Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Watching with Nostalgia Goggles: "Legend of the Seeker"

Sometimes you want to watch a TV show that makes you think about your place in the world, or contains a complex and intricate plot, or argues for the role of morality and truth in people’s lives. And sometimes you want to watch a TV show where you can turn off your brain and watch a hot shirtless guy swing his sword around - but get your mind out of the gutter, I don’t mean it like that! As a kid I was quite the fantasy addict, so when I was looking through “Hulu” to find a new show to watch, my nostalgia goggles caught sight of the fantasy series “Legend of the Seeker.” Based on The Sword of Truth book series by Terry Goodkind, the show chronicles the journey of a young farm boy named Richard Cypher who learns that he is the Seeker. A prophecy says he will defeat the evil overlord of the land, Darken Rahl, so he sets off on his quest in the company of the beautiful Confessor named Kahlan and an old Wizard named Zedd.
I know, I know - haven’t you heard that one before? I’ll be the first one to admit that even though I like this show, it’s definitely not the most original series out there - by a long shot. The first episode alone made me think I was watching Star Wars - a young farm boy told by an old man he’s a powerful warrior with a great destiny to fulfill? his father is tragically murdered by his enemies? - and I haven’t even seen the first Star Wars film! (Don’t worry, I’m working on fixing this.) The series works its way through a mass of fantasy cliches, ranging from the destined hero who was whisked away after his birth to be raised by poor farmer; to the romance that can never be (or so they think) between the Seeker and his Confessor, the woman sworn to protect him; to the old mentor who guides the destined hero on his journey. The show isn’t helped by the way it strings elements from the book series together out of order and tends to drop and then pick up plot threads at what sometimes feels like random moments, pacing that often goes at a whirlwind speed, and somewhat fairly cheesy acting.
But why I do I like this show, if it’s as bad as I make it out to be? As cheesy as it is, the creators of the show know it’s not high quality television and don’t try to pretend otherwise. Although the show does have its serious (some that are quite disturbing) moments, overall “Legend of the Seeker” is just plain FUN. The main characters, although they grow more 3-dimensional over the course of the series, are appealing even if a little flat, and I especially like that the two most badass characters in the entire show are two women. There will never be a day when I don’t appreciate ladies kicking ass. I also loved the lack of angst and man-pain that characterize so many male main characters in films and TV shows these days - yes, I know Batman’s quite the figure in popular culture now, but not every main dude needs to be brooding and dark to be an interesting protagonist. Richard maintains an endearing cheerfulness and determination through the course of show, even when things go wrong.
Finally, I will confess that the relationship between Richard and Kahlan managed to break through my usually cynical unromantic heart and charm me. Although the first season did start out with a “will they won’t they” plot, the tension wasn’t just added for drama. Kahlan’s power as a Confessor allows her to take control over anyone she touches, and although she usually can control her power, if she were sleep with someone, she would be unable to control her own strength and 'confess' him or her, rendering them her slave until she dies. (Yeah, the show not only has fantasy cliches but some rather icky ones about women’s sexuality too - oh, a woman having sex will just be overwhelmed by the pleasure and won’t be able to control herself! - but since it’s also in the book series, I blame Terry Goodkind.) Instead of just angsting about not being able to be together, however, Richard and Kahlan work through the issue and decide to be in a relationship anyway, even if they can’t be intimate, and they manage to stay together for the entire series, with no horribly written love triangles in sight. (Their love even manages saves the world once or twice. Talk about epic.) They work through their problems and talk about their issues as a couple - and everyone knows communication is just damn sexy. I’m so used to the usual formula of creating conflict by not allowing couples to talk to each other that I was pleasantly surprised to find none of that here.
So, if you’re looking for a lighthearted fantasy show with a lot of heart, give “Legend of the Seeker” a try.

-Alexandra Peers

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