Let’s clear something up first. I’m not an avid TV watcher. I don’t stake out stations like I used to, planning my evenings around programming. When I watch a show, it’s usually on DVD and most likely cancelled–a la Firefly–or on its way out, like Battlestar Galactica. And my route to the show usually involves someone, like in the case of Lost, insisting to me that this MUST BE SEEN. Because of this filter of friends and a distance from commercial interruption, I think I tend to hit right most of the time. Except with Heroes. What has been seen cannot be unseen.

So, it was through the casual mention of a pair of friends of mine that I realized, with a little prodding, that indeed Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series was being made into what I assumed was a mini-series. I’m not sure why I thought that, considering the sheer girth of all the books–one alone wouldn’t fit in a mini-series, let alone the whole lot of them.

This past weekend, fingers tired from writing and plotting a WIP, I decided to take a TV break while my husband continued to blow things up in Fallout 3. Enter Hulu. I saw the little teaser and figured: okay, sword and powerful women, pretty costumes. Yeah, I’ll watch the first episode.

Um, so, yeah. In three days I watched all nine episodes. And as a huge fantasy geek (but not a purist, I don’t think) I thought a little review would be helpful for those interested in the show who may not have yet seen it, or know what it’s about.

A few caveats. I haven’t read the books since I was fifteen, and the memory is a little groggy. I also have a weak spot for impossible romances, dynamic sword fights, and wizards. In the face of those weaknesses I can ignore a great deal. I also like New Zealand. A lot. So if this is biased, so be it. I’ve warned you.

The story is basic as fantasy story lines go. A young man named Richard finds his life turned upside down when he runs into a beautiful woman from across the boundary named Kahlan; she is searching for someone called the Seeker, who is prophesied to kill the evil overlord Darken Rahl. Rahl of course has been reigning terror on the Midlands (that place over the Boundary) for the last 23 years, and is a baddie to end all baddies.

Richard, of course, discovers that he is this Seeker, but in the process also learns his father is not his father, and that a strange old man has been watching him for the last 23 years (in the books, he knows Zedd quite well, just doesn’t know he is, well, a wizard). Madness, murder, mayhem, and many adventures ensue.

Except, well, The Legend of the Seeker (FYI, still not sold on the name… sounds a little too hokey for me, and a bit too much like the last Susan Cooper movie and the famous kid on a broomstick) is really a re-imagining. They’ve taken the heart of the books, lightened it up significantly–especially in the character of Kahlan, who comes across as much warmer than I recall–and turned it into an episodic series with swashbuckling, magic-making, and of course, a dash of impossible romance.

I honestly couldn’t figure out what was so good upon watching the first few episodes. Yes, the costumes are gorgeous–rivalling some of the stuff from the Rings movies (I wonder if some of the folks working on it, in fact, worked on that movie, too). The fight scenes? I’ve never seen such convincing and beautifully shot scenes before on a television series. I watched, and loved, the Hercules/Xena franchises back in the 90s, but let’s face it: fighting was not their forte.

Then, well, I saw Ted Raimi. Where Ted Raimi is, you know Sam’s somewhere. And lo and behold, a quick look at IMDB revealed that yes, in fact, he’s an executive producer. So there we go. Not surprising that the filming is so impressive, not to mention that the sense of humor is left in tact (and it’s humor along the lines of Firefly, not goofball like Hercules, thankfully). And, I discovered, Terry Goodkind himself is involved and is helping mold this particular imagining, which I think is a huge contributing factor to its quality. Writers are often too aloof to be involved, or strictly forbidden from involvement!

True, there are lots of Richard without a shirt shots, cheesy homages, and a few unconvincing actors. But by and large, the relatively unknown cast holds their own. And I’ve got to say, Bridget Regan pretty much looks exactly like Kahlan as I imagined her, not to mention her awesome costume. Her chemistry with Craig Horner is great, and that’s really central to the whole story. Not to mention Bruce Spence who, if you look closely, is the same dude who was the Mouth of Sauron in The Return of the King. Thankfully he’s considerably nicer in this particular incarnation, and though his Zedd towers over the one I’d had in mind, he captivates the wily, weird, and wacky Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander with near-perfect pitch.

I’ve noticed the quality of the episodes has actually improved consistently throughout the telling, and I’m admittedly hooked for a while. Though I’m a little worried they’re spending so much money on the show (but not the website… agh, ABC and Disney, this was the best you came up with?!) and that it airs on Sunday nights–but, well, for the meantime I’m enjoying myself. It’s been a long time since a true high fantasy TV show.

Check it out if you’ve got the chance. I’m always concerned about shows I like biting the bullet, but at very least they’ve filmed 22 episodes. Tempted as I am to drag out Goodkind’s tomes again, I think I’ll wait a while though… well, that journey is another post in and of itself!

You can watch Legend of the Seeker on Hulu, or on ABC depending on your local schedule.

(N.B. OH! And holy crap. I just realized Craig Parker, who plays Darken Rahl, was Haldir in LoTR… oh dear. The blond wig was confusing, but I knew I’d seen that smirk somewhere…)