The Wheel of Time, Episode One, Leavetaking Review: Winter Night, Bloody Night.

After much anticipation, Amazon Prime has finally dropped the first three The Wheel of Time episodes, and I could not have been more excited for them.
I am currently doing my first read through of Robert Jordan’s series and I just finished Towers of Midnight, so I only need to read the final book, A Memory of Light, to know everything.
Knowing that, I think it would be fair of me to separate show spoilers from book spoilers.
So, these reviews will have two sections.
Section one will only be discussing what happens in the episode, and section two will discuss the book changes and what I think of them. 


Episode Review: No Book Spoilers.
I can remember constantly checking the Amazon Prime website every hour on the day of release because I was so eager to see this show.
So, when I saw the episodes were out, I immediately clicked on the first episode, “Leavetaking,” sat back, and enjoyed.
Was “Leavetaking” a perfect episode?
No, there are a lot of issues I have with this first episode, but it certainly was not bad and had a lot of excellent moments.
Directed by Uta Brieswitz, The episode opens with the Aes Sedai Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) and her Warder Lan (Daniel Henney) preparing for their journey to find the Dragon Reborn, the reincarnation of the man who caused the Breaking of the World and is prophesied to face the Dark One.
I, personally, did not really care for this opening because I think it would have been more interesting to slowly figure out why Moiraine is searching for this one person.
Plus, I think there was another scene that should have been the opening, which has not been shown yet, but that’s book spoilers. 

Kind of wish the show had more trust in the audience to slowly figure out things on their own rather than blatantly tell them.

Following this, we get a chase where two men are being pursued by a woman in red (Kate Fleetwood).
This woman in red, who is not named yet, is perfectly cast in my opinion.
Exactly how I imagined her from the book in all her cruelty.
We also get a good display of the madness the man suffers from, since his friend is revealed to have been in his head, before the women do something to him.
This is not shown and will likely be expanded upon later.
We also see that Moiraine and Lan were watching this happen and, unfortunately, this is the worst scene in all three episodes and it’s all because of one line.
Moiraine says they are going to continue their search at the Two Rivers because “there are rumors of four ta’veren there.”
This line makes absolutely no sense and opens a ton of plot holes.
It was just a really sloppy excuse to get them to go to the Two Rivers when the book justification for it was perfectly fine.
I will get into why this line is so bad in the book spoiler section.
The moment following this horrible moment, though, does a great job of respecting the lore, as we get a landscape shot as Moiraine and Lan ride off, showing what looks like remnants of destroyed buildings reclaimed by nature, showing that this is a post apocalyptic earth.
We then get the title, followed by the introduction to two characters, Egwene (Madeleine Madden) and Nynaeve (Zoë Robbins) at a river, where Egwene goes through a ritual to welcome her into the Woman’s Circle.
Following this, we get an introduction to Rand (Josha Stradowski) and his father Tam (Michael McElhatton), and also Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Mat (Barney Harris).
And this is the point where I praise the casting.
Even only after three episodes, I can definitely say that the casting directors chose the right actors to play these characters.
All of the performances are fantastic.
If I had to pick a favourite though it would be Barney Harris as Mat.
This sucks because he is being recast for Season Two for as of now unknown reasons.
Still, at least we have an entire season of his performance to look forward to.

I alrady like this Mat more than the one in the first few books.

Anyway, once the introduction to these characters has been done, we get the arrival of Moiraine and Lan.
The people’s reactions to Moiraine shows the fear towards the Aes Sedai in this world. 
A lot of people call this scene clunky but I did not have too much of an issue with it, personally. We then get a showcase of Rand and Egwene’s relationship, with them being romantically involved but there is also tension because of Egwene potentially becoming a Wisdom.

There is also a moment of Moiraine and Lan in a bathtub showing how close the Aes Sedai Warder bond is, with them being close but not in a sexual way.
All is not well, though, because we see the arrival of a mysterious and threatening figure in the night.
This is contrasted by the arrival of the cheery arrival of peddler Padan Fain (Johann Myers), as we get another look at the characters’ day to day lives.
We see Mat having to steal to provide for his sisters, Egwene telling Rand she has decided to become a Wisdom and Rand reluctantly accepting it, along with Moiraine subtly interrogating Nynaeve.
The latter scene involves a lot of great subtext, as we as the viewers can see that Moiraine is trying to gage Nynaeve’s candidacy for being the Dragon Reborn, while Nynaeve hits back with the story of the prior Wisdom who raised her, showing her fierce and stubborn nature.
Then, as Lan discovers symbols of a dragon fang made out of animal carcasses, he deduces that Trollocs are coming soon.
Sure enough, we get Winter’s Night, which is just as bloody as I expected it to be.
The moment Egwene started dancing with some random person and there were focuses on this guy, I was like, well, he’s gonna die.
Sure enough, an axe is thrown through his back, coming out of his chest, and the Trollocs invade.

Trollocs are amazing, some questionable CGI at times excluded.

Chaos ensues with great usage of shaky cam, as Egwene and Nynaeve take cover, Perrin and his wife Laila (Helena Westerman) shelter people at their forge, and Padan Fain leaves as the mysterious rider watches over the chaos.
We then get one of my favourite scenes of the episode, where Mat meets up with his terrible parents, only to learn that have lost his sisters.
After angrily demanding where they are, he runs through the bloody massacre in a thrilling tracking shot, all to find his sisters.
This is why I already like this Mat a lot better than the one in the first few books.
It wasn’t until Book Three that I came to like him but these first three episodes made him my favourite character in the show so far.
We then get a great fight with Rand and Tam being attacked by a Trolloc, with Tam retrieving the heron marked blade, a moment that gave me chills.
Tam’s fight with the Trolloc, short as it is, is enthralling and gives a really good sense of his experience with the weapon.
Unfortunately, the Trolloc wounds him and Rand has to save him before trying to get his father to safety.
Back at the village, the massacre is still ongoing, and a Trolloc runs up to kill Nynaeve and Egwene, Nynaeve meeting its roar with one of her own, which is a great moment for her.
Just as it seems they are done for, Moiraine and Lan arrive, killing many Trollocs, perfectly synchronised as an Aes Sedai and her Warder.

Moiraine and Lan working in tandem to defeat the Trollocs was a sight to behold.

It’s not just the action and choreography that are excellent here, but the music as well, especially with how it’s in the old tongue.
It’s not just Moiraine and Lan taking care of things, though, because we also see the Emonds’ Fielders fighting back, with a group of women taking down a Trolloc, showing just how tough Two Rivers folk can be.
All is not well, however, because Nynaeve is captured by a Trolloc and, in a brutal scene, Perrin gets so lost in rage as he kills a Trolloc that he accidentally kills Laila.
Is this a moment of fridging?
Yes, but it is sure to influence Perrin’s character arc in the future of the story.
Moiraine is also injured but pulls through in the face of a hoard of Trollocs, using much of her strength to throw chunks of buildings at them, eventually killing every last one.
Although, it is kind of weird how the Trollocs just walk towards Moiraine instead of rushing to kill her as they’re being slaughtered.
Another minor issue I had is that the Trolloc CGI could be a little off at times during the massacre.
It was mostly good CGI though.
Most of Winter’s Night was pretty on point, being a horrifying display, as it should be.
Then we get the last scene of the episode, as Rand arrives with Tam who Moiraine heals, before revealing that the Trollocs are after Rand, Egwene, Mat and Perrin because of them is the Dragon Reborn and they need to leave if they want to protect their families.
This moment is a little quick for my liking but it is serviceable.

I feel like we could have used a bit more time to see the characters leaving the Two Rivers.

Although I do like the episode overall, it does rush in quite a few places, so I wish this episode had either been extended or divided into two.
At least it ends with the iconic narration “The Wheel of Time turns and ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth. And even myth is long forgotten, when the age that gave it birth comes again. In one age, called the Third Age by some, a wind rose in the mountains of mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”
All in all, “Leavetaking” was a good beginning to The Wheel of Time show.
It does have its issues, and does not quite live up to some of the story’s version of events, which I will get into in the book spoiler section below, but it is still a good start that had me excited to watch the other two episodes. 


Book Spoiler Section:
So, first I will get into why that scene where Moiraine says “there are rumors of four ta’veren” is such a terrible moment.
As I said, it raises many questions and plot holes, one of the biggest of which is just who in the light started these rumors and how they knew about Rand, Egwene, Perrin and Mat being ta’veren?
Ta’veren are extremely rare so it would take someone with a large amount of knowledge about them to recognise that Rand and the others were ones.
Not only this but why would someone so knowledgable spread rumors about the ta’veren?
Ta’veren are people who the Wheel of Time weaves into changing the world, so wouldn’t this hypothetical person who spread the rumors tell someone important about them rather than just telling random people?
Most baffling of all, how would this person even recognise Rand, Egwene, Perrin and Mat as being ta’veren in the first place?
Even if they were knowledgable about them, Rand and the others are showing no signs of being ta’veren at this point.
Look at Mat, for example.
Him being a ta’veren makes him extremely lucky, and yet in the episode he is shown to have terrible luck at this point, losing a gambling match.
What knowledgable person would look at Mat in that scene and go, “yep, that’s a ta’veren if I ever saw one!”
See what I mean?
They should have just used the book explanation that Moiraine and Lan tracked them all down after years of hard work, rather than a rumor that makes zero sense when you consider what being a ta’veren is.

Amazing how one line of dialogue can create so many plot holes.

As for other changes, I was a bit disappointed that the prologue which introduced Lews Therin, the original Dragon, and showed his death creating Dragon Mount was not the opening to the show.
That would have been a lot better than the opening we got where Moiraine just says exposition about what their mission is.
There are other things I wanted to see, like Rand and Tam’s discussion, Rand learning he’s not Tam’s son, Moiraine posing as a noble lady rather than an Aes Sedai to get more information.
I do get why some of these were not included though, most of all Rand learning he was adopted because they’re clearly trying to keep the Dragon Reborn identity a mystery.
It’s also pretty clear they’re using Egwene as a red herring before they reveal Rand is the Dragon Reborn, as can be seen when they cut to Egwene after Moiraine talks about who it could be.
As for Rand and Tam’s discussion, although I did miss it, I can’t deny that it’s replacement was fantastic, with it feeling so much like a reference to the ending of The Gathering Storm, a beautiful piece of foreshadowing whether intentional or not.
Other changes include Rand and Egwene being romantically involved, rather than just interested in each other, Mat’s parents being jerks and Perrin having a wife and then killing her.
When it comes to Rand and Egwene’s relationship, I think this works because it could make what comes after for them in the future of the story more meaningful and impactful.
For the Mat change, I actually like this because it gives Mat much more depth than in the books at this point, which he really needed.
As for Perrin having a wife and killing her, I think they added this to make his aversion towards his eventual wolf powers make more sense and feel fleshed out.
There is also am interesting theory about Laila being a Dark Friend, since she had her weapon raised when Perrin accidentally killed her.

It will be interesting how this massive change to Perrin’s character influences him in the show.

Another thing I wanted to mention in the spoiler free section but could not was Padan Fain.
They did a great job of hinting at his menacing nature.
I absolutely loved how we got the introduction to the Mydraal with the sinister music, only to cut to Fain whistling that tune as he enters Emond’s Field.
I’ve found Fain to be a bit of an annoying gimmick villain after Book Two, so I hope the show improves on him, like they are so far doing with Mat.
Overall, I like some of the changes and I dislike some of the changes.
“Leavetaking” is still a good episode and the next two are even better.          

 

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