Some Thoughts from Brandon on Episode Three
Hey, all! Sorry I haven’t been able to post here right when new episodes release. Having a book launch and the holidays kind of prevented me from digging in deep with the WoT launch. However, in order to make it up to you, I’ve pulled out my actual notes written about the scripts. I’ll let you see a few of the exact pieces of feedback I sent in. Knowing you all, and your fondness for quotes, I figure this will be interesting.
I’m going to try to get you responses to episodes three and four in the next few days. That said, I should note that there was a lot less work for me to do on these episodes than there was on the first two. These two episodes were already quite strong by the time they got to me, and I didn’t spot any major structural problems or character problems like I saw in episode the first two episodes.
Overall, you can categorize my general comments into a couple of genres. First, I am the voice on the team that is pushing for a little less grimness, and a little more hope, in the episodes. They are all turning out rather gory. Though I wouldn’t have chosen that, I’m not opposed to it in the context of the Wheel of Time–as my gut instinct says that Robert Jordan would have felt the violence appropriate. I personally didn’t want to see people being ripped apart by trollocs, but it’s suggested (sometimes explicit) in the text, so it’s not something I can complain about.
However–while I don’t mind a darker tone in general, particularly if it helps the series keep dramatic and emotionally charged–the Wheel of time is about hope. I think that there are times where this adaptation goes too far, mostly in character beats.
One of these was in the meeting the Tinkers. Here’s what I wrote to Rafe:
“Do we have to make the people following the Way of the Leaf into ominous dark figures in ragged clothing with terrible dogs? I really feel like this one is going to rub fans the wrong way–and make the series try so hard to be dark and ominous all the time that it starts to be too much. It feels like the story is trying really, really hard to say, “Look, we can be like Game of Thrones! Notice how like Game of Thrones we can be!” That’s not letting it be itself, or be the Wheel of Time–which has light sequences, and characters who are genuine friends, and strong worldbuilding.”
It feels like he made an effort to lighten the mood with the rest of the tinker scenes, and I thought they turned out great. So my only gripe remains in the ominous approach. It’s a small thing, but I think it’s something to watch for in this adaptation, as the story is walking a line between being authentic to the Wheel of Time and going for that darker tone.
The other example of this is Nynaeve trying to kill Lan. Here’s what I wrote: “Some great dialogue in here. However, to give you fan reactions, I think they’re going to hate Nynaeve actually trying to kill Lan here. This feels out of character for her in the books; she is a healer to her core. Sure, she’d kill a trolloc–but a man who is doing his best to explain himself? Even if she thinks he’s an enemy? Not a chance. I personally feel this introduces her on the wrong foot. If you have her do things like this, what is going to separate her from Egwene and Aviendha, both of whom would totally have stabbed in that moment? I understand wanting a grittier story, but I feel contrast between the characters is important for distinguishing them. And I feel this is not something book Nynaeve would do.”
Obviously, these are things that I disagree with that didn’t get changed. Yet, overall thought these episodes were excellent. And they turned out great on screen. I know it’s more the next episodie, but Logain is fantastic. I love all of the Aes Sedai and the warders; they worked even better on the screen than on the page.
Here are a few things I wrote about this episode that I liked: “Opening Scenes: Nynaeve being and the trolloc. Great scene here; my instincts say fans will love it. It plays to the strengths of the story you’re telling. Making her role here more dramatic with a trolloc is a good move. Nice visuals, and gives us a proper introduction to Nynaeve being a badass.”
Another one, with Lan and Nynaeve, I wrote a brief note. “What a great scene. Well written and fun.”
I really loved the Lan/Nynaeve stuff all through these episodes. I noted it a number of times, and made some suggestions on some things between them that I was pleased to see Rafe and his team take. It’s really working for me on screen, and really plays to the souls of both characters. Lan is just fantastic in this adaptation; his actor is nailing the part. Nynaeve is really great too. Just wish she hadn’t actually tried to stab him.
One thing I was so-so on was Thom stealing from Mat at the start of the episode. I wrote this:
“Fans are going to be very relieved to see Thom here. I was kind of confused as to what I’m supposed to read into the interaction with Thom and the beggar; like, are they working together on robbing Mat? Or did Thom spot him doing it, and force him to give up the pouch? Could you make this more clear?
And honestly, if we’re supposed to like Thom, why does he take all of Mat’s money, rather than just some of it? Seems like he’s just kind of an asshole. Not to sound like a broken record, but that’s the running theme of the show for me. Great dialogue, good visuals and adaptations, but everyone is unlikable and kind of an asshole. Can’t we at least like one character, like Thom? Mat is the only person in the show so far who has shown any really likable traits, and this scene just serves to make a fool out of him.”
That said, by the end, I really thought the entire sequence worked. I wrote:
“I like this scene burying the Aiel a lot. I find it hard to believe the body wasn’t robbed by those who killed him, but this scene gives me some much needed sympathy for both characters. I think this is my favorite scene in the episode. It does do a lot for my worries earlier. I don’t completely revoke them, but this scene does help. (As does the next scene with them.)”
I like it filmed even more, with the actor playing Thom really doing such an excellent job. Even if he doesn’t have proper long mustaches.
So, there are some things that mostly didn’t change. The things I suggested that did change mostly has to do with the Darkfriend found in the town Rand and Mat visit. In the draft of the episode I was given, her role was rather muddled. We had this sense that she was sent to hunt Mat and Rand, but that was confusing, as it also seemed she’d been in the town forever. I don’t have the exact quotes here, since most of this was done discussing with Rafe on a video call.
In general, I requested that she be a darkfriend who had Mat and Rand’s names faces burned into her mind, and that she decided to try to take them and turn them in. I suggested that we give her more motivation, more explanation. I was pleased to see that with just a few minor tweaks to the screenplay, Rafe and his team managed to do this very effectively. I thought she worked really well in the filmed episode.
Only other thing that I noted that I had an influence over was Mat mentioning getting back to his sisters, to explain some of his motivations. I found it odd that of the two, Rand and Mat, Mat would be the one wanting to go home. Doesn’t fit him as well as I’d like–but if this adaptation makes clear why (and Rafe ended up doing that) then it really explains his motives better.
Overall, these episodes just keep getting better and better. My hat is off to the team, because Episode Four was outright incredible. Again, I hope to be back to write some of my extended thoughts there, but I can’t 100% promise. I have to find time in my schedule. The Wheel weaves, after all, as the Wheel wills…