Thoughts on Wheel of Time Season 1

27 Dec

So I’m just as surprised as you are to have watched the show; I’m currently listening to the Audiobook version of Knife of Dreams, and I’ll be honest this is not my most favorite series, but I see why it has the following it has. If I were to surmise the premise, author Jordan takes the idea of Wheel of Time where these things have all happened, and will happen again, and this interpretation takes us to a vaguely Tolkien-like World, at least superficially, where the chosen one must defeat the dark one.

If only the different factions could stop stabbing each other in the back long enough for them to organize.

As opposed to making the three Ta’alveran the main viewpoint, the show mostly focuses in on Moraine and Lan as they try to determine which of the four Two Rivers residents are the Dragon Reborn. The show streamlines events and introduces characters we wouldn’t have met yet while bypassing others. Moraine’s plan is to take the dragon to the eye of the world, and defeat the dark one once in for all, finishing in this lifetime what Lews Therin, the previous dragon, failed to do 3000 years ago and plunged the world into darkness.

TL;DR: the show is aiming at audiences who want a story like this but isn’t meant for the book readers. Believe me this has been going on for a while. This is around the time I normally watch The Lord of the Rings with my dad, and I remember everyone trying to find a property that could follow up. What was the forerunner? Narnia. What’s the problem? Narnia is meant for kids, and a bunch of my friends who went to watch it were like, “We got suckered into a kid’s movie.”

This adaptation basically wants a Game of Thrones, so it’s using the basic stories and characters as launching points as opposed to being true to the source material. It seems grittier than the prose would immedaitely suggest to me, and it’s trying to make its material ‘more adult’.

In general I thought the show was going for stunning visuals to make up for some lazy writing. I really like the casting for the most part, and I’m not sore that we bypassed Caemlyn to see Tar Valon; I think the main issue was that rather than making a faithful interpretation of the books the directed thought the women needed bigger roles and to be ‘fixed’, so the three Ta’alveran, (they made Egwene one, I don’t care close enough) are incredibly generic.

Fortunately, they left Nyneave alone because there was nothing wrong with her. The bit with the trolloc was a bit much and we could have used that time to develop someone else’s character, but whatever you want some fighting and neat visuals as opposed to characters like Elayne going on about Honey in her Tea, I’ll shaddap. I’ll be honest I wasn’t the hugest fan of Egwene when we started the books but right now, she’s the definition of someone who is constantly trying to be moulded and standing firm; coming into her power but not relying on out magicking everyone else, uniting people which is what is precisely is needed given The End of the World Looming.

Right now she’s amazing and brave and everyone loves her. Moraine and Nyneave are interesting because they’re flawed – Moraine being manipulative and willing to sacrifice people for the good of the world and and Nyneave being fiercely protective of her kinfolk and having issues with Moraine’s plan. Egwene suffers from this new generation’s version of Strong Female Character – I’m awesome and too good for this sinful earth; please stop fighting over me boys. It brings me to the Children of the Light bit, and I had zero problem with them focusing on her as opposed to Perrin, at least initially. My problem, is that they’re supposed to have a grudge on him, Egwene barely has to deal with them moving forward. We barely touched on the Wolfisms, and I think it would have been one thing to think, “Okay, a pathetic little sorceress from the backwater village” but another to see a yellow-eyed Darkfriend.

I suppose I better prove what I mean by Lazy Writing. The easiest is to pick on the Seanchan at the very ending, but it’s actually throughout the series. They went with some really, let’s just say ~interesting~ visuals, and this ending stirs a lot of questions. Who are these people? They don’t look like anyone we’ve seen so far. They immediately look like an invading force, and you’re not sure about their channelers, and they…

…make a giant tidal wave to take out a child on the beach?

It looks stunning. But assuming the child isn’t that far from her village, what are you hoping to accomplish, other than announcing your presence? Sending out a wave towards a port filled with warships, makes some tactical sense. All you’re doing is announcing someone with magic is showing up, and Aes Sedai are bound by oaths to precisely *not* do that.

In defense of the show, I’ll be the first one to admit that it takes a lot of work to make a very convincing fantasy world. I just kind of go with whatever rules the author throws at me, so long as they’re consistent with their lore and logic and it doesn’t sound like they did a last minute saving throw, you can convince me. And if there was an already definitive screen version of the show, I wouldn’t mind so much deviation and reinterpretation, but really what season 2 needs to do, especially since they laid the ground work, so assume that the audience likes intellectual pay offs.

In Game of Thrones, we as the audience despised The Red Wedding but knew it worked because there was a ton of set up. The Starks were winning battles, but lost because they lost the support of key houses (The Karstarks, the Freys, and the Boltons) and it was established that the latter two houses were opportunistic as opposed to the more loyal, more modest houses that exuded Ned Stark Honor. There was plenty of Dany’s history where her going mad and burning King’s Landing could have made a lot of sense. Over the course of the series she was sold, abused, but always rose up and triumphed, and usually on behalf of the weak. Saying, “Guess who’s mad with power now?” didn’t sit with the audience, because it wasn’t a payoff.

Respect your audience. I know some people just want something fun and a romp, but I’ll probably go rewatch The Lord of the Rings – 20 year anniversary – and other movies that are timeless and when I think about them later, I think about the ideas and streamlining that made sense, as opposed to, “Well… at least it looked cool.”

And yes, you can tell some of it was done on a budget. We all got spoiled with Gollum and other fanciful CGI; the poor actor playing Loial has a wonderful voice, but I think we all wanted incredibly non-human proportions.

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