Changes in adaptation are inevitable. Making a TV show is a messy, collaborative process that demands endless tradeoffs. It’s an iceberg, because it happens almost entirely out of the public eye and, frankly, I know little about making talkies. But there is no reason to judge an adaptation any less critically than anything else. A careful viewer ought usually to be able to see why a change was made, whether or not they agree it was prudent. Far too many changes for the Wheel of Time show still baffle me. There are a couple of changes that seem minor, that are minor, but that nonetheless seem gratuitous, like an intentional shot taken at the source material. And choices have consequences. The biggest problems with episode 7 come from three dubious choices made in episode 6.
All that being said, episode 7 is probably the best episode of the season. It is a much better episode than episode 6. There are a couple of great scenes I have been waiting for all season.
SPOILERS abound below. Mostly for the first seven episodes of the show, but there will be book spoilers sprinkled in as well.
The episode opens with the Blood Snow. A maiden of the spear kills several armored men. Even if you don’t notice at first, it becomes more obvious as the scene progresses that she is pregnant. As she lay against a rock, injured, bleeding out, experiencing serious contractions, a man with a heron-marked sword approaches, his face obscured by a helm.
Back in the main show timeline, Moiraine refuses to reopen the Waygate to retrieve Mat. Channeling would attract Machin Shin, per Loial, and Moiraine fears the dark she thinks she sees in Mat.
The first Guiding Stone has been defaced, but Loial can reason it out. Rand notices that Perrin spotted the Guiding Stone long before anyone else. Lan notices that something is following them. A flash of light reveals Padan Fain walking the Ways. A Trolloc finds them but is just as quickly pushed off the . . . Way platform . . . island by that channeling that they were not supposed to do.
Rather than the gibbering from the books, Machin Shin whispers their fears to each member of the fellowship. Nynaeve, predictably, reacts with anger. Her channeling allows Moiraine to open the Waygate to Fal Dara. They escape the Ways but are visibly shook.
“The fortress city of Fal Dara” looks great, even if a star pattern doesn’t make much sense in a world with no cannon (yet). The Shienarans greet al’Lan Mandragoran with respect, and Uno welcomes him home. Lord Agelmar greets Moiraine Sedai with rather less respect.
Moiraine suggests Agelmar wall up the Waygate, but Padan Fain exits long before any workmen would have made it to the gate. Perrin later spots him within the city, but Nynaeve dismisses it as impossible. She, of all people, would no that no one could have unexpectedly survived the Trolloc attack on Winternight.
We learn a few things from a quick discussion between Moiraine and Lord Agelmar’s sister: She trained at the White Tower and can channel but lacked the strength to become an Aes Sedai. Min is in Fal Dara (okay, we learned this from promo materials), and Moiraine wants the Red Ajah to find Mat.
Min tells Moiraine she sees golden eyes and blood running down Perrin’s chin, Rand holding a baby, and a white flame and a golden ring over Egwene and Nynaeve. She also sees the sparks linking them all together. Her final vision is that the Amyrlin Seat will be the downfall of Moiraine.
Moiraine explains that she still does not know who the Dragon is but expects each of the others to die at the Eye. Nynaeve insists they will not be coerced. But Two Rivers folk, above all, are good at doing what must be done, no matter how daunting. They have a bit of a knockdown, drag out verbal tiff in the interim, though.
Lan gets nice moments with both Moiraine and Nynaeve, signaling that his loyalties begin to divide. He also reveals the truth of his heritage to Nynaeve. He is the uncrowned king of a nation swallowed by the Blight. She finds this very sexy.
Rand shoots his child’s bow poorly. He is distracted, but he knows that Egwene will find him when she is ready to talk. Egwene says she won’t go to the White Tower without Rand. Rand lies and says he will go with her.
He has more than a fight with his ex-girlfriend on his mind. Rand knows he is the Dragon. There is a flashback to a fever-wracked Tam babbling about finding a baby in the snow. Rand channeled to bust down the door when the Darkfriend innkeeper trapped him. He channeled to protect Egwene from the Trolloc in the Ways. Rand finds Min, who admits the truth of her Viewing. The baby she saw was Rand, born on the slopes of Dragonmount.
Rand admits to Moiraine that he knows he is the one, and the two of them leave without the others. The episode ends with them entering the Blight together.
The opening fight sequence is the best straight up melee they’ve given us yet.
Loial confirms that the One Power is necessary to open the Waygate. I am still not convinced the show writers have thought through the implications of that change.
Ogier are in fact known for their speed. Loial can outrun a horse! This aggression against the Ogier will not stand, man.
Agelmar’s is far too rude to Moiraine. Shienar has a culture, and this is not it. How are you going to do an entire proud noble warrior race dirty? These are the two changes that felt like gratuitous shots to me, and this one is the worser. Do we really trust Rafe to get Aiel culture right if he can’t even get Shienaran culture right?
Tarwin’s Gap does not look big enough for the spectacle I am hoping for in the season finale. The scene with Agelmar also suggests it has been cut.
“You were scowling. I bet on pouting.”
Moiraine is really bitter about Mat leaving the
show fellowship. And a much worse judge of character than Suian.
“They’re both big, and they both brood.”
Perrin’s character continues to be ill-served, this time by the invention of a crush on Egwene.
The bickering scene bugs me, in part because it is Rafe once again reaching into a bag of the hoariest tropes available. If you are going to change something, make it less trite, not more so.
Is the Void the reason Rand shoots so much better later in the episode?
Egwene says she will fight for Mat or die for him, but she says nothing about saying thank you after he rescues her.
Hollywood continues to mistake sex for romance. Romance in books rarely works for me, probably because real romance needs time to develop. The Wheel of Time makes good use of its 4 million words in gifting me a great number of effective romances, Lan and Nynaeve most of all. I am somewhat less enthused here, as great as Daniel Henney has been.
Min tells Rand she sees three beautiful women around him but omits any mention of their identity.
They have given Michael McElhatton precious few minutes onscreen, but he elevates every scene he is in (except the sword fight with Narg).
“Doubt is the first step toward surrender to the Dark” sounds like a Whitecloak slogan.
Bukama is the second character killed in New Spring to show up in season one of the show. Note, too, that both the hadori and the ki’sain are worn in the Malkieri household.
Fal Dara is much smaller than Tar Valon but they show us a fair bit more of it. My understanding is that episodes 7 and 8 were shot post-pandemic hiatus. I wonder if Tar Valon was Covid-impacted, because it managed to be very unimpressive.
I’m not sure how I feel about the depiction of the Blight, although it is pretty creepy looking. I would say the same about the Ways, although it is hard to show a place with the defining feature of being completely dark.
The three choices from episode 6 that hurt episode 7 are making channeling necessary to open a Waygate, giving only the flimsiest of justifications for haring off to Fal Dara, and spending way too much screentime on characters other than the five potential dragons. The last of those is the biggest threat to the season as a whole. And the season as a whole may have been saved by a really great performance from Josha Stradowski (I rewatched the first three episodes yesterday, driving this home). And, again, the time burned on sidelines in episodes 4-6 forces the pacing of the episodes that surround them to suffer.