Thanks to its three-episode premiere, The Wheel of Time season 1 has already reached the halfway point with Friday’s episode 4, “The Dragon Reborn.” Can one properly review an episode if one spent the entire episode shouting “YES” at the television? Let’s find out.
We’ve already arrived at a point where there is no easy scene-by-scene way to compare the show to the books, but I can’t say I’m complaining.
This article contains spoilers for The Wheel of Time, based on the book series.
Because of the relatively heavy pre-episode marketing of Logain, the False Dragon, I wasn’t surprised that we see much more of him in The Wheel of Time than we do this early in the novels. In the books, Logain’s story takes place almost entirely off-page and we know about it mostly through rumors. One thing we do learn through direct observation is that Logain is so dangerously charismatic that Rand took one look at him and fell off a wall.
Once again, the casting here is perfect. Álvaro Morte manages to bring Logain’s terrifying power, but also his charm, to life. There is no doubt he believes he is the Dragon Reborn. He believes he is fulfilling his destiny and doing good, but there is enough wild-eyed madness there to leave us in doubt.
I love that Moiraine also experiences some doubt after meeting him – The Wheel of Time episode 4 has given us more glimpses into both Moiraine and Lan’s vulnerabilities and I love that for us.
Following Mat, Rand and Thom, I’ve been surprised by just how different the plot can be while still feeling true to the DNA of the novels as it moves us to the same place more efficiently. Given that changes have to happen and things have to be condensed, it’s almost like they are able to make things more organic when they aren’t wedded to a specific scene from the book. As long as they get the cause and effect right, the energy right, the why of it all right – it’s working.
I was so caught off guard by Thom’s suspicion of Mat as the Dragon Reborn that I almost laughed out loud, but, unlike the misdirects in episodes 1 – 3, I do actually think it’s the first red herring that felt like it could have been at home in the books. Mat’s behavior is sketchy and, in both the novels and the show, Rand and Thom are missing crucial information as to why.
The Wheel of Time is spending a lot of energy, more than Robert Jordan ever did, in hiding the identity of the Dragon. It grates a bit because, in trying to deflect suspicion off of Rand, he’s coming across a little bland, in spite of, as a friend called it, his “main character face.” (It’s Rand, guys, the books are 30 years old, the Dragon Reborn is Rand.) Mat gets sick in this episode, presumably from the corrupting influence of the dagger, but coming off his surprise door-busting last episode, shouldn’t we be seeing Rand having a physical reaction from using the One Power for the first time? Knowing the people who are making the show, it seems unlikely that this is something they are overlooking. I have the feeling we might get a whole heap of flashbacks at some point once they decide to tell the truth.
As much as they are rushing us through Mat, Rand and Thom’s story, Egwene and Perrin’s seems to be progressing relatively apace with the book. (Except, where’s Elyas?) I love the Tuatha’an and the show matches exactly the visuals I had while reading. Since my daughter is home from college for break, we took the opportunity to watch the first three Wheel of Time episodes together before starting episode 4. She hasn’t read the whole series, but did listen to a number of the audiobooks with me when she was a pre-teen. Her commentary was hysterical, consisting most frequently of “I love it when women.”
But she has retained a ton of weirdly specific aspects of the book and when we met the Tuatha’an, she remembered their whole historical deal and said of their connection to the Aiel: “Remember those dirty little guys you hate, they’re basically your dad,” which made me laugh a lot. If you know, you know. Daryl McCormack, the actor who plays Aram, the grandson of the Tuatha’an leaders, is delightful. Aram’s arc in the book is pretty tragic. He’s a good foil for Perrin and the choices he has to make. I love that they are suckering us in with this charming, lighthearted Aram, so I hope that means they are planning to keep exploring his story. I’m probably going to cry a lot, to be honest.
Every scene with Nynaeve and Lan is making me feral. I am absolutely ready to claw my way through the television and kiss them both on the lips. If there is one storyline where The Wheel of Time adaptation is exceeding the books, it is here. I love that we jumped in with both feet, no hesitation. Right this way, please follow this lighted walkway to OTP town.
The Wheel of Time episode 4 is brilliant for Nynaeve. I had a brief spike of fear when Liandrin tried to cozy up to her – in the books, Nynaeve hates Moiraine so much that it would be a good opening for a deceitful Aes Sedai to drive the wedge deeper. So Lan showing up to their little chat and Nynaeve dismissing Liandrin as a snake was a real double fistpump moment for me.
Lan’s dry sense of humor, offering to Nynaeve “You are welcome to share our fire. If you promise not to shove anyone into it,” was another highlight, and Nynaeve choosing to join them and letting herself enjoy the company of the Warders felt like big growth. I think in that situation book-Nynaeve might have sat at the edge of the camp indefinitely. I liked the way they introduced Alanna’s two Warders casually draped against each other, and the brief moment of Nynaeve trying to process the two of them suggestively following Alanna off to bed. I hoped the adaptation would push those relationships a bit further and I love the way they are doing it.
I also think that showcasing that obviously sexual Aes Sedai/Warder relationship and then having Lan stand up and head to Moiraine right after gives us an opening to wonder what Nynaeve thinks about Lan and Moiraine’s relationship. They continued to push Lan and Moiraine’s intimacy in this episode without making it sexual and, truly, my crops are watered.
Nynaeve suspiciously following Lan in the morning only to find him praying was a nice moment and I heartily approve of Lan and Nynaeve trying to out cheek-quiver each other with suppressed emotion. In the book there is a long, long period of repressed longing between the two of them, and while I can be very into that, I find myself preferring that the playing field has been so quickly leveled between them. I hope we continue to see this much of the two of them together as the season progresses.
The show has done an amazing job with the claustrophobic feeling of battle. Following Nynaeve’s point of view as the fighting rages was so stressful. I love how capable and fierce she was, while also being overwhelmed and afraid. In spite of none of this being in the book, I knew that this was all going to climax with a display of Nynaeve’s power. I could feel it. The way the sound was fluctuating and we were focusing on her had me on the edge of my seat like, come on girl, give it to us, so I was just a little let down when they ran from the main battle toward Logain and the sisters guarding him.
Of course, that’s when everything hit the fan. In spite of knowing, without a doubt, that we were leading up to a big Nynaeve moment, I was still out of my seat as each character went down. When Lan’s throat was slit, I was up on my knees in my chair, pointing at the TV and saying, outloud, “That’s not…they…this doesn’t…”
And then to see Nynaeve finally channel, literally, all that fear and frustration into her healing. Saving everyone while saving Lan. The scene was so gorgeous – her braid flying apart, the power radiating around her. She was a radiant sun. When the episode ended, I had to tap my daughter on the shoulder until she turned to look at me. “Sylvia,” I said, “you’re right. I do love it when women.”