Andrew Cunningham and Lee Hutchinson have spent decades of their lives with Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time books, and they’re bringing that knowledge to bear as they recap each episode of Amazon’s new WoT TV series. These recaps won’t cover every element of every episode, but they will contain major spoilers for the show and the book series. If you want to stay unspoiled and haven’t read the books, these recaps aren’t for you.
New episodes of The Wheel of Time will be posted to Amazon Prime subscribers every Friday.
Andrew: If I had to come up with a Friends-style episode title for this week’s Wheel of Time episode, it would be “The One With The Dragon Reborn Misdirects.”
I’m not sure how much screen time or effort I really want the show to devote to the Great Mystery Of Who The Dragon Reborn Is. Changing who it is would vault us out of “adaptation” territory and into the realm of fanfic, so at the end of the day, I don’t really think the series is going to change it on us. But I will say that, if I knew nothing at all about the book series going in, the show is at least making a reasonable case that any of our five Two Rivers-ians could be the Dragon. And at least so far, the show is managing to do that in a way that is consistent with what we know about each of these characters’ long arcs.
Lee: Oh yeah. I like the misdirection. We don’t have the luxury in the show of getting into each character’s head and knowing their internal landscape, so playing “Who’s the Dragon?!” is a good way of giving the audience something substantial to chew on beyond just dialogue and setting. Showrunner Rafe Judkins has said that the show is not changing who the Dragon is and that book fans will know immediately. But this gives folks who haven’t read the books a nice little mystery to ponder.
This episode gives us our first on-screen showing of what a male channeler’s madness looks and feels like, too. In the scenes where Logain is facing down the king of Ghealdan, we see that the weaves he channels are mixed together with blackness—the corruption of the Dark One. (The show also uses “corruption” over the book’s choice of “taint,” presumably to avoid all the memes that would come from having everyone saying “taint” all the time. Haha, taint.) Logain is beset by shadowy figures that seem to form themselves out the corruption, and they seductively whisper dark things to him, like, “Hey, you should totally kill that king guy.” It’s a neat effect, and I think it works great.
And I’m enjoying Logain’s… whatever the actor is doing. Sumptuousness? Weird presence? Whatever it is, Álvaro Morte is doing a great job of making Logain feel like the kind of bad guy who would definitely treat you to dinner plus a Bond villain monologue before murdering you.
Andrew: I am glad you mentioned the “taint” thing because if this adaptation keeps all the characters from talking and thinking about “the Dark One’s taint” all the time then I will be willing to forgive any and all other shortcomings.
The visual effect of the
taint corruption on the One Power is probably my favorite visual effect in the series so far, strictly in terms of how economical and effective it is. You can still see the wisps of white, mixed in among the inky tendrils, but even before you see Logain’s madness manifest itself, it’s clear that something is wrong here.
That we’re meeting and talking to Logain at all is one of this episode’s two big departure points from the books—I believe we only spy him from a distance once in Eye of the World, and he doesn’t become a player in the story until a few books in.
We meet him because we’re inside an Aes Sedai encampment, which Moiraine, Lan, and Nynaeve have sought out so that Moiraine’s Trolloc-inflicted wound can be fully Healed. And the show uses this encampment to give us our first big dose of how Aes Sedai society is structured. We get a basic outline of the different Ajahs and their motivations, we hear about the Amyrlin Seat, we meet a few named characters from the books like Liandrin and Alanna. We physically move around a lot less in this episode, and the opportunity to take a breath makes the world-building and lore-dumping feel more organic and less forced.
I actually loved all the stuff with the Warders, since in the books you hear a lot about how they interact with each other but don’t actually get to see the kind of comradely backslapping that happens here.
Lee: Agreed, the Warder stuff was fun. This is a very different Lan from the one we see in the books—still stoic, but not flinty and unapproachable. He and Nynaeve manage to have an entire conversation about Lan’s fallen homeland of Malkier without either of them grunting or punching each other. I’m here for it—hell, I’m here for anything that makes Nynaeve less of the emotionally stunted bully desperately in need of therapy that she starts out as in the books.
Your comment about the Aes Sedai camp showing a bit of how Aes Sedai society works is dead on, and one of the most interesting bits is watching the Green sister in charge of the camp, Kerene (Clare Perkins) keeping Red sister Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood) firmly in check. Book readers know that among the Aes Sedai, women who are stronger with the One Power are kind of automatically in authority over those with lesser power, and Kerene (who Moiraine says has turned back entire armies with her channeling) is firmly in command. For a while, at least.
We also see a bit about why False Dragons are so feared—and what happens to them. A major job of the Red Ajah is to hunt down False Dragons and “gentle” them (that is, permanently sever them from the One Power, so that they can never again channel). False Dragons that have great strength in the One Power tend to raise armies of followers and wreak massive destruction—as Logain has done with Ghealdan. The Reds have snagged him up in a cage, and they’re transporting him to the White Tower to be tried.