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The Shannara Chronicles - Reaper - Review: "Gamechanger"

The Shannara Chronicles Season 1 Episode Guide
1.01. Chosen - Part One - Review
1.02. Chosen - Part Two - Review
1.03. Fury - Review
1.04. Changeling - Review
1.05. Reaper - Review
1.06. Pykon - Review Coming Soon

The Shannara Chronicles 1.05. "Reaper"
Directed by Brad Turner & Teleplay by Evan Endicott & Josh Stoddard

Well, what do you know? We've reached the halfway point in the show's 10 episode season and it is actually starting to get better this time around. Reaper saw an increase in raised stakes as the characters found themselves tested with new environments, and gave focus to characters other than just Austin Butler's Wil as Bandon, a show creation who wasn't featured in the books, joined Ander and Eretria in getting fleshed out a bit more this week in their respective storylines, opening with a flashback that explained the death of Aine, Amberle's father. It explored Slanter's history with the Elves in a lot more detail when we learned that he didn't kill Aine in battle, but in his own throne room, and almost managed to take out Eventine as well for good measure, however the King was merely injured rather than killed. As a result, Slanter was put in the dungeons, which is unusual, as you'd probably have expected the death penalty for killing Eventine's son. However, Slanter, it turns out, is needed in this week's episode, as he knows the Breakline mountain range more than any Elf, including, reluctantly, Ander, who is forced to enlist his help if he wants to find out what the demons are up to. We also learnt in the flashback that it's partly Ander's fault for the death of Aine, because he was, at the time, deeply in love with Commander Tilton, and as a result of the time that they were spending together, the two were unable to stop the sneak attack from the Gnomes. It's also worth noting in these flashbacks that the Ellcrys was playing the long game with Amberle, as she was experiencing visions right from the moment she touched a tree at a young age.

The Dagda Mor, understandably, isn't happy at the Changeling for failing to kill Amberle and it takes a chance at redemption in the eyes of its master to go back and use its influence to change the Royal Family into working against Amberle rather than supporting her, which ultimately leads to one of the multiple cliffhangers that we got at the end of the episode, where the Changeling dispatched Eventine, catching him by surprise and killing him after posing as Arion. With Eventine taken care of the Changeling is able to assume control, and no doubt, things are going to look a lot less easy for Amberle and company in the weeks ahead, especially as now the Demons effectively have influence over the Elves, and it's clear that much like the Ellcrys, the Changeling is playing the long game here as well.

Meanwhile, Eretria finds herself at odds with the Elves throughout this episode. Wil suggests that they unchain her from her cuffs as she's looking pretty worn out, only for both Amberle and the expedition captain, Crispin, shoot him down, with Crispin calling him a coward. Amberle seems to be taking the battle in the Ellcrys hard and isn't on the best of terms with Wil at the moment, but before they can get any further they're quickly surprised and outnumbered by Rovers, led by Cephelo. Cephelo kidnaps Amberle and the horses, as well as the Elfstones, but leaves the remainder of the group tied up and captured, taking Eretria with him. Amberle tries to get Eretria to rescue her, offering more money than what Cephelo can give her, but she doesn't listen, and the show touches on one of its most uncomfortable scenes to watch yet, almost having Cephelo rape Amberle, who's unable to stop his advances.

Luckily, before things could get even worse, Eretria comes to the rescue in time and is able to take the Elfstones and knock out Cephelo, having had a change of heart, with the money having an important influence in her decision, suggesting that they take Cephelo with them as a captive, arguing that he wouldn't be hunting them if he was with them in the first place. When Eretria returns the Elfstones to Wil, he says that he's not going to let her screw him again for a third time, and the group set off after returning to camp, taking Cephelo in chains. It isn't long before they come across yet more distant echoes of the past and a reminder of the post apocalyptic scenario, in the form of toxic gas, which kills a Scout within seconds as he tries to cross it. But eventually, they reach their planned destination, a Fort, where they will meet a guide to Wilderun where we witness the titular Reaper of the episode, which finally convinces Crispin that they are in fact a threat, and sends the Elves out to attack it. This works about as well as expected, and despite Cephelo trying to get Wil to use the Elfstones he can't seem to get them to work, suggesting a new course of action, running.

Bandon isn't entirely ignored this week as I mentioned there was a fleshing out of his character development earlier in the first paragraph. Here he is, as we learn from Allanon that there might be a way to harness his powers and magic in order to contact Amberle via the Ellcrys. He's forced to stop flirting with Catania in order to do so and winds up coming face to face with the Dagda Mor in a vision, after only just starting to get a vague idea as to what he's doing. Like Wil, he too collapses at his first attempt at using magic, but his eyes turned red and black as he did so.

Arion, meanwhile, whilst believing Allanon about the demons and urging aggression, is furious when he learns that Ander and Tilton have come up with a plan behind his back to use Slanter to explore the Mountains. Ander frees Slanter anyway, who is a bit pissed off at having to spend ten years in a prison and is immediately calling for Eventine's head. He reluctantly agrees to work with Ander when he learns that the Dagda Mor is back, but doesn't hold out much hope about their survival. Arion still hasn't changed his mind about Slanter's release, but when Ander says that there are no better options, they reluctantly agree to the plan with Arion agreeing to handle Eventine, whilst Tilton and Ander head out into the countryside with Slanter. That's when we're brought back around to the cliffhanger of the week, with Arion meeting Eventine, and just when everyone thought that this would be the end of the troubles between the Royalty and Allanon with Arion starting to get on board with his plan. It turns out Arion was actually the Changeling, and now Eventine is on top of that! Talk about a gamechanging move. Well played, Shananra Chronicles.

There's a lot of potential here, even though there is more time being spent on the romantic drama side than I would have liked, as there could end up being not just one but two love triangles (Wil, Amberle, Eretria, and Ander, Tilton & Arion) in this show which is something that I wouldn't be surprised at given it's MTV, but then again, it hasn't really been necessary so far as the story's been good enough without them and there's always a risk that it could end up taking centre stage over the plot. But with five episodes to go in the first season, there's a lot of unknown questions facing us in general for the direction of this series and where it wants to take us next, especially with a cliffhanger as tantalising as this one.

What did you think of this week's episode of The Shannara Chronicles? Are you enjoying the series so far? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to keep an eye out for next Tuesday's episode on MTV. As a final note, if you're a fan of Starz's pirate drama Black Sails, my recaps for the third season began earlier this week so if you haven't read my coverage of the premiere it would be greatly appreciated if you could check it out. The link should be below.

Overall Episode Verdict:: B+
+Fast paced.
+Ending Twist.
+The Reaper.
-Cephelo/Amberle scene.

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, The 100, The Americans and Person of Interest. He reviews Black Sails, Hell on Wheels, The Knick, Manhattan, Murder in the First, Narcos, The Shannara Chronicles and Veep for Spoiler TV as well as books, films and games for his own blog The Fictional Hangout and contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic.
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