The wheel is upon us! Episodes 1-3 have been released into the wild and we have all the thoughts. Avid watchers of genre shows know you always have to commit to 4 episodes before you bail, but we didn’t need that many to get sucked in.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Let’s first address the giant fridging in the room in The Wheel of Time 1×01 “Leavetaking” because it’s the one thing I’m very UGH about in this episode.
Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), one of the four young adults in the Two Rivers who may be the Dragon Reborn, is given a wife onscreen simply to have her killed off in episode one. To raise the stakes, (albeit accidentally) he’s the one who kills her. I have some feelings about that, but they’re mixed due to the circumstances in developing books for television.
I haven’t read all the books, but I did do some research into this change. Perrin didn’t even have a wife at this time in the story, so Laila (at least she has a name?) was purposely inserted into the show to die and propel Perrin’s story forward. This, I don’t love.
But Maybe Not As Cold As it Seems?
However, perhaps the biggest change made from page to screen is the main character of the series. While in The Wheel of Time 1×01 “Leavetaking” there’s a third person perspective of many events, the main character is clearly Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), a member of the Aes Sedai and newcomer to the Two Rivers.
The reason that carries relevance is that the first book starts in the town when the characters we see are quite young and follows their village life and customs. We know about their childhoods, their work life, and their entanglements before the strange lady shows up.
Conversely, because this audience’s insertion point to the story is Moiraine, we know little to nothing about the other POV characters at the beginning. We know nothing more about Rand or Perrin than we do Laila. We don’t really know much about anyone in the village besides a snippet of a scene here or there.
And that’s how I can give the show a little grace. Perhaps Laila (though a new addition to the world) would’ve been fully established had the show started at the very beginning of the books. This is television though and the main constraint to kicking off a story is TIME, and this wheel only has so much.
The fact of the matter is about half the villagers die in episode one. None are so connected to our mains as Laila. But was this simply the cost of propelling the entire narrative forward? To spur Perrin to even be willing to leave the Two Rivers with this crazy lady after an
orc Trolloc attack? I don’t see him ever leaving his wife, even given the man he’s presented to be in half an episode. As to why he was given one at all, that’s a question for another day.
It’s a complex issue that I certainly won’t get to the bottom of in one article, but suffice it to say though I clocked the fridging, I didn’t immediately throw things like I’ve done in several stories before.
Choose Your Fighter
I’m going to break the rest of this episode down by character. Besides him being a blacksmith, whose wife worked with him side-by-side, we pretty much covered Perrin’s pilot appearance. Let’s give him a little time to develop into something on his own and we’ll revisit.
Member of the Aes Sedai and kickass sorceress, Moiraine rides into town one night looking to really shake things up. Besides asking for lodging for her and her companion, she doesn’t say much to anyone, though visually she’s clearly eyeing all our 20ish year old townsfolk. She’s been on the hunt for the Dragon Reborn, reincarnation of the Dragon, who in his last life broke the world, but in this one may save it. Prophecies are hard, y’all.
What we do know is that only women are allowed to harness the One Power because the men who’ve mastered it in the past (including the Dragon), go mad. So that’s fun.
Moiraine has NO F@^%$ to give. And I don’t mean that she doesn’t care. She’s just clearly been on this journey for quite some time and is singularly driven by a simple, yet daunting, goal.
It’s both her fault the trolloc attack occurs and her magic that defeats them. She knows they’re looking for the same person she is (on behalf of the dark one) and that’s why they’ve come. Yet, she’s also the reason the four potential dragons survive.
She’s also terribly injured so it remains to be seen how that will affect the arduous journey the six started on at the end of the episode.
Lan is Moiraine’s “Warder,” not her lover. It’s an interesting distinction since their bath scene was a little steamy… pun 1,000% intended. Warders are bonded to each member of the Aes Sedai as their protector. Their bond is much deeper than romance or a conventional relationship. It’s a fealty broken only by death.
He doesn’t say a whole lot this episode, but I love him. From the moment I saw him on screen, I loved him. Daniel Henney just has IT. The swagger, the unaffectedness, the soft gooey center. Did he speak other than to say the water could be warmer? I don’t even know at this point. Only that he’s one of my favorites and I can’t imagine that’ll change.
The village “Wisdom,” Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) is one strong willed woman and I’m into it. She has no automatic respect for the “Lady Moiraine” the rest of the town is fawning over. In fact, she has her own issues with the Aes Sedai that date back to childhood.
The part I love is she doesn’t fake it. She doesn’t try to be anyone other than herself just because someone “noble” or “high brow” or whatever shows up. She is unapologetically her and I respect that.
I also noticed and quite liked how a great deal of the trolloc attack was shown from her point of view. The town healer being forced to watch the town fall and not be able to help. Good juxtaposition there.
What could look like another fridging as she’s dragged off during the siege, I’m reserving judgment on that one for a moment due to television’s very common “no body, no death” rule. While her friends think she’s been killed, I’m less convinced. An enemy took her offscreen and that’s the end of our knowledge. (If she IS dead, I will riot.)
A lot of the to do in the pilot is based around Egwene (Madeleine Madden). She’s come of age and has the traditional ceremony to receive her braid and… be tossed in a roaring river where they hope she’ll survive, apparently? Welcome to the women’s circle, indeed.
As the village Wisdom, Nyneave performs the patented braid and push. She’s also been talking to Egwene on the sly and trying to recruit her as an apprentice.
The catch? Being a Wisdom means never marrying or having a family. Egwene, having been pondering this offer, avoids Rand at her celebration, perhaps to put off that conversation a bit longer.
She loves him, that’s clear. Likely since she was a child. But perhaps she longs for a higher purpose than a farmer’s wife? Not that there’s anything wrong with that life. It just may not be for her, especially if she is bent toward hearing the wind.
Rand (Josha Stradowski) comes back to town with his father after being gone a few weeks. This guy is the epitome of a small town boy. In a village where most people never get to leave, Rand really doesn’t want to.
He has no desire beyond having a home with his wife and family, seeing his kids grow up in the same place he did, and cherishing those “ordinary” things in life. So, of course, that plan is upended even before the trolloc attack.
If Egwene chooses life as a wisdom, which he already halfway accepts she has, his plans are also derailed. He loves her. He knows what he wants, or he did. But he still gives her room, room to be her own person and to follow her individual path, even if it leads away from him.
Cue your epic quest, friend.
What room do you have to grow when your drunk mom tells you she knows you’re going to grow up to be just like your blatantly cheating super dick of a dad? We’ve missed a lot of priming in Mat’s (Barney Harris) background, but even those few words after seeing his dad in public start to outline the picture of a depressed and desperate man.
He clearly has a problem with gambling, and some thievery perhaps? Seems like a sneaky guy. Although he’s very keen on making sure his sisters are taken care of, to the best he can provide. Rand and Perrin are also shown to be well aware of this. Cue me patiently waiting for his heart of gold to seep out.
The Fellowship of the
Onward to the White Tower we go…
- There was quite a zoom on the hilt of Rand’s father’s sword. It had a bird symbol on it and I’m wondering what it means. Keeping that in my back pocket for now.
- The Aes Sedai rings are clearly important given how many closeups Moraine’s got and that it was immediately how the villagers recognized her station.