The Shannara Chronicles – Feminism, Demons, and LOTR

The Shannara Chronicles is MTV’s competition, well actually, MTV’s answer to HBO’s Game of Thrones. Well, no it’s not. A big budget network fantasy series based on a series of novels, and the first thing audiences and critics think is Game of Thrones. The Shannara Chronicles and Game of Thrones don’t even compare. The former is a ‘good versus evil’ story, and the latter is middles ages politics with bastard children and dragons.

MTV’s two-hour premiere sets up the backstory three leads. Amberle, an Elven princess, becomes the first woman to pass the physical test to become one of The Chosen. Wil is a recently orphaned, half-elf looking a better future. Eretria is a Rover, or thief, trying to survive and gain her autonomy. The story starts with Amberle, as she has visions of her home in ruins and demons spilling blood. The Shannara Chronicles is a bit more violent than one would expect from MTV, but those used to watching Jessica Jones won’t think much of it. Amberle’s demon visions come as a warning to the dying Ellcrys, a magical tree keeping the Four Lands safe.

With the mythology, magic, elves, dwarfs, and nature-oriented setting The Shannara Chronicles speaks much more to Lord of the Rings fans. The demons also feel incredibly reminiscent to Peter Jackson’s orcs. This show doesn’t have the feel of the dense writing of either J.R.R. Tolkien or George R.R. Martin. The Shannara Chronicles clearly wants to appeal to a younger, possibly less educated, audience. Clear indications of this target demographic appear in the cute gossip of Amberle’s love interest, the use of Coldplay’s Midnight, and use of modern phrases like, “fried brain.”


Whether this was MTV’s intention or not, The Shannara Chronicles is gold in reaching to feminist viewers. For one this series passes the Bechdel Test, as Amberle and Eretria don’t talk about a man. Both of these female leads have their own storyline, and exhibit character traits typically given to their male counterparts. Think narratively active, physically strong, and warrior survival skills. If anything the male characters work to further the women’s storyline. With the Druid Allanon, the guy who instigates the hero’s quest, his character is written to avoid toxic masculinity. Along with his stoic warrior demeanor Allanon’s emotional, honest, sensitive, and patient. These character traits would be considered weak in a typical male character, and makes Allanon a complex versus stereotypical character.

The Shannara Chronicles stars Austin Butler, Poppy Drayton, Ivana Baquero, and Manu Bennett. The series is based on The Sword of Shannara Trilogy written by Terry Brooks, and executively produced by Jon Favreau. The series is set to premiere 10 episodes.

Jess Morton
Jess Morton
Jess is a film theory geek who spends too much time watching Netflix. As a never-ending side project Jess writes feature articles on web series. She lives with her cat Aira in Toronto.