Wheel of Time: Episode 1

I don’t know how much I’ve talked about Wheel of Time here on my blog, but I started reading them in 2019 and made it all the way to the middle of Book 7 in early 2020 before I hit the dreaded “wall” and couldn’t push any further into them, which upset my husband because, “If you just read a little more, it gets good!” (Sorry, but if I have to get eight books into a series before it really starts getting good, then I’m going to find something else to do with my life!)

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the books – what I did understand, I did enjoy. However, Robert Jordan definitely did not do his female characters any favors, and reading about teenage girl problems makes me want to pull my own hair out, much like Nyanaeve tugs on her braid.

But what about the Amazon adaptation? Surely, at a $10 million-per-episode budget, it’s got to be great, right? People have been touting it as the next Game of Thrones (which it really shouldn’t be compared to – they’re two completely separate types of stories!) and there has been so much hype for the series. Which is why, when my husband and I sat down on November 19 to watch the first episode, we were disappointed beyond anything we’d ever expected.

I’m going to limit my rambling for this episode to just three of the main things that bothered me: (1) Perrin, (2) Sex, and (3) the Bel Tine festival. Otherwise, we’ll be here all night and I’m sure you’ve got better things to do than to listen to someone ranting on the internet about a fantasy series from the 90s.

Warning: Everything after this paragraph includes spoilers, so you may only want to return after you’ve finished the first episode of the TV series.

Perrin

I’m just going to come out and say it: Perrin is my least-favorite of the main Ta’Vern in the Wheel of Time books. (My husband says his arc doesn’t get really good until the 9th book or so, and I’m only mid-way through the 7th.) He’s a bit too whiny, and he’s so wishy-washy and passive about everything that comes his way. He ends up getting married to a very over-bearing woman (what does Robert Jordan have against the women in his books?) and kind of checks out/disappears for several books. I think he’s not mentioned in book 5 or book 6 at all, and it was honestly a relief not to hear from his point of view for that amount of time.

However, Amazon’s Wheel of Time adaptation has aged up the main characters. Instead of being in their mid to late teen years, they all seem to be in their early to mid 20s, which changes a lot. (It opens with Egwene at her hair-braiding ceremony, when a major part of the book is that she’s not old enough to have her hair in a braid yet!) Perrin, for this post’s example, is old enough to be married with a baby on the way. And his wife, for the brief amount of time that we see her, is awesome. She works the forge by herself and is super cool. However, from the moment she appeared on screen I knew she was going to die, because Perrin’s character arc in the book is all about being broody and moody, and he can’t have a happy life. And sure enough, Perrin ends up accidentally killing his wife during the Trolloc attack, which is an old and tired trope called “Fridging” that I really, really hate. It takes all of Perrin’s future character development and puts it all on the whole “I killed my wife and therefore I don’t deserve to live” train, and honestly I’m just not here for it. What a way to erase all of the possible character development that could have happened.

Sex

Now, don’t go thinking I’m a prude, but Wheel of Time isn’t Game of Thrones. It doesn’t rely on sexual encounters (consensual or non-consensual) to move the plot along. In fact, when a character does have sex in book five, he has an absolute mental breakdown and escapes into another place through a portal in order to try and calm himself down because how could he do something like that?! He was saving himself for marriage! And then he went and did it with this other person who he absolutely doesn’t have an emotional attachment to, no way, no how, and so on and so forth.

And then in this book, you’ve got Rand and Egwene just…going at it in her parents’ house with no consequences? Is it too much to ask to have one fantasy series that isn’t centered around sex? There’s absolutely no reason for this to be going on, and it takes away so much from the series that I think this is where I mentally checked out (this scene happens way before Perrin kills his wife, which was basically the end of me caring about the series at all).

Oh, and Moraine and Lan take a naked bath together.

But what do I know? Maybe people only want to watch a gritty re-imaging of old book series and the only way the people at Amazon could get their budget approved was to promise some steamy scenes. Just…stop. It’s such lazy writing and there were so many other things you could have put into this episode instead of shoe-horning your own agenda in!

The Bel Tine Festival

In Eye of the World, the Bel Tine festival is a spring festival, and it’s a place of fun and joy and laughter. For some odd reason, the show runners decided to make it a festival of doom and gloom instead? I guess it’s the Two Rivers’ equivalent of the Day of the Dead.

You know what would have made the Trolloc attack even scarier? If Bel Tine had actually been a fun and frolicking spring festival and then bam, Trollocs everywhere. Instead, everyone was already sad and depressed and then the Trollocs show up. There’s no real tension. I also didn’t remember the Trolloc attack being so brutal, but Steven reminded me that we never see it in the Two Rivers – we see the few Trollocs attack Rand’s house, and then he carries his dad back down the mountain into the village and comes across the aftermath of the main attack.

And let’s talk about Moraine’s weaving during this Trolloc attack – with a $10 million budget, how are the special effects so bad? And why are we even seeing the weaving? The Ta’Vern can’t even see the weaving until they get further in on their journey and some of them learn to weave for themselves, so they should have left those effects out. (And why did Moraine destroy the inn when she could have just dragged up rocks from the ground? I know, I know – spectacle. But still.)

Will I Continue Watching?

Unfortunately, we have to continue watching this series. The first episode was literally so painful that we did not let it auto-play to episode two; we just shut off the TV and stared in silence at each other for a minute before exploding and going “But why? But how? But why???” for the next twenty minutes. But why do we have to continue watching the series, you ask? Steven’s got a new media podcast, and they’re going to be covering The Wheel of Time on it. I don’t know when the Wheel of Time episode will be out, but I’ll definitely link it here when it’s out!

Steven went and looked up Brandon Sanderson’s response, and found an AMA thread on Reddit that he seemed to be doing damage control on. It seems like Sanderson’s official stance is that this is not an adaptation of the Wheel of Time books, but it is instead an adaptation of the next turning of the Wheel of Time. This is what happens the next time the Dragon is reincarnated, the next time the world almost comes to a standstill. The Wheel Weaves as the Wheel Wills. Which is disappointing for someone like my husband, who grew up reading these books and has read the first few so many times that they were literally disintegrating in my hands while I was trying to read them. It’s one of his favorite book series and to see him so upset when it seemed like everything was going right in the lead-up to the series release was disheartening.

Hopefully, the series finds its stride, and they’re able to tie together some of the ruins of the books’ storylines. As it stands now, I don’t know how they’re going to bring together anyone’s backstory into this. They destroyed so much in the first episode that it’s going to take a lot of work to bring it all back together in a way that will make people happy. Amazon has already lost the hard-core Wheel of Time fans, but it seems that those who have not read the books are really enjoying it. (Taking away the books, it just seems like a cheap generic fantasy story.)

What do you think of the series? Do you think we’re too harsh on the show runners/writers and should we attempt to forget everything we know about Wheel of Time before watching the next few episodes? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, keep reading.

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