Wheel of Time: Season 2   Books Included 
October 7, 2023 4:54 AM - Season 2 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Covering the events of the The Wheel of Time book 2: The Great Hunt. There is an excellent series of show-only posts beginning here - go read those! This is the place for the book-readers (and book-curious) to discuss the adaptation choices and talk about how they fit into the larger picture drawn by the novels.

Note that this discussion will inevitably involve some spoilers for forthcoming events!
posted by restless_nomad (37 comments total)
Gonna get us going by saying I am so incredibly impressed by how smart these adaptation choices have been. I don't think they've all worked perfectly, but the showrunners are doing a stellar job at keeping the thematic and character priorities straight while moving the plot along at a pace that suggests they might conceivably get to the end someday.

My favorite changes, in no particular order:

- Barthanes! And honestly the whole "acknowledge Moiraine's family and backstory" arc. It gives her some depth and provides context for her character while also using Barthanes, a completely minor and forgettable Darkfriend, to set up a betrayal that actually lands. Plus it sets up Cairhien and the chaos-to-come in a way that gives the viewer something to grab on to, and is frankly much smarter and more believable than "Rand is ta'veren therefore Plot Happens To Him".

- Using Ishamael as an actual person in the physical world (in general) and giving him Padan Fain's role (in specific). They did such a good job making Ishamael, who is really a cackling bogeyman in the books, a personality and a history. Making him credible as a man who genuinely believes he is doing the right thing gives him so much more weight and presence. And setting up just how much he wants to not exist is going to land so, so hard when he inevitably gets resurrected. Man he's gonna be so mad.

- Everything they did with Mat. Man. So well-done, so smart, so effective.

- I genuinely did not believe they could pull off Egwene's captivity in a way I didn't hate, and man that worked so well. The actress who plays Renna - who I can find zero other acting credits for - knocked it out of the park. Exactly the right tone of true belief in the system, a junkie's desperation for her fix, and petty, cruel insecurity. And giving Egwene a moment of "no you know what? I actually would rather die than submit" is a beautiful character note.

- Everything they did with Lanfear, including and especially the way they were able to alter the Selene part, given that Rand is not a teenager, he's a sexually active adult who can just be in a not-super-wise-but-totally-understandable relationship with a hot woman who's also not over her ex. Aging up the core characters may be the best choice they made overall.

Things that worked less well:

- The interaction with Siuan. We just don't get enough of her perspective to make that look like anything but handing her the Idiot Ball. We should get a ton more with her next season and I think they can recover from it, and it gives some concrete weight to Moiraine's otherwise kinda confusing decision not to use the full power and authority of the White Tower (which is not confusing in the books because we get so much more time there to make it clear that it is a fucking nest of snakes) but it didn't land for me.

- Poor Perrin. I'm not mad about his plotline, they made good choices about what to give him to do in a book where he... kinda has nothing to do, and I'm betting his plotline will kick off next season rather than post-Tear, but it's really fucking hard to keep him engaging when he's basically just trundling along setting up dominoes that won't fall this season. But man are those dominoes (Dain Bornhald, Fain, the wolves, even Verin and Alanna) set up beautifully and I can't wait.

I'm sure I'll come up with more things but that should kick us off :P
posted by restless_nomad at 5:21 AM on October 7, 2023 [7 favorites]

I'm in general agreement that the additions and deletions and changes are smart.
I've got more to say later, but first just a question about the dagger: was it a poison light saber in the books at any time?
I don't remember that.
posted by Acari at 6:25 AM on October 7, 2023

It was absolutely deadly poisonous but the strapping-it-to-a-stick to make Mat's signature ashandarei is new.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:54 AM on October 7, 2023 [3 favorites]

But could it melt through metal?
posted by Acari at 9:43 AM on October 7, 2023

Honestly it mostly wasn't in the hands of a POV character - we didn't really get Mat's POV when he had it, and Fain used it to stab people but never had cause to cut through metal. It's an extrapolation for sure but not one I personally mind.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:02 AM on October 7, 2023

I don't mind, either. It was just something I thought I'd have remembered if it happened.
(sorry for the derail - just a big question mark in my mind last night)

I think the best thing (well, a good thing) was the changes to the Forsaken. In the books it was always just like... yeah. cackling boogeymen! Lanfear, Ishamael, Moghedien - all actual characters I'm actually interested in this time around. Excellent stuff.

Was I alone in pausing to say 'hi' to Birgitte? Hi! See you soon, I hope!
posted by Acari at 11:58 AM on October 7, 2023 [2 favorites]

Ah, I didn't even notice Birgitte in the shot! That's great!

I did very much like that they folded Uno in to the Heroes of the Horn lineup. I understood why they killed him off (I mean, you gotta get rid of some of these hundreds of characters somehow), but I was sorry we wouldn't be seeing more of him. This was a nice way to give a little back.

The casting is so, so good. Egwene was my favorite character in the books, and I feel like they are absolutely capturing her essence. It's nice to see so very many thorny women onscreen -- it feels like they're amplifying the things I liked about the books while stripping away some of the gender essentialist bullshit.

Fully agreed on how great the Forsaken are. The casting, writing, costuming, and direction are all working together to make them some of the most fascinating and relatable characters in the show.

Masema was given a little bit of extra screentime in the fights at the end; I suppose they're going to start getting into the Prophet of the Dragon stuff next season.
posted by ourobouros at 4:10 PM on October 7, 2023 [1 favorite]

Was I alone in pausing to say 'hi' to Birgitte? Hi! See you soon, I hope!

The second the horn sounded I was just, "WHERE IS BIRGITTE?!" I wasn't satisfied with the glimpse we got, tbh, but hopefully we'll get plenty more going forward.

It was absolutely deadly poisonous but the strapping-it-to-a-stick to make Mat's signature ashandarei is new.

In the book, Mat had to go play Foxes and Snakes (or whatever) to get his ashandarei, right? Does this mean he's not going that path? Or will they just not worry about him getting it in then and still give us them scars around the neck?
posted by Atreides at 6:41 AM on October 9, 2023 [1 favorite]

It's hard to imagine they won't include the mirror stuff with Matt, his "dice" are pretty important.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:45 AM on October 9, 2023 [2 favorites]

I think that we may or may not get the snakes and foxes - they've set up an alternate explanation for his memories *and* the ashandarei, and they referenced the scar on his neck (the glimpse of himself hanging after drinking Ishamael's tea.) I think it will really depend on what they decide to do with *Moiraine's* arc - they're substantially reworking her whole deal, and it may make more sense to just cut that whole line out. None of it is strictly necessary.

(Which is a pity, but not that much of one - they're going to have to start making some pretty brutal cuts to keep things moving going forward.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:28 AM on October 9, 2023 [3 favorites]

(It seems super unlikely that they're going to go with the frankly hamhanded Thom + Moiraine romance and that's really the only payoff to the Snakes and the Foxes that can't be set up faster, with less exposition, in other ways.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:38 AM on October 9, 2023 [3 favorites]

(Which is a pity, but not that much of one - they're going to have to start making some pretty brutal cuts to keep things moving going forward.)

That's something I'm pretty fascinated to see how they do, since we can't have an one book per season because we surely aren't getting 14 seasons. Even then, it seems like they're mixing/blending already. I would like to think we're going to get a much more succinct telling, which is a good thing over all for this format. Television shows that meander for too long tend to get stale.
posted by Atreides at 11:11 AM on October 9, 2023

Yeah, my wife was mostly OK with the first season, and was defending it to our very much a WoT fanboy son-in-law who re-reads big chunks of it on the regular, but this season she was regularly muttering "well I guess that's one way to move the story along" and "wait, that didn't happen in the books? or am I misremembering?" on the couch next to me.

As a non-reader (hi), it's interesting to see where they succeed and where they fail. Like obviously I'll never notice the stuff that was cut from the book, but there are times where it feels like they're trying to hew too closely to some story beat or another without the buildup it got in the books so the show gets a little weird and disjointed. Still, it's ... _mostly_ fun.
posted by Kyol at 12:13 PM on October 9, 2023 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't know where to begin to tighten this all up into a watchable show, and I'm not planning to start backseat driving unless the ride becomes too rough to enjoy.

There's a lot that happened in the books that I'd be happy to leave aside, lots of room for inventions to smooth things over, and some really fun characters to play with.

I've read all of the books and re-read most (some many times - I read them as they came out starting in grade... 5 maybe?). This show is already more vivid than my imagined version, and just about as confused geographically.
posted by Acari at 12:20 PM on October 9, 2023 [1 favorite]

Oh hey, it looks like season 3 is going to cover The Shadow Rising rather than go through The Dragon Reborn. Sensible.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:09 PM on October 9, 2023 [2 favorites]

I'm guessing some of Dragon Reborn is going to pop up. The Stone of Tear has got to fall (he said, as if everything in the books will and must happen) and Callandor plays a role in the final battle. I wonder if they won't have Rand go to the Aiel, then bring them back to take Tear (Gateway perhaps?!?). I always loved how it's "The Stone has never fallen!" and the Aiel are like, "Here, hold my spear, won't you?"
posted by Atreides at 2:10 PM on October 9, 2023

If we're being really creative, we could swap out Tear, structure-wise, with Sammael and the fall of Illian, which is something of a damp squib.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:14 PM on October 9, 2023 [2 favorites]

All I want is a training montage of Rand finally learning to really use a sword.

Okay, I have a lot of wants. This is one that comes up out of this particular season.
posted by Atreides at 2:22 PM on October 9, 2023

Moraine is absent of what 7 books? And Rosamund Pike is the only star in the show, that’s probably one reason to skip that plotline… but in another way, I cant imagine the humps you go through to rework the plot to account of Moraine being there, but they’re already making significant changes.

Also skipping this means you can skip the snakes & foxes, the doors terangreal, and the rescue with the tower of Ghenjei. It’s one of my favorite thing in the books but I guess that a lot to explain and they’re already finding new ways to give Matt his abilities and gear so I’ll be very confused if it happen.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 6:17 PM on October 9, 2023 [1 favorite]

So, I'm one hundred percent in love with the snakes and foxes, but I think it would be something that would be *particularly* difficult to adapt to television, and also its utility is much less in a non-book format, and one where we have already see the Seanchan. It would basically seem to non book readers like Adding Fairies Just Because and being kind of really weird just for the hell of being weird, and we wouldn't be wondering about the Daughter of the Nine Moons because we already know about the Empress of the Nine Moons. Also I agree that they're not going to take Rosamund Pike off the board that long.
posted by corb at 10:36 AM on October 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

Also about the dices.... they're a very internal thing, and it works in the books especially since they can drag it out and build anticipation, but I'm not sure it would work in the show, it would sound silly to have Matt say it, they can't show it, maybe a slower more contemplative show with lots of POV shots could have worked it in, but this thing will need to run at full speed to cover even a third of the events in the books... I'm also wondering if they'll give him the foxhead medallion, and how.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 11:29 AM on October 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

Also I agree that they're not going to take Rosamund Pike off the board that long.

TBH, I don't want Rosamund Pike off the board that long, either. Though then it raises questions about how Lan and Nynaeve end up together.
posted by Atreides at 12:38 PM on October 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

They've already established that Moiraine can and will pass his bond to someone else. She just gets to give her blessing this time
posted by restless_nomad at 4:25 PM on October 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

I've really been enjoying this season's episode reviews on Ars Technica. The two writers clearly remember WAY more of the details from the books than I do. Some interesting discussion about who/which members of the Foresaken we'll be seeing in the future in the final episode wrap-up.
posted by ssmith at 1:40 PM on October 11, 2023 [3 favorites]

I've been avoiding any Internet reading about this series because I've unfairly decided that there's probably a big overlap between wot fans and reddit bro gamer gate style jackasses.

I'll give this a try, but if there are any comments I simply won't start reading them. Thanks for the recommendation!
posted by Acari at 6:36 PM on October 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

These articles are great, and actually touched on something I've been wondering about myself - if they're going to be kind of combining Elaida and Liandrin. We seem to be really getting (outside of the Big Roles) only one major character per Ajah who remains in a lasting role, and especially with the future Tower schism I could well see that they wouldn't want to have this big varied cast.
posted by corb at 6:04 AM on October 12, 2023 [1 favorite]

I wonder about that too. If they combine Liandrin and Elaida they need to completely rework Nynaeve and Elaine's whole plotline - which they could! - but I actually hope they don't. Elaida is a pretty major character with a lot going on that really doesn't match what they've done with Liandrin.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:35 PM on October 12, 2023 [3 favorites]

(Not least, as I just recalled, that Elaida is not a Darkfriend. She is The Worst but not actually officially Evil.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:13 AM on October 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

This was my recollection. Doesn't she play the major role (Elaida) regarding putting someone in a box? Or am I thinking of someone else?
posted by Atreides at 9:23 AM on October 13, 2023

Yeah. She is one of the primary antagonists in general from the breaking of the tower until, like, book 12. Major political opponent to Rand and personal opponent to pretty much all the Aes Sedai characters. Liandrin is just the wrong person to take that role.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:58 AM on October 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

Yeah Elaida not being darkfriend is important I think. She's just stubborn and thinks she's smarter than she is. I hope they don't think it makes sense to combine them.
posted by Carillon at 8:47 PM on October 22, 2023 [2 favorites]

Could they be headed towards having Siuan taking Elaida's role?
posted by Acari at 7:39 AM on October 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

That would be bizarre. I think we just haven't met Elaida yet.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:10 AM on October 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

That was my thought too Acari, which would make me sad. I might prefer it to Siuan turning into a silly girl with a crush though, which is what happens in the books. (While New Spring indicates that Siuan and Moirane had a relationship, that just makes the fact that later they get assigned convenient hetero relationships more upsetting. The implication is that Accepteds and Novices might experiment with lesbianism as a phase.)
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:20 AM on October 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

Is it just me, or did the show completely skip any reasonable exposition or explanation about the Ajahs?

That’s gotta be baffling to non-book watchers, given that it’s a fairly important bit of worldbuilding.

It also feels like a bold choice for these to be 8-episode seasons. I wouldn’t mind giving this show a little more room to breathe.
posted by schmod at 2:06 PM on November 8, 2023 [4 favorites]

I honestly don't remember much discussion of what the different Ajahs represented. Maybe in the early episodes of Season 1 when the gang is off traveling away from the Two Rivers there was some reference? I also agree, even making it a 10 episode season would help.
posted by Atreides at 1:12 PM on November 9, 2023

Honestly I don't think we have needed more information about the Ajahs than we already have. The Reds are paranoid misandrists, the Greens are horny, the Browns spend a lot of time in libraries and the Yellows heal people. The White Ajah hasn't had any on-screen characters yet, the Gray almost doesn't in the whole series (there's... one? maybe? eventually? attached to Rand, iirc.) The Blues are the protagonists, that's what they do, that's what they are. Really, other than the Reds, the Browns, and the Yellows, none of the Ajahs' particular philosophies matter all that much, certainly not more than the personal inclinations of the specific characters in them. (And again iirc the Yellows are only relevant because Nynaeve joins them, because she heals people. I don't actually remember any really relevant characters in the Yellow, just some interesting bits about their information network.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:54 PM on November 9, 2023 [2 favorites]

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