Vinland Saga Anime Review: A Brutal, Viking Epic.

So, I’d been wanting to watch Vinland Saga for a long time but had a hard time finding it online.
Then, when I got Amazon Prime to watch the adaptation for Wheel of Time, I was delighted to see that the anime was there, so I could finally watch it.
And it did not disappoint.
Adapted from the manga by Makoto Yukimura, directed by Shūhei Yabuta, and developed by the great Wit Studio, Vinland Saga tells the tale of Thorfinn (Yūto Uemura), a young man from Iceland, looking to avenge the murder of his father, the former Jomsvikings warrior, Thors (Kenichiro Matsuda).

The first season of Vinland Saga follows Thorfinn’s journey to avenge his father.

However, this is not your typical revenge story because, while most stories of this nature would have the main character tracking down the antagonist to get their revenge, Thorfinn does not do this.
No, instead Vinland Saga goes in a completley different direction from any revenge story I have seen, with Thorfinn actually accompanying the man who killed his father, Askeladd (Naoya Uchida), in the hopes of dueling him to the death one day.
This makes none of our central characters good people, as they’re all the type to do the raiding and murdering commonly associated with the Vikings of history.
Speaking of that history, it’s interesting to note how many of these characters are interpretations of real people, with creative liberties taken.
The best example of this is Askeladd, who is based off a folk tale character, and is also by far the best character in the show.    

Askeladd is fascinating from the beginning of the season to the end.

He is whitty and charming, despite being an absolutley terrible person, and how his backstory is woven in and expanded upon is excellent, especially with how it ties into his actions at the beginning of the story.
Even the conclusion of his character for this season is amazing, making his overall character seem like both an antagonist and an anti-hero, while being neither at the same time.
Make no mistake, though, Askeladd still regularly commits atrocities, despite him being the best character in the show.
Thankfully, his horrific actions and those of the other characters are never glorified.

This leads to some pretty bleak episodes, like Episode 14, “The Light of Dawn.”

Episode 14 is a real gut punch, reminding us just how cruel our main characters can be.

I am going to remember many scenes from Vinland Saga, both the uplifting and the bleak, with many of the stories’ characters developing from these scenes, not just Thorfinn and Askeladd.
Most notably we have Canute (Kensho Ono) and Thorkell (Akio Ōtsuka), both historical figures who have great importance to the story, especially Canute, who goes on to serve as a fantastic parallel to Thorfinn in the manga.

Caunute is my favourite character of the season, next to Askeladd.

Speaking of the manga, the section that the anime adapts is actually a prologue to the true story of Vinland Saga, with the final episode literally being titled “End of the Prologue.”
The manga then goes in a direction that I honestly was not expecting, yet still quite enjoyed.
I do perfer the story telling of the first season, though, primarily because of Askeladd’s excellent development as a character.
The entire story of Season One is also aided with some fantastic animation and music from Wit Studio and composer Yutaka Yamada, tying everything together into an excellent adaptation of the manga.
Vinland Saga is an amazing anime, and I will soon be reviewing the manga and then Season Two, whenever that releases. 

Attack on Titan, the Final Season, Episode 18, Sneak Attack Review: Mappa Continues to do the Manga Justice.

I can still remember reading Chapter 118 of Attack on Titan for the first time and being quite impressed with all of the standout character moments.
Well, I am pleased to say that Mappa adapted this chapter amazingly, for the most part.
Directed by Jun Shishido, “Sneak Attack” begins by recapping the last few minutes of the previous episode, again showing us Armin tell everyone that Eren was probably lying about Mikasa, and that he is most likely just using Zeke and Yelena.
Last episode had a recap beginning as well and, honestly, I’m finding them to be a bit annoying.
It’s clear they’re just doing it to pad for time so they can adapt one chapter per episode.
Once the recap of the previous episode is over, the other characters quickly come to the conclusion that they have to help Eren, with Jean even admitting that he envied Eren because he found him to be “cool,” a great moment of growth for him.
Afterwards, the 104th go to suit up so they can help Eren fight off Marley and, while running, Mikasa questions Armin’s reasoning for Eren lying.
This causes Armin to remember Eren’s final line in the Season Three finale about destroying their enemies beyond the sea.
He realizes something because of this but chooses to stay quiet, instead focusing on how he and Eren both knew about Mikasa’s headaches so Eren used it to make his lie more convincing.
We then get another recap of Eren and Reiner’s fight, followed up by a kind of underwhelming moment when Porco attacks Eren, only for him to be punched away.
This, and Eren’s glare at Reiner when he is being held down, just had a lot more impact in the manga.
However, this worrying start then turns amazing when Eren begins to rip Reiner’s jaw apart.
Eren’s scream mixed with his Titan roar gave me goosebumps, as did Zeke arriving to save his little brother.
The Beast Titan was completely CGI in Part One of the Final Season but he appears to be mostly 2D in this episode and looks absolutely fantastic.
This animation only gets better when Zeke throws his crunched up boulders at Marley’s airships, causing them to crash into each other and explode.
As this is happening, Eren begins making his way towards Zeke, limping as he does so, which is a great showcase of the brain damage his Titan received from the constant heads shots from Pieck’s Anti-Titan Canon.
The Marleyan forces struggle to combat this, with Pieck and Magath forced to go on the defensive against Floch and the Jeagerists, and Colt and Gabi going to rescue Falco.
They don’t really have to though because the 104th set out to free everyone the Jeagerists are holding captive, including Falco and Nile.
Nile tries to comfort Falco before they are freed, saying this may be his chance to get home, while he may sadly never see his daughters again, even though there is so much he wants to tell them.
Along with Falco and Nile, Shadis and Pyxis are also freed, the latter of which prepares to lead his men who have drunk Zeke’s contaminated wine in the last ditch stand.
Mikasa also prepares for battle, Louise with her, and at that moment she decides to leave her scarf behind, something she has never done before.
Now, surely I am including this as one of the many great character growth moments in this episode, right?
Well, unfortunately, no, I’m not.
The reason for why though is manga spoilers so I’ll detail the reasons why I found this scene off putting in the manga section below.
Once the 104th are all geared up, they go outside, where we see two iconic Yelena panels adapted.
The first of these is her basking in the glory of Zeke’s destruction of the airships which is, again, fantastically animated.
The second of these is her troll face, when Armin tells everyone they don’t have time to focus on Levi and Hange’s status, as they should instead focus on helping Eren and Zeke.
Yelena’s threatening troll face that follows is great and a moment that I’m sure gave a lot of anime only viewers a few nervous chuckles.
As if these Yelena moments weren’t standout enough, we then get Nile, Floch and Gabi’s development in what is the best scene of the entire episode.
Colt and Gabi come across Nile, Falco and the other wine poisoned military police.
Falco sees Colt and tells Nile who, instead of attacking, takes Falco to his brother, freeing him.
Nile might not have much of a hope of seeing his daughters again but he made sure to help a little boy alone on the battlefield.
It is interesting how Isayama actually started Nile off like an antagonist, having him trying to get Eren taken in by the Military Police, where he probably would have been given to Rod Reiss to pass on his Titan.
Then, Isayama pulled back the layers to reveal Nile as a sympathetic character also fighting for humanity, all leading to this moment where he helps Falco.
Next, comes Gabi’s big moment of character development, as she stops Colt from attacking Nile and then, after overhearing Kya talk about how she wants to kill Gabi for killing Sasha, finally admits to herself that she was wrong about the people of Paradis being devils.
Her tearfully announcing this is her biggest moment and it is made better in the anime, through the new shots of open bird cages, showing how Gabi has just begun to free herself from the cycle of violence.
Falco also frees himself in a sense by finally confessing not just his involvement in the attack on Liberio, leading to Udo and Zofia’s deaths, but also his feelings for Gabi.
His awkward confession is genuinely sweet and leads to another excellent moment of growth for Gabi, as she tears off Falco’s black armband, just like he tore off her Eldian one before they meet Kya.
The three then go to warn Zeke about Falco ingesting the spinal fluid, in the hope that this will convince him not to scream.
They almost did not need to worry, though, because it is then we get the titular “Sneak Attack,” with Pieck and Magath showing off their intelligence by launching a near fatal attack on Zeke.
First, they have Pieck emerge from her Titan, causing it to disintegrate, making the Jeagerists think the have defeated her.
Then, the Marleyans ambush Floch and the other Jeagerists.
Finally, Magath fires the Anti-Titan Canon at Zeke in the hopes of killing Zeke.
Unfortunately for them, and Falco, Zeke is still alive so there is still a chance that he could scream if he is given the chance to recover on the ground wher he has fallen, ending the episode.
Overall, “Sneak Attack” is a fantastic adaptation of Chapter 118.
My only criticisms are that the recaps are slightly annoying and the Mikasa scarf scene loses a lot of impact for me with hindsight.
Otherwise, it’s a great episode, and I am even more excited for the next one because it will be adapting one of my favourite chapters of the entire series, Chapter 119, “Two Brothers.”

Manga Spoilers:

Now, I will talk about the issue I have with the Mikasa leaving her scarf behind scene.
This scene had me excited when I first read it in the manga because I thought it would be a turning point for her character.
Yes, I did think the scarf would work its way back to her through Louise based off her looking at it, but I at least thought this would all result in Mikasa potentially distancing herself from Eren.
Instead, Mikasa ends up doubling down on her Eren obsession, despite her ending up killing him in Chapter 138.
This whole thing of her leaving the scarf behind just seems pointless in retrospect.
Mikasa is a character who my opinion on really suffered when I reread the series for my Top Ten Chapters list.
I am not saying that she never develops, but she is a character with so many missed opportunities.
She could have developed so much through her Ackerman and Hizuru heritage, along with leaving the scarf behind and her connection to Louise but these chances for further development are never taken.
It makes me wonder how I will view future Mikasa scenes in the anime.
Is the hindsight of how her story ends also going to make those less impactful for me?
I certainly hope not. 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review: Bringing a Smile to my Face.

The Ghostbusters franchise has an interesting history, with the first one being considered a classic by many and its sequel also being enjoyed, although thought to be not as good.
Personally, it’s been a while since I saw the second one, but I do remember quite liking the first one.
Unfortunately this was not the case for the 2016 reboot, which I found to be quite bad and unfunny, apart from a few moments that made me chuckle.
Coming into the latest film in the franchise, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, I was actually pretty optimistic since it’s directed by Jason Reitman, the son of the director of the first two film’s, Ivan Reitman.
Sure enough, Afterlife is a charming movie which I am sure a lot of fans of the first two Ghostbusters films will enjoy. 

I found myself smiling a lot watching Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The movie follows a struggling family who move to the small remote town of Summerville to live in their dead grandfather’s rundown farm.
However, after strange happenings, the daughter of the family, Phoebe, begins to realize that something paranormal is going on in Summerville, something which their grandfather had been trying to stop, as he may have been a Ghostbuster.
Phoebe is without a doubt the heart and soul of this movie, with McKenna Grace delivering an excellent performance as the quirky and courageous kid.

I hope McKenna Grace’s career takes off after this film because she is excellent in it.

Phoebe’s mother Callie (Carrie Coon), and her new science teacher Gary Grooberson are also interesting characters, and I actually wish Gary got more screen time, since I enjoyed Paul Rudd’s performance.
The one exception to all this is the son of the family, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), whose story I quickly became disinterested in and felt that it was kind of out of place with the rest of the narrative.
Said narrative is also entirely predictable and full of fan service.
However, I am not saying that either of those things are bad things.
Sure, I guessed where the story was going pretty easily as I was watching, but the story was so charming that I was just along for the ride.
As for the fanservice, we already know from Spiderman: No Way Home that it can be used excellently, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife is another example of this.
I remember grinning from ear to ear during one exciting chase sequence in the film.
It made me feel the same level of enjoyment that I remember feeling when watching the original Ghostbusters all those years ago. 

And this chase is not the only scene in the movie that brought me joy seeing.

This all culminates in a heartfelt ending that really pays respect to the old cast, both those still with us and one who has tragically passed.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a perfectly enjoyable movie with a lot of charm and I would recommend it to any fan of the franchise who has somehow not seen it yet. 

Attack on Titan, The Final Season, Episode 17, Judgement Review: Second Battle of Shiganshina.

Attack on Titan is back for the second part of its final season and, boy, am I excited to see some of my favourite chapters of the story animated.
Directed by Yūichirō Hayashi, Episode 17, “Judgement” is not an adaptation of one of my favourite chapters but it is still a pretty great episode nonetheless, starting off this series of episodes quite well.
“Judgement” begins by showing the scene I was disappointed not to see in the first half of the final season.
However, this scene’s adaptation certainly did not disappoint, presenting some excellent animation right off the bat.
The episode begins with the captive Hange and the Jeagerists discovering the aftermath of the explosion Zeke caused, after which both his and Levi’s fates were left uncertain.
Well, Levi’s status is still unknown, even after this episode, because it is not entirely clear if he is alive or dead.
That said, I was quite impressed with the amount of detail that went into the gore for what happened to Levi.
Heck, I was surprised with how uncensored this episode was in general.
Back to the scene at hand, Floch and the Jeagerists want to put a bullet in Levi’s head, to which Hange responds that he is already dead, only for her to flee with him when Zeke is revived.
The animation during Zeke’s revival is fantastic and it raises a great mystery with the question of who the girl who revived him in the “paths” was.
Then, we get the opening, “The Rumbling” by SiM, which is another banger, with some great symbolism for future events.
From here, the episode continues with Marley’s attack on Shiganshina, beginning the battle with an unexpectedly comedic moment, when Porco cuts off Pieck’s hand, so she can escape with Gabi.
The hand falls right into Gabi’s hands and the two scream as Pieck throws herself off the building to transform, leaving me chuckling.
In the end, both Titan Shifters escape, Pieck taking Gabi with her, later allowing Gabi to disclose her newfound theory to Magath that Zeke has royal blood, meaning they cannot allow the Jaeger brothers to come into contact.
As for Eren himself, he disregards Yelena’s advice to use the power of the Warhammer Titan to escape.
Instead, Eren goes to face Reiner, who lifts his bloody hand up to Eren before transforming, much like Eren did when he confronted Reiner in Marley.
This was a great callback.
It’s just a shame for Reiner that his fight with Eren goes as well as all of his previous fights with him.
Eren pummels him pretty easy, and Reiner only stands a chance with Porco’s help.
This is also when Eren is not using the Warhammer Titan’s powers.
When he does use them, the battle goes back to being incredibly one sided again.
But then, the Titan that is always exactly right enters the battlefield, as Magath uses Pieck’s Anti-Titan Gun to blow multiple holes in Eren’s Titan head.
This gives Marley plenty of time to deal with many of the Jeagerists, gunning them down with ease.
In Marley, the Scouts had the advantage, yet here it is clearly the reverse.
Much like many scenes in the first half of the Final Season, Mappa added a lot of combat scenes, like when the Jeagerist is chocking the Marley soldier, only to be stabbed with a bayonet from behind.
These are great additions that show off the brutality of war.
As well as Marley gaining the upper hand on the Jeagerists, Reiner also does on Eren, impaling him with one of his own Titan crystals.
While this is happening, Onyankopon rushes to free the 104th from their cell, not having been able to do so earlier out of fear of what Yelena would do to him.
However, he receives a less than warm welcome, with Connie outraged at his perceieved betrayal, revealing how the betrayals or Reiner, Bertholdt, Annie, and now Eren hurt him.
Armin wants to hear Onyankopon out, though, and the volunteer expresses how he is against Yelena and Zeke’s plan to sterilize the Eldians because he believes Paradis has a future and children are that future.
This causes Armin to remember Onyankopon’s comment about how an interesting mix of people makes the world more interesting, realizing he truly is on their side.
Armin also goes on to say he thinks Eren was lying about Mikasa only protecting Eren because she is an Ackerman and being on Zeke’s side, because him carrying out the Euthanization Plan would go directly against his character, beleiving he is only playing along with Zeke and Yelena.
The voice acting of this scene is really great, with Connie, Armin and Onyankopon’s voice actors doing a really good job.
Once this scene is done, we get the cliffhanger, which is Eren still being impaled with his crystal by Reiner, leaving him in a rather precarious position at the end of the episode.
We then get the ED, “Akuma no Ko” by Ai Higuchi, which I think is just as good as the OP.
It reminds me a lot of the OP from the first season and I think this is clearly intentional.
So, overall the second half of the Final Season is off to a good start with “Judgement.”
I am quite excited to see my favourite chapter, 121, get adapted eventually as well.

Manga Spoilers:
Since I’m a manga reader, I decided to leave a little section at the end of every review where I can talk about spoilers.
The main thing I want to talk about here is the OP, “The Rumbling.”
Along with it having some great symbolism, like the trampled butterfly at the end representing Ramzi, I was quite surprised by how many spoilers were packed in, like the actual Rumbling happening and Eren’s Founding Titan form.
I think some of these things probably should have been kept vague for anime only viewers.
Another interesting part of not just the OP but the ED as well is how they both refrence the final chapter.
In the OP we see Eren, Mikasa and Armin running towards the tree on the hill, which is important to the ending as it is where Eren is buried when he dies, and in the ED we see Paradis destroyed and overtaken by nature, much like how it is in the updated ending.
Because of this, it’s pretty obvious that we aren’t getting an anime original ending.
Not that I thought we would, but I have been seeing some insane conspiracy theories out there about how an anime original ending was always part of the plan.
People have literally been saying that a supposedly different coloured scarf means the ending will be completley changed.
With the OP and ED putting these anime ending theories to rest, I think the best we can hope for is maybe a couple of changes, rather than a completley different ending.
Personally, I’m just hoping the a few of the last minute twists of the ending will be reworked to make them more digestible.
Hopefully, some dialogue will be changed as well.
For example, please change Armin saying “thank you for becoming a mass muderer,” to, “I’m sorry you became a mass murderer.”
The “thank you” part really sends a bad message, although I know that is unintentional.
But, whatever ending we do get, we probably won’t be getting it for a while if the leaks about a movie turn out to be true.
Either way, I’m just looking forward to seeing fantastic chapters like 119, 121, 122, 123, 129, 130 and 131 adapted with the rest of Part Two.

The Wheel of Time, Episode Eight, The Eye of the World, Review: What in the Blood and Bloody Ashes was This?

Although I have had some issues with Amazon Prime’s adaptation of The Wheel of Time, mostly to do with the premiere episode, I overall enjoyed the show up to Episode Seven… then I watched Episode Eight. 
Directed by Ciarian Donnely again, this episode, titled “The Eye of the World”, is without question the weakest of the season, so far.
This is especially bad considering this is the first season’s finale, and I am really hoping it is not an indication of the quality of future seasons.
Admittedly, when “The Eye of the World” first started, I was pretty excited for it.
The reason for this is that the cold open for the episode is our first introduction to Rand’s prior life, Lews Therin Talamon (Alexander Karim), the Dragon Reborn… wait “reborn?”
Yeah, that was the first sign of trouble in the episode because there are quite a few inaccuracies to the most simple parts of the lore in this opening scene, like Lews Therin’s title, and Latra (Katie Brayben) somehow knowing the Dark One would taint the male half of the One Power.
Seriously, how the heck did she predict that?
Although, I was able to look past these issues during my first watch of the episode because I liked how the scene was performed in old tongue.
It really showed a commitment to the world building of the lore, even if some parts of it were contradicted. 
We even get a good look at the futuristic setting of the Third Age, which looks oddly good for a time when the Dark One threatened the world.
However, I guess they did need to show how far the world had fallen since the Breaking of the World, so it’s not too much of an issue. 

There are some issues with Lews Therin’s first scene in the show but overall I liked it.

We then pick up with our two sets of characters, as Rand and Moiraine make their way through the Blight, towards the Eye of the World, and Lan and the Emond’s Fielders reel from the revelation that Rand is the Dragon Reborn.
Lan’s top priority, though, is locating Moiraine, and Nynaeve informs him of how to do so because of a “tell” she has.
What this tell is and how Lan has not noticed it after decades of being Moiraine’s Warder is never explained.
Another issue is a line Lan says that is translated right from the books.
As he is saying goodbye to Nynaeve, he tells her, “I will hate the man you choose. Because he is not me. And I will love him if he makes you smile. You are as beautiful as the sunrise. You are as fierce as a warrior. You are a lioness, Wisdom.” 
Now, while this is a book accurate line, for the most part, I just don’t think it works here because it feels entirely different from the context of what is happening in this scene.
In the books, Lan has quite a different personality, so the reasons for him telling Nynaeve this are for meant to mean something else and thus the line does not match up with the show conversation.
Sure, the quote has been changed slightly to try and make more sense for the show but it still does not quite work right.
Then there’s the dialogue.
Again, it’s true to the book, however the issue is that the dialogue for this adaptation has been more modern so to hear this old fashioned love declaration feels rather strange.
Speaking of strange, we then get our first look at the Dark One, who visits Rand in a dream and, honestly, I personally did not find him to be that intimidating.
To be fair, I think it’s an issue with the costuming, rather than the acting of Fares Fares.     
The way his shirt goes down below his jacket makes him look like he got out of bed late, realized he had to go terrorize Rand, and haphazardly put on whatever was there to make it in time. 

The Father of Lies is kind of hard to take seriously with this costuming.

Also, I’m pretty sure there are some things about this dream scene that contradict key aspects of the series’ lore.
This, and the Moiraine fake out death was obvious and annyoing.
Unfortunately, this is not the last we’ll see of one in the episode, as can be seen with one of Min’s visions of Nynaeve “dying.”
Upon waking, Rand is informed by Moiraine about her plan for him to use a sa’angreal to seal the Dark One away again.
Again, though, that’s not how it works in the books but whatever.
They do not have a lot of time, though, because the Dark One is sending his most terrifying force against Fal Dara. 
No, not Trollocs, no, not Mydraals, but terrible CGI!
Seriously, what in the light was up with the Trolloc CGI in this episode?
Sure, some of the Trollocs did look pretty iffy in previous episodes but the ones here looked so abysmal that it broke all my immersion.
It looked like Sharknado quality, I’m not kidding. 

See?

To be fair, though, this could have been an issue because of COVID, so it is understandable if that’s the case.
Rushing to meet the terrible CGI Trollocs is the show’s unlikeable version of Lord Agelmar, who has left his sister, Lady Amilisa, to defend the city if he falls, which in hindsight is a really stupid decision, but I’ll explain why later.
As this is happening, Rand and Moiraine descend into the Eye, only for Rand to be drawn into a dream world where the Dark One shows him his ideal life with Egwene, offering it in return for serving him. 
The Dark One also confronts Moiraine out in the real world but easily cuts her off from the One Power, seemingly permanently.
Meanwhile, at Fal Dara, Egwene and Nynaeve join Lady Amilisa and two others to protect Fal Dara, while Perrin despairs over not knowing how to help.
Loial inspires him with a pretty good inspiring line, “if you want to help but don’t know how, all you need to do is ask.”

I’m still loving Hammed Animashaun’s portrayal of Loial, even if he has not had as much characterization as in the books.

Loial’s advice leads to him and Perrin helping uncover the Horn of Valere from under Lord Agelmar’s throne, however, this is not exactly a good thing because Padan Fain arrives with two Mydraal to steal the horn.
I quite enjoyed the brutal way he enters the scene, resulting in the death of two woman, since it shows how big of a threat he is.
Although, the scene of him actually stealing the horn and then talking to Perrin is a little clumsy.
Fain pretty much stabs Loial, monologues to Perrin, and then leaves with Perrin having nothing to do other than stand there and listen.
The scene with Nynaeve and Egwene is not much better, unfortunately.
After Lord Agelmar is seemingly killed and the Trollocs break through, rushing to attack Fal Dara, Lady Amilisa links with the five other channelers, completely obliterating the Trolloc army.
This is why I said it was stupid for Agelmar to leave the city’s defences to his sister.
If five untrained women who can channel can generate enough power to destroy an entire Trolloc army then why in the blood and ashes would you not put them on the front lines?
Not doing so just wastes lives.
Also, again, these women are untrained, so it leaves a whole lot of plot holes, like why the trained Aes Sedai did not easily destroy Logain’s army in Episode Four?
And then there’s the already mentioned second fake out death.
After Amilisa and the other two women who can channel are killed from using too much power, Nynaeve appears to die as well before she and Egwene can break free from their hold on the One Power.
Egwene then magically heals Nynaeve pretty much instantly.
What was the point of this?
It just feels like unnecessary drama.

I’m really hoping that this show quits it with the fake out deaths.

At least the fight at the Eye of the World has a somewhat satisfying conclusion, with Rand breaking free from the Dark One’s manipulations because of his love for the real Egwene, and blasting him away.
With this battle now done, Rand decides to leave, saying he can feel the madness that all male channelers suffer from.
It would have been nice if we could have seen this madness but Rafe Judkins apparently decided to just have Rand say he could feel it.
Moiraine promises to tell everyone Rand has died as he leaves and Lan then arrives after having done pretty much nothing in this final episode.
She tells Lan that Rand is “gone” and confirms that she can no longer channel, before proclaiming that this was not the last battle but the first of many to come.
The final scene of the episode then sees a little girl playing on a beach, only to witness an invading army approaching. 
This army uses their channelers to send out a tsunami onto the beach, killing the girl.

Such a show of force is honestly kind of dumb though because, unless I’m mistaken, that beach looked pretty barren.
So, were they just trying to kill one girl?
Clearly not but that’s the way it appeared.
It seems that Judkins wanted this new culture to be scary yet he did not think of a logical reason for their actions beyond this. 

“Look, a little girl! Let’s create a giant tsunami just to kill her and no one else because we’re the big, scary bad guys!”

And so this awkward feeling scene brings an end to what is undoubtedly the weakest episode of Season One by a large margin.
This episode is just full of issues.
To be fair, there are good things, like the score and acting for the most part.
It’s just that the decisions made for this episode’s story really baffle me, especially as a reader of the books.
Overall though, I would say this adaptation was decent.
If I were to rank all the episodes from weakest to best it would go Episode Eight, Episode One, Episode Five, Episode Three, Episode Two, Episode Seven, Episode Six, and best of all Episode Four. 




Book Spoilers: 

I said that, as a book reader, a lot of the changes this episode baffled me, and this bafflement started right from the opening scene.
Why is Lews Therin known as the Dragon Reborn and not just the Dragon?
The Dragon Reborn is Rand’s title.
It’s a small inconsistency from the books but a weird one.
It gets even weirder when both Moiraine and Rand die in Rand’s dream.
If this is Tel’aran’rhiod, then both of them should be dead since they died in their dreams.
Although maybe this is somehow just a regular dream that Ishamael is invading.
Speaking of, I wish they had just revealed that the one Rand fought was not the Dark One but Ishamael.
As I said, the costuming made it difficult for me to take him seriously, and this would have been worse if I was a show only viewer, since I would find him unthreatening as the Dark One.
So, is the show just going to temporarily kill him off whenever the Dragon Reborn is adapted, and then reveal he wasn’t the Dark One t00?
That felt cheap on my first read through of the books and I hope it is changed.
This said, I did like the change of it being Ishamael that Rand fought at the Eye, instead of Aginor and Bathamel.
As for the other changes of the episode, another significant one was how much less of a deal the Eye of the World and the battle of Tarwin’s Gap were.
I think they’re substituting the Eye for a seal for the Dark One’s prison here, which is fine, but the battle of Tarwin’s Gap was not handled well because Rand did not have a part in it.
That battle in the book, confusing as it was, showed off Rand’s power as the Dragon Reborn and why he was such a big deal.
Overall, the show does not really show why the Dragon Reborn is so revered and feared at the same time because Rand seems just like a normal male channeler at this point.

The power and threat the Dragon Reborns poses to the world is not seen in this adaptation, at least not yet.

All of the prophecies have clearly been thrown out the window as well, since Moiraine went through with this plan to bring just Rand to the Eye of the World, thinking it was the Last Battle.
So, what happened to all the other prophecies that Rand and the others spent multiple books fullfiling?         
Is Rand going to go grab Callandor just because he feels like it now?
Coming back to the Eye, though, the Horn of Valere is no longer there but under Agelmar’s throne.
What?
Another strange change, and it leads to another one with Loial being stabbed by Padan Fain.
Which reminds me, they never explained why Loial went with Rand and the others in the first place, so his actions don’t really make sense in the show because he has no motivation.
Also, him being stabbed by Fain with the Shadar Logoth Dagger seems to suggest that he will take on Mat’s role in the Great Hunt, since Barney Harris left.
As for Mat himself, Fain again implies that Mat could turn to the shadow, another instance of the show seeming to misunderstand Mat as a character.
Sure, Mat is a trouble maker, but he never had an inherent darkness in the books that drew him to the Shadow.

I loved Barney Harris’ performance as Mat this season and I’m sad to see him go but, man, did they have to portray him like a potential villain at times? That is just not Mat.

Then there’s Moiraine being stilled, which is another controversial divergance.
However, I’m not sure if she was stilled or just kept from touching the One Power, like Moghidien did to Liandrin in the books.
Either way, it’s a massive departure from her character, one which I hope turns out for the better in season two but, after the quality of this episode’s changes from the source material, I’m concerned.
I have liked some of the chages in previous episodes, like the extension of Logain’s storyline and Moiraine and Suian’s relationship, but the changes in Episode Eight really dropped the ball.
“The Eye of the World” is a weak ending for an otherwise alright adaptation of the first book in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. 

 

The Wheel of Time, Episode Seven, The Dark Along the Ways Review: The Blood Snow.

I was pretty excited for Episode 7 of The Wheel of Time, “The Dark Along the Ways,” because the teasers showed that this would be the episode where we finally got to see the Blood Snow, and it certainly did not disappoint.
Directed by Ciaran Donnely, the Blood Snow is the cold open for the episode, and it is the best of the series, showing an Aeilwoman fighting on the slopes of Dragonmount while going through labour.
This whole action scene is probably the best shot scene of the entire series so far.
I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and the actress playing the Aeil, Magdalena Sittova, does a fantastic job.
Although, it is a little immersion breaking that the Aeil is able to kill so many trained soldiers while in labour.
It kind of reminded me of Mel from The Last of Us Part 2 who was also ridiculously doing death defying stunts while pregnant.
Still, I think it makes a lot more sense here because, again, the woman is Aeil, probably the best fighters in the Wheel of Time.
Also, the fight sequence is riveting and the action is great so my suspension of disbelief was ultimately maintained.

This scene expanded on the Blood Snow from the books in such an excellent fashion.

The epic fight finally ends with the Aeilwoman preparing to give birth, only to be confronted by yet another soldier, before cutting to the opening credits.
Following this cliffhanger and the credits, we go back to our main characters traveling in the Ways, with the exception of Mat, whose actor Barney Harris left so they had to write him out.
One thing that impressed me about this episode was actually how well they did so.
They did not just forget about Mat, he is brought up throughout, and there are quite a few teases for what will happen to him next season, when he is played by Donal Finn, like with Moiraine sending the Red Ajah after him.   
The only thing I found questionable about it is Moiraine’s perception of Mat, believing he would “turn to the shadow” if he were the Dragon.
When I first saw this moment I chuckled thinking, oh, Moiraine, you don’t understand Mat at all.
However, then I pondered whether this was not Moiraine misinterpreting Mat’s character but the writers and I became a bit concerned for where his character could go.
I will explain why further down in the spoiler section.
In any case, the characters continue moving on through the Ways, with Perrin eventually spotting a guiding that has been damaged by something.
This means Loial will need time to dechiper it, asking for the other’s patience, resulting in the best joke of the episode when Rand says, “if he’s asking for patience, then we’re gonna die.” 
It does feel like this joke was meant for Mat, as it seems more in character for him to say it than Rand, but I do understand why he had to be the one because of Barney Harris’ departure.
Moiraine ignores Rand’s concerns and the group decide to rest in the Ways, only for them to be attacked by a Trolloc, which is blasted off the path by Rand channeling. 
Rand doing this was done in such a subtle way that show only viewers would think it was Egwene but book readers like myself would understand it as a hint for Rand being the Dragon Reborn.

The subtle hints that Rand is the Dragon Reborn are done great.

However, this does not end the trouble, because Rand channeling summons Machin Shin, the Black Wind.
The group rush to the Waygate door to Fal Dara to escape Machin Shin, but it catches up to them before they can get out, whispering things they don’t want to accept about themselves to them.
It’s not as creepy as it was in the books but it was serviceable for what comes.
Anyway, the group is able to escape, thanks again to Nynaeve, and they arrive at Fal Dara, entering the city where they are “welcomed” by Lord Agelmar (Thomas Chaanhing), who is not happy to see Moiraine, thinking his sister Lady Amalisa (Sandra Yi Sencindiver) summoned her.
Although he does calm down when Moiraine warns him about the Trollocs in the ways.
Too late though because we see the figure who was following them in the Ways come through, and Perrin later thinks he sees Padan Fain in the city.
After this, Moiraine goes to see Min, another character I have been excited to see.
I will admit that I am not quite sure how to feel about the actress who plays her, Kae Alexander, at this point.
Her performance does feel a bit different from what I expected as a book reader, but I don’t hate it.

I think I just need to see more of Kae Alexander in Season Two before I come to a decision on how I feel about her performance.

Although I am unsure of Alexander as Min, I think the show did a really good job of showing her visions, even if the editing of this scene did become a bit weird at one point.
Her scene also ends rather ominously, as Min tells Moiraine that she saw the Amyrlin Seat will be her downfall.
From here, we move on to what is undoubtedly the worst scene of the episode.
It begins well enough, with Moiraine warning them that whoever goes to the Eye of the World and is not the Dragon Reborn will die.
However, once she and Lan leave we get the dreaded love triangle.
Why, oh, why did the writers have to resort to Perrin also having feelings for Egwene?
It just was not needed and it made the scene feel so contrived.
Thankfully, it seems this is just a single episode plotline and I really hope that it stays that way. 

I remember hearing Machin Shin telling Perrin that he loved another woman and I got very concerned at that point. Sadly, the love triangle was followed through on.

At least after the worst scene of the episode we get one of the best, with Nynaeve following Lan, watching through a window as he meets up with some close friends who call him “Dai Shan.”
The music during this moment is fantastic and I love Nynaeve and Lan’s chemistry in the show, as seen when Lan ambushes her like a ninja and invites her inside.
This eventually leads to the two of them sleeping together for the first time and Lan telling her how he is the king of a long gone kingdom, Malkier.
Their relationship has definitely progressed a lot faster and differently than it did in the books but I enjoyed it and am looking forward to seeing where it goes.
Then, we get the big moment of the episode: the reveal of the Dragon Reborn.
After reconciling with Egwene and sleeping with her, Rand returns outside and begins to accept that he is the one destined to fight the Dark One.
We see that he really did channel when he broke down the ironwood door in episode three, and when he saved Egwene earlier in the Ways.
It also revealed that Machin Shin spoke to him about being the Dragon Reborn, which made a lot of sense because I thought it was weird that he was so torn up, when all it seemed to talk to him about in the beginning was Egwene.
Rand visits Min for further confirmation and we then see how she saw a vision of his birth in the past, with Tam stumbling across Rand’s mother giving birth and helping her.
When she died, Tam took the baby to raise in the Two Rivers.
This episode really reminded me of why I loved Tam so much in the books.

Tam al’Thor is an excellent father.

Rand then goes to Moiraine and admits that he is the Dragon Reborn and the two leave for the Blight, leaving the others behind as they realize what has happened, bringing an end to the episode.
Overall, I would say that “The Dark Along the Ways” is my third favourite episode in The Wheel of Time, right behind “The Flame of Tar Valon” and the “The Dragon Reborn.”
I know I said that I considered it better than Episode Six in my previous review but a rewatch of this episode put it down lower.
It just had a few too many issues, most notably the awful love triangle scene.
This said, most of the episode was great, especially the Blood Snow and Rand coming to accept himself as the Dragon Reborn.

Book Spoilers:

So, for the book spoilers section, I will start small with Moiraine’s comment about Mat.
As I said in my previous review of Episode Six, Mat is described as someone who would run into a fire for his friends in the books, so I find the idea that he would willingly join the Dark One to be a bit absurd.
Still, he had been under the influence of the Dagger from Shadar Logoth so maybe that would explain it.
But the show has been saying there is an inherit darkness to Mat for a while, which I am not quite sure how to feel about since this was not a thing in the books.
Could Mat be a jerk at times?
Yes, especially in the first couple of books, but he quickly proves himself as a loyal friend and hero, even if he is not accepting of either of those titles.
Another character who is different from the books is Lord Agelmar, who is way more unlikeable in the show.
Still, Agelmar is not a character I really cared for in the books, he was just okay, so I’m not too bothered by the change.
I feel the same way about the Machin Shin change, with the Black Wind just speaking to the characters rather than doing anything truly threatening.
This is a small part of the books so I can let it slide.
It also leads to Rand realizing he is the Dragon Reborn, which is great.
Speaking of that, Rand accepting this is probably the biggest change in the entire episode.
Rand goes on an entire soul searching arc for the first three books and it is only at the end of that third book that he completely accepts his destiny as the Dragon Reborn.
Here, he does it much sooner, however, I think it was done in a way that is actually true to Rand’s character from the books.
Here, Rand is told that whoever goes to the Eye of the World and is not the Dragon Reborn will die.
This makes him accepting his destiny sooner make plenty of sense because he obviously does not want Egwene, Nynaeve, or Perrin to die.
It is an interesting change, which is justified well by the story telling in the episode, and I am intrigued to see where it will go in Season Two, with a Rand who fully accepts himself as the Dragon Reborn.

Rand’s relization was well done, even if it is different from the books.

The show also clearly intends to keep some of his future storylines the same, as seen when Min prophecises three beautiful women, herself, Elayne and Aviendha.
Real humble, aren’t you, Min?
However, this positive change of Rand accepting his destiny sooner could not save Episode Eight, “The Eye of the World,” which is easily the worst episode of this entire first season.

As for “The Dark Along the Ways” though, it is still one of the best episodes of the show so far, with some intriguing changes.

Arcane Review: Watch. This. Show.

I remember when I first watched the trailer for Netflix’s Arcane and was instantly intrigued by the quality of the animation I was seeing.
However, then I noticed the show was based off League of Legends.
I have never played this game but I know of it because of its reputation as having one of the most toxic fandoms out there.
This was not what me hesitant to watch it though because you can’t judge a product off the actions of its fans alone.
No, the reason for my hesitation was that, since I had never played League, I would have no idea what was happening in Arcane‘s story.

So, despite liking what I saw in the trailer, I decided to give it a skip.
But then, I kept hearing the nonstop praise about Arcane being a masterpiece and I finally caved, deciding to give it a chance.
After all, I watched Squid Game because of the acclaim it was receiving and I had no regrets about that.
Although, after finishing Arcane, I did have one regret… that I did not watch this absolute masterpiece of show sooner.
All of the praise this series has received since it was released in three acts on Netflix is accurate. 

Arcane was released in three acts, each with three episodes, over three weeks. I watched one act per day and each one is incredible.

Created by Christian Linke and Alex Yee, Arcane tells the story of many different characters in the city of Piltover and its undercity of Zaun.
Zaun is a gang ridden, posion aired place, where sisters Vi (Hailee Steinfeld) and Powder (Ella Purnell) struggle to find their place in the world while under the guardianship of their father figure Vander (JB Blanc). 
Meanwhile, in the rich and ever technologically progressing city of Piltover, scientist Jace (Kevin Alejandro) and his newfound friend Viktor (Harry Loyd) begin to experiment with creating magic through science. 
The story then follows these different groups of characters, their paths occasionally intersecting, as tragic events push Piltover and Zaun to the edge of outright war.
What makes the potential for this conflict so suspenceful is how amazingly well written each character in this show is.
The way the relationship between Vi and Powder plays out, and what they go on to become by the end of the season, is highly engaging.

Powder and Vi’s tragic journeys made for plenty of compelling development.

Another thing that really struck me was how even the minor characters felt like real people.
Take the corrupt enforcer Marcus (Remy Hill), for example.
It would have been incredibly easy for the writers to just make him a stereotypically evil corrupt cop but they didn’t.
They gave Marcus a lot of depth and characterization to the point that I actually sympathized with him, while knowing he was a terrible person.
Speaking of someone being a terrible person but a fantastic character, my favourite character in this entire show is definitely the main antagonist, Silco (Jason Spisak).
Much like Marcus, I thought he was going to turn out to be a stereotypical villain, when we were first introduced to him, but, as the show went on, he became incredibly complex.
I remember watching Episode Three, “The Base Violence Necessary for Change” and seeing him display some emotion and wondering if it was genuine.
The show then goes on to expand on this emotion for his character, making a part of himself so sympathetic to the point that the way his storyline for the season concluded during the final episode “The Monster You Created” actually made me tear up.

I did not expect to cry for Silco when we met him, yet the final episode made me do just that.

Notice how I mentioned both Episodes Three and Nine there? 
These two are the best episodes of Arcane, both being masterpieces in their own right, with so much tragedy in them.
The tragedy of this story is backed up by the fantastic voice acting, score and animation.
It was this animation that made me initially interested in the show in the first place, as I said when talking about the trailer, and seeing this animation actually play out in the series did not disappoint. 
It reminded me a lot of the animation from Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, creating absolutely amazing action set pieces, the best of which comes in Episode Seven “The Boy Saviour.”   

The action sequence in this scene between Jinx and another character was excellent, having me glued to the screen.

As for the score, I have already put multiple songs from this show on my Spotify, including the opening by Imagine Dragons and JID, “Enemy,” so that alone should tell you how much I loved Arcane’s music.
As for the voice acting, there was not a weak member of the cast.
I was especially impressed with the voice acting of Mia Sinclair Jenessa who plays the young Powder, showing off some excellent range in Episode Three.
All of this combines with the amazing writing from Linke and Yee, creating fascinating lines like “in the pursuit of great, we failed to do good,” and “is there anything so undoing as a daughter.”

There are plenty of amazing instances of dialogue in Arcane.

How certain lines and events from the beginning are paralleled right up to the final episode also quite impressed me, with the story of Arcane essentially boiling down to one tragic cycle. 
This is a cycle that I look forward to seeing continue when we eventually get Season Two, which has been announced.
We do not know when this season will be released but it has been confirmed that we will not be getting it in 2022, to which I say, “good.” 
Arcane is clearly a labour of love from its creators and they deserve to continue this labour with all the care and attention they used to craft the masterpiece that is this first season: one of the greatest opening seasons I have ever seen.
Season one of Arcane is a masterpiece and, if Season Two is at the very least just as good, then it may end up being one of my favourite shows of all time.   
If you have not watched this show yet because of League of Legend’s reputation, or because you fear you won’t understand what’s happening like I feared, then take my advice and watch it.
You will understand what’s happening and it will most likely blow your mind.   

Spider-Man: No Way Home Review: A Nostalgia Film Done Right.

I quite enjoyed the first two MCU Spider-Man films.
Homecoming was a great example of a more grounded MCU film, with a fantastic antagonist, and while I did not like Far From Home as much as the first, I still thought it did a great job continuing the story of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker.
Well, after seeing the third film, No Way Home, I can say that this one is easily the best movie of the three. 

I thought it would be hard to top Homecoming but No Way Home did it in spectacular fashion.

Directed again by Jon Watts, No Way Home follows the events of Far From Home where Peter’s identity as Spider-Man was revealed to the world in a final act of vengeance by Mysterio.
With a conspiracy theory based witch hunt now invading every part of his life, spearheaded by J. Jonah Jameson (J.K Simmons), Peters goes to Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to request that he erase everyone’s memories of him being Spider-Man.
However, when Peter begins to add conditions to the spell, wanting M.J (Zendaya), Ned (Jacob Batalon), and his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) to remember, it causes the spell to go haywire and draw in any villain who knows Spider-Man’s secret identity from other universes.
Peter quickly finds himself under attack from these villains, most notably Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and Otto Octavius’ Dr Octopus (Alfred Molina).

There are many old Spider-Man villains in No Way Home but Dr Octopus and the Green Goblin are by far the standouts with great performances from the returning actors.

And so Peter and Dr Strange must capture these numerous villains and send them back to their own universes before they cause too much chaos in their own, only for conflict between the two heroes to quickly follow. 
With so many villains from previous Spider-Man films being in this movie, it would have been extremely easy for this film to just devolve into mindless nostalgia with no intelligence.
However, I think that No Way Home is a perfect example of a nostalgia film done right.
There are numerous quotes from the earlier films, including memes created from them, and these somehow work entirely.
What works even better is Tom Holland’s fantastic performance as Peter.
I have liked him in the role in the previous MCU movies but his performance in No Way Home is definitley his best so far.

Peter goes through a lot and grows a lot in this movie.

This film is essentially the end of the Spider-Man origin we did not know this trilogy was.
I would even call it one of the best MCU films, with it definitely being in my top ten, if not my top five.       
No Way Home is the perfect example of how to do a film with nostalgia as a major focus.
December was a great release date for it because the movie’s numerous great callbacks and easter eggs make it feel like a Christmas present for Spider-Man fans.
Speaking of which, be sure to have a Merry Christmas. 

Wheel of Time, Episode Six, The Flame of Tar Valon, Review: More Than Pillow Friends.

Directed by Salli Richardson-Whitefield, Episode Six of The Wheel of Time, “The Flame of Tar Valon,” was an episode many fans were interested to see.
This was because it is supposedly Brandon Sanderson’s favourite episode of the season.
After seeing it, I can see why because it definitely is one of the best episodes, but I would personally put it behind Episode Four, “The Dragon Reborn,” and Episode Seven, “The Dark Along the Ways,” which I will review later.
“The Flame of Tar Valon” kicks off with the backstory of Siuan Saunche, the Amyrlin Seat, who lived in a small fishing hut with her father in Tear.
The young Siuan (Kiera Chasna) has begun to Chanel and her father warns her to be careful no one sees but this warning comes too late, as the two return to find their hut burned to the ground and a Dragon’s Fang signed into the remains.
This causes Siuan’s father to reluctantly send her to the White Tower, where she goes on to become the Amyrlin Seat many years later.
On that note, I will say that the acting for this initial scene was fantastic.
This is especially the case for Peter de Jersey, who plays Siuan’s father.
In a single scene he actually almost made me tear up during the emotional goodbye to his daughter. 

De Jersey’s performance shows how great the casting of this show is, since they made sure to get great actors for even minor roles.

After this opening, the episode cuts to the present with the Amyrlin’s trial of Logain and following interrogation of Moiraine, Liandrin, and Alanna.
The introduction of Siuan (Sophie Okonedo) is well handled, with a great transition from a panning shot to a high angle looking down, as the shot also incorporates CGI to show the grandness of the Hall of the Tower.
We then get a pretty intimidating first impression of Siuan, as Logain is brought in for his trial.
The False Dragon appears to be pointlessly trying to show strength by gloating about killing Kerene, however Siuan quickly deduces that he is trying to anger her so she will kill him.
Knowing this is what he wants because of the loss created by Logain’s gentling, the effects of which were explained by Thom in Episode Four, Siuan decides to give Logain the most fitting of punishments.
Logain will be forced to live so he can serve as an example to other False Dragons, and he is dragged off screaming out of the Hall, begging for death.
This done, Siuan turns to Moiraine, Liandrin and Alanna, berating them for violating tower law by gentling Logain without a trial.
In the end, Liandrin and Alanna are able to avoid trouble, however Moiraine is not becsause Liandrin turns the attention onto her.
Siuan demands to know where Moiraine has been all this time but she has to say nothing because, since she cannot lie, she would have to reveal she has been searching for the Dragon Reborn, which would create chaos and likely not end well for her.
So, she tells Siuan she cannot say, and the enraged Amyrlin berates her before delcaring she will decide her punishment tomorrow.
This allows Moiraine some time to track down the missing Emonds’ Fielders, the first two of which she tracks down is Rand and Mat by having Lan follow Nynaeve.
Rand leaps to Mat’s defence, afraid Moiraine will gentle him because he can channel, however it is as this point that it is revealed that the reason for Mat’s sickness is not channeling but the cursed dagger he stole from Shadar Logoth.
This was a great scene, providing more examples of the actors’ prowess.
Barney Harris’ “bless his heart, he tries,” was charmingly funny and Rosamund Pike’s “you stupid boy” was excellently delivered. 

The performances of Pike and Harris were fantastic during the dagger scene.

Moiraine saving Mat from the sickness of the cursed dagger makes Rand trust her more, whle Moiraine tells him that if Mat was ordinary then the dagger would have consumed him long ago, saying that if he touches it again he might be lost forever.
It is that this moment that Nynaeve comes in, ready to berate Moiraine, only to have this turned on her instead, as Moiraine condemns her for not informing her about the boys, especially since she knew of Mat’s condition.
Moiraine then takes it even further by stating, “if wisdom is the title you claim, I suggest you start using some.” 
What a fantastic line and an epic burn for Nynaeve.
Yet Moiraine still faces trouble, even when relaxing, as she meets one of the Blue Ajah Sitters, Maigan, who tells her that she will convince Siuan to allow Moiraine to stay at the tower.
Moiraine has no intention of staying, however, since it will be dangerous for whoever the Dragon Reborn turns out to be, especially if its Rand, Mat or Perrin.
Speaking of Perrin, though, Moiraine tracks him and Egwene down next, and Egwene gives her the rings taken by Valda, while Moiraine tells them to prepare to leave soon.
Then, we get the big twist of the episode, as Moiraine uses a Ter’angreal in the portrait seen in her room during the previous episode to transport herself to meet with Siuan.
The two are revealed to be lovers, just acting like they are at odds to avoid suspicion while they search for the Dragon Reborn.
I quite liked how this facade was slowly unveiled compared to the books where its just spoken of rather than shown.
Their romantic relationship is also something new since, in the books, they were described as once being “pillow friends” but that was the extent of it, really.

I like the change of Moiraine and Siuan’s relationship and I will get into why further in the book spoilers section.

After the reveal of their true relationship, Siuan reveals she has been dreaming about the Dark One at the Eye of the World, so Moiraine decides that Siuan must banish her so she can take whoever the Dragon turns out to be to stop him.
This plan has a slight hitch, however, because Liandrin’s own agents have uncovered the Emond’s Fielders Moiraine is hiding.
She is quick to deal with this problem, though, shutting Liandrin up by blackmailing her with the information that she is seeing a man in Northharbour.
With this done, Moiraine continues to initiate her plan, recruiting Loial’s aid, and reuniting Egwene with Nynaeve.
This also had a moment that cracked me up when Nynaeve is grumpily telling Lan as they walk into the room, “If you can’t lead the world from a room built of wood and dirt, how can you call yourself a leader?”
That is classic, stubborn Nynaeve right there.
The scene somehow only gets funnier with Moiraine’s “Siuan Saunche waits for only one woman and it’s not you,” comment, and Egwene looking prideful when Siuan says one of them is the most powerful chaneller in a thousand years, only for her to visibly deflate when Siuan says it’s Nynaeve.
I did not expect this episode to have some of the funniest moments of the series so far going in, so that was a pleasant surprise. 

“The Flame of Tar Valon” really had some great humor.

After these great jokes, the scene turns serious as Siuan informs Nynaeve and Egwene of the coming of the Last Battle, telling them the only thing that matters is what they do.
It is interesting how she only gives this conversation to Egwene and Nynaeve, potentially because she hopes the Dragon Reborn is one of them and not Rand, Mat or Perrin, since a male channeler would go insane eventually.
Once this is done, we get the most emotional scene of the episode, where Siuan is forced to banish Moiraine to protect their mission of helping the Dragon Reborn.
It is here that Moiraine repeats the exact same words to Siuan that her father did at the beginning of the episode, showing how much she loves her.
Probably the only thing that kept me from tearing up here was the funny idea of the other Aes Sedai overhearing this and realising the two have been in cahoots this whole time.
Although, I guess Moiraine whispered that part so it does make sense that no one was suspicious.
There is one part of this scene that I am not too sure of, though, but that is book spoilers so I will leave it for that section of the post.
Once Moiraine’s banishment is done, she, Lan, Loial, and the five Emond’s Fielders head for the Waygate, which Loial will use to guide them to the Eye of the World.
However, as they’re going through, Mat refuses to follow and the episode ends with him being left behind as the Waygate closes on everyone else.
If this seemed like a weird scene to you, it’s probably because Barney Harris actually left the show at this point, most likely for personal reasons, so he will not be in the rest of the series.
Donal Finn has been cast as Mat from Season Two onwards and I hope he can do just as great as job as Harris.
I would also like to praise Harris for his performance.
He was a fantastic Mat Cauthon and I am quite sad to see him go, since his performance was one of my favourites.
I hope that for whatever reasons he left the show he is able to get back on his feet and continue acting because he is quite talented.

Goodbye Barney Harris. You did an excellent job as Mat.

Overall, “The Flame of Tar Valon” is definitely one of the best episodes of The Wheel of Time so far.   
And the next one is even better. 



 

Book Spoilers:

So, let’s talk about the expansion of Moiraine and Siuan’s relationship, compared to the books.
The way I read the description of their relationship in the novels is that by being pillow friends they were in a friends with benefits agreement that stopped some time before the present story began.
In the show, however, they are going all the way with the romantic relationship and I actually quite like this change because it adds a new dynamic to both their characters.
It will also be interesting to see how this progresses, considering that Moiraine ends up with Thom in the books and Siuan ends up with Gareth Bryne.
Although, I don’t think I am alone in saying that Moiraine’s relationship with Thom came out of nowhere in the books, so I am glad she has a romantic relationship in the show that actually feels earned.
As for the thing I was unsure of during the banishment scene between Moiraine and Siuan, it was Siuan using the Oath Rod to make sure Moiraine stays banished until she calls her back.
I may be wrong about this, but making her swear on the Oath Rod would meet quite a lot of backlash in the Tower, considering how something similar happened with Elaida in the Gathering Storm, when she tried to add a new oath that everyone had to obey the Amyrlin.
So, wouldn’t Siuan ordering Moiraine away using the Oath Rod cause similar backlash from the Aahs?
Or maybe I am mistaking this and it is just the addition to the Three Oaths that they would take issue with.  
Moving on, the next member of the cast I want to talk about for the book spoilers section is Mat, specifically how he is described as having a darkness in him.
This is certainly a change from the books, considering that Siuan describes him as someone who would run into the fire for his friends and Mat proves this multiple times.
I hope this part of his character is intact when he comes back played by Donal Flinn in Season Two.
Now, I would like to talk about Liandrin again, specifically the scene where Moiraine blackmails her with her knowledge of the man she has in Northharbour.
What if this man is a Darkfriend contact of hers?
It could be Padan Fain, or someone else.
We’ll probably get a better idea of who this Darkfriend is, if he is one, next season.

I wonder how Liandrin’s connections to the Black Ajah will be revealed in the show?

About that next season, though, one specific hint gave me a feeling of dread for what is about to happen in that season.
When meeting with Moiraine, Maigan says she might be going to track ship disappearances in the west.
This is almost certainly hinting at the Seanchan, one of the best detestible people in The Wheel of Time story.
The thought of seeing them gives me both a feeling of excitement and dread for the pain and suffering they will inflict.
I would say that I quite liked a few of the changes to the books in this episode.
The only one I had a massive issue with was Mat staying behind but I’m forgiving of that because it’s understandable, considering Barney Harris had to leave.
I can definitely see why this might be Brandon Sanderson’s favourite episode of the season. 

Spy x Family Review: Heh.

Don’t you hate it when, as the top spy of your country, you are given the task of marrying and having a kid to get close to the target you are supposed to be spying on?
Well, this is the absurd problem the spy known as Twilight faces in Tatsuya Endo’s wickedly funny and wholesome manga Spy x Family. 
Taking on the identity of psychiatrist Loid Forger, Twilight, through a series of increasingly hilarious events, manages to procure a wife, Yor, and child, Anya.

The way the fake marriage between Twilight and Yor transpires is some great chaotic comedy.

Twilight’s mission is to enrol Anya at Eden Academy, the school where his target Donavon Desmond’s son, Damian, is enrolled.
There, Anya will attempt to befriend Damian so Twilight can get close to Desmond, all while he and Yor play at the perfect husband and wife and parents. 
There are just two issues, the first of which is that, unbeknownst to him, Yor is actually an accomplished assassin known as the Thorn Princess.
The second issue is that Anya is actually a telepath who escaped from the organization experimenting on her.
She is the only one in the entire family aware of her parents’ secret identities… and she thinks it’s amazing.
Que an ever increasing hilarious set of events where Twilight takes on spy missions, while trying to keep his family oblivious, Yor assasinates people, while also trying to keep her family oblivious. 
All of this is taking place while a fully aware of everything Anya does everything she can to make sure that her parents don’t find out the truth about the other, so she can keep her newfound family.

These scenarios only get funnier and funnier as the story goes on, with constant great gags, such as Anya’s signature “heh,” which was the image I saw that got me interested in readying Spy x Family in the first place.

Heh indeed Anya. Heh indeed.

As well as being hilarious, the manga is also quite wholesome.
Although Twilight and Yor both enter their fake relationship with the intent of using it for their own personal gain, Twilight to complete his mission and Yor to hide from suspicion of other people over her being single, they slowly begin to grow closer in their relationship.
They actually feel like a real couple, and real parents to Anya.
It got to the point where Yor actually screams at some criminals that she is Anya’s mother and I literally shouted, “damn right, you are!”
Some of the best moments in the manga are just of the family hanging out being wholesome.
It’s not just them, though, because even the side characters are pretty great, from Twilight’s friend Frankie, Damian, Twilight’s fellow spy Nightfall, Anya’s teacher Henderson, and Yor’s brother Yuri.
Some of these characters even provide the biggest laughs of the story so far.
All of this is brought togethor by some great illustrations by Endo, with his paneling doing quite a great job at bringing the humor across. 

A great example of Endo’s paneling creating a hilarious moment. When you understand the context of this it makes it quite hilarious.

Currently at 57 chapters, Spy x Family is a comedic and wholesome blast, one which will probably gain more fans when the anime adaptation by Studio Mappa and Cloverworks releases in 2022.
If you have not read Spy x Family already, then I highly recommend it.