UPDATE: Linking to this review in r/WoT gets you banned.
Good morning and thank you for clicking my longpost about a swordshit show allegedly based on a work I've been reading, rereading, analyzing and discussing since the late 90s! I'm not going to waste time with more than a quick preamble for the uninitiated, so buckle up. Things are about to get very soy very quickly.
In 1990, a decorated Vietnam veteran (Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star with “V”, two Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry with Palm) named James Oliver Rigney (pen name Robert Jordan) published the first book in what would turn out to be the longest narrative written in the English language of all time. This was The Eye of the World in the Wheel of Time saga. At 4,400,000 million words and 2,782 named characters over the course of 14 main books and one prequel, WoT is far and away the most intricate story ever told. The author died in 2007, and the final three books were ultimately finished (fairly poorly) in 2012 by Brandon Sanderson, with the consent of Jordan's wife and editor, Harriet. In 2018, Amazon bought the rights to the work for a television adaptation, intending to capitalize on Game of Thrones' success. Three years later, we now have the first season, with a staggering $10,000,000-per-episode budget. And it is far and away the worst thing ever commit to film, including actual snuff films.
The end result is not an adaptation in any sense of the word; the only similarities Rafe Judkins' Wheel of Time bears to the books on which it is based are some of the names. It tells an entirely different story, about entirely different people, doing entirely different things for entirely different reasons. A film about an immigrant named Jesus buying a motorcycle and joining the Hells Angels is closer to an adaptation of the Bible than this is to an adaptation of Wheel of Time, and this is in no way hyperbolic.
Here's where the intro ends and I start prattling on about things specific to the work itself, that's all the context you get
The (filmed) series opens with a voiceover inexplicably by Moiraine, and wastes absolutely no time in preemptively retconning some of the foundational principles of the series. Lews Therin might be reborn as a woman. Which can't happen, and Aes Sedai of all people should know this, and that isn't even touching on the saidin/saidar mess this would lead to. But showrunner Rafe Judkins and his crew spent the last few years on Twitter openly disparaging the source material and repeatedly expressing desires to dismantle it and tell an entirely unrelated story as a vehicle to push tired identity politics. And Moiraine has somehow heard rumors of four ta'veren in BFE Two Rivers. How does that work? Since when is Egwene ta'veren? Who is spreading these rumors? What do they entail? What indication is there that there are ta'veren in the Two Rivers? How did these rumors get out when the place is lucky to see a peddler or two pass through every year? There are no answers!
So that's what we start with. By the four minute mark, Liandrin & co have already summarily gentled a random male channeler - a massive no-no by Tar Valon standards, something which is repeatedly hammered home by Thom and Moiraine's seething about Owyn. Moiraine and Lan casually watch this literal, actual, significant crime, make a quip about it, and leave. But not before we're treated to Liandrin invalidating even more of the lore as she explains to the poor sap before gentling him that saidin was tainted by "filthy men" (this is a quote) touching it, even though everyone - Aes Sedai of all people - know that the taint was Shai'tan's counterstroke to the Hundred Companions. So from this scene alone, we're hit with a few possibilities:
- Liandrin lied, meaning she's Black Ajah. Which she is, of course, but the viewer doesn't know that. Neither does Moiraine. And Black Ajah cells are three people, and she has a much larger posse than three, so the possibility of all those Reds being Black is out. Moiraine also doesn't react to this lie, so it's presumably off the table.
- Saidin really was tainted by filthy m*n touching it in Rafe's bastardization of the work, which retcons absolutely everything about the world.
- Most likely, it's just garbage writing to illustrate that Liandrin (and Reds) hate men and male channelers, and the writers don't give a shit about the Three Oaths except when it's necessary to for the threadbare plot.
And then after this completely unnecessary scene and subsequent traveling montage, we arrive in the Two Rivers. Egwene (who is now Indian) gets to braid her hair! Which is now apparently just for members of the Women's Circle. Which is now some New Age hippie hyperfeminist ritualistic woo cult thing, because the viewer is treated to a bizarre ceremony on a rock overlooking a river, which Egwene is senselessly pushed into as part of...a test? initiation? hazing? it's not explained, but she's told to float down the river and then that's the sum of the explanation and the last time any of this is referenced or relevant.
Some observations about Two Rivers characters in no particular order:
- Everyone's favorite softboi Perrin is married now (and black!), to an imaginary character named Laila. She's a strong blacksmith. He proceeds to kill her with axe on Winternight.
- Mat, the incredibly selfless and good-natured rogue, is now a shameless thief. He steals some girl's bracelet and sells it to Fain (who is now black - and British - as well).
- Rand and Egwene are a thing now. And they're very openly banging. Two Rivers customs and culture and propriety no longer exists, because any society that normalizes sex within a marriage is problematic.
- Nynaeve (now extremely black) scrubs a sacred rock. Why is it sacred? Why is she scrubbing it? Why is it in a cave? Stop asking questions, they don't have answers.
- The extremely respectable and respected Abell Cauthon is now a domestic abusing drunkard who his wife and children are terrified of.
- The Mountains of Mist are now in someone's back yard, and Rand goes to brood there after nailing Egwene again, and talk about his deep, CW-tier thoughts, which he says he does a lot. Gone is the innocent, naïve sheepherder and dedicated son.
During a series of unremarkable scenes in and around the Winespring Inn, we're treated to a huge number of absolutely shameless shots of people of every race and ethnicity under the sun - the Two Rivers is no longer an isolated, podunk village in the ass end of nowhere. Rand being visibly different than everyone else was a major narrative aspect of the books, but now everyone is different. There's a huge number of blacks, Indians, latinx, Asians, Pacific Islanders - you name it, the Two Rivers has it. No one even bats an eye at Moiraine and Lan's arrival aside from the rudeness of it. Fain showing up is ignored by everyone but a few kids, and Mat who needs to unload his stolen jewelry.
It's pretty hard to fuck up Winternight. Like that's one of the most memorable scenes in the entire series - it's powerful, it's tense, it's gripping, it's definitive, and it's very plainly laid out what happens. Instead, Rafe Judkins treats us to a Winternight that isn't about Rand's desperate, terrified flight back to the village with his mortally wounded father. There are no worldshaking maybe-revelations-maybe-fever-dreams about his ancestry. There hadn't even been a Myrddraal that anyone saw. Rand and Tam are just eating dinner when a Trolloc knocks the door down. Tam gets out his heron mark blade (also looking exactly nothing like it was painstakingly described) and proceeds to get his ass handed to him by a single Trolloc. Rand saves him by stabbing it in the back, and then we're back to town!
The attack on the village consists briefly of Mat running away, some randoms dying, Daise Congar and a heap of other farm women taunting Trollocs (who don't even bother to fight back) and then having no problem at all handling them, because they're strong women. Moiraine seems gimped as hell and relies on throwing rocks at the invaders. At one point she destroys the Winespring Inn for more rocks. Completely levels the building. Oh, Egwene and Nynaeve use little DIY melee weapons to take down some Trollocs too, but Nynaeve gets kidnapped.
And then it's done.
You've likely noticed that I forgot to mention Thom through all of this. I actually didn't! Thom isn't there! He doesn't appear until the third episode. And he doesn't have a flute and harp anymore, he has a guitar. And he's much younger. And his giant mustaches are gone. Did I mention he has a guitar? Because Thom has a guitar now. But we're still on episode 1, 3 comes later.
CONTINUED IN PINNED COMMENT