Wheel of Time – Episode 1 – Leavetaking

It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here! I am so super excited to see this show on screen after having loved the books for so long. Not only is the show beautiful, but it’s an amazing experience. I watched all three episodes as soon as they released, and I am simply over-joyed.

Now, really quick before we get into a long and in-depth review, I just want to draw attention to the entitled and elitist ‘long-time readers’ who are review bombing the show because it doesn’t live up to their expectations. I guess they wanted the first episode to be nothing but Rand and Tam walking to Emond’s field? I don’t think these people know what an adaption is. I’m disgusted by some of these communities, and I wonder if they can ever find happiness in anything. The show was not without its flaws, but it was very watchable and enjoyable, and I will also point out that the BOOKS are not without their flaws as well.

Nothing is perfect. Find the beauty in what we have (because there is definitely beauty there) and stop belly-aching over the little things that don’t matter.

Okay, rant off. Let’s get started.

What is the Wheel of Time?

The Wheel of Time is a high fantasy, epic series by Robert Jordan that spans 14 books. The first three episodes of the show adaption has just been released on Amazon Prime, and that is why we are here today. The next month’s series of posts will be in-depth reviews on The Wheel of Time episodes, along with an extra explanation of events/lore to fill in some gaps for those who haven’t read, and do not want to read the books.

Although each episode will contain show spoilers, as I will be analyzing various scenes and events, I will do my best to not reach beyond the timeline of the show and reveal any spoilers from the books. There is plenty of lore out there, but I would also like to point out that the Wheel of Time Amazon page is in the process of building show-lore and additional details to further flesh out the world.

Also, when you start an episode, if you pause it, you can see there is bonus content added. The first Origin Story that we get from episode 1 is The Breaking of the World. I highly recommend watching this, as it sums up the prologue from the books and lays the foundation of why men who channel are so dangerous. Also, beautiful artwork.

The second short film of bonus content is the Legacy of Robert Jordan, which features his wife and editor, Harriet McDougal, as well as Brandon Sanderson speaking on the creation of the Wheel of Time, and the impact the series had on fantasy writing in general. This is not lore or needed to watch the show, but as a reader, I loved seeing this and hearing people that were so close to the story speak of the creator.

The last short film we get is a behind the scenes of Winternight. Obviously not needed for understanding the show, but I always enjoy watching behind the scene clips and seeing how they make the magic. Of course, it can ruin the magic for some people as well, so your mileage may vary.

And now, on with the show.

Instead of the Breaking of the World prologue that we get in the books, the show starts with Moiraine summarizing the current state of the world as she appears to be readying herself for travel and possibly battle. She slips on her Aes Sedai ring, and we get a shot of this cute little guy as she packs it up and puts it away. This is the only time we see the statue this episode.

Once Moiraine finishes telling us about her mission, we get a beautiful sweeping landscape shot and two men running from something. A group of women dressed in red… oo, scary, right?

Well, yes, as the one in the lead nearly drops a load of rocks on the men’s heads. They are obviously a group of Aes Sedai, and by their dress, they are Red Ajah. It is soon revealed that the two men are just one, and the existing man is mad. Liandrin Sedai dismounts and speaks to him of his use of the power. She says the power is meant for women alone, and when men touch it, they make it filthy. I’ll refer back to this later.

Liandrin then calls for her sisters and they channel the power at him, although there is no visual. Just an outstretched arm as the man screams in pain. My take on this is that Liandrin claimed the man was already mad, and they gentled him on the spot. To gentle a man who can channel, (or stilled if it’s a woman) is to sever their link to the One Power. They are left able to feel its presence for the rest of their lives, but they can no longer touch it. Those that are cut off from the source like this rarely live long afterwards due to deep depression, but they are set free as they are no longer deemed a threat.

Moiraine and Lan are watching this scene from above, but do not interfere. Moiraine is certain this is not the person she is looking for, and they move on to the Two Rivers, following rumors that there are four Ta’veran there.

The next scene we get to see Egwane’s induction into the Women’s Circle. This is the first time she’s been deemed mature enough to braid her hair. Big deal for her in the books, and one we only got to read about after it happened as we did not get an Egwane POV that early. Interesting take watching her get pushed in the river. The women in this world are brutal.

Okay, now we get to the first scene with Rand while he and Tam are walking to Emond’s Field. I absolutely love Michael McElhatton as Tam al’Thor. The two live in the Westwood, and at this point in time, have not visited Emond’s Field for a while due to a harsh winter. We soon meet Perrin and Mat once they reach the Inn, and we find out that Perrin is… Married! WOO!

That one caught me. Big departure from the books here, but they did age the main characters up, so it is reasonable that Perrin, out of the three, is the one that is already married. Now we see a little of Mat’s personality come out here with his gambling and flirting, so he definitely wasn’t the one who would be married. Side note, Barney Harris IS Mat. Excellent casting here. It’s a shame he will not be returning in season 2, but I hope that Donal Finn does just as well.

While the three boys are catching up with each other, Perrin mentions there’s a war in Ghealdon, and Mat embodies the whole of Emond’s Field’s indifference with a ‘Who cares?’ Egwene then enters to cheers as the women in the Inn celebrate her induction into the Women’s Circle.

Night falls, and Lan bursts into the Inn in a most dramatic fashion. So, in the book, when Rand and Tam were traveling to Emond’s Field, Rand could have sworn he saw a dark cloaked man on the road. He stumbled, lost eye contact with the man, and when he looked back, the man was gone. When Book Lan enters the Inn, Rand wonders if he was the man that was following them. I have to think the dramatic entrance in the show was a nod to book readers, because as far as show watchers go, it means nothing. Lan then introduces Moiraine, and Marin Al’vere (Egwene’s mother) sees her ring right away. In the book, Moiraine keeps it and her identity hidden for a while. Small detail that makes no difference in the long run. It just held a bit of mystery for the book reader.

Two things of note for this scene as Moiraine is searching the crowd. She is looking for her person of interest and immediately singles out the 4 Ta’veryn by age, Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene, while also sharing a look with Nynaeve. Although it is not explained in the show, Aes Sedai can sense other women that can channel.

The second thing of note is the absolute mistrust of Moiraine Sedai from the people of the Two Rivers. If you recall the first scene with how the Red Ajah were hunting down a man, which is basically the only reason an Aes Sedai would choose the Red Ajah, that reputation has built tons of mistrust all over the Westlands. However, Moiraine is Blue Ajah, who generally follow noble causes and fight for justice. The women in the White Tower are varied and come from many different backgrounds and have different motivations in their lives, but the common people of the Two Rivers do not realize this, so… mistrust, as well as a little fear to go with it.

After the boys gossip a bit, Nynaeve sends Perrin back to his wife. Apparently, Perrin expected her to be at Egwene’s ceremony, but Laila wanted to work the forges alone. Of course, Laila is a new character for me, so I don’t know any of her motivations or why she chose to be alone, but she seems unhappy. It’s okay Laila. Perrin loves you.

And then we get a little more connection with Mat as we find out his mother is a drunk and his father is a prick (womanizer). Mat loves his little sisters and wants to protect them. In the books, his father was a well-respected horse breeder, but I like this scene in the show as it gives Mat more depth and responsibility.

Back to the Inn with Tam and Marin talking about war and Aes Sedai before they leave Rand and Egwene to do the dishes alone. OH BOY! Guys, Rand and Egwene did grown-up things! This DID NOT happen in the books, and something I wasn’t expecting, but this was a change I fully support in the show. It gives their relationship more substance. In the books, it just felt like Rand was a lovesick puppy with a schoolboy crush. This worked well with the aging up of the characters.

Next we get a nice shot of Daniel Henney’s ass as he enters a bathing tub with Moiraine. They travel together, they bath together, but in the books they do not share a sexual relationship. I did not get the impression that they are romantic at all in the show, either, but that they are very close. An Aes Sedai and her warder share a very close bond. I did enjoy Lan complaining about the water being cold, and you see Moiraine make some hand gestures until the water steams. MAGIC! There is no other visual added to her using the One Power at this time.

Back to Egwene and Rand, where Egwene tells Rand that Nynaeve has offered Egwene an apprenticeship because she feels she can ‘listen to the wind’. The conversation is pretty accurate to the books, and in a later scene, she tells Rand she has decided to accept. However, Egwene then senses something that makes her uneasy, and it cuts to a Fade entering the village. All Aes Sedai and their warders can sense the creatures of the dark, but probably not this soon for Egwene, at least by book standards. Since she was aged up in the show, this might be why her power is manifesting a bit stronger/earlier.

Ahh, Paden Fain! The trader that most people get super excited to see during Bel Tine. Also, in the books, Emond’s Field got a special surprise when a Gleeman showed up, but I completely understand why he was cut from the show. There were a lot of characters to introduce and not a lot of time to do it in. Paden Fain isn’t in the show much this early on but can’t wait to see more of him.

Now we come to a scene with Moiraine walking in on Nynaeve cleaning a pool. None of this was in the books, so I do not know why the pool is sacred. The show doesn’t tell us. Nynaeve definitely doesn’t shy away from letting Moiraine know just how she feels about her. Moiraine continues to block Nynaeve’s attempted escape from the pool until Nynaeve tells her a story of the old wisdom. Apparently, she walked to the White Tower and was turned away. This isn’t exactly book accurate, as the White Tower doesn’t turn any woman away who can channel due to standing or wealth (or lack thereof). They would, however, turn a wilder (a woman who has taught herself to channel) away because they would not be able to teach her. That being said, this is an interesting story and lore for the show, and also gives us a reason why Nynaeve does not like Moiraine and the White Tower. Also, Moiraine points out Nynaeve’s young age for being a wisdom, which is why Nynaeve is basically always in overdrive trying to prove herself to everyone that she does deserve her esteemed position and responsibility.

Now let’s jump to Egwene and Nynaeve listening to the wind. They can feel the shadowspawn out there, even if they don’t understand what they are feeling. Lan, however, has come across physical evidence of their presence, lambs slaughtered in the shape of an upside down teardrop, which is the symbol of the Aes Sedai. Mocking, yes, and very reminiscent of the White Walkers in Game of Thrones. The scene in and of itself was okay, except as soon as I saw it, I knew comparisons would be drawn, and rightfully so. I would like to think that this was a nod to Game of Thrones, as Martin and Jordan respected each other’s work and were friends, so it does seem fitting.

The funny thing about this comparison is that the Wheel of Time book series (1990) came before A Song of Ice and Fire (1996). The Others (who we call White Walkers in the show) did not use these types of symbols. But, Game of Thrones (show) came before the Wheel of Time show, and although the Dragon’s Fang was definitely used purposefully in the books aside from just mockery, there will be many, many people who will claim WoT stole this idea from GoT. It’s a shame, but if you are here and are reading this, then you know the truth! It seems our beloved D&D were the ones stealing ideas. Imagine that.

Rand and Tam leave Emond’s Field to celebrate Bel Tine at their house, and we get some dialogue about The Wheel of Time and how it can spin souls back out into the world. Tam’s monologue is beautiful. This is one of the standout moments of the episode for me as the voiceover is done to the lanterns being placed to float downriver, and the music is haunting and otherworldly. I loved this scene.

Winternight commences with dancing, celebration, and a worried Lan telling Moiraine they need to leave. The town is having a great time until poor Tom takes an axe to the back, and Egwene is in complete shock as to what is happening. Then all hell breaks loose. The confusion and terror in this scene as the trollocs attacked was very well done. Nynaeve saves Egwene, and Mat finds out his parents have lost track of his sisters in the chaos. He then goes to seek them out while Nynaeve tries to save one of the villagers and doesn’t succeed. The two women then stare off into the horrors of the night.

And we’re back with Rand and Tam in their house as a trolloc breaks down their door. THIS scene was spot on. As father and son struggle with the trolloc, Tam pulls a box out from under his bed, and unsheathes a sword like the badass he is. And not just ANY sword, but a heron marked blade.

This mark holds great significance and respect in the book universe. Only blademasters can adorn their sword with a heron. In the books, this comes as a shock to Rand that Tam would own such a blade. Afterall, Tam is just a farmer. The sword is a conflict for Rand for a while, which is not addressed at all in the show. At this point, I think the addition of this shot was just for book readers. Tam proves he has the right to wield the sword as he fights off the trolloc, only eventually to be overpowered and saved by Rand. Tam wants Rand to flee, but Rand refuses, instead helping Tam on Bela so they can travel back to Emond’s Field to find Nynaeve for help, unaware that Nynaeve has problems of her own.

YOU GO GIRL! You are fierce! Fuck that trolloc! These two will not go down without a fight but are saved as Moiraine and Lan enter the playing field.

This is the first time the viewers get to actually see the One Power being wielded, and it is absolutely stunning. Watching the way Lan and Moiraine move on the battlefield is like watching a dance. Their choreography is an art, as it should be. As I said before, the bond between an Aes Sedai and her warder is strong. If this is the first taste we get of the One Power and the many fights to come, I absolutely cannot wait to see more. Absolutely awe struck.

Annndddd…. Then we see Mat find his sisters in the absolutely perfect hiding spot, to pull them out so they can go hide by a tree. In the woods. Where the trollocs came from. GG Mat. At least he cares.

More battle, blood, and fighting, and Moiraine being a badass, then Nynaeve gets yoinked away from Egwene as they’re trying to help the fallen. Laila and Perrin seem to be holding their own in the blacksmith until… Oh My God. Not the axe Perrin.. not the… Crap. I didn’t see that coming. I guess we won’t get to know Laila after all. In the books, Perrin lost his whole family during Winternight. I can definitely see why they changed this in the show, but to have him be holding the axe that killed her is pretty dark. I feel I know where this storyline is going, and I approve of this change.

The next scene, Moiraine takes a dagger to the shoulder. Lan wants to leave, but she wants to fuck shit up, and by the Light, she does it. She pulls more and more of the One Power in a powerful attack, and the score during this scene is absolutely ‘chefs kiss’. They win the battle as the Winespring Inn and Moiraine collapse. Epic.

The next scene has Rand bringing Tam into a broken Emond’s Field, and all the characters take note of who made it and who didn’t. Moiraine is back on her feet and heals Tam, letting us know that it was trolloc poison. When she heals him, she gasps in pain and is weakened for a moment. Rand confronts her, and Moiraine lays her plan out to them, telling them the Dragon has been born again. This surprised me as it wasn’t as straightforward in the books, but I did enjoy Mat’s response.

The Dark One’s army shows up in the background, and Moiraine lets them know if they leave with her, the trollocs will follow, and in turn, it will save the town. They must reach the White Tower. Dramatic music plays over close ups of each of our main characters, and the show closes with the famous words from the Wheel of Time.

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. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

And what a beautiful beginning so far.

I will be back soon with an in-depth review of episode 2. Until then, Happy Reading and Watching!

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