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Legend of the Seeker 01×04 Brennidon Review

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A Question of Parentage in BRENNIDON
By Erika Blake
Episode Rating: 4.5/5

This week’s episode of LEGEND OF THE SEEKER had two of our main leads wandering down the path of familiar exploration. The episode opened with The Confessor sorting out feuds between the common people of the Midlands, a job that Richard (Craig Horner) found confusing and dull. Zedd (Bruce Spense) explained to him that Kahlan (Bridget Regan) is more than just her magic but that she’s an excellent reader of people and can usually sort out the truth even without having to touch the person, it’s what makes her the highest moral authority in the land.

A very bored Richard is then invited to go on a stag hunt and after bickering with his trusty wizard mentor he heads off with the two hunters. We are treated to a series of gorgeous shots of the New Zealand forests filled w/ shimmering sunlight. The hunting party finds themselves heading in the opposite direction that they thought the stag might be and stumbled upon the town of Brennidon the very town where Richard was born. Overcome with curiosity Richard departs from the hunting party and goes to investigate the town. As he comes towards the outskirts of Brennidon he stumbles upon a small graveyard. An old man keeping it explains that they were the graves of the children killed by Darken Rahl in his hunt 23 years prior to find the Seeker. Richard is horrified, not realizing how many children had perished so that he could live. When he tries to console the man by offering that perhaps the Seeker is still out there, the teary eyed man defiantly states then that the Seeker must be a coward. Richard has a huge uphill battle to climb in winning over the emotionally scarred people of the Midlands and unfortunately the people of Brennidon were ground zero for Rahl’s wrath. If any of them had the slightest bit of logical sense to them they would’ve known that until now, the Seeker would’ve been a boy and wouldn’t have been able to help them. Asking a boy to do the work of a man is beyond foolish and taking their own pain, weaknesses, and heartache out on him is ill placed.

Arriving at Brennidon Richard discovers that the city is heavily guarded and he can’t get in unless he’s got credentials. Not letting that stop him, our young hero hops a ride on a hay cart and gets into the city. Once inside he finds that an execution is about to take place, a young woman had dared to speak out against Darken Rahl and for her lack of faith in their savior the local town guards planned to kill her. Richard immediately steps forward and calls them on their lack of justice and weak reasoning for wanting to kill the woman. As we might suspect, the guards interest immediately shifts from the woman to the stranger who’s trying to rebel rouse the usually docile and whipped crowd. Sensing that he’s going to have to fight, Richard pulls the sword and it begins to glow. Everyone in the town recognizes what that means…the Seeker has returned. Instead of rolling out the red carpet, Richard has to fight off a bunch of the guards, he rescues the woman from her execution spot, and then he flees into the city. While on the run a woman stops him and offers him refuge inside her home and tells him that she knows who he is and how he got out of the city because she had held him in her arms. Richard asks her if she is his mother and she says yes.

For all that Richard seems to be constantly getting himself into trouble his heart is always in the right place. The Seeker is rather like a Confessor in his own way he always questions matters until he sees the truth and discovers where injustice is being served. Once he determines who the victims are he will then defend those who cannot help themselves or are being wrongly accused. When Richard risks revealing his identity to the townsfolk he was being 100% true to himself and where his heart told him to go. If there’s one thing to be said, Richard Cypher is no coward, foolish perhaps, but never cowardly.

Meanwhile back at the camp a woman from Zedd’s past has come forward and offers the comic relief for the episode when after a tumble in the hay for old time’s sake, she declares that Zedd is the father of her child. The young man steps forth and looks nothing like Zedd…to the charge, our wizard vehemently declares that he had used “magical protection” to assure that such an offspring could’ve ever happened. His declarations are in fact so over the top that nobody believes him and Zedd finds himself forced with the unpleasant task of forcing Kahlan to see the truth and asks for her to solve out the question of paternity.

I do have to say that it’s rather refreshing having a tale where the Wizard of the First Order is in fact a randy fellow who partakes in enjoying the company of a willing and pliable female and has to defend his own honor. This is a stark contrast to most of our tales out there where the wise old wizards are always seemingly celibate (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc.) Of course being accused of fathering a young man might cause Zedd some unwanted grief and perhaps might make him rethink keeping his mouse in the house the next time a woman comes along and wants to see if he is as magical in bed as his in out of it.

In the company of his mother Richard learns why the people of Brennidon are so utterly terrified of the D’Harans and Lord Rahl. Rahl had in fact asked them to give the baby Seeker up and if they had done so the guards would have left after killing only it. Instead when no one spoke up the slaughter was ordered. A young man enters the home and Richard discovers that he has a brother named Mark. With the insistence of their mother, Mark promises to lead Richard to safety and to try to sneak him out of the city. Both covered in cloaks (and Richard looking eerily similar to Frodo Baggins,) the boy leads Richard to a cellar where he says that he will hide him until nightfall. Richard nods his head and agrees to hide and thanks his brother for helping him. Before closing the door, Mark informs Richard that he’s not doing this for him but for Brennidon and locks him in. When Mark roused the troops they arrived to discover that Richard had found two rocks, started a fire, and burned his way out of the cellar. Richard was free and on the run.

Again, we’re back to Richard trusting people too quickly. The boy, however, was convincing and his mother was so sincere that it’s understandable that Richard would’ve been easily deceived. The great thing though is that Richard isn’t stupid, he thinks on his own feet and is always strategically planning his next step.

Richard fights a town guard and steals his cloak giving him the perfect cover to leave the town. What I personally loved is that he knocks the guy out not by slicing and dicing him but by cold cocking him. Richard punching his way out of sticky situations is as entertaining (and not as deadly) as using his sword. Donning the cloak he is close to escaping until he learns that there’s been a new order issued to round up all of the women in Brennidon who might’ve been the Seeker’s mother. Knowing that that order could come to no good Richard heads back inside instead of saving his own neck. Meanwhile, Zedd is squirming under the intense questioning of the Confessor. She asks him a couple of times how he could be certain that his ‘magical protection’ worked so that he wouldn’t impregnate a woman and Zedd keeps evasively assuring her that he did. Finally she asked the correct probing question, “Did you do this EVERY time?” Under the watchful gaze of Confessor, Zedd realizes that he’s been cornered and asks if the woman can leave the room. Eventually Kahlan comes back and declares that Zedd is in fact not the boy’s father. The young man it seems is frightened of hunting and his mother thought that perhaps it was because he had a wizard for a father. The boy reveals that he had been attacked by a boar and Zedd smiles and now relieved that his honor is no longer in question he informs the young man that he can help take away his fear.

Back in Brennidon the D’Harans arrive and challenge the Seeker to come forward. Richard’s mother shouts out to everyone that Lord Rahl must be just and powerful for his past actions…for he would do anything to protect the Midlands. The D’Harans think that she is most wise, that is until she screams out the harsh reminder that Rahl was such a big man for killing innocent babies instead of waiting to let the boy grow into a man so that he could fight him fair and square. She then gets the crowd all riled up and announces that she is the Seeker’s mother and with defiance states that she will never help the D’Harans to locate her son. When it seems like she’s about to get skewered right there by the D’Harans the brave women in the city all start to speak up and announce that each one is actually the Seeker’s mother. Now not knowing who’s telling the truth, all of the women are rounded up and the D’Haran leader announces that if the Seeker does not turn himself in by sundown that he will start executing one of the women on the hour each hour until he does. Overhearing this Richard thinks fast. He shows up at his mother’s house and confronts his brother and tells him how the D’Harans have already destroyed his adopted family by killing his father and turning his brother against him. He offers Mark the harsh truth that once the D’Harans get their hands on him that they won’t honor any agreements but will not only kill their mother but will not leave the city. Mark seems convinced and is prepared to listen to Richard’s plan.

One of the big complaints that book purists complain about is that for the show they messed w/ the original mythos. Originally we never met George Cypher, he was already dead when WIZARD’S FIRST RULE begins and Richard had to figure out who killed him and why on his own. The show successfully pushed the story forward slightly and allowed us to catch a glimpse at the wonderfully warm and caring man who helped to nurture Richard into the hero he will become by raising him with hard work, respecting the land, and caring for other people. Now that we all know how wonderful George Cypher was in PROPHECY, we as viewers are able to connect with why Richard is so heartfelt and convincing when he’s able to talk about his loss to others. I somehow doubt that the plot device would’ve been as effective had they stuck with the original narrative.

There are two plans in play. One Zedd is creating an impressive display of magic inside a tent where he’s asking the boy to push all of his fears into a raging green fire that he’s chanting into. When the boy appears to be paying attention, Zedd dramatically kills the fire. The boy’s mother doesn’t seem convinced that the boy isn’t still afraid, but who’s going to be stupid enough to question a 6’7” wizard? Kahlan of course sees through the ruse and calls him on it once they are alone and Zedd just assures her that it was for the boy’s own good and that he should be able to get over his fear more quickly. Their conversation then turns to Kahlan who apologizes for making him reveal a secret to her, to this Zedd reminds her that what he told her was under the Confessor privilege and that she can never utter another word of his 20 year old secret.

Hummm…ok back to Richard. Richard has been delivered to the D’Harans by Mark and a bound and helpless Richard pleads with them to let the women go. His mother shouts out that she is in fact his mother and that holding all of the other women is foolish. Mark confirms that in fact his mother is guilty and appears to align himself with the D’Harans. The only thing he asks is to have a prime spot for Richard’s execution so that he can see the traitor die. Richard is thrown into a cell with his mother. She is not convinced that Mark isn’t playing Richard for a fool because she had never seen so much loathing and coldness in his eyes. Richard disagrees and assures her that it’s all a part of the plan.

The next day the hunting party returns without Richard. Zedd is finally made aware of where Richard had ended up. With a very worried Kahlan at his side, Wizard and Confessor flee to Brennidon to help Richard out. When they arrive they discover that Richard is about to be executed.Inside the lead D’Haran is proclaiming that the legend of the Seeker dies today to which Richard quips back “If he dies the legend will grow.” Always over confident the D’Haran holds the Sword of Truth over Richard’s head and declares that the prophecy is dead…only to be unexpectedly stabbed…by Mark. Richard screams out “NOW” and the entire crowd starts pulling stuff out of their sleeves and throws projectiles at the D’Haran soldiers and guardsmen. Kahlan and Zedd arrive in the middle of the chaos, Zedd fires off wizard fire at Richard’s ropes and blasts a D’Haran as a bonus. Freed of his restraints, Richard retrieves his sword, tells Mark to go and look after their mother and with Kahlan now at his side they fight off the remaining soldiers. The leader, it appears isn’t dead yet and makes a final charge towards Richard who he smites without much of a struggle. As the leader collapses to the ground, Richard calmly tells him, “Sorry to disappoint you, but the prophecy DOES NOT die today.” With the leader dead and the D’Haran’s defeated, Richard walks up to the steps to the executioners block and holds up the sword to a loud roar from the townsfolk. Kahlan and Zedd who barely had to help out are beaming with pride, Richard had succeeded in not only turning the crowd against the D’Harans but he became their leader and got out of the mess mostly on his own. Like the previous week the story of their victory will spread.

As the episode winds down we learn that the woman Bridget who claimed to be his mother had in fact been his midwife and that his mother had survived and left the village but hadn’t been seen again. With his heart filled with the promise that Mark would watch over Brennidon and that his mother was out there somewhere waiting for him to find her, Richard leaves the city with a lighter heart and tells Zedd that he will find her and he will one day have a family again.

Richard rides ahead of Kahlan and Zedd and the Confessor looks at the Wizard and asks him why he’s keeping the secret and why won’t he tell him? Zedd strongly refuses and claims that if Richard knew he would do everything in his power to protect him and could quite foolishly put his own life in danger trying to protect him.

Silly old wizard, Richard wouldn’t let you die when you were attacked by the spirits in the Boundary he wouldn’t do that even before he knew that you were his Grandfather.

Overall this was an exceptional episode, not only was it wonderful as a standalone episode but it progressed the mythology of the show forward while tying it to one of the key plot elements from the books. The episode was all about discovering Richard’s true heritage, the irony is that Richard has been traveling with his own blood kin ever since he took up the name of Seeker.

The writing was on par with the two hour premiere. Although there was some levity the episode was wonderfully emotional and full of drama. The books spend lots of time where Richard and Kahlan are apart from each other and end up learning something during their individual adventures. This episode showed that this storytelling style which is used for often hundreds of pages in the books can effectively be reduced to a one hour format. For this episode Richard learned that perhaps the people of the Midlands will be receptive of his leadership. If the women in the town who had all lost the most because of him were willing to be the first to stand up against Rahl’s men and support his leadership, then perhaps others will follow. He also learned the power of taking his compassionate and good nature and infusing it with authority to get people to assist him and turn against their feared leader.

The FX overall were light this week with only a couple scenes of wizard fire and Richard’s sword lighting up. Instead the budget was spent on a lush and gorgeous matte painting of Brennidon, mattes of the outside of the town, and a full, lived in looking village set. One of the things that I love about this show is the FX department’s liberal use of matte paintings that are obviously painted by hand and not CGI. The warmth that comes from a matte painting gives us that fairy tale/fantasy connection that you just wouldn’t have if it was overly stylized with having been 3-D CGI rendered instead. The acting overall was fantastic in the episode. Rachel Nash who portrayed Bridget was exceptionally believable and warm in her role, she actually reminded me a lot of Pernilla August from the STAR WARS prequels.

We did have a couple of quick fight scenes in the episode but the action nor the FX were the highlights, instead it was rich with character development in the best way possible with Richard being the central figure and his character receiving the most growth. For all that he accepted the name of Seeker in PROPHECY and has used the Sword of Truth to battle injustice in the last two episodes, this was the first time that Richard the leader emerged. And in the town of his birth the Seeker began his real fight against Rahl by vowing to give the Midlands back to its people and out of Rahl’s strangling hold.

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