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… It’s the season finale. And we’re all in Randland now.
After two episodes laying down some important worldbuilding and making some pivotal revelations–Rand al’Thor is the Dragon Reborn!–we reach the season finale, and the Eye of the World. Spoilers to come!
We start off 3000 years ago.
The first close up is of a golden pendant–a pin of a dragon. As the camera pans out we see that it’s being worn by a man in a dark uniform. In a nicely furnished room, he’s in conversation with a woman. Both of them speak a language we can’t understand. It being 3000 years ago, no doubt this is the Old Tongue. The man and woman are having an argument, which is both respectful but intense. He speaks of a plan to use the One Power to seal away the Dark One, revealing this is before the Breaking.
The woman warns that such a plan will have dire consequence. She has vowed that no women Aes Sedai will take part of this plan, which the man argues is splitting them (Aes Sedai) into factions of men against women. Still, he tells her, she cannot stop him from doing what he plans to do–and we see the prideful arrogance he carries. The woman sighs, saying that when he and the other male Aes Sedai set back the world a thousand years or more, they will be there to pick up the pieces. In the background a child cries, and the man remarks at one point: to think, the fate of the world was decided in a nursery. The woman says nothing was decided here. She is just a woman trying to remind her prideful friend, he is not invincible.
If you’ve read the books, you were watching this scene with your heart in your throat. Because you’d probably already guessed before she was even named fully, that the woman was Latra Posae Decume (Katie Brayben), the ancient Aes Sedai who opposed the plan of the hundred male Aes Sedai to lead an assault against the Dark One. We even get a hint of what is to come, when the man calls her the “Watcher of the Flame” and the “Tamyrlin Seat”–giving us the origin of the White Tower’s Amyrlin Seat thousands of years later. And the prideful man in the dark suit, with the golden pendant, can be none other than the first Dragon–finally named at the end of the scene as THEE Lews Therin Telamon (Alexander Karim), the Dragon.
Wow! Wow! Wow! What a thing to actually behold! One of the greatest achievements of this show, is to gift us with visual dramatic scenes in the book that were mostly visions or memories–deciding to do lots of telling instead of just showing. And this was AMAZING! Thank you, thank you! No idea how much we’ll get to see Lews Therin in future episodes, but you should REALLY get used to hearing his voice.
As Lews Therin loses his attempt to persuade Latra, he moves to comfort the crying infant. He tells her to hush sweetheart, for today I make the world safe for you. Ouch. That hurts. Because you know what’s going to happen. He moves by a window and we get a glimpse of the world outside: a futuristic civilization, where ships glide through the air. This is a glimpse of the Age of Legends! And that pang of sadness becomes more acute, as we know that it is this same Lews Therin who–in his prideful, even noble, attempt to save the world–will end up breaking it, destroying this technological civilization, and returning humanity back to the medieval era. No more flying cars–instead we got horses and sh*t. Horses. Thanks Lews Therin.
One odd bit. At the end, Latra names the man in the dark suit Lews Therin Telamon–the Dragon Reborn. Uhh, I think he’s just the Dragon. Perhaps, and I’m trying to be gracious, this is to say that Lews Therin is himself a reborn Dragon–as the Wheel turns and these ages repeat again and again? I hope. Because that seems like an unforced error.
Back to the future, with the horses and sh*t.
Rand (Josha Stradowski) and Moraine (Rosamund Pike) are making their journey through the Blight–since Rand outed himself as the Dragon Reborn. The Blight is, blighty. Quite nasty. But at least, unlike the books, the man-eating trees aren’t moving. And, no worms. Woulda busted the CGI budget alone on them! Along the way, they do get to glimpse the Seven Towers of Malkier–now consumed by the Blight, which Moraine says is growing. Another sign that the Dark One’s strength is growing. Rand asks Moraine if it was hard to leave her warder behind. She doesn’t answer, telling him to drink some water and (essentially) mind yo’ business.
At one point while they rest, Rand appears to fall asleep, and the very foliage starts eating his hand. Ewww. He wakes up suddenly and Moraine asks if he’s dreamed and about what–because in the Blight, so close to the Dark One, dreams can have meaning. But before he can answer, a bloodied sword blade emerges from her mouth–having gone through her neck and spine, and she topples dead. Whoa!
The sword wielder is none other than the shadowy figure we’ve seen haunting Rand’s dreams: a man with leathery charred skin and flames for eyes and a mouth. Rand draws on him, loosing an arrow that lodges in his eye. But the figure only casually grabs hold of the arrow and pushes it in! The effect warps his face until the fiery eyes and mouth disappear, and we are looking at a man. He is dressed in modish clothing and is inspecting Rand closely. He says, “you look nothing like him…but still you are him.” Very importantly, he then asks Rand what his plan is–though he calls him Lews Therin.
Rand tries to convince himself this is only a dream, but the man shrugs and asks if it matters. The man talks like he knows Rand, and speaks of past events that Rand must have done–including leading a 100 companions against him. Rand, tired of listening draws his sword. The man notices the heron and inquires after it, to which Rand responds that he got it from his father. The man chuckles, saying Rand’s actual father is long dead and that he didn’t expect the Dragon Reborn to be a fool. When Rand insists this is a dream, the man calls him Lews and tells him to sit down and listen to what it means to be the Dragon. Rand responds, by once more proclaiming this a dream, and running himself through with his sword–the man shakes his head in disgust.
So a super spoiler: the man here is alluded to being the Dark One. The Father of Lies. The ultimate villain and Dark Lord of this series. This keeps with a theme of the book, where Rand (and his friends) are hounded by this figure with flaming orifices. We later learn, of course, that this isn’t at all the actual Dark One. He lying. Instead, it is Ishmael (Fares Fares). The show right now simply names this figure as “The Man.” But you’ll learn soon enough that Ishmael is actually a male Aes Sedai from the Age of Legends, a one time friend and ally of Lews Therin, who turned to the Dark–now one of the thirteen Forsaken. Ladies and gents, the Forsaken have entered the chat. Be afraid!
Back at Fal Dara, Egwene (Madeleine Madden) and Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) fret over Rand’s leaving–and kinda sort make up for all that dramatic awkwardness of the last episode. Separately, Lan (Daniel Henney) frets over it too, especially bothered that Moraine has masked their bond. Nyaneve (Zoë Robins) ain’t too happy to be talking bout Moraine….again! But she finally tells Lan that she has a way of tracking Moraine (that was how she had found them after the attack on the Two Rivers) and that he can use it to do the same. Lan is surprised that Nyaneve would let him go without him, but she says what’s important is that he bring back Rand. He calls her a remarkable woman, and, perhaps for the first time, she confirms her wishes to train at Tar Valon. We get a touching scene, where Lan says his farewell holding her hand and reciting some lines from the book: “I will hate the man you choose. Because he is not me….” Awww.
In the Blight, Rand wakes for real this time, and Moraine asks him the same question that dream Moraine did. Rand responds that it was the Dark One. When she asks what he said to him, Rand only responds “I don’t believe a word that he says,” and shoulders past. He starts interrogating Moraine, asking what her plan is. She is hesitant but relents, showing him a sa’angreal: an object from the Age of Legends that can magnify a channeler’s power. He’s to use that to put the Dark One back in his prison. Rand is like, oh is that all? Moraine turns away but then he says, you thought it was Egwene didn’t you? That she was the Dragon Reborn? She doesn’t answer but seems to be thinking, “yeah dude, but I’m with you now, stop being so insecure.” Sometime later, Rand asks what happens if he can’t channel when the time comes. Moraine relates that she had a similar channeling problem when younger, and in the worst hazing incident ever, had it beaten out of her–until she was forced to use the power to defend herself. She promises Rand that when the time comes, he’ll do the same.
In Fal Dara Egwene and Nyaneve are out looking into the Blight from a high balcony, and both can feel bad things in the offing. They go to confront Min (Kae Alexander) down at Fal Dara tavern, asking her what she saw about Rand. We also get a Loial (Hammed Animashaun) sighting–where have you been dude? But Min’s not talking, only saying her visions always come true eventually–and then she glimpses a dire fate for Nyaneve, falling and seemingly burning. She looks around the room and sees dire fates for all the soldiers there too, each dying a grusome death. Nyaneve asks what is it Min is seeing. But before she can answer a horn starts blaring and the soldiers up and leave. Out in the Blight, Moraine and Rand hear the same horn, and they see an army forming–of Trollocs and Fades—heading to the city. Rand is concerned about his friends, but Moraine tells him that what he does at the Eye of the World will be what decides things.
The impending army of shadowspan has Fal Dara in a tizzy. Lord Agelmar Jagad (Thomas Chaanhing) walks with his retinue, Lord Kayen Yokata (Amar Chadha-Patel) and Uno Nomesta (Guy Roberts). The two lay out the dire news of thousands of the enemy forming and soon marching on the city. From his palace, Agelmar looks out at the fortress wall in Tarwin’s Gap–a narrow strategic passage out of the Blight which Fal Dara has long defended. He says to prepare and that he will go out to help defend the wall. A troubled Lady Amalisa, his sister, who it seems has been warning of the growing numbers of Trollocs and Fades amassing in the Blight, says that the gap won’t hold. But Agelmar is undeterred, giving cryptic orders to Yokata and Uno.
Lady Amalisa Jagad (Sandra Yi Sencindiver) repeats her predictions. And as she helps her brother into his battle armor, she implores him to see that the gap won’t hold. Agelmar relents, saying she is right–that she had been right all along and that they should have asked for help from the White Tower long ago. He says he knows that he can’t protect the gap indefinitely. That he and his men will fall. And when they do, it’ll be up to the women to defend the city. But that’s gonna fall too, he predicts. Agelmar is convinced this is Tarmon Gai’don the Last Battle (spoiler alert: it ain’t) and that the best Shienar can do is slow the shadowspawn down to give the world a chance to prepare. Brother and sister pledge, to do what they gotta do.
In the Blight, Moraine and Rand have arrived at the Eye of the World–an impressive looking bit of fantasy architecture built into the ground. Rand stares down and seems to know the place, recognize it as if he’s been there before. He asks Moraine if she is included among those who might die if they go down to the Eye. When she doesn’t answer he tells her to stay. She is like, whatever dude, and makes her way down. Inside they find an old building covered in moss and trees, from the Age of Legends. Rand has the nagging feeling he knows the place, and at one point sees a vision of Lews Therin confronting Ishmael–in an earlier battle. He focuses on something in the stone built into the floor: the ancient symbol of Aes Sedai. He bends to touch it and is suddenly…somewhere else.
Rand is in a house. There’s a cradle. And outside…is Egwene. With an infant girl, their daughter: Joiya. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Moraine sits holding an unconscious Rand. As she calls to him a figure suddenly appears–Ishmael. She channels quickly to attack him. But he easily breaks her weaves and then somehow cuts her off from the One Power entirely, getting a kick out of it as he does. Hold on Moraine! Lan is coming! Give that man a machete!
In Fal Dara, Lord Agelmar and his army ride out, banners streaming for the Light, to the fortress wall at the gap. The Lady Amalisa meanwhile prepares the city for war. That job is up to the women she commands, who go about readying ballistae, getting archers on the walls and lighting torches–so that no dark things can skulk about in the shadows. The purpose is to give all foreigners a chance to flee the city. One of those foreigners is Min Farshaw, who we see pushing through the crowd (who is kinda fleeing a bit too leisurely with man-eating Trollocs on the march) to hop onto a wagon and get the heck outta dodge. Lady Amalisa also gives a final order–for all women who can channel to report to defend the city.
In the middle of this we see Nyaneve, Egwene and Perrin looking frustrated as to what they can do. Should they leave? Should they stay? About then Loial again randomly shows up. Again, where have you been dude? He tells them about Lady Amalisa’s call for women who can channel. Everyone looks to Nyaneve, but she says she came to get them home–not fight a war.
At Tarwin’s Gap, Lord Agelmar is giving orders to crossbowmen to prepare to fire at his order–through arrow slits along the high wall. He rallies them and gives the famous Shienar oath to accept death in defense of the Light–“May the last embrace of the Mother welcome you home.” Outside, hordes of Trollocs are whipped into a frenzy. When one of the Eyeless in his black cloak gives a shrieking command, they charge for the wall–and it’s on!
Arrows reign down on the Trolloc hordes, stopping some, but there are way too many. In short order they reach the wall and begin climbing, mounting atop themselves all World War Z style. The hordes keep coming and Agelmar finds himself no longer able to oven use the crossbow, as they try to break through the arrow slits. As he draws his sword for hand-to-hand combat, a spear comes hurtling–pinning Agelmar to the wall. The last sight he sees is a bestial Trolloc face, tearing through the wall to reach him.
Outside the city walls, Lady Amalisa has gathered several women to her–all who can channel. To no one’s surprise because it was so obvious this is where we were heading, Nyaneve and Egwene show up. They all watch as Trollocs burst through Tarwin’s Gap, charging in their tens of thousands. Amalisa tells them they have to open up to her, so that she can channel the One Power through them. Each woman does so, and we see flows of light pulled from them to gather into Amalisa–linking all five women.
This in fact is a thing in the books. And it’s aptly called, a Link. When Aes Sedai join in a circle like this, the one leading the Link has their combined power–and can direct it in ways that they couldn’t imagine apart. It was really cool to see one happening–and the power it can unleash! Although… I thought the Lady Amalisa here was too small in the power or untrained to pull off what is considered a complex weave. So that was a bit surprising. Also, there’s a Nyaneve problem. In the books, Nyaneve is quite strong in the Power, but (as I’ve mentioned previously) she has a block: she can only channel when very angry. At least, it’s like that early on. In the show they never outright say it, but the two times she’s channeled before was during lots of frustration and duress. I was wondering if the anger thing would be an issue here. But nope, she opens up just like everyone else. Maybe the show has abandoned that angle?
Back at the palace, Perrin been sitting about feeling useless in the middle of all this. He has some very unusual angry outbursts in venting his frustration to Loial–about the most un-Perrin-like thing ever. Another notch against Dark Perrin. Loial says there has to be more that they can do than violence. And to be honest, that is also rather un-Loial. Ogier aren’t running into battle, at all. But in the books, they also will pick up a nice thick staff in defense against Trollocs and shadowspan. At least Loial does, often–even if that’s not an Ogier style. There’s even a famous saying of Ogier: that peaceful as they are, they are implacable enemies, and it is unwise to ever anger one. Anyway, Loial tells anger management needing Dark Perrin (boo!) that in his experience, if you don’t know what to do, you can ask.
Somehow, this leads them to the throne room. I don’t get how those two things add up either, just accept it. There we see Lord Yokata and Uno with pick axes digging into stone beneath Agelmar’s throne. Perrin asks how they can help, and Uno hands them axes. They haul out a box from the hole they’ve made and pronounce it is The Horn of Valere.
Literally fell out of my chair.
Hold up, y’all just gonna throw in the Horn like this? THEE Horn? The one that is suppose to call up the heroes of ages past to fight the Last Battle. This is a big deal. Like the Holy Grail. Or the Ark of the Covenant that melted Nazi faces (heck yeah! melt those Nazis good!) in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Perrin says they gotta use that right now! I’m laughing, because rash decisions on earth-shattering mystical objects is about as un-Perrin as it gets. Stop this! But Uno says it’s not for them. They have to get it to the Dragon, if he’s to stand a chance.
Waitaminute. Hold up again. They know Rand is the Dragon? Who told them? Lan? I hadn’t seen Lord Agelmar or the Lady Amalisa say anything about this. Moraine never said where she was heading exactly or why. How would they know they had to get the Horn out to take it to any Dragon? I dunno… feels like some plot holes in my lawn. Oh, sometime about now Perrin spots Padan Fain (Johann Myers). Yeah, he’s in the palace. Seems with the aid of some Darkfriends he’s gotten in, and has two Myrddraal with him who he seems to command. That cant be good!
As all of this is playing out, Rand is still in his dream reality–where he stands holding his baby girl Joiya. The whole thing is hard for him to accept, and he turns skeptical, questioning Egwene about how all of this came about. She answers that they’ve lived there since coming back from the Eye of the World, perplexed by his behavior. Still skeptical, he asks since when didn’t she want to go to the Tower? She tells him this is what she chose and where she wants to be. Still unconvinced, he asks her questions about their childhood in the Two Rivers, when they once ran away together and carved something into a tree. She answers that what they carved was “Our Place,” a home for them in this life and the next, forever. Rand finally believes. They kiss, she looks at him–and freeze frame.
Everything and everyone but him goes suddenly still.
Guy in the suit calling himself the Dark One (but who is really Ishmael) shows up and tells Rand, all of this can be his. He has the power to create this world, this reality, as he wishes. And he (Ishmael) can show him how. To illustrate, he flicks a hand and Egwene’s neck is suddenly bleeding from a gash Rand can’t stem. Another flick, and it’s gone. In amazement, Rand turns to Ishmael and asks, how he can make this world real? Ishmael smiles and tells him it’s simpler than he can imagine. He just has to want a thing badly enough, and he can have it. Flows of the Power weave about Rand, some of it showing the taint on Saidin.
Okay, so I’ve been calling this a dream reality. Let me amend that. In the books, something like this happens. Once it occurs to Rand, and at another time Egwene. Both of them see visions of themselves married. And, if I recall, at least Egwene knows about their child Joiya. But it isn’t a dream–not precisely. It’s actually from alternate realities, where they chose to be together, stay in the Two Rivers and get married. Yup, Wheel of Time has a mutliverse. The show has interestingly stitched together those bits from the book to use them in this Last Temptation bit they’re doing with Rand.
In the real world, Ishmael kneels before Rand’s unconscious body being held by Moraine. He ponders whether Rand will choose the Light or the Dark in his “dream reality.” Moraine suddenly pulls a knife, putting it to Rand’s neck–and tells the Forsaken, he didn’t think she would come here not knowing what might happen? Ishmael (fake Dark One) needs Rand’s power to escape this place, she says, and if he (Rand) doesn’t choose the Light then she’ll chose for him–by cutting his throat if need be. Ishmael only smiles though, telling her that Rand is already channeling. And he has no idea whether he’s channeling to break his chains or to strengthen them. Moraine presses the knife deeper, making blood flow.
At the Battle of Fal Dara, the Lady Amalisa, is now filled with the One Power. She demands more, and absorbs gigawatts of Power from the women. As the Trolloc horde approaches she unleashes lightening–in torrents! It tears through the Trolloc horde, blasting them to bits. As she does so she draws even more power, and the women around her burn out from the strain–falling dead. But still she wants more, seemingly drunk on the Power, even after they’ve accomplished their deed, destroying the army of the shadow. She looks like she might go all Lady Galadriel “All shall love me and despair!”
As she draws more, Egwene screams she’s burning and falls. Nyaneve falls too, but crawls over to somehow use some part of the One Power to, I think, shield or heal Egwene. She imparts a bit of wisdom (from a Wisdom) that to be a woman is to be alone and never alone–the same she’d given that first day when Egwene was completing her rites in the Two Rivers–and that they stand with all the women who came before. With a final scream, Nyaneve appears to fall down–burned out and dead, just like Min saw in that vision. The Lady Amalisa does the same, a charred and smoking husk.
Simultaneously as things play out for Lady Amalisa, in the “dream reality,” Rand is continuing to draw on the Power too–like Ishmael is urging him, filling himself up. But unlike Amalisa, he’s the bloody Dragon Reborn. Also he has the sa’angreal in his hand–the one to help him safely magnify his power! He’s brought it with him to this…reality…and it begins to glow, just as it glows in the real world. He tells a dismayed Ishmael that as much as he loves Egwene, as much as he wants this reality, he knows that she doesn’t. As he stands up to Ishmael holding the sa’angreal in the dream reality, he stands up simultaneously in the real world. He says that the woman of this dream realm who no longer cares about being a Wisdom, or being Aes Sedai, is not at all the woman he loves. As the world seems to spin about him, Rand unleashes the power of the sa’angreal in both realms–and Ishmael is seemingly burned away.
In the palace, Perrin has gone searching for Padan Fain–only to miss Padan Fain somehow circling about and ending up in the very throne room he came from. Okay, that’s… okay. He gets back in time to find Fain and the Fades amid a bloody scene. Lord Yokata appears dead, eyes glazing. Uno is nursing a bloody wound. Loial is in Padan Fain’s clutches. As Perrin screams out, the peddler knifes the Ogier who falls seemingly dead. Okay, I’m not even buying this attempt to kill off Loial as there would be riots. More likely, Season 2 will give us the chance to have Egwene or Nyaneve heal him. Or he has to get to a stedding. So no big whoop. More important though, unless Padan Fain already has “the thing” (but when could that have happened?), no way, no how, he’s handling an Ogier like that. A big ass Ogier? That scrawny dude? Nope. Not buying that either. This weak-ass version of Loial can go sing to some trees.
Padan Fain starts up a villain “reveal all” rant as he puts back his dagger. Waaaait. Is that the thing? But how? It should be with…? I’m so confused now.
Fain goes on to say he’s been coming to the Two Rivers every Bel Tine because he’s a Darkfriend, not for the tabac. Yeah, cat’s out the bag on that one bruh. Says he’s been sent there by the Dark Lord, to a small backwater village that surprisingly has five ta’veren. Glad somebody’s bothered to use that word again. Kinda a big deal. As he talks, we see other scenes: Rand looking at where Ishmael had once stood. Egwene sobbing as Nyaneve lies over her. That’s why we sent the Trollocs to kill all of you, Padan Fain says. By the way, bruh, are you just lounging up on Agelmar’s throne? Oh, the disrespect! He tells Perrin that all of this was actually to draw the five of them to the Dark One. Because the world needs the Dark. The world needs balance. Some of you, he says, will turn to the Light. Others to the Shadow.
About then is when we finally get a glimpse of Matrim Cauthon (Barney Harris). He appears to be at Shadar Logoth, all cloaked up like some Sith Lord. Manne. If y’all bout to do what you’re insinuating…turning Dark Mat into some avatar of the Shadow. Nobody wants this. Not the Creator or the Light. Just say no. Cuz ain’t nobody even ask for this. At all.
At the Eye of the World, Rand tells Moraine he’s not going back to Fal Dara. He says that when he channeled he could feel the madness, the one that is the fate of all men who can channel. And it’s about the first time that we see Rand become upset at what’s in store for him. Not just that he’s the Dragon, but a dreaded male channeler destined to madness and destruction. He tells Moraine to tell the others that he died there. That he didn’t make it out. Moraine says that as an Aes Sedai she can’t lie. He says, she’ll work it out. Turning, he leaves. She asks where he’ll go? He only says, “Goodbye Moraine.”
Oh, Padan Fain is still talking. Villain rants.
Fain says this ain’t over, and that the Dark One isn’t defeated. When Perrin picks up an axe he says ruefully, as if that’s just proven his point, “ahh there you go. Tiniest push and you choose the Dark.” Rand may be the Dragon he tells Perrin, but all of them have a part to play. Then, for reasons, only Dark Perrin can fathom, he lets Padan Fain and two Fades leave–with the Horn of Valere. WTF Perrin??
Back at the Eye, Lan has finally reached Moraine–who is sitting holding a piece of white stone. He asks after Rand and she just shakes her head and says he’s gone, which can deftly mean anything. Lan then tells her to let him back in, to unmask the bond. But she shakes her head, looking anguished. She reveals that when she fought the “Dark One” (actually Ishmael) he cut her off from the Power. He stilled her. OMG! That’s… that’s. OMG. Y’all stilled Moraine? Stilled her? Goes off to sit somewhere and stare into the sun.
At the palace, useless Dark Perrin stares out at the hordes of dead and destroyed Trollocs. What he can’t see, is that out there Egwene is holding a charred and burned out Nyaneve. As she sobs over her body, a bit of power flows out, and Nyaneve is suddenly and miraculously healed. They hug. Well, that was convenient. We can only guess she wasn’t dead and that a flicker of life must have remained. Because one thing about this world, is that you can’t bring back the dead. Never. Rand tries it once. And he has to use one of the most powerful sa’angreal in existence to do so. Does not go well. So I’m going to just assume that Nyaneve here was almost dead, and you guys were just head faking us. Because…
We’re treated to a final scene of Rand leaving the Blight, and heading…who knows where. At the Eye of the World, Moraine is still eyeing the white stone. Lan asks what it is, and she says its unbreakable cuendillar–heartstone. Lan asks what does this mean? She answers, that it means that what they just went through wasn’t The Last Battle. And she fears, it was just the first.
We are out somewhere on the “far western shore.” A little girl is playing on a beach, digging sand. She stops and turns to the sea, as above seabirds fly squawking. On the horizon are the tall red sails of ships. *Jumps out my chair and runs around the room.* To the accompaniment of new music, we see the ships up close–large bulky vessels with carved lions at their bow–and filled with helmeted soldiers. *Begins a lap around my house screaming.*
On one ship’s deck, two women in plain brown dresses with what look like golden muzzles on their mouths step forth. Behind them are two women in blue uniforms, their faces partially painted. The uniformed women begin speaking in an unknown language, as if giving an order. In response, the two muzzled women start moving their arms–creating weaves of the One Power. And the seas rise. A wall of water lifts up like a tsunami, towering before the tiny figure of the girl on the shore.
*Collapses on my front lawn, speaking gibberish, muttering one word: Seanchan.*
Artur Hawkwing’s armies have returned.
So, that’s episode eight of Season 1. My overall thoughts? Episode 8 was…okay to good. I had to watch it about three times to take it from “just okay” though. After the buildup on the last two episodes, wanted to see how the show would stick the landing. And they made it. But there were some less than stellar parts. The decision by the show to alter how things played out at the Eye of the World always left me wondering on the end goal. The reason for going to the Eye of the World, who goes there, and even what the Eye is supposed to be, have all undergone drastic revisions. In the books, everyone, the whole fellowship, makes the journey through the Blight. The Eye isn’t the Dark One’s prison–that’s Shayol Ghul. The saying, “The Dark One and the Forsaken are all bound in Shayol Ghul” is like on every other page. It’s at the heart of prophecy for Rand. Up and moving the Dark Lord’s prison seems pretty damn big.
In the books, the Eye of the World is in fact a great big pool of Saidin. And what happens there is actually the BIG reveal that the show had happen in the previous episode–Rand realizes (or openly admits) that he can channel. He don’t just channel either, he super channels: appearing (somehow) on the battlefield, destroying the entire Trolloc army in fire, and then defeating Ishmael and another Forsaken. Its upon finding out that he can channel that his life changes, forever. Because a man who can channel is a big effin’ deal. And finding that out is a big effin’ deal.
I don’t really care so much that the show has made these changes. But more so that while doing so, they never seem to convey the absolute horror and dread Rand should feel at this revelation. Instead, they’ve leapfrogged to him seeming to know and accept that he’s the Dragon Reborn. These big momentous revelations just don’t carry the punch they should. And the climax with Ishmael seems reduced to a kind of will “Anakin Skywalker turn to the darkside” type cliché. Plus, if Rand knows he’s the Dragon Reborn now (and accepts it) what’s his next move? In the books, takes him two novels to accept that truth, and he begins making moves to fulfill the prophecy. This TV Rand seems very unready to go there yet, so will be interesting to see what they have him do now.
The show also doesn’t seen to know what to do with the “chosen one’s” friends. Egwene and Nyaneve they seem to have figured out. Even enhanced. More on that later. But Perrin and Mat have just been kinda disappointments to me. Look, I get that filmic adaptations are going to be different. They have to be. But I also think (my personal belief) that the characters should at the least remain true to themselves. I mean, you don’t make Lord of the Rings and decide Samwise Gamgee needs to be a sloppy drunk or homicidal maniac. That’s how Mat comes off in this version. And Perrin, to a lesser extent. He just seems like a third wheel. Like if you took his entire character and arc out of the show, the plot could go on without missing him.
For that matter, same for Mat. And that’s unfortunate, because what Jordan did so well was interweave all these characters–showing how they were ALL important. I’m figuring that must be hard for a TV show. But hoping that somehow, in future seasons, these important characters get more depth and their due. Ditto for Loial. Ogier was damn near just a piece furniture.
Where I think the show at times falters is where it also excels: economical worldbuilding. Here, you get in what you can, because the series truly has LOTS for you to get in. This can sometimes be done quite deftly, which has happened on countless occasions. But at other times, like for instance just willy-nilly throwing in the Horn of Valere, it seems rushed. Without rhyme or reason. We aren’t even aware that anyone is hunting the Horn, which at least we’re treated to in hints during the book. Then having Padan Fain just make off with it while Perrin stands there counting sheep, further plays down its significance–especially if Season 2 is partially about them and the world hunting it down. I hope somebody asks Perrin, so what did you do when Padan Fain was making off with the horn? Speak up, I can’t hear you.
Economical worldbuilding has its bright moments. But sometimes you gotta go big. For instance, the Eye of the World is guarded by a big walking tree guy named Someshta, called often The Green Man. I’m guessing that the show decided to not go there because the SFX $ needed would be tremendous. Or, maybe, they just thought it would be a bit much. But I dunno, sometimes you gotta roll them dice and just go there–trusting your audience, even those unfamiliar with the series, will go with you.
Other changes from the books, I’m just more curious to see what happens. Moraine being Stilled ain’t nothing I’m thrilled with. I know finales gotta be big, but that is a very WHOA moment. Allegedly, from what I’ve read, since Moraine doesn’t do as much in the second book in the series, The Great Hunt, the show decided they needed a way to remove her. Okay. I get it. But stilling? That seems a bit overdone. I dunno, in the books, the way Jordan describes it, stilling always came off as a violation to me—just about the worst you could do to an Aes Sedai. After letting Whitecloaks chop off Aes Sedai hands and burn them alive, not sure how I feel bout this intensely personal violence being enacted upon Moraine, for reasons that seem less than justified. Moraine does do some pretty important stuff with the Power later on, particularly against some Forsaken. So not sure that stilling was the wisest idea. Unless it’s not stilling, and she’s just shielded. Because Ishmael does muse that she can sense the Source but not touch it. And I always thought with Stilling, it was just *gone*–only a memory.
So maybe he just created some type of super shield, which we actually see another Forsaken do to a certain Darkfriend in the series. I’m curious to see if this is the route they go, and how Moraine will get that undone–as she simply must.
So let’s talk more about what I liked with the episode. The opening with Lews Therin was phenomenal! I hope we continue this trend of showing us the past in these beginnings. I thought it was great to see the blossoming relationship between Lan and Nyaneve. Really liked how they did the Blight, which I know would be difficult to re-create. They still managed to convey its creepiness. Fares Fares makes a good Ishmael! Just as dark and arrogant as you’d expect. And it’s a great way to start talking about the Forsaken.
I’ve liked the whole enhancement of Nyaneve and Egwene throughout. I also like what the show decided to do with the Lady Amalisa, really upping her role! Having her, Nyaneve, and Egwene destroy the Trolloc hordes rather than Rand was a surprising difference! True, it kinda took some shine away from the “Chosen One,” and that was somewhat disappointing. I mean if a few linked Aes Sedai can destroy whole Trolloc armies, what’s the point of a Dragon?
But on the positive side, it gave these characters something to do rather than wait for the Chosen One, and the men folk, to do all that needed doing. Letting us see a Link between women for the first time was very cool, not to mention the dangers of burning out! There’ll probably be some quibble of killing off Agelmar and then having Amalisa go out the way she does (power hungry) after having built up her character. But, I think the depth they bought to their characters–especially Amalisa’s–may be worth it.
And how can we forget the Seanchan? That ending scene is pretty much what made me HAVE to declare this a somewhat good episode. It was epic. It was excellent. It really conveyed who and what the Seanchan are, and the threat they are about to pose. I got shivers! Of course, I also got questions. This show that prides itself on diversity…hope it’s looked up the definition of Orientalism, because the Seanchan are kinda steeped in it. It’s gonna be a fine line between showing they are a different people, without ending up in stereotyped notions of Essos or Harad. What language were they speaking anyhow? Thought they just had slurred speech.
And I hope they’re not planning on making the A’dam those mouth muzzles. Because it immediately made me think of this famous image of a muzzled slave from 19th century Brazil. And that might get…awkward, only adding to the Orientalist issues of the Seanchan. Tread carefully.
At any rate, here we are with a concluded season of the show it was said would be impossible to adapt. It was fun while it lasted. And I certainly enjoyed it, despite my criticisms. It was amazing to see this book series that I’ve so long cherished brought to life. I’ll be right there, front row, next season, to watch. I HAVE FAITH IN YOU RAFE JUDKINS!! So don’t fret. Because as Robert Jordan might say, “There are neither beginnings or endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time… But this was a beginning…”
Things I’m hoping to see in Season 2:
More Horn of Valere | the REAL Matrim Cauthon | An Ogier Stedding | Perrin dream running with wolves | Egwene in Tel’aran’rhiod | Verin Mathwin Sedai (come through! | Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan Sedai | A White Tower coup | Black Ajah | Lanfear | Sul’dam and Damane | Raken and To’Raken | Grolm | Aelfinn and Eelfinn (please!!!) | Falme | The Fall of Tear | Elayne Trakand | Lots more Aiel | Aviendha | Faile | Sea Folk | An Opening showing the Breaking–like some Day After Tomorrow and 2012 level disaster flicks!
That’s basically my wish list. I know seeing Falme AND The Fall of Tear is asking for a lot. But I’m thinking they only got 8 seasons, so can’t do a book at a time. Rand spends much of Book 2 jumping through portal stones and hunting the horn, but is mostly absent from Book 3, until the Stone. If Season 2 can get both these momentous bits of story in, takes a lot off that plate.