There are a couple primary problems with Amazon’s adaptation of The Wheel of Time. The first is a lack of respect for the source material. The second, and more serious, is that the show creators are not very good at making television. Outside of casting, there are deficiencies across the board. Maybe they will get better, and maybe pandemic disruptions are to blame, but this does not bode well for the series going forward.
SPOILERS abound below. Mostly for the first season of the show, but there will be book spoilers sprinkled in as well.
The episode opens with Lew Therin Telamon arguing with Latra Posae over his plan to strike Shayol Ghul.
The episode is roughly split between the Blight and Fal Dara/Tarwin’s Gap. Rand and Moiraine travel on foot through the Blight, spotting both the seven towers of Malkier and an army of Trollocs headed for Tarwin’s Gap. Rand first encounters Ba’alzamon in a dream where Ba’alzamon kills Moiraine and reveals a human face to Rand after Rand shoots an arrow into one of his fiery eyes. After Rand wakes, Moiraine reveals her plan to him. Give Rand a sa’angreal (to amplify his power) and hope for the best. Rand and Moiraine descend into the Eye to find the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai (a yin yang symbol missing the dots) on the floor. Rand’s second confrontation with Ba’alzamon takes place in a vision of a future where he is married to Egwene and raising a child in Emond’s Field. Ba’alzamon offers to make it real. Rand is ready to accept, but ultimately refuses because he knows that it isn’t what Egwene wants. He uses the sa’angreal to attack Ba’alzamon. After defeating him, Rand tells Moiraine he is leaving. He won’t return to Fal Dara and his friends because he is doomed to go mad. Lan finds Moiraine, but she has apparently been stilled by Ba’alzamon.
Egwene and Min both have premonitions of an attack on Tarwin’s Gap but warn no one. Agelmar take Fal Dara’s army to Tarwin’s Gap in a doomed attempt to hold it against the Trolloc army. He and the rest of the soldiers fall in battle. Lady Amalisa stays to defend the city, requesting any women who can channel join her. Nynaeve, Egwene, and two more women join her. Lady Amalisa directs a circle that destroys the approaching Trolloc army. She is successful at that but draws too much of the One Power. Four of the five women are literally burned, but Egwene heals Nynaeve. Uno and another of Agelmar’s retainer dig up the paving stones under Agelmar’s throne with Perrin and Loial’s help. The Horn of Valere is buried there. Perrin walks off for . . . reasons, and Padan Fain and two Fades kill Loial, Uno, and the other retainer.
The episode ends with a Seanchan armada approaching the “far western shore,” their damane creating a tidal wave for . . . reasons.
I am glad we finally got a glimpse of Lews Therin and the end of the last Age, but I would have preferred the original prologue. It would have worked better given Rand’s later concern about going mad and hurting the people around him. It would have also laid the groundwork for the personal way Ba’alzamon talks to Rand. I’m not sure what work the argument between Lews Therin and Latra Posae is supposed to be doing. The judicious shifting around of worldbuilding and plot can be very effective in making an adaptation work, but the actual choices made continue to perplex me.
I did like that it was Lews Therin’s baby we hear crying during his argument with Latra Posae.
Lan gives Nynaeve his little speech from the books, but it falls flat because the show hasn’t bothered to set it up properly. This is another recurring problem. Perhaps because the show creators are too familiar with the material, they tend to shortchange the scenes they do adapt directly from the books.
The actor playing Ba’alzamon is suitably creepy.
Ba’alzamon calls Rand “Lews.” As I recall, “Lew Therin” is pretty much exclusively used by characters in the books.
5,000-10,000 Trollocs is not a very impressive force.
Under the throne at Fal Dara is not nearly as good a hiding spot for the Horn as the book iteration of the Eye.
Perrin continues to be the most poorly served character.
I was really looking forward to seeing the events at Tarwin’s Gap on screen. It was a huge letdown. The lighting is way too dark. The battle underwhelmed, falling short of any of the big battles from Game of Thrones. And it was a mistake to not use Rand here. I recognize the desire to give Egwene and Nynaeve something to do—they’re main characters, but Rand is the main character. Him being the Dragon Reborn has to matter, and keeping things small undercuts that. Rand’s power is supposed to dwarf that of Logain and Nynaeve. The show has showed us how powerful Logain and Nynaeve are; it has only told us that Rand is powerful.
If Moiraine can teach Rand to channel, it is tough to justify her refusal to do so. Changes have downstream consequences, and the show creators frequently seem to have not given them much thought.
Most of the characters wind up with nothing to do at the Eye, but not sending them there is weird considering three things the show sets up: Moiraine’s repeated statements that the four who are not the Dragon will die at the Eye. Min seeing the sparks indicating the five are linked. And showing the consequences to a Warder of losing his Aes Sedai, which removes any reason for Moiraine to leave Lan behind.
There are a couple reasons for taking a “kill everybody” approach to the season finale: Game of Thrones did it and actors are expensive. These are not good reasons, mind you.
The season finale was clearly the most expensive episode of the season, but I still have no idea where all the money went. The Wheel of Time doesn’t look bad, but it also doesn’t look like a $10 million an episode show.
The season finale rivals episode 6 as the worst episode of the season.