I’ve been pretty lenient with the book changes up to this point. A certain amount of leeway is necessary—the change in format requires changes in storytelling, and any creator worth their salt is going to put their own spin on things. But I have also watched the changes with deep concern—Robert Jordan wrote a series that has sold tens of millions of books; Rafe Judkins made Chuck. There is no reason to play blind trust in the latter, and if he approaches the project with vanity we should expect bad results. Game of Thrones is the model here: Benioff and Weiss did a great job adapting existing content but failed badly when forced to create their own.
My concerns remained muted through episodes four and five. Shifted forward exposition and worldbuilding can be justified, and the quality of the original and changed material was very high. After episode six, though, it is clear that Rafe is devoting far too little attention and time to the actual material from book one, and his original/changed material is markedly weaker than in the previous two episodes.
SPOILERS abound below. Mostly for the first six episodes of the show, but there will be book spoilers sprinkled in as well.
The episode opens with a flashback featuring Suian, the future Amyrlin Seat. She uses the One Power to unravel her one-handed, fisherman father’s nets. They return home to find their house burned and the Dragon’s Fang scrawled on the charred gate. Suian’s father drops a good fish metaphor. He is sending his daughter to the White Tower.
The first scene post-opening credits is back in the present day, with Moiraine and the other Aes Sedai present for the gentling of Logain called before the Amyrlin Seat, Suian Sanche. There are in the Hall of the Tower, with all seven Ajahs present. Logain is brought before the Amyrlin Seat. He begs for death but won’t get it.
Things get heated after Logain leaves. Liandrin does a . . . bad job justifying her actions. Moiraine refuses to reveal the purpose of her travels. She has a penance coming, but not until tomorrow.
Moiraine arrives at Rand and Mat’s inn. She assures them that she will know when Perrin and Egwene arrive, even though it took her this long to find Rand and Mat. They are on edge because they think Mat can channel, with Rand foolishly drawing his sword on Lan. Lan quickly disarms him, and Moiraine discovers the truth when Mat draws the Shadar Logoth dagger on her. She evidently heals him entirely right there.
Moiraine takes a meeting in a bath with a Blue Sitter who orders her to stay in the Tower. Permanently.
Moiraine finds Egwene and Perrin, promptly misleading Egwene about Mat and Rand.
Back in the White Tower, Moiraine uses the portrait shown in the last episode to . . . Travel(?) to Suian. They kiss, and we get our first Game of Thrones-style sexposition scene (albeit without nudity). Suian describes the dreams that will send the fellowship to Fal Dara.
Moiraine deigns to reunite Egwene and Nynaeve, then introduces them to the Amyrlin Seat. Nynaeve continues to be Nynaeve.
Suian exiles Moiraine, as per their previous arrangement. For some reason, Moiraine swears on the Oath Rod.
The Fellowship reconvenes at a Waygate. Moiraine dismisses the horses, because the show has a limited budget. Moiraine still doesn’t know who the Dragon is, but she wants to take them to the Eye of the World to confront the Dark One anyway. Mat doesn’t walk through the gate, for reasons.
For some reason I found the dialogue in this episode the hardest to understand yet.
Suian is from the city of Tear, as I recall, not just the country, but cities cost money, so she is from the country here. Tear is also way too mountainous.
I imagined the Hall of the Tower much bigger. There is no room for observers in the show version (although there may be galleries above).
Logain’s monologue is one of the first show references to the waning power of the Tower.
They finally managed to find a fat innkeeper.
The scene with Moiraine and Suian just comes off as gratuitous. It lacks the foundation laid in New Spring. It skips over the background of why Moiraine and Suian played the game they played. It is remarkable how emotionally dead it is.
Continuing to play coy about five Dragons works for one reason because all five are going to be a very big deal. It wasn’t one Dragon and four schmucks. It would be easy to confuse Perrin and the wolves as signs and portents of something else. Nynaeve may be the wrong age, but it is hard to dismiss her power.
The actress who plays Suian probably turns in the worst acting performance yet on the show. It hurts that as written she bears scant resemblance to the book character.
Did Rafe create a three-episode sojourn just so he could insert one sex scene (still largely offscreen)?
So how did Moiraine travel for her assignation with Suian? And to where? My first thought was two ter’angreal that allow travel (probably big-T Travel) between them. When Nynaeve and Egwene, you can spot a portrait like Moiraine’s behind Suian. But that room is completely different than the room where Moiraine and Suian met. And the room where they met would have been very out of place in the White Tower. I think instead that the portraits gave both Aes Sedai access to either Tel’aran’rhiod (the World of Dreams) or to some sort of pocket dimension. Any of these explanations are plausible within the frameworks of the books without doing violence to it, I think.
The big thing I was watching for this episode was how the show would point them toward the fellowship toward Fal Dara and the Eye of the World. The book explanation was always fairly half-baked. And putting the fellowship in Tar Valon makes it harder to justify. The show . . . doesn’t even really try. Suian has a few dreams and off they go. (The justification is better if they make Suian a Dreamer. She is one character more prominently associated with the World of Dreams in the books, after all, and it dovetails with the above (a Dreamer would be more likely to figure out the use of the portrait ter’angreal).)
Aes Sedai swearing personal fealty was a big deal in the books and kept strictly hush hush. Here it happens openly on-screen, with the show seemingly failing to appreciate the implications.
The reunification of the fellowship is sweet, even with them barely having been on screen together.
The Trollocs got to the Two Rivers using the Ways. If entering the Ways requires channeling, then how did they get there?
Mat’s Healing scene looks cool, but the show suffers again for having rushed through Shadar Logoth. How is the casual viewer supposed to appreciate what happened? In part because healing him was too easy. And because not enough foundation was laid for the nature of Shadar Logoth, and Mat acquiring the Dagger was such a throwaway scene.
Why does Mat need to be in Tar Valon, if he no longer needs healing? If he is going to stick around just to try to regain the dagger, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of supposedly healing him? Most importantly, any storyline featuring him in the final two episodes will take time away from the main storyline from the books, pretty well assuring that all of the adapted material from the book will be rushed.
Adapting a 700-page book in one season of television was always going to be a challenge, especially in just eight episodes (they really needed ten). So hard choices were always going to be made. But at this point the pacing looks badly off. Rafe rushed through three episodes of book material, failing to properly set up characters (Rand, Perrin, and Egwene remain badly underdeveloped) and failing to properly set up the main story of this season. Those three episodes are followed by three episodes very heavy on original material. The pacing is much better here, with the episodes given proper time to breathe. There is also an enormous amount of exposition and worldbuilding that is not, at this stage and strictly speaking, necessary. This leaves Rafe just two episodes to rush through book material. This does not bode well for the future.