undergoes a serious growth, bringing an end to the squabbling that was threatening to become stale and the fight scenes depicting our heroines taking on the elf hunters are economically directed by Jesse Warn with the bow and arrow work proving particularly impressive. It should however be noted that finding a photo of the very place you’ve been searching for with a map attached right next to it is, err... convenient to say the least.
Breakline is neither the best nor the weakest installment we’ve had of The Shannara Chronicles but it is a frustrating one due to an insistence on undervaluing its most promising story arcs. A lot of time this week is spent in areas that feel repetitive or unimportant whilst the meatiest aspect, the Princes facing the Dagda-Mor, was under-prioritized as a result. Of course, the show’s visual production values remain through the roof; art directors Robert Bavin and Andy McLaren will likely never struggle to work again but that can’t prevent Breakline being a pretty flat and indifferent affair.