Thoughts on the Wheel of Time Episode Three

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Since these commentaries have so many (zero) fans, how could I not take a moment share my thoughts as I watch episode three? First we begin with the conversation I had with my husband after the episode:

Husband: So what did you think? I didn’t hear too many cries of outrage.

Me: Oh, there was outrage.

Husband: Did you like anything?

Me: <scrolls through notes, scrolls, scrolls…>

In the comments after the spoiler warning I allude to events later in the books, but attempt to do so in a way that will make sense to people familiar with the story but not give much away to people who haven’t read the books. So not exactly spoilers but just to be safe – 

 

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Book Nynaeve didn’t get kidnapped by Trollocs so none of the opening stuff happened in the book story. But it’s a nice way to showcase Nynaeve’s general badassery. Plus it at least did not actively annoy me like the openings to the two previous episodes, so there’s that.

The intro implies matriarchal power and heavily focuses on Aes Sedai. They are important, but there are a whole lot of other important figures, factions, and nations in the book.

That first interaction between Lan and Nynaeve is everything a book reader could hope for. At least this book reader.

“That’s not how roads work.” I genuinely laughed at that line.

I continue to be distracted and annoyed by Rand’s shearling coat. It’s trying to look like something a back country sheepherder would wear, but it’s failing badly. It’s one of the least lived in looking costume pieces.

But Perrin, the wolves lurve you!

Tied up Nynaeve is PISSED. Completely accurate to book Nynaeve.

“It’s not a demand, it’s a threat.” I laughed again!

I still don’t think Lan is old enough. Or ugly enough. Or scary enough. But I like this guy’s stern gravitas.

Nynaeve cleaning the wound caused me to exclaim “gross!” out loud.

I’ve always thought Ba’alzamon is described in a way that would be near impossible to effectively depict visually, and I think I was right. So I can’t entirely fault them on what they’ve got. It’s one of those things that’s easy to write but less easy to make happen.

They just want to hang out with you Perrin!

M zonderling WFPWB7Vum1E unsplashPhoto by M. Zonderling on Unsplash.

The quips in the dialogue are helping to sustain me. I like me some snark, and it’s being written in a character appropriate way. (So far at least.)

The village Mat and Rand stop at is eventually revealed to be Breen’s Spring, but is really an amalgamation of a long journey through multiple locations meeting multiple people that couldn’t possibly be completely portrayed in a TV show. I have no problem with the condensing of place and character. Which is not to say I have no problems…

The Gleeman’s patches are only on the inside. Of a coat, not a cloak. And they aren’t all fluttery fake worn and colourful patches, they’re grandma’s quilt patches. No one would see this guy coming and flock to see him perform. The Gleeman’s cloak is the Gleeman’s marketing department. And it’s not like any of that would be hard to do for the costumers. I’m sputtering with outrage on this one, especially since it’s done purely for ‘grittiness’, and I have some additional thoughts on that topic to come. (Here’s a link to a search on gleeman’s cloak. Hit the image link. Revel in all the pictures of patchy costumes and even miniatures that did what this TV adaptation screwed up.)

I had thought Thom wasn’t cast old enough when I watched the previews, but now that I see actual scenes, I’m cool with this guy’s age and general appearance. I’m less cool with the costuming and styling of the character. Thom shouldn’t look pristine and rich, but he’s a showman, and he’s vain, and he should be able to turn on a charismatic stage presence. Greasy lanks of hair – no.

I’m not sure I’m as cool with the way this guy sounds. Thom’s got skills. Book readers know what I mean, so I’ll leave it at that.

Why is Thom kind of a jerk towards the boys, seems out of character?

Even Egwene can see the wolves just want to help, Perrin!

Charming barmaids is book Mat’s specialty. Apparently not TV Mat though.

The influence of the dagger is being written and acted in a nice subtle way.

Mat’s conversation with Dana (the barmaid) is completely reverse of what it would be in the books. Book Mat does not want to go back to Two Rivers. Book Mat is full of wanderlust and the desire to see the marvels of the world. This is why it was stupid to give TV Mat crap parents so he feels responsible for his sisters. The characterization is wandering further and further afield.

I know these are the Tinkers, but these are not the Tinkers. Where’s the colour? The eye-searing colour and mis-matched patterns? Ilya wearing a faded carpet does not count as dazzling Tuatha’an clothing. I am disappointed, no matter how much I like the actor portraying Ilya. (Go watch Orphan Black if you’re like I was earlier this year and havn’t gotten around to it yet, it’s awesome!)

Guy stevens dEGu oCuB1Y unsplashLooking at the Tinkers in their camp should be like this photo, but with stripes and paisley and polka dots thrown into the mix. Photo by guy stevens on Unsplash.

It is hard to avoid the impression that Ila is the Seeker of this band of Tinkers and Raen is just her man. Which makes it increasingly hard to avoid the impression that they’re going for an overall matriarchy with women holding the majority of power. This is not the deal in the books. Access to the power of magic is imbalanced since the male half of the source is tainted and male magic users go mad. (Something that was referenced but could have been more clearly explained in the intro to episode one.) But there are places ruled by queens, or by kings, or by either. There are roles that traditionally male and others that are traditionally female. I don’t like where they’re going with this for a variety of reasons, not just inaccuracy to the books.

Seriously, where is the damn colour? Desaturated gleeman and dreary Tinkers. Bah. Also where is Thom’s flair?

I’ve always pictured Aram as boy-band pretty.

“If I wanted a man I could do better.” I agree Rand. Also a timely quip to help turn my outrage back down to a simmer.

Why haven’t we seen/heard anything about the specialness of Two Rivers bows and bowmen?

In the scene where Nynaeve treats Moraine’s injury, I was waiting for her to Heal Moraine. I was kind of figuring that had been the point of Moraine’s injury, which doesn’t happen in the books. Nope, just herbs. But then there was a second scene, and I figured aw, now it’s dire enough that Nynaeve’s mojo will kick in. But nope. It would appear that the point of Moraine’s injury is to have this group hook up with some Aes Sedai and find out about Logain and probably some other world building. Which is fine, but I think they could have done both. Moraine could have the Trolloc poison in her injury like Tam, so Nyn can just heal her a little and they still have to find some Aes Sedai.

Look at them using Thom and an Aiel in a gibbet to finally do some world building! Good job team. Now do it some more. A lot more.

Wait, Rand is the one to turn the barmaid’s head instead of Mat? 

Ah, okay, it’s darkfriend time. Was figuring they’d need to do something like that this episode since the travel storyline needs to be so condensed. 

I am mollified by the portrayal of Thom’s character in the scenes with Mat and the dead Aiel. Far more Thom-like. But not only is his coat drab and with patches on the inside, but it’s CORDUROY???

When your hot dw64gs

Nynaeve doesn’t get to display any mojo, but the scene with Rand and the door is perfect.

“I called one of them.” Like, on the phone? I know that’s not what they meant, but that just popped into my mind when the darkfriend said she called a Fade.

And now I must pause for a rant about the overall depiction of the world. The Two Rivers is in Andor. Andor is your typical fantasy book medievalesque pastoral setting. The Two Rivers is particularly (and literally) pastoral. It’s not a perfect place, but it’s overall a good place. The government is fair and takes responsibility for its citizens. Most people take pride in their homes and their personal appearance, even if they have humble lifestyles. It’s the place where the story starts, and it eases the reader into what becomes an increasingly diverse and complex world.

The leading motivation for becoming a darkfriend is power and immortality. Not the desire to upend the metaphysical underpinnings of the world because everything is so unremittingly awful. It’s not way off-book that Dana would describe that as the Dark’s plan (intentional vagueness), but it is way off-book that everything is so unremittingly awful. There is colour in the book world. Lots of it in some places, like the Tinker camps. There are people who are clean and presentable and content even if they are worn and a little faded. The design has gone for that everything in a medieval fantasy must be brown and dreary approach, and I hate it. I hate that trend in general, but especially in this specific situation because it contradicts things that are well established in the books!

One of the reasons I hate it is because it mucks up future plot points. How do you show that things getting worse and then really awful if they start out pretty awful? At this point in the story everything’s mostly fine either than a few incidents like the war in Ghealdan (which they have referenced) and winter hanging on too long. Awful things do happen throughout the books. There are countries where everything isn’t so great for everyone, and there are people who are starving and downtrodden and desperate. There are tragic events and terrible decisions. How do you emphasize that that if everyone starts out hardscrabble and dreary brown? You need the contrast of nice happy Two Rivers and solid living Andor to see the differences of other places and events.

Courtney smith wrLIzVhWCSI unsplashThe colour palette of this show. Everything is as dead as these leaves. Photo by Courtney Smith on Unsplash.

We may not have seen anything about Two Rivers bows, but Thom’s dagger prowess is well-established. Go Thom!

Don’t be an idiot Rand.

Liandrin’s braids aren’t right. It’s a multitude of braids. Not a few rows of half braids on the side of the head. So yeah, book reader pickiness, but also part of the lack of creating the distinct cultural heritages that is part of what’s super cool about the books. I liked the world setting so much I created a game based on it, and I had to take pages and pages of notes about the hair, clothing, and customs of different peoples and groups to be able to make that game. This is exactly the kind of thing you can do so much more easily with visual story telling, it pains me so much that they’re making such crappy decisions in that area.

I think some of it is budgetary. It appears that the Amazon adaptation of Lord of the Rings has had buckets of cash thrown at it, but this Wheel of Time adaptation has a less generous budget. Which is a shame. Lord of the Rings fans have had a variety of adaptations, and I believe the Peter Jackson movies are generally considered to be pretty amazing. (I liked them, but I’m not a hardcore LotR fan to be able to comment on the satisfaction of fans.) This really was an opportunity to make the next Game of Thrones in TV impact. Not through gore and sex and shock, but through sheer world building scope and spectacle. Alas I fear we will have to wait another 20 years or something until someone wants to try again and see if they get it right.

The Red Ajah get to have colour at least. Sigh.

Really I’m suffering more from disappointment than outrage at this point. :-<

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5 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Wheel of Time Episode Three”

  1. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a Brandon Sanderson podcast that is almost entirely about the differences between show and books:

    FWIW, I’m not a big fan of the series (though I went through the entire thing) and probably won’t be watching the show.

    Like

    1. My relationship with the series is kind of funny. I probably wouldn’t say it’s among my favourite books. At the same time, it had a huge impact on my life in several ways. (Detailed more in comments on part one.) As the episodes go on it gets different enough that maybe for those who didn’t like the books it’ll be more their cup of tea!

      Like

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