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The Wheel of Time’s first season wraps up in an explosive, twisty finale


Moiraine contemplates The Blight.
Enlarge / Moiraine contemplates The Blight.

Amazon Studios

Andrew Cunningham and Lee Hutchinson have spent decades of their lives with Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time books, and they’re bringing that knowledge to bear as they recap each episode of Amazon’s new WoT TV series. These recaps won’t cover every element of every episode, but they will contain major spoilers for the show and the book series. If you want to stay unspoiled and haven’t read the books, these recaps aren’t for you.

The Wheel of Time‘s first season is over, but Amazon has renewed it for a second season that’s currently filming.

Lee: So! That was… definitely one way to cap off the season, and we’ve ended with a whole boatload of new questions that are going to hang fire until season two. The thing we probably need to start with, at least just for a moment, is the thing that the episode starts with—the Jetsons Age of Legends flashback, with the OG Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon. (Though the show calls him the “Dragon Reborn” as well—likely hinting that time is, you know, a Wheel and stuff.) It’s not quite the Kinslayer prologue that kicks off the books, but it was still gratifying to see—at least, I thought it felt good. And we got the obligatory “pan out the windows so we can see flying cars to show us it’s the future” shot. Did it hit the right notes for you?

Andrew: I did appreciate our glimpse into the Age of Legends! It was low-key, but now that Rand has been definitively established as a reincarnation of this specific guy, it’s helpful to see the guy’s face and to hear him and to get a sense of him. I expect we’ll see him again more than once (though it remains to be seen whether a version of Lews Therin will literally take up residence in show-Rand’s head as he does in the books).

It is definitely a busy finale. I think, mostly, I enjoyed it? But as with last week’s episode my main complaint is about time. I can list a bunch of things in this episode that would have hit better if the show had had more time to develop, more time to let us spend with Rand, more time to spend with this mysterious man in the untucked tuxedo whom Rand spends all of his time talking to.

This mysterious man (Fares Fares) remembers Rand as Lews Therin Telamon, but we don't know much about him.
Enlarge / This mysterious man (Fares Fares) remembers Rand as Lews Therin Telamon, but we don’t know much about him.

Amazon Studios

Lee: Ah, yes, “The Dark One,” played by Fares Fares (whom Ars readers probably last saw in Westworld and Chernobyl). Man, you’re right—this episode was dense as hell. I was hoping that Amazon would give us a super-sized episode to round things out, but as it is, “The Dark One” is given disappointingly short shrift. (Though check the closing credits for his billing, which should clear things up for book readers and probably really muddle things for non-readers.)

Coming at the finale here from the perspective of a book reader is a pretty fraught experience, since there’s such massive divergence. I know I’ve been the one flogging the “but the book!” point of view for most of this season, but it’s probably time to set that aside. We have diverged hard in so many ways—though we still end up in more or less the same state. I didn’t think we had the time to get us there, but apparently we did.

Andrew: Of all the departures from the book, I think the one that bothers me the most is that we have lost all sense of progression, power, and growth among our channelers. With the One Power still relegated to a sort of vague wispy white do-anything magic, it seems like any channeler under sufficient external stress can do pretty much whatever they want, including but not limited to sealing an ancient evil in its prison, nuking an army of Trollocs from the sky, and healing apparently mortal wounds.

The books make it clear that the One Power is dangerous and that wielding it without knowing what you’re doing is an easy way to kill yourself or those around you. It’s a muscle that must be exercised and a skill that must be learned. Sure, the books also get away with some hand-wavy channeling stuff when our heroes are in high-pressure situations, and Rand especially is left to do a lot of guessing early on because the only male channelers in his time are either evil, mad, gentled, or dead. But so far in the show you lose a lot of that nuance, and with it a sense of how our channelers are growing as characters.

That said, we do see some “burnt out” channelers in this episode, and I dig the show’s decision to depict that condition extremely literally.

Egwene and Nynaeve will have their own destinies to confront in season two.
Enlarge / Egwene and Nynaeve will have their own destinies to confront in season two.

Amazon Studios

Lee: Oh yeah—I absolutely agree. And I really like the effect they’ve gone with, where your face chars and your eyes collapse into dark pits. It somewhat echoes the eyeball-and-mouth fire effect “The Dark One” uses in Rand’s dreams.

I hear you also with the notion of character progress, especially considering what Perrin and Loial do in this episode—namely, very little. (Though they did help dig up the flaming Horn of Valere, which I suppose is a pretty important moment. I wonder how many Shienarans knew it was sitting underneath Lord Agelmar’s throne? Honestly, it feels like just pure insanity to have the Horn just sitting there—it’s a weapon with far too many temptations and far too few downsides to its use, and I’d imagine any self-respecting Borderlander ruler would blow it instantly, given the opportunity.)

The Horn is a huge focus of the second book (which is titled The Great Hunt, with the “hunt” part being the actual-for-real hunt for the Horn of Valere), and we wrap season two with most of The Gang being in more or less the same plot positions that they were at at the book’s ending. With a few exceptions, I guess, considering Loial has been stabbed and Moiraine has been… well, let me ask what you think about that one. My wife thinks Moiraine was possibly stilled by “The Dark One,” which means season two will have to maybe bring forward a Power-related plot event or two. I thought Moiraine was just shielded—the net-like visual effect “The Dark One” placed on her looked a lot like what the Aes Sedai were doing with Logain a few episodes back—and then the shield was tied off and left in place. Either way, Moiraine is in kind of a tough spot.

Andrew: As a quick sidebar on Perrin and Loial, the show got a huge, genuine laugh out of me when Perrin asked Loial “How can we just sit here while everyone else is willing to fight?” and Loial responds “I’m standing.”

Lee: You know what never changes? It’s not war. It’s Ogier. Ogier never change.



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