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Welcome to episode 5, where the story has now diverged so far from the books that it actually becomes difficult to map the changes onto it without getting them out of order myself. The episode opens on the aftermath of the battle that didn’t happen, while they bury the dead that therefore didn’t die. 

We finally get Nynaeve’s braid in her hand for the first time I can remember in this whole series. The sheer volume of times Nynaeve is tugging at her braid in the book is so excessive that it’s an entire meme, and they just…basically never had her do it at all so far, and now she’s not even angry, she’s sad. Such a defining little mannerism to just leave out completely.

I don’t especially recall any particular funeral rituals for Aes Sedai or Warders, but there’s definitely no scenes of them being buried in a circle under white cloth, with the candles. It’s a cool visual effect, but isn’t one of the rituals from the books.

We now jump ahead an entire month which makes me wonder why we had to rush through so many things on the way here if we were going to time lapse through a whole bunch of weeks. I do enjoy the image of Logain just being led on his horse showing that without the One Power he’s just…’some dude’ and not actually a threat. 

Of course, the thing about them reaching Tar Valon is that…they never reach Tar Valon in book 1. A number of the things that are going to happen here regarding Rand and Mat were events that happened in Caemlyn, a city weeks away from Tar Valon. In the book, the first group of protagonists to reach the White Tower are a reunited Egwene and Nynaeve showing up to become Aes Sedai, in book 2. 

By rushing the story so much we’ve jumped Mat from ‘not looking so good’ to ‘hyper-paranoid jackass’ without any of the slow build of his general cynicism and nasty attitude that comes from the time he’s spent carrying the dagger. We’ve also just jumped them both to Tar Valon as well, which again, doesn’t happen in the first book at all. 

They’re presenting the situation here with Nynaeve as though she’s just sort of…here and can come and go as she pleases. Moiraine does point out that if they knew she was here she’d be expected to be made a Novice immediately, but it’s much stronger than that. Women who can channel can sense other women who can channel and she’s extremely powerful, and there is just no chance she could walk in here and then walk back out again.

Now we come to some more absolutely needless violence which is even nastier in the context of the victims. There is no such confrontation between the Whitecloaks and the Tuatha’an. So adding a scene where the peaceful travelling folk are just brutally beaten for no reason besides ‘showing you yet again that Valda is an asshole’ is just galling. In the book, Elyas, Perrin and Egwene leave the Tuatha’an on their own, and end up encountering a patrol of the Children. This is after Eylas has explained being a wolfbrother to Perrin, he understands and has made contact with several of the wolves, and when one of the wolves, Hopper, is killed by the Children, he goes into a frenzy and attacks them, killing several before they get captured.

It requires a lot more character development for Perrin than we got given in the show, and the much more in depth portrayal of the wolves makes you really feel for Hopper and understand what happens to Perrin in response. Instead it’s just tha Valda remembers their face from a month earlier and captures them just cuz, while also beating up a bunch of pacifists, a needlessly violent event that was made up for the show.

Then we go back into Tar Valon for a major conflation of events and a very strange misrepresentation of a character. We meet Loial, an Ogier. Rand -does- meet Loial in the library of an inn where he and Mat are staying that is run by a friend of Thom’s. However, that inn is in Caemlyn, and the Ogier are ten feet tall. So if we leave aside the dramatic shortening of Loial (Though at least the actor is taller than Rand, small victories) moving this scene away from Caemlyn blasts a giant hole in the plot of the story.

In the book, after fleeing Whitebridge thinking Thom is dead, Rand and Mat slowly make their way to Caemlyn, the capital city of Andor, the kingdom they are technically a part of in Emond’s Field. There, they run into the fact that there are widespread protests going on in the city, with people representing either support for the queen (by wearing red accessories) or their opposition to her connection to Tar Valon and the Aes Sedai (by wearing white accessories) Rand, having had several run-ins with people around the heron marks on his sword, sees that a bunch of people are wearing red or white peacebonds on their weapons, and he buys the red one, having no idea what it means, because it’s cheaper.

They arrive at the inn, The Queen’s Blessing (which I guess is the inn they’re in here, despite there being no chance of an inn called The Queen’s Blessing existing in Tar Valon) and are introduced to the innkeeper Basel Gill, who has some fairly significant roles to play in the rest of the story. They meet Loial there, and he travels with them for the rest of the book (and on into later books) similar to how he does here, just…several hundred miles to the west.

Rand does watch the procession of Logain in the book, just in Caemlyn, without any named characters we’ve met yet being involved. This is the other massive change in the book. Rand tries to find a good vantage point to see Logain’s procession, and ends up finding himself in the inner portion of the city, climbing up a handy wall to get a good look. He manages his sight of Logain, before he’s startled by a voice in a tree and falls over the wall.

Here he meets Elanye, the daughter-heir of Andor, and her brother Gawyn, and then their half-brother Galad. These are vitally plot-important characters who are involved in pretty much the whole rest of the series. Elayne basically becomes another one of the main group characters. Rand meets them, is rounded up as a suspicious intruder despite Elayne vouching for him, and brought before Queen Morgase, and her Aes Sedai advisor Elaida, both also important characters, and Morgase’s military commander Gareth Bryne, who is one of the ‘Great Captains’ of the world’s militaries. 

There’s an audience, Elaida has a foretelling about Rand, there are just so many important things and multiple extremely important characters that just…get skipped as though they didn’t exist.

Now…the three of them do crop up next at the White Tower after Egwene and Nynaeve end up there to become novices. Elayne is a novice as well, and it’s assumed she could actually become a full Aes Sedai and might therefore make Gawyn her warder. Gawyn and Galad are there doing combat training with the warders, so they can still introduce them.

But it was also a significant part of the build to Rand’s being revealed as the Dragon Reborn that there were just this endless stream of people who’ve met Rand and had their lives change because of it, and the fact that they all knew Rand is part of what brings them together as a group with Egwene and Nynaeve. 

All of it skipped.

Anyways, onto the procession. It seems absolutely absurd to imagine anybody in Tar Valon throwing rotten fruit at Logain when he’s surrounded by Aes Sedai. Aes Sedai are held in too much respect especially in Tar Valon for anybody to risk a bad toss hitting a sister with some fruit. They just felt the need to do some kind of ‘for shame’ thing.

Loving the parade of drummers, this was never in the book either, but as a drummer myself, I respect it. The bit with Logain just bursting into laughter is in the book, but he’s laughing at Rand, and since Mat isn’t even there, changing the focus of the scene to make it look like Logain was laughing at Mat is just in the name of further trying to keep it ‘mysterious’ who is going to turn out to be the Dragon. I really don’t understand why the showrunners felt the need to try and make this element the mysterious one. There are a million other mysteries and things to ponder and wonder about when it’s pretty obvious all along that it’s going to be Rand.

The books really never get into the like…culture of the Warder community and I enjoy it being here because it fills out the role of Warders nicely in ways the book mostly only does with Lan. Mind you, there’s some weird quasi-foreshadowing going on with this conversation where Lan mentions Stepin bonding with another Aes Sedai, and Stepin snapping at him ‘first, you lose Moiraine and then tell me how easy it is to jump from one woman to the next.’

There’s a conversation that happens in book…2? I believe between Moiraine and Lan where she tells him that if she dies, she has it set up for his bond to pass to another Aes Sedai and Lan is absolutely furious about the idea, like, really angry. This is a betrayal, and a violation. And so while obviously the situation is not the same as Lan suggesting he could just choose another person to bond with, the ease with which he suggests it to Stepin here is at odds with how Book-Lan is going to take the concept later on.

Now we come to some random Egwene abuse that was invented for the story. As well as some explicit torture of Perrin that didn’t happen either. They weren’t treated nicely by the Whitecloaks in the book, lots of ‘being woken up by a boot to the ribs’ stuff, having to jog along behind horses or get dragged. It definitely wasn’t pleasant, but it also definitely wasn’t ‘Making Egwene watch Perrin get flayed alive’. We’ve dwelled for so very long now on ‘Valda is a nasty guy’ when Valda doesn’t even show up in the books for several more books. In the book, the particular Child of zeal they deal with is Child Byar, who is also not appearing in the show here at all, and who is a fairly important character to the plot.

God, this torture scene is just violence for no reason. And it’s so explicit, seeing the knife go in, and the blood. What is the purpose of this? Why is this here? We know Valda is evil, we don’t need to make it this bad. It serves no story purpose, it serves no character development purpose. It’s just torture porn and shouldn’t be in the show.

It’s hard to compare a lot of these events now since we’ve strayed so far. In the book, Rand and Mat meet back up with Lan, Moiraine, Nynaeve, Egwene and Perrin in Caemlyn, which is when Moiraine finds out about the effects on Mat of the dagger he took from Shadar Logoth. We don’t have all this weird dancing around Moiraine not knowing that Nynaeve found the boys, and vice versa and all that stuff. Instead, like so much of the book versus the show, things are much more amicable and up front. 

Also, for that timeline to work, they have to have also already freed Egwene and Perrin from the Whitecloaks, which they did with the aid of the wolves minus Egwene ever channelling, minus the torture etc. Also…having Egwene stab Valda in his sword arm is a ridiculous choice. 

They’ve also basically ignored this entire feature of the story, but Valda, when you meet him in the books down in book 6, is a Blademaster. Which is to say, one of the best swordsmen on the planet. The only official ways to become a Blademaster are to kill a Blademaster in single combat with a qualified witness, or to be voted unanimously by five Blademasters to be good enough to earn the rank.

In the whole of the book series, we see a total of 13 Blademasters, a number of whom get there by killing others of the 13 in single combat. Valda is one of them. So to have him be caught sufficiently unawares to get stabbed in the first place is a big enough issue, but to have her stab him in the shoulder of his sword arm means they’re either going to have to have given him some pretty strong plot armour, or make him have been ambidextrous I guess, since we’ve previously seen him mostly using the arm he got stabbed in. 

I get needing to hurt him to make good their escape in some fashion, but to severely damage a Blademaster’s sword arm in the name of ‘building tension and drama for an escape’ just feels like it’s going to have negative consequences for his character down the road.

I’m sad that they gave Stepin that nice evening with Lan where you think everything’s going to be okay just to bait-and-switch you into Lan waking up to find him having killed himself. The focus on trauma porn in the show is increasingly troubling the more of it they heap on. Kerene and Stepin aren’t even in the series, they died before the events of book one, and they died together, not like this. So to pull them forward in time to add them into the show just for her to die in a battle that never happened, and him to suicide is just one more essentially made up traumatic event.

The funeral ceremony is extremely well done and obviously emotionally affecting. This ceremony also doesn’t exist as best as I can remember. I appreciate the concept of the relatively famously stoic Warders sort of…nominating one Warder to channel everybody’s grief outwardly for them. But as we’ve seen with several of the other Warders who aren’t Lan, it’s not like they’re all anywhere near as unemotional as he is. I would have rather had more of a wake-style affair where everybody can actually be free with their feelings instead of this over dramatic display of stoicism while Lan expresses all the grief for them. Though like I said, an amazing scene for a story that wasn’t this one.

 I also feel very much like if there was a ceremony like this for a dead Warder, that it would be something only other Warders would be present for. 

Altogether, in the ways the last episode did, this episode contained primarily changes in the name of torture porn, and grief porn. Given a few things that come up in later books, if they’re going this far past the original material in terms of how much sex, violence, death and trauma there is, I have some serious concerns about how they’re going to portray some upcoming things. 

But that is for next year and years down the road. For now we have to finish our journey to the Eye of the World. Until next time!

Next Episode
Episode 6 – The Flame of Tar Valon – The Mats We Leave Behind

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