Top 10 Book-Inspired Moments on The Wheel of Time
Elements of Season 1 that Felt Most Like Reading the Books
This article contains full spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time book series and for Season 1 of the TV Show on Amazon Prime.
The question of what exactly makes a successful adaptation has been a point of debate before, during, and after Season 1 of the Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime. While most can agree that making changes to the source material is necessary (and in some cases, desirable), opinions diverge when it comes to specifics.
Look anywhere on social media and you will find passionate disagreement between “Amazon shills,” who seem open to most changes, and “bookcloaks,” who have a narrow definition of how much change is acceptable.
But the majority of fans fall somewhere in between: those who are nervous about some of the changes so far, maybe even disappointed, but cautiously optimistic and willing to withhold judgment until they see where the show is going.
This last group seems to take to heart Showrunner Rafe Judkins's decision to adapt the entire series, not just each book individually. They have faith that, while plot points will inevitably need to be cut, added, or changed, the show will ultimately stay true to “the spine and the heart” of the books.
Even with that in mind, it was still pleasantly surprising whenever a truly “Wheel of Time” moment happened in Season 1, and even more so when some of the most radical changes somehow felt true to the heart and spine of the books.
For this week’s Maidens’ List, we pinpointed moments that transcended any differences from the book series because they were just that evocative of the source material—moments that made us feel like we were actually reading The Wheel of Time. Here’s our Top 10:
10. Rand Seeing Dragonmount
“That mountain…I feel like I’ve seen it before.”
It wouldn't be The Wheel of Time without a little bit of dramatic irony and foreshadowing. Rand seeing Dragonmount as he and Mat approach Tar Valon brought about the kind of satisfaction you feel about all the foreshadowing you discover on your first re-read of the series.
Although book-Rand doesn’t visit Tar Valon in the flesh until his meeting with Egwene in Towers of Midnight, the show makes a change that provides an opportunity for young Rand to react to his first view of Dragonmount, effectively hinting at Rand’s pivotal visits to the landmark in this Age and in others.
During Rand’s “I’m the Dragon Reborn’” montage in Episode 7, the show seems to imply that Rand was recalling the mountain as the place of his birth, but a book reader can't help but play with the lore. One wonders if Rand is experiencing a visceral connection to Lews Therin’s creation of Dragonmount, or if he could be recalling a "Veins of Gold" epiphany on a mountaintop from a previous Third Age.
Though open to interpretation, this moment is packed with meaning. Josha Stradowski’s delivery of Rand's line, understated and innocent, is in beautiful juxtaposition to Dragonmount’s monumental importance throughout the series.
9. Loial Being Loial
“That is very odd. I like oddities."
A great many fans were disappointed with Loial’s appearance—they didn’t like his costume or his hair, he wasn’t tall enough, his ears weren’t tufted enough. But other than that, and the fact that we meet him in Tar Valon instead of Caemlyn, he’s essentially the Loial we know and love from the books. We still get to meet the Ogier in the library of Basel Gill’s Inn, and we are blessed with Hammed Animashaun’s perfect portrayal of Loial's voice and bumbling nerdiness.
His dialogue is spot on, too. We get an almost word-for-word adaptation of Loial’s first conversation with Rand in the books. Complaining about being mistaken for a Trolloc? Check. Insisting that Rand must be an Aielman? Check. Patronizing the hasty humans? Check.
But most of all, Loial is the same reliable source of comfort he is in the books. Taking it upon himself to bring Nynaeve to Mat and Rand is just the kind of wholesomeness we needed in an otherwise bleak Episode 5, as is the comic relief provided by everyone cutting him off in their hastiness. The only problem is his lack of screen time in Episodes 6-8.
8. Dana’s Darkfriend Speech
“He wants you to save us. Can’t you see that? The Wheel keeps turning and people keep hurting."
Dana is a completely made up character but somehow manages to encapsulate exactly what it means to be a Darkfriend in the Wheel of Time. Not only is she a mash-up of the many Darkfriends Rand and Mat meet on the Caemlyn Road in the books, she also makes a really good case for why someone would want to be one, possibly better than anyone in the books ever did.
Her sword-waving speech introduces us to Ishamael in all his nihilistic glory and provides a convincing reason someone would follow him in hopes of breaking the Wheel: the world is messed up and we’re stuck in a computer program with a questionable amount of agency, so why should we keep going in this Creator-forsaken hamster wheel? It’s bummer she wants the world to end, because it really seemed like she wanted to visit the Stone of Tear.
7. The Meaning of Braids
“When the dark surrounds you and you see no light, feel this braid, and know that we all stood before you. We all stand with you. “
Unless you count the Trolloc dragging Nynaeve by her hair, we never saw a classic Nynaeve braid “tug” in Season 1. But the show honored the braid's importance in the books, and then some.
Nynaeve’s epic braid of natural hair was flipped, clutched, caressed, and re-braided at various key moments. In Episode 4, it was undone by the strength of her Healing Power, a gorgeous metaphor for the surrender required to embrace the Source.
And while book readers already knew the braid was a symbol of Two Rivers’ womanhood, the show adds a deeper layer by including the braiding of the hair in the Women’s Circle ceremony, along with a recitation about connectedness with one’s community.
It will be interesting to see if and when Egwene chooses to unravel her braid, which is abandoned very quickly in the books. It seems like there is potential for an Elizabeth-style transformation scene, in which the loss of the braid symbolizes what she must sacrifice in order to fully assume her authority as Amyrlin.
6. The Birgitte Doll
“You can take Birgitte back for them. She protects me when everyone’s asleep.”
This 90 second scene from Episode 4 is bursting with the essence of the Wheel of Time. As little Helge Grinwell introduces us to her blonde-braided doll, book readers might imagine the actual Birgitte in tel’aran’rhiod, waiting to be spun back out into the pattern, protecting unsuspecting dreamers like Helge from harm.
Introducing Birgitte into a scene with Mat is also a perfect book-inspired choice, calling to mind Mat's connection to heroes from Ages past, and foreshadowing his friendship with the real Silverbow. It’s also likely that Mat’s (and doll-Birgitte’s) failure to save poor Helge could amplify his motivation to rescue the vulnerable in future acts of heroism. Speaking of which...
5. Mat on Winternight