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The Shannara Chronicles is an American fantasy drama television series created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. It stars Austin Butler as Wil Ohmsford, Poppy Drayton as Amberle Elessedil, Ivana Baquero as Eretria and Manu Bennett as Allanon. It was filmed in New Zealand using many of the same crew as The Lord of the Rings.

It is a loose adaptation of the Shannara books by Terry Brooks, taking place in a separate continuity. The first season retells the events of The Elfstones of Shannara, chronicling the efforts of a group of heroes to save the Four Lands from the return of a demonic army from the dimension where they were imprisoned long ago. (Elfstones is actually the second Shannara book, but the rights to the first, The Sword of Shannara are held by others). The second season continues the plot and diverges from the books. (It also lifts characters from the First King of Shannara, a prequel of the original book.)

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It premiered on MTV in the United States on January 5, 2016; the first four episodes were all released online at that time, and six more subsequently aired for a total of ten in the first season. It was subsequently renewed for a second season, which will move to Spike just a few months before its rebrand as the Paramount Network. In January 2018, Paramount Network opted to cancel the series.


This series provides examples of the following:

  • Action Girl: Amberle and Eretria can both kick some serious ass, as can elvin commander Diana. Season 2 adds Lyria, Mareth, and possibly Queen Tamlin.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Cephelo, who became Eretria's adoptive father, was anything but a good parent, and Eretria really resents him:
      Eretria: I spent my days learning how to steal and my nights fending off his men.
      • She later reveals to Amberle that her birth parents sold her off early in her life. (In Season 2 it's discovered her mother actually left her with a friend.)
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    • There's also Bandon's parents, who kept him chained and muzzled in a tiny room in the family barn; though to be fair, living with him would have been fairly stressful; plus, given his Face–Heel Turn later in Season 1, they may have had good reason to lock him up.
    • While he wasn't as bad as the above examples, Shea's alcoholism and shaky mental health made him a very poor father, and he physically beat Wil on at least one occasion that we know of.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The Elfstones of Shannara ends with Wil and Eretria getting together, following which they seem to have a quiet life until their children become the main characters of The Wishsong of Shannara. At the end of the first season, Wil and Eretria are seperated, and while they are reunited in the second season, if anything it makes this ending even less likely.
  • Adaptation Distillation / Adaptation Expansion:
    • Various changes have been made to translate into the medium of TV, more drama has been added in places (such as making the selection of the Chosen a contest instead of just a matter of the Ellcrys touching those she wants), new characters have been created and relationships added, Eretria meets the other members of the main trio earlier than in the book, Amberle is more physically capable, Shea is now Wil's father rather than his grandfather, etc.
    • The series also had to compensate for the fact the first book in the series, The Sword of Shannara, could not be adapted, adding some additional exposition.
  • Adaptational Personality Change: In this version, the Witch Sisters Morag and Mallenroh, while still evil and capricious, are co-guardians of the Bloodfire instead of being archenemies obsessed with destroying each other and locked into an eternal war over who's more beautiful. One actually looks upset when the other is killed.
  • Adaptation Species Change:
    • A partial one in that the Dagda Mor is still a demon, however in this adaptation he started off as an Elven Druid before he was corrupted by the Ildatch.
    • Partial change with Shea and Wil. Shea is now a full Elf rather than a Half Elf, and since Wil is now Shea's son instead of his grandson, he is now the Half Elf, instead of 1/8. His greatly diluted Elven blood was what caused problems with the Elfstones in the first place in the book. This has been abandoned in favor of them simply messing up everybody who uses them.
    • Eretria is now a descendant of a group of people who had Demon blood.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Besides the fact that everyone's libidos have been ramped Up to Eleven, Eretria reveals she is bisexual in Episode 6, whereas in the books she was decidedly straight.
  • Adapted Out: The King of the Silver River, who aided Wil in The Elfstones of Shannara, has his scene completely removed. Even though the climax of season 2 heavily involves the Silver River, he still isn't even mentioned.
  • Aerith and Bob: Sprinkled among characters with very fantasy sounding names such as Amberle, Eventine and Eretria you have others with more conventional ones like Wil and Diana.
  • After the End:
    • Various ruins encountered in the show as the characters travel from place to place hint at the world of the Four Lands having been, at one time, present-day Earth. The Space Needle's appearance in the opening and first shot confirm this, as do the opening credits that suggest nuclear war or some other catastrophe wiped out civilization. We later get confirmation of exactly how long after the end it's been.
      Crispin: Three thousand years have passed and humankind's weapons are still claiming lives!
    • We get more information about this in "Breakline", when Amberlee and Eretria fall through a hole and find themselves in the remains of a human high school. Amberlee explains that most human structures were sealed beneath the Earth when human society was wiped out, which kept them from rotting into dust.
    • The human settlement Utopia, which appears in the episode of the same name, has technology from "before" including electric lighting and guns, with the goal of restoring what the Human race achieved.
    • Safehold, the target of the trio's quest, is revealed to be the former San Francisco.
  • Ain't No Rule: It's not technically against the rules for a woman to compete to be Chosen, but until now social convention has made it unthinkable.
  • All Trolls Are Different: The adaptation takes the fact that trolls are human mutants who survived on the surface during the Great Wars and runs with it. Their outfits match more with a Mad Max post-apocalyptic film than the future-fantasy of the Human and Elven characters, including their Post-Apocalyptic Gas Masks.
  • Anti-Magical Faction: The Crimson, an elven group that wants to wipe out all magic and magic users.
  • Anyone Can Die: Let's put it this way. At the end of Season 2, out of the twenty-odd named characters introduced throughout the entirity of Season 1, four remain alive, and that includes one that appeared in a single episode and was then Put on a Bus.
  • Arranged Marriage: Between Ander and Lyria in Season 2, to cement the alliance between Arborlon and Leah. Unfortunately, the Crimson crash the wedding ceremony and Ander is slain.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The Four Lands are littered with recognizable remains of the present day human civilization, even though 3,000 years are stated to have passed since The End of the World as We Know It. After that long most of those remains would've either rusted away into nothing or been so eroded as to be unrecognizable.
  • Attempted Rape: Cephelo tries to rape Amberle and is only stopped by Eretria's timely rescue.
  • Barrier Maiden: The Ellcrys shows itself to Amberle as a female Elf (indeed a doppelganger of herself), and her existence is what keeps the demons trapped in the Forbidding. Replacing her as this turns out to be Amberle's destiny.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension:
    • No matter how much Wil knows he shouldn't trust Eretria, he continues to be oddly vulnerable to her charms. And no matter how much she claims that he's a naive fool, she seems to enjoy using her charms against him a little too much...
    • Wil and Amberle are generally more straightforwardly affectionate to each other, but she still seems to spend an awful lot of time aiming Death Glares at him and holding swords to his throat.
    • Eretria also gets this with Amberle as the two slowly become friends and Eretria reveals she is bisexual to the princess by coming on to her.
  • Betty and Veronica: While Amberle's Betty certainly has a rough streak, she is at her core a way more demure character than Eretria's Veronica. Poor Wil.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Eretria, of all people, makes a habit out of appearing out of nowhere to save another character from some danger, always with a lot of swagger and a snarky one-liner. Not only is it how she enters the story in the first place, but in episode five she saves Amberle from Cephelo, then saves Wil and his Elven escort from a monster not five minutes later.
      Eretria: I leave you alone for a couple of hours, and look what happens!
    • Allanon frequently turns up just when someone is about to get killed by one demon or another and deals with it.
    • In Breakline, when Amberle and Eretria are in some trouble, they both predict that Wil is going to swoop in at the last moment and save them. They're right.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: In season 2 our heroes have to deal with two serious villains:
    • General Riga, leader of the Crimson, and Elven extremist group that seeks to destroy all magic and exterminate all magic users.
    • Bandon, who seeks to resurrect the Warlock Lord. He eventually succeeds and is Demoted to Dragon, while the Warlock Lord becomes the new Big Bad and also gets rid of his competition by brutally killing Riga.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Wil is apparently well-endowed, as Eretria comments "I'll never call you 'short tips' again" after they have sex, with a satisfied look on her face.
  • Bi the Way: Eretria is revealed to have been involved with another woman in "Breakline" and comes on to Amberle a couple of times. Later in the second season she's shown to be with Lyria.
  • Blessed with Suck: Every time Bandon touches someone, he gets a vision of how they are going to die. As if that wasn't bad enough in itself, his abilities apparently scared his family enough that they kept him chained up in the house.
    • Amberle is blessed with the ability to see the future (thanks to the Ellcrys), swordfighting skills, and she is the first woman in ages to compete to become a Chosen. Plus she's a princess for heaven's sake. And she has not only a half-elf boyfriend but, if she wants it a human girlfriend. Unfortunately, her destiny is to become a tree for the next untold number of centuries.
    • Just generally, magic in the series always seems to be Cast from Hit Points, require a Human Sacrifice, bind you to a harsh and life-long (at least) duty, be prone to cases of Power Incontinence, make you vulnerable to possession... or just turn you evil, if you mess around with the wrong kind. "Magic always comes with a price," indeed.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The violence in the show is quite more graphic than in the source material, with copious amounts of blood and people being literally torn apart by demons onscreen.
  • Broken Pedestal: Amberle does not take it well when she finds out that the Elves used to torture prisoners of war during the War of the Races, especially since her beloved grandfather was already King back then and must have been the one to order it.
  • Bury Your Gays: Not just averted, but inverted! By the end of season 2, Eretria is pretty much the only named character from season 1 still alive (and not trapped in an existence as a tree or banished to a Hell dimension for the time being). Almost every other character introduced in the first season - except a couple really minor one-episode characters that were never mentioned again, and the Gnome leader, who barely gets any lines - died a graphic onscreen death. Her love interest Lyria, introduced in season 2, also survives, unlike many other major characters introduced in that season.
  • Call-Forward: Allanon mentions the Ildatch in connection to the Dagda Mor's origins. The first season of the show is an adaptation of the second book in the Shannara series. The Ildatch is a Tome of Eldritch Lore that is central to the plot of the third one.
  • Cast from Hit Points:
    • The spell Allanon casts to find the Codex in "Chosen" seems to cause him great pain and leaves him with some very nasty burns on his left hand.
      Allanon: Magic always comes with a price.
    • Using the Elfstones tends to leave Wil feeling, in his own words, like he's "been set on fire and beaten with a shovel."
    • The way to the Bloodfire needs to be opened by a half-demon bleeding into a magical contraption in front of it, and it only stays open as long as more blood is added.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Seems to be a recurring theme, where those granted the most power tend to be the least interested in actually having it.
    Allanon: Only a king knows the weight of a crown.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In "Breakline", Amberle finds some old blue dice while exploring the human school and keeps them because they remind her of Wil (they vaguely resemble the Elfstones). They come in handy in "Utopia" when Cephalo once again tries to swipe the Elfstones and ends up with the dice instead.
  • Child by Rape: Mag, whose father lobotomized her mother to make her his "wife".
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Demon magic usually comes with a red light. Allanon's magic and that of the Elfstones tends to come with a blue light - except sometimes Allanon's magic is red too, showing that it's Not So Different from the Dadga Mor's.
  • Composite Character:
    • Shea Ohmsford of the series is mainly based on his book counterpart, but also take on some of the traits of Jerle Shannara in that he was the one originally meant to kill the Warlock Lord but failed the test of the Sword of Shannara and so only partly succeeded, with his descendent - Shea in the books, Wil in the series - being forced to finish the job.
    • Mareth is about 70% Canon Foreigner, but gets her name and some of her backstory from a character in First King of Shanarra (500 years before the main trilogy) and her illusion magic seems to be based on Wil's son Jair and his wishsong.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The odds of Wil and Amberle both crossing paths with Eretria within a day of one another are extremely low.
  • Conlang: Noalath, the language of the Druids that is spoken by Allanon, Dagda Mor and the Changeling, was created for the show by linguist David J. Peterson.
  • Con Man: The Rovers' bread and butter is straight up robbery, but they can spin a con with the best of them if the situation calls for it.
  • Cool Old Lady: Amberle's Aunt Pyria, who defied her brother the King and left a life as a Princess to go live on her own in the wilderness. When things go bad, she's the first person Amberle thinks to go to for help. Shame about that Fury.
  • Cool Sword:
    • The Warlock Lord's sword is big, spiky and glows with a menacing red light when used.
    • Allanon's fold-up blade is pretty sweet as well.
    • Subverted with the Sword of Shannara, at least according to Wil. He was expecting the ultimate weapon to be a lot more impressive-looking.
  • Dark Messiah: Tye leads a village of humans devoted to reclaiming the lost technology of the Age of Man and living free from the Elves. He is intelligent, charismatic, and clearly cares greatly for his people, but his rhetoric has more than a hint of Fantastic Racism to it. And every month he makes a Human Sacrifice to the local Trolls as part of a peace treaty between them and his village.
  • Deader Than Dead:
    • Necessary for dealing with the Changeling in a permanent fashion. It can be killed, but unless it's burned to ashes and the ashes placed in a sealed jar, it will eventually come Back from the Dead.
    • The Warlock Lord can only be permanently killed by having his heart pierced by the Sword of Shannara, which must be wielded by a Shannara who is able to "face his truth" by accepting the visions the Sword gives him. Shea was not able to fully do so, and so only killed the Warlock Lord temporarily - in Season 2, Bandon succeeds in bringing him back.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • While he didn't actually appear in the book, Shea (Wil's grandfather and hero of the first book) was still alive at that time. In this series, he is Wil's father, and is established as having died young.
    • King Eventine is murdered halfway through the first season, while in the book he lives almost to the end.
  • Demoted to Extra: The role of the Witch Sisters Mallenroh and Morag is reduced to little more than a cameo as "guardians of the Bloodfire", and they don't even get named onscreen.
  • Depraved Bisexual: The female elf hunter Eretria was involved with.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: In the test to become the Chosen, a contestant already ahead of Amberle tries to trip her. Not only does he fall doing this, but she trips him when he tries to get back up, and two contestants cross the finish while they're struggling. This leads to her become one of the Chosen, but not him. Had he just kept running, they both would've made it.
  • Did Not Get the Girl:
    • In season 1, Wil loses Amberle when she performs a Heroic Sacrifice to restore the Ellcrys.
    • In season 2, paralleling the above, Mareth loses Wil when he performs a Heroic Sacrifice to purify Heaven's Well. However, he is apparently still alive in the Forbidding (basically a Hell dimension), leaving open the possibility that they can be together. Also, Eretria turns down Lyria's proposal because she is worried about her own demonic heritage.
  • Disappeared Dad: It turns out that Allanon is one to his daughter Mareth, whom he never knew existed.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Season One did not end on a happy note; Amberle became the new Ellcrys, Tilton is dead, Bandon has fully fallen to the dark side, Eretria is captured, and Wil goes to search for her in what he knows is the calm before an even bigger storm.
    • Season Two is not much cheerier. Allanon is dead, Wil has ended up in what is either the Forbidding or somewhere equally as nasty, and Eretria has decided she can't be with Lyria until she has found a way to keep Lyria safe from her own demonic heritage.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • Ander resorts to this after the apparent death of Arion and the realisation that Eventine has been dead for a long time, with the Changeling posing as him. He's stated to have spent much of the time after the death of his eldest brother doing the same thing, too.
    • Wil's father Shea drank altogether too much to try to get over his experiences in the War of the Races.
  • Dying as Yourself: Arion shows up in the season 1 finale and kills Commander Tilton. He manages to recover himself enough to tell Ander to kill him.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Eretria and Amberle both get an eyeful of Wil's bare chest on separate occasions, but it's Eretria who ogles the most.
  • Enclosed Extraterrestrials: Technically mutants, not extraterrestrials, but still alien-like, the Trolls are all covered in Steam Punk clothing.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Amberle's ability to communicate with the Ellcrys warns her that her homeland will be doomed.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • Eretria is initially brought along to the journey to Safehold due to her necessity to the quest there being prophesised, even though she has absolutely no interest in going and Amberle, for her part, would rather leave her to rot in a cell.
    • Ander enlists the Gnome who killed his brother as a guide to the lands where the demons are believed to be massing, and later forms an alliance with the Gnome tribes to fight the demons.
    • Cephelo and the heroes find themselves on the same side when the Reaper comes after them all.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
  • Eternal English: By all appearances, English is still being spoken and read three thousand years After the End (though it is not the only language). The shot of the fallen Space Needle in the Pilot indicates that this area is a futuristic version of the Pacific Northwest, where English would have been the dominant language during the Age of Man. It's possible Translation Convention is also in effect.
  • Everyone Can See It: Over the course of Season 2, three different characters manage to take one look at Mareth and realise how she feels about Wil. None of those three characters is Wil himself.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Season 2 has two main villains - Riga, a zealot who persecutes magic users for their supposed culpability in the demon invasion and who is himself immune to magic, and Bandon, a bitter magic user who has been both persecuted and exploited for his gifts and wants revenge on normal people because of it. While they avoid each other for most of the season, they eventually face off and Bandon's newly-resurrected master, the Warlock Lord, is far more than Riga can handle and kills him without much difficulty.
  • Fantastic Racism: The different races that populate the Four Lands do not get along, to put it mildly, but of particular importance to the plot is the profound animosity between the Elves and the Rovers.
    • Elves also don't like Gnomes - Arion initially believes that they, not the demons, are to blame for the murder of the Chosen.
      • He is basing that belief partly on the fact that ten years ago, his brother was killed by a group of Elf-hating Gnomes.
    • And as shown in Episode 6, the Elves did themselves no favors by using the city of Pykon as a torture site during the War of the Races, then covering it up (allegedly by slaughtering those stationed there) instead of admitting any wrongdoing.
    • Some of the Elves still resent Humankind because of their role in The End of the World as We Know It, even though it has been 3,000 years since that happened.
    • The humans of Shady Vale fear Gnomes and Trolls and Rovers, if Flick is anything to go by. They also gave Wil a hard time growing up, but it's unclear if it's because he was half Elven in particular or if it was just because he was different.
    • In fact, the only race that is known to exist without anyone being known to hate them is the Dwarves - and that may be because we never really find out anything at all about them except that they exist.
    • The humans of Utopia are happy to trade with "elf hunters" and hiss when they see an image of the elf-like Mr. Spock on screen.
    • Season 2 shows that the Elves have developed a widespread prejudice against magic users, who they associate with the demons that attacked them last season. This is also not entirely a new thing, as shown by Bandon having been kept locked up by his parents for having inherent magic.
  • Fashion Dissonance: For a show playing in a After the End Medieval Stasis society, somehow the main characters are managing to find jeans and other clothing that could have come straight from a modern mall. And are somehow stain resistant, no matter how battered the characters are.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The trio as they set off on their quest. We have Amberle (fighter), Wil (mage), and Eretria (thief).
  • Fire-Forged Friends:
    • Eretria becomes close to Wil and Amberle as they battle Demons, Rovers and mad Elves.
    • Ander hopes that a battle against the demons is what will finally end all the strife between the races. Sure enough, Season 2 shows that a lasting alliance has been formed between the Elves of Arborlon and the Gnomes who were previously their sworn enemies.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The first thing Dagda Mor does upon being released from the Forbidding is to recite the same words that Allanon does when he wakes up from his Druid's sleep. This is the first indication that Dagda Mor was once a Druid himself.
    • A Five-Second Foreshadowing example: Eretria warns Wil that a Rover would take one look at him and both steal the clothes off his back and the Elfstones. That's exactly what she does moments later when it turns out she is a Rover.
  • Freudian Trio: The three younger members of the main cast in Season 1. Amberle is the superego, idealistic and high-minded, but also sometimes cold and unforgiving. Eretria is the id, all passion and self-interest, motivated by primal things like anger, pleasure and survival. Wil is the ego, thoughtful and capable of seeing different sides to an issue, but also lacking in drive and caught in an eternal tug-of-war between the other two.
  • Future Imperfect: Most of the history of the Age of Man has been lost in the last 3,000 years, but even those who do remember have some things mixed up, like thinking Star Trek: The Motion Picture was history and Humans used to travel through the stars.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Wil and Eretria go at it for around an hour of great sex and he is completely spent the following morning.
  • Great Offscreen War: The War of the Races, which took place over thirty years ago and was the last time magic was wielded openly in the Four Lands. It gets repeatedly mentioned by several characters and Wil's father played a key role in its outcome.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Cephelo tries to capitalize on the discrimination that Wil has faced this all his life to get him on his side.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • In "Ellcrys", Eretria goes back to get a stuck gate to shut, trapping herself on the same side of it as a group of hostile Trolls to keep them from pursuing Wil and Amberle. She survives but ends up captured.
    • Also in "Ellcrys", Amberle has to give up her physical existence to rejuvenate the Ellcrys and banish the demons. While this isn't quite death - her spirit lives on within the tree, and Allanon claims that she will eventually be able to communicate - her life as a regular person is definitely over.
    • In "Blood," Allanon dies to hold back the Warlock Lord and give the others a chance to escape, and towards the end Wil lets himself bleed out in Heaven's Well, knowing that his Shannara blood will undo the effects of the Warlock Lord's Blood Magic.
  • Hollywood Tactics: When facing demons in battle, elves seem to think it's a sound military tactic to take the perfectly good shield wall that's been marched into place to take advantage of a shallow but serviceable defensive ditch and, at the first sign of the enemy, have the elves in the unit jump into the ditch to fight individually against demons whose knees are now at the elves eye level.
  • Hotter and Sexier:
    • In addition to populating the cast with ridiculously attractive people, the series adds a lot of sexual innuendo and even minor sex scenes that were absent from the source material (though Terry Brooks reportedly insisted the series not be an adults-only affair like Game of Thrones).
    • Downplayed in the second season. The sex is all off-screen, the romances are uncomplicated C-plots, and there are barely a handful of onscreen kisses.
      • Well, the second season also featured Allanon and Wil getting tortured by the Crimson in a BDSM-style dungeon, with tons of Foe Yay between Allanon and the leader of the Crimson. And with Wil shackled, sweaty, panting, stripped naked except for his leather pants, and enduring a rather... penetrative sort of torture - all aimed at getting Allanon to talk, just like in the standard "we'll rape / kill your girlfriend in front of you" man-pain scene. And the next episode, Wil got assaulted by a tentacle monster that sprayed a white goo in his face. At some point, it got a little ridiculous how blatantly the writers were throwing out material for the kinkier sort of fanfic.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Wil's ability to trigger the Elfstones is a bit hit-and-miss at first.
  • Humans by Any Other Name: Averted. In the book series, the Races are sometimes called human collectively and the ones who are like ordinary modern humans are referred to (as in Tolkien's legendarium) as Men. Here, what would be called Men in the books are called humans.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Cephelo makes it clear what Amberle's fate will be as his captive. He probably shouldn't have been so open about it while Eretria was still within earshot.
    • This was also the fate of Mag's mother at the hands of the warden of Pykon after lobotomizing her.
  • Implacable Man: The Reaper is silent, steady and absolutely relentless in its pursuit of the heroes, surviving crossbow bolts, sword blows, and at least one giant explosion. In the end it takes a point blank shot from the Elfstones followed by a fall from great height to get it to stay down.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted in Episode 6. Mag dies in a Heroic Sacrifice to save Wil from her crazy father. Also averted several times during Season 2, as various villains prove that they Would Hurt a Child.
  • Informed Flaw: Commander Tilton describes Ander as having spent the last ten years "lost in booze and anger and doubt." Yet with one exception - a single episode when he is seen Drowning His Sorrows after the loss of his father and brother - there are no on-screen portrayal of him having a drinking problem or anger management issues, and he probably does the most to galvanize others into action against the demons.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Cephelo's original plan to get Wil on his side involved a fight to the death between Eretria and Amberle... with Amberle wearing a leather bikini.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet: In episode 5, Eretria is suddenly alarmed and asks the group if they hear something. They reply no, and she clarifies that her's point, she can't hear the birds anymore. They then encounter what appears to be a radioactive hot-spot.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One:
    • Allanon admits early on that even if Wil succeeds perfectly at a very dangerous, very difficult quest he is woefully unprepared for, using the magic of the Elfstones will likely fry his brain. No wonder he tries to leave at every opportunity in the beginning - though of course he never succeeds and eventually he decides to just go along with it.
    • This is backed up by what happened to his father Shea, who saved the Four Lands but ended up a drunken wreck whose heroism was all but unknown. Allanon indicates this was at least in part the cost of Shea using magic.
    • Amberle gets told in no uncertain terms by the Ellcrys that being the last of the Chosen means that she has to do whatever it takes to save the Four Lands, no matter what it costs her. It turns out that the cost is her own existence as an Elf woman - she has to become the new Ellcrys, living out the following millenia as a sentient tree.
  • Jerkass: Crown Prince Arion is a complete dick to almost everyone he interacts with, including members of his own family.
  • Kill ’Em All: The writers of this show really like to kill off major characters on-screen. Especially after the change of broadcasting network: By the middle of season 2, almost all the characters introduced in season 1 and not already killed back then are dead. And by the end of the season, Eretria is the only major (or minor - in fact, almost the sole named) orginal character still standing.note  Though quite a few of the major characters introduced in season 2 also don't make it to the end of the season, so the high death rate probably wasn't just a measure to retool the series and get rid of most characters that legally belong to people connected to the old network.
  • Last of His Kind: A lot of the characters, in one way or another.
    • Allanon is the last of the Druids, so the responsibility of dealing with magical threats lays squarely on his shoulders. Except there's an ex-Druid running around too... Cogline. I guess because he left the order he can't pick up the slack?
    • Wil is the last living descendant of Jerle Shannara.
    • Amberle is the last living member of the Chosen.
    • At the end of Season 2, Mareth is the last of the Druids after Allanon's death, and also the last living heir to the Elven throne.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Amberle proposes this to Eretria while she and Wil are Eretria's captives. Eretria responds by dismounting her horse and headbutting Amberle without loosening her restraints.
  • Love Triangle:
    • At the start of the first season, Commander Tilton is with Prince Arion but used to have a thing with Prince Ander, whom Amberle notes is still "pining" after her, although he denies it.
    • Eretria claims that there is one between her, Wil, and Amberle as well, something both Wil and Amberle try to deny, while obviously pining for one another. Eretria meanwhile denies that what she feels for Wil is anything but lust, or that she actually cares what Amberle thinks of her, while flirting heavily with both.
  • The Magic Comes Back: Magic has completely disappeared from the Four Lands by the time the series starts, but the imminent death of the Ellcrys triggers its sudden return.
  • Magic Knight: While powerful combat magic exists, almost none of the characters rely on it exclusively but use it interchangeably with regular fighting skills. Even characters who start out as straight casters eventually make sure to pick up some training with a sword. The stated reason is that "magic always comes with a price" and so trusting in it completely is too risky.
  • Metaphorically True: Wil’s description of how Eretria stole the Elfstones from him in the Royal Palace is accurate... from a certain point of view.
    Amberle: He said you broke into his room. That he struggled, but you knocked him out.
    Eretria: That's one way to put it. But you should know that the "struggle" was mutual and lasted about an hour.
  • Mole in Charge: The Changeling eventually murders and replaces King Eventine himself.
  • Mutants: Trolls, Dwarves and Gnomes are actually mutated humans named after their resemblance to the Faerie creatures. Elves, on the other hand, actually are the Faerie creatures, having survived our present-day era before the Great Wars by hiding from humanity.
  • My Eyes Are Up Here: Amberle tells Wil as much in no uncertain terms when he comes across her bathing. Later gets an Ironic Echo when he strips down to swim and she starts Eating the Eye Candy.
    Wil: What happened to "eyes up here"?
  • Mythology Gag: In "Dweller," Allanon claims that Mareth can't be his daughter because he was told that the Druid sleep would prevent him from fathering children. Wil suggests that those who told him that might simply have been wrong. Which turns out to be the case - Mareth is eventually proven to be Allanon's daughter. In the books, Mareth initially believed Bremen to be her father, but he told her that it wasn't possible for that same reason.
  • Official Couple: While Season 1 centers on a Love Triangle between Wil, Amberle and Eretria without committing to any of the possible pairings, Season 2 has the two official couples of Wil/Mareth and Eretria/Lyria.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Eretria disabling the dozen or so guards outside Cephelo's tent quickly and quietly enough that none of them even managed to raise the alarm. And then she has a second one almost immediately after, killing a monster that was menacing a whole party of soldiers from the shadows. She was clearly in the zone that day.
  • Off the Rails: The first season is a more or less straightforward adaptation of The Elfstones of Shannara, but the second one breaks with the book series and takes the story in a different direction, most likely because the following novel, The Wishsong of Shannara, takes place a generation after the previous one and shares almost no characters with it.
  • One Head Taller: Wil is considerably taller than Eretria. It becomes most obvious when they're riding a horse together.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Several of the Fake American characters slip into their New Zealand accents on occasion, as does British Caroline Chikezie.
    • One particularly amusing incident happens when Erroll Shand's Valcaa starts a scene with what seems to be a Texan drawl, then halfway through switches to a more "regular" Midwestern one.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Or actually, not really better at all - they seem to basically just be like humans with pointy ears, subject to all the regular mortal frailties and follies. On the other hand, they are the dominant people in the Four Lands, having a rich and powerful kingdom with royalty and a standing army while all the Humans, Gnomes and Trolls we see in the first season are farmers at best, scavengers and outlaws at worst.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Much like the Trolls, the Gnomes are visibly some form of mutants with a definite After the End aesthetic to them.
  • Polyamory: Wil finds himself in a situation of being attracted to both Amberle and Eretria; Amberle and Eretria both are in love with Wil; Eretria is also sexually attracted to Amberle; Amberle also grows to become very attached to Eretria. As the three's relationship as a team deepens it is strongly implied that they're headed in this direction if not already there.
  • Post Apocalyptic Gasmask: Trolls wear stylized gas masks, likely a cultural leftover from surviving on the surface after the Great War.
  • Posthumous Character: Shea Ohmsford is dead by the start of the series, but he gets mentioned a lot for his actions in the War of the Races and the impact he had on Wil's life, making him a tangible presence throughout the series. In Season 2, he shows up repeatedly in flashbacks, visions and one incident of Time Travel.
  • Power Nullifier: The Crimson use special collars that make it impossible for the person wearing them to use magic. They are said to be relics from the Great War, which would make them Lost Technology.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: In "Ellcrys", Wil and Amberle make the most of their last hours together before going to face the demons.
  • Prison Dimension: The Forbidding, an alternate dimension where all the demons were banished by the Elves' magic.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes:
    • Amberle's big, dark eyes ensure that any scene where she's in pain is sheer heartbreak.
    • Wil's baby-blues aren't far behind them when it comes to projecting beautiful misery.
  • Race Against the Clock: The Ellcrys is dying, and there is only so much time before a very one-sided war will break out, leaving only demons who have been bent on revenge for a very long time.
  • Rage Against the Mentor: Wil and Bandon both spend most of Season 2 being absolutely furious at Allanon. Wil resents him for not revealing the fact that Amberle's quest would end with her having to make a Heroic Sacrifice to restore the Ellcrys, while Bandon blames him for pushing him too far and too fast in his magic studies and thereby getting him spiritually captured by the Dadga Mor, resulting in him being corrupted by demon magic - which in itself is implied to fuel his anger. In both cases, Allanon's defense is that He Did What (He Thought) He Had To Do.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Several artifacts from the Age of Man are shown to still be operational after three thousand years, such as light-bulbs, film proyectors and guns and ammo.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Cephelo stays to cover Eretria's escape in Utopia and is killed. Subverted in that he only did it because he was mortally wounded anyway, meaning that he chose redemption because it didn't actually cost him anything.
  • Red Shirt: Almost everyone who isn't one of the four main characters will die shortly after introduction.
  • Reforged Blade: The Sword of Shannara, after it shatters in the fight between Wil and Bandon and is taken to the Ellcrys.
  • Rescue Romance:
    • While "romance" might be an overly... romantic word for what's between Wil and Eretria, there's clearly something there, and it all started with her saving his life.
    • Bandon and Catania have a more straightforwardly romantic one, with her beginning to show interest in him after he saves her life from the Changeling.
  • Resigned to the Call: Wil Ohmsford comes in for this as he has no idea that he is, in fact, the last known living descendant of magic users until he is informed that he is very necessary to saving the world by Allanon. His reaction is decidedly less than wholeheartedly enthusiastic, given the obvious dangers he will have to dodge.
  • The Reveal: Not that the characters particularly care, but Safehold turns out to be the 3000 year old remains of San Francisco
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: So much so that they still work perfectly after 3,000 years.
  • Rousing Speech: Alannon, Ander, and the Dagda Mor all give one in the first season finale.
  • Schizo Tech: As part of the After the End nature of the setting, there are a number of modern-day gadgets to be found even though the overall tech level is medieval. Most commonly, all Trolls seem to wear gas masks, though it's unclear if they still work or if they're just ornamental at this point.
  • Screw You, Elves!: The Rovers' general outlook, which is also shared by Slanter and his Gnomes. In fact, when Wil is leaving Shady Vale, Flick warns him that this sentiment is just about the only thing the other races all have in common.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Dagda Mor and his army of demons are sealed away by the Ellcrys. The tree dying is slowly unleashing them on the realm.
  • Seer: Bandon was born wtih the ability to see a vision of the death of anyone he touches. This has not led to a very happy life for him.
  • Self-Defeating Prophecy: Bandon sees visions of people's deaths, but it is possible for him to keep them from coming true. In episode four he sees Catania being stabbed to death by the Changeling, but when the time comes he pushes her out of the way of the knife and she lives.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the last episode of the first season, Eretria has been captured by Trolls and brought before... someone who she apparently recognises, Wil is heading back to Safehold to look for her, Allanon predicts that while the Dadga Mor is gone his actions has unleashed many unrelated evils, and Bandon has stolen the Warlock Lord's sword and is looking over the Dadga Mor's abandoned camp with scary all-black eyes. At the end of the second season Wil is stuck in the Forbidding/similar and clearly needs saving.
  • Sherlock Scan: Amberle and Eretria both do a quick one on each other. Amberle notices that Eretria doesn't have a wedding band, so cannot be meeting her husband as she claims. Eretria returns the favour by noting that Amberle bears the royal crest of the Elves, which could be worn by a princess but not the simple teacher she claims to be.
  • Shirtless Scene: Wil constantly finds himself in situations that require him to take off his shirt, roughly Once an Episode. Bandon's shirt also comes off a lot, though the circumstances tend to be a lot less sexy.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Chosen", Allanon warns Wil that "Magic always comes with a price."
    • In Utopia some of the characters use an ancient movie projector to watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (Paramount, owners of the Star Trek franchise, also owns MTV.)
    • The big man with the burned face that Eretria meets in the Utopia infirmery looks suspiciosly similar to Sandor "The Hound" Clegane from Game of Thrones.
    • The Shannara books are considered archetypes of Dungeons & Dragons role playing game-style fantasy (people of different races with different abilities coming together for a quest). The blue objects Amberle recovers from the school that resemble the Elfstones are in fact the same type of multi-sided dice that RPG players use.
  • Sigil Spam: The griffin is the symbol of the Elven royal family, and the Elves put it absolutely everywhere, to the point that there's hardly a scene set in Arborlon where one isn't visible in the background. Same with the capital of Lean in S2; their archer statues are all over the place.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The series can generally be found somewhere on the middle. Most people genuinely mean well or at least have sympathetic motivations for what they do. However, good intentions definitely do not always lead to good results, and heroic characters frequently make mistakes or let themselves be deceived by their passions. On the flipside, trying to be cynical and look to the greater good can also backfire terribly on you, making it never quite clear what the right thing to do is in any given situation.
  • Slippery MacGuffin: Wil cannot seem to hold on to the Elfstones for any amount of time without him dropping them or them becoming stolen. He does develop some Genre Savviness about this fact over the course of Season 1, though.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Eretria's favorite trick is to offer her marks a goblet of wine or water with drugs in it, and rob them blind at her discretion while they're unconscious. Amberle doesn't fall for it.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: This trope is unexpectedly played straight when petite Eretria is given a massive 3,000 year old revolver, which she proves very adept with.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Very much present among the demon army.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Catania never does get much of an arc of her own beyond playing supporting roles to various other characters, and she eventually gets unceremoniously killed by a minor villain. And then, just to add insult to injury, she's brought Back from the Dead and killed again in the space of an episode just so that the Big Bad can make a point to another more-important character. Poor girl just can't catch a break.
  • Swiss Cheese Security:
    • The Royal Palace of Arborlon has serious security problems. Leaving aside the admittedly shapeshifting demon that is able to infiltrate it, the Gnomes have successfully carried out assassinations in its halls in the past and Eretria is able to waltz in with little effort.
    • The Royal Palace of Leah isn’t any better. Eretria also has little trouble getting in and the Crimson are able to kidnap Allanon right off the royal stables without anyone being the wiser.
    • Queen Tamlin and her head guard had dealings with the Crimson so it's not hard to think the Crimson could kidnap Allanon.
  • Time Skip: One year passes between the end of season 1 and the start of season 2.
  • Threesome Subtext: Both Amberle and Eretria are in love with Wil, who himself loves and cares deeply for both, though he can't seem to decide which one he wants to be with. Meanwhile Amberle and Eretria slowly but surely become very good friends, which added with Eretria's bisexuality has earned them their own form of Belligerent Sexual Tension.
  • Torture Technician: Remo. He claims to have once served King Eventine in this capacity, but at the time of the series, he just does it for his own amusement.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Utopia. The people there are happy, idealistic, productive, fun-loving and have all sorts of neat scavenged technology... and make a monthly Human Sacrifice to the local Trolls as part of a peace treaty with them. They also hate Elves an awful lot, but they don't make a secret of that part.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: In Episode 6, Allanon is apparently killed and his body burned to ash. It's a powerful moment, but it would be more convincing if the trailer for the season as a whole hadn't featured him prominently.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: It's not clear how much time has actually passed between Amberle leaving her home and later returning. Several times in both seasons characters will need to get from one place to another... and usually arrive quickly in what should have taken a day or several.
  • The Unfair Sex: At one point, Eretria accuses Wil of being a typical man by seducing her and then throwing her aside after he got what he wanted. What actually happened was that she seduced him by claiming she wanted to change her ways (and implying strongly that having a good guy like him in her life would make that possible for her), then stole the Elfstones and sneaked out while he's still sleeping. When she got caught, she rubbed their night together in Amberle's face in front of Wil, ensuring that Wil's and Amberle's already rocky relationship got even rockier. She's probably just doing it to mess with his head, though. There's also an undertone of her being genuinely jealous of whatever's between Wil and Amberle and resentful of being treated like "the other woman" in that Wil lied to Amberle about how Eretria got hold of the Elfstones, as if he were hiding an infidelity from his girlfriend... but regardless, she really doesn't have the moral high ground in the situation.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Most episodes have two or three plot threads taking place in different locations, usually being resolved or at least coming to a head by the end of the episode. It crosses into Third Line, Some Waiting at times when one or more characters are off one their own doing things that don't immediately affect the main plots.
  • Uniqueness Decay: In Season 1, magic is so rare that most people don't think it exists anymore. In Season 2, it's so common that there's a fanatical crusade going on to stomp out its use. note  Lampshaded by Jax at one point.
    Jax: Ever since the demons showed up, everybody with a party trick is coming out of the woodwork.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: During the test to become one of the Chosen, some of the participants will try to take out the competition by assaulting them.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?; The Four Lands are confirmed to be Western North America 3,000 years After the End, but the precise locations aren't made clear. The ruins of the Space Needle are visible at one point, placing Arborlon and Shady Vale near Seattle, but later episodes indicate Safehold is located in the ruins of San Francisco, even though the characters haven't been traveling long enough to cover the 850 miles between the two places. This is justified by the Great War having caused massive tectonic shifts, reshaping the world drastically.
  • White and Gray Morality: While there are a few truly black-hearted fiends around, most of the major characters have sympathetic motivations but also often conflicting opinions and desires.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Using the Elfstones during the War of the Races apparently gave Wil's father Shea some sort of brain damage. We don't get any details on what was wrong with him, but Flick says he was "never the same" afterward, and the general opinion in Shady Vale was apparently that he had become a lunatic. This later gets subverted in Season 2, where it turns out that what really drove Shea crazy was the guilt of having failed to kill the Warlock Lord Deader Than Dead.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: Season 2 shows that while the Elves won the war against the Dagda Mor, a year later they're still suffering the effects in the form of an empty treasury and hordes of refugees whose homes were destroyed by the demon army. The crown's weakness and the widespread suffering has also caused the rise of a rebellious faction that persecutes magic users as scapegoats for the war and is plotting to overthrow the government.
  • The Worf Effect: Used quite extensively in "Wraith" to show off the prowess of the new seasonal villains (and one new antihero).
    • If Jax defeating a bunch of Rovers effortlessly wasn't enough to establish him as a seriously tough customer, him laying Eretria out with a single punch should do the trick. She makes a slightly better showing of herself when they meet the next time, but he still proves able to get the better of her even when he starts out with her knife at his throat.
    • Riga turns out to be skilled enough to take out Allanon on his own in only a few seconds. True, being immune to magic helps, but Allanon has always been shown to be a great fighter even without magic.
    • Bandon deflects Wil's attacks with the Elfstones almost contempteously. In this case, however, it's possible that Worf Had the Flu, since Bandon comments that Wil has gotten "rusty."
  • Your Eyes Can Deceive You: The competition to become one of the Chosen involves racing through the forest between the Royal Palace and the Ellcrys blindfolded and with your hands tied behind your back, so the participants must rely on their other senses to complete the course. You might also have to fight the other competitors while you're at it.

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