The Wheel of Time Season 1 Episode 6 “The Flame of Tar Valon” Review

The Wheel of Time is one of the biggest fantasy blockbusters of all time, and I have read and loved the fantasy novels for decades. I was beyond thrilled to see that an adaptation was coming to Prime TV, and now that it’s here, it’s time to offer weekly reviews! Be sure to also check out my theology site for my look at the show and books from a Christian perspective.

The Flame of Tar Valon

I have a lot to think about after watching this episode.

First, Siuan Sanche’s background origin story was beautifully done. Having Berden get humanized so early on was a wonderful way to do it, and I admit as he sent Siuan off I had tears welling in my eyes. I also appreciate having representation of people with disabilities that aren’t automatically evil, which happens far too often in pop culture (see, for example, the countless examples of motivations for “evil scientist” type villains being driven by trying to “fix” disabilities). Overall, this scene was one of the strongest in the show so far.

I also was a huge fan of how they handled the Siuan/Moiraine perceived rivalry and then turning it into being love. The two are hinted at as pillow friends, if I recall correctly, in the books, and this just makes it much more explicit.

Moiraine and Loial’s brief interactions were also highlights of the episode. I loved how Moiraine approached Loial and sort of skipped ahead of all of his objections in their conversations. Truly, the casting in the show across the board is excellent, and there are several highlights of dialogue throughout already.

The continued hints at layers upon layers of intrigue in the Tower are necessary and certainly well done, especially in light of what readers of the books know is going on. I also think that the many set pieces we’ve seen are beautiful. I loved the Amyrlin Seat, and on reflection I enjoyed how they showed the shawl of the Amyrlin as well. It’s much more subtle than I expected, but from what I understand, it’s a nod to the many fan depictions that have shown it with similar themes.

One downside is that the series continues to clip along at a frenetic pace, which is the main thing that has taken me out of the show so far. The Wheel of Time books are very clearly not oriented towards being quick reads or fast-paced action-fests. Due to the format of the show–only 8 episodes this season!–the creators are cramming each episode so full of events that it starts to feel like whiplash at times. Even when characters do try to slow things down, we move so quickly past the events that it seems we don’t get to reflect on the events. For example, Moiraine’s exile goes from her discussion with Siuan ahead of time to a meeting of the Aes Sedai to Siuan saying she’s banished and then immediately pulling out the Oath Rod (!!!) to make Moraine swear to abide by the ruling and then leaving. I was surprised to see there was no pause anywhere in this chain of events.

Full Book SPOILERS section and theorizing

Speaking of the Oath Rod–I was taken aback to see them decide to use it that way. The problem with a major piece like the Oath Rod is that if you use it too frequently, it becomes a prop more than an epic artifact. Indeed, one of the insidious things about the Broken Tower in the books is when the White Tower tries to use the Oath Rod to force people to swear fealty to the Amyrlin Seat. Weirdly, the scene in this episode skirts right along that border to the point that it felt kind of “yucky” as a fan of the books.

On the flip side, I can see the decision-making process for the showrunners, because featuring the Oath Rod prominently early on allows them to make a big deal about other revelations related to it later, such as the Black Ajah and others. Thus, I’m kind of torn on that scene.

I appreciated how they depicted the drawing of the darkness from the dagger out of Mat. While we viewers could see the weaves, Rand makes it clear all he could see was a bit of the darkness, which gives viewers the hint that others can’t see the weaving other than its effects.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I was a fan of this episode, apart from the caveats I mentioned. The series continues to offer a strong epic fantasy look at the Wheel of Time world, and the flavors it has from the book series make it feel much more unique than some of the other epic fantasy series out there. I am eagerly anticipating the rest of the season.

Links

Fantasy Hub– I have a post collecting all of my fantasy-related posts into one place!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

The Wheel of Time, Season 1 Episode 5 “Blood Calls Blood” Review

The Wheel of Time is one of the biggest fantasy blockbusters of all time, and I have read and loved the fantasy novels for decades. I was beyond thrilled to see that an adaptation was coming to Prime TV, and now that it’s here, it’s time to offer weekly reviews! Be sure to also check out my theology site for my look at the show and books from a Christian perspective.

“Blood Calls Blood”

Wow, there’s a lot to unpack in this one.

First, Loial. Loial was trending on Twitter after the episode dropped, and for good reason. The personality, the casting, the voice–it’s basically all perfect. I was surprised a little at the way they made him look, but the acting sold me and I’m all in on this Loial.

Second, the interactions between Warders continue to be a major highlight. I also love the juxtaposition of the Way of the Leaf with the distorted Way of Light. The Children of Light are clearly developing into major antagonists here, and it makes them feel quite serious as enemies.

Perrin finally revealed his accidental killing of his wife to Egwene, and it was a beautiful scene in which Egwene turned it around and tried to offer him forgiveness. I was curious about the wolves–wondering how that’s going to play out and what we’ll see soon!

Tar Valon is beautiful to behold, but I’d really like to see more of it. We did, though, get a sense very briefly of Mat and Rand seeing the place for the first time and being in wonder. Again, though, I worried they moved past that too quickly. That’s kind of something I felt this whole episode–most everything moved too quickly for my taste. We did get to settle in with the Warder plotline a bit, but everything else moved so swiftly. For example, Nynaeve is out of her room; then she’s told about the gardens; then Loial is busting her in to visit Mat and Rand in the very next segment; then she’s back standing with the Warders as they mourn. It’s just a surprisingly swift turn to each scene, and it’s clear there’s much going on off-camera. I’ve read the books, but it makes me wonder how those who haven’t are dealing with the speed of the plot.

Discussion for Fans who have Read the Books (Read: SPOILERS)

My wild speculating self was going off on a tangeant about how they skipped Caemlyn so does this mean we just won’t have Elaine at all when a friend of mine pointed out Elaine has been cast already. So that seems… unlikely.

I love the way they’ve played up the relationships between Warders and Aes Sedai at an early stage. It makes it feel very genuine, and possibly moreso than in the books because we basically get told that rather than having it happen dynamically in the books. It’s surprising to me, though, that they’ve spent so much time on this–to the exception of plot that’s actually covered in the books. I wonder if this is to make sense of some of the much later scenes with Lan, Moiraine, and others. Or, if it’s just untapped character development they decided made sense for the show.

Episode 5 is clearly the biggest divergence from the books so far, in how much was skipped over before showing up at Tar Valon. I wasn’t too upset by anything, though, as a fan of the books. Definitely looking forward to more.

Links

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“The Wheel of Time” – Episodes 1-3 “Leavetaking,” “Shadow’s Waiting,” and “A Place of Safety” reviews

The Wheel of Time is one of the biggest fantasy blockbusters of all time, and I have read and loved the fantasy novels for decades. I was beyond thrilled to see that an adaptation was coming to Prime TV, and now that it’s here, it’s time to offer weekly reviews! Be sure to also check out my theology and apologetics site for my look at the show from a Christian perspective.

“Leavetaking,” “Shadow’s Waiting,” and, “A Place of Safety”

I’m lumping these episodes together because I just sat and watched them all together, and separating them in my head would be tough now. I suspect many others did the same! Obviously, SPOILERS follow.

Let’s get this out of the way first, yes, they changed things! I need to make this clear: I have been a fan of the series, as I said, for decades. I also have a fairly high tolerance for liberations being taken even with things that are beloved for me. I just like having adaptations, and while I’ll complain if I think something totally throws off the tone, feel, or intent, I largely just absorb the changes and move on. Two Rivers, for example, seemed a bit too big to me, and possibly had too many features that took away from its fairly idyllic setting in the books. Some characters I have quibbles about–like what happened with Perrin and his wife (!!!???). Overall, though, I do love the show so far. Here’s why:

There are several scenes that do fully capture the “feel” of The Wheel of Time. The strongest example, in my opinion, was when Moiraine was interrogated by a Questioner of the Children of the Light. She spoke words that were all true, but deflected his questions with answers that diverted his suspicion. She’s going to meet a “sister,” but all Aes Sedai are sisters; she came from a ferry town, which she did… after she left Two Rivers; and so on. It absolutely, in one single scene, showed how Aes Sedai can be masters of manipulation even within unbreakable vows. I just… loved it so much.

Another great scene was our group singing about Manetheren. It had that haunting feeling that I just loved, and Moiraine monologuing a history of Manetheren was just icing on the cake. Great worldbuilding, and it made it seem much deeper than it otherwise may have. Thom was wonderful, though maybe a bit more roguelike and less flamboyant than I expected. I think they cast him well, though, and his actor stole every scene he was in. I am definitely looking forward to more Thom, and it may just be that I don’t fully remember how Thom was earlier in the series.

I am also hugely anticipating more scenes with the Tinkers, Perrin, Egwene, and the wolves. I thought these scenes could be kind of a drag in the books, so I’m hoping they continue to spur the action and on and skip some of the lengthy exposition that happens in the books. Yes, I love the books, but let’s be honest–they can drag. I even thought the third episode here dragged a little bit in the middle with the long scenes of just running around a grassy field for… everyone.

The Children of the Light also seem more dynamic already, which I love. A friend of mine pointed out how they made at least one Child more empathetic than most of them were in the books, and that could be an interesting direction to take them. I enjoyed Mat’s casting and a deeper background. Instead of him being a kind of happy-go-lucky guy, he has more strength of character than he does in the books at first. I’m surprised to read that they re-cast him for the upcoming second season, because I thought he’s doing a great job in these first 3 episodes. Basically the whole cast is great. The Trollocs are suitably varied and terrifying, but perhaps not quite varied enough.

Yes, there are things I didn’t enjoy. Like the implied sex between Egwene and Rand–it just felt super out-of-place for what’s supposed to be a very pastoral, quaint setting in Two Rivers. Going along with that, the characters from Two Rivers just seem overall more worldly wise than they ought to be. I don’t know if this is on purpose, or if it will be forestalled later, but for now it just does seem to take some of the way the early books developed from us. That may be intentional–skipping all the “country bumpkins ogling at small villages because to them they are huge cities” scenes makes obvious sense for a TV show. On the flip side, Rand and Mat walking into a mining town with nary a blink of an eye was just a bit off to me.

Overall, though, I thought this was a great 3 episode introduction to the series. I am over the moon that they have adapted this series of books, and now I honestly feel some trepidation: with what is a pretty solid start, are they going to finish this all? It’s a monumental task, obviously, so I truly hope they get it done. This is one that it’ll hurt if they don’t finish it. Big ouch. So go watch it, share it on social media, and talk it up! Let’s make sure the show keeps going!

Links

The Wheel of Time – check out my posts on my theology blog in which I evaluate the books and show from a Christian perspective.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.