The Shannara Chronicles returns this time with an action packed episode. Alliances are shifting and several characters find themselves in precarious predicaments. Here are my thoughts on episode 3 named Graymark.
This season has definitely seen an increase in the action and this episode was a rollercoaster ride of action and suspense.
King Ander, Queen of Leah and Lyria
Ander finds his choices slowly being eliminated as Queen of Leah makes it clear that she wants an alliance which would mean that he would marry Lyria. He agrees, for the sake of his people, to marry Lyria in order to secure an alliance with the kingdom of Leah. Poor Ander has no idea what has happened to Catania as his traitorous guard hid her body and claimed that she went back to Arborlon because she could not handle the news of Ander’s engagement. Now I do wonder why he is not questioning this more. Catania has some sense and would have known that there was a possibility that Ander may have to marry for an alliance. I’m guessing that he has so much on his plate that he never even thought of foul play against his lover. I do wonder if in future episodes, though, that Ander is going to start questioning what is going on around him. For now, his guard and the Queen are using Ander’s inexperience as a king to their advantage.
Now Lyria knows full well that her mother does not like elves and she also knows that her mother did or said something that drove Eretria away. We got to see a little more of Lyria’s backbone as she openly (and defiantly) questions her mother’s actions. In a private conversation, Lyria wants to know 1.) what her mother said that drove away Eretria and 2.) what her real motives are for having Lyria marry Ander.
Surprisely enough, the mother did come clean with some her reasons for her actions. She wants Lyria to marry Ander because she knows just how precarious the situation is for the elves. She knows that there is a high chance of a civil war for the Elves and that with Lyria on the throne as queen, Tamlin, Queen of Leah, can step in and set up a garrison in the Elven realm in order to restore the peace. It would definitely expand the kingdom of Leah’s power and give Lyria’s mother more reach and control. It is a clever move, but there is more to the story than Lyria is aware of as we learn later in the episode.
Now Lyria doesn’t push back against her mother’s plans nor does she really say that it is wrong of her to do it which is surprising. Either she is staying silent for now or she is too afraid to go against her mother which does seem to be the more likely answer. We shall have to see if Lyria will get stronger. As for the Eretria situation, her mother tells her that she told Eretria the truth about Lyria’s past dalliances and how Eretria gladly and quickly took the bag of diamonds that the queen gave her in exchange for leaving. She also mentions that she has someone watching Eretria and one misstep from Lyria will end up getting Eretria killed. This seemed to really hurt Lyria and squash her confidence even more. I will have to hand it to the queen: she is a quite the manipulator and she knows how to push the right buttons in people. It’s a shame that she does it on her own daughter to further her goals.
Later in the episode, we see another side of the Queen which is a much more darker and scarier side and it may be a side that Lyria has seen before. The scene in question is when the Queen pulls King Ander’s personal guard (and traitor spy for the Crimson) aside. She then asks him to set up a meeting with General Riga. Now this suggests quite a few things that may be a bit disconcerting: 1.) she is in cahoots with General Riga which means she may have been the one who told Riga about Allanon 2.) She knew about the abduction and may have helped facilitate it by making it easy for Riga’s men to get into the castle.
Any way you look at it, she has some connection to the Crimson. Now whether this is still a tentative alliance or a much stronger one, it is uncertain. What is certain is how terrifying the Queen can become when she does not get her way. The traitorous guard says that Riga is not easy to reach or easy to set up a meeting with to which she responds by grabbing the man by his throat. She digs her literal gold tipped fingernails into his throat and demands he sets up a meeting. We now know how far Tamlin may go to get what she wants and a side of the Queen that Lyria may have known of all her life. The real question is what is her end game?
General Riga and Allanon
Last episode, Allanon’s magic did not work against Riga and I thought it was because of a special weapon. As it turns out, that was not the case, and we get a little insight into the leader of the Crimson and his motivations. General Riga has Allanon chained in a dungeon where he and his cohorts are using torture in order to get information from Allanon. And what information do they seek? General Riga is after the famous Codex of Paranor, and only a Druid knows where it is and how to get into Paranor. Now I wonder if the codex is the Ildatch which is the main book that Wil’s children, Jair and Brin, are after in the third book of the original Trilogy by Terry Brooks called Wishsong of Shannara.
Whether it is or not, General Riga knows of this book and wants to destroy it because he wants to purge the world of magic users despite the increasing warning signs that the Warlock Lord is on his way to being resurrected.
When Allanon asks General Riga why he wants magic users purged and how it was that Allanon’s magic does not work on him. And this is where we get the interesting and sad back story of General Riga. General Riga is unique because when he was a baby in his mother’s womb, his mother was attacked by a certain type of demon. This demon had the ability to be unaffected by magic and deflect it. The demon can pass on this trait to its victims which it did to the General before he was even born. The attack killed his mother, but left him with this trait. Fast forward many years later, General Riga is an esteemed General of the Elven army. In the battle for Arborlon in season 1, the General watched his men be slaughtered by the demons, but it gets worse. It seems the demons got in and killed his pregnant wife as well.
From that point on, General Riga blamed magic and magic users for unleashing the demons on the world, but his view is a little skewed. He seems to have a respect for magic and is even collecting magical items like the Elf Stones which he gets later in the episode when he captures Wil as well as Allanon’s staff.
No amount of torture, though, will get Allanon to talk and the General knew that this may be the case. He has another more nefarious plan that he thinks may work: capture Wil and torture him in front of Allanon to get the druid to talk.
Now this was an interesting back story to Riga, but a part of me wishes that we got to see it in more pieces or maybe even get a flashback to the events. I feel like his back story should have been revealed in bits and pieces more as his motivation drives his antagonistic goals. I do find it interesting though that he has a respect for magic, but hates all magic users. When Allanon asks who will stop the Warlock Lord if magic users like Allanon are gone and he says that they will. He does make a point that his power and the collar did stop Allanon, but it does seem a little short sighted on General Riga’s part not to use every available resource he can in the fight against the Warlock Lord even if it comes in the form of magic users. Is there more to his plans? We shall have to see to find out.
Wil, Eretria, Mareth, and Garet Jax
Now parts surrounding these characters were probably the most entertaining parts of the episode and the most action packed. Where we left off, Bandon has just taken Wil’s uncle Flick in exchange for finding Allanon and getting into Paranor to get the skull of the Warlock Lord.
Wil knows what he has to do and is found by Eretria. She knows exactly where Allanon will be as General Riga told his men to take Allanon to Graymark. Graymark is an abandoned old fortress that once used to be the home of the Warlock Lord and a place where many magic users have gone into and not come out. Graymark has, ironically, now been taken over as a headquarters for the Crimson. Eretria tells Wil that Allanon is there, and Garet Jax, whom Eretria has paid to help her, tells him about the fortress of Graymark, but is silent about his own backstory. He does tell Wil that Graymark is infamous for being the end of many a magic user, and storming the fortress is as good as a suicide mission.
Does this stop Wil? Absolutely not. In fact, he comes up with an even riskier plan where he would have to place his absolute trust in his comrades. Using the fact that Garet is a known bounty hunter even with the Crimson, Wil will pretend to be caught by Garet and brought into the fortress. Garet will collect his fee and be on his way while Wil picks his locks and finds Allanon. This is not something Wil is too keen on doing as he has a heavy resentment towards Allanon as he feels like the Druid knowingly sacrificed Amberle and didn’t warn either of them. But Wil also knows that he has to have the Druid to get into Paranor and the clock is ticking if he wants to save his uncle.
The first part of the plan goes relatively smoothly. Garet walks Wil right through the front gate where they are met with General Riga’s second in command and a fist of very on edge soldiers.
The ladies wait outside as backup and look for an alternate entrance into the fortress. They find a sewage tunnel being guarded, and, after taking out the guards, they get into the fortress undetected.
Garet gives Wil over, but then has to give the Elfstones over as well despite it not being part of the bargain. We then listen to General Riga’s second in command speak down to Garet as we get a glimpse into his backstory. It turns out that he was once a high ranking and revered soldier as well until his entire unit, except for himself, was slaughtered by demons. This would definitely explain his aptitude with weapons and his fighting skills, but fans don’t fully know what drove him to become a bounty hunter.
Regardless, this nasty treatment of Garet from the second in command motivates Garet to help Wil and his group. Instead of taking his money and running, Garet joins up with Eretria and Mareth before they enter the fortress.
Wil is dragged down to a cell in the dungeons where he quickly picks the lock in his manacles and uses a small mini bomb that Eretria gave him before he entered the fortress. The bomb breaks down the door and alerts the nearby guard whom Wil has to kill.
Wil does find Allanon and manages to get him free from his shackles, but not the collar. He is not fast enough as General Riga walks in with his lieutenant and now both Wil and Allanon are caught. For a moment, Wil and Allanon are alone and Wil confronts Allanon about Amberle and Bandon. He finds out that Bandon went to the dark side and may have been pushed to hard by Allanon which led to Bandon going to the dark side. This just creates more resentment and anger in Wil towards Allanon which would not be completely wrong as Allanon did sacrifice people for the greater good.
True to his word, General Riga comes back and strings up Wil. He starts to torture Wil in order to get Allanon to talk. He uses a machine to start draining Wil of blood, but, as Wil points out, not even the threat of killing Wil will make Allanon talk. When General Riga sees that even this tactic will not work, he has to think of another tactic.
Meanwhile Eretria, Mareth and Jax sneak about the fortress trying to figure out where Allanon is being kept. They suspect that Wil and Allanon may have both been caught. Mareth says she can sense her father and leads them to an empty room. Mareth did sense her father’s power as Allanon’s staff comes exploding out of a locked chamber and into Mareth’s hands. Does this prove that she is Allanon’s daughter?
With the staff and little more illusionary tricks by Mareth, they find General Riga, Wil and Allanon. Mareth uses the staff to send a tray of burning coals at Riga as the staff won’t directly work on him. She knocks him out and take out his guards. With the staff, she takes the collar off of the weakened and very confused Allanon who is beginning to wonder just who Mareth is and how she can use his staff.
Mareth then uses her illusionary ability to create a Riga doppelgänger. With the guards distracted and confused, we get a really awesome fight sequence in the rain. Eretria, Jax and Mareth take on the guards in the courtyard as Wil leads a weakened Allanon towards the closed gate door. Allanon calls out for his staff which Mareth gives him and uses his powers to muscle open the massive gate.
The fight sequences in this part are very entertaining to watch as Mareth, Eretria and Garet Jax do some real damage. Fans get to see that they can each hold their own in a fight. Wil holds up Allanon and helps him get the gate open.
As they hold off the guards and Allanon is opening the gate, the real General Riga comes with another group of guards to go after them. Mareth, using some quick thinking, throws up a wall of fire between their group and the new batch of soldiers. Allanon holds open the gate, which is trying to close on them, allowing Eretria, Wil and Garet to escape. Mareth drops her wall of fire and escapes as well. General Riga is not going to let Allanon go so easily though. Picking up a bow and arrow, it becomes a race as Allanon runs through the closing door. He makes it through with his staff just in time just as the arrow hits the metal door.
This episode was definitely a fast paced episode and an exciting one. I found that I surprised when it was over as the episode did not seem like it was forty minutes. It will be interesting to see where they go from here especially if we see more fight scenes like that.
Nods to the books and changes
-There was a character named Mareth in the series by Terry Brooks, but she comes in the book The First King of Shannara. She thinks she is the daughter of Bremen, Allanon’s adoptive father, but that turns out not to be the case. In the series, Mareth believes she is the daughter (and proves it in this episode) of Allanon and Pyria.
-Mareth’s ability to create illusion was not the original character’s ability, but the ability that was used by Jair, Wil’s son, in the third book of the original trilogy called Wishsong of Shannara.