The Shannara Chronicles: Season Two Blu-ray Review

Canceled But Not Forgotten

As television has abandoned fantasy content for an endless array of superhero-themed spin-offs, it was nice to see MTV take a chance on The Shannara Chronicles. But low ratings for season one, and MTV making the decision they didn’t want scripted entertainment anymore, consigned the Shannara Chronicles’ second season to Spike TV.

It wasn’t a good sign for the fantasy series based off author Terry Brooks’ landmark line of fantasy novels. The coming of The Shannara Chronicles would signal the end of Spike TV, which soon got rebranded as the Paramount Network in the first months of 2018. Despite some intriguing plot-lines and a horde of diverse, new characters added to the show, the show wasn’t renewed for a season three.

Filmed and made in New Zealand by many of the same crew responsible for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, The Shannara Chronicles was probably the best fantasy series on television since the underrated Legend of the Seeker. Admittedly, that isn’t a high bar as television views fantasy content as too expensive on a TV budget. This second season isn’t as tight or compelling as season one, focusing more on action than the dramatic love triangle that dominated season one. If you watched through the end of season one, you might as well finish this short ten episode season.

The Four Lands are in chaos during this season. After the re-emergence of magic, a terrorist group called The Crimson has formed to eradicate all magic users. General Riga leads the Crimson across the land, hunting down magic in all forms. Returning heroes Eretria, Allanon and Wil must band together with hot newcomer Mareth (Malese Jow) to take down The Crimson and prevent an even greater evil happening.

the show-runners in season two abandon Brooks’ novels as inspiration and start making up their own arcs

The biggest change in season two is the loss of Elven princess Amberle, who died at the end of last season. The loss of Wil’s great love Amberle continues to haunt him throughout season two, as he’s grown far more jaded and wary of his duties. It can’t be underestimated how much her absence affects the chemistry of the cast. It’s one of the big reasons why season two feels so much different in tone. Gone are the panderings to teen love. In its place are much darker emotions. Season two takes a far more adult attitude, reflected in Wil’s demeanor. The season’s best episode by far is the one episode where Amberle returns to say goodbye to Wil and allow him to move on with his life.

Romance still plays a role on the show. Once in love with Wil, Eretria (Ivana Baquero) falls in love with Lyria and we learn more about the Rover’s family background. Having played it safe in season one, the show-runners in season two abandon Brooks’ novels as inspiration and start making up their own arcs for these characters. You can tell that meant adding a host of new characters and themes. It doesn’t all work. There is definitely more action and conflict, but the uneven drama lacks the focus of season one.

Watch season two for the returning characters, mostly Wil, Allanon and Eretria. The new additions aren’t bad but don’t bring much to the table. Now that we know the show has been canceled, be prepared for the season to end on a modest cliff-hanger.

Video

Paramount has spread the ten episodes of season two over three BD-50s in high-bitrate AVC encodes. Shot in New Zealand, Shannara’s production values remain outstanding like season one. This is 1080P Hi-Def video with excellent texture and crisp detail. Close-ups are probably too revealing, particularly for the fine prosthetic and make-up work. This is a digitally-shot master made for clarity and visual impact. The CGI shots are a tad softer.

The Shannara Chronicles exudes depth and dimension. The 1.78:1 presentation’s razor-sharp definition has a tight contrast and wonderful black levels in exterior scenes. Minor problems creep into the noisier interiors, with reduced shadow delineation and diminished detail. The show is aggressive when it comes to color grading. Scenes are bathed in a multitude of strong lights for tinting purposes. The dramatic lighting works in battle scenes but has less positive effects in quieter moments.

Audio

The solid 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack offers decent immersion and some discrete action. This isn’t a massively active soundstage with serious directionality occurring. It has intelligible dialogue with occasional ambience. Some action leaks to the surround channels. The subwoofer is engaged in the bigger battles.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

Considering we are very lucky a canceled show is even seeing a Blu-ray release, Paramount includes ten minutes’ worth of featurettes as a bonus on the third disc. This is mostly EPK material. Interviews include the primary cast members and the showrunners. These behind-the-scenes featurettes feel like they could have run longer.

A couple of things are noticeably absent. Unlike season one, there is no included UltraViolet digital copy. Some retail stores do have the first two seasons bundled together for nearly the same price as one season.

Allanon (00:53 in HD) – A brief interview with actor Manu Bennett.

Sit-Down With Show-Runners (03:40 in HD) – Probably the most insightful special feature, we are told what changes were applied in season two.

Inside The Wardrobe Closet (01:39 in HD) – The costume designer and others discuss the production.

New Characters (02:14 in HD)

Austin Butler (01:02 in HD) – A brief interview with the actor.

Ivana Baquero (00:51 in HD) – The actress for Eretria discusses her character’s developments.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Shannara Chronicles: Season Two
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

Television Season

Amberle may be gone, but Wil and Eretria remain around to carry the drama in this uneven second season of Shannara Chronicles.

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