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The Wheel of Time: Three-Episode Premiere Discussion Review

The Wheel of Time turns, and ages come and pass. This show’s premiere may not be the beginning everyone expected. But it is a beginning – and a very good launch.

JRS: This three episode drop brought a lot of surprises for those familiar with the book series, but also a lot of great stuff. I found the first episode of the drop to be a bit of a mess – but most pilots are. I was struck initially by what seemed like really excellent casting choices, especially with Perrin, Mat, Lan and Nynaeve. I really like the actor chosen for Mat. I was initially underwhelmed by the choices for Moiraine and Rand – but by episode three I saw the skills motivating these castings and am looking forward to more. Eamon Valda (Abdul Salis) was flat-out terrifying in the opening to the second episode – was anyone else watching obsessively to see if any tiny bit of white was stained by blood?

The story at this point is interesting in what it focuses on and what it rushes. The initial books in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan were often accused of sexism and homophobia. There's at least one scene in the three episodes where gay relationships are discussed – but interestingly without negative connotations that I can see. I like this evolution. Women seem to be given some more agency in the televised version. I liked these changes.

It's interesting what the show is focusing on vs. what it is moving past quickly. Some things in the books took hours to explain – in the show we see Tam al'Thor with a heron-mark blade fighting like a hero; I found that elegant and think most viewers will pick up on the pieces fairly quickly. We know that there's a Shadow, that people are looking for the Dragon Reborn.

Mark Greig: I was expecting the show to make a lot of changes from the books and for the most part I was happy with all of them (yay for Ta'veren Egwene). The only ones I really didn't like were Perrin's pointless fridged wife, the lack of Mordeth in Shadar Logoth, and what was done to Mat's parents. Some events were also really rushed. I didn't think they'd get through this much of the first book so quickly. It would've been nice to spend more time on the everyone saying goodbye to their families. A lot of the exposition could've been done away with. We really didn't need to start and end the episode with Moiraine explaining the exact same thing about the Dragon being reborn.

The cast were all good, even if there was the odd stiff line delivery here and there. Loved the music, Lorne Balfe is quickly becoming one of my favourite composers. The scenery was stunning, and the FX were good, although some weren't as polished as the others. The Trollocs were hit and miss, but they did a good job showing how dangerous and relentless they are.

So overall a good start, with only a few issues that I hope will get ironed out as the series progresses.

Billie Doux: I have a question. How Game of Thrones-ish is this series? I love science fiction, but fantasy really leaves me cold. When a series is all about kingdoms, maps and dragons, it has no appeal for me whatsoever.

JRS: Kingdoms. Maps. And, definitely, Dragons. Not lizardly ones but this is definitely a fantasy world.

Billie: Then it's probably not for me. Let me quickly add that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with this kind of fantasy. It's just that what works for me is mostly vampires and time travel. :)

Mark: Without going into spoilers, there actually some elements of science fiction in the series and even a bit of time travel. I think there was also a creature that feeds on blood.

JRS: Oh, there's definitely more than one kind of vampire in this series! Overall sounds like two out of three excited reviewers. I really can't wait to see how the story evolves and meet some of my favorite characters, including a certain Ogier.

5 comments:

Frank said...

I had heard that the reception to this new series had been pretty mixed, so I went in skeptical (as someone unfamiliar with WoT). I ended up liking it quite a bit. The best thing about it, IMO, were the actors/characters. They are all easy to like and root for. Especially cool since I didn't know a single one of them! Only Perrin so far leaves me a bit unconvinced (I'd expect a lot more shock on his part after what happened in episode 1, to be honest).

There's been a good few comparisons with Game of Thrones. Despite all the darkness, the tone of this felt lighter than GoT's and I didn't mind that at all. It's more of an adventurous romp, despite all the world-ending-ness. Although that also seemed a bit strange: there's all this impending darkness, and apparently it's well known that time repeats itself, yet people other than the protagonists seem strangely unconcerned/ignorant of it all.

It's a pity that they're releasing the episodes on a week by week basis (feel like that's having a comeback), since I can't wait to see what comes next. Almost tempted to start reading the books - but Game of Thrones taught me that Books->TV works better than TV->Books. For me, anyways.

The editing seems off sometimes.

Surprised by the comment in the review about increased agency for women, given the central role the Aes Sedai seem to have. Makes me wonder how different the series is to the books, in that respect.

Today's captcha: BOATS

Baby M said...

I've watched the first two episodes, and it's held my interest so far. Not being familiar with the books, it took me a while to sort out who was who, but now that I'm oriented, I think I'll stick with it for at least another episode or two.

magritte said...

I've enjoyed it so far, as someone who hasn't read the books--the sheer length of the cycle has always put me off. Thus far, I'd say it reads as more high fantasy than Game of Thrones. Or LOTR for that matter which actually doesn't have that much magic in it, really--compare Gandalf or even Galadriel to Moraine.

Echo Frank's puzzlement at the idea that women have more agency here, since judging from the show, I had the impression the Aes Sedai were the most powerful group on the planet. One thing I like so far is it isn't as all over the place as Game of Thrones. Though they've separated the main characters for now, at least they've all met each other, something that didn't happen in Game of Thrones till at least Season 6. Pacing seems a little uneven so far with a really action packed opening episode an a much slower third episode.

Totally disagree with Frank, though on one thing. TV shows based on books that I've read almost always disappoint me. Whereas I can almost always enjoy a book after watching an adaptation of it.

magritte said...

Does Doux Reviews plan to cover the show? I'm keen to hear what people thought of episode 4.

Billie Doux said...

magritte, no one has volunteered yet. I think we're all a bit overcommitted.