Hi! Amazon Prime’s new TV series, based on the books I am blogging about HERE, just debuted. I want to lay out my initial thoughts and reactions to the adaptation.
Warning: This post will contain spoilers through the current episode.
The episode opens in a camp of Whitecloaks (“The Children of the Light.’) A boy servant brings their commander a meal and tells him it is from the Lord Captain for his victory today. The commander pulls the well polished lid from atop his meal revealing a small bird cooked whole – beak, feet, and all. He asks an Aes Sedai tied to a stake whether she has ever tried this while placing the entire bird in his mouth. As the stake begins to burn, he explains the food. We see that her hands have been severed and are sitting nearby. He picks one of them up as he talks to her and pulls a Great Serpent ring from one of its fingers. He tells her that an Aes Sedai should not above all others that sometimes brutality is the only path to mercy. As he walks away from her, and as she begins to burn, we see that he has amassed a large collection of Great Serpent rings. He returns to his food and drink while watching her burn.
Moiraine, Lan, and the Two Rivers folk are still on the run from the pursuing fade and trollocs. As dark approaches, they reach the village of Taren Ferry. Moiraine wakes the ferryman and demands that he take them across. She explains to the villagers that trollocs will not cross deep water. Before they reach the other side of the river, their party and the ferryman see trollocs and a fade gather on the side of the river from which they just departed. Moiraine tells him that he cannot take the ferry lest he give them a way to cross the river. He pleads with her about getting back to his family, not comprehending that he cannot help them. Moiraine sinks the ferry in the river using the One Power. The ferryman jumps onto the ferry in an attempt to save it and drowns as a result of his actions. Moiraine tells a stunned group that she has only bought them some time because the pursuers will find another crossing and resume the chase.
The group stops to eat and rest after buying themselves some time. Mat attempts to bring levity by asking the others to imagine their journey if Nynaeve were with them, disagreeing with Moiraine’s every decision. Egwene tells Mat that she saw Nynaeve get taken by a trolloc. Perrin comforts her by saying that her death was likely quick and painless. Rand tells all of them that they need a plan. He points out that they all saw what happened to the ferryman and asks what happens if any of them step out of line. The villagers discuss recent events. Egwene points out that Moiraine said the trollocs came for one of them and she reminds them that when they left, the trollocs followed rather than staying behind to attack the village. They discuss what they know – or do not know – about the Dragon until Moiraine herself interrupts them to advise them to forget what they think they know.
That night, while the group is attempting to sleep, Moiraine pulls Egwene away to speak with her. Rand is awake and he notices them going. Once the two women are apart, Moiraine explains to Egwene that she did not kill the ferryman and Egwene comes to agree that if they had allowed him to do as he wanted, he would have died anyway and they all would be in even greater peril. Moiraine goes on to explain to Egwene that she can touch the One Power. The Aes Sedai then goes through an exercise with Egwene to help demonstrate that she can touch the One Power. After, Egwene lies down beside Rand. He wakes and reacts negatively to her presence causing her to apologize and move away.
Perrin sits alone by the fire. He grimaces in pain and we see as he pulls up a pant leg that he has a secret and nasty wound on his calf from the night of the trolloc attack on his home. When Egwene joins him, after leaving Rand, he quickly covers his injury. He asks her after a moment if she thinks that they will ever go back home and she replies she does not.
Rand wakes and begins to cough. The cough turns into a fit of near chocking. He reaches into his mouth, and to his horror, he pulls a bat from his throat. As he looks in horror at what he has throw onto the ground, a man approaches with fire in place of eyes. Abruptly Rand wakes up and is alarmed to see a dead bat lying on the ground beside him. He joins the others only to find dead bats on the ground all around. The other villagers all had dreams similar to the one Rand experienced.
Rand angrily asks Moiraine if she did this. Instead of answering, Moiraine asks which of them saw this in their dreams and confirms that all of them did. She warns them that dreams have more power than they know. She also tells them to let her know immediately if they have dreams like this again. Rand asks her what she means about dreams but Moiraine avoids answering. She tells them that they need to ride straight away. Rand screams at her and demands to know where they are going. She answers and says that they are riding east toward the river crossing at Whitebridge and then on toward Tar Valon. He asks her what a man does at the White Tower. Moiraine tells Rand that he can go where he wants and he replies that he doubts she will let him. Again instead of responding, Moiraine simply tells him that she has run out of patience and leaves. After she goes, Egwene argues with Rand that they should stay with Moiraine and she points out that Moiraine has been getting paler and weaker in the effort of protecting them. Everyone ultimately decides to continue following her east.
Some time later, they encounter a Whitecloak camp. Moiraine instructs all of them to not speak unless spoken to first. She also tells them to mention nothing of the White Tower or Aes Sedia. She hides her ring and then rides forward. The Lord Captain of the Whitecloak camp instructs them to dismount. After they do, he questions Moiraine. After Moiraine tells them that they are on their way to Whitebridge to meet her sister, the Lord Captain tells them to go. However, before they go, the man we saw earlier eating the bird approaches. The Lord Captain introduces him as a Questioner. He pats down Moiraine and instructs his men to search their horses. As he is looking Moiraine over, he tells them that the White Tower dispatched eight Sisters to the south to deal with the war there. Moiraine gasps in pain and tells him that she has a wound on her chest. He instructs her to show him. He asks what happened and she tells them about an eight foot tall monster that attacked the village she was in. She gives the story in such a way as to sound as though she does not know what the monsters are. He asks the name of the town where she came from and she tells him Taren Ferry. The Lord Captain tells her that though the Children of the Light generally stay clear of Aes Sedai, she should find one for healing when she reaches Whitebridge.
When the group is alone again, Egwene asks Moiraine how she was able to lie to the Whitecloaks. Moiraine explains that she did not lie. Egwene asks Moiraine about having a sister in Whitebridge. Moiraine says that all Aes Sedai are her sisters. Moirains tells Egwene that Aes Sedai always tell the truth but adds that it may not be the truth that other think they hear. She concludes by telling Egwene that she must always listen carefully.
The group travels on. During a portion of the rid, Mat begins to sing a song called “Weep For Manetheren.” The others from The Two Rivers take it up as well. When they are done, Moiraine tells them that it is good to remember Manetheren. Mat replies that it is just a song so Moiraine exlpains that it is more than that. She proceeds to give the group a history lesson. “Manetheren,” she tells them, means “the mountain home” in the Old Tongue and that it used to be the name of the place they al now call The Two Rivers. She explains that Manetheren was a nation during the Trolloc Wars which was small but with a powerful military. She tells them that the military became such a problem for The Dark One that he sent a huge force to their homeland to destroy them. Manetheren, she says, sent out riders to bring aid from nations that they had aided in the past and Manetheren was told aid would come in three days. Despite impossible odds, their force held out for ten days before concluding that they were betrayed and no help was coming. She continues by saying that no inch of ground was given up to the overwhelming force without first being covered in blood. Eventually, Queen Eldrene sent children of the nation and their minders to hide in the mountains. Some of those children nevertheless joined the adults in the defense of the nation. Eventually the entire army was defeated on the thirteenth day. Moiraine tells them that when Manetheren’s Queen Eldrene felt her husband died, she used more of the One Power than was possible to use safely and hurled a hurricane of fire at the attackers. The trollocs were conosumed by the blaze just as Eldrene herself burned away from the inside out as a result of the effort. In the end, Manetheren held the ground for its children. Moiraine concludes by saying that this is why the song instructs the listeners to weep for Manetheren.
Later, Lan tells Moiraine privately that he has not seen any sign of trollocs in days. She speculates that the reason might be their nearness to Shadar Logoth. She then asks Lan why he is taking them so close to the shadowed city, pointing out that the city is far too dangerous for them to enter. Lan asks Moiraine if she thinks that Whitecloak Questioner is the one who killed the other Aes Sedai. Moiraine tells him that she saw that the man has collected seven Great Serpent rings and attached them to his belt. Lan returns Moiraine’s ring to her and instructs her to rest.
Rand and Egwene are gathering wood to make a campfire. He is making a point of not looking at her. She asks if he will talk with her and he asks what she wants to talk about. He then tells her she made her decision about their relationship already. Egwene reminds Rand that she will not be Nynaeve’s apprentice because Nynaeve is dead. She says they are still in the middle of nowhere, being chased by the monsters that killed their friends. She asks him to just look at her and not hate her. Rand finally turns and tells her that he could never hate her.
Perrin gathers water by the river. He stops and pulls up a pant leg revealing that he has a badly injured calf. As he does this, he hears wolves howling. A moment later, he sees a pack of wolves nearby. One wolf approaches. As it comes close to Perrin, who does not move, it licks his wound sympathetically. Then all of the wolves leave.
That night as they camp, Moiraine’s health has taken a turn for the worse. She is lying and barely moving or breathing. A fade screams in the distance. Lan hurriedly wakes the rest of the group and leads them into Shadar Logoth. The fade and the trollocs refuse to follow the party inside the gates of the abandoned city. Perrin notices that there are no birds or bugs inside of the city’s high walls. Lan carries Moiraine inside of a building next to where they have decided to tie their horses. and everyone follows him. Egwene mentions that Shadar Logoth sounds like the Old Tongue. Lan explains that it means “Shadow’s Waiting” and tells the group that the city was once called Aridhol. He explains the during the Trolloc Wars the city was the wealthiest and most powerful in the world. He says that when the world needed them most, the people of Aridhol built a giant wall around themselves and stayed out of the fight. He continues by saying that these are the people who betrayed Manetheren’s call for aid. Lan then tells them that when the Trolloc Wars ended, the survivors came here to find food and shelter. Inside the walls of the city, though, they found no life whatsoever. He tells them that it is said evil itself grew from the city’s heart and consumed everyone. He explains that this is why the city has been abandoned ever since and this is the reason not even trollocs will enter. Mat asks Lan why he brought them here. Lan does not answer but instead tells all of them to touch nothing.
Rand goes outside to look around. He climbs a tower across the street to look out from a high vantage point. Egwene follows him. As they see the beauty of the fallen city, the two hold hands.
Mat and Perrin comfort each other about what has happened to them. Mat gives Perrin a knife that Laila made for him and tells Perrin that he should have it. Perrin takes it and thanks him. He tells Mat that the girls will be fine and lets him know that his own parents, as well as Rand’s and Egwene’s, will make a point of looking out for them.
We hear a whistling noise outside and a whispering sound. Mat wakes up from his place on the floor beside the others and decides to go look around the city. He walks alone past the horses who seem agitated and into a neighboring building. There he finds a box lying on the floor. Inside is a sheathed dagger with a bright red ruby in the hilt. As he holds the dagger, their horses begin to panic. Everyone runs out to see what is going on. A tendril of shadow touches one of the horses. It turns to ash and then disappears in the wind altogether.
Moiraine wakes up. Lan is beside her and tells her that it is alright and that he is here. When she asks where they are, he tells her, and she tells him in turn that he has kilned them all. Outside, more tendrils of unnatural shadow emerge. The villagers run from it and are divided by it. Egwene and Perrin flee together to escape the city, as do Mat and Rand, and Lan and Moiraine. Each of the three groups escapes from Shadar Logoth in different directions. Egwene and Perrin jump from a city wall into the river below. Mat and Rand climb over one of the walls together. Lan carries Moiraine on horseback, leading Moiraine’s horse behind him, through an open gate. Each of the three groups escape but they end up nowhere near each other.
As Lan kneels over an apparently dying Moiraine, someone places a large knife against his neck. He turns to see Nynaeve. She tells him that if he does not take her to her friends right now that she will slit his throat.
Let’s start at the ending. What a cliffhanger! Nynaeve is alive! Also..how?!? How did she find them?! That will be a fun story for episode three.
This episode properly introduces us to the Children of the Light (i.e. “Whitecloaks.”) They are a military order, not bound by national boundaries, whose function is to root out evil and anyone who they deem to not “walk in the Light.” Despite their stated aims, they are not presented as being virtuous in the least. This episode begins with an absolutely brutal torture and then murder of an Aes Sedai by a Whiteloack Questioner. This man seems to glory in toying with her already chopped off hands, and pulling her Great Serpent ring from one of those severed hands, before watching her burn alive. In showing us that this group is capable of killing as many as seven One Power wielding Aes Sedai, the show does a really effective job here in presenting the Whitecloaks as both evil and formidable.
The audience now has a little more knowledge of the wider world than we did during Episode 1. The Aes Sedai are powerful, however, they are not all-powerful. Using the One Power does not keep them from having dangerous enemies.
The story takes us inside the walls of Shadar Logoth as well. The show absolutely nailed its attempt at creating a spooky abandoned city. I also enjoyed, in an “I am horrified” kind of way, how the episode depicted the moving shadow that kills Shadar Logoth’s visitors. This scene accomplishes the necessary story-telling goal of splitting the party apart and it accomplishes that without feeling too contrived.
This episode does a good job of giving the audience some “infodump” about its world’s history with The Two Rivers folks serving as stand-ins for us. We learn about The Three Oaths, we learn that that Aes Sedai agreed to adopt The Three Oaths to end Artur Hawkwing’s siege of The White Tower, we learn about The Trolloc Wars, Manetheren’s role in them, as well as Aridhol’s demise. The show is doing a good job of filling in our information gaps without telling us too much too fast.
- The sinking of the ferry looked amazing. The cinematography of the whirlpool swallowing the ferry in the river, with the backdrop of torch-holding trollocs on the other side, was… I already said amazing so I’ll say outstanding this time. Every moment of this show, so far, looks like it was filmed with a large movie budget.
- Rand’s dream about coughing up the bat was absolute nightmare fuel. I also thought that the man with fire in place of eyes was chilling as well.
- “Weep For Manetheren.” The sequence of the villagers singing that song, and Moiraine giving them a history lesson about their homeland, induced goosebumps. Daniel Henney’s “Lan” really sells the moment, in my opinion, by looking almost rattled. It’s as though he is seeing “good guy” ghosts. Moiraine’s discussion about the “Old Blood” almost implies that he is.
- “You don’t listen to the wind, Egwene. It’s the wind that listens to you.”
- Shadar Logoth is both beautiful and haunting. The set design for this episode should win awards.
- Perrin with the wolves was puzzling and enjoyable. A angry wolf is scary but a friendly wolf is a good boy. The show is establishing a connection between Perrin and the wolves but we are totally in the dark as to what that link is. They do not appear to be hostile. That was made abundantly obvious when a wolf licked his wound sympathetically. Perrin’s character in general has been very quiet to this point and I am very ready for him to begin talking more.
- The episode introduction featuring the threads and the weaving was great. I suspect that there are things happening in that introduction with the various women’s faces that are shown, that are informative if I knew enough to tease out the clues.
- The Wheel of Time soundtrack thus far has been other-wordly with a lot of the songs seeming to be in a foreign language (I suspect the Old Tongue.) It creates just the right vibe for the show. The musical highlight for me so far, though, was definitely the cast’s rendition of “Weep For Manetheren” – truly a great moment.
- The highlight of Nynaeve’s shocking arrival is probably the top moment of an otherwise really good second installment. I am on the edge of my seat for episode 3.
What I Liked Least:
There was not much not to like in “Shadow’s Waiting.” I suppose it is fair to say I did not *like* watching Rand pull a bat out of the back of his throat. Was it well done, gross, and effective? Absolutely. But I did not like it.
Thoughts Specifically For The Book Readers:
Scroll down to the “Conclusion” heading if you don’t want to be spoiled re: Jordan’s first book in this saga, The Eye of The World.)
The TV series has elevated the threat level posed by The Whitecoats. I think this was a good decision. The books spend a LOT of time with them and they are more of a nuisance than a threat. It is a problem to devote on-screen time to a group that creates more groans than tension. I suspect the writers decided that it is easier to elevate them than to cut them out of the story.
I thought that the decision by the writers to have the ferryman character kill himself makes a lot of sense. It is logical that a parent, worrying about a child, would not think rationally under circumstances like that. The death also helps to sew feelings of distrust between the villagers and Moiraine – which is in keeping with the books.
In the books, Ba’alzamon uses rats for most of his gross nightmare fodder. In this episode, he uses bats. Personally I thought the bats were somehow even worse. Ick.
We do not meet Mordeth in Shadar Logoth. That decision makes sense to me, too. The story can achieve the same outcome without expending the effort to show him on the screen.
I noticed a strange whistling sound in Shadar Logoth just prior to Mat finding the dagger. It reminded me of Padan Fain’s whistling from Episode 1. It seems likely – if the show follows the books – that it was Fain. This was subtle and well done. It also leads me to wonder if there are some other audio clues I will pick up on when I re-watch later.
As for character moments:
- Rand arguing with Moiraine and Egwene while on the run fits well with the same scene in the books. “TV Rand” has more and better reasons for his feelings.
- Egwene learning to channel, with Moiraine, was pretty close to perfect. Try-hard, dive-right-in Egwene is the same in both mediums.
- Quiet, thoughtful Perrin is still quiet and thoughtful. The main difference is that the groundwork with the wolves is being laid out earlier. I don’t mind that. The secret injury is also new and I am not sure where htey are going so I do not have an opinion on it just yet.
- Mat is a little different. He still feels like the same person (funny, a little self-centered) but he is playing the role of peacemaker when in the group to this point. I particularly enjoyed the moment of him trying to argue with Rand about which of them gets to be boosted over the wall. Mat is still Mat, even when in a tight spot.
- Moiraine’s injury is a significant story change. Again, I will take the side of the TV writers on this one. With her incapacitated, it makes the Shadar Logoth disaster easier to believe. Her injury also sets up a potentially fun dynamic between Lan and Nynaeve in Episode 3.
- Lan is still mostly stoic and uninvolved but this episode gives him a decision-making role that equates to him not being a complete side character. He will have tension with Moiraine for that choice. If you are going to have a character on screen, they should have something to do that justifies their presence.
I said after episode 1 that this is not a show for the squeamish and “Shadow’s Waiting” continues to prove that assessment. The Wheel of Time is certainly a fantasy saga but it does not lack in horror elements, either. Rand…coughs up…an entire bat.
The second episode of The Wheel of Time was better than the first. The costuming department had a chance to show off with The Whitecloaks in particular. The cinematography got to shine, also, with some gorgeous sweeping landscape scenes. The story slowed down enough for us to get to know the characters a bit, too, which was a needed and welcome development despite the episode largely being an extended chase sequence. All of this occurs while the show deftly executes a lot of world-building, info-dumping along the way. We even get a tremendous cliffhanger moment to end the episode.
Jeff Bezos’ money has been well-spent so far. I cannot wait for Episode 3.