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Andrew and Lee do The Wheel of Time episode five: Funerals everywhere!

Rand and Mat finally make it to Tar Valon.
Enlarge / Rand and Mat finally make it to Tar Valon.

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.

Lee: Greetings, dear readers! Part five marks the start of the second half of our eight-episode season, and we pick up with a funeral—the aftermath of the attack that closed out episode four. White seems to be the funerary color in the world of the Wheel of Time, and the dead are shrouded in it as we close out the pre-credits scene with a cool overhead shot showing a circular arrangement of graves. Straight-down overhead views and circles are a strong recurring visual motif this season—and this isn’t the last time we’ll see a similar shot.

And after that, we get a big, month-long time skip—and then we’re off to Tar Valon!

Ahh, <span style="text-decoration: line-through;">Minas Tirith</span> Tar Valon!
Enlarge / Ahh, Minas Tirith Tar Valon!

Amazon Studios

Andrew: For book-readers, being in Tar Valon this early will drive home just how far off the map we now are, in terms of adapting Eye of the World. Many of our characters, particularly Rand and Mat and Egwene and Perrin, are all caught up in plots that actually aren’t too dissimilar from the book’s version of events. But we are far, far away from Caemlyn, the city that anchors these story beats in EotW, which means we’re either skipping or delaying some major character introductions, and also that inter-Aes-Sedai scheming is a bigger part of the story.

Lee: Can I do the Comic Book Guy thing and talk about Tar Valon’s appearance just a bit?

I promise not to make this kind of pooh-poohing a habit, but the show’s Tar Valon doesn’t really match my headcanon appearance. I see no flowing Ogier masonry, no fluted bridges and connecting towers. The up-close shots of the city streets with their dirty white stonework look like they were borrowed from Minas Tirith in Return of the King. And the White Tower itself is an artless stump of half-melted wax—like if you put the book’s version of the White Tower in a microwave and let it just kind of… collapse on itself. If there’s an architectural antecedent to the design we see on screen, it’d be something like Angkor Wat—except without the grace or beauty. Sorry, Amazon, but the Shining City is a swing and a miss for me.

Poor Logain. He's maybe looking a little, how do you say, <em>mad</em>.
Enlarge / Poor Logain. He’s maybe looking a little, how do you say, mad.

Amazon Studios

Andrew: Huh, the look of Tar Valon didn’t jump out at me as wrong, though I see what you mean. It’s Minas Tirith by way of King’s Landing. It could definitely be trying harder to be its own thing. But I’ll admit that I was mostly checking to make sure they had faithfully recreated the island’s, uh, distinctive topography (we only really see the city in profile, but it seems like yes?).

We have talked a few times about the differences in how the One Power is depicted in this show, and I came away from this episode mulling something that is kind of separate from that but also kind of not? Everything we see about Warder culture on this show is modeling an emotionally open and vulnerable version of masculinity that is really sticking out to me as a reader of the books. Most (if not all) of these men spend the books talking about duty and self-sacrifice and how they’re all too DANGEROUS to have friends or lovers. No one ever takes their childhood friend by the shoulder and just asks how they’re holding up. Book-Lan gives Nynaeve the Pee-Wee Herman “I’m a loner, Dottie, a rebel” speech pretty much verbatim.

But in the show we are regularly seeing groups of men having emotionally mature conversations, and crying, and just being there for each other? We briefly noted it last week, in that moment where Rand checks in on Mat because he’s worried about him. I am sure that this is going to piss off some element of the fandom, anyone who believes this affected machismo is something to emulate and not (as the books ultimately depict it!!) a character flaw. But I’ve found it strikingly refreshing.

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