The Wheel of Time, Episode Two, Shadow’s Waiting Review: Monsters of Men and the Shadow.

Episode Two of The Wheel of Time, “Shadow’s Waiting,” is, in my opinion, the best of the first three episodes released by Amazon Prime.
Directed again by Uta Briesewitz, it follows up the first episode much better, delivering a well-paced story that highlights many of the characters, both new and from the first episode, greatly.
These new characters who are greatly highlighted are the Whitecloaks, who we first see in the beginning scene, before the opening titles.
We are introduced to one of the Questioner Whitecloaks, Eamon Valda, whose actor, Abdul Salis, chews on the scenery, just like Valda chews on the cooked bird, which cuts up the inside of his mouth, all the while he monologues to the Yellow Ajah Aes Sedai he is burning at the stake.
“An Aes Sedai should know above all others that sometimes brutality is the only path to mercy.”
You can really see why the boy who brought him the dish was clearly terrified of him.

Salis is clearly enjoying playing the sadistic Valda.

Once this gruesome introduction to the Whitecloaks and Valda is done with, we get our first look at the show’s opening, and it is really good, showing how the weaves of the Wheel of Time create the pattern that shapes the world, with the Aes Sedai being woven as well.
From here, we go back to our main cast, with Moiraine and Lan leading Egwene, Rand, Mat and Perrin out of the Two Rivers, Trollocs in hot pursuit.
The Trolloc CGI still looks a little iffy at times but, for the most part, I like the way they are animated, with many Trollocs running on all fours.
It is only through crossing the river by paying a ferryman that they are able to temporarily escape from the army of the shadow.
Seeing the Trollocs advance towards the riverfront, hundreds in number, was a chilling sight, made even creepier by the arrival of the Mydraal as the Trollocs part for it, only for the creature to snarl as the main characters retreat.
The ferryman wants to go back for his son but Moiraine tells him she cannot allow it because that will give the Fade a way to get the Trollocs across to continue the pursuit.
Lan cuts the small ferry away, sending it adrift, and Moiraine creates a whirlpool to destroy it, only for the ferryman to jump after it and drown.
This shows just how ruthless Moiraine has decided she needs to be in this situation and really brings to mind Valda’s comment about brutality being the path to mercy.
Moiraine was brutal in creating the circumstances that killed the innocent ferryman, however, this was also merciful because it saved the five Emond’s Fielders and potentially the entire world because one of them is the Dragon Reborn destined to fight the Dark One.
Afterwards, we see the group resting now that they have put a distance between them and the Trolloc army.
Things are tense but that night Moiraine talks with Egwene, seeing the potential in her power and telling her about the Three Oaths of the Aes Sedai, making sure to note that the wording is important.
“One: To speak no word that is not true. Two: To make no weapon with which one person may kill another. Three: Never to use the One Power as a weapon, except in the last extreme defence of her life, or the life of her Warder, or another Aes Sedai.”
Using these oaths to show Egwene how serious she is, Moiraine offers her a place among the Aes Sedai and shows her how to channel.
No spoilers from the books, but I personally found this to be a perfect adaptation of Moiraine and Egwene’s interactions in Book One.
However, such an interesting and character building scene then turns into a literal nightmare when Rand dreams of coughing up a dead bat and then sees a mysterious man with eyes of fire

The ember-eyed man watches the Emond’s Fielders in their dreams.

Rand wakes up, only to find that this nightmare has influenced the real world, as dead bats now litter their campsite, with all three Emond’s Fielders having dreamed of the same thing.
Unfortunately, Rand thinks it is Moiraine who made them dream this and goes to confront her but Lan steps in the way and even the stoic Warder looks slightly afraid, showing how grim the situation is.
Rand continues to berate Moiraine as she commands that they leave, with some great acting from Josha Stradowski, and this creates a further rift between him and Egwene.
However, the tension is lifted slightly by Mat’s jokes: “The lady does shoot fireballs, so let’s try to stay on her goodside.”
Barney Harris is continuing to nail his performance as Mat.
Yet, as the group go to catch up with Moiraine and Lan, we see that Lan was hiding and watching them, proving Rand right that Moiraine would not willingly let them go with so much at risk.
And then who should show up but the Whitecloaks.
This scene is especially interesting when you consider Moiraine’s conversation with Egwene about her oath not to lie.
Watch this scene with that oath in mind and you will learn quite a few things about Moiraine in what is an excellent case of subtle exposition.
Things seem to be going well with this group of White Cloaks’ leader, Geofram Bornhald (Stuart Graham), until Valda walks up, intent on interrogating Moiraine.
As he’s searching her, likely looking for her ring that Lan is hiding, Lan admits to being from the Borderlands where he learned that men should keep their hands to themselves or risk losing them.
Valda then chuckles, probably remember how he cut off the poor Aes Sedai woman’s hands before he burned her alive.
However, Moiraine gets them out of this situation when Valda accidentally touches the injury she recieved in the battle during “Leavetaking,” diverting the Whitecloaks’ attention away from them to the Trollocs.
It is here we get an interesting piece of information about the Whitecloaks, as Bornhald suggests Moiraine finds an Aes Sedai to heal her, showing that not all of them are as fanatical as Valda.

This scene makes it clear that there are differences in the White Cloaks.

With the group being allowed to pass freely, Egwene confronts Moiraine about lying to the Whitecloaks but Moiraine points out that she did not lie, she just told a different version of the truth, showing that when you speak to an Aes Sedai you need to listen carefully.
Later, noticing Moiraine is looking worse, Mat seeks to lighten the mood, singing a song about someone named Manetheren, to which the others join in.
Moiraine then reveals that Manetheren was not a person but a place, and tells the story of how the city bravely fought in the Trolloc Wars for thirteen days before their army was entirely wiped out.
The king, Aemon, died and in anguish, Queen Eldrene used the One Power to destroy the Trolloc army but weilded so much that it killed her, with only the children and their keepers sent into the mountains surviving.
This tale was very harrowingly told by Rosamund Pike and a great adaptation from the books.
As the group once again stop to rest, Moiraine guesses that Lan is trying to guide them towards the cursed city of Shadar Lagoth to ward off the Trollocs.
However, Moiraine points out that this would be too dangerous.
As the group are gathering fire wood, Rand and Egwene start to reconnect, and Perrin goes off on his own, only to be confronted by a pack of wolves.
One would think this would spell disaster for Perrin, especially since he is wounded, but, no, the wolves only lick his wound and then leave.
Just like in Episode One, I have to commend the soundtrack of this show, with the OST “Golden Eyes,” which is played during this scene, being especially good.

I’m interested in how Perrin’s story will be adapted, especially because of the changes from the books.

The next scene shows the group hunkering down for the night, Moiraine’s condition continuing to worsen, only for Egwene to wake up, potentially from another nightmare about the man with eyes like embers, only to see the Fade and Trollocs have found them once more.
Left with no choice, Lan leads them all to Shadar Logoth, which the Trollocs refuse to enter.
Lan then explains the history of the city, the name of which means the titular “Shadow’s Waiting,” telling them of how it was one of the cities which promised Manetheren aid, only for the citizens to lock themselves behind their walls, yet they were supposedly consumed by the evil inside.
After Rand and Egwene observe the cursed city from a tall building, we get one of my favourite moments in the episode, as Mat sits next to Perrin and comforts him about Laila’s death, giving him a knife she made, probably thinking Mat could use it to help Perrin.
It is not just Barney Harris who is great in this scene, though, but Marcus Rutherford as well.
He brings a gentle nature to Perrin’s grief, which is really in character from the books.
Unfortunately, now Mat is without a knife, and it is at this moment when something leads him to a sketchy looking dagger, which he takes with him, disregarding Lan’s warning.

Mat, buddy, you’re a good character, but why, oh why did you stupidly take something when you were told not to?

It is then that they are attacked by the Mashadar, the evil which apparently consumed the city.
It kills one of their horses, and seperates the group.

Rand and Mat are stuck togethor, as are Egwene and Perrin, while Lan also gets an unconcious Moiraine out of the city, who has enough lucidity to wake up and tell him he has potentially killed them all by taking them to Shadar Logoth.
Thankfully, this story is just beginning so the characters all have plot armour.
That does not make the chase with the Mashadar any less engaging though, as the three seperate groups manage to escape Shadar Logoth, only for Lan to be taken unaware by Nynave, who says that if he doesn’t lead her to the others then she will slit his throat. 

Nynaeve is back!

This brings an end to the best of the three currently released episodes.
Does “Shadow’s Waiting” have the best moment of these episodes?
No, but it is the most consistantly good of the three, delivering both well adapted scenes from the book and interesting show original scenes, along with great performances from the cast.

Book Spoilers:
I don’t really have much to say, compared to the first review.
There were quite a few book changes but I actually enjoyed them for the most part.
Not saying that they were better than the book, as for some of these that still remains to be seen, but these changes were enjoyable to view playing out.
First of all, I quite liked how scarier the show Whitecloaks are compared to their book counterparts.
I could never take them quite seriously in the books because of how buffoonish they could be, but the show really raised their threat level, especially with Valda.
I like how he was introduced much earlier in the story as well.
Maybe he will be merged with other Whitecloak characters from the books so we can have a single antagonist in the Whitecloaks to focus on, rather than multiple?
Another big change from the books was the story of Manetheren coming during the main characters’ journey, rather than in the Two Rivers.
Moiraine tells the people of Emond’s Field their history before she leaves and the importance of this branches out into the other books. 

“Wheep for Manetheren” indeed.

It makes me wonder how the characters in Emond’s Field will learn of their history in the future.
Maybe Perrin will tell them about it when the show gets to adapting The Shadow Rising, another thing I cannot wait to see because Perrin’s story in that book is excellent.
Then there’s the changes to Shadar Logoth, with no Mordeth leading Mat to the dagger, which later becomes relevant to Padan Fain.
They’re probably going to switch this up for the show.
Finally, one detail I found funny as a book reader was when Mat talks of how Nynaeve would make Moiraine’s life a misery if she were here, which is funny because this is exactly what happens in the books since Nynaeve was not taken by the Trollocs there.
Cannot wait to see how the two women will interact in the future and how this will compare to the books.
Overall, “Shadow’s Waiting” is a really good episode that I thought made some good changes, or at the very least changes that can be shaped in different ways that will still make sense. 

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.