So, we’re going to roll the first three episode of Wheel of Time into one recap, because they dropped simultaneously, which was a smart move. I mean, part of me is mad because they almost dropped ½ the season at once, and we only get 5 more episodes. But the other part of me, that wants the series to thrive, knows this was a good strategy, because these sort of shows start slow. Dropping 3 episodes at once gives people a chance to give it a chance.
First of all, let me say (as I’ve said before) I’ve been waiting for this moment since the mid 1990’s, since the Winter Dragon fiasco, since I read the last line in Memory of Light. And…it’s finally here. Full disclosure, I’m a fan, a super fan of the work. In this case, I think that works for and against Wheel of Time for review purposes. The BookWyrms (such as myself) are going to be the most excited, but also the most brutal. We have high expectations, and our natural inclination is going to be scorched earth whenever the show veers from the books (especially after we saw what happened with the final season of Game of Thrones.) So, I think I want to do this recap/review somewhat differently. I’m going to review the characters first, give you all my first impressions, then we will get on to the speed recaps.
Spoilers are dark friends, and I am Thom’s throwing knife in a dark alley.
First Impressions of the Cast
Nynaeve al’Meara (Zoe Robins): This casting so far is perfect. She has Nynaeve’s anger and general dissatisfaction with everyone’s incompetence down pat. Older sister who mother’s/bullies everyone for their own good. I think this is the most spot-on casting of the entire group.
Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden): I’m not sure yet on this casting. I’m going to need to see a few more episodes. The chemistry between her and Rand is about right, the relationship between her and Nynaeve is spot-on, but there is something about her that just doesn’t say Egwene to me. I think the problem maybe the last impression I had of her from Memory of Light, and it’s hard for me to see her so helpless and damsel-in-distress. But maybe that’s the point, she is leaning hard into the damsel-in-distress trope.
Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris): I like that we are quickly introduced to the idea of Mat’s luck. This will come in handy later on. He looks very much like a scofflaw, nere-do-well with the heart of gold. We see a bit of the bravery early on when he goes and saves his sisters, and we see his independence and stubbornness throughout. I know we are getting a second Mat, so I’m not sure how attached I can get to this one.
Rand ‘al Thor (Josha Stradowski): Yeah, wool-headed sheep herder. Seems like the perfect casting so far. He’s naïve, entitled, and assured of himself when he has no reason to be. He’s a bit annoying, pouty, and whiney, and if I remember the Wheel of Time books, it’s just about right.
Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford): Needed a bit more blacksmithing for my taste, but Perrin’s loyalty and gentleness coming through. I know some people had a problem with him being married, but I liked it and I’ll explain why later. This is another good casting. It’s the little things like the slow, measured speech, and methodical way of doing things. I like this Perrin.
Moiraine Sedai (Rosamund Pike): Another great casting. She seemed very much like the Moiraine in the books, regal, brave, cutthroat. Save the kids, drown the bargemen, that’s my “Mission First” Moiraine.
Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney): I’m not seeing it right now. Maybe as time goes on, but right now I’m not seeing a grizzled, battle hardened borderlander I read about in the Wheel of Time books. Lan currently has too much polish, not enough scruff and gruff. I’m not seeing Lan. I’m seeing someone who’s trying to be Lan. Lan has been through pain and betrayal and lived a hard life. This Lan looks like he spent most of his time eating grapes and decided to go backpacking with Moiraine because he was bored.
Thom Merrilin (Alexandre Willaume): Not sold yet on Thom, he’s got the grizzle I wanted to see on Lan, but I’m not buying Gleeman right now. He’s screaming warder/assassin, but I can’t find the gleeman at all.
Padan Fain (Johann Myers): This is a funny one, because when I saw him, it was not what I expected at all, but that is MOST DEFINITELY PADAN FAIN. I can’t see anyone else pulling this role off.
Trollocks: Way too much CGI. they just didn’t feel real, and I hope they fix that.
Myrddraal: Looked and felt exactly as I expected. Uncanny valley in full effect here. The eyeless are both terrifying and awesome to look at. I expect to see a bunch of Fades at the next Comicon.
Episode 1- “Leavetaking”
Quote of the Episode: “You want a real feast, come get some of this!”probably Daise Congar
The Woman’s Circle Hazing Scene: I thought they did a great job showing how one must surrender. I fully expect some cutback to that river scene as the series goes on. Also, Nynaeve looked like a proud dean of pledges when Egwene popped up out of the water.
Emond’s Field looked exactly how I pictured it, everyone chilling and enjoying a bit of mead and pipeleaf, and Moiraine and Lan pop into the bar messing up the vibe. Let’s talk about how Nynaeve was about that actions boss. Lan popped in the bar looking all shady, and Nynaeve went straight to the knife…talking about “who’s mans is this.” Mat was my favorite character in the Wheel of Time books, but Nynaeve is gonna give him a run for his money.
For my fellow Bookwyrms, ok, yeah Perrin is married, get over it, it actually makes sense, Perrin’s struggle through most of the books is him not knowing when to be gentle and when to use his strength. He’s afraid and suspicious of his strength. In the Wheel of Time books, they used the story of him hurting a kid in a fight, the axe scene does a much better job of making Perrin wary of his own strength, and I think it will be a great echo later on when he’s deciding between the hammer and the axe.
Speaking of axe scenes, Padan Fain comes into town, not acting sketchy at all, and boom…trollock attack. I’m sure the two aren’t connected at all. The trollocks came into town like the Sons of Anarchy, wrecking shops, killing folks, causing damage, and then Moiraine and Lan go to work. Loved the quick scene up the mountain with Rand and Tam when we get our first look at the heron marked blade. I just want to point out that right before the fighting starts we get a quick clip of Nynaeve shanking a trollock, coming in hot like Ghostface. She keeps this up she gonna mess around and be my new fav.
This whole battle sequence was awesome. It showed us how powerful Aes Sedai are but also shows their limitations. I loved how they let us see the weaves, (although I’m not sure anyone else in scene can see them, I think they are just for the viewer) and how versatile they were; lightning strikes, rocks and gravel fired off like a Gatling gun, but that random knife still manages to slip through & tag Moraine. The ending images of the trollocks coming down the gap into Emond’s Field was a great way to end episode 1. Perrin looks broken, Rand looks like a pouting frat boy, Mat looked apprehensive, Egwene looked vulnerable, and Lan and Moraine look like they are about to drop the dopest mixtape the Two Rivers has ever seen. It’s going to be exciting watching these characters grow.
Episode 2: “Shadow’s Waiting”
Quote of the Episode: “I’m from the borderlands where men know how to keep their hands to themselves, lest they lose them.”Lan “Da Gawd Son” Mandagoran
Whitecloaks, yes I know they are technically called the Children of the Light, but I meant it as I said it, disrespectfully! The show is really introducing a lot of groups early on, I like the world building. This ends up being another great scene that shows the limitations of Aes Sedai. That Whitecloak was collecting rings like Thanos…fellow Bookwyrms, was that Asunawa?
A lot of this episode was giving me Hobbits escaping The Shire into Bree, but I digress. The ferry crossing is another great scene, I loved how slack jawed the Emond’s Field 4 (EF4) are when Moiraine and Lan quite literally cut their losses, sink the ship, and keep it moving. Moiraine and Lan were Mobb Deep and the EF4 were definitely “Shook Ones,” welcome to the real-world kids.
Also, I forgotten how annoying the EF4 were in the beginning of the books. All this back talk after I just saved your butts, rained down lightning, and swiss cheesed a bunch of monsters you didn’t know existed until yesterday. Didn’t y’all just see me wipe out half a fist of trollocks with wind and word, and you got slick stuff to say all up under your breath. #NahSon. Not only that, but y’all are throwing up bats and having dreams of Ba’alzamon 1st of his name, he of the burnt face, and y’all still skeptical? Moiraine needed a bit more Black grandmama in her this episode. First time one of the EF4 would have gotten snippy, my Nan would have been like “go pick out a switch,” and that would have been the end of that.
Listen, I need about 20% more Whitecloak scenes, because for a brief second the Lan I remember popped out. His statement of “I’m from The Borderlands” had the same energy of someone saying they’re from The South Side of Chicago, and Lan definitely looked at the Whitecloaks as the ops. Bookwyrm moment, I did miss the Shepard’s Crook of the questioners though, I’m wondering if that comes in later? We also have our first wolf sighting. Listen, some of you don’t know how monumental that was whilst me and my Bookwyrm brethren probably launched a collective squeeee.
Ok, so then they run to Shadar Logoth, which looked visibly amazing. This was a big one. One of my tests for Amazon Prime. There were small things Amazon Prime could change, and big things that are central to the core of the story. Shadar Logoth is a big thing. I was excited to see it feel the way it did in my imagination when I first read the Wheel of Time books. Shadar Logoth overlaid almost perfectly, gave me faith in the direction of the show, and that they would take the time to anchor the story when absolutely necessary. And once again I wanted to beat the kids. Lan says, “don’t touch anything.” Immediately, Rand opens a door, Mat goes exploring, and all the non-melanated people are touching stuff. I don’t get it. A big, empty, creepy city, and you wanna go exploring? You want to go check things out? Open the weird box and look inside? It’s good to know that W.P.S. is the same everywhere, because Perrin stayed put.
DAPS to my boy Perrin for knowing when to mind his own business, which is some Black People Stuff. Speaking of Black People Stuff, did they have a barbershop in Emond’s Field, because we can’t ignore the fact that Perrin had a nice temp fade with a shape up.
Anyway, first timers and Bookwyrms should both be able to agree on this fact, Shadar Logoth: worst Air B-n-B location ever. 0 out of 5 stars, sure the architecture’s nice but the murderous shadows are a bit of a nuisance. The Bookwyrm in me expected a more mist like substance, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the melting horse immediately got my attention. #MashadarOnTheMove. Also, the Emond’s Field 4 took wayyyyy to long to stare at said horse. I see a horse start to melt, and that’s all I’m going to see…the start. I’m not going to see the middle of the melting horse, nor will I see what happens at the end of the great horse melt. I see a shadow, melting a horse and to quote the Notorious B.I.G. “…two words: I’m gone.“
The escape from Shadar Logoth was a great chase scene. Everyone runs every which way, and we see the EF4 split up. But better than the awesome scene of deadly tag through the creepy city was ending the episode with Nynaeve popping up with a trollock sword at Lan’s throat. It’s Nynaeve’s world, and we’re just living in it. She is quickly stealing the show.
Episode 3: “A Place of Safety”
Quote of the Episode: “That’s not how roads work.”Matrim Cauthon
Of course, we start off with Nynaeve’s escape. I mean I’m glad they let us see how she escaped the trollock and didn’t keep it off book. Listen, that scene in the pool was giving me Chuck Norris rising out of the water with a M60 vibes. Listen, Nynaeve is nice with the sticks. Her knife work would make Gordon Ramsay pause and smile.
I’m so team Nynaeve at this point. The scene where Lan says, “we both know that you won’t” with her immediately going for his head…hey Lan, you better protect ya neck. She’s not here for the games.
Then there are more wolves. Every time I hear the wolves, I get irrationally excited, but I have liked how they’ve slow played it so far. Having the wolves herd Perrin and Egwene towards the tinkers was a nice touch. Also, Egwene is starting to play with fire?
Rand and Mat get to a small town, and we get our first Aiel sighting…granted he’s dead and locked in a cage but a sighting nonetheless. Fellow Bookwyrms, did you see the shout out to the Stone Dogs?! We get also our first sighting of Thom Merrilin (a bit late to the party but here he is), and I’m not really getting gleeman from Thom. I was waiting for him to start singing the Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt, most depressing gleeman ever. We also start to see some of the differences between Mat and Rand. They are supposed to be chopping wood to earn some bread, (pun intended), and Mat finds a way out of it. We play out a few more scenes in this dive bar, mostly to show off Mat’s one liners, and then we are back to Egwene and Perrin.
Aram is about as annoying as I thought he was in the book, so that was refreshing. The Tinkers once again expand our world and show us, and Egwene and Perrin, that the world is bigger than they thought. We get a few scenes with Nynaeve, Lan, and Moraine and as annoyed as she is. I’m surprised we haven’t had a braid tug yet. We are establishing Nynaeve as a healer and someone who is strategically smart and tough as nails. I’m not afraid to admit that the show has made me a Nynaeve stan in a way the books never did.
And we are back to Mat and Rand. Dana stole some scenes here. I don’t ever want to eat at any place Dana’s cooking, because that stew looked like something out of Dave Noble’s nightmares. But she ate every scene she was in. Her yelling, “EVERYBODY! I have a horse trader with no horses, does anyone need a horse trader with no horses,” almost got quote of the episode. I’m not saying I would’ve gotten caught, but that braid wasn’t going to tug itself. Dana goes for a seduce and capture move, and luckily Rand is smarter than me. He gets away, runs into Mat, and we get a mini-chase scene through town right before Dana lets Mat and Rand know that the Emond’s Field 4 are actually the EF5. And once again, we find out why Wheel of Time needs more Wu-Tang in their day to day, because as Dana is giving her “darkfriend speech,” Thom lets them thangs go and Dana catches a throwing knife through her throat. Damn Dana, protect ya neck is getting to be a running theme in this show.
We end the episode with a Logain Ablar sighting, and Logain had that quiet intensity down pat. I know this is only our first look at Logain, but this seems like another really good casting. I can’t wait until episode 4. Blood and bloody ashes, it’s still time to roll the dice.
Come round again for our next Wheel of Time recap.
Cover image via Vulture
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Loved the review of the first episodes of WOT, Joseph Harris. Good writing, insightful opinion and humour. Like heck yeah, I wouldn’t be hanging around if my horse was melting, lol. As another longtime WOT fan, there are some differences I’m not yet sold on, but overall I’m enjoying the interpretation that is ‘mostly’ staying on script. Cheers from NZ.
Thank you….I was hoping y’all would bless us, and you didn’t disappoint. I’ll be here every week, from here to Tarmon Gaidon.