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 three thousand years ago, to a futuristic-seeming world, and a conversation between Lews Therin Telamon and Latra Posae Decume in his baby’s nursery, concerning Lews’ plan to seal The Dark One in his prison. Latra rejects Lews’ plan, on behalf of all women who can channel the One Power, and predicts to him that it could fail, corrupt the One Power, and set civilization back as much as one thousand years.
Lews: To think, the fate of the world was decided in a nursery.
The scene ends with Petra leaving and Lews leaning over his daughter’s crib, assuring her that today he will make the world safe for her.
In the present, Moiraine and Rand travel through the Blight, a rotted and deadly landscape spreading from The Dark One’s prison.
In Fal Dara, Perrin argues with Egwene that they cannot pursue Rand and Moiraine into the Blight without dying in the attempt. After he convinces her, they both express their love for Rand and an understanding that their own relationship is solid.
In the Blight, Rand and Moiraine rest within view of the Seven Towers of Malkier, Lan’s homeland, now swallowed by the Blight. Rand is surprised to learn the Towers were abandoned forty years earlier, and not a thousand years earlier. Moiraine explains that the spread of the Blight is a sign of the growing power of the Dark One.
Lan tells Nynaeve that Moiraine masked his bond so that he cannot follow her. Nynaeve shares with him a way to follow her and an admonition to bring back Rand. Before he goes, Lan breaks off their relationship and she seems to understand his choice.
Rand wakes up in the Blight and as Moiraine asks him what he dreamed, she is killed from behind by a sword through her head. A man with caverns of fire behind his eyes and mouth, did the deed. Rand shoots him in the face with an arrow and the man pushes the arrow through his head, and when he is done, his monstrous face is replaced by a human one. The man tells Rand that it is pathetic that he came with only her, when the last time he came with ninety-nine companions each far stronger than her, and even then he failed. He asks Rand if he has ever even touched the One Power, yet, and mocks Rand’s belief that Tam al’Thor is his real father. Rand grows frustrated at being in a dream and runs himself through with his father’s sword, causing him to wake up. Moiraine is still alive and wants to know what he dreamed.
After Rand asks about her plan, Moiraine gives him a sa’angreal, an object of the power that will amplify Rand’s ability to channel one hundred fold. She tells him to use that to put The Dark One back securely in his prison where he cannot touch the world for another three thousand years. Rand laughs at her belief he can before pointing out that Moiraine believed Egwene, and not him, was The Dragon Reborn. He admits he thought it was her at first also.
Egwene listens to the wind in Fal Dara, with Nynaeve, and hears wrongness on the wind that reminds her of what she heard on the wind in the Two Rivers before the attack on their village.
In the Blight, Rand asks Moiraine if she will teach him to channel. She tells him that she cannot because every time he channels will draw him closer to madness. She then expresses her belief that Rand will succeed in channeling when he faces The Dark One because of his fear and adrenaline. She reminds him that when he does channel to do so into the sa’angreal.
Perrin and Egwene visit Min in Fal Dara looking for answers about the future. She tells them she cannot share others’ secrets but that everything she sees – good and bad – always comes true. Just then a horn sounds an alarm for the city.
Agelmar and Amalisa prepare Fal Dara for an attack. The attacking force is so large that Amalisa knows they will not be able to hold, yet Agelmar sends forces out to fight them anyway.
Rand and Moiraine see the trolloc armies in the Blight and realize the only way to save their friends in the city is to defeat The Dark One himself. They finally arrive at The Eye of the World and Rand recognizes it from his past life. Rand finally realizes that Moiraine’s admonition, that anyone who goes with the Dragon Reborn to the Eye will die, includes her. He tells her to stay but she goes on anyway.
In the city, Agelmar tells his sister that she was right all along about needing Aes Sedai help. He rides out to fight despite knowing his defense is doomed, and leaves Amalisa behind to defend the city with the women who can channel. He tells her that they will slow the Dark One’s forces long enough for messengers to relay the news to the rest of the world.
At the Eye, Rand asks Moiraine what this place is and she answers that no one knows as every record of its existence was purged from the White Tower library by Darkfriends. As we see flashes of Lews Therin and the man with fire behind his eyes and mouth, in his normal face, Rand tells Moiraine he remembers a fight in this place. He looks down on a symbol on the floor and calls it The Eye. He stares down at the symbol but when he lifts his head he is in the Two Rivers, in a hut he shares with his wife Egwene. Egwene and Joiya, their daughter, are playing outside.
Moiraine tries to wake up Rand as the man who appears to be The Dark One appears in the room with her. She tries to channel at him but he does something to remove her ability to channel.
Agelmar rides out of the city to Tarwin’s Gap, in an attempt to stop the trollocs, as Amalisa readies the women of the city for battle – including gathering every woman in the city who can channel even a trickle. As the group from Emond’s Field discuss fleeing the city, Loial informs Nynaeve and Egwene that they are calling for all women who can channel to help defend the city.
The battle commences in the Gap, Egwene and Nynaeve join the women who plan to channel in the city’s defense, and Perrin expresses frustration to Loial about not knowing what to do.
Rand holds Joiya but seems to realize that she and his life with Egwene are not real. After quizzing Egwene to determine she is real, and being satisfied with her answers, The Dark One arrives, freezes everyone and everything except for Rand, and tells him that he has the power to remake the world as he wants and that he, the Dark One, can show him how to do it.
At the Eye, the Dark One wonders aloud to Moiraine about what Rand will choose – Light or Dark. She pulls a dagger and puts it to Rand’s neck and tells him that if Rand chooses Dark that she will kill him. She adds that they both know the Dark One cannot leave this place without Rand’s help.
In Fal Dara, a couple of men are hacking at a concrete block which had previously been placed below the throne. Loial and Perrin arrive to asks what they can do to help.
The battle at the Gap is going poorly and Agelmar appears to die after taking a spear through his chest. The Dark One tries to show Rand how powerful he can be by making a gash appear on Egwene’s neck and then healing it as though the wound never occurred at all. Rand seems to grasp the potential enormity of his own power and asks the Dark One how to make his surroundings, with the Two Rivers, Egwene, and their daughter, real.
In Fal Dara, Padan Fain enters the palace accompanied by a Fade. Inside, the concrete block is now opened and the workmen reveal that the Horn of Valere has been hiding inside. The Horn is to be blown at the Last Battle to call the Pattern’s greatest heroes to stand on the side of the Light.
From their vantage point high above the battle, the women who can channel see that between ten and twenty thousand trollocs are pouring through Tarwin’s Gap. Amalisa tells the other women in their group that she needs them to open themselves to her and to accept it when she reaches out to them with the One Power. White tendrils of the Power flow through all of the women, together, and is controlled by Amalisa who is amazed at their collective strength.
Inside, Perrin sees a man observing them, with the Horn, and calls out for him to stop. When he does not, Perrin follows.
In the vision, the Dark One explains how to bring the vision into existence. Rand begins to channel.
In the city, Amalisa begins to pull more and more of the One Power from the collective group.
Fain enters the room with the Shienaran soldiers, and Loial, who are guarding the Horn of Valere.
The linked women hurl lightning at the oncoming trolloc army. The effort appears to be too great though as the women begin to collapse, appearing to be burned up from the inside out.
As he channels, Rand rejects the idea that he can force a future upon Egwene that she would not choose for herself, on her own. He beginis to channel into Moiraine’s sa’angreal.
At the Eye, with her blade on Rand’s neck, Moiraine sees the sa’angreal in his hand beginning to glow as it is used. In both the vision, and at the Eye, Rand stands, holding the glowing sa’angreal, and hurls the One Power at the Dark One. As he does, the Dark One smiles, disappears, and then the symbol on the floor at The Eye cracks.
Perrin wanders around alone in Fal Dara keep until hearing sounds. He runs back to the room where he left Loial and the Shienaran soldiers only to find them dying or dead on the floor, attacked by Fain and a Fade. Fain stabs Loial as Perrin recognizes him.
The women linked by the One Power have destroyed the trollocs but they begin to collapse one by one. Nynaeve shouts at Amalisa to stop but the Shienaran woman shouts that she cannot let go of the One Power. Nynaeve somehow cuts off Egwene’s connection to the One Power and the group before also cutting off Amalisa’s connection to the One Power. Amalisa and Nynaeve both appear to burn up from the inside out.
Perrin speaks with Fain who is now holding the Horn inside its case. Fain points out how rare being ta’veren is in general, let alone to find five in one village. He tells Perrin that the trollocs were sent to the Two Rivers not to kill them, but to bring them to his Lord. He then suggests that some or all of their group might turn to the Shadow.
At the Eye, Moiraine tells Rand that they cannot go back to Fal Dara yet. He replies that he is not going back at all and instructs her to tell the others that he died here. He does not want his impending madness, which he felt while channeling, to lead him to kill them. She asks him where he will go and instead of answering he simply says goodbye.
Fain stands to leave, telling Perrin that Rand may be the Dragon but that all five of them have a part to play. He turns to leave and Perrin only watches as he goes.
Lan finds Moiraine at the Eye. She tells him that Rand is gone. He asks her to umnask the bond and she replies that the Dark One took away her ability to touch the One Power.
As Egwene cries over an apparently dead Nynaeve’s body, the One Power flows out from Egwene and Nynaeve revives.
Lan and Moiraine both note that the floor, made of cuendillar, a substance that is supposed to be unbreakable even by the One Power, is now broken. Moiraine says she fears that today was not the Last Battle, but rather, the first.
On the far western coast, a vast fleet of ships arrives. Women on the vessels channel to send a tidal wave against the coastline.
Ugh. This got worse after each re-watch.
I guess I’ll just say upfront that I know about the production issues at the end of this season. COVID shut them down twice, the first time or several months. They lost a main cast member mid-season. They lost the ability to visit some of their set locations. They had to do significant last minute re-writes. I’m sure editing, effects, etc., were all impacted, too, and Amazon was undoubtedly pushing hard to get this released.
That said, the product is the product. Everything else is just a reason to hope that the future product is better. I will be evaluating the product as it was provided and I was less than impressed with Episode 8.
My biggest gripe with this episode is that The Dragon Reborn – the most powerful channeler in all of history – never demonstrates his power even one time. If you’re going to make a big deal about “The Dragon” all season long, give us some points of potential comparison with other powerful channelers (Logain and Nynaeve) then at some point you need to show and not just tell. Season 1 never got around to showing.
My other biggest gripe with this episode is all of the fake-out death scenes. Moiraine’s fake death was fine under the circumstances. But Uno (Shienaran soldier) and Loial? Neither of them are really dead despite appearances. The showrunner has made no secret of that behind the scenes. The worst of the fake-out deaths was Nynaeve. She was lying there, unmoving, and her skin looked burnt. She looked very dead. Egwene channels and she’s back up and they’re hugging? If Egwene can do that, can she heal the other women, too? Was what happened to them not as bad as it looked? Or will Season 2 start with all of those other women dead?
There were some other bad moments. Moiraine tells Rand not to even touch anything in the Blight because it is sooo dangerous. They did not run into any danger at all, they touch plants as they go, Lan follows alone after them without issue, and a little after daybreak, Rand even takes a nap on a log? Huh?
Perrin’s role in this episode was to do… nothing. He just kind of walked around not knowing what he should be doing. In fact, that’s not much different than Perrin’s role throughout all of Season 1. Loial and Lan were pointless in this episode, too.
Here me out on what I think the writers should have done: Everyone goes with Rand to the Eye (since staying behind did not leave them with something sensical to do anyway) and then Rand reveals himself as the Dragon at the Eye, saves his group, and then Fal Dara, with a showy use of the One Power. They could have probably even saved some money by keeping most of the battle of Tarwin’s Gap and Fal Dara off-screen. This would have provided time for more characterization. Maybe we even allow for Lan to do some actual fighting against Blight’s shadowspawn under these circumstances… since the world’s best swordsman has demonstrated that exactly zero times all season.
What I Liked Best:
I really loved the characterization of “the Man” we meet as Rand’s adversary at The Eye. One of the best parts of the Wheel of Time is the sense that we are living in both a post-Apocalypse and a pre-Apocalypse and having someone sort of futuristic as “The Dark One” really aided in that feeling. Fares Fares was awesome in that role.
On that point, I really enjoyed the flashback and the brief glimpse we got of Lews Therin’s futuristic world.
I also loved the scene with Rand deciding that he did not want the world The Dark One was showing him because it is not something Egwene would choose. That felt like The Wheel of Time I know and love from the books – it just needed something showier from Rand after than what we got.
What I Liked Least:
As mentioned, I hated all of the fake-out deaths. It’s just bad writing. Even with the real world circumstances they were working around, I feel as though they could have avoided that somehow.
I also hated that Perrin, Lan, and Loial all ended up with pretty much nothing to do in this episode.
I hated what Egwene and Nynaeve did do.
I hated the fact that Rand did not get a big moment all season – even after we learn his true identity. I’ll get into that more in my Season 1 review.
With respect to the flashback scene, it did not make sense to me that life outside Lews Therin’s nursery looked so peaceful and normal in the middle of an apocalypse.
Thoughts Specifically For the Book Readers:
(Scroll down to the “Conclusion” heading if you don’t want to be spoiled re: Jordan’s books. I’m going to discuss spoilers for the entire series below – if you don’t want to be book spoiled then jump to the conclusions heading.)
Oh friends, where to begin? I”ll bullet point some things.
- Rand’s ability to remember his previous life seems to have ramped up quite a bit from teh books.
- Moiraine implies she hypothetically could teach Rand to channel but will not due to his madness and the threat it poses. This is obviously a big change and potentially signals the lack of need for Rand’s entire arc with Asmodean.
- The “rules” regarding dreams and the World of Dreams are pretty fuzzy in this episode. Rand sees Moiraine die, talks to Ishy, and kills himself… just a dream. Okay, fine. But why does “just a dream” exactly reflect the moments that occur after he wakes up? Why is Ishy there interacting with him as though it was more than just a dream?
- In what way could Ishy not just take Moiraine’s blade away from Rand’s throat and heal Rand if that is necessary. Her plan here is nonsensical.
- Moiraine sees Rand’s sa’angreal glowing – which again means that the book rule regarding men and women seeing each other’s flows appears to be out the window. That’s not a small change.
- Is the nature of how sa’angreal work / were made different in the show than in the books? Seems that way.
- Agelmar and Amalisa died about 13 books too soon? Or did they?
- Amalisa can link, fight off a trolloc army, and all while maybe only having ever been an Accepted? That’s an absurd change that will make scaling up the later conflict immeasurably more difficult to explain to the TV audience.
- Amalisa burns out / kills herself and a group of female channelers while linked. Did we ever see that in the books?
- Nynaeve appears to be both burnt out and dead (her skin literally looks burned)… then somehow Egwene heals her? That should not be possible, right? Egwene is not a gifted healer in the books. Death cannot be healed even if she is gifted in that way. At a minimum, Nynaeve should be burnt out and unable to channel going forward.
- The Horn of Valere was hiding in the throne room in Fal Dara? Really? Agelmar is not even the King of Shienar… Easar is. Why Shienar other than plot convenience Is it realistic that this would be a secret kept from the world?
- It seems pretty obvious that Moiraine is only shielded and not stilled. I’m fine with this change. Rosamund Pike needs something to do next season. Moiraine is pretty absent in Book 2.
- Obviously The Eye was very different. I did not hate this change though it was significant. However, does that mean we are going to see other giant seals in the ground at other places as the series continues?
- Moiraine tells Rand that Darkfriends destroyed records about The Eye of the World… except where to find it I guess?
- If “The Eye” is The Dark One’s prison does that mean Shayol Ghul does not exist at all in the TV series? Or does it mean the Aes Sedai do not know it exists? Is The Eye only Ishy’s prison?
- The sight of the Seanchan ships was cool. The tidal wave attack was not in character for them, though. It’s like the writers wanted to introduce them with a bang but did not really stop to think about how that bang fits into their culture.
I am pretty open-minded about changes but I am concerned that the writers are painting themselves into corners that they cannot get out of later. Robert Jordan was a gifted writer. He wrote a complex and intricate story with a complex and intricate cosmology. Changes from the books in Season 1 are going to have ripple effects throughout. This episode is the best example yet of the TV writers creating difficulties for themselves later. They’re going to either end up with a cosmology that does not make sense – which will be a turn off eventually to TV fans – or they are gong to have to come up with their own cosmology that cohesively replaces what they are adapting.
After a relatively good penultimate episode, Season 1 of The Wheel of Time went out on a whimper. After setting us up for a big showdown between The Dragon Reborn and The Dark One, the whole encounter felt pretty anti-climactic. The show’s Cosmological Juggernaut did not do anything that really inspired any form of awe, fear, or wonder. To make things worse, most of the main cast had little or nothing to do that made any sense. The episode was replete with bad writing and fake-out deaths. The whole thing felt like a big ole mess.
That said, the show suffered from very well documented production issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is beyond unfair to judge the product we were given as the product that was intended. We can hope that Season 2 turns out a lot better.