Four Torches (Out of Five)
I really didn’t want to watch Legend of the Seeker.
I knew it was the latest syndicated TV series from Xena: Warrior Princess producers Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi, but as much as I loved Xena, that pedigree actually worked against Seeker. Everyone kept saying that it was very much a straightforward fantasy project, and included none of Xena’s irony, humor, or wry self-awareness.
It’s not that I’m such a huge fan of irony — in fact, like the rest of the world, I’m getting pretty damn sick of it. But what was impossible not to like about Xena was its enormous risk-taking. The show was an almost dizzying creative explosion.
Xena and Gabrielle, mid-hot tub
And let’s face it: Xena was a cheeky creative explosion that the fantasy genre desperately needed. Fantasy in the 1990s was stuck in the past in more ways than one.
Legend of the Seeker, based on the Sword of Truth series of novels of Terry Goodkind, seemed to me the very embodiment of the deep, tired rut in which fantasy had found itself.
The Sword of Truth? I’m told the books are good, but I’m sorry, could something sound more hokey? We came up with better names than that when we were playing D&D in the sixth grade.
And oh, God, not another vengeful wizard. Plus, something about Bruce Spence, the actor who plays Zeddicus (another stupid name) just bugged me.
Then there’s the reputation of syndicated sci-fi/fantasy shows in general. I won’t name any names, but most of them, I can barely sit through a single episode.
Alas, after watching three episodes of Legend of the Seeker, I see I should have trusted Rob and Sam (and the series’ other creators, Joshua Donen, Ned Nalle, and Kenneth Biller).
Seeker’s Craig Horner and Bridget Regan
Seeker is definitely the anti-Xena in many ways. There is much less humor, and absolutely no wry cultural references. No lesbian subtext, no hot tubs, no musical numbers. They really do play it straight.
But, of course, what I liked most about Xena wasn’t the genre-busting irony, or even the audacious risks it took. Ultimately it was the characters and the storytelling: things that — duh — never go out of fashion.
When fantasy is dull, it’s because the characters are stock and the situations are cliche.
But Legend of the Seeker’s characters are not dull. In fact, the acting is much more consistent than Xena was in its earlier episodes. The scripts are much tighter too.
The show also looks great, with breathtaking fight scenes that have a Matrix-like trademark visual style that is completely different from Xena.
And after a couple of episodes, I’ve finally realized what they were going for with Spence’s Zeddicus: he’s supposed to be annoying and difficult (if ultimately loyal and lovable). Again: duh.
Bruce Spence as Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander
And that vengeful wizard I was dreading? Craig Parker’s Darken Rahl is smart and sexy and interesting — just one perfect whisker away from careening wildly over-the-top.
Legend of the Seeker has already aired 12 of its 22-episode season (and it’s already been renewed for a second one).
I wouldn’t have watched the show if I wasn’t currently editing this site, but I couldn’t be more delighted to have discovered it.
Watch all the existing episodes of Legend of the Seeker here. Watch the latest episode below:
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TheTorchOnline.com will begin episode recaps of Legend of the Seeker soon!