LEGEND OF THE SEEKER
Richard Cypher -
Michael Cypher -
David De Lautour
Chase Brandstone -
Darken Rahl -
OTHER FANTASY SHOWS
Mists of Avalon
Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire
Fantasy has never been particularly strong on television with only HERCULES and XENA:WARRIOR PRINCESS managing to rack up multiple seasons. LEGEND OF THE SEEKER attempts to buck this trend by taking its background and premise from an established fantasy author's woks (Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth novels). This lends the set up something that is newer, fresher and more detailed than might otherwise have been the case.
Unfortunately, fantasy can be a genre of cliche and there is more than enough of that evident in the show as well. Richard is a farm boy who is thrust into a bigger, more dangerous world through a destiny and a magic sword. He has a wizard on his side to act as a wise mentor and a warrior woman who is also something of a witch. There is a usurping prince to be deposed and did we mention a magic sword?
The show benefits from a likeable central trio and a charmingly sinister villain, but suffers from not really knowing what it wants to be. There are darker and more adult episodes with deeper themes, but the general tone is one a light-hearted family entertainment and the two do not always sit together too well. The action isn't too bloody (considering that it's all bladed weapons), but the torture is prolonged and graphic. The two sides of the show's character don't always sit together too well resulting in something that is often entertaining, occasionally excellent, even more occasionally surprising and always uneven and bumpy.Top
Richard Cypher's idyllic world is turned upside down when a beautiful woman comes to his land, calling herself a confessor, and bringing a book of power that will help turn him into a hero known as a Seeker, a man destined to kill a great tyrant and free a kingdom. There area, however, prices to be paid.
Fantasy is a genre that is difficult to do with any originality. Familiar scenarios are built in to the genre, but there is no excuse for the sheer volume of cliches that are hurled at the screen in this opening episode. A kingdom oppressed by a usurping tyrant? Got it. A prophecy of freedom? Yep. A hero hidden in a simple foster family unaware of his destiny? You got it. A wizard mentor living nearby masquerading as a crazy old man? Absolutely. Foster family killed by forces of the bad guy? Right here. A magic sword? Of course.
In fact, the opening of this story has so many elements reminiscent of the early Tatooine scenes of STAR WARS that George Lucas's lawyers could be gearing up to sue were it not for the fact that he stole most of the same stuff from fantasy tales like this.
Originality aside, is it any good? On the evidence of this then no not really. Trouble is signalled early on when the young hero is introduced early on without his shirt on and his chest all oiled up. It's confirmed when his delivery is as wooden as the bridge he has been building. The rest of the cast aren't much better with even Bruce Spence (remember him from MAD MAX 2?) chewing the ham.
Still, this is the origin story and so isn't going to be the best. The settings look the part and there is plenty of incident to keep the easily pleased happy. The CGI ranges from the adequate (poison plant and wizard fire) to dreadful (harpy-like garg) and a lot of the details make no sense at all (why does the hero's brother lead angry villagers against the happy band when he's had an army behind him the rest of the time?).
The signs are not good for LEGEND OF THE SEEKER, but it is early days and time will tell.Top
Richard, Zed and Kahlan go in search of evil's footsoldier Fane and the book of power that he has stolen, but first there is a rescue to be mounted.
Forget the plot an feel the action. This episode quickly dispenses with the narrative and cuts to the chase. There are ghosts in the Boundary, another Garg to deal with and then the big face-off between Richard and Fane. It's a finale that doesn't disappoint. With Craig Horner swinging his enchanted sword around with heroic abandon and Bridget Regan proving to adept with the martial arets there is a very impressive body count of soldiers racked up in no time with some seriously heroic poses struck in amongst all the glossy slo-mo. If this is what we have to look forward to then there might be some hope for the show yet.Top
There's a price on Richard's head high enough to make him the target for every bounty hunter in the land and someone has found a way of making maps that show his exact location at any given time.
The new Seeker is clearly not the sharpest tool in the box as the betrayal that is central to the plot here is obvious from a mile away. Even more obvious are the problems with the monster at the heart of the labyrinth which is even less scary than the giant goat it resembles. It moves poorly and is restricted to the shadows all the better to hide it.
The dialogue remains poor and the performances equally variable. The action, when it comes, is still well-choreographed and filmed, but there is a lot less of it and the use of slow motion every time a sword is drawn in anger is getting a bit wearing.Top
Richard learns that he is near to the town of his birth and immediately travels there. The town is under the thrall of Darken Rahl's soldiers, but it also holds some secrets for the Seeker, like a mother and a brother.
There is more than a little of ROBIN HOOD:PRINCE OF THIEVES about this story, but Craig Horner is no Kevin Costner. The surprises that the story tries to throw up don't come as any surprise and the dialogue really isn't up to replacing a decent plot. The action comes at the end and it's the usual slo mo stuff that was initially impressive, but is getting truly repetitive.
The support story about Zed's family is also a little obvious.Top
Darken Rahl's men have found themselves a Listener, a young child who can hear othe people's thoughts. Richard decides to save the boy, but finds him less than appreciative of being rescued, used as he is to the good living afforded by his gift from rich patrons.
The initial set up to this episode is quite fun, the idea of the child who doesn't want to be rescued and whose exposure to people's thoughts has made him older and more cynical than his years. It's also fun how he can use people's thoughts against them. Unfortunately, the concept doesn't stretch to the whole episode which becomes a bit repetitive and always follows the predictable path. At least the fight scene isn't done in slow motion for a change.Top
The Seeker and his companions come to a small village where the residents are able to purchase magic potions. They track the source of the potions to an old friend of Zed's and a possible ally, but can his methods be condoned?
Drugs are bad, children, and so you should keep away from them. This clumsy metaphor for a simple message rambles on a bit and doesn't even have enough action to make up for the rest of the nonsense going on. Fortunately, the cast are committed and likeable, but that really isn't enough.Top
There is a chance for the Seeker to gain access to one of Darken Rahl's most trusted aides and learn his location, but the plan is put in danger when a witch makes him look like a merchant's son and the son look like him.
A simple enough plot is not sufficient to hide the failings of this episode. The Seeker's crew get to wander around not only the enemy camp, but the command tent itself without anyone seeming to notice. There is some action to be had, but not enough and even the revelation of why he and Kahlan can never be together isn't enough to make the visit worthwhile.Top
Richard is taken prisoner by an order of leather-clad women who specialise in 'training' - the breaking of men to their will through magic and pain. Even death is no escape and nobody can ever resist.
The moment that the fetish-gear-clad dominatrixes stride onto the screen it is clear that this is going to be an episode appealing to the lowest common denominator of its intended audience - teenage boy videogamers. Suprisingly, though, it turns out to be the most complex and interesting episode that the show has produced, focussing on the process that the order's mistress Denna uses to bend the Seeker to her will. It's pleasingly complex and pleasingly insidious and its effects on Richard are slow but sure, giving him no magical resistance to it.
Despite all the rubber, the women in the episode are the dominant force, strong-willed and on both sides of the good/evil divide. Denna is evil, yes, but she is more complicated than that and Kahlan proves to be her match for both strength and determination.
Surprisingly adult in tone, the torture isn't bloody, but it is painful and disturbing enough to suggest that the younger audience might need to have this episode checked out before they are allowed to watch.Top
The box that forms the final part of the artefact that will make Darken Rahl invincible belongs to a queen whose spoiled daughter is having a birthday party. Zed poses as a master puppeteer in order to gain access to the castle and then befriends the princess's playfriend in order to get the key to the vault, but then his plan goes awry with the arrival of Rahl himself.
Zed is a hugely powerful wizard able to throw fire from his hands and puppets dance without strings. What he can't do, it would seem, is open a simple lock. It's a shortcoming that isn't believable for a second and nobody mentions any magical spells that would make the vault impregnable to him. He then puts a young girl in danger, ruthlessly manipulating her, to get what he wants. This does not seem like the actions of the good guys.
The rest of the episode therefore is undermined, but Darken Rahl gets some screen time and shows why he is feared and an enemy not to be underestimated.Top
Kahlan is elated when she discovers that her sister is not dead after all. She is concerned when they find she is being held by Darken Rahl's troops, delighted when she finds that she is to become an aunt and then horrified when the child is born a boy because male confessors are killed at birth to prevent them becoming evil, something that Richard cannot agree to.
Apart from the inherent sexism of male confessors being unable to control their powers, this is the usual, straightforward story that we have come to expect of the show. Bridget Regan gets to don the fetish gear of the mistresses of pain from Denna and seems far too comfortable in it, being more convincing than she is at being one of the good guys.
Zed being confessed by the head of the Confessor order is a nice move, but ultimately proves unspectacular.Top
Two of Kahlan's friends from the resistance are killed, so Kahlan travels to their village and confesses the guilty party who admits it and is hanged. A further murder suggests that Kahlan got her judgement wrong and an innocent man was killed.
There's a real arrogance about those who wield power, and we're not just talking about the villains in this fantasy show. Richard is the Seeker with his absolute mastery of what is right and wrong, Kahlan who always knows the truth and Zed who is the strongest wizard there is. All of this is punctured, however, in this story when Kahlan's truth skills fail her. It's magic of course, but what kind of magic. Finding out is the heart of the story.
Kahlan's having to deal with confessing the wrong man, no matter how it was achieved, is about as close as the show usually gets to character drama, but the rest of the plot, including the identity of whoreallydunnit, is so transparent that the effect is undermined.Top
A celestial alignment gives Darken Rahl the power to place Richard in a trance designed to make him believe that his entire history with Kahlan and Zed is fantasy caused by a blow to the head. In this way, Rahl hopes to learn the location of the missing box that holds ultimate power, but if Richard doesn't break the spell by morning then he will be lost in it forever anyway.
The 'it was all a dream and now you've woken up to reality' plot is a standard one that crops up regularly in genre shows. This one, at least, has a genuine reason for the plot developments, but continues without doing anything with it other than introduce a childhood love of Richard's with which to torture Kahlan.
Unmemorable is probably the best that you can say about it.Top
Zed plans to hide the box of Orden that Darken Rahl so desperately seeks inside the tomb of a previous seeker whose magic will protect it. There are ghosts in the tomb, however, ghosts who have secrets and the power to take over the current seeker and his confessor.
This is a closed box episode that places all the characters inside a small area (the tomb) under threat and watches them implode. It's slightly more complex as the ghosts and their secret is revealed. It's also fairly intense as the possessed seeker and confessor start to strip off and get it on with each other in a sequence that hints at the darker, more adult show this could have been.
The set is very theatrical and the performances follow suit.Top
Richard's friend Chase catches up with the Seeker and tells of a village that is under assault from the monsters released into it when the barrier between the lands was broken. Richard immediately determines to return home and sort things out, but that means facing his brother.
Clearly the Seeker hasn't travelled very far since he can turn around and get back to his home village in a matter of days. The truth about what is going on there is obvious from early on and there is the requisite dodgy CGI monsters and swordplay before matters are resolved in a very conventional manner.
The set is very theatrical and the performances follow suit.Top
Richard and Kahlan come to the fortress where Chase's family are being held hostage. The rescue attempt reveals that Darken Rahl is to come there to oversee his wizard's attempts to create a confessor, but the plan is shelved when Kahlan is taken prisoner and Richard faces off against his enemy at last.
There's some fairly brutal torture here that doesn't sit well with the more family-orientated aspects of the show. The scene where Rahl and Richard finally meet is suitably apocalyptic with some pretty well choreographed fighting and Kahlan's transformation into CARRIE is impressive enough to raise this above the norm.Top
Zed places the third box of Orden in the centre of a field shielded by all kinds of magic. A woman on whom magic has no effect gains the box for Rahl's servants, but then may prove to be the key to saving the day.
Forget the shenanigans around the box of Orden, this is about the revelation of the family links between not only Richard and Zed, but also the magic-free girl and her mother. It could have been soap opera, but the plot twists around a bit and the fact that it features the evil Deena means that it has a hard edge that means a completely happy ending would never be a possibility.
All of which makes this a better example of the show.Top
Richard disguises himself as a Daharan soldier to infiltrate a camp that is using weapons of mass magical destruction. He finds that the captain of the guards is a decent enough sort, but is on a collision course as the local rebels prove to be far less decent.
This is the classic undercover cop goes native story, albeit without the time to properly flesh out the growing relationship between the two enemies. It's a simple story and simply told with a few good moments, but nothing to really make it stand out other than the interesting twist that the rebellion against Darken Rahl prove to be less savoury than Darken Rahl's men for once.Top
A trio of con artists make a killing by the use of a magic mirror that allows two of them to look exactly like Richard and Kahlan, which doesn't go down very well when the real Seeker and Confessor show up to be accused of their crimes.
Mirror takes a fairly standard plot (conmen impersonate heroes) and has some fun with it. The plot doesn't get changed any, but the cast have a fun time playing different versions of their established characters and the ways in which the mirror are used to resolve issues at the end are certainly entertaining.Top
A kingdom that neighbours Darken Rahl's domain is saved from danger by a wild animal that kills anyone who crosses the border, but now the animal has turned on the subjects of the realm, the King asks the Seeker for help in killing it.
THE LEGEND OF THE SEEKER turns to horror in this episode which is much darker and more adult than many that have gone before it. There is more gore, more scary chases through dark forests and mortal peril, not to mention a creature that is only shown in bursts, but those bursts are all teeth and blood. This is at odds with the more family orientated tone of the show in general, but actually makes for a much better episode. It may be just a variation on the standard werewolf story, but at least it is determined to do justice to the horror that is at the heart of the werewolf story.Top
A copy of the book that contains all the secrets that the Seeker needs to destroy Darken Rahl is learned to exist in a famous library. Richard, Kahlan and Zed hurry there to get hold of the book, but find that the entire library has disappeared, apparently into a painting.
The storyline is going around a bit in circles as the book that was destroyed back in
Darken Rahl looses a magical plague on the villages of anyone who aids the Seeker. He also comes into possession of the Seeker's sister who is the only person who knows where the Boxes of Orden that will see him victorious or dead are hidden. She, however, has amnesia, allowing Rahl to twist her emerging memories into a dark plot.
This is another dark story that brings biological warefare to the scenario and then infects the Seeker's nearest and dearest with it. More interestngly, it allows the time to show Darken Rahl presuasively poisoning his prisoner against her brother. This is a chance for Craig Parker to show the intelligence and seductive charm that his true villain would need to get where he is. The fact that his plan to use the girl to get the boxes falls apart in seconds is a weakness of the writing.
LEGEND OF THE SEEKER is showing more adult and darker tendencies as the season draws to a close and is benefitting as a result.Top
Using the Boxes of Orden and a confessor's magic, Richard plans to destroy Darken Rahl at last. The introduction of a third magic sees the Seeker thrown years into the future, a future ruled by a male confessor whose evil makes Darken Rahl look like a benevolent humanitarian.
The season finale and LEGEND OF THE SEEKER pulls out its most impressive episode since the start. True, it's a time travel episode so there is a great big reset button waiting at the end, but seeeing how tis fantasy world would develop following the death of the Seeker is a reminder of how rich the mythology of the show has been. Zed's death is too easy for such a powerful and wily wizard, but watching how disaster befalls Kahlan and even Darken Rahl is a pleasure thanks to a clever script.
The show holds its nerve to provide a resolution so that should another season not come along this one will stand as a finished work.Top
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