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I watched this episode along with some friends who had never read the books, and at the end I basically said “So…literally none of this happened in the book.” I guess going scene by scene now we’ll see the extent to which that is true, but the main point stands that we get into some completely fundamental story differences from here, and while we hit on the main elements of the book going forward to the finale, they’re increasingly inaccurate, or out of order or crammed together or all of those.

We start off with a scene of Logain attacking Ghealdan. Now…unclear from the context of the show is that Ghealdan is the name of the country, not the city. If this is meant to be the capital, that’s Jehannah which is probably the only place big enough to be the pictured city.

He did, in fact, raise his army and maraud around in Ghealdan, but this is never shown to us, we only hear rumours about where he is and what he’s doing. This will be a recurring theme of this episode. It closely follows Logain, where in the book, there is one brief scene where Rand and Mat see him while he’s being paraded through Caemlyn and that’s it. Every scene on screen with Logain in it was created for the show. 

The feminine voice in his head is credited as being “Elusha Salid” a character that does not exist and is never mentioned. We will eventually find out that Rand hears at least one specific voice in his head, but it’s the obvious one. It’s given to us to believe from Logain that she is a voice of a previous Dragon Reborn, but aside from the fact of the previous discussions I’ve had about the need for the Dragon to be male to make the story work, as far as we know for a fact in the books, Lews Therin was “The Dragon” and there wasn’t another one until the events of this story, so previous ones besides Lews Therin are, while philosophically possible, never a factor in the books.

As well, if we’re going to put in a scene with Logain and King Johanin, I don’t see why we didn’t include a little more familiarity between them. Logain is a minor noble of Ghealdan, and when he declared himself, Johanin stripped him of his lands and title, like…they knew each other but you don’t really get a sense of that here.

Now we’re following Logain directly. This trip is never pictured in the books, and none of the main characters are here for any of it. No Nynaeve, Lan, or Moiraine. They spend this portion of the book following after Perrin and Egwene, while Rand, Mat and Thom travel downriver to Whitebridge.

The bulk of this episode is essentially to replace the book following Rand, Mat and Thom for multiple chapters. In the book, Thom has taught them some basics of juggling and flute playing, they arrive in Whitebridge, Rand gets confronted by a darkfriend who is an old man (not Dana from the last episode) but that doesn’t end in violence. They end up feeling like they need to move on quickly, but before they can leave town, they get attacked by a Myrdraal. Thom shoves his cloak, flute and harp at Rand and tells them to run, and he turns to confront the Myrdraal. They flee, and it’s given to them and us to assume that Thom has died to secure their escape.

That brings us to the ‘Rand and Mat travelling together’ stage we’ve been in all along, details to follow as the show vaguely catches up with them. We’re back in the Aes Sedai camp now to see Lan training with Stepin. This is really annoying to me because it ends up very important that Lan gave Rand some sword lessons, and they’re just not present in the show, but there’s still time for Lan to do a training montage without him. Also Stepin is not supposed to be warrior-like, he looks ‘more like a clerk than a warder’ so making him this dual-axe-wielding burly guy was another weird choice.

This might have been an opportunity to introduce the concept of the sword forms that are how Robert Jordan describes all his one-on-one sword fights. They essentially do kata, or sequences of moves with evocative names like “River undercuts the bank” and “Parting the silk” and rather than describe the physical actions of the fighters, it will be phrased like “Parting the silk met Bundling Straw. He went on the attack, The Boar Rushes Down the Hill, and his opponent countered with The Courtier Taps his Fan” the names get a little silly sometimes, but I like it better than poorly describing the fights in other ways, and it lends an air of elegance to it.

And now we have some suspicions from Rand and Mat that Thom might not be a good guy, which can only exist because we’ve skipped having him be with them all the way from Emond’s Field, and teaching them to perform, and telling them a little about himself, all of which establish him as not, in fact, suspicious. They’re thoroughly misrepresenting his character to build tension, and I don’t like it.

Rand, Mat and Thom have reached the Grinwell farm, where an angry Farmer Grinwell threatens them, and they’re persuaded to let them stay the night. In the book, the family is larger, and more welcoming, and this is after Thom appears to die in Whitebridge and Rand and Mat are travelling alone. It’s a large family of nine kids, the oldest of which is Rand and Mat’s age. Instead we briefly see a young boy, and we’ll soon see an even younger girl, with no sign of the rest of the family.

Thom doesn’t suspect Mat can channel in the book (mostly because Mat doesn’t channel) though this story about Owyn is roughly accurate, and he sticks with Rand and Mat because they remind him of Owyn and they’re tied up in Aes Sedai stuff.

Since we don’t follow Logain’s travels, this Warder party isn’t present, though it’s a lovely scene and I like the character building work it does, especially the implication that Ihvon and Maksim are so comfy with each other as well as with Alanna Sedai.

The conversation Lan and Moiraine have about Logain is also interesting. Logain is absolutely stronger than Egwene, he’s one of the strongest channellers in the world, and the powerful men are all more powerful than the most powerful woman. That’s part of the underlying cosmology as well. The men are stronger, the women have better technique.

The conversation between Perrin and Ila is another bizarre choice of deviation from the story. In the book, Aram’s mother is alive. The fact that Aram’s mother is alive at this point in the story is absolutely core to Aram’s character, and instead she’s just dead before we even meet Aram. It makes me wonder what they’re going to do to develop Aram’s character the way it needs to be developed. Probably with more extra made-up trauma I guess.

I also don’t know if I recall this concept of Tuatha’an leaving out into the world and whatnot, and if ‘some of them even take up arms’ they’d pretty much never be allowed back. Not just be able to come back if they felt like it. There’s some elements to the story down the road involving what happens if a Tuatha’an taks up a sword and they’re not pleasant for anybody involved.

These dreams of the man with fire for eyes are a lot more involved in the book too. Ba’alzamon talks to them, they have conversations, you get some reasonable background exposition that has otherwise still been lacking in the show. Part of the mad rush to cram everything in, I suppose, but it contributes to the confusion of the people who’ve never read the books that we’ve seen ol flame eyes a few times now and we have absolutely nothing to go on whatsoever to try to understand what is happening.

Speaking of things I can’t understand happening, we’re KILLING MORE PEOPLE FOR NO REASON. The Grinwells don’t die! They just don’t. Rand and Mat stay the night in the eldest daughter’s room (Else, not pictured in the show at all, who is Rand and Mat’s age and spends most of the day flirting with Rand) so she can sleep in with her mother, to keep her from wandering in the night I suppose, and then the next day they just…thank them and travel on their way. 

Instead they shuffle the ‘Thom probably dies saving them’ scene ahead of where it actually happened, resulting in the deaths of a farm family that didn’t die in the book, now fully skipping past all of the events that should have happened in Whitebridge. At this point, Rand and Mat are supposed to be continuing on from Whitebridge towards Caemlyn, the capital of the country of Andor, which they’ve been in this whole time I think mostly without ever telling the viewers. They don’t have his gleeman cloak (which he didn’t even have in the show) or his harp or flute (which he didn’t even have in the show) or the guitar they gave him in the show. He hasn’t taught them any skills they can use to provide for themselves. Needless death, needless violence that didn’t happen in the book.

We now depart your regularly scheduled book for a veritable mountain of made up events. To set the stage I’ll point out that Liandrin doesn’t appear in book 1 at all, Alannah doesn’t appear in book 1 at all, Kerene doesn’t appear in the series at all, and in fact died years before the events of the books, Logain appears for all of three pages in a city that doesn’t appear in the show, there’s no attack from an army of his followers during the procession to Tar Valon once he’s been captured.

Now we start building into the big finish of the episode. We get some cool scenes of just how powerful the Aes Sedai are, but we get very quickly into some issues of Aes Sedai morality and the application of the three oaths. We have to just assume that any attack counts as ‘the last extreme defense of her life, the life of her Warder, or another Aes Sedai’ or none of this could have happened at all. And given the power that they have in terms ways they could shield themselves, or force them away, or simply protect the Warders while they did the fighting, you’ve got to decide whether this was ‘last extreme defense’ or not, considering they also had the ability to run and so on.

The casual nature with which they show scenes of Aes Sedai fighting feels like it’s going to have a negative consequence for the impact of some of the scenes later on in the series that do involve lots of magical combat. Sure it looks cool at the moment, but it’s an important plot element to the development of events that the idea of Aes Sedai using the One Power in battle against humans who aren’t proven to be Darkfriends is something that is supposed to never happen. In fact it becomes extremely important almost immediately into book 2 for several reasons, and that adds to my general distaste for how much more violence and death they’ve put into the show than was in the book.

As this battle never happens, Logain is never able to get free, is never able to attack the sisters once he’s been captured, and all of these events didn’t happen even off-screen. Moiraine doesn’t see or speak to him in any way until after he’s been gentled in Tar Valon.There’s definitely no conversation setting up the attempt to sell us on the idea that Nynaeve is the Dragon Reborn.

And again, his power is -not- in fact ‘only a trickle’ against the power of the Dragon Reborn. Robert Jordan had precise measures of the power of every channeller in the series which are included in the Wheel of Time Companion. In the whole series there are three people more powerful than Logain, and four (I argue three, but that’s another article) people as powerful as him. That’s it. And the Dragon Reborn is exactly one notch more powerful than Logain is, while Logain is more powerful than Nynaeve and Egwene, and quite a bit more powerful than all the other sisters pictured here.

The scene of Kerene dying and Stepin realising it and losing his shit is well done, but again, she died literally years ago, and once Logain was captured, no sisters died in the process of bringing him to Tar Valon to be gentled. We’re just trauma dumping for television because this is what we do now. We make everything like Game of Thrones because that’s what it seems like everybody assumes is necessary in a fantasy series. 

Ooh, I just caught something I missed the first time. They’ve got the fucking King of Ghealdan from the intro dying in this battle. He just ran off from his kingdom while still the king and died in this forest for no reason. Great. That’s an awesome subtle little addition. /s

So then we come to the big finish. Stepin screws up because his Aes Sedai is dead, which breaks the shield on Logain (This is not how the power works in the book, there should be no interaction between the magical shield on him and being hit with an axe. But it gets Lan to suffer a deadly wound (which doesn’t happen in the book) so Nynaeve can suddenly go super saiyan, having never channelled knowingly before now, or even believing that she could channel. In the book, by now she has understood that she can channel though she’s reluctant to admit it, and just miraculously combines multiple weaves of healing, all at once, with no training at all on how to do any of it.

Then Logain repeats the line Moiraine just gave him about how the Dragon Reborn would be, in the episode called The Dragon Reborn which is extremely obviously designed to give the viewer the impression that Nynaeve is the Dragon Reborn…except we’ve already established SEVERAL TIMES that they know how old the Dragon Reborn is, and that the Dragon is Rand and Mat and Perrin’s age. We’ve seen it called out in -this episode- that Logain is too old to be the actual Dragon, and we know that Nynaeve is several years older than Rand, Mat and Perrin. In the book it’s also explicit that Egwene is younger than Rand, Mat and Perrin and that they’re the only three of the characters who are the right age to possibly be the dragon.

But IN THE SHOW we’ve seen multiple pieces of information that guarantee it can’t be Nynaeve, and then we call the episode ‘The Dragon Reborn’ have Nynaeve appear to use a massive amount of the power without burning out, have Logain basically go ‘Oh you’re the Dragon Reborn’ and then, spoiler alert, SHE ISN’T. What was the point of this? It’s not even a bait and switch, because we’ve been explicitly told that the bait isn’t correct.

After this episode, I saw a thread on twitter from somebody asking people who’d never read the book who they thought the Dragon Reborn was at this point. While there was a lot of support for -wishing- it was Nynaeve, it was pretty well understood by basically everybody that it was almost certainly Rand. You’ve got to consider that he’s basically the only character who isn’t doing anything yet. Egwene and Nynaeve are powerful channellers, Perrin’s got the wolf thing, Mat’s got the evil dagger thing and Rand is…present. So if he’s NOT the Dragon, what’s his purpose in the story?

Between those elements, and the fact that we’ve had multiple discussions about age and timing I seriously do not understand why they tried to push focus onto Nynaeve as the Dragon here. If they’d actually changed the story to the extent that she could be, it would have been interesting. If they’d done something with one of the characters who was actually the right age, but wasn’t Rand it would have been interesting. Instead it just caused people who hadn’t paid close enough attention to the info the show provided to think a thing might be true that would have been cool, only to be let down when it turns out to be false.

There are a bunch of things that I felt like I would put into this episode’s article because of where the timeline leaves us, but since the gang all show up in Tar Valon in episode 5, that’s the point of no story return for a number of extremely important things they left out and honestly not much happens in episode 5 so I’ll save it for then.

Next Episode
Episode 5 – Blood Calls Blood – Blood and Guts

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