Five Torches (Out of Five)
Warning: The following review contains spoilers for the “Hunger” episode of Legend of the Seeker.
This show is on a roll.
After last week’s brilliant double-Kahlan episode, which used a fantasy gimmick as a lens for a great character study, this episode does the same with Cara. And since Cara has such a dark past, this story understandably gets really grim.
When helping a woman who’s husband has been kidnapped, Cara is killed — yeah, actually killed, and in the first act, no less — and wakes up in the Underworld (or Naked Gooey Hell as I call it) where she immediately tells Darken Rahl she wants to come back as a Baneling. Her logic is clear and immediate: since she already kills so many evil people while protecting Richard, what’s the difference?
Cara returns to life, and she and the gang find the woman’s husband, who has been taken by a man who’s in business with the Banelings, providing them people to kill for a price. They bust up the place, and Cara is confronted by a Baneling woman who recognizes her for what she is. She keeps Cara’s secret, but tells her and the rest about a magic peddler who’s selling a potion that restores Banelings to life and frees them from the Keeper’s clutches.
It turns out the magic peddler is Sebastian (Ted Raimi), who we saw last season, and who’s assisted by Zedd’s brother Thaddicus. The cure for Baneling-itis is a substance called Shadow Water, and they’ve just about run out, so they’re selling watered down cures that only work for a few days.
The heroes arrive and discover the scheme, and Zedd is disappointed in his ne’er-do-well brother. They learn that there’s more Shadow Water to be found, but it’s three days’ journey. Cara, miserable, realizes that means she must kill at least three more people, not easy if you’re traveling in the middle of nowhere.
One night, Darken Rahl comes to her in a dream and encourages her to kill Thaddicus. She almost does, but can’t go through with it, so Thaddicus, surprisingly, grabs her hand and forces her to kill him.
They find the source of Shadow Water (but can only cure Cara before Darken Rahl destroys the rest) and she uses the Breath of Life on Thaddicus. All turns out well, and they go on their not so merry way.
Okay, so there’s your recap. Now what made this episode so stellar? In a word, metaphor.
I’ve really enjoyed Seeker so far, but last week was the first time I realized that beyond beautiful people, crazy awesome action sequences, and fun high fantasy adventure, the show was much, much smarter than it seemed. By splitting Kahlan into two people — one with just her intellect, one with just her emotions — it not only examined what makes her tick, but opened up a lot of questions about human beings in general.
Much of Cara’s arc so far has been about her regaining her humanity. This is someone who was abducted as a child, radicalized through torture and brainwashing, and turned into a lethal, remorseless killer. Though she has left the Mord-Sith, she is struggling to fit into a world that doesn’t want her, and she tries to be good when a lifetime of training so often tells her to be vicious.
Now, we all know that Mord-Sith don’t exist in real life. But the fact that people can be brainwashed to do terrible things is very real, and when these people attempt to be rehabilitated and re-integrated into society, the outcome is very often disastrous.
This episode uses the device of Cara becoming a Baneling perfectly. This fine-tunes her story, making it literally about her desperately trying to regain her humanity. No longer is it an emotional or philosophical battle — now the stakes are truly life or death.
Tabrett Bethell, the actress who plays Cara, is pitch-perfect in this role, and she really shines in this episode, even more than in the last Cara-centric episode from several months back. She makes you want good things to happen to Cara, and not feel bad about smiling when she kicks some dude’s ass.
She can also speak volumes without saying a word. I swear, if you guys tell anyone about this I’ll deny it, but I admit to getting a little choked up in the scene where she revives Thaddicus, and he tells her he sacrificed himself for her because what she does matters — she’s important, and a force for good. She didn’t respond, but the look in her eyes said it all.
- LEGEND OF THE SEEKER Episode Review (2-17): Sins of the Fathers
- LEGEND OF THE SEEKER Episode Review (2-19): Gearing Up for the Finale
- Ted Raimi to Return to LEGEND OF THE SEEKER
- LEGEND OF THE SEEKER Episode Review (2-2): So It’s Going to be one of THOSE Seasons, Is it?
- LEGEND OF THE SEEKER Episode Review (2-20): Holy S%$#!