Wheel of Time on TV: The Dragon Reborn

Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again… also, fourth time’s the charm.

After a pretty good opening episode and two more *okay* episodes, the WoT on TV might have finally hit its stride. Breathes out a heavy *sigh* of relief. Let’s recap.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

We start off in Ghealdan…a small nation in the Westlands who has seen better times. If you’ve recalled, we’ve heard news of war in Ghealdan way back in episode 1, from Perrin relating rumors that have filtered even to the backwaters of the Two Rivers. Turns out Perrin heard right. There’s a battle taking place in Ghealdan in an impressive looking castle. The camera angles out to show men scurrying back and forth weapons in hand. And you know that *epic* feeling you get when reading a rich and immersive bit of high fantasy? Yeah, this scene gave you epic chills *all over.*

Two soldiers are trying to get their battered king, the ruler of Ghealdan, to safety. Their pursuer is a lone figure in dark robes, striding casually through the mayhem. Nope, not a vampire. That there is the one and only “he of the long dark and luscious hair,” Logain Ablar (Alvaro Morte)–the False Dragon, one of the most powerful male channelers of the age. And he is burdened with glorious purpose.

The two soldiers turn to take on Logain, giving their king time to flee. Yeah, bad idea fellas. For the first time we get to see a male channeler use the One Power! Only, quite noticeably, Logain’s weaves are dark–“like water with a thin slick of rancid oil floating on top.” The taint on Saidin. Taint or no taint (stop snickering and grow up!) Logain makes easy work of the two soldiers, showing us just what a powerful channeler can do. He catches up to the beleaguered king, who tells him he’ll never have Ghealdan’s crown. But Logain simply replies, “What does a crown mean to the Dragon Reborn?” There it is, he’s named himself the thing. The king still seems stunned Logain believes himself to be the most recent reincarnation of the Dragon. He tells him they’ve sent message to the White Tower and that Aes Sedai will be on their way to handle matters. Hey wait, is someone we can’t see talking?

Logain responds that the women of the White Tower should be following him, not trying to capture him–that the Dragon is as likely to save the world as break it. And with those words he gives us a bit of background on why the Dragon is both heralded and feared. The last Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon “Kinslayer,” helped seal back the Dark One, then helped break the world. No one is certain what a prophesied second Dragon will do–save the world, or break it all over again? It’s why anyone proclaiming themselves the Dragon Reborn, like Logain, sows chaos wherever they go. Also, due to the taint, male channelers are destined to go insane.

Seems Logain is just about there already. Those voices we’re hearing are in his head, urge him to push on. The king, realizing this, pulls out a knife, declaring “You’ve gone mad already!” He tries to stab Logain, but fares little better than his soldiers. I mean, did you think that would work my dude? And we glimpse the madness induced by taint now: swirling bits of Saidin in the shapes of two figures (a man and woman), whispering paranoia, glory and jealousy into Logain’s ear. Nice touch! They urge him to kill the king and Logain seems very close to doing so. But at the last moment he pulls back, healing the king and saying there’s a place for anyone at his side–even his enemies. He picks up the king’s knife and offers it to him stating, “The last Dragon broke the world–I plan to bind it” as we are caught up in his dark stare.

Whew! What a sales pitch! What an opening! *Stands up and claps!* Well done!

But we all know this False Dragon will be captured. And it’s smooth sailing for Ghealdan from then on in the books… yup. Smooth sailing…

Oh, have we talked about that opening credits scene since episode 2? With the stitching of the tapestry that is supposed to be the Pattern and all the threads within? Part of one giant loom? Eventually weaving into what looks like the Ajahs of the Aes Sedai? Noice!

From there we end up back with Nynaeve (Zoë Robins), who finds herself in a thicket of Aes Sedai–and their warders. She hangs back though, exchanging a look with Lan (Daniel Henney). Moraine meanwhile is getting some needed healing from another Aes Sedai, Kerene Nagashi (Clare Perkins) of the Green Ajah. In the books, Kerene is one of the few Aes Sedai (along with Moraine) who knows about the Dragon being reborn and is sent out to find him. There’s nothing in this episode that hints she’s aware of that, so the show has appeared to repurpose her role. The healing has taken the wind out of Kerene, and Moraine notes surprise at this–given how strong she is in the power.

The reason, Kerene makes plain, is Logain–who’s being held in a nearby cave. She takes Moraine to see the captured False Dragon who sits, eyes closed, and not uttering a word–while two other Aes Sedai, Alanna Mosvani (Priyanka Bose) of the Green Ajah and Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood), a Red, hold him with a shield of power. Kerene relates that of all the Aes Sedai there, only she, Liandrin and Alanna are strong enough to hold him. Moraine offers to take the tiresome burden off at least one of their hands–and is rewarded with some low grade shade from Liandrin. Reds gonna Red. When Moraine joins in, she gets a jolt at feeling Logain’s power–which is supposedly only half of what he’s capable of!

We’re soon taken to Lan and Kerene’s warder Stepin (Peter Franzén) practicing and making warder talk and politics back at the White Tower. We get a glimpse more of this when Stepin and Kerene are alone, Aes Sedai to warder. Seems there’s dissent among the ranks. Liandrin is pushing to “gentle” Logain, that is, to cut him off from the power–forever–right now. Kerene however is following the orders of the Amyrlin, the head Aes Sedai in charge, to bring him in for trial first. Tensions tensions!

Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures

While guarding Logain, Alanna and Moraine banter and we get some bits of their past, as well as more on the the Green Ajah: the so-called Battle Ajah, who prepare themselves for the Last Battle, or Tarmon Gai’don–WoT’s version of Armageddon, the last fight against the Shadow. Alanna worries that Logain’s presence may mean they are actually near those times, and worries that in gentling every man who can channel, they might inadvertently gentle the Dragon Reborn: their only hope against the Shadow. Just about then, Logain (still never opening his eyes or speaking) seems to test his bonds–forcing both women to return to concentrating on their task.

Outside, Liandrin has come across Nyaneve. She sits down and Liandrin seems pleased to hear that Nyaneve is no fan of Moraine. (Run girl! Run! You in danger!) She relates that Moraine is Blue, and calls them no more than little spies–while the Reds, seek to protect the world from those who might misuse the Power. Lan shows up and asks to sit in, which prompts Liandrin to leave–not before inviting Nyaneve to sit with the Reds in their tent. Nyaneve immediately distrusts Liandrin and reveals as much to Lan–asking if all the women in the White Tower are like this. Lan sidesteps the question, but promises her at Tar Valon they’ll be able to find resources to locate the others from the Two Rivers.

At Lan’s invitation, Nyaneve goes to hang out with the warders–who are cracking jokes and having a warder jamboree. That is before the Aes Sedai show up to take off with their respective warders. Stepin relates to a troubled Nyaneve that the Aes Sedai bond with their warders (created through the One Power) is stronger than any other: husband and wife, mother and child. Aes Sedai in the old tongue, he relates, means “servants of all.” And if Aes Sedai serve the world, they in turn serve them. Alanna shows up to collect her own warders Maksim (Taylor Napier) and Ihvon (Emmanuel Imani). Of note, Maksim appears based on a character named Makzim from the books: a trainer of warders. But that Makzim has no relationship to Alanna that I can recall. Instead, this Maksim seems based on her warder Owein. Why the switch for the tv adaptation, I don’t know. But interesting.

As Alanna takes off with suggestive looks at Maksim and Ihvon (who also do their own bit of canoodling), Stepin informs Nyaneve that yeah…it’s like that. At least among the Green Ajah. When Lan takes off to find Moraine for the night, Stepin seems to leave it to Nyaneve’s imagination (and the audiences) of what could be going on with those two. When we do see Lan and Moraine, they talk about their twenty year hunt for the Dragon, her thoughts on Logain and the challenges they face. When Moraine reaches to hold his hand Lan remarks that he shouldn’t have had a drink–as she always gets emotional when he drinks. This was a great way to introduce that the bond between warders and their Aes Sedai also includes emotions: what one feels, so does the other. Even a slight buzz.

This part did have some puzzling bits for me. In the books, the Aes Sedai are a haughty bunch. If Liandrin is walking over to sit with Nyaneve she wants something. Still, she’s unlikely to go badmouthing other Aes Sedai in front of …commoners. Unless she senses that Nyaneve can channel and is trying to recruit her? That also seems far-fetched, as Nyaneve would be considered too old, by the Tower’s reckoning. And besides, if I recall, Liandrin doesn’t care much for Wilders. Another change of note–in the books warders are all pretty deferential to each and every Aes Sedai, even those not their own. As if conditioned. Lan walking up to man-inject himself into an Aes Sedai’s conversation, without some form of deferential “by your pardon Liandrin Sedai,” also seems surprising. Not to mention, Reds don’t have warders, and don’t care for them much. But… I’m quibbling at things I’m used to, and this show is becoming something different after all.

Okay, but what’s happening with the others?

Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures

Elsewhere, we meet Perrin and Egwene still among the Tinkers. Despite Perrin’s reservations, they head out with the Tinker caravan headed to Tar Valon. Along the way, they get into some philosophical talk about the Way of the Leaf–the pacificist code of the Tuatha’an. Perrin is perplexed by this but the Tinkers explain that it’s better to run away than to fight, because violence scars the soul. Naturally, this has profound meaning to Dark Perrin–ever since what went down in the Two Rivers with his wife. Later that night they end up at a Tinker dance-off and Aram explains to a questioning Egwene this “song” that the Tinkers are searching for. Aram relates that it is believed among the Tuatha’an that there’s a song that can bring peace and harmony to the world–if they can find it again. He also says he’s skeptical about its existence. Looking about at the peaceful festivity, Egwene replies that perhaps they’ve already found it…delivering perhaps the corniest line of the series. But I suppose compared to what’s going on everywhere else, she’s got a point.

Egwene and Aram spend some time stargazing, and he tells her that at twenty years of age Tinkers get to go off and see the world–and choose which path they’ll walk. Oh Aram. Aram. Aram. Aram. Perrin meanwhile sits talking with the Tinker leader on their pacifism. In response to his skepticism, she relates of dealing with the grief over the murder of her daughter (Aram’s mother). Following the Way of the Leaf she tells Perrin isn’t easy. But in the end, she decided that it was greater than vengeance. And that she hopes to make the world a better place for when her daughter is eventually spun out and reborn by the Wheel.

Hey, what about Matt and Rand? Since leaving the mining village and escaping a Darkfriend, they’ve taken to following the gleeman Thom Merrilin. Rand is suspicious, but Matt doesn’t see they have any other choice. They come across a farm and Thom suggests they sneak and rest in the barn overnight. Just then the farmer appears with a bow in hand, threatening them to leave. Rand manages to talk him down and the farmer decides to ask his wife her thoughts–only then revealing she was behind them with their son, bows both drawn. Lady farmer says fine, as long as they clean up the barn first.

Matt appears to be having some serious gastric problems–vomiting up black oozy stuff that sucks back into his mouth. Got a little Shadar Logoth problem there Matt? He whirls around to find the farmers’ youngest daughter, who reminds him of his own sisters. Seeing his distress, she gives him her doll to help him sleep. And the doll is named…wait for it… Birgitte. As in… Birgitte Silverbow?!?! Loses. My. Complete. And. Utter. Mind.

Elsewhere, Thom relates to Rand the story of his nephew Owen–a male channeler who is captured and gentled by the Aes Sedai. Owen, cut off from Saidin, eventually slits his own throat. Thom warns Rand that Matt, who is behaving oddly, is showing similar signs to Owen. He promises to stay with them in the hopes of saving Matt from Aes Sedai clutches.

That night, Rand has some wild dreams. He sees Perrin using a smithy hammer. But he’s hammering at dead bodies, not iron. Matt is walking in a daze with bloddied hands. Egwene is there and calls out to him, just before a dark cloaked figure with fire for eyes snatches her up while roaring from a fiery mouth. Ba’alzamon I presume?

Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures

Rand wakes up in a jolt to find Thom at his side. Matt is gone. The two race to the house and discover the farmer and his family dead. All of them slain and bloody. Matt is there too, standing quiet and staring upward. Before they can grab him he lifts his ruby-hilted-dagger upward, pointing. “I see you you,” he says. There, lurking in the shadows, is a Fade! Two great things about this scene. One, Thom and them daggers! He doesn’t even bother to think, hurling them at once. Second, the Myrddraal! I’d wondered if they could pull off the unnaturalness of a Fade similar to the book. And they manage it! The Myrddraal melts out of darkness and shadows. It catches daggers right out the air! It moves fluidly like a snake, almost seeming to flow rather than walk. That’s what I’m talking about! Thom tells Matt and Rand to run, trying to hold off the Fade in the farmhouse himself. The two take off on horseback, leaving Thom to an unknown fate and the bloodied doll of the little girl behind. In the books, something like this happens–but much more publicly, at a place called Whitebridge. Seems that we’re getting a recreation of that here, if different.

Okay. So back to to the Aes Sedai.

Kerene confronts Liandrin over the “gentling” campaign she’s been stealth leading around the camp and is like, “You wasn’t gonna tell me to my face?” Liandrin makes the case that gentling is the wisest thing. And she alludes to the Three Oaths as justification. Kerene replies that naw, the White Tower is based on law–and she expects any Red to know that. Ahhh! Political infighting! This is probably what Aes Sedai do best! Hey, wonder why Liandrin might be so cavalier bout breaking the unbreakable Three Oaths? Hrrmmmm.

Outside, Nyaneve walks in on Lan performing a ritual–and we get allusions to the Seven Towers of Malkier! Taishar Malkier! Nyaneve does her own prayer, in the Old Tongue with its ceaseless glottal stops. She relates it was the last thing her parents said to her before hiding her in the cellar when their village was attacked. Wait, what? Nyaneve in the books is from the Two Rivers and until Winternight last hasn’t seen an attack of anything but wolves stealing sheep. What attack is this? Where is this Nyaneve supposed to be from? I need answers! Anyway, Lan relates that what she spoke were the last words of Manetheren. Taishar Manetheren! She and Lan are about to have “a moment” before all hell breaks loose at the camp. Seems Logain’s followers are about to make a jail break! And suddenly a hail of arrows comes flying their way. You know what that means.

BATTLE AJAH, MOUNT UP!

Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures

Since getting glimpses of this in the previews, I’d been waiting to see some Green Ajah lets loose. See the One Power used not even like Moarine did in the Two Rivers, but what happens when a trained straight up Aes Sedai *soldier* let loose. I was not disappointed!

Alanna uses a weave of air to not only stop those arrows mid-flight, but sends them back into the ranks of Logain’s followers coming over the ridge. They’re led by none other than the king of Ghealdan. Guess dude got converted. After that, it’s a full on battle royale! Warders. (False) Dragonsworn. The whole nine. Aes Sedai out there blasting folk with lightening. Sending dudes crackling through trees! Alanna’s out here flingling mad weaves and throwing straight bombs tearing through the earth! Wild!

Back in the cave though, Logain decides to show out. Seems he’s been holding back while waiting for his followers. Now that they’re here he lets loose a surge of Saidan that knocks Liandrin and Kerene flat. Before you know it, the bars to his cage literally begin melting away. Oh snap! He’s free! Stepin feels Kerene get hit and instantly knows its Logain. Along with Lan and several other warders and Aes Sedai, they race back to the cave. But not before someone else arrives.

Moraine strides in to greet the freed Logain, telling him they don’t have much time before the others arrive. She is desperate to talk to him. To find out why he believes he’s the Dragon Reborn. Because if he is and he’s gentled then, the fate of the world is sealed. And… wait wait wait… did Moraine help free Logain?!? Was this planned?

Logain answers smugly, that he can hear the whispers of all the past Dragons in his head. Every person able to wield the power so strongly to earn the title. And they’re teaching him to do better. To be better. Isn’t that why the Wheel has people spun out and reborn he asks? To be better?

But Moraine is like–nah, wrong answer. The Wheel doesn’t want anything. Only people want. The voices in your head aren’t past Dragons–they’re just the madness of the taint. And you might think you Neo, but you ain’t The One. The power of the real Dragon she says, will be a trickle, a pinprick of candlelight against the raging sun that will be the Dragon Reborn. Damn son. She called you a trickle.

Sidebar: in the books Logain Albar is definitely not as strong as The Dragon. But trickle? My dude was just a few notches behind. Like right, right behind. Like, out of the 72 rankings the geekosphere has put together to judge levels of power among Aes Sedai wielders (men and women) he’s like at ++2. The Dragon Reborn is ++1. Moraine is way down at 13. Either the show has de-powered him tremendously, or the Dragon Reborn gonna be punching through planets!

About right then Kerene gets up and puts the wham on Logain. Liandrin gets up and together with Moraine, the three Aes Sedai begin placing the shield back about him. But not before he lets loose some Saidin spears of darkness. Kerene sees them coming and chooses to put up a shield to save Moraine and Liandrin, while the spears take her full on. She is sent slamming into a wall, falls, and dies. Well ain’t that a This Bridge Called My Back moment.

The two remaining Aes Sedai now struggle to get Logain back under control. Outside, Kerene’s death has reached Stepin through the bond. And when an Aes Sedai dies, their warder basically goes beserker insane. Stepin starts burying axes in everybody, telling Lan that Kerene is dead. Alanna tells them to get to the cave, that she and who’s left will hold off Logain’s army. She does some heavy One Power weave that clears most of the field, and we get a glimpse of the king of Ghealdan, laid out on the ground and dying. A fitting symbolism of the fate of followers of false Dragons.

Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures

In the cave, Moraine warns Liandrin on pulling too much power–saying she’ll burn herself out. But Liandrin is like, nah, dude killed our sister, he gotta go. No matter what. Then Stepin enters the chat. He’s hot off the death of his Aes Sedai. Seeing her just sends him into full rage. Battle axes drawn he charges before Lan can stop him and leaps at Logain. The axes meet the sheild and seem to slowly go through–enough to weaken the two Aes Sedai and allow Logain to break free. The axes explode, sending shooting metal flying through the cave, striking and taking nearly everyone down.

It seems, against the odds, Logain is victorious. He sets out on his victory stride. But no one’s paid attention to the Wisdom from the Two Rivers. She’s been caught up in the battle, barely defending herself with a knife as warder’s swing weapons and Aes Sedai hurl the One Power. But she’s a healer. She’s managed not to get caught by any of the shards. And as she kneels over Lan’s body, his throat spurting blood where he’s been cut, she yells a defiant NO! And before you can say “tugs her braid in anger” releases a volley of One Power so intense it blinds everyone, so strong, it heals everyone. Even Logain is taken, comparing it to a radiant sun.

Liandrin takes the moment to step up and tells the others to link with her (we get to see an Aes Sedai link! *claps*) and together, the sisterhood ensnares Logain, lifts him high and gentles the hell outta him–cutting him off from the One Power. Permanently. Leaving him just a weeping man lying on the ground. The episode ends with a close up at Nyaneve’s face, realizing what she’s done.

Yeah, girl, you can channel. And you’re like a 3 on the power scale. One of the strongest Aes Sedai since the Breaking. Smooth them skirts of stout Two Rivers wool and give that braid a good hard tug. Big tings bout to go down.

Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures

So this episode was just plain FUN! Where the last two kind of seemed to lag, this one came back blasting. The best part here was probably all the hints to things to come and explanation of things present and past. I guess you could call it “economical worldbuilding”–for when you don’t have 700 pages to describe things like warder bonds, the taint on Saidin or factions of feuding Ajah. You get it in where you can and make it count.

Another thing about much of this episode, is that it is spun out of whole cloth and completely original. With the exception of the part with the Tinkers, none of this actually happens in the books. Matt and Rand’s encounter with the Fade and Thom’s seeming self-sacrifice takes place elsewhere, after a lot of traveling–not at some farmhouse. Now the owners of that farm, the Grinwells, do play their own particular role in the books. Or at least, their daughter Else Grinwell does. Only there’s no one cast by her name for the show, instead there’s a Dana Grinwell…who no one has ever heard of. So this is maybe Else reimagined? Unlike the books, she doesn’t meet Rand and throw moon calf eyes at him the whole time. And in this tragic retelling, the Grinwells don’t survive a murderous Fade. Different yes. But it was a deft use of the source material to convey some memorable scenes.

The most imaginative bit however involves Logain. In the books, we more hear that Logain is causing problems in Ghealdan than we ever actually see them. Nor do we see anything dealing with his capture. By the time he enters the story, he’s been captured and is being paraded about for everyone to see he’s a False Dragon–before being gentled at Tar Valon. The show created an entire new storyline, where warders and Aes Sedai hold him captive and have to fend off an army of his followers. This allowed us to get some valuable background info on Aes Sedai, warders, and their factions. It also gave us time to know Logain before his gentling, see the taint and the madness it induces (especially those voices!) and even complicates his character a bit by having him truly believe he can be a force of good upon the world.

And we still end up getting important points across. Kerene Negashi in the TV adaptation dies at the hands of Logain. In the books, she’s thought to have been murdered by the Black Ajah (don’t click that unless you want to go down a rabbit hole!) while searching for the baby Dragon Reborn. Here she and her warder are repurposed to give us some important pieces of worldbuilding. In the books, Nyaneve doesn’t meet Logain until he’s gentled and put out to pasture (literally, in a garden) at Tar Valon. She’s not mixed up in any battle. And her powers manifest themselves with much less dramatic flare. But she is definitely powerful. It’s also the case that she can’t wield the power, at least in the beginning, unless she’s angry. Will be interesting to see if they keep that here.

One thing to quibble about. Well, not so much quibble as wonder. Part of this newly created scene has Moraine wondering if Logain can possibly be the Dragon Reborn. It’s her reason for being conflicted and concerned over his being gentled before arriving at Tar Valon–a source of friction between herself and Liandrin. It’s also why she (might) have helped him momentarily break loose, so she could confront him directly and see for herself. Only… there shouldn’t be any confusion over this. In the books, the Dragon is part of a set of prophecies. Set things have to happen. An impregnable stone fortress has to fall. A sword that isn’t sword has to be wielded. The People of the Dragon have to show up. If none of that’s happened to Logain, he ain’t the one. So is the show doing away with the prophecies? If so, that’s a big deal, as the entire WoT pretty much runs on prophecy.

Will be staying tuned to find out!

Till next time, where maybe we’ll get to deeply explore Aes Sedai fashion sense at the White Tower!

1 thought on “Wheel of Time on TV: The Dragon Reborn

  1. Good take on the episode. I agree that if prophecy ain’t in it, it’s not The Wheel. Meanwhile . . . Trying to decide if I can get my hair like Alanna’s or just keep tugging my braids like Nynaeve.

Share your thoughts, cuz I'm not just writing to hear myself talk....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s