Wheel of Time - S1E4: The Dragon Reborn

Wheel of Time - S1E4: The Dragon Reborn

Episode 4, The Dragon Reborn is the first great episode of the series.

First there will be spoilers for the show, then there will be more spoilers for the show from the books. So, you know, don’t read this if you haven’t at least watched the first four episodes of the show.

Summary

Rand, Mat, and Thom stay at a farmhouse, only to be attacked by a murderous Fade. Rand and Mat run away. Thom the gleeman bravely stays to fight it. Will we ever see him again?

Perrin and Egwene travel with the Traveling People, who explain their pacifist philosophy.

Morraine, Lan, and Nynaeve camp with the Aes Sedai, who have captured Logain, the maybe-Real-or-maybe-False Dragon. Logain’s army of fanatical devotees attacks, trying to rescue him, and Logain almost escapes. But Nynaeve explodes with power, rescuing Lan and Morraine from certain death and giving the Aes Sedai sisters an opportunity to gentle Logain before he can do any more damage.

Reactions

This episode really encapsulated the Wheel of Time aesthetic. A lot of emotional scenes.

That prologue scene with Logain was fantastic. Hard to talk about without book spoilers, though. I like TV Logain. I imagine we won’t see him very much beyond this episode though.

I’m noticing a pattern with each episode: They begin with a miniature “prologue” in the same way that each book began with a tremendously long prologue, focusing on something else in the world that’s only tangentially related to the main plot.

Overall, I loved this episode. I hope they can maintain this level of quality for the rest of the series.

If they can just match the emotional tone of the books, that would be enough for me. The show needs good characters and good dialog and heart, it doesn’t really need good sets or special effects (luckily so, because they continue to be barely acceptable).

I could live without the dramatic hand gestures from the Aes Sedai. They look like synchronized swimmers.

Best Scene

I can’t decide. There were a lot.

The first scene with Logain was riveting: So much subtext going on there. We’re meant to think Logain is evil to the core, but then … he’s not.

I even liked a scene with Mat in it. When that little girl gave him her doll it was heart-breaking, and even more heart-breaking when that doll was left behind on the road. Those two brief moments had a lot of emotional kick in them.

The Warders and Nynaeve around the fire was great.

All the subtle back-and-forth between the Aes Sedai in the camp was great. They tackled some big issues there: Do they bring Logain to justice or do they just lynch him on the spot? Good arguments on all sides, a staple of Wheel of Time.

The big showdown at the end of the episode was also really good, with Nynaeve quite literally exploding onto the world stage there.

Lan telling Nynaeve what she’d been praying in the old tongue for so long. So much unsaid, but we knew exactly what it was anyway.

But I think the scene where Grandmother Traveler relates the story of her daughter to Perrin has to be the best scene of the episode. “I do what I can to forge a better world for her then, where she can enjoy the life she should have had with me.” Good stuff.

Best Line

Thom: “Nothing is more dangerous than a man who knows the past.”

Egwene: “Are you sure you haven’t already found it?”

I also chuckled when Red Ajah Liandrin mispronounced Nynaeve’s name, undoubtedly an inside joke about the hordes of readers (including me) who didn’t know how to pronounce “Nynaeve” for the longest time.

Characters

Morraine Sedai. Took a background role in this episode, which was fine, because there were a lot of other good guest actors stepping up around her.

Lan. Starting to have a personality. I think I like him more in the show so far than I ever did in the books.

Rand. Sadly, he was still in this episode a little bit. Did he have any lines? I don’t remember. I stop paying attention when he’s onscreen.

Mat. More of the same. His character is only bearable when they remind us of his far-away little sisters.

Perrin. Not much of a role in this one, except to chit-chat with the Traveling People about pacifism. He didn’t really act very much… just sort of delivered lines for Grandmother Traveler to tee off of.

Egwene. Also not much of a role in this one. Just hanging out with the Traveling People learning their ways, pining for Rand. I hope she gets over that soon. She’s way too good for him.

Nynaeve. Not much dialog from her in this episode but I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the next episode. Still doing well with the character.

Thom Merrilin. His tale about his nephew Owyn fit perfectly with the other events going on with Logain.

Liandrin Sedai. An appropriately scary Red Ajah representative. At first I thought she was going to be too far into the cartoon villian category but she’s getting better. We understand completely why she threw out the rules and regulations and gentled Logain on the spot (at least, I assume she did).

Green Sister Sedai. Whose name I don’t know or remember. Amazing. Sad to lose her. [Kerene, that was her name, according to Amazon X-Ray. I don’t recognize the name, but the other (surviving) green sister is named Alanna, which I do recognize from the books. (Although to be fair, almost any fantasy-sounding name could have been a character in Wheel of Time, there are thousands of them.]

Grandmother Traveler. Amazing. Wish I knew her name. Really sold the cost of pacifism. [Her name is Ila.]

Grandson Traveler. I like him. He probably has a name but I don’t remember it yet. Good at explaining the Traveling People culture. [His name is Aram.]

Speculation

At this point I think it’s pretty clear they’re not just following the timeline of the first book. Who can even guess where it’s going?

I really hope this Rand and Egwene star-crossed lovers thing goes away soon, but I have a feeling it’s going to stick around for a while.

Still sort of hoping Rand will stumble over his father’s sword and skewer himself.

I want to see more of Nynaeve talking with Liandrin Sedia. :)

Book Spoilers

Don’t read any further if you haven’t read the books.

I keep thinking in my head there were fifteen books, but there were actually fourteen. There was a prequel book somewhere, so maybe that’s why I keep thinking there are fifteen.

Where’s Elayne?? When they mentioned the possible fifth Dragon, I wondered if they were about to introduce Elayne.

At the end of episode three, I thought for sure they were heading to Caemlyn with Logain, which I think is where Elayne joined the motley crew.

Is it possible they’re … cutting Elayne out of the show?? There’s already too many characters and plotlines to keep up with, but I would have thought they’d cut Thom Merrilin before they cut Elayne. Elayne was at The Final Battle!

To be fair, though, it was difficult to tell Egwene and Elayne apart, personality-wise.

One thing I’d completely forgotten about the first book is how much doubt there was about who The Dragon was, which is reflected in the show so far. We the audience are meant to wonder if it’s Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Logain, or–now–Nynaeve, and that’s how the first book was constructed, too.

Is it possible they might change it for the show? They’re certainly hinting hard that it might be Egwene or Nynaeve, a major departure from the books, but maybe it’s just a head fake to keep us guessing.

I don’t remember much of anything from the first book that went so far in-depth on Logain. I only remember him as background noise, talked about but rarely seen, who only became a major character later in the books after his gentling, which I thought was done at the White Tower, not in some cave on the road.

My only memory of First Book Logain is that he was held prisoner and “tried” at Caemlyn. I seem to recall that readers, and Rand, first laid eyes on him there.

I don’t remember exactly what happened to him after that, but I suppose it would make sense that the Aes Sedai carted him back to the White Tower from Caemlyn, where the characters were going anyway. Maybe that’s where the events of this episode 4 took place? But skimming through the chapter titles and Leigh Butler’s Re-Read, I don’t see it anywhere in the first book.

I do remember the “shielding” that the Aes Sedai did to hold the men in check, but again, I don’t remember that being in the first book much at all. It was common in later books, though.

So here’s the facts: Rand first heard Logain was captured by Aes Sedai in Whitebridge. He heard they were taking him back to Tar Valon (the White Tower). Chapter 26.

Rand saw Logain for the first time in a cage surrounded by Aes Sedai in the streets of Caemlyn, shortly before meeting Elayne. Chapter 39.

A brief perusal of a Wheel of Time wiki suggests this whole scene with Logain escaping may have been made up out of thin air, or happened to a different character in the books. Still cool, though. I don’t mind the change here at all.

P.S. Don’t read Wheel of Time wikis. They are super duper nerdy.

I definitely don’t remember Nynaeve healing Lan and everyone else back from the brink of death in a burst of energy, but it’s possible something like that happened somewhere over the course of the books. The more I think about it, the more it sounds like something that might have happened. I think Nynaeve’s channeling was more wild and unpredictable than any of the others' for quite some time.

Indeed, Nynaeve was called a “wilder,” according to the wikis.

I’d forgotten it was the Green Ajah that were the Warriors. I thought it was the Red. The Red, though, are apparently the Inquisitors, the male channeler chasers. I think we’ve also seen Yellow Ajah on the show (briefly, burning at a stake) but I don’t remember their specialty.

I think there was a scene in the books where Thom battled a Fade when the chapter ended, and we were left wondering if he survived or not (actually, I remember thinking he was dead for sure). I seem to remember that happened on a bridge outside of a city, though. Whitebridge?

It was indeed Whitebridge where Thom charged a Fade to give Rand and Mat time to escape. Chapter 26, after their boat ride down the river with “do be” Bayle Doman. (That was also the chapter we learned Mat had taken a dagger from Shadar Logoth.)

In the books, I feel like it was a very surprising moment for Thom’s character because we’d never seen him as anything but a gleeman before, and never knew he could, you know, fight things. The show is making it quite obvious he’s a competent fighter.

I’m still trying not to read ahead of where the show is, but since the show is all over the place, it’s somewhat difficult to figure out where they are in the timeline of the books. There’s a bunch of stuff about Perrin and wolves and Whitecloaks that I read already that they haven’t gotten to yet. I should probably stop. Always watch the show or movie before reading the book. Always, always, always.

But they appear to have thrown out the rule books and done whatever they want, which is probably for the best. It’s far more important for commercial success to try to gain a new audience of television viewers than to try to please the much smaller audience of book purists. Book purists are the worst. :)

Other Notes

In my re-listen to the first audiobook, I’ve only gotten up around Chapter 30, somewhat beyond Whitebridge. I think the show is already beyond there (there are 53 chapters in the first book). I think they might even be pulling in things from beyond the first book. There’s no way I’ll be able to keep up.

In the early chapters I’ve re-read, though, these things have already occurred at least once: Nynaeve has tugged her braid and sniffed, Thom has blown out his mustaches and knuckled his back, and Rand has scrubbed his hair. Egwene might have sniffed too. I don’t remember her having a signature emote, though.

Just for reference, the road trip in the books went from Emond’s Field to Taren’s Ferry to Baerlon (cut from the show completely) to Shadar Logoth. Then some of them went through Whitebridge and they regrouped in Caemlyn before moving on to The Ways (which I had completely forgotten about until perusing the chapter titles).

Min was in the first book! I’d forgotten that. That was at The Stag and Lion in Baerlon. Nowhere to be seen in the show so far.

Bayle Doman do be in the first book, too, rescuing Rand, Mat, and Thom from Trollocs after they left Shadar Logoth. Not in the show so far. One thing about Robert Jordan: When he comes up with a signature gesture or speech pattern for his characters, he sticks with it to the bitter end.

It’s an interesting choice to leave so much of the Traveling People in the show, while cutting so much out of Rand, Mat, and Thom’s road trip. I mean, I’m always happy to cut Rand and Mat out of the story whenever possible, but I feel like they had more action-oriented adventures.

In re-reading some of the first chapters of Eye of the World, I was reminded of just how colossally stupid Rand and Mat were at the start of the story, and how they constantly made poor decisions. It’s no wonder I never liked them in the books (I was well into my 40s when I first read Eye of the World, so the juvenile antics of a couple 16-year-olds didn’t play very well with me). The girls in the first book were far more level-headed.

Of course it was all by design, to illustrate how far the characters matured over the course of the series. But still. Very annoying.

Something else I’ve noticed from re-reading the first book: So much happened in the first book that it scarcely seems credible. So little plot advancement happened in some of the later books that the events of the first book seem like they go by at a breakneck pace you can hardly keep up with.

Aram was a whole lot more predatory toward Egwene in the books. Probably a wise decision to change that for a 2021 television audience.

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