Sunday, March 20, 2016

Shannara and Shakespeare

Shannara and Shakespeare
More of this, less of Middle Earth Lite

SG-1 was a show that I never watched until it was repeating on a daily basis with the then Properly-Spelled-SciFi-Channel. If you just double-checked the title of this article, hang with me here. Besides I needed more space before we hit spoiler alert territory.
You’d think this would have been something going a has-been show limping along on its second network (SG-1 started on Showtime.) I was surprised it was still on with a new episode every week..
Eventually the original SG-1 lasted 10 years as a single show, something that even a single Star Trek series pulled off on American TV. And while ST had much better success with its spin-offs, the Stargate franchise still had an astounding run of 15 years. It was based on a one-off movie. How much content could you have? Turns out quite a bit if you’re not shy with your mythology.
In comparison, the source material for Shannara is over 20 novels and counting. 
The first season of wasn’t great TV, a double sin while we are in a golden age of TV and Geekery, but over several episodes it became more watchable. Though it still has a ways to go to put “I don’t think your elf princess is going to want a human’s sloppy seconds,” in the rear view mirror.
But now we have an in-universe reason for why everyone sounds more “modern,” this is our world after some sort of hand wavy genetic apocalypse*. But Manu Bennett, you can still keep up the old Druid-speak in your growly voice. You’ve got that down pat.
And the more TSC embraced its Science Fantasy premise, the more intrigued I became. I haven’t read anything from the series in decades, but I fear that Brooks probably didn’t put that much thought into his mythology beyond using it to prop up his fantasy world. But just in production values alone, it looks like Millar and Gough have fleshed the Science Fantasy mythology more — something that also worked for SG-1 as the years rolled by.
But now we go into spoiler country and why my interest has peaked after the final episode.
Last chance. Spoiler Alert.
More than half of the cast is dead, including the very first main character we met in the pilot. It’s like Shakespearean bloodbath, only with the bad guys doing most of the killing strokes. And it was so total that I wondered if the show was only a miniseries until I saw the “To Be Continued” caption before the End Credits. There was one dude, not the bad guy, who had to be killed twice. That’s taking one for the team.
Every long-standing genre show needs to find a way to evolve and change over time. Some were more subtle about it, like the Doctor Who, X-files and SG-1 as they expanded their mythology while others played the obvious is obvious card like ST’s and Fringe’s regular reboots. (And for anyone keeping up with the Expanse books, you know that’s already in the works for the TV show.)
But with final episode already setting up a villain and clearing the house of all the dead wood (Magic Soul Eating Tree pun intended), it shows a commitment to keeping the show fluid and adaptable over the long haul. Right now, I think the series is on the bubble.
But if it makes to Season 2, it just might be around longer than anyone expects.
*The books go for more of a 1970s hand wavy atomic armageddon.

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