Spoiler Review: The Premiere Episode of The Wheel of Time
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Spoiler Review: The Premiere Episode of The Wheel of Time Updates This Fantasy Epic For The Screen

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BY November 27, 2021

The first three episodes of The Wheel of Time are here at last, airing together on Amazon Prime to fully immerse viewers into the world. Check out my spoiler-free review of the season as a whole for my overall impressions. But now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty and explore what the premiere episode of The Wheel of Time delivered. How did it differ from the books? And how did it work as an introduction to the world?

Building the World from the First Moment

Wheel of Time Moiraine Photo by Jan Thijs via Amazon Studios

Our premiere episode for The Wheel of Time begins with a voiceover from Rosamund Pike – who plays Moiraine the Aes Sedai. We see her don her traveling garments, an indication that this is something of a flashback to the beginning of her quest. The focus on Moiraine as a main character has been a subject of some debate in the fandom. Although she is an incredibly important character, Moiraine is not a POV character in the books. However, this is change that I wholeheartedly endorse. By focusing on Moiraine’s journey to find the Dragon Reborn, we learn more about the Aes Sedai and the prophecies of the Dragon. Not to mention that Rosamund Pike is the biggest name on the show right now. And she is impeccable in the role.

The episode shifts from Moiraine to another Aes Sedai – Liandrin of the Red Ajah. She is hunting down a man who can channel, along with several of her sisters. It is unclear who this man is, but the important bit here is that he is already hearing voices and seeing people who are not there. This is a clear indication of the madness that takes men who can channel, due to the taint on the male half of the One Power.

Five Young People Whose Lives Will Change Forever

Wheel of Time Photos Image via Amazon Prime

Finally, we arrive in the Two Rivers, where we are introduced to the major players of the series. Rand is the first one we see, wandering down to the village from his isolated home in the mountains where he lives with his father. But Egwene is the next who gets focus, as we see her initiation into the Women’s Circle.

This scene with Egwene gaining her braid and getting pushed off a cliff is not in the book. However, this is a great addition that shows us the matriarchal nature of the world. It also lets us know that we are entering the lives of these young people at a turning point. This is Egwene’s rite of passage, and it also works wonderfully as a visual metaphor. In the books women are taught to channel the One Power picturing a river whose currents they must embrace. Only when they are calm and serene can they effectively channel in high-stress situations.

At the Winespring Inn, we see all of our main characters together. Mat has a run of bad luck with dice, and unsuccessfully tries to convince his friends to keep gambling. Blacksmith Perrin is concerned about rumors of war in the south – which is a nice bit of world-building and foreshadowing all in one line. But Rand only has eyes for Egwene as she enters to a round of applause, having successfully survived her trial. This is where Moiraine and Lan dramatically enter. They are confronted by Nynaeve – the village Wisdom. With one hand on her dagger, Nynaeve views these strangers with a suspicion bordering on hatred. She is fiercely protective of her people, and deeply distrustful of the Aes Sedai as an institution.

Establishing Relationships Early On

Wheel of Time Photos Photo by Jan Thijs via Amazon Studios

This is where the real changes start to pop up, one by one. Rand and Egwene finally get a moment alone and like any young couple, take the opportunity to have sex. This is different from the book, where the characters were younger and more innocent. But the show has aged all of the characters up by a few years, making their relationships more mature and developed. This change works very well for Rand and Egwene, establishing how deep their love is.

But changes are on the horizon, and these young lovers will have to make difficult decisions that will dramatically affect their relationship.This is demonstrated in the follow-up scene where Egwene reveals to Rand that she has the opportunity to apprentice under Nynaeve to become the next Wisdom. He is understandably upset by this idea, since he and Egwene had always planned to marry and have children. But as Moiraine tells them at the end of the episode – their lives are not going to be what they thought.

The Battle for the Two Rivers

Wheel of Time Lan Moirainie Photo by Jan Thijs via Amazon Studios

As the village celebrates Bel Tine, there is an attack by Shadowspawn. Trollocs pour into the square, and a dramatic battle ensues. There is an excellent moment where Nynaeve saves Egwene, and struggles to heal an old man even in the midst of battle. But in the end, poor Nynaeve is dragged off by a Trolloc as Egwene watches helplessly.

Mat discovers that his good-for-nothing parents have left his young sisters in danger. He throws himself into the fray – literally rolling off a Trolloc in his search for the girls. I loved this moment; it says so much about Mat’s recklessness but also how much he cares for the innocent. Elsewhere, Rand and his father Tam fight off a Trolloc who attacks their home. We see that Tam has some skill as a swordsman, and wields a heron-marked blade.

The tide turns when Moiraine shows up and uses the One Power to fight off the monsters. There is an impressive display of power as Moiraine uses all of the elements to beat back the forces of darkness. In a stunning moment, she literally pulls the stones from the Inn to demolish the Trollocs. And as the building collapses so does Moiraine, with her trusty Warder racing to shield her from the debris. It is a fast-paced and dramatic battle, the kind we wouldn’t see in other fantasy shows until later seasons. But The Wheel of Time jumps headfirst into the action, deftly balancing the fight scenes with world-building and moments of character exploration.

Changes Are Made from Book to Screen (For Better or Worse)

Wheel of Time Laila Image via Amazon Prime

The biggest change from book to screen in the Wheel of Time premiere episode comes with the revelation of Perrin’s wife. The introduction of Laila Aybara establishes her as a blacksmith alongside Perrin. There is some tension between the two of them that is not explained. But as the Trollocs attack, Perrin and Laila fight side by side. That is until Perrin enters full Berserker mode and loses himself to the battle fury. In a heartbreaking moment, Perrin turns to swing with all his might to slay another Trolloc. But instead he finds his axe buried in his wife’s stomach, and she dies in his arms.

It was a controversial decision to add Laila’s character – and then immediately kill her off. It is perhaps the biggest misstep that the series has made thus far. The trope of ‘fridging’ a woman in order to give a man some purpose is one of the worst in genre fiction. The fact that this is an addition made by the showrunners makes it even worse.

However, this moment does make sense given Perrin’s journey throughout the books. Much of Perrin’s struggle is highly internal –  a debate between creation and destruction. Whether to use the tool of the hammer, or the weapon of the axe. He also becomes extremely protective of women throughout the series. The death of his wife by his own hand is something that will heavily play into future storylines. So while I dislike this narrative choice, I understand the reasoning behind it.

The Turning of the Wheel Has Neither a Beginning nor End

Wheel of Time Ta'veren Image(s) via Amazon Studios

In the end, the Shadowspawn lie dead, and the Inn is destroyed. Rand drags his father into town, where Moiraine heals him of the Trolloc poison that is slowly killing him. However, her own wound will require another Aes Sedai to heal her. But Moiraine’s concerns are not for her own health, but the safety of the village.

As a new group of Trollocs approach from the mountains, the Aes Sedai reveals the truth. Moiraine is searching for the Dragon Reborn. And she is sure that it is one of these four young people. In order to keep their home safe, all of them must leave immediately. And so they all mount up, riding off into an unknown future.

The premiere episode of The Wheel of Time firmly establishes this fantasy world for newcomers and long-time fans. Despite some necessary exposition, the first episode makes the smart choice of focusing on the characters. The changes from book to screen may be controversial, but overall, this is an excellent adaptation that promises much more to come.

The Wheel of Time debuts new episodes Fridays on Amazon Prime Video. 

Stay tuned for our spoiler reviews of episodes 2-4 as we continue our Wheel of Time coverage. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and reviews.

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Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.

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