Casting Again

This has implicit spoilers, if you have never read The Wheel of Time series.

The casting has grown on me, especially Rand and Mat after seeing more of the actors. Rand looks a lot like the Michael Whelan depiction, rather than the bizarre DKS depictions on most of the covers. The big thing is he looks slightly out of place in The Two Rivers due to his reddish hair, grey-ish eyes and extreme height. As long as the Aiel are cast to look within the range of why Rand resembles an Aiel, it works. He is also able to look a bit younger than the initial picture made him look, so he can age beyond the two years the story takes.

Mat looks like Mat, especially in some of the other material beyond the initial picture I saw. He looks of The Two Rivers.

Perrin… I can live with, but the build isn’t as broad or muscular. I can see a somewhat Middle Eastern appearance being in the realm for the area.

Egwene is still the one I look at and say “that’s not Egwene.”

She and Nynaeve have deep local genes. Ignoring that because TV, they look beautiful and strong-willed. It would be worse if they’d been cast as blonde or ginger, since they most definitely aren’t.

Lan’s casting will be interesting to see, since he actually looks Asian. They could cast someone of Japanese or mixed heritage easily, or of heritage that includes Korean or Mongolian.

Anyway, you’re catering to an audience that hasn’t read the books several times, or at all, and won’t care if the casting is accurate in appearance or ethnicity (which of course is all shook up this far in our future after thousands of years and the Breaking). It would still be weird if they didn’t cast a dark black beauty as Tuon, or an older one of the same as Semirhage. It would be weird if they didn’t cast Elayne, Morgase, or, if they ever get shown, Tigraine and Ilyena, as blondes or reddish blondes. It would be weird if they didn’t cast Avienda as some shade of redhead.

All of this makes me wonder about Loial. Will he even look like an Ogier? Ogier are aliens, so there’s no need to make them look human except to save on makeup or special effects. Perhaps they’ll take some guy and slap bushy eyebrows and Spock ears on him as if he’s the token elf.

I haven’t seen what anyone else has to say about this, besides a family member who was upset that people were critical of the casting. This suggests to me that my reaction must be mild compared to some. I’m not sure Peter Dinklage is a good comparison to bad casting being good, though. To make the Imp look as he did in ASOIAF would probably have required CGI or other hoop jumping that would detract from the dragon budget. That show, is, however, a good example of how far you can diverge and still be entertaining. Characters removed. Characters that don’t exist. Characters completely different ages. My understanding is that Logain will have a much bigger/different role on the WoT show, so there’s an example already if that is accurate. Maybe they’ll remove Faile! Heh. No, she’s critical to Perrin’s arc, but a lot of that can be trimmed. Kind of like a book or so per season, so maybe 8 seasons for 14-15 books (depending whether they show us anything from New Spring as backstory), with books 8-10 being squeezed to bare essentials to play a big part in condensing it that much.

WoT Casting

I didn’t go look up the details, but I saw a little bit about some additional casting for the Wheel of Time series.

Not sure how I feel about it. I know you don’t have to follow the books exactly, but…

I’ll still watch it to see how badly they fuck it up story-wise, but I’m not holding my breath.

Starring Gandalf?

The news is that Rosamund Pike has been cast as Moiraine for the Wheel of Time series. First casting decision and apparently touted as the star, also with producer credit.

She looks close enough to the part, even if her hair is a bit light in its natural color. She’s about the right actual age, to within a couple years, and manages to look younger than she is. Ambiguous.

The thing is, calling her the star would be like casting Gandalf and calling him the star in a Lord of the Rings series. She’s an important character who is as responsible as anyone for saving the world, but she also spends a large chunk of the two years real time of the events of the main 14 books dead, out of action. Gandalf. If you take the one prequel book, or inflate things to show more of the 20 years of her life that led to the events of the main series, or somehow eliminate the time she spends dead, then it fits better. But she still doesn’t get a lot of proverbial screen time compared to other star characters. Not in the longer run.

Given that they are blurbing the series completely inaccurately versus what the actual storyline is, it’s less surprising. My hopeful take on the blurb is misdirection, trying not to give away too much, preferring to obfuscate for those who didn’t read the series but might be interested in such a fantasy show.

If I had expected them to cast one person first, it would have been Rand. However, for viewers who aren’t readers, that means nothing or, worse, gives away that he’s the messiah. You let it become apparent that Jon Snow is that important later, even with a finished series.

The Iron Throne

I don’t really have much new to say about the Game of Thrones finale, but I at least wanted to post using the correct episode name. Since it doesn’t show the name initially, I guessed that the episode was A Dream of Spring, as many had assumed.

When I went to watch the bonus “making of” episode well after 9:00 last night, it was not yet available, so I did my neglected rewatch of the finale. I didn’t hate it in the first place, though I understand the complaints. I neither like nor dislike it more after a rewatch. Well, maybe I dislike it more. I particularly liked one YouTuber’s alternate ending to the series. Any such thing pretty much requires going back multiple episodes. The bottom line in that was that to kill the Night King you had to go burn the weirwood on the Isle of Faces, but doing so removed magic from the world, and with it Jon’s resurrection. The show really did nothing to address the magic system and whether it would wane, go away, or grow further. Some have considered the birth of the dragons to have increased the level of magic. The weirwoods obviously are magic, and with them the fact of the Three Eyed Raven.

I loved Sansa telling her uncle to sit down when he was giving a long campaign speech.

I would be surprised if Bran is not who GRRM intends to “win” the game. Really, the Starks won. I would be surprised if the details of how the outcome happens are anywhere close to the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the books we get some of the more virtual and magical elements I was waiting for, even if he ultimately meant for the battle for the throne to be primary and meant for it to be a battle with dual threats: ice and fire. I buy Arya as the killer of the Night King. It does explain her arc. Maybe that’s not straight from Martin. He did sit down with the producers and give them the rundown on where the characters were intended to end up, so if he died and given the lack of books in the latter part of the story, they could finish it with the broader strokes of “as intended.”

I do believe Dan and Dave wanted to move on and rushed the final season. The final season could easily have been longer or have gone through a season 9. But this is why, as I read somewhere after posting about the Wheel of Time show, they intend to cover more than one book of WoT per season. Even at 2 books per season that’s seven seasons. Some of the books don’t really give you half a season of material, if you really trim things down. They might be able to do it in five. As I surmised in my look at the episode titles, the first five episodes take us into the second book and thus we ought to be at least through the first two books by the end of season one. Books four and five are thicker and meatier, so it might get harder in places. You can’t really shortchange the Dothraki (borrowings again?) Aiel too much, take out Asmodean and the need for training, that sort of thing. The walk through Rhuidean is vital. At least the show will have books to work from the whole way.

Leaving Drogon alive with Dany’s body is a huge fan fic opening, if nothing else. So is Bran’s effort to locate Drogon. So is John in the far north. So is Arya’s voyage of exploration.

We never learned what the voice from the flames said to Varys. I always expected we would. Did that simply have no significance beyond helping set his direction in life? Was Varys in some way vital to saving the world indirectly? GoT did something similar to WoT in that characters who might not have been the most major were vital by doing things like saving characters who then did something vital. In WoT, Rand couldn’t have saved the world without, in particular, Perrin, Mat, Nynaeve, and Moiraine. Min helps him know what needs to be done and with his sanity. Egwene brings the Aes Sedai and is a Big Damn Hero. Elayne teaches him politics and how to be a king, and is a good war leader. Thom keeps him alive along the way. It goes on. Lan teaches him how to fight and some of the politics as well, and is a Big Damn Hero. Perrin wouldn’t be Perrin without Faile, much as most of us hate her. There’s a fundamental interconnectedness. Theon turned out to be vital. Baeric had a vital role.

The thing is, if R’hllor is the god of fire and light, and helped oppose the Night King because that’s ice, the opposing force, then what of fire getting all out of control in King’s Landing. It strikes me that a form of potential evil helped against a different evil, then flared itself. The R’hllor people always preached for Daenerys and that makes sense, but that makes them evil on the fire side, along with her.

I loved the back and forth between the different wolf items. Ironically, Bran doesn’t use a wolf, but a raven. Jon represents as Stark, perhaps the most so. Bran represents as Other. Sansa struck me as hollow. I mean, perfect and appropriate ending for her. What she always wanted. But it rings hollow and forlorn through all the pomp and acclaim. Arya goes off to her doom or perhaps amazing things. Jon seems forlorn but is in an appropriate place doing the appropriate thing, protecting the free folk.

It occurs to me that the most Thom Merrilin figure from GoT is Davos. Thom has a bit of Arya, skilled assassin. He is also a gleeman (or more of a court bard), which is not something they have, not in an overt way, in GoT.

I love that the iron throne was melted down. It needed to go.

I did start to watch the special episode, but it was late and I was bored. At the point when I stopped, the episode wasn’t what I’d expected. I was thinking there’d be a lot of talk about what they were thinking when they created this season, maybe a look back at the series and memories of making it. I wasn’t expecting costumers and stuff. Maybe I’ll watch the rest some time.

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.