In my utter disappointment that I can not have the instant gratification to continue on to the next season of whatever U.S. series with which I am trying to catch up, The Guy and I stumbled across the complete first season of Legend of the Seeker. Since I am such a sucker for a good fantasy series, and since I had heard somewhere (can not for the life of me remember where) that Charisma Carpenter was in at least one episode, I decided it was relevant to my interests. When I pointed it out to The Guy I thought he was going to give birth to kittens in the DVD aisle over the fact that this is apparently (loosely) based on a book series he has read by Terry Goodkind’s the Sword of Truth, or at least the first book, Wizard’s First Rule.
So, the vote was unanimous and we picked it up. Honestly I can’t believe I didn’t know about this sooner, because it seems like it would be the kind of thing I would have watched.
The pilot episode “Prophecy” gave me enough to whet my whistle and enough to know that this show will deliver a lot and fall short in a lot of areas that I could have predicted it would before cracking the shrink wrap.
The lore of the universe breaks it into three provinces, Westland, Midland and D’hara. Westland has been separated from the rest of them by a magical barrier meant to keep magic out for hundreds of years. The people in Westland live in fear of magic, both having been separated from it for so long and for having been told so many stories of what it could do to them.
[SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS]
The first thing that I was interested in was the lead off of an impressive female principal player. Bridget Regan plays Kahlan, the Mother Confessor. Confessors are an ancient order of women who are sworn to seek truth no matter how hard people try to hide it. The opening of show is a chase scene where Khalan and another woman (Yay! A disposable, nameless woman!) are being run down by a group of men on horseback. Kahlan is shown to easily evade them and their swift arrows, even as they strike down the woman whom we find out is her sister (oops, she has a name that I only caught because I use subtitles, Dennell).
Kahlan is able to penetrate the boundary and flee to Westland using magic. Four armed men follow her through.
Turns out, that Confessors also have this badass power: she is able to control a person by touching them, causing them to super love her or something, making them turn and fight to defend her and basically do her bidding. But this power comes at a cost. It seems to drain the Confessor temporarily, and she falls to the ground, vulnerable.
Luckily for our lovely Confessor we have a Great White Protector (wait because I will get to it!) who has decided that four men chasing one lady can not be fair and throws himself into the fray. Even though he gets a sound beating, in the end he gets credit for saving her life. In fact, I notice several times in the first few episodes that this happens, where they actually save each others’ lives, but she gives and he takes credit for the life saving.
The Confessor has crossed into Westland looking for a Seeker, or the great hero who is supposed to kill the Greatest Evil in the land. She seeks the council of the First Wizard, Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander, or Zedd, played by Bruce Spence. Zedd is known by most in Westland as “the crazy guy who talks to his chickens”, and like Obi Wan Kenobi, it is the perfect disguise, because who would ever suspect a crazy dude (or lady) of being some master of some ancient craft thought long dead?
What we find is a story that isn’t really all that original: an unwitting hero, Richard (Craig Horner), raised unawares by people who are not his parents a la Harry Potter a la Luke and Leia Skywalker (and most arguably just Luke since Leia seems to have been left out of that whole It’s Your Destiny thing until the Jedi realized that “oh shit this Kid might die and we might need another one”) or just unaware of the truth of their birth like Percy Jackson. In most cases we find that the main protagonist is a Dude. And usually (read: always) this dude is white. Anyhow, we have a dude who was hidden away because his destiny will fulfill some prophecy or another and some wizard whisked him off shortly after birth leaving the fate of his still nameless mother unspoken and drops him off with shiny new parents to be raised blissfully unaware of the Doom swirling all around him and the people wondering where in the Underworld their Savior is. Cue the loss of his adoptive mother, because in fantasy mothers are always lost so that the boys can moon about them, and that should about wrap it up. The story is not original, but it is delivered with clever actors (in my opinion) who are at least engaging (Bruce Spence and Bridget Regan are amusing together), and I like the concept.
Richard grows up completely unaware until the Confessor comes bursting into his world through the magical barrier, chased by the armed men, fighting ensues, plot devices send them both to find Zedd, and Richard becomes aware of his destiny, to the indignant anger of Kahlan, who learns that her Seeker, whom she has risked her life to find, is not trained for the task.
Some things to note grumble about:
They introduce really early on someone whom I thought was going to be a principal character, and whom I bounced up and down and said “OMCC it’s Jango Fett!”. Chase, played by Jay Laga’aia, is pretty awesome. I was all excited to see a non-white character introduced right away who knocks the shit out of bad guys, and seems as if he has the potential to be a well developed character. Plus, he has this big awesome family who was adorable. But, alas, he says “call if you need me (page me white boy and I’ll come runnin’)”, and I haven’t seen him again four episodes in. The fantasy genre is both awesome and awful to women and non-white players. The shows are often full of a variety of cast members, but often the principal players seem to be very very monotone. The same is true here.
Kahlan: I. Freakin’. Love. Her. Already. The Guy tells me she is much more “martial” than in the books. I love that she is very capable w/ sword and dagger but she isn’t All About the Badass. Kind of like Buffy, but more like later Angel Cordelia, she is still what some would call “girly” and what I am struggling to find a better word for (that doesn’t reek of cis privilege). In fight scenes I am seeing just about as much action footage of Kahlan as I am of Richard, which is delightful. She is spiritual, being from a sacred order of some sort that I haven’t seen fully. She has this really badass power that people fear and revere (she is always hunted by groups of four men — I am told by someone who Can’t Stop Talking while we watch this, which I find slightly adorable *ahem* — two to take down one in case she uses her powers against him, and one to dispatch her when that power leaves her vulnerable after). There is a huge “But”: Very early on my Spidey Sense is already twitching that there is this setup of the Cosmically Forbidden Romance between Kahlan and Richard, sealed in Episode 2 “Destiny” when Zedd catches Richard checking her out and gives him the 4-1-1 on How Not to Get Distracted by Your Pretty Confessor.
Also, Kahlan has sworn to protect Richard with her life, yet, the writers keep making it her life that needs saving and usually because Our Young Hero is too headstrong to listen to her in the first place. She repeatedly tells him to trust her, and reminds him that she is sworn to protect him with her life, and yet, he Never Listens. Sometimes this works out OK, and a lot of times this works out with Kahlan having to unleash a magical bag of whoopass on something or another. It also bothers me that she is positioned as the one who brought the safe bubble of Richard’s world crashing down. Zedd blames her squarely for disturbing the peace, and she is set in the cross hairs as the catalyst for all that is now going wrong, even though the Great Evil has been stirring for quite some time, and even though she has been fighting it for some time already, and at great personal loss. She is a character I am going to be watching with great interest to see how they develop her.
I really like this show, however. I mean, really. I am excited to see what develops better (I want to see more Chase, because he was awesome in the little bit that we saw), and I want to see if they actually Go Places that I don’t really want to see (Richard and Kahlan and the Forbidden Romance of Doom I see coming). I feel the need to stress that I like the show so far to keep people off of my back, so that I am not routinely accused of only harshing on things that I don’t like (see: any review I write about Twilight), which just simply isn’t true. In the words of someone I really respect, I critique because I care, and this goes for things I like and dislike equally.
We shall see. Sadly, the show only made it two seasons, and only one of those is on DVD, and I think the second is available online, but I haven’t tried it from our country yet, which is usually the catch.