Four Torches (Out of Five)
Warning: The following review contains spoilers for the “Vengeance” episode of Legend of the Seeker.
Now this is how you do a guest star episode!
After the less-than-impressive clip show that was the guest vehicle for Keisha Castle-Hughes, I was worried that the casting of John Rhys-Davies (Gimli in The Lord of the Rings) might be just another pointless guest star in a pointless episode.
Boy, was I wrong! Not only was Mr. Rhys-Davies used well, his character served as an integral plot point that affected the entire show. Not just the season, mind you, but the show.
It was cool to see Thaddicus again, as I really get a kick out of seeing Zeddicus in the frustrated-older-brother role, although this time that wasn’t done to comic effect at all, but rather to add to the drama.
But what really sold me about this episode was what I always enjoy the most about Seeker: when the writing goes in directions I don’t see coming. There was a lot of story told in flashback, which as a rule can be irritating but was done very smoothly here, and as a nice touch of continuity they used the same actor as the de-aged Zeddicus we saw in an earlier show.
I’m pretty much of the opinion that Craig Parker is the man, as he’s currently playing two slithery, nasty villains (Darken Rahl as well as Glaber on Spartacus: Blood and Sand) and manages to somehow make them completely different from each other.
This is an actor who understands nuance. Darken Rahl gets a lot of screen time here — not always an easy task when your character is dead — and he was so good in his psychological maneuvering of Thaddicus in an early scene that even I was convinced he was telling the truth … which, in a way, he was.
Which brings us to what made this episode truly stand out: the moral ambiguity of the two fathers in question, Panis Rahl (the father of Richard and Darken), and Zedd and Thaddicus’ dear old dad.
Both men acted in ways that could be considered vile while, in their heads, they were doing the right thing. Panis Rahl, as he admitted himself, became evil, though he did in fact attempt to atone for his sins.
John Rhys-Davies was magnificent in the role, bringing humanity and a quiet dignity to what could so easily have been a one-dimensional character in a lesser actor’s hands. The regular cast, as always, were superb, and this was a pivotal episode in the mythology of this season, as we feel ourselves pulling ever closer to the inevitable discovery of the Stone of Tears.
After a brief stumble, this show is back on track. Now that Spartacus has wrapped, this is the only real place we can go for fantasy entertainment, and fortunately they’re doing a fantastic job.