Initially I planned to write this after watching about a dozen or so episodes, but I decided to wait until I watched the entire first season and then write about it. For reasons which will be explained below. This is for people who have read the series of books - anyone else be prepared to have events spoiled.
Many years ago I remember a friend of mine raving about a book series, the like of which (according to him) he'd never read before. A series with really a unpleasant villain, filled to the brim with violence and unrepentant nastiness. Hyperbole for sure, but about five years later, when I personally read 'Wizard's First Rule' I could see why my friend had been so thrown by the portrayal of Darken Rahl in the novel.
Spin forward over a decade and the "Sword of Truth" series reached it's finale - a series of books filled with magic, high adventure, monsters, wizards and an awful lot of misogynistic villains. I have read every single book in the series, but I couldn't call myself a fan - because while Terry Goodkind is an accomplished writer he also leans on the same trope for just about every. Single. Bloody. Book.
It was his own fault, the first book is a triumphant telling of adventure and true love conquering all. But Terry shot his bolt early by writing his two core characters together. The series continued beyond that first book, but it always felt that Mr Goodkind just didn't know what to do with Richard and Kahlan if they were a couple and together. So book after book the same thing happens over and over, one (or both) of them are seperated, dragged off - threatened with physical violation and eventually they get back together. Once is forgivable, twice - a little hackneyed; but doing it over and over for eleven books? It's trite.
This is not to say that the series is poor, it's just frustrating that the wonderful characters and setting are hampered by Mr Goodkind's inability to think of any new basic plot to use and his desire to string things out way beyond the required lifespan. The series could have been over in seven books - everything after the six book ("Faith of the Fallen") just doesn't hold up when compared with what came before it.
Finally special note has to be taken when you look at the eight book in the series - "Pillars of Creation" a story which is set in the world and in the timeline - but which doesn't bloody well feature the main characters and follows a character who was never mentioned before this point. It's not a bad book, but the first page needed a giant disclaimer stating "THIS BOOK DOES NOT FOLLOW THE STORY OF RICHARD AND KAHLAN". I know I spent the entire time I read it wondering when the b-story was going to kick in and bring back Richard. The answer was, right near the end - almost pointlessly.
I've written quite a bit here about the book series for two reasons - Legend of the Seeker is a series which has considerable trappings attached to it, we're not talking about a trilogy here - we're talking about an epic length ramble which few other series of books reach (In my own collection only Rankin's Rebus, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time and Brian Lumney's Necroscope series punch in at that weight - and of them only The Wheel of Time is in a similar style.) Also, while I have read the series I wanted to make it clear that I'm not really a fan of the books and as such I welcome a retelling of the story - especially if the show avoids the traps that the novels fall into.
One of my favourite television series is The Dead Zone - a "what if" riff on Stephen King's original story. It takes the characters and concept of the book, but spins them with an elegant concept. The entire reason that The Dead Zone novel and TV series deviate is the introduction of one character - Bruce Lewis (John L. Adams) the man who stablises Johnny Smith emotionally and thus creates an alternative story. I shan't go into it in detail here - it's enough to say that I love the show's alternative version of King's story and as such I'm open to an alternative telling of the Sword of Truth series.
Legend of the Seeker stars the ridiculously cut Craig Horner as Richard Cypher - a woodsman who discovers that he is in fact The True Seeker. A man destined to wield the Sword of Truth and slay Darken Rahl - evil sorcerer, tyrant and ruler of D'hara. He discovers this one day when he rescues a woman from a 'Quad' (for D'haran soldiers) - a woman who turns out to be Kahlan Amnell (Bridget Regan) here seeking The Seeker. A short while later Richard himself is proclaimed The Seeker of Truth by the crazy, naked old chicken man - aka First Wizard Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander (Bruce Spence). The three then embark on a series of adventures as they seek out Darken Rahl in order to kill him.
Craig Horner, whilst an incredible piece of eye candy for the ladies with his obscenely cut abs, isn't the best Richard Cypher one could have hoped for. He's adequate at the job, but often his acting pushes the sometimes corny dialog into serious cheese country - ultimately he's decent, but not the right fit for someone who is supposed to be a woodsman. He has the right level of naivety, but he's too young and definitely not skilled enough an actor. Fortunately as the season progresses he grows a little into his role.
The real draws to the show are the other core characters; Bruce Spence gives a fantastic portrayal of Zedd, even if it's not the Zedd in the books (who comes across as more of a crazy, spindly old grandfather type). He does manage to appear eccentric in this, but it's a different kind of loopy. He brings a crazy kind of energy to the role and though I can see he might be a little too overwhelming for some viewers I found him enchanting. In particular in the episode "Puppeteer" - which mimics events in the first book - is a delight, and it's his performance which makes it one of the best.
Craig Parker's portrayal of Darken Rahl is likewise fantastic, while he's not as menacing as his child murdering literary counterpart his is still a great draw, getting better and better the more time he has on screen to posture and (figuratively) stroke his villainous moustache. Jay Laga'aia is also wonderful as Chase, while he doesn't look anything at all the way I pictured Chase looking his acting closes the gap as he nails the character entirely.
But the real draw for the series is Bridgett Regan as Kahlan, she's remarkable in this series. Giving us a character who's complex, likable and more than able to make up for Horner's weaker performance. She completely and correctly looks and acts as you'd expect Kahlan to do so and as such is the main draw of the series. You can be forgiven for falling in love a little with Kahlan while watching this - then again, she is a confessor, so that's not surprising.
Set wise the show is spectacular, it quite frankly blows just about every other television fantasy series right out of the water - especially the ones on TV right now (pfft Merlin *eyeroll*), but the special effects themselves are a little uneven. Sometimes they're great, but at other times they're very ropey - especially for a show which runs at $1.5 million per episode. It's a little disappointing, but only occasionally.
There is one notable area where the show fails - Robert Tapert said this "We didn't want to have the '90s postmodern attitude where the audience is in on the joke. Seeker is much more serious than Hercules and Xena." Now, sorry Robert, but that campy level of humor still seeps through in more than a few of the episodes. Try harder next time. I'd call this Hercules/Xena: Part Two in it's tone - it's not as silly, but at times it skirts dangerously close.
Overall I'd call Legend of the Seeker a reasonable success, while it is frustrating for someone who's expecting a mini-series retelling of the (quite excellent) first book - especially as the show deviates from this wildly. It is the best fantasy series I've seen in years. Of course the caveat with that is I don't tend to watch much fantasy because it tends to be tripe written by people who seem to be stuck in puberty. Thankfully Legend of the Seeker avoids that, most of the time. Making it the best fantasy show out there right now, it's certainly the one with the highest body count, that's for sure.