MOIRAINE’S LINES IN THIS ONE.
But first the requisite spoiler text…
As a reminder, I’ve read all the books starting when I was eleven, so I value them from a nostalgia standpoint, but by no means do I hold them up as bastions of fantasy literature or even particularly fine offerings of 1990s genre fiction. They’re just…present, very much so, with 14 several thousand page books comprising the main story. So am I excited about the show? Yes! Do I count myself among the slavering hoards of neckbeards who want to skin alive anyone who dares shake up the gender dynamic (or anything else) in the canon version of the story? No! The canon version of the story leaves much to be desired.
FOR WHEEL OF TIME EPISODES 1-6 AND ALSO THE BOOKS
So most importantly: they remembered New Spring! They threw the idiotic Moiraine/Thom pairing conjured at the last minute in the books (to everyone’s bafflement) out the window, where it belongs! Moiraine/Siuan lives!
WHY this is important:
1.) Women over 40 getting boned. Hi, deal with it.
2.) They are extremely in demand and capable and busy (Moiraine is in almost every goddamn scene, cementing alliances, putting out fires, and generally managing EVERYTHING) saving the world, and this isn’t displayed as somehow negating one’s need for love and affection. Or muting it. Or making one bad at dispensing it. When they finally get their one moment alone they joke, they tease flirtatiously, they exhibit no stiltedness, nothing petty, no awkwardness after two years apart. That matters. That we don’t have to swallow cattiness or shallowness or jealousy or suspicion on their parts. (As media so loves to portray women.) That, despite all the very real weight of the world that bows them down, they still find time and energy to love each other. People in power are not always portrayed as being capable of that. Women, less so—since they are so rarely portrayed as occupying those positions of power. It absolutely matters that Moiraine and Siuan aren’t full of shit, when they are surrounded by intrigue and—increasingly—the threat of insurrection.
SPEAKING OF WHICH, look at how beautifully Moiraine both anticipates and deals with that threat, in her very public oath on the Oath Rod. What Siuan asks for is an oath to the Amyrlin Seat, at which my stomach plummeted. Oh god no, not Elaida. But Moiraine doesn’t! Instead she swears to Siuan herself, in whispers we hope/assume were too low for everyone to hear the tenderness and sorrow in them. This oath isn’t in the books; it’s a way to introduce the trappings of the Oath Rod long before Salidar draws it to our attention, and the scene is done so well.
Maybe newcomers to the series found it to move a bit too fast—what is this rod? how does it work? what are these politics? does it matter if you’re gay?—but while I recognize the financial necessity of drawing those people in, I don’t really care personally if they’re on board or at sea. This story should be all Moiraine all the time and, in this episode, it was. And it was so good.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Elaida is set aside in favor of Liandrin in this telling, since we skipped Caemlyn altogether so far (fine by me; the twins are exhausting and boring in equal measure) and she’s being set up so closely to Elaida, values-wise, that it would be difficult to tell them apart for newcomers, were Elaida placed on the Seat. Except for the whole Black Ajah thing, I suppose. It seemed important in the books to emphasize that not all Reds were servants of the Dark One, bigots though they may be. But I don’t know that we have…space? In the show for that? Liandrin would have to be exposed early as Moghedian’s girl for another red to grab the power she has amassed, and still that would confuse a lot of people. “Who is this? What happened to the other evil red? Is this one supposed to be less evil?”
OTHER AWESOME THINGS
This interview where Rosamund Pike absolutely owns the interviewer asking a boneheaded question about the Moiraine/Siuan relationship: “Have you read New Spring?”
“Oh, you stupid boy.” YES. Moiraine to Mat. Who 100% deserved that. Dragon Reborn my ass, you’re just a greedy kid who almost got yourself killed.
Moiraine’s blackmailing of that snake Liandrin. The satisfaction, I tell you! The shut down!
“If Wisdom is the name you have chosen, it’s time you start using some of it.” BAM. Take your pride and stuff it, Nynaeve! It almost got people killed. Not for the first time.
The White Tower. It looks SO much better than my childhood imaginings. Also just Tar Valon in general? (Though the pronunciation still tweaks me every time.) I don’t know if they used models like in LOTR or if it’s all CGI but it looks fantastic. My only qualms are a couple dawn shots that look at first like we are back in Shadar Logoth. But then, given the age of the city and the wonders practiced there, it makes more sense for it to resemble the past than not, I suppose. It does seem very much deliberately othered for a western audience. “WE ARE NOW IN ANOTHER LAND,” screams eastern-inspired architecture. Which makes me wonder if Caemlyn is going to be (as it was in the books) jolly Olde England. But again, not really keen to find out, since Elayne and Gawain are such pains in the ass. And don’t even get me started on Galad…
“I wish you’d take your meetings in an office like everyone else.” This from the leader of the Blues to Moiraine in the baths. And Moiraine says she’s been on the road forever and please don’t begrudge her this. I mean, yep. Valid.
Mat: bye, buddy. Maybe they’ll use his absence from the Ways as a way to hook in Min (whom we skipped en route to Tar Valon, although without Rand’s sheepherder good nature to entertain her why would she waste her time with surly Mat Cauthon?), bring Thom back in with the limp from the Myrdraal, or maybe just skip right to the Seanchan. Or have someone talk to Padan Fain again instead of just hearing his whistle (did you hear it in Shadar Logoth? And again before we saw him in Tar Valon? I caught it every time and always had to point it out to the people I know watching the show. Listen for it!)
The whole warder thing with Stepin—it’s a good way to showcase the bond and also to set Moiraine up for the transfer of the bond: her seeing firsthand a loss and what it does to the warder who survives. Also I guess if you still don’t like her or think her cold it’s good to see her crying—she does give a fuck about Lan even if they aren’t sleeping together. I feel like a lot of the old guard fans (see: angry neckbeards on Reddit) need to be reminded that one needn’t be fucking someone to respect them. Shocking, I know.
Also consider how well set up Moiraine and Siuan are to share another loss: that of their power. Siuan being stilled and then healed only to a fraction of her ability, and Moiraine being tapped out almost entirely by the people in the ter’angreal: they’ll be able to share that. If the show gets to last until Salidar, which. It better!
The looks that between Moiraine and Siuan in the interview with Nynaeve and Egwene. I LIVED for those. Even more than them actually embracing or anything, the shared knowledge and responsibility and “see who we have here”-ness of those looks carries such WEIGHT. So good. Those are the kind of looks you see pass between adults when you’re a kid and you know they’re in on something you’re not and it’ll take what feels like your whole life to get there.
So in short, the show is pretty great right now.