“The Shannara Chronicles” is all flash, no substance

Flashy visuals can’t make up for overdone themes and a lack of diversity in this MTV original

MTV’s latest show, “The Shannara Chronicles” is a high-fantasy epic much like “Lord of the Rings,” only worse, much worse. Sadly for the network — which seems to be creating more and more content that isn’t related to “Music Television” at all — “Shannara” fails as a fantasy story capable of captivating audiences. There simply isn’t anything special about the show. The premise: A young heroine and her sidekicks with magical powers are tasked with the job of saving the world because, for some strange reason, a supernatural force is calling them into action. Sound familiar? This bland plot line isn’t even worthy of being called a watered down “Game of Thrones.”

While the show’s premise is simple and its characters quite familiar (not to mention all incredibly Caucasian), the show will no doubt be endearing to young audience members. What this show has that other MTV shows like “Teen Wolf” doesn’t is the freedom to tell stories that aren’t based on any kind of realism. It’s all make-believe. The special effects are amazing, and there’s just the right amount of sexiness to create intrigue. After just the first four episodes, “Shannara” offers the promise of an epic quest, a scary demon army keen on destroying everyone, a disgruntled soon-to-be-king, a mysterious orphan and a totally exaggerated love-triangle — all well-known tropes for creating drama in this kind of show.

Beyond the familiarity of many, if not all, aspects of the show, “The Shannara Chronicles” fails majorly in its casting decisions. In the world of fantasy and magical realism, it seems ethnic characters typically take a backseat. Looking from “Lord of the Rings” to “Game of Thrones” to “The Chronicles of Narnia” (all of which are superb series in their own right), characters of color are play secondary roles. It’s 2016 now, and we have yet to see a person of color leading in a high fantasy series. What does this say about the television industry? It is sad to see yet another show viewed by millions of young people that does not include people who aren’t white. Even the two main leads Poppy Drayton (Amberle) and Ivana Baquero (Eretria) look remarkably similar on screen.

Furthermore, everyone in “The Shannara Chronicles” is just a little too clean-cut. For characters who are never seen bathing, their perfect teeth, blemish free skin and luscious hair just seem a bit too picturesque, and it’s kind of unnerving. The only ugly people in the show are the demons, and even then, they are actually kind of beautiful. “The Shannara Chronicles” provides some amazing visual effects — the grotesque demon army was, in some ways, quite refreshing and cool. Overall, though, nothing about the world of Shannara is believable. Everyone is either a beautiful teen or forty-something, camera-ready all the time. MTV couldn’t let that trope stay with shows like “Teen Wolf”.

Sadly, MTV has not chosen to take any real risks with “The Shannara Chronicles” and it seems that this glamorous, young, teen, high-fantasy show falls shorts of expectations. It’s most certainly not game changing television and, if anything, the show is aggressively boring. Hopefully a time will come when we get to see engaging plot lines, meaningful dialogue and diversity on this network. Until then, we’re left with the thin, two-dimensional mess that is MTV’s “The Shannara Chronicles”. Instead of watching it, maybe read a book.

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