Reviewer: Charity Bishop
I must have missed the memo when this premiered last year because I only discovered it recently. Legend of the Seeker is based on the Sword of Truth book series by Terry Goodkind. Fans of the series may or may not love the television adaptation but for a newcomer like me, it was twenty-two hours of solid entertainment, unique plot twists, and fantastic character development. If you are into this genre you will love this series.
Two horses cross the woodlands, their female riders low over their necks as they are pursued by a half-dozen soldiers. One of them is struck in the back by an arrow and plunges down an incline, her sister scrambling after her. Tear stricken, Kahlan (Bridget Regan) is forced to grasp the book her sister hands her and flee toward the magical boundary that separates the Midlands from D'Hara. Using the light of a night wisp to penetrate the barrier and pass through it, Kahlan is chased into the woods by several men on foot. There, she encounters young Richard Cypher (Craig Horner). He comes to her defense and is astonished that she seems to possess unusual magical powers. Threatening to harm him if he follows her, Kahlan goes in search of a great wizard known to be in the far lands by the name of Zeddicus (Bruce Spence).
Recounting his adventure to his father and complaining of a bite from a venomous magical plant he has never seen before, Richard is astonished when his father tells him to go to Zeddicus at once -- "He will explain everything," he says, before shoving him out the side door. Suffering greatly and nearly perishing from the fatal bite, Zed heals him through magic and informs an astonished Kahlan that this is the man she is searching for. Kahlan is a member of an ancient order known as Confessors, whose primary role in life is to defend, protect, and guide the Seeker. Born every century or so, the Seeker is destined to take up the sword of truth and defeat evil with it. The greatest evil in the midlands is Darken Rahl (Craig Parker), who was foretold of the Seeker's birth and attempted to kill him at infancy by wiping out all the children of his village. Richard at first does not want to accept his destiny but when the soldiers kill his father, knows someone must defend the innocent.
Throughout the first season Richard comes to terms with his newfound gifts and abilities, protects those in need of assistance, and comes ever nearer to doing battle with his enemy. Zed accompanies him as a teacher and Kahlan becomes more than a friend -- but their love cannot be consummated without the possibility of Richard losing his soul. You can tell this is based on a book series because the plot twists and scripts are too good to be otherwise. The character development has been carefully planned and seeds of information are planted all along the way that contribute to the viewer feeling as if they know a lot about all the characters. I loved the glimpses into the different pasts of the characters, all of whom are fascinating and complex. The acting is tremendous and the costume design and scenery gorgeous. The series was filmed in New Zealand and it looks like another world -- surreal and distant from civilization. There was not a single weak actor or actress involved, and the finale is absolutely incredible.
Concerns for parents and Christian viewers alike consist of two things: magic and violence, as both are equally prevalent. Magic is woven throughout everything and most of the characters have supernatural abilities. Kahlan can grasp a man by the throat, look into his eyes, and enslave him to her will. In doing so, the man is forever bound to her -- she can have him do whatever she wants and he will not resist (anything from making her muffins to killing himself). Kahlan often does this in the heat of battle, turning one soldier against the others, but she tries not to abuse her authority (other Confessors are not so moralistic -- some unrepentantly turn entire villages into their slaves). It is a very great power with horrible consequences and is treated as such. Zed is a wizard of the "highest order" who uses magic to protect his companions. On several occasions he mutters incantations but mostly produces results with a wave of his hand. There are references to the underworld; sometimes spirits are released from it and torment the living. One episode has Richard and Kahlan possessed by two ghosts. Darken Rahl often uses black magic to enslave and intimidate. He also has wizards in his employment. Kahlan is one of the most powerful Confessors and whenever confronted with the potential death of the Seeker, a great and terrible bloodlust comes out in her.
Magic is mixed with violence when it comes to a breed of evil warrior women known as the Mord'Sith, who use domination and torture to turn men into their slaves. Clad in tight, sexy leather outfits, they punish prisoners with a magical instrument that causes constant pain. In one episode, Richard is repeatedly tortured with it, but the Mord'Sith make appearances several times later on in the season. Darken Rahl uses the instrument against one of the Mord'Sith who has disappointed him (he also kisses her, implying they have an intimate relationship). Though the series has toned down significantly the gruesome violence of the books, tremendous amounts of violence and bloodshed still remain. Just about every episode features brutal combat in which many soldiers lose their lives. Richard and Kahlan are skilled with swords and daggers. The violence is fairly bloodless but there are a couple of gruesome shots -- once, it seems a man's head has been cut off (it is an illusion). Twice, severed heads are depicted. Bones and human remains litter a valley where carnivorous creatures reside. Darken Rahl slices open the arm of a neighboring queen and leaves her to die in a pool of blood -- using some of it to write instructions in one of his magical journey books. A horse is attacked and killed by a giant meat-eating creature resembling a dragon, and we see later that a bunch of cows have been slaughtered in much the same way. It's implied that a kitten has been killed.
In the pilot, we are introduced to Zed while he is holding only a chicken in front of his crotch (he quickly pulls on some clothes). In "Elixir," Richard sees most of Kahlan's bare back after she has gone for a swim.In "Revenant," while possessed by the spirits of two lovers, Richard and Kahlan aggressively kiss and undress one another before Zed stops them. In "Mirror," two common thieves borrow Richard and Kahlan's identities (and appearances) and get up to all sorts of shenanigans -- like skinny dipping (the camera avoids anything explicit) and passionate kissing. The woman attempts to persuade a guard to open her prison cell and discovers he is interested in men, so she implies he can make a pass at her husband. Another couple in this episode engage in heavy breathing and innuendo while discussing a diabolical plot. One of the subplots woven throughout the series is the fact that if Kahlan sleeps with Richard, her magic will enslave him. Darken Rahl lusts openly after Kahlan. In the finale, a woman is forced to marry him and bear his children (the audience does not see anything inappropriate). Two different Mord'Siths make passes at Richard; he turns them down. Most of it is mildly presented but all the women throughout the series wear very revealing, low cut bodices.
While the author has been criticized for his heavy-handed violence and other inappropriate themes in the books, I am glad to report that it has been significantly toned down for the series. Still, some of the underlining symbolism and messages remain. Richard is a very noble hero willing to fight against evil and do what is right regardless of the personal consequences. He goes out of his way to help even people who have betrayed him and stands as a symbol of hope in the Midlands. His iconic birth reflects ancient and religious history -- a baby foretold to defeat a great evil. In some respects, the story of his upbringing and escape reflects Moses, and in other ways, Christ. Conservative themes bleed through, along with messages about good and evil, honesty, and sacrifice. While it is not an epic fantasy built on a deep Christian foundation like The Lord of the Rings, Legend of the Seeker is a moving and magical journey that I wanted never to end.