Thoughts on the Wheel of Time Episode Seven

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Duty is heavier than a mountain. And so is the slog of watching episode seven. You should have heard the correct version of this aphorism in the show, in this episode (for the first time at least). But you did not because this episode sucked at conveying Shienaran/Borderlands culture and its impact on character development.

I am also highly disappointed at the continued attempt to go all Gossip Girl or whatever and put outsize emphasis on the romance aspect of interpersonal relationships at the cost of portraying or developing characters or exploring one of the ideas that was at the heart of why Jordan wrote the whole sprawling thing in the first place. (Which is, how would ordinary people would respond to being told they’re super important figures of destiny and why that wouldn’t necessarily go the way it had gone in typical fantasy stories up until the point where he was writing.) Is there romance in the books? Sure. And absolutely there are times when characters have that more on their minds than whatever else they should be thinking about. But there are lots of other elements of interpersonal relationships, and training and experiences that affect later events that the show is completely ignoring. I don’t mind that there’s romance, or more sex than in the books or whatever. I mind that these things crowd out so many other aspects of story/character development.

And there is one romantic event that occurs that did get my blood boiling for being so untrue to character and just outright unnecessary and absurd, but in the event someone reading hasn’t yet watched the episode, I won’t get specific about that until after the spoiler warning.

The catholic geeks babylon52

I was thinking the other day about Babylon 5. I have heard that it will get the reboot treatment soon, and I was excited about that. Except then I thought about what is at the heart of a major issue with this Wheel of Time show, and I got to worrying. Babylon 5 isn’t perfect, but the fact that it exists as it does is probably a freaking miraculous unicorn moment never again to be repeated. The show was created as a continuing narrative like a streaming show, but airing over five years of 22 or so episodes per year, the standard network format at the time. Imagine having 22 hours to tell The Eye of the World! Heck, even to cover the Eye and The Great Hunt together. There’d be time for more characterization, more deep dives into culture and prophecy and so on. Alas I think I’m much more likely to discover what an abbreviated eight episode per season version of Babylon 5 is like than I am to see a Wheel of Time show given the luxury of some time to spin its wheel.

My as I watched comments are spoiler safe for anyone who’s watched this episode of the show. I talk about some details of culture and character portrayal from the books, but nothing that references events and characters past this same story stage in the first book. The spoiler warning that follows is just in case anyone is super worried about spoilers.

Spoiler alert news feature

Hm, that’s a bit more flowy cloth than I pictured for the cadin’sor, and also lighter in colour, but okay.

Geez guys, would you give the woman a break from kicking your butts so she can have her dang baby?

I’d heard some comments that this episode had the best opening yet, and I definitely agree! I love how the action is filmed and what happens is super pertinent to the story.

Yay, Loial haș an opportunity to be very Loial and explain stuff.

Whoa, Nynaeve must really love Lan. He said right to her face that he expected her to pout and she did not look like she even thought about punching him. I’m waffling between considering this out of character or the evidence of the depth of her love.

The depiction of Machin Shin is slightly different from the book in a way that I think is quite successful. Instead of being a mindless hungry force it plays on fear and paranoia of listeners, and that provided a bonus opportunity for plot and characterization!

I hope you have enjoyed these brief moments of my being pleased with the production, because strap on in for the outrage.

I expected the Borderlands to look more northerly in climate. Also there should be farms and towns and stuff around the fortress of Fal Dara. The Borderlands still function as normal agrarian human places, but with fortresses to shelter in during Trolloc attacks and a much higher degree than average of military training and preparedness.

The Borderlands also does not seem the way I expected. What up with the immediate hostile attitude Agelmar? He himself says something about how the Borderlands are more welcoming to Aes Sedai, and there are a couple of other hints of that, but he sure doesn’t show it in his own manner or dialog. Agelmar is supposed to be one of the best generals in the world. This guy is a hothead who does not seem to be doing a very good job of defending his lands and is openly hostile to new information or advice from sources within or without. This is very much not understanding the mission brief of being a Borderlands lord.

Like literally youre 5bfb5c

Note that I don’t really care that much about the portrayal of one briefly met character on the show specifically. Agelmar is not a main character in the books or one of my favourite side characters or anything. The problem is that in the show, he’s a big part of our very brief window into the nation of Shienar and the Borderlands as a whole, and writing him this way works against a lot of that. Lan and Moiraine act super courteous on the meeting, but Agelmar does not, and there’s not enough time to see much courtesy or ceremony from anyone else. Courtesy, chivalry, duty, honour, these are all super important concepts in the Borderlands cultures. This is significant in the books because it informs Lan’s character, but it also informs Rand’s character. A lot of the moral precepts Rand turns to for guidance are established during this visit to Shienar and his conversations with Lan, who is from a similar culture. 

As I expected, they are going with the idea that women who train at the Tower get the gaudy ring, but only Aes Sedai get it set with a gem. We have yet to see if anyone who studies at the Tower gets this thing, or if they’re maintaining the distinction between Novices and Accepted, since that is the kind of thing I could see being condensed for a TV show. This TV gem/empty ring is also more visually apparent than the book approach that Accepted students and full Aes Sedai wear the same ring, but students can only wear it on a particular finger. The TV ring still just a ridiculous ring to wear for everyday life though.

Lan and Moiraine glancingly refer to the events of New Spring!

Ah, so we meet Min in this first season after all.

Who sees Rand holding a baby?? (This does make more sense later.)

They’ve decided to visualize Min’s visions in an interesting way. It works here, but seems like she’s just going to have to say visions in dialog if it’s something or someone not directly attached to the person.

Why does Moiraine think she knows exactly what’ll happen at the Eye? I don’t feel like they established this.

Now PERRIN loves Egwene? WTF?? I had grown to accept Perrin’s imaginary wife. Perrin is a pretty internal dialog character, what happened with his wife plus travel with the Tuatha’an was a way to make evident to viewers his long-running struggle between wanting peace but continually being caught up in moments where violence seems like the only answer. But way to take my acceptance of that imaginary wife and step all over it. Ugh, no. Just no.

Jackie Chan WTF

I mean I guess now I know why Perrin wasn’t that into his imaginary wife. I still don’t know why the reason he had to not be into his imaginary wife is because he secretly pined for his best friend’s girlfriend. What did that even accomplish in the scene? I hate this entire stupid scene because none of these people have had time to develop/reveal the essential aspects of their characters and most of this conversation goes against the characterization from the books. (TV Perrin could just have knocked up imaginary wife and that would have done the job for why he wasn’t super into or kind of resented his wife so he feels doubly guilty about accidentally killing her. He didn’t have to be written as secretly loving Egwene!)

I also hate that we’re spending one whole in story day in Fal Dara. It’s another example of cutting short situations that would establish character and skill development. Rand’s supposed to already know a bit about fighting with the sword after traveling with Lan on the road, which was completely cut from the show story. Then he’s supposed to learn a little more here, as well as some ideas about what being a man/hero/good person/whatever means. We don’t need to take tons of screen time up with stuff like that for it to happen to the characters. We can get some montages or “a few weeks later” here and there. You can fast track the story for viewers but still keep the characters traveling at a period appropriate pace.

It’s also an example of prioritizing the romance in the storyline over everything else. These people are dealing with fate of the world prophecies and stuff. If we’re going to have discussions and character conflicts could we please have some more of them be about that stuff? Do the show makers think they need to throw in a minimum of romance to interest certain viewers? Ugh.

My current level of annoyance is heavier than a mountain.

Il fullxfull 2694584382 cbdz cropMaybe we could buy a copy of this mug and send it to the producers? My search for this phrase also revealed tattoos and inspirational posters. This is a core WoT thing, I doubt I’m the only one peeved about this.

I do like the visuals for the city and keep, the general look of things. I’ll console myself with it looking pretty for a moment.

My initial response to Lan inviting Nynaeve in for dinner was to wonder why the relationship is being fast-tracked so dang hard. But there’s a lot to cover and maybe they just want to have that established as a mostly background thing to focus on going forward. I guess. Trying to give the benefit of the doubt here. (Also see note from editor me below.)

OMG, finally the famed Two Rivers bow in action! I hope Rand is sucking at using it because of all the unnecessary emotional turmoil. I’d sure love to see some turmoil about the whole might be the Dragon, gotta save the world and whatnot thing… (And later I do see some of that, and some less sucky bow skills, but I think my general point still stands.)

TV first season Rand is like early books Mat. This is not a compliment. Ugh.

I am really not loving the Egwene/Rand romance being pushed so dang hard throughout this whole thing, though events in the next episode make that make a little more sense. A little.

I’m pretty disappointed at the portrayal of Lan here. It’s another failure to depict the culture and the character. The first half of the episode had several spots where there were opportunities to reveal something of Lan’s heritage. That happens eventually, but it happens after Lan and Nyn spend the night together. I get why he’s been made less stoic and scowly for a TV show. I sort of get the relationship fast-track. But Lan would not have let Nynaeve get that emotionally vulnerable with him without her knowing what she was getting into. (Which really he didn’t completely reveal here even.)  Where’s the chivalry?

Why is this show creating romantic struggles where none exist, and taking away one of the very interesting ones that does exist? Lan and Nyn’s romantic barriers are a bit different than the usual issues.

Kissingpart 1024x599

Oh wait, is there something about destiny and crap in this story? Are we going to address that? Unexpected!

Editing me: I think I need to walk back some of my comments about the Lan/Nyn romance. I was rereading some chapter summaries to check my memory on the actual Eye of the World book plot line and saw some about this. They do reach the stage of professing their love at roughly this point in the first book, and there is some pining/comforting with Egwene on the topic. So there is time taken to bemoan events on a personal level in the book as well, but I stand by my comment that the show puts too much emphasis on the personal issues and not enough on the mental and emotional struggles of dealing with going from being backwater farmers to figures of destiny and increasingly important agents on the world stage. And I definitely stand by the comment that Lan and the relationship impediments were not portrayed in a similar way to the books, and that that would be the more interesting way IMHO.

Min is supposed to be tomboyish and prefer more male cuts of clothing and hair, but is not completely uninterested in looking feminine and desirable.  The randomness of the general costume design and prevalent use of pants in female costumes makes that challenging to depict. (So like, it’s a reason to have more cultural norms depicted in costumes, I’d say.) I don’t think a super low-cut tank top is an effective way to make her stand out as dressing differently than the average woman, nor to convey Min’s characterization as established in the books.

I’ve been curious to see how they would depict the Blight. This seems a lot more… uniform and samey/bland than I expected. It should be varied and creepy in its unhealthy vigour. We see dead people, but not the myriad of weird ways the Blight came for them. This is pretty low on my list of gripes, but there it is.

Wait, what happened to Loial? Last time we saw him was the throne room and no mention later. Loial is supposed to stand out and be noticed even in places where his people are more familiar, but they keep shoving him into the background.

Dilip parikh DAnwLsKzXjA unsplashMuch blight. Such scary. Photo by Dilip Parikh on Unsplash.

1 thought on “Thoughts on the Wheel of Time Episode Seven”

  1. Again, totally with you. I do wonder if you will be as disappointed with the season finale as I was. At first I was going to say “outraged” but my exhaustion with this show downgraded outrage to disappointment. This show needs writers on par with those working on the Expanse.

    Like

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