Wheel of Time Episode 4 analysis:
[pretty big spoilers for Episode 4 and previous episodes follow]
D&D Theme for this episode: OMG, DM, we understand you wrote all this backstory, we just don’t need to hear about it
Our heroes return to the job of walking eastward following cryptic strangers. We found out that even the mystic Siberian gypsies are just walking east. That’s what everybody does here. Just eastwalking.
Very little was accomplished. This series was billed as “an epic adventure that cannot be contained.” However, in this episode, we can sum it up as follows:
Net total things accomplished by the good guys this episode:
— One (1) barn cleaned
— One (1) wagon wheel fixed
— One (1) Trolloc disease cured [remarkably quickly and without comment, considering this had been a major plot point for 3 episodes]
Net total things accomplished by the bad guys this episode:
— One (1) rustic family killed
The rest of the episode was either wasted effort, swirly-power mongering, philosophical discussions, fighting people who aren’t actually important at all, random conversations that went nowhere, and walking east.
Places we spent time:
— A random farm, where everybody has a bow and knows how to use it. This is the Westlands version of Texas, I guess.
— A Siberian gypsy caravan. I thought I heard them referred to as Tinkers in the recap at the beginning, but then there was a lot of talk about the people of the Leaf, by which I do not think they mean they all drive Nissans when not in their caravan. They are referred to as Tuatha’an at some point, because what this show needs is more weird words with superfluous apostrophes.
— A LARP community, where everybody has their own mismatched period costume and hairstyle, and there are campfires with ale, lots of synchronized dance-like weapons training, a fully-equipped cell cave, and a place where you can pray to rocks. You get bonus points for spouting backstory lore that we’ve never heard before nor will likely ever hear again. If you have a confusing name we probably don’t need to keep track of, and a confusing place name for where you’re from, all the better. More apostrophe-bearing words are obviously worth bonus points.
— In the pre-credits flashback, we also spent time at a castle under siege. It was one of those sieges that looks kind of serious, but when you get down to it, there are really only four people in the entire walled citadel, and there’s plenty of time to just sit and talk by a well while the city burns. Note to bad guy: If you’re just going to convert the king to your side, do not burn the city first. That way, you get a king on your side and also a perfectly fine city.
Major plot focus:
— Much of our time was spent with a low-rent Tim Curry dude who called himself both “The Dragon Reborn” and also “Logain” (rhymes with Rogaine, of which he had no need). We saw this dude at the end of Episode 3 being carried around in a cage. Much of the screen time with him this episode was spent talking about how much power he had, and what ratio his power had to other power, even though all of the power in question seemed just to be making little white lines in the air. His power was assessed to be supposedly extremely high (~2 Aes Sedai Sister Units), but later on in the episode, he surprised them, and it rose to about 15 ASSU, but then was inexplicably reduced to maybe 4 ASSU, and then, when the Aes Sedai begain their United Colors of Benetton synchronized dance routine, it was reduced to zero. Also, unlike jet fuel, ASSU apparently can melt steel beams. Later in the episode, it is asserted that 6 ASSUs is more than enough to defeat an army, although when they test that hypothesis, it is not supported at a 95% confidence level.
— I was never clear why you need to keep a Dragon Reborn in a cage, AND ensorceled by Aes Sedai, AND defended by the LARP community, AND in a cave. The cave part was the least clear of all of these. They’re on a journey that is supposed to be over 100 miles to the east. Are they only going to stop at locations with cell caves? And, beyond that, do they ever actually move? I mean, they showed no urgency or sign of moving at all. Putting up and taking down the pavillions must take most of the day, so they probably only get about a quarter mile between takedown and setup.
Times when the show was a metaphor for itself:
— A terribly confusing bad dream sequence where a glowy-eyed Jeff-Bezos-ish character is holding everybody hostage
Things we learned:
— Magic power is mostly just smoke, meaning the 1940’s must have been a time of great sorcery. It is hardly ever used to any significant effect, although at least this time, they used it to stop arrows and rain them down on the attackers. Safety tip for fake-dragon-reborn followers – if somebody has suspended a bunch of your arrows in the sky, do not run under them. They also used it to blow up dirt near the attackers in little fountains, although this did not seem to harm anybody but the local soil fauna.
— Gleemen are seriously overrated. This guy’s one, single, master plan was to wait until dark and then sleep in a barn, and he couldn’t even accomplish that.
— You might be called a Wisdom, but you still don’t grok polyamory
— [Learned only because we had subtitles on] – The Old Tongue is composed of at least 30% apostrophes.
— “Nothing is more dangerous than a man who knows the past.” – This is obviously a gleeman who has not met many historians, very few of whom are, in my experience, say, homicidal ninjas.
— The Aes Sedai are apparently broken into colors, which are reflected in their dress and their attitude. This immediately brought to mind the Teletubbies. Dipsy Aes Sedai are some kind of warriors. Tinky Winky Aes Sedai are spies for justice, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Po Aes Sedai go around taking away people’s birthright magic without due process, kind of like Republicans do with the voting franchise. I don’t think we’ve met a Laa Laa Aes Sedai yet.
— Even though Logain was supposed to be massively powerful and could smoke-murder people and melt cages, his power (between 2-15 ASSU), which the Aes Sedai had great difficulty containing, was a tiny fraction of the power of a random village mystic’s apprentice. Everybody seemed to think this was normal except Tim Curry guy. In his case, it sapped him of all will to conquer, although he retains his great hair and intriguing accent.
— Circle-mouthed needle-tooth bad guys get frustrated every once in a while, leave their Trolloc hordes behind, and just go murder agrarian families. If the family has a little girl with a doll-slash-painful-over-the-top-symbol-of-loss to bludgeon the viewers with, all the better. It doesn’t help their cause at all to kill the farmers, especially when Chosen Ones are right nearby and available to be killed, so it must just be a feel-good, time-for-me kind of thing.
— If you pick up a cursed dagger in a cursed city, do not be surprised if you end up wandering around with haunted eyes and barfing up black goo that unbarfs itself when people approach. You were stupid. This is the price.
— We learned a lot about the Tuawhatever gypsy people. They are pacifists. There was a leaf metaphor that suggested that they think that their corpses will eventually produce living people, which is not how either human reproduction or fertilizer works. They are looking for a lost Song that will produce peace in the world, which may or may not be “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” They have a Rumspringa thing they do when they’re young, where they sometimes go kill people to see what it’s like. The center of their culture is a lot like Amway, Herbalife, or Tupperware, or other multi-level-marketing chain-letter scams. If you buy my pacifism package and then sell it to two of your friends, and they sell it to their friends, you can create a steady pacifism income for yourself! “Lose wars now! Ask me how!” They also clang pots together when it’s time to leave, which seems silly, because they could just pack the pots up ahead of time and tell everybody that it was time to leave, and then they wouldn’t have everybody walking along carrying pots the whole way.
— If smoke people are telling you to kill monarchs and mention that you’ve lived a thousand lives, it’s time to discontinue your medication and consult a physician.
— The word “army” must mean something different in this culture than it does in ours. Here, “army” seems to mean like ten guys. A “battle” is ten guys fighting ten other guys. “Tactics” are apparently running one at a time through a forest waving your weapons. How the Aes Sedai are such a fearsome force in the world when all they do is wander around with frustrated dude companions and make smoke swirlies and dirt fountains, I don’t know.
Ranking the four chosen ones (now five!) –
— Perrin didn’t do squat but fix a wagon, for which he received far too much praise. However, he wasn’t annoying, and watching him get mic-dropped by old lady who pointed out that his record with axes was kinda bad was fun.
— Egwene is apparently into drum-only raves, which for me is points off. Apparently “she would know” if Rand didn’t love her anymore, which doensn’t make any sense unless the Westlands have Facebook and Rand changed his relationship status from “it’s complicated” to “single.”
— Rand is still a douche, but he didn’t do anything bad this time other than continue to do manual labor and let his lazy-ass pals not do any work.
— Mat was my favorite early on, but he’s now deep in the bad-decision weeds and dropping fast.
— Nynaeve, the newcomer on the scene, spent a lot of time being surly, then one campfire and she’s all like, y’all cool now. Apparently all you needed to do to get her to like you (and raise you from the dead, later) is pray to a rock, make up some shit that ancient phrases mean, and pour out a cat bowl worth of water. But she at least used magic for something cool, and she’s not buying into this whole Aes Sedai thing yet.
— When a Dipsy Aes Sedai was smoke-murdered by low-rent Tim Curry, she fell to the ground. The subtitle for that event was “[THUD]”