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Legend of the Seeker: The Complete First Season - fantasy television series DVD / action and adventure DVD / drama DVD review
Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 2 1/2 stars
Featuring: Craig Horner, Bridget Regan, Bruce Spence, Craig Parker, Tabrett Bethell
  Studio: ABC Studios
DVD release: 13 October 2009   Runtime: 550 minutes
(5 discs)
Format: AC-3, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Features: Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English), Subtitles (French, Spanish), Deleted scenes, Forging the Sword: Crafting A Legend, Words Of Truth: A Conversation with Terry Goodkind, Audio commentaries

Craig Horner, Bruce Spence and Bridget Regan star in *LEGEND OF THE SEEKER: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON*
"You know when you pick up a rock, and it has all these disgusting bugs and worms around under it? That is what looking inside people's heads is like."
A young boy called The Listener is highly prized and sold as a tool to the highest bidder - or stolen, or kidnapped, or used by whoever wants the advantage. In Legend of the Seeker, a television series based loosely on the world created by Terry Goodkind in his Sword of Truth books, The Listener is only one of the sad tales in the race to win power.

The world is separated by a magical boundary to protect Westland from the magics of the Midlands. In the introductory scene, a hole is created in this boundary by a Confessor (born with the ability to see truth over lies and to magically command people in forced loyalty) called Kahlan. She is on a mission to find the one true Seeker, the man who will negate the need for a boundary. Richard is the first seeker born in one thousand years, born to save a world in grave danger of being enslaved by the greedy Darken Rahl. After a good deal of fussing and whining in the midst of fighting scenes, Richard Cypher accepts his path as the Seeker. With Kahlan and the wizard Zedd by his side, they leave behind his quaint little town where he was but a woodcutter's son. Taking up the Sword of Truth, this perfectly honest, earnest young man will save the world from Darken Rahl, the magic-wielding tyrant.

The Sword of Truth series is epic high fantasy. Season one of Legend of the Seeker is little more than a cheesy flavor-of-the-week show. They've sucked the life out of Seeker and made it as a wanna-be Xena. It is so very different than the books that it is very nearly a completely separate tale. Zedd (Bruce Spence) is flashy, Kahlan (Bridget Regan) come across as weepy, and Richard (Craig Horner) is whiny. The two prevailing story arcs are the impossible love between Richard and Kahlan and the ultimate quest to bring down Darken Rahl.

There are continual side quests, however - some of them worthy and interesting and some that seem designed to take up space and plump up the season. Perhaps the most poignant is the one in which they return to Richard's village and find things entirely changed: the people he grew up with, led by his adoptive brother, are worshipping Rahl. There is often unnecessary emotional twisting, as seen in Episode Four, with the maternal nonsense. In Episode Five, they switch gears so many times that it leaves the viewers dizzy. Minds are changed, paths are twisty - but not in an intelligent fashion. Instead, it feels more like the powers that be are confused or overly caffeinated. There is little consistency to the world or the one-dimensional characters, which is sad, because the books are steeped in sincerity.

The costumes are a joy, from the royalty to the villagers. The gowns and robes, the breeches and belts! The leathers of the Mord'Sith are particularly awe-inspiring. The variety and designs are the highlight of Legend of the Seeker. Props from weaponry to masks to the crypt key used in Episode Thirteen, when they approach the tomb of a previous Seeker, are interesting. Even the books that play a huge part hold an aura of wonder. The only item that doesn't measure up is the one that matters most. The Sword of Truth itself isn't impressive. The sets are nothing special; indeed, much of it looks to be made of cardboard in a grade school art class. There is one exception to the lousy sets rule: the castle portrayed in Episode Nine, Queen Milena's castle, is incredible from a distance. Richard, Zedd and Kahlan plot together beneath the trees while, in the distance, a hazy mist softens the glow of a picture-perfect castle.

The lands, however, are enchanting and perfect. New Zealand's variety and beauty lends itself perfectly to a fantasy show. The acting is reminiscent of the original Star Trek television show - Captain Kirk himself, if he were set in a forest with a shiny sword. Regan (who is Kahlan, the Confessor) improves little by little, gradually, as the season matures. Jennson (portrayed by actress Brooke Williams) behaves as if she is only four rather than as a young woman, but this is only one of many, so it seems that her poor acting fits right in. The special effects are believable, to be fair, but it is a television sort of believable rather than a movie theater lose-track-of-time-and-reality believable. The wizard fire makes for grins, and some of the fantasy creatures are lots of cringe-worthy fun.

Much of the show's claim to success comes from the emotional knots they tie the viewers into; that is something that Goodkind is known for. From little girls used as slaves to the constant sorrow-slash-passion between Seeker and Confessor to the agony of killing infant sons, there seems to be no line left uncrossed. In this one way, Legend of the Seeker is true to the author's work. The constant emotional tug of war between Richard and Kahlan, who struggle to portray the sexual tension they say they feel (sadly, there is little chemistry between the actors) while knowing that the quest must come first always.

Toward the end of Season One, a bit of unnecessary drama is created by sprinkling science fiction into the fantasy world. Also, Seeker is PG-14 for a myriad of reasons. Already mentioned are the leather-clad S&M Mord'Sith mistresses who torture their men into submission. Add to them the constant bloodied faces, flying limbs and constantly heaving ample bosoms, and it is clear that this isn't meant to be a family show.

A magical plague, magic books and soul-bound weapons round out a tale that is pitted with holes but interesting enough to keep us watching in hopes that Lord Rahl is defeated. There is something deep and primal about the need to conquer over evil. Even pedestrian adapting and poor acting can hook us a little, when the premise is that needy. The season ends quite neatly, with the proverbial heroes and setting sun. Legend of the Seeker is nothing if not predictable.
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reviewed by Carolynn Evans
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