I’m not sure what stirred more news when it was announced that the Legend of the Seeker was being made: Sam Raimi, the producer of Xena and Hercules was making a new show, or that Terry Goodkinds’s Sword of Truth series, which has a massive following, was coming to television. I came across this show somewhat by accident, so the fanfare isn’t something I followed all that much. I will say, the show was good enough to prompt me to read the entire 12 book series in a semester. It’s possible I liked the show better because I started watching it before reading the books and therefore didn’t have the comparison, but I finished the series long before the season finale of the show, so I doubt that.
The show is about a young woods guide named Richard Cypher who grew up in Westland, a place cut off from the rest of the world by a magical barrier and completely magic-less (or so they thought anyway). His world is turned upside down when his father is brutally murdered and he comes across a young woman, Kahlan Amnell being chased by a group of men. After helping her, Richard learns that Kahlan is no ordinary woman. She is a Confessor, a being of power that he does not understand at first, and she is searching for a great wizard. The reason for her search: Darken Rahl is an evil, powerful wizard who is taking over the Midlands and she needs to wizard to appoint a Seeker of Truth who can defeat Rahl. The wizard, it turns out, is Richard’s looney friend, Zeddicus Z’ul Zorander (Zed) and he names Richard the Seeker. The Seeker carries a magical sword, called the Sword of Truth, which he uses to carry out justice. But they must hurry, as Darken Rahl seeks the Boxes of Orden, which would give him unquestioned control over life and death. Should he put the boxes together, there will be no stopping him. The trio experience many bumps along the way, one of which is the growing love between Richard and Kahlan, a love which can never be, because of Kahlan’s magic. With a single touch, a Confessor changes a person into an obedient servant, they are no longer who they were but live to please their Confessor. So long as a Confessor maintains tight control on the magic, she can keep her touch from doing unintended harm but if something–such as sex–should make them forget that control, the person they touch would be lost until the Confessor dies.
Unlike Raimi’s previous productions, the Seeker isn’t campy, bad acted action. I loved Lucy Lawless as Xena as much as the next person, but I can’t say this is the disappointment I have read others call it. (No there is no warrior battle cry, how did Lucy Lawless ever make that sound anyway?) The acting is much more subtle in this show, so it doesn’t constantly remind you that it’s fake. It also has twelve books to draw its stories from, whereas Xena and Hercules pulled things from biblical and mythological times, so the plot sometimes seemed forced. Bridget Regan and Craig Horner fit their parts quite well, if not how you imagined them while reading the book. (Kahlan’s hair is supposed to be unusually long, a mark of a Confessor and Richard is supposed to be quite big and muscular.)
For all the fans who complain about how different the book and show is, keep in mind that Terry Goodkind has been a consultant on the show and given his approval so though some of the mythology of the universe has changed it is usually in minor ways. (For Example, Kahlan is not the last Confessor or the Mother Confessor as she is in the book, which is only confusing in that she is dressed accordingly in the first episode, but not after wards.) Having taking some screenwriting classes, I understand the distinction between film and books and how they require altering some of the drama. Not everything that works in a book plays out well visually (sometimes it is dull and slow to watch) and not everything on screen can be given the same range of intensity as on the screen. Each has their own strengths, but they are different medium and as such must be different. I also understand the difficultly of adaptation. Time, money, clarity, are all things that play a part in what does and doesn’t make it onto the screen. A show, unlike a movie though, is not as limited by time and has longer to explain things so the need to cut things out or change them isn’t as great, which is why so many of the episodes follow so closely to the book.
I do wonder why, if they were following the first book from season one, they felt the need to pull characters, etc. from later books in the series (ie- Jensen, Richard’s half-sister). Each individual book was jam packed with adventure, so you would think they have enough to work with.Perhaps for cast continuitybetween the seasons? Maybe to bring in more characters since having only three people to follow is somewhat difficult on a show when all three are together. Part of what gets a show through an episode s being able to cut back and forth between the different stories happening at once and with only 3 main characters there can’t be much in the way of subplots.
A particular change between the books and show that I appreciate is the way that Richard defeats Rahl. While I thought the book was very clever in its solution and employed various bits of knowledge gained over the course of the book, I also don’t think it would have played well visually. And it also a little melodramatic. Plus, in the book, Kahlan and Richard solve their touching dilemma and while that was nice to see, it was annoying for the problem to be solved so early on as the drama between them became about having a baby or getting separated, which is less compelling than overcoming love’s obstacles. I also like that they introduced Cara, a Mord Sith (with the use of a magical weapon called an Agiel they capture, control, torture, and train those with magic) who plays a major role after the first book. As one of my favorite characters in the book, I was more than pleased to see her enter the picture.
The scenery is breathtaking and the action, while certainly nothing groundbreaking, is certainly fun to watch. Its ratings were high enough to earn it a second season and I for one am excited to see where it will go next. (Catch all of season one on hulu now.)
Check out my book review of the series.
Buy season one and catch up now: Legend of the Seeker: The Complete First Season