Leavetaking – Taking Liberties

Literally the moment it starts we have our first major story deviation that I really don’t understand the purpose of? We open on Rosamund Pike as Moiraine, who tells us about how the world ‘is broken’ because ‘men with power’ (choosing not to call them Aes Sedai, which they were) thought they could ‘cage darkness itself’….’the arrogance!’ and ‘when they failed’ the Breaking happened.

In the actual history of the books, Aes Sedai researchers found an area in the pattern that looked to have an undivided source of the One Power, ie: power that could be used by anybody and not split into ‘male-’ and ‘female-only’ halves. They drilled a bore in the pattern to access that power and discovered, oh shit, that it was actually the prison of the Dark One who had been sealed by the Creator at the moment of Creation. 

Years later, Lews Therin, the Dragon, proposed a plan to attack the bore directly to re-seal the Dark One. His plan was opposed by a female Aes Sedai who wanted to use some extremely powerful and dangerous magic items to basically brute force the enemy into submission and put a temporary seal around the bore. She convinced all the other powerful woman Aes Sedai to side with her against Lews Therin (An event called the Fateful Concord) and so Lews Therin had only men with him when he (successfully!) put a seal around the bore. 

The ‘breaking’ that occurred afterwards, when the Dark One’s final counterattack before being sealed put the taint on saidin, dooming men to a life of insanity if they tried to channel, resulted afterwards from their (again,successful) attempt to seal up the Dark One. Rand in the books later goes on to believe that if men -and- women had been present, that it would have prevented the tainting of the source, and thus prevented the breaking entirely.

The opening closes on the implication, that they maintain for basically the whole season, that the Dragon could be reborn as a boy or a girl, which is also something the cosmology doesn’t allow for. I went into greater detail in the overall conversion episode, but the important part is that for various cosmological reasons, the Dragon needs to be male, and the whole of the series doesn’t include anybody who is reborn into the pattern as not the gender they were previously. Given that the Dragon does indeed turn out to be Rand just like in the books, I don’t know why they felt the need to add that concept either. It doesn’t play out into anything new, so why bother?

Then we get a scene with Liandrin catching a man who can channel, and having her put forward some really aggressive views about the one power and gender. It’s ‘meant for women and women only’ and when men touch it ‘they make it filthy’. 

Nothing about this scene is in the book, Liandrin isn’t even in the series until Book 2, and the whole reason the Red Ajah hunt men who can channel is that the taint on the otherwise perfectly pure and not filthy source, which was put there by The Dark One, makes it too dangerous to leave men running around channelling, not because it’s ‘only for women’

We meet Lan and Moiraine, and my only real issue is that Moiraine is way too tall. She’s supposed to be around 5’2 not Pike’s 5’8 which also makes Lan seem too short and will definitely make Rand (Who is supposed to be 6’6 compared to Stradowski’s 6’2) seem not nearly tall enough. They reference a prophecy about when the Dragon would be reborn, when in fact Moiraine was there for a foretelling that literally said “The Dragon like, this seconds, has just been born” so their info is a little more precise than that.

There can’t have been ‘rumours of four ta’varen’ in the village because for one, Egwene’s not a ta’varen, and for two, they’ve all pretty much never been outside their village or done much of anything that would be notable as a ta’varen to anybody who would even know what the word meant.

Next we get the rather heartfelt ‘Egwene getting to braid her hair’ scene, except that Nynaeve says that she’s been welcomed ‘to the women’s circle’ which seems to mean ‘to adulthood as a woman’ except that the Women’s Circle is a specific governing body (alongside the Village Council) and Egwene’s definitely not in it the day she’s old enough to braid her hair.

This among a number of things coming in this episode serve to gloss very quickly over anything to do with Emond’s Field and the Two Rivers which is concerning because both are very plot relevant in later books, and a large chunk of the later story takes place back in the village, and so all of these things being changed and rushed past will make that more complicated.

The river dunking is a nice scene, and her being taught to ‘trust the river’ and surrender to it will be a nice analogue to her learning to channel later, which for women is described in those same terms.

Then we move to the Inn, which is pretty big and pretty packed full of people for the view of a tiny village we just saw. Among the characters we meet that actually exist in the book, Egwene’s father is supposed to be a big fat guy, and as a fellow big fat guy, making him fairly skinny was a little annoying. 

A big skip here is that Thom Merrilin isn’t present in Emond’s Field when he is in the book. They have several interactions with both him and Padan Fain the peddler before Lan and Moiraine show up. She also doesn’t just out herself as an Aes Sedai the moment she shows up either, but they’ve been pushing a “Moiraine is protagonisty” thing so far so why stop now.

Now we come to a real sore spot. Mention of Leila, Perrin’s wife. There is a character named Leila in the book, she’s a minor character who has nothing much to do with the story. Perrin is -not- married in the book, and absolutely doesn’t go on to KILL HIS WIFE in the book. I can’t think of any defensible reason to have added a wife for Perrin to then fridge her immediately.

We don’t see these scenes of Mat’s philandering father and alcoholic mother, but we do know that his home life is not very good, and that he cares a lot about his sisters.

Then we get the first of several scenes that have a lot more sexuality that ever happened in the book. Rand and Egwene have been presumed that they’ll probably end up married since they were kids, but they definitely never so much as kiss at this stage of the book. Let alone the obvious implication that they had sex. Also oh boy is there no scene of Naked Lan getting into the tub with Moiraine. Feels like they somehow felt the need to take a step or two towards Game of Thrones despite there being very very little sexuality in the book.

Now we finally meet Padan Fain, where we get the spoils of Mat being a thief in the show where he’s not in the book, and Padan being a bigger jerk than he is in the book. The lack of Thom also keeps the mood of the opening more somber despite the day being Bel Tine.

Then we get a scene with Moiraine and Nynaeve in some sort of sacred cave? This cave doesn’t exist in the book. Moiraine talks about Nynaeve being raised by the previous Wisdom from infancy when her parents died. She was orphaned, but not until she was 14, after having been raised by her parents, and taught woodcraft by her father. The reference here to ‘but no one can remember exactly when’ is clearly in the name of indicating that she might also be the Dragon Reborn, but she’s four full years older than the boys and couldn’t possibly have been the Dragon even if the Dragon could have been a woman.

Using classism to like…establish Nynaeve’s bitterness towards Aes Sedai is also extremely bizarre. The White Tower is -desperate- for more women who can channel, their numbers have been dwindling for years. The current Amyrlin Seat was a peasant fisherwoman. They would absolutely not have seen the previous Wisdom’s shabby clothes and peasant accent and turned her away. Which also seems to imply that anybody can just…be taught to channel, like you can just decide ‘I want to go to the White Tower’ and she gets rejected. You can either be trained to channel or can channel naturally, but at best this is like 1% of people, and should definitely be a much smaller percentage given some other numbers Jordan has mentioned in interviews.

Nynaeve’s issues with Aes Sedai come from the fact that all the kids she’s supposed to be taking care of are about to run off in the middle of the night with Moiraine and Lan.

This listening to the wind scene that follows the next morning also doesn’t happen, mostly because at this point Egwene has not been offered to become Nynaeve’s apprentice and also definitely hasn’t accepted the role, putting the kibosh on plans to marry Rand. Just not present at all. Ditto Lan finding the mutilated animals.

There aren’t any significant warning signs like the animals or Nynaeve’s ill wind reading that these things are coming. They’ve also moved us into the night of Bel Tine when the attack happens, which is later than the book. It’s the night before, when they go home before Bel Tine actually happens, that the attack comes, which preempts doing any of this ceremony with the lanterns.

Since the book now focuses solely on Rand and Tam (who are attacked in their home like in the show) until Rand arrives to find that the trollocs already attacked Emond’s Field, all of the violence and death in the next few scenes didn’t happen in the book. In the book they also specifically call out that any damage done to any part of the village was just a distraction to create chaos, except for attacking Rand and Perrins’ family farms outside the village, Mat’s house, and the forge where Perrin works. All of it is aimed directly at the three boys and while people suffered some injuries, there was definitely not widespread death and destruction like was shown here.

This is also a strange choice to so fully wreck Emond’s Field because it becomes an important place in later books, along with most of these people being alive and well when it happens. They also don’t let Tam acquit himself very well, getting his injury fighting one single trolloc despite being an incredible swordsman.

Then we get the big effects spend on Moiraine channeling which brings up an interesting question that I don’t think gets fully explained in the show. In general, people can’t see weaves. They can see the visible effects of the weaves, but only people who can also channel can even tell if an Aes Sedai is holding the One Power, they definitely can’t see the weaves being used. It looks cool in a visual medium, but it’s not part of what any other characters can see or interact with.


Did not happen, nothing like it happens, there is no defensible reason to have made this choice beyond “Game of Thrones was full of trauma porn, so if we want to be successful we need to be full of trauma porn”

And can I also just comment on what a weird choice it is to have Moiraine, who we’ve already seen call lightning, throw fire, and turn some trollocs inside out, feel the need to just collapse an entire building to get stones to chuck around? Surely there were some other ways to finish them off that didn’t do a bunch of property damage? Just so weird. We get the ‘Moiraine will do whatever it takes’ stuff later on.

Also, by focusing on a bunch of invented violence in the village during the attack, the show doesn’t give us the process of Rand bringing his delirious father to Emond’s Field while he rambles in his fever about a bunch of things that are very important for Rand to have been exposed to as ideas by book 2, and we just…don’t see that happen.

Nynaeve doesn’t get taken, she’s there helping people when Rand shows up. Which would have been handy since we see Egwene is filthy while she works, and in the book Nynaeve knows enough to be telling her to constantly wash her hands between everybody she helps. This is probably the true reason so many more people seem to have died in the show than the book: Bad medical hygiene.

I’m not sure why they felt the need to have the Aes Sedai who had the foretelling about the Dragon being reborn to be “blind but still she could see” I mean…sure some disability rep I guess, but ‘blind seer’ is such a tired trope and nothing is gained by making her have been a blind seer instead of just a seer.

Moiraine is also only there for the boys in the book. She quietly gets them to agree they need to leave and they leave some notes for their families and are sneaking out after dark and Egwene was hiding in the hayloft of the stable and insists on coming with them. They absolutely don’t just like…stand there in the middle of the ruined town with all the dead people and just go “Welp, see ya suckers!” 

The extra amount of destruction plus them leaving in the middle of it mostly just makes them all look like assholes. In the book, there’s a bit of destruction but nothing super major, and they all just accept that they should go.

So that brings us to the end of episode one. In the book, the characters exist, there’s a village, there’s an attack, Rand’s dad gets hurt, they’re convinced they need to leave the village and they leave, bringing Egwene with them. And that…is pretty much as close to the book as the show gets.

There’s much less violence, much less destruction, and much more character development for everybody. Thom the gleeman is already with the group, Padan Fain has a lot more dialogue. Mat’s not a thief, Perrin’s not a wife murderer, Egwene and Rand don’t have sex. We know about a dozen more significant people in Emond’s Field who all become important later. Nynaeve wasn’t carried off by trollocs, she chases the gang once she realizes Moiraine took ‘her’ people. Liandrin is simply not present, nor is whatever random dude she gentles at the start of the show, and the history and goings on are a lot less hostile to men.

Next Episode
Shadow’s Waiting – Plot Jebaiting

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Author: Dan Ruffolo

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