Disclaimer — I have not read any of the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. I have heard a variety of opinions from friends and colleagues about the series, and have not put them on my reading list as of yet. My reactions are almost entirely to the TV series independent of the books on which it is based.
There’s not much new action-adventure fantasy on TV right now, and even less of it syndicated. This is a lack which Sam Raimi and fellow Executive Producers Robert Tapert, Joshua Donen, Ned Nalle and Kenneth Biller realized and decided to capitalize upon. In adapting Terry Goodkind’s best-selling Sword of Truth series, Raimi and Co. have sought to re-capture Raimi’s cult success of Hercules: The Legendary Journies and Xena: Warrior Princess (among others like Cleopatra 2525 and Jack of All Trades).
First-run syndication has not been in the spotlight of late, such that Legend of the Seeker was notable to media critics as the series approached for the syndication as well as its media-tie-in nature. The series broadcasts on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, outside of the Weekday Primetime paradigm, but with TiVo and DVR, the specific broadcast time of weekly television is far less relevant to technologically empowered viewers. Ratings expectations are lower for syndicated shows, allowing for shows that might not survive in the current TV world.
And now to the show itself:
As mentioned above, I’ve not read Goodkind’s books. The TV series is very familiar from the beginning. A prophesied hero is found by a beautiful female magic-user, who join with a powerful but cranky old wizard to overthrow an evil tyrant. There’s not really anything fresh being done from the perspective of the fantasy genre as a dialogue. The show thusfar seems mostly bereft of the BDSM and Objectivist elements identified in the novel series. This goes a long way towards making The Legend of the Seeker more palatable to a mainstream audience, but perhaps also removes most of the originality and freshness which the novels had to offer as source material.
Now well into the first season, the show centers around Richard Cypher (played by Craig Horner), who has been identified as a True Seeker (the first in a thousand years), and his travels with Kahlan Amnell (Bridget Regan), a Confessor (capable of making people fall in love with her so as to do her bidding — there’s some BDSM, so it’s not all gone), and wizard Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander (Bruce Spence). They face evil-of-the-week in villages and towns across the Midlands, and Richard grows into his role as the Seeker, while developing a forbidden love for Confessor Kahlan. Slow-motion beats in combat are prominent in the series, as the fighting slows down for notable choreagraphies, then returns to normal pace, then slows again.
The series could be spoken of as pursuing the aesthetic of awesome over others, but it is also clearly trying to return to the well of The Lord of the Rings and other popular adventure fantasies over the history of the genre. Individual episodes like “Elixer” and “Identity” have provided interesting narrative hooks, like a town where people have become addicted to using magic to solve their problems, and the ever-present body-swap episode.
Legend of the Seeker is far from the level of Most Repeatable Programming along the lines of shows such as Lost or Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but if you’re feeling a lack of fantasy adventure in your TV life, then Legend of the Seeker may be worth your time. Bring popcorn, and leave your high standards somewhere else.