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 begins with a flashback to the night of the attack in The Two Rivers. As Nynaeve is dragged away by a trolloc, she escapes when it becomes distracted in killing and eating an injured comrade. When the trolloc gives chase, she is able to kill it by sneaking up behind it and stabbing it in the base of its neck.
In the present, Nynaeve has a long knife at Lan’s throat as she asks him where her friends are and if they are still alive. Lan explains that he does not know and that Nynaeve needs to help heal Moiraine if she wants to find them. Nynaeve attacks him but is subdued quickly.
Mat and Rand are high up in the mountains. After agreeing that shouting for their friends might bring trollocs to them, they argue about whether to go home before agreeing to travel east.
Egwene and Perrin are being pursued by a large pack of wolves when they come to a thicket. Perrin suggests that if they light a fire it might keep the wolves back. As he struggles to start one, Egwene uses the One Power and succeeds. He asks if she can channel food and water, too.
Lan unties Nynaeve from a tree in exchange for her help with Moiraine. The Wisdom makes a poultice for the Aes Sedai’s wound from nearby plants and avoids Lan’s questions about how she tracked him. After finally seeing Moiraine’s injury, Nynaeve comments to Lan that she is aware an Aes Sedai’s Warder feels the pain she is feeling and for the first time she looks at him almost sympathetically. She applies the poultice to Moiraine’s gaping wound, but the he does not flinch.
Perrin has a nightmare about Laila being eaten by wolves. As she is being eaten, she tells him “I know.” He sees the face of the man with fire behind his eyes just before he wakes screaming. When he wakes, Egwene warns him that the wolves are getting close. They run until they come to an open plain, and Egwene notices that the wolves stop chasing them when they get there.
Rand and Mat reach a small village, where they find a dead body inside a cage that is suspended in the air on the edge of town. Mat stares at the body and notices that it seems to still have potentially valuable possessions with it. They find their way to the village’s inn and ask the barmaid Dana about visitors to town. She tells them that the only visitor is a gleeman, an older, gray-haired man, who then comes out onto the stage and sings a somber song called “The Man Who Can’t Forget.”
After the song, a man steals Mat’s coin purse and the gleeman steals it immediately from the thief. When he shows Mat that he has Mat’s coin purse, the gleeman refuses to return it and tells them that he is keeping it as a “donation for the gleeman” and also as a small fee for an important life lesson.
Rand: Bloody expensive lesson.
Gleeman: The best ones are.
Egwene and Perrin come upon a cart track and Perrin notices that the tracks are fresh, deep, moving east, and indicate a large group. They decide to follow at a distance. Egwene tells Perrin that it is as if the wolves were trying to lead them to these tracks. As they go, Perrin seems to be considering what Egwene said.
Mat and Rand ask Dana the barmaid about staying outside under a tarp on the ground or in a room for the night. She offers them a place if they do some work around the inn first. She directs them outside to wood that needs to be split. After she goes, Mat and Rand argue over whether their friends are alive and whether they should continue on to the White Tower. Mat does not want to split wood, so Rand tells Mat to leave and says that he will handle the task by himself.
Mat finds Dana inside and is assigned the job of waiting tables. He learns from Dana that the quickest way home is by riverboat. He tells her that he will be going back alone. She tells Mat that it is a shame he is going home and adds that she likes the fact he got out of the small town he grew up in, suggesting that she likes the idea of being somewhere new where nobody knows your history.
Moiraine does not look much better. Nynaeve tells Lan that the poison is not like anything she has seen before. Abruptly, Lan announces that he will be back and walks away.
Egwene and Perrin follow the cart track until they walk up on a group of people. An older man and woman ask if they know the song. A younger man steps forward and says that they do not know it, or else they would have answered by now. The older woman is Ila, her husband Raen, and the younger man is Aram. They introduce their people by a few names, the Tuatha’an, the Traveling People, and the Tinkers, without any recognition from Egwene or Perrin, but they invite them into their camp for food and a fire to warm by, anyway.
Dana finds Rand and takes him inside to a secluded room that she says will give Mat and him plenty of privacy.
Dana: You can be as loud as you want and no one will hear a thing. Nothing like a bit of slap and tickle to sort out relationship woes.
She intends to leave Rand and Mat with two beers, but Rand invites her to drink Mat’s as he is not there and she accepts.
Lan returns to Nynaeve and Moiraine and tells Nynaeve that he has found what he is looking for. He asks if Moiraine can ride. The Wisdom responds that Moiraine will have more energy but only for a few hours.
After dark, Mat is standing in front of the dead man in a cage at the edge of the village. The gleeman approaches him from behind and asks what he is doing. Mat replies that he could ask him the same thing. They banter and Mat mentions offhandedly surviving a trolloc. The gleeman asks how a farmboy from The Two Rivers has ever seen a trolloc. They then discuss the dead man with the gleeman explaining he is an Aiel and that the dead man’s red hair is a tell-tale sign of that. He asks Mat again why he is out here and Mat admits that he needs money to get home and he thought the dead man might have some. The singer tells him that everyone has had desperate moments and vises Mat to do what he needs to do. After, Mat helps bury him.
Rand and Dana continue talking in his room until she tries to kiss him. When he backs up, she asks if the way she has her hair braided looks too much like Egwene. Alarmed, Rand asks how she knows who Egwene is. Dana tells Rand to get back on the bed, and using Rand’s sword, she backs him into the room at its point.
Outside, the gleeman and Mat finish piling stones over the Aiel’s grave.
Gleeman: Rest, warrior of the Three-fold Land. May your soul find water and shade.
The older man asks Mat for his name. After Mat gives it, the gleeman introduces himself as Thom Merrilin.
Rand hurls himself into the room’s large heavy door. Improbably, it bursts open. Rand runs, finds Mat, and they flee together from Dana, who is chasing them while holding Rand’s sword. She finally corners them and confesses that one of the five is The Dragon and explains that The Dark One wants The Dragon to break the Wheel. She also tells them that she has called a fade, which is on its way. Abruptly, a blade pierces Dana’s neck from behind. She collapses in a heap, dead, and Thom Merrilin tells them that they need to leave quickly with him.
Lan, Moiraine, and Nynaeve ride up on a party led by a woman in red whom Moiraine calls Liandrin Sedai. She asks if Moiraine heard that they have captured a man calling himself The Dragon Reborn. From inside a cage, a man is staring intently at Moiraine.
In epic fantasy, whether reading or watching on screen, sometimes the story hits you with a particularly strong moment and it just kind of forces you up to your feet. Nynaeve versus the trolloc in the sacred pool was the first moment of the series wherein my body insisted that I stand to watch. Use whatever positive adjective you like – epic, awesome, etc. – and it applies. The braid flip at the end was icing on the cake. Welcome to a more active role in the series, Zoë Robins, you and your Nynaeve are phenomenal.
The blood from the trolloc that Nynaeve kills takes the same shape as the slaughtered sheep from Episode 1. Is this phenomenon going to have a mention or a role in the story? Or is this just a nod to the book readers regarding something the TV series has not mentioned yet? I guess we have to watch and find out. If this is happening on purpose, and as part of the story, then it is indicative of a symbol being sent out by most likely The Dark One.
Speaking of The Dark One, my other favorite element of this episode is Dana the Darkfriend. She seems sincere, well-intentioned, and frighteningly zealous in her devotion to the Dark. We do not exactly know what breaking the Wheel means in the TV series, but she seems to believe it means something like oblivion – no more misery, no more life, no more anything. I really enjoyed her performance, and I think her speech will lay a good groundwork for the philosophical confrontation awaiting our young villagers (as well as the audience). It’s not enough to beat The Dark One; they will need to know why they want to beat The Dark One. Dana also works as a character because she provides even more evidence of just how expansive an enemy “The Dark One” really is. Even random, friendly-seeming barmaids could serve The Dark One, have dreams from him, and be capable of killing others on his order. Despite the episode title, her character, even more than the guy with the fire behind his eyes, lets the audience know that there really is no place of safety anywhere.
We did see the man with the fire for eyes again in this episode in another horrifying dream. Perrin is the unlucky dreamer in Episode 3, and his cursed sleep moment is seeing a wolf eating the entrails of his now-deceased wife. If you watch closely, the guy with the fire for eyes actually appears subtly a couple times throughout the dream in the background before appearing in full force for just a moment at the end. In the moment wherein we see Laila being eaten, she turns her head to tell Perrin, “I know.” It is unclear what this means, but my impression is that we are not quite done yet with the Laila storyline.
Egwene and Perrin camp with the Tuatha’an, better known as The Traveling People or as the Tinkers. Author Robert Jordan’s name for this group is derived from a real world source. Like their real world historical counterparts, the Tuatha’an in The Wheel of Time are a nomadic people. The series gives them a bit of a spooky introduction, in the midst of fog, before presenting them as friendly – even if this version of friendly looks like it might offer you drugs at a music festival. It remains to be seen, just yet, how good their intentions really are.
What to make of the wolves? At this point it seems fair to say – dreams notwithstanding – that they are helping. They did not attack Perrin when his wound was visible and he was vulnerable. In fact, a wolf tenderly licked his wound. They herded Perrin and Egwene toward the Tinker caravan. The only instance we have seen of an unfriendly wolf is the scene from within Perrin’s dream. Should we take that as a clue about the character of Perrin’s late wife? Was Laila a Darkfriend?
The other big introduction in this episode was Thom Merrilin. The gleeman is a worldly and well-traveled gray-haired singer. While he has an edge of grimness, there is also a surprising softness. He takes it on himself to bury the Aiel in the cage in the town wherein we are told he is a newcomer. When Mat confesses to Thom his intention to rob the dead man, rather than reacting in anger, Thom demonstrates surprising tenderness and care for Mat. But then, albeit in Mat and Rand’s defense, Thom also THROWS A KNIFE THROUGH DANA’S NECK! It is thus hard to know what to think about Thom just yet. He is complex and a bit mysterious.
The episode ends with another Aes Sedai having captured a man calling himself The Dragon Reborn. His existence is a challenge to Moiraine’s stated mission with The Two Rivers folks. However, the presence of Aes Sedai would seem to indicate that she is about to have her wound healed.
What I Liked Best:
Nynaeve versus the trolloc is why television exists.
What I Liked Least:
There was not much that I had a problem with in this episode. If I had to pick, though, I guess I am unclear how exactly Lan decided to travel for three hours on horseback. Like…did he see something far off? Is it reasonable that he could see something that far off? That did not make a lot of sense to me.
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.)
Thom. Rough, dangerous, a little pompous, worldly, knowledgeable, probably capable of seducing much younger women, and strangely soft-hearted for helping young men? Check. Do I care that in this turning of the Wheel he has a guitar instead of a harp and flute? Not at all. Do I care that he does not have big white mustaches? Also no. I know some people think that the TV series really mischaracterized him, but I would like to know how and with specifics. “Book Thom would never ______.” Personally, I think they got him mostly right and the rest just remains to be seen as we go forward.
Rand and Mat’s trip to the inn has a strong “Caemlyn Road” feel to it – despite not actually being on the Caemlyn Road. The show even manages to include a joke about the two young men being secret lovers, which is a widespread joke among the fandom concerning this section of the first book in the series. That joke was even more effective inasmuch as it is Dana’s cover story to explain why she is putting them in a secluded room.
The episode very subtly begins demonstrating a poisoning of Mat’s personality via the dagger. I thought the conversation between Mat and Rand, when Rand was splitting wood, was very well done to that end. Non-book readers will likely not even have noticed.
The show is introducing Logain as a major character a lot earlier and I think that’s a very good decision. Keep your ears open for any off-handed mentions or references to Cadsuane in the next episode. One major flaw from the books, in my opinion, is that she just kind of shows up out of the blue. If she had been mentioned first, operating in the background, it would have created some tension before her inevitable first confrontation with The Dragon.
This episode opens with my favorite moment of the series to date and then introduces the audience to an ever-widening world, and I find myself beginning to be absorbed into the adaptation’s version of this story. The acting, costuming, cinematography, and score are all fantastic, with Thom’s song “The Man Who Can’t Forget” not to be missed, in particular.
I was sad when this episode finished to have no more to watch, and I think that emotion is a good sign as we move to the one-episode-per-week format moving forward. The three-episode drop on November 19th has done its job. I’m hooked.