Breaking Down The Wheel of MassNews‘s Season Finale
Warning! Spoilers for Amazon Prime Video are ahead The Wheel of Time
This mostly miserable year is over. More and more crappy closeThis is one of those rare top points Omicron TimesI was able to see the final of the First season The Wheel of Time. Long-time admirer of the Book seriesI felt so happy: seeing The Wheel of TimeRealized onscreen, this is something we have all hoped for since ages and never thought could ever come true. It is amazing and thrilling to see this happen.
It was gorgeous, in the main! It was beautiful, with a cast that is as talented and a set design to match. However, the White Tower seemed a little too small-scale for my taste. Otherwise, lovely), and the effects were about a thousand times better than my growing-up-in-the-80s-and-90s self could have hoped for. Overall, I found a lot of things to love. The Wheel of Time adaptation —especially the pointed acknowledgement that not everyone in the world, even a fantasy world, is white, male and/or straight.
There is a lot to dislike. As with many film and TV productions. The Wheel of Time was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes it difficult to determine which of the show’s flaws stem from that, or from within the show itself. Either way, it’s impossible to discuss the series’ issues without acknowledging the elephant in the room: the departure of Barney Harris, who played Mat Cauthon, and how that might have affected subsequent story decisions.
Here’s what worked in The Wheel of Time, what didn’t quite land and what we might expect in season 2.
The Wheel of Time‘s Mat Cauthon problem
Barney Harris was there to film the principal photography for the six first episodes. The production was stopped in March 2020 after COVID-19. In late 2020, the show was briefly resumed for its final two episodes before it was shut down once again. The show wrapped up production in May 2021. From the way episode 6 “The Flame of Tar Valon” ended, with the rest of the characters proceeding into the Ways while Mat stays behind, and his complete absence from episode 7 and 8 (except for one very brief shot which looks like it could have been cobbled together from earlier footage), it seems clear that Harris did not return to the production after the first shutdown.
The cast and crew have been impressively tight-lipped about the reasons for Harris’ departure, and naturally, as a result, speculation has run rampant among WOT fans both new and old as to why exactly he left. I believe that any information so carefully guarded has to be placed in the domain of Not Our Business. I therefore will not speculate. However, I do want to point out that there is no central figure for the final climactic. Episodes of the original season were a major blow to writers who had to work hard at making their story work.
As a result it is almost impossible to discern which departures from the original source material in the episodes are deliberate and which ones were caused by lack of Mat. Therefore I’m hesitant to criticize even the ones I feel were potentially catastrophic in their ripple effects on later plotlines, because it may be that the show had no choice in the matter. Not to mention the fact that all the possible ways the show may have altered canon material so far would require an entire essay.
Look, you cannot promise a big climactic battle… and then not give me one
Yes, the bit with Nynaeve and Egwene and the other three channelers basically blowing up an entire army of Trollocs was very impressive—but it was also a letdown. I was hoping to see an. battle. I’m not demanding something on the order of the Battle of Helm’s Deep from Two TowersNot necessarily, which is probably one of the greatest battle scenes ever recorded), but it’s something. Little More than just the Fal Darans firing some arrows from a wall would be nice. The feeling was that I had a lot of build-up and very little payoff.
Don’t do death scenes if you can’t follow through
I also think that Nynaeve’s “death” scene was anticlimactic, mainly because there was no way her character was getting killed off so unceremoniously (more proof that this is definitely not Game of Thrones), so there was no real tension there, and also because it didn’t really make a lot of sense how she came back. It wasn’t even clear whether Egwene healed her or she healed herself, but either way it makes me worry about how the show is going to muddle the source material’s rules about how “burning out” or “stilling” (which is the term in the books for taking away a woman’s ability to channel; doing the same thing to a man is called “gentling”) works—which is hugely important to several key plotlines down the road.
It also applies to Moiraine’s death at the Eye when the Dark One cut her off of the One Power. (I don’t think that “alleged” even counts as a book spoiler, since it was apparent from what Moiraine said to Lan at the end of the episode, and the mere fact that the show has a second season, that Rand obviously did not kill the Dark One, no matter what he thinks.) It is unclear whether Alleged Dark One Guy has just shielded her from the Power (meaning she would be fine if she can break the shield), or if he has actually stilled her—i.e. deprived her of the ability to channel. If he actually stilled her, that is a huge departure from the books and I have no idea where they’re going with that.
Rand al’Thor may be an issue
Rand al’Thor himself, and the way he’s been deployed this season, is something of a conundrum. On the one hand, I can appreciate what the show was trying to do, in misdirecting fans to believe the Dragon Reborn was one of the other Two Riversians – and from what I’ve seen of reactions online, it was a very effective misdirect, so well done there. However, the perhaps unintended side effect is that Rand came across as the blandest character of the bunch, up until the arguably somewhat backhanded reveal that he is The One in episode 7, and it was an impression that was hard to recover from, even as a book fan who knows what’s coming for the character. The weirdly slow and clunky pace of his confrontation with Unknown Bearded Guy who may or may not be the Dark One (but isn’t) at the Eye of the World did not help. Josha Stradowski hasn’t proved that he is capable of carrying the weight of an acting gig, despite being a perfect physical embodiment of the character. He will hopefully shine when he has some material to work with.
Bad flashbacks can lead to serious health problems
Other major complaint, which I am sure book-lovers will have to complain about, was the flashback to Lews Telamon. I am not complaining that we were deprived of what came after Telamon’s conversation with Latra Posae (because there’s a strong likelihood we will see that later), but because the scene itself was stilted, talky (talky in subtitles, no less!It was so obvious and expositional, it was almost embarrassing. While I can understand that the information must be shared, there is surely a better way.
There are many good things about The Wheel of Time
This is not to say there weren’t some good things about the season finale, though. Daniel Henney’s performance as Lan has been impeccable throughout the season, and his speech to Nynaeve in the finale (which was a near direct quote from the books) brought me to actual tears. He’s definitely the most talented casting choice on the show.
Rosamund Pike, another performer as Moiraine has carried this entire series. Her oath-slash-declaration-of devotion to Siuan Sanche in epsiode 6 was genuinely moving, and one of the departures from the books I sincerely loved. Well done.
And I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: the overall aesthetic of the show is fantastic. The show is visually stunning and, if the writers can improve their writing, it could be truly extraordinary.
What’s ahead for the next season, then?
Honestly? What do you think? Although the deviations from the original plot might seem small, I believe they have ripple effects that will reach far beyond their origins. I don’t know if the show will just ride them or whether it will take back the story from any unintended consequences.
This is the second volume in the series. The Great HuntThis refers to the Hunt for the Horn of Valere which was taken by Padan Fain, Darkfriend peddler, at the conclusion of episode 8. That’s something that actually happens in the books as well (though not at all in the way it happened on the show), so perhaps that points toward an effort to stay more or less on track with the events in the second book. We will see.
We also Should see, because even with all my criticisms of the first season and especially the finale, I am still happy that it exists, and happy that I get to watch it, and hopeful that it will get better once we don’t have to deal with pandemic-related shutdowns and disappearing actors. The end is not the beginning. Wheel of Time, but this pYou can find more information atndemic better have an ending—even if “there’s important TV to create!” is far from the most critical reason we need it to go away, it’s definitely a reason.