The Dark Along The Ways – Going Way Off Course

Alright, episode 7, almost done. Today we venture through the ways, to a destination that wasn’t the destination, without characters who were there, for reasons that didn’t exist. Good times.

We start the episode off with a ‘flashback’ to the birth of Rand with an action scene that undercuts several core tenets of Aiel culture. Mostly notably that she’s killing people while not veiled. That would just…not happen. She did die during that battle while giving birth, though it’s never suggested in the book that she died from combat while coincidentally giving birth, and there ought to have been more Maidens of the Spear around that battle, instead of giving the impression that she was fleeing, possibly due to being pregnant. 

Now we go back to the Ways and contend with the lack of Mat here. I don’t know if this has something to do with Barney Harris being replaced as Mat by Donal Finn so they just left him out of the last episodes, or if this is a deliberate plot deviation, but the combination of the fact that Mat is no longer bound to the dagger and is no longer going to be in Fal Dara with them has huge plot consequences that I don’t know how they will work around.

They do a good job making the Ways be dark and creepy, but they rush them here like they do everywhere else. There also aren’t any live trollocs in the Ways to prompt somebody to channel in a panic, to bring Machin Shin, it just finds them on its own. But I guess we need this moment to be another thing to flash back to when we’re making Rand realize he’s the dragon. Ah well. The actual scene is plenty actiony and cool without adding in more danger.

In any event, we also get a nice scene of Machin Shin saying things to them, which while a neat choice if one I’ve seen before, leaves out the much creepier thing the wind actually says in the book:

“Flesh so fine, so fine to tear, to gnash the skin; skin to strip, to plait, so nice to plait the strips, so nice, so red the drops that fall; blood so red, so red, so sweet; sweet screams, pretty screams, singing screams, scream your song, sing your screams…”

Which is honestly way creepier and nastier than just “oh no…some things you have anxieties about.”

We have another other scene of Super Saiyan Nynaeve which never happened in the book, she is still barely able to channel at this point, definitely not to just make a giant shield against an elemental force of evil, but I suppose we’re STILL trying to keep some mystery about who the Dragon is. 

Then they all just run out of the gate, which continues to make Way travel a thing to do with the One Power when it absolutely is not. That’s going to cause problems because there are important plot points in later books that rely on people who aren’t Aes Sedai and who can’t channel to use the ways, which the show has implied is not possible, and done nothing to explain the actual method by which the gates are accessed.

So we’ve arrived at Fal Dara like…by accident because they were going to go to the Eye of the World and got sidetracked. In the book, they go to Fal Dara on purpose because this is the closest Waygate to the Eye. Why they felt the need to imply they could have come directly and had to sidetrack, I have no idea. No real story purpose is served here.

They also don’t know that the Eye of the World is a day’s travel from the border, the Eye is never in the same place twice, and in theory, nobody is supposed to be able to go there more than once. It’s found by “need” because in the book, the Eye is watched over by The Green Man, another character they just completely leave out of the show. He is an ancient and powerful being that is at least a little like an Ent, and is the guardian of the Eye. By leaving him out, they’ve got to put the Eye in a fixed location which also sort of defeats the purpose of the Eye in the first place.

Now we have a stubborn and cocksure Lord Agelmar basically saying his scaredy-cat sister called for help they don’t need. In the book, Agelmar is like ‘oh thank God, help is here, where’s the rest of you?’ because there’s a massive army of trollocs and fades looming at Tarwin’s Gap and they’re going to be hugely outnumbered. He pretty much pleads with them for help, yet here in the show he’s being an arrogant jerk? Another extremely weird choice to make.

Also a substantial departure, Agelmar’s sister, the Lady Amalisa can’t channel in the book. This will make virtually her entire presence in the show wildly non-canon, and is another change that directly impacts the story that I can’t imagine a reason to have done.

We also finally get a mention of Min for the first time. In the book, she appears much earlier, and is in Baerlon when the whole gang reunites there. Baerlon is just not in the show at all. Also, the fact that Min has viewings is much more of a secret than they make it out to be here where Moiraine mentions her and Amalisa is like ‘oh the seer’. Moving her to this late in the story, especially since Mat’s not with them anymore reduces her ability to communicate viewings to the characters, which is maybe good and maybe bad depending on where they go with the story.

This scene of Moiraine getting Amalisa to sic the red Ajah on Mat is also just a pretty nonsense addition that serves no purpose besides trying to keep the mystery going just that tiny bit longer. They also largely bypass the whole sequence involving Padan Fain that happens in the book. Here they think they see them, then he rolls up at the end of the show to run off with the Horn. In the book, they capture him, interrogate him, and discover a whole lot of stuff about him being incredibly evil and dangerous. More on that later.

Now we get some Min viewing juice, where we’ve left out a whole pile of viewings she had in the book, and mostly just observes things we already knew. The viewing of Moiraine where the Amyrlin Seat is her downfall is new, and not present in the book, nor is the Amyrlin Seat her downfall in the book either.

I don’t get this focus on the idea that every one of them who isn’t the Dragon is going to die at the Eye of the World, that’s just not even a tiny element of events in the book. The idea here that they plan to have the Dragon fight the Last Battle just feels like a ‘in case the show doesn’t get renewed’ choice rather than anything that adds to the story, but they don’t leave it off making you think things are done either so I just don’t understand.

We segue into a conversation between the gang where they agonize around the idea of maybe all going to their deaths, and we throw some weird Perrin/Rand/Egwene love triangle stuff in there as well. None of this had any place in the book because, again, this isn’t even why they’re going to the Eye of the World in the book, and they already know, for a fact, that Nynaeve and Egwene can’t be the Dragon, for a host of reasons. So instead of making space for any of the major characters and plot elements that got skipped over, we’re going to make room for scenes of angsty teen drama. Perrin doesn’t have these kinds of feelings for Egwene. Egwene and Rand have been essentially ‘promised’ since they were kids. And when you add in that Perrin got married, and now they’re trying to imply he somehow settled for her it just grossly undercuts their relationships and the characters. It is a choice I really disagree with. 

Next we get a nice scene to I guess indicate that Lan totally has friends and a rich history and inner life outside Moiraine, which is something we know more holistically in the book, followed by Lan and Nynaeve fucking?! Once again, we’ve added sex to the show that wasn’t there in the books, for the Game of Thrones’ing of the series. Their relationship is a lot more complex and fraught than this, and takes much longer to become something they are in any position to act on. 

Ditto the ensuing scene here with Rand and Egwene. By this point in the story they’ve already made peace with the fact that they’re not going to be together, that they don’t feel this way for each other anymore, so there’s no need to have this whole elaborate song and dance. In fact this mostly works the other way around. Egwene is full on just going to become Aes Sedai, and sorry Rand, things won’t work out that way. Instead of this Rand like…generously telling her to go live her dreams and her being all emo about it.

They’ve just so fundamentally changed the nature of almost every relationship between the show and the book that it’s almost impossible to tell how the relationships will actually go in the later seasons of the show. 

And now, after all the random attempts at red herrings, having every character say a million times that they have no idea who the Dragon Reborn could possibly be, oh look, it’s the absolutely obvious choice that everybody knew it was from the beginning.

And also, it’s sort of hard to tell from how dark the bar is, but I’m pretty sure Min is wearing a skirt? Min is like…chiefly characterized in the books by her having short hair and wearing trousers, and the whole way in which she ‘dresses like a boy’ is sort of core to her whole deal. Even more than moving her to Fal Dara from Baerlon, and having her miss out on describing a number of important visions, this change is the most substantial and also again confusing.

Also also, when he asks her to tell him he’s not the Dragon Reborn, and then he says ‘I didn’t even introduce myself’ and she says ‘I know who you are’ the fact that she doesn’t say ‘I know who you are. You’re the Dragon Reborn.’ is the most viciously missed opportunity to give a perfect window into who Min is as a person.

She also doesn’t have wholesale visions like that in the book. She sees images around people’s heads. She can describe them, but it’s only if she knows what they mean that they will for sure come true. They never involved a whole lengthy vision of Tam finding Rand’s mother, going to Two Rivers and raising him or any of this. They’ve turned her from what was already a bit of a powerful deus ex machina device into a full-on “here’s a whole segment of the plot” device and I don’t know why they did that either.

The episode ends on yet another massive plot deviation. Rand is leaving alone with Moiraine to go to the Eye of the World. In the book, this is a whole group excursion (also including Mat who is also here in the book.) 

This makes some kind of sense in the context of their choices to make their trip to the Eye of the World be because the Dark One’s prison is there, and to somehow believe they are going to fight the Last Battle there, but compared to the book, where they’re investigating a different kind of threat to the Eye, and everybody, including Lan, Moiraine, Mat, Perrin, Rand, Egwene, Nynaeve and Loial are there, it sets up the anticipation, borne out by the season finale, that they’re going to continue deviating wildly from the climax of the first novel.

I look forward to telling you all about it.

Next Episode
Episode 8 – The Eye of the World – The Whyy of Time

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Author: Dan Ruffolo

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