Pretty, vacant.
Pretty, vacant.

I watched the first two episodes of The Shannara Chronicles last night, and my feelings are well and thoroughly mixed. Please remember that I’m the illiterate one here at Nerdhole, so of course I haven’t read the books despite their near-ubiquity when I was a teen. That means I’m unencumbered with baggage related to characters or plot or setting–but it seems as if the producers of the show may have the same issue.

Don’t get me wrong–it’s not bad through and through, and there are elements that stack up well against the best genre television out there. The production design is gorgeous, with sets and costumes and makeup that draw in the viewer just as well as another famous fantasy production filmed in New Zealand. But once the beautiful actors open their pouty little mouths, the jig is up. If you’re the sort of viewer who wants your intelligence respected, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The writers seem to resent exposition as much as the most hated chore, like a frat bro’s approach to foreplay. This makes some of the dialogue jarringly bad, and when it’s paired with some of the less-talented actors in the cast, it makes for an excruciating, eye-rolling grind.

So yeah, disappointing, right? But somehow, despite myself, despite my self-respect, I’m in. It really is beautiful, and the overarching story does seem cool and worthwhile even if it is layered in occasionally crappy dialogue. I don’t like that side of me, or of nerd culture a whole, but I will accept it. Provisionally. Same goes for The Shannara Chronicles.