Tag: Reviews

Wheel of Time Episode 8 Analysis (much delayed)

[Note: pretty big spoilers for Episode 8 and previous episodes follow]

APOLOGIES: It’s been a huge gap between my review of Episode 7 and Episode 8 here, like seven months. That’s probably a commentary on how little I wanted to finish this thing. Anyway, here goes.

RELATED DISCLAIMER: I have to admit, I didn’t remember what was going on much, because I watched Episode 7 back in February. So, I’m sure part of the WTF I experienced was from that. Maybe 15%.

D&D THEME FOR THIS EPISODE: The DM has taken a new job and is moving out of town, so the campaign is ending, and the DM knows they have only one session to wrap up all these half-baked storylines they’ve been sort of but not really paying attention to over the previous 16 months. Also, they split the party last time, which obviously you should never do, but especially when you’re trying to come to a fun conclusion. There’s no way this will be satisfying, but the players will pretend it was.

OBLIGATORY UNNECESSARY FLASHBACK: The episode started with a flashback to 3000 years ago in some kind of Swedish-decorated apartment with a couple in kind of cool modern-styled evening wear arguing about gender roles and playing with their baby. Relevance was not shown. However, it is clear that fashion in Tar Valon will suffer greatly over the next three milennia. Fun terminology note: This was technically a dragon arguing with a chair, which evokes Clint Eastwood’s Republican Convention speech.


— Moiraine has decided Rand is the actual chosen one because (I think) a psychic barmaid told her so. Moiraine is not taking the other potentially useful and loyal super-powerful witches and werewolves with her because everybody who comes to the well who’s not the dragon dies*.

*Actually, nobody who comes to the well who’s not the Dragon dies, negating several episodes worth of buildup and decision-making. Nobody dies at the well at all other than my hopes for a more satisfying ending.

— Moiraine’s taken Rand into some weeds called The Blight. If I were the manifestation of evil incarnate, I would try to do something more impressive than grow weeds and entrap local youth. The weeds look a lot like the Bermuda grass in my lawn, which had the unintended effect of me imagining all the characters therein as very, very small.

— The other formerly-chosen-but-now-not-chosen ones are stuck in a city called Fal Dara, where they have basically nothing to do, until the city conveniently comes under attack by an enormous army of bad guys, an army which would maybe have been better deployed in the Bermuda grass killing Rand and Moiraine if the Dark Lord had his act together.

— The climactic event, the one that we’re supposed to have been building up to all season, is a massive, well-choreographed sword and magic fight that you want to watch again in slow motion so as not to miss any of the exciting details and cool moves. Ha, ha, no it wasn’t. Instead, they go into a hole in the weeds, have a domestic dream on a farm, and talk to a low-rent Al Pacino in a dinner jacket, at which point Rand makes some kind of negging choice sort of respecting women while not actually really doing so, and Al Pacino leaves disappointed. Moiraine had a chance to kill Rand, and instead of doing so, to the vast regret of this viewer, she did not.

— Rand then acknowledges that he now knows he will eventually go nuts and destroy the world, and instead of taking his own life to save humanity, he just peaces out through the weeds, asking Moiraine for help in ghosting all his friends.

— Through a tortured sequence of coincidences, deux ex machinae, overacting, under-explaining, and dumbassery, everything and everyone gets saved, except for a few designated tragic side characters (TSC’s), most of whom announce their impending deaths just before they happen. As an author who worries about plot, realism, and continuity, this was very hard to watch.


— Mat with one t was left way behind. Apparently the actor left the show after episode 6 and was written out of the rest of the first season, which explains his awkward departure scene where he just looks into the Waze and everybody else shouts “Noooooo!” He’ll be back, recast, in season 2. There goes an opportunity to jettison one of our dumb-as-paint self-involved whiners.

— Perrin has somehow converted to pacifism in the middle of a war, which is inconvenient. This may derive from his time with the bucolic cart people, even though I’m pretty sure he straight-up ate somebody in Episode 7 after his time with the cart Quakers. When the Fal Darans decide to remodel the throne room while a war is going on in order to recover a magic horn they can’t blow (not making that up), Perrin helps, because Loial the Ogier (who, like Moiraine, has far too many i’s in his name) tells him to ask how he can help. He does this in a particularly painful scene reminiscent of a Mister Rogers episode. When Perrin finally gets a chance to bury an axe in an evil dude who’s stealing the magic horn and taunting him about his childhood, which the evil Arsenio Hall guy inexplicably spent selling lanterns in his village, Perrin just grimaces and watches the guy go. Super unsatisfying. Somebody should have buried an axe in somebody, dammit.

— Egwene gets all weepy at being left behind and then accomplishes not much. Eventually, she serves as a backup D-cell battery to the princess of Fal Dara, Amalisa Jagad (named by Robert Jordan through yet another stomping of fingers on the typewriter and then filling in some vowels in the interstices).

— Nynaeve gets subjected to the most pathetic post-one-night-stand declaration of love I think I’ve seen in a show from Lan, who should know better to come on this strong after the first date. Wait a few days and text, dude. You’re going to scare her away like this. After this, she has to teach Lan to find the woman HE’S PSYCHICALLY BONDED WITH FOR LIFE, and then she becomes another backup D-cell.


When the princess exceeds her recommended amperage and starts to blow fuses, Nynaeve seems to do something unexplained to save Egwene from the resulting air fryer cook cycle. This is badass and in character for Nynaeve. As a result, Nynaeve is rendered extra-crispy in what is apparently the unexpected noble death of a major character. Yay! Shortly afterward, Egwene cries and strokes her cheek, returning Nynaeve to medium rare and to life, thereby removing any emotional impact or badassery previously established. This unexplained capability, despite being at least a level 8 spell and exhibiting powers beyond what Jesus reportedly controlled, does not elevate Egwene above a second-rate love-interest character, and it also founds no major new religions. No death should ever appear tragic in this show from now on, because Egwene has control of mortality’s undo button.


— The sa’angreal: Moiraine says a thousand male channelers gave all their energy to this one object, which means I guess it’s just the Aes Sedai version of TwitchTV. Why they would sacrifice all their power so that Rand can carry around a green tchotchke that he doesn’t appear to need, I don’t know. I suspect they all succumbed to some kind of email scam and had their channeling accounts drained through fraud.

— Geography: Moiraine says the Seven Towers of Malkier used to be a few miles from Fal Dara, which statement only makes sense if the Blight has somehow relocated the Seven Towers.

— The bad guy dream: Unless you’re really sure it’s a dream, maybe don’t stab yourself to get out of it. Talking to you, Rand.

— The other bad guy dream: If you’re ever tempted to end a season of a big-budget fantasy show with two guys talking about life choices on a farm, do not, and give up any career you perceive for yourself in entertainment.

— Trollocs: The estimation of trolloc horde sizes was just nuts. At one point, they say “there are 60 fades, which means there are 5,000 to 10,000 trollocs.” That implies a very specific and weirdly non-integer-divisible range of acceptable fade-to-trolloc ratios, which was very confusing. At another point, in the dark, the princess gazes at the big wall and says, it looks like there are 20,000 of them. When there are five of you, the difference between 10,000 and 20,000 trollocs is not very important, I’d think. Perhaps they have prepared the Gap by seeding it with glow-in-the-dark Trolloc-counting indicator markers for easy horde size estimation, but failing that, the numerical precision of these assertions (at night, from far away) was also hard to fathom.

— Chemistry: Moiraine mentions adrenaline, which has only been really known to modern science since about 1900. Apparently the organic biochemistry field in Tar Valon is seriously on point.

— Strategy: If you have five women who can destroy 20,000 trollocs and 60 (perhaps extending to 120) fades with lightning in under 18 seconds, maybe deploy them to the field BEFORE sending every male resident of your kingdom (except those emergency-remodeling the throne room) to their deaths.

— Overhyped danger: Moiraine tells Rand to “touch nothing” in the blight, making it sound as serious as when Mat picked up that obviously evil hissing dagger in the cursed city that one time. After impressing upon Rand the vital importance of this prohibition, she and Rand and Lan touch literally everything from there on out without consequence.


— Worst motivational speech ever: Agelmar Jagad. We’re all going to die, and then everybody we know is going to die, and then everybody else we don’t even know is going to die, so it doesn’t matter which armor I wear.

— Most pathetically obvious allegory ever: Naming dream-Egwene and Rand’s dream baby Joiya, so that when Rand rejects the opportunity to buy into the fake OnlyFans world of dream-Egwene, he has to literally give up Joy.

— Most rotoscoping in a final battle scene: Rand al’Thor, approximately 1800 degrees of rotation.

— Most obvious recreation of Merry and Pippin as a boring and unimportant side-duo: Egwene and Perrin (bonus for nearly matching one of the names).


— When everybody was saying “The Gap will not hold,” within me was birthed a burning desire to see the tragic and pointless sacrifice of the male population of Fal Dara occur not in a modified dam-fort but instead in a denim-filled clothing store. It would have been far more entertaining than watching them shoot crossbows out of poorly-designed arrow slits.

— “Shallow panting”
— “Distant screaming intensified”
— [Dialog] “Must be an awful feeling”

There you go. Will I watch Season 2? Probably. Will I enjoy it? Probably not.

Wheel of Time Review and Self-Indulgent Complaining – Episode 3

Wheel of Time Episode 3 analysis:

Note: pretty big spoilers for Episode 3 follow

D&D Theme for this episode: Don’t split the party. It’s confusing, hard to DM, and nobody gets a good story.

More ways that trollocs are a bad candidate for violent minions of the dark:

— When a fellow trolloc is wounded, they will drop everything, literally, including a perfectly edible unsullied human Wisdom, to eat a fellow trolloc’s entrails. I mean, having an army that encourages self-cannibalism is just a terrible liability.

— Trollocs apparently have terrible vision. We are given a shot of Trolloc-Cam™, which, given that we never see a deliberate first-person view from anybody else, is clearly an homage to the Doom movie starring the Rock. In this revealing insight into what it means to live as a trolloc, we learn that, unlike actual cows, who have a tremendously wide field of view, due to their role as, you know, prey, Trollocs apparently have hyperfocused forward-looking vision that gets dark and fuzzy around the edges. Hiring a faux-bovine murderous horde that can’t see their own elbows is just terrible Dark Lording, I tell you.

But maybe there’s just no other option:

— Apparently ravenous wolves aren’t a good backup evil horde, because just like Trollocs, they corner the Chosen Ones, and then, you know, just top moving and let them go. Unlike the trollocs, however, where there was always an excuse for the heavily-torched horde for stopping, in this case, the wolves were just like, nah, and nobody even tried to explain it.

Fun thing #2 – Times when the show was unintentionally a metaphor for itself:

— Metaphor #1: A sort of Czech Kenny Rogers gleeman gets up on stage in the bar, spends an inordinate amount of time preparing to play during extra-close camera shots, then gives a confusing and snarly performance that is like a verse and a half. Then he leaves, having played a set consisting of one song, and asks for money, which makes him just the laziest gig band ever. Here’s the metaphor part – his audience greets this overwrought performance with stunned silence and zero applause. Mining town dive bar patrons, you are me watching this show.

— Metaphor #2: Moiraine literally slept through the entire episode, not unlike some of its viewers

Speaking of this mining town:

— This is the kind of town where, when a stranger walks up, everyone gives them a five-second disgruntled stare. This happens a lot in fantasy movies, but I have only experienced it in real life when trying to order at a Taco Bell right before closing.

— This is apparently also the kind of town where half the people mine all day, and the other half day-drink and listen to melodramatic songs without applauding.

— The Chosen Douches are told, more or less verbatim, “If you steal, you will be run through our penal system, which consists of putting you in a cage, and afterward, shooting you with arrows.” (I know that is the sequence because the arrows stuck out of the bars). Just before this revelation, Czech Kenny has stolen money from Mat (AKA Douche #2), admits it to an audience of day drinkers, and is nonetheless not put in a cage and shot with arrows. Later on, Mat steals, twice, and he too is not cage-arrowed. That’s some bullshit.

— Also, putting somebody in a cage and then shooting them with arrows is redundant and a waste of both effort and arrows. Either penal solution will do nicely. Just pick one. And for the love of god, in a town with zero economy other than homicidal barmaiding or hard labor, take the valuable stuff off your ciminals either before or after cage-arrowing them.

— The Dark One’s plan apparently consists of hiring enough lovelorn barmaids with needlessly reinforced inn room doors, ensuring they receive intense A-level training in sword fighting, and then… leaving them as barmaids. Here’s a thought. If you have a massively lethal barmaid, just have her attack the Chosen Ones immediately, injure them, and tie them up. Do not go through an extended sequence of wood chopping, flirting, and drink service before doing this. Another idea: Use said massively lethal barmaids instead of Trollocs. At least it is likely that the barmaids can swim.

— Apparently, we are going to meet a race of violent gingers who are only violent when wearing black face bandanas and at no other times. Kind of a Westlands version of the Crips, but with a kerchief-related off switch. I would imagine this society gets very confusing whenever it gets dusty out.

Weird thing – The part with confusing physical geography:

— All of the Chosen Ones and their escorts leave the shattered city being slo-mo chased by creeping death mold.

— These escorts are the same ones who previously wanted only to find and escort the CO’s, and now are inexplicably quite content to have left them behind. Perhaps they know that whatever chases the CO’s will stop just before eviscerating them, because the water is deep, because my friend’s entrails look tasty, because I need a new torch, or just because.

— Physical geography observation: The way into the shattered city was a dense forest, like, with ferns and shit.

— Physical geography conundrum #1: One pair of Chosen Ones (the ones who thought riding a log to safety was a good idea) inexplicably emerges like an hour later onto a heavily weathered seacost-looking-place full of freeze-thaw weathered white boulders.

— Physical geography conundrum #2: Another pair of Chosen Ones (the ones who thought cliffdiving to safety in full heavy clothing was a good idea) end up like an hour later somehow in Siberia in autumn on a grassy plain, one that nonetheless has massive flint stones exposed at the surface.

— Physical geography conundrum #3: The escorts (the ones who just rode horses out of the city) end up like an hour later in a sort of forest/meadow biome.

— This last part is where we learn that bare-butt warrior guy feels all of Moiraine’s pain. This is asserted despite the fact that she’s been stabbed and poisoned by trollocs and is near death, and he’s just peachy and hasn’t even grimaced once. He leaves the Aes Sedai he is sworn to defend and maybe in love with LYING UNCONSCIOUS BY A TREE IN TROLLOC- AND WOLF-INFESTED WOODS while he goes and watches somebody pick flowers. Then the Wisdom tells him “this is going to hurt,” and it, like, totally doesn’t hurt. Not at all. And it’s over super quick. She’s like the opposite of the nurse who gives you shots, who says “just a quick little poke” and MOTHERF*$&ER that stuff hurts. Also, the Wisdom fled the trolloc horde, but apparently brought an entire home chemistry kit with her from her Fortress Of Solitude glowing geyser cave. Sure.

— In the Siberian autumn biome, where the wolves just give up, is a random band of benevolent jolly gypsies, who nonetheless surround their guests threateningly, demand answers to mysterious questions, and then tell them the answers. This is just obnoxious, and totally not how inquiry-based pedagogy works. And one of them totally looks like Sideshow Bob and I just couldn’t stop seeing that the whole time and thinking he had a tattoo that said DIE PERRIN, DIE.

As for ranking the Chosen ones, they all were kind of equally weaselly this time, which was disappointing. Mat, my main man from episodes #1 and #2, turned lazy and whiny, because I guess Rand is contagious or something. Rand wasn’t as bad, but I think that’s just because he couldn’t keep the Whine dial set at 11 the whole time. But his blue shirt was still totally annoying, as was his banter with the homicidal barmaid. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chosen One with less game than he had, and yet homicidal barmaid was throwing herself at him.

We’re off until the next episode drops. This episode was actually marginally better than the first two, although I had to laugh when the Chosen Ones who had left Two Rivers following a cryptic person to the east and then ditched her finished the episode following a different cryptic person to the east. They must just station eastward-facing cryptic people all over the area here, like some kind of Aes Sedai WPA program.

Wheel of Time Review and Self-Indulgent Complaining – Episodes 1 & 2

My take on Amazon’s The Wheel of Time after two episodes:

(mild spoilers below, but nearly nothing has happened in two hours, so there’s not much to spoil)

Some observations:

If you ever find yourself a bone-faced needle-toothed oval-mouthed scream-enthusiast mid-level manager for a Dark Lord, do not employ Trollocs. They might look fierce, be OK at taking down a small village, and be too stupid to request dental benefits, sure, but consider the following:

— Your torch budget will break the bank. Seriously. Nearly every one of these dudes seems to need their own torch, even when just running through the woods. What do they do with them when the fighting starts? Is this a union rule?

— Every time they seem poised to capture the Chosen Ones, some technicality stops them. They can’t cross deep water. They won’t enter the shattered city. Tuesday is team-building day. Are these war axes fair trade? For beast-men, these guys are remarkably ineffective.

— They take bellowing breaks with alarming frequency. This time could much better be spent killing Chosen Ones, or even running through the well-illuminated woods.

— They have no situational awareness. They nearly exclusively target hapless villagers, not Chosen Ones, even in a town that’s like half Chosen Ones and their enablers.

Speaking of shattered cities, here are some observations:

— The build-up for the evil that overtook the city kind of oversold the reality, which ended up being creeping death mold that conveniently waits long enough to attack to build dramatic tension and allow for more brooding. A little Lysol would save your Chosen Ones and also spruce up the place.

— When your horse is being consumed by death mold, maybe start running then. The death mold can apparently ony move as fast as you can, which is admittedly pretty good for mold, but not really a threat. If you leave early, you’ll avoid many potential dangers.

— Mysterious sword-wielding gratuitous-naked-butt warrior dude told you to stay together and not eat anything you didn’t bring (although this sounds more like a Noom weight-loss strategy than a shattered city thing). That means if you find a glowing hissing dagger in a chest next to a dead guy, you should probably leave it there. Even in non-shattered-city situations, this is good policy.

Along those lines, if you have a deep trolloc-poisoned wound in your leg, and you’re traveling with an Aes Sedai, you should ask her to suck out the black goo. That’s literally all she can do that’s effective, compared to disassembling taverns, drowning ferrymen, speaking in riddles, and providing cool light displays for any needed raves. Having a wolf lick your wound in the woods is absolutely counterindicated, not FDA approved, and the wrong kind of homeopathy, even.

Also, I’m not clear on why the scenery-chewing bigot cult (1) has so many adherents, since they seem to kinda suck, (2) wears white in the woods, because that’s just stupid, and (3) thinks that the only armor you need is left-arm armor.

The main event: Here’s my ranking of the four Chosen Ones, in order of how much I hope they are not the actual Chosen One, which is also the order of how much I want them to die.

4) Mat (D&D Class: Thief) – bonus points for being funny, sort of smart about the situation they’re in, and actually seeming human through effective acting. Points off for being a total moron in the shattered city (see above), and for being Mat with one T.

3) Perrin (D&D Class: Fighter) – bonus points for tragic story and moments of quiet sorrow, and for being generally cool. Points off for not getting that leg thing looked at, and for ill-advised lupine alternative medicine.

2) Egwene (D&D Class: Magic-User, maybe? Still level 0) – bonus points for choosing career over loser boyfriend and for being smart in most non-romantic areas. Major points off for not actually dumping loser boyfriend after all and still caring what he thinks. Seriously, girl, just no.

[Huge step up in weaseliness goes here]

1) Rand (D&D Class: Rules lawyer. Rolled up bard, bought equipment for ranger, but wants to play barbarian regardless and wants everybody to deal with it) – No bonus points. Eesh. So horrible. No idea what the director said. Maybe “Remember Hayden Christensen in the Prequels? Go for that energy. People loved that.” This guy’s day planner is completely full, but all the entries are Brooding, Sulking, Whining, and Pouting. Seriously, even this guy’s lips make me angry, and I will never again think a sheepskin coat might look cool in the right situation. They should all just agree that there were actually only three Chosen Ones and find a convenient sucking river whirlpool to throw him in. If he’s the Chosen One, give me the Dark Lord instead.

And finally, if you are one of the snowflakes-who-call-people-snowflakes who are upset about the diverse casting, then you can bite the big one. It’s a fantasy world. Anybody can be there, and anybody should. If you’re not one of those snowflake people, but having a fantasy show without all white guys still seems wrong somehow, then congratulations, you’re feeling the faintest echo of what fantasy fans of color have been experiencing for decades, without the generous helping of actual discrimination and disempowerment that usually comes with it.

Looking forward to six more episodes of walking through the woods being emo while pursued by half-assed beast men, all while failing to deal with important own-goal issues like untreated wounds, taking the obviously cursed dagger, pouting so hard you dream of eating bats, and failed zero-chemistry teen romance.

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