A Place of Safety – Misplaced Characters

After the major divergence at the end of the party’s trip through Shadar Logoth, where Thom hasn’t even joined the group yet, so Rand and Mat travel overland instead of on a ship where Thom gives them some lessons and exposition about the world, the story goes progressively further afield as the season continues. 

We start the episode with this catch up of what happened to Nynaeve after being captured during the attack on Bel Tine. She was, of course, never captured, and so never chased into the sacred cave and pool (which also doesn’t exist in the book) and so never kills that Trolloc who chased her, despite the coolness of the scene. Just piles some trauma onto Nynaeve that she didn’t have to carry with her in the book, just like Perrin.

Next, we have Egwene and Perrin stumbling their way across a plain while pursued by wolves. Perrin is extremely bad at trying to start a fire without chopping his hands off, I guess because they’re extremely cold? In the book, they travel fairly easily through the woods and come upon the first of our missing characters in this episode, Elyas Machera.

Elyas is waiting for them, having seen them stumble around for a couple days struggling to find food, and shares his camp with them, which is when he explains to Perrin that he is a wolfbrother, a thing older than Aes Sedai, and that Elyas is one too. He introduces them to some wolves, and explains a bunch of things about how wolfbrothers and wolves work. Without Elyas none of this is explained to Perrin or to us as the viewers.

In case you were wondering, it’s wicked cool too. The wolfbrothers can communicate psychically with wolves, though they are only aware of the things wolves care about. Passage of time by the movement of the sun, all two-legs sort of look alike, and importantly, wolves absolutely hate Trollocs and Myrdraal. Wolves are also connected to the world of dreams, which is very important later, including once Perrin accepts what he is, having the wolves guard his dreams so he doesn’t have dreams about Ba’alzamon like the other two do, and their ‘names’ are actually very complicated abstract concepts describing a place and feeling. For example, the leader of the pack that Elyas travels with is named ‘Dapple’ but her name actually means “The way shadows play on a forest pool and the tang of ice when the water touches the tongue and a hint of snow before nightfall in the air.” Like I said, super cool.

And literally ZERO of this is covered in the whole season, not just this episode without Elyas. Instead Perrin just sees wolves, and they don’t seem to want to hurt him, and his eyes turn yellow, leaving us without some extremely important core development of a major protagonist. Nice.

They’ve made this relationship between Lan and Nynaeve way more hostile and adversarial than it ever was in the book. She’s mad at Moiraine for ‘taking’ her villagers, and is generally plotting revenge, but she doesn’t need to be knocked out or tied up. I guess they want to fast-track an enemies-to-lovers trope just to get one in there?

Rand and Mat arrive at a mining village up in the mountains, where we meet Thom for the first time, who, while present, and now together with Rand and Mat like he should have been all along, is missing one important feature, his moustache. Even besides the gleemans’ cloak (not pictures in the show, it’s supposed to have a million brightly coloured patches and pockets instead of the plain and functional coat Thom has here) his defining characteristic is a big droopy white moustache. It even becomes plot relevant later that he has one, and while this Thom is scruffy and relatively bearded, no moustache is an absolute travesty.

Also, he plays the flute and the harp, not the guitar, and mostly he tells stories, or plays songs for the crowd to sing and dance with. This dark and grumpy song is also maybe to Thom’s personal taste, but isn’t much like how he ever performs where we can see him.

They also made Thom into much more of an asshole than he is in the book. Picking their pocket and laughing about it is not so much something Thom in the book does. He has his reasons for some darkness, but he doesn’t really take it out on them besides being a little stern.

This also causes us to end up in this situation where Rand and Mat are forced to chop wood and wait tables to get by. In the book, they’ve been somewhat trained by Thom to do some juggling and play a few tunes on the flute, so a little later in the story when they are separated from Thom, they have those busking powers to get by instead of wood chopping. 

This mining town exists in the book and gets a passing mention, but nothing takes place here, and this isn’t the village where they get accosted by a darkfriend, and it’s also just actual accosting not a murder attempt like it is here. That’s added, along with the darkfriend trying to seduce Rand.

Since Eylas is with them when they meet the Tuatha’an, the question about whether they know the song isn’t nearly so ominous and creepy, and he knows the correct answer and explains to them what’s going on. I don’t know why they made the Tuatha’an come across so sinister and cult-y here. They’re entirely welcoming right out of the gate in the book. They’re also not nearly colourful enough for how they’re supposed to be. There are a few people mostly in the background with some suitably garish colour combinations, but it’s supposed to like…hurt to look at them, they have so many clashing and bright colours.

The scene between Mat and Thom here where Mat’s thinking of corpse robbing, and things are extremely hostile and fraught, again does not happen. Gives us a little bit of exposition about the Aiel, but nothing we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise through characters they’ve either left out or skipped past. 

Also, having Dana the darkfriend know a bunch of stuff about Rand’s personal life is just extremely weird. Pretty much nothing about their interactions with the gang in the early days of the books include them knowing even who they are per se, just that people who give the orders told them to be on the lookout for people matching the description.

This whole elaborate murder attempts is just adding a bunch of needless tension that didn’t even need to be added to keep the story tense. Rand also doesn’t let his sword out of his control like this, we definitely don’t hear the name Ishamael in-world yet, and this whole idea of ‘the last person who brought the Dragon to the Dark One’ is a weird sort of sideways retcon. Ishamael was an Aes Sedai and so was the Dragon, and Ishamael turned evil. In the book’s introduction, there’s a scene where Lews Therin (the Dragon) has gone mad from the taint on Saidin after imprisoning the Dark One, and Ishamael gives him a moment of sanity so he can realize that he’s murdered his entire family, and Lews Therin commits suicide. He wasn’t ‘brought to the Dark One’ in any meaningful way, which makes this, even as a one-off remark, a very strange choice to make.

As we go, there is just so much subtle little undercutting of the history and purpose of the books. The show has had the characters take an extremely dim view of men in general, and men who can channel especially. Men didn’t ‘cause’ the breaking, they were the victims of it after sacrificing themselves to literally save the world. What happened to Lews Therin and the Hundred Companions is a horrible tragedy, and one that is quite possibly the fault of the female Aes Sedai who refused to go along with his plan. This kind of attitude towards them, and this version of history should maybe only come from the Red Ajah like Liandrin, and certainly not from Moiraine, like in the intro to episode one, considering she literally has a scene in the book where she explains to Egwene that men who can channel aren’t evil, they’re the tragic victims of circumstance and can’t help the fact that they’ll eventually go mad.

But anyways, Thom rides to the rescue with some fancy dagger work and they leave town together, finally joined up like they should have been right from episode one.

And now we come to one of the more fundamental divergences in the story. Moiraine, Lan and Nynaeve have met up with Liandrin, and the procession bringing Logain to Tar Valon. 

This brings us to episode 4, the most made-up episode yet!

Next Episode
The Dragon Reborn – No Pain No Logain

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Author: Dan Ruffolo

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