This is produced by Gough and Millar ( Smallville ), based on a series of books by Terry Brooks . It is set in a distant post-apocalyptic world. Humans live in a landscape filled the ruins of cities. But unlike Planet of the Apes the locals prefer to use magic instead of science. This is an unhappy combination of two genres - even the classic 1970s swordplay series The Horseclans chose to use Clarke's Law when magic was involved.
Like in all cliched Young Adult novels, this starts with a gang of teenagers have their coming-of-age ceremony. In this case they are Elves, and they must run the gauntlet. This is a cross-country race where the contestants are blindfolded and have their arms tied behind their back. And typically, this time the protagonist is the first girl EVER to try for a boy's job. After the heroine wins, King Eventine Elessedil (John Rhys-Davies - Raiders of the Lost Ark ) delivers some exposition. The job of the elite guard, largely ceremonial, is to protect a magic tree. When the girl touches the tree, it gives her visions of the past ... or future.
Allanon (Manu Bennett - Arrow ) the last Druid awakes from decades of sleep. He is able to provide even more exposition. Also, like Crixus and Slade Wilson he has a sword. Presumably he knows how to use it.
Elsewhere, a farmboy inherits three magic blue stones from his dying mother. He sets out on a quest to find his fortune. He is a half-Elf, so evidently the Elves evolved as a sub-race of humans.
The plot threads all start to tie together, although this makes the forest seem very small because the cast keep bumping into each other. Allanon (Manu Bennett - Arrow ) finds the whiny farm-boy, tells him he knew his father (a great hero) and takes him on as an apprentice. Yes, all the cliches with a very straight face. Meanwhile, the Princess meets the rover girl - who tries the same roofie trick.
The rover girl meets up with the boss of her thieves' clan - Cephelo (James Remar - Inferno (1998) ), who is also her father. Daddy wants to sell his little girl into an arranged marriage, but she proves her worth as a crook by showing him the magic Elfstones of Shannara.
The evil villains attack the Chosen, AKA the first seven who passed the Gauntlet test last week. Surely there must be a replacement team, a second seven who can be baptised or knighted or whatever. But until they develop a contingency plan, the Princess is their only chance.
The farmboy joins the Druid as they ride across the beach used regularly in Xena: Warrior Princess . He finds the Princess when she is bathing naked under a waterfall. All the cliches are followed. We do not see the good stuff, and she is a much better fighter than he is. However, despite getting the advance warning she still insists on charging headlong into danger.
The Mentor is wounded, so the Farmboy and the Princess go to get something to heal him. The rover girl takes them to meet up with the boss of her thieves' clan - Cephelo (James Remar - Inferno (1998) ). He has his own agenda, to gain the power of the Elfstones. This means he arranges a chick-fight between his daughter and the Princess.
The Farmboy and the Princess have a new friend. He has a superpower too - he can forsee peoples' deaths. Someone will try to assassinate the Princess!
The Rover girl breaks into the Elven Palace. They are meant to be on high alert, with a demonic assassin on the loose, but she has no trouble getting in. Unfortunately the Elves are terrible investigators as well as terrible guards. They assume that the thief is also the assassin.
We get a flashback to the events ten years ago. The Elven Princess was a tomboy at the age of eight, but her father encouraged her. However, the elves were busy quashing a rebellion by the gnomes - not nice little garden gnomes, but ugly misshapen orc-like creatures that used ninja-style throwing stars. Unfortunately for the Elves, the palace guards were terrible at their job.
The Farmboy and the Princess lead a platoon of guards on their quest. They take the Rover girl with them - in chains. However, Cephelo (James Remar - Inferno (1998) ) and the Rovers live in the forest. An ambush is inevitable.
Allanon (Manu Bennett - Arrow ) is back at the Elven palace, helping the army to prepare. But the demons knew that to defeat the Elves they must split the alliance with the Druid. If they frame Allanon, the Elves will exile him - their only real defender. The Elven Princes would rather concentrate on fighting demons rather than protecting the magic tree. Well, at least they admit that the demons are real. However, they need a guide to help find out where the demons' base is. And the only one suitable is a Gnome warrior who has spent ten years in the dungeon.
The Elves on the quest encounter some polluted land. Nobody knows what is wrong with it - an Elf scout seemingly dies of radiation poisoning, but it is also highly inflamable. Apparently the human race caused massive destruction three thousand years ago. However, this is the first time the post-Apocalyptic setting actually plays an important role in the story.
The Elves take a shortcut via the abandoned fortress of Pykon. They discover that it is not abandoned after all. There is an old elf there, and a young girl he says is his daughter. However, Cephelo (James Remar - Inferno (1998) ) realises that there is something wrong with the scenario. If anything, the old man's relationship with his daughter mirrors the one between Cephalo and the Rover Girl.
The shape-shifter somehow survived having its neck broken. It has now assumed power in the city, and tricks an Elf-Prince into searching for a magic sword hidden in the basement. He does this to turn the elves against Allanon (Manu Bennett - Arrow ).
The massive demon from the previous episode somehow survived from being blown up. Yes, the Evil Overlord has some really hard-to-kill minions.
Our heroes were last seen falling into a great snowy chasm. The farmboy wakes up hundreds of miles downstream. He meets a violent Elf from a distant village. They get chased by Elf-hunters - humans who kill elves and sell their ears to gnomes.
The Princess and the Rover Girl go on the run together. They end up trapped in an old American High School, left abandoned from the Age of Man. Finally, seven episodes into the show, we get a storyline that actually acknowledges the post-apocalyptic setting. It turns out that they are in the San Francisco area, before some catastrophic event improved it by making it look like New Zealand.
The girls start to bond, and there is a bit of character development. The Princess picks up a handful of 8-sided dice, perhaps a reference to the link between Fantasy novels and role-playing games. The Rover Girl reveals a bit about her personal history. It seems she had a female lover once, so perhaps her flirtation with the Princess in the bath last episode was sincere.
King Eventine Elessedil (John Rhys-Davies - Raiders of the Lost Ark ) sends BOTH his sons to kill the evil overlord. They follow his orders blindly and without question, no matter how ridiculous they are. Meanwhile, Allanon (Manu Bennett - Arrow ) has been stabbed through the chest. It turns out he teleported out in time, but he still has a massive wound. At least when he is magically healed it is by LITERAL magic.
The Elf-Hunters sell the Rover girl as a slave. However, the man who buys her sets her free. He rules a small human village named Utopia. They have begun to rebuild pre-apocalyptic technologies, such as guns and electricity. They must have lots of bullets, because they are perfectly happy to waste lots on target practise. They use the electricity for lighting and to run a 2-reel movie projector. Their favourite show is clips of Star Trek: The Original Series . This should be a clue to the problem, because they have Kirk's relativist morality of the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Cephelo (James Remar - Inferno (1998) ) is back, still playing an angle. But he could be a useful person to have along, so the Farmboy and Princess let him tag along. After all, he has had dealings with the Utopians before and he knows that something is just not right about them.
Utopia is a human village in Troll territory. Anyone who has seen post-Apocalyptic shows like The Walking Dead should know that if it looks too good to be true, it is not true. However, there is another side to it. The residents are keen to rebuild human society, and have technology that could defeat the demon army and restore a Twentieth Century standard of life to the Dark Age societies. Is it acceptable for our heroes to sacrifice not only the lives of innocent villagers, but also the only hope for scientific advancement and progress?
The good news is that Safe Hold, our heroes' destination, is San Francisco harbour. The bad news is, the Golden Gate Bridge is long gone. The good news is, there is a tunnel under the bay. The bad news is, it is full of sleeping trolls.
The Druid Allanon (Manu Bennett - Arrow ) is teaching the magic-user boy. However, the Evil Overlord still has influence over him. It is not a question of will the boy snap, but rather when?
The Elves apparently have a High Council. This was never mentioned when the evil shape-shifter was ruling as Absolute Monarch, but now becomes an issue because the new King is in danger of doing a good job. Luckily, the new King has an alliance with the Gnome King. Will that convince the Elves to follow him, or will it mean civil war?
The Rover Girl, the Farmboy and the Princess head for home. But they must go through the Troll tunnel again. Not to mention Utopia and the mountains. Yes, even if they steal some horses it should still take a few episodes to cover the distance.
Allanon (Manu Bennett - Arrow ) prepares the Elves' defences for the big battle. Yes, you probably imagine this as looking like something out of the Lord of the Rings movies, although on a lower budget. The truth is that it far more closely resembles a scene from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys . Instead of convincing CGI or top-class prosthetics, the Evil Horde is represented by extras wear halloween masks.
This episode is the big climax, especially for Farmboy and one lucky lady. There are a few other cliches that get a look-in. For example, the Evil Overlord was deemed unkillable but it seems nobody ever tried to creep up behind him and chop off his head. Also, while the cliche is that Evil Overlords turn into giant snakes it seems that the good-guy equivalent is to turn into a magic tree.
As always, there is a cliffhanger ending that will lead into the next Season. The author made this series drag on for decades. However, unlike Game of Thrones he made it into self-contained trilogies, so one could enjoy the story without making it a lifetime commitment.