The Wheel of Time (Spoilers)

The show. The idea of it is scary. On the plus side, we at least know how the books ended, and will know every detail of how it differs as it’s boiled down to essentials for television. There’s a lot that can be pared down harmlessly.

I say spoilers because this spoils the books and may, through free extrapolation, spoil episodes of the show. Run away if you want to remain free of any details before watching, if you’ve never read the series.

After Game of Thrones, one of the things there’s trepidation about is the elements of Wheel of Time that Game of Thrones borrowed that people will think were borrowed in the opposite direction. The game of houses. Breaking the wheel. The Dragon. The wolves. Some fantasy elements are of course fantasy elements. You find them in fantasy. Both are fantasy.

In WoT, the magic is more overt, the threat of supernatural evil is the main point, and fewer people die unexpectedly or gratuitously. There are politics, though. You end up appreciating in the end that some of the painstaking, overly detailed machinations are instrumental to preparing for the final battle to save humanity and, well, the wheel. In WoT, “breaking the wheel” is a bad thing that the evil purportedly wants to do.

Looking at IMDB, there are five episode titles known so far. They are Leavetaking, Shadow’s Waiting, A Place of Safety, The Dragon Reborn, and The Flame of Tar Valon. My extrapolation from this is that the first five episodes take us through the events of the first book of the 14 in the main series (an additional book is a prequel). The first episode will involve the events in and around The Shire that lead to the hobbits leaving with Gandalf, evading harm and pursuit. We’ll meet the people of Emonds Field, in The Two Rivers region, nominally a part of the large nation of Britain Andor, in the heart of Europe The Westlands. We’ll meet a number of main characters: Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Moiraine, Lan, and Thom. Some of the secondary characters return later, but the most important of them is Tam, Rand’s father. Depending how closely it hews to the route of travel and events of the books, we could meet some of the whitecloaks, AKA Children of the Light, sort of a militaristic religious order so good that they are their own brand of evil. We could meet an additional major character, Arya Min. That’d be important enough to leave in in some form.

It’s hard to picture all this in an hour, unless the premiere is extra long.

It sounds like the second episode features fleeing evil minions and resorting to hiding in a place so bad that even they fear to enter it. Shadow’s Waiting is the plain English meaning of the old tongue name Shadar Logoth, which was originally a great city known as Aridhol. During one of the interim fights against the Shadow a thousand or two years ago, Wormtongue Mordeth advised the city that to fight evil they had to outdo that evil. They succeeded, becoming a pox of competing evil counter to the evil of the Dark One. Going here is incredibly dangerous, and the residual evil wants to hitch a ride out into the world with you.

Presumably the episode will include the flight from Shadar Logoth and the fellowship being separated. After that, we’re separately following Merlin Thom, Rand and Mat, Perrin and Egwene, and the adult threesome of Lan, Moiraine and Nynaeve.

The third episode could refer to much later, when the gang starts arriving in Camelot Caemlyn, the capital of Andor. It could also refer to what they wish for: A place of safety. The thing that popped into my mind was the time Egwene and Perrin spend with the gypsies Tinkers, a pacifist culture that travels around in garishly colored wagons, camping for a while then moving on. We meet an important secondary character then, and more of those in the further travels of Egwene and Perrin leading to their arrival in Caemlyn. That includes our introduction to wolves. Rand’s group wind up on a ship headed down one of the major rivers that tend to cut mostly north/south down the continent and are important to trade and communication. The captain do be another important minor character. He do be from Greece Illian, where people do be talking a bit oddly. But the ship isn’t that safe, and is no longer term than the Tinkers. We don’t see much of the other three again until Caemlyn. The two groups that include youngsters make endless journeys, walking, walking, hiding, fleeing evil, being lucky, and eventually reaching the city and the Inn where all were to go even if they got separated. The inn might be the place of safety in the title. It’s where Rand, and the readers, first meet Sam Loial, an Ogre Ogier, part of a race of usual peaceful, large alien elves. Just don’t wake the dragon and make him put a long handle on his axe. Another major character. The innkeeper is a minor character of some note. Rand seems to have this effect on people he encounters. Even when it’s not in… Taverns. (A pun for people who know the books.)

I have to assume that The Dragon Reborn for purposes of an episode title incorporates Rand’s first fight with what appears to be the Night King Dark One. This is the point in the series, at the climax of the first book, when readers know unambiguously that Rand Al’Thor is The Dragon Reborn. When Gandalf persuades them to leave the village and Merlin comes along to help watch out that they are not misused by Gandalf, it’s not clear to Gandalf which one of the three contemporaries it is. It’s arguably clear to the readers from the beginning who will be the Three Eyed Raven Dragon, since Bran Rand gets the first POV chapter. But then, he gets much of the POV and the structure isn’t the silly one Martin used. Still, we see the Nazgul first from Rand’s perspective.

There’s a lot to that, if the episode covers everything from leaving Caemlyn as the proverbial place of safety. Shoot! I forgot the events in Caemlyn that introduce us to Elayne, a very major character, the daughter-heir (princess and presumptive future queen) of Andor. Her mother, Morgase, her brothers, Gawyn and Galahad Galad are significant if not major. Her mother’s Aes Sedai advisor, Elaida, becomes a major, accidentally evil character. Aes Sedai are a society of female channelers (magic users) based in the White Tower in the city of Tar Valon. Moiraine is one of them. Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne are all particularly powerful in potential, to be trained. We also get our first look at Logain, who ought have been a more major character. He falsely claimed to be the Dragon Reborn and has been captured by Aes Sedai. Men who can channel become insane after a while and get dangerous because of something the Dark One did three thousand years ago. The show runners have said Logain will have an expanded role in the show. That sounds promising.

Where was I? Right. From Caemlyn they have to travel to the Lands of Always Winter Blight in the far north, and locate the last Ent Green Man in a cone of safety, where he guards a secret. They use The Ways to do part of this trek, but those are dangerous. Loial makes this possible, since he can read Elvish and that’s what the signs in the Ways are in, so he knows where to go to guide them through.

The last listed episode is The Flame of Tar Valon. That has a particularly special meaning to anyone who has read the last book, A Memory of Light. In the meantime, it is one of the titles that the leader of the Aes Sedai carries. She is the Pope Amyrlin Seat, or simply the Amyrlin. Her title is Mother, no hatching of dragon eggs or freeing of slaves required. Along with some other titles like Breaker of Chains and Keeper of the Seals, she is The Flame of Tar Valon. Thus the episode has to involve meeting the Amyrlin, who at the time is Siuan (swan) Sanche, in a city near the border of the Blight after the climactic events of the first book. This puts us in the beginning of the second book, The Great Hunt. Siuan is a major character and a long time associate of Moiraine’s, which they have made an effort to obfuscate. Moiraine is suited to being out in the world, while Siuan is suited to politics and ruling. Siuan was a commoner. Moiraine was royalty from France Cairhien. They have been on a mission since being the only people to know the Dragon had been reborn. We meet her and some of the other Aes Sedai, plus some of the Night’s Watch Northmen borderlanders. I would guess that by the end of this episode the girls have headed down the river to Tar Valon. It could also end after the Horn of Winter Horn of Valere has been stolen by Gollum and people, unexpectedly led by Rand, have been sent to track it down. It might not take more than two additional episodes to speed through the events of The Great Hunt, which includes our first encounter with invaders from across the Atlantic Aryth Ocean. (Joking aside, The Wheel of Time takes place on Earth, in a far future relative to us.) They tamed the Americas a thousand years ago, turned sort of Japanese, maybe Chinese, and are now returning to reclaim Europe for the empire that descended from King Arthur’s son. But that’s in future episodes, so stay tuned.

It’s interesting how little we’re actually hearing and seeing about this series. That’s potentially worrisome. Who knows what kind of budget Amazon has provided. When Game of Thrones started out, there was huge buzz. There were looks at sets and costumes and such. Even though I’d been unable to get into the book, it had me all excited. Things don’t always go perfectly. GoT had to toss out their first episode, rewrite, reshoot, even partially recast it, and make sure they’d gotten it right. We’ll see.

Casting alone will be a landmine. The characters have very specific looks. Ygritte Avienda needs to be cast as someone who’d look a lot like Ygritte, speaking of borrowings GoT made from WoT. Jon Snow Rand Al’Thor will seem like he has a very similar Wildling/Free Folk Aiel girlfriend/antagonist who thinks he knows nothing. Rand’s height, eyes and hair are a thing. He looks like he should be Aiel, not from Andor. Min and Elayne are pretty distinctive. Min might be a taller Arya, more or less. Gendry Perrin needs to look like a blacksmith, not as tall as the other boys but not short, but stockier, muscular, big armed, with bushy dark hair and eventual if not initial facial hair. Mat is taller, more wiry, capable of moving like Oberon if needed, as deadly in a fight as anyone.

But I digress. I’ve spent way too much time on this.

One thought on “The Wheel of Time (Spoilers)

  1. Pingback: The Iron Throne | Accidental Verbosity

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