The Wheel Turns: Breakdown
Updated: Jan 17, 2022
If you haven't read or skimmed the screenplay for Episode 1, I'd highly recommend that you do so now. But even if you haven't, this breakdown should still give you a sense of the key points and changes. I will warn that this contains spoilers for the show's season 1, and parts of the books, so proceed with caution.
I felt that the show's pilot made key mistakes in its darker tone, and absence of strong character moments.
I made the following changes to keep things lighter - in anticipation of the darker turns of the story - and to ground us more in the characters who will be driving this story for many seasons to come.
What Did I Keep?
I really liked some of the things that the show did in its pilot so I decided to incorporate and expand on them here.
First, I really loved the visuals of the river scene during Egwene's induction to the women's circle. So I kept that basic setup, while changing the dialogue of that scene to ground us more in the river imagery, as well as the central theme of what it means to be strong.
Second, I think the show's adding Egwene to the roster of potential Dragons Reborn worked well in improving Egwene's motivations for leaving the village, so I kept it in. See this post for a full defense of that decision.
I do think this was a missed opportunity in the show to explain some things about how the Pattern and reincarnation works, so I made sure to do that in my version. I don't plan to hold onto the reveal that she is not the Dragon Reborn for as long as they did, but I think a little bit of mystery could add to the fun for non-readers. If Moiraine is regularly identifying members of the party as "not the Dragon Reborn" throughout their travels, I think that actually gives the mystery more momentum and weight.
Third, I have a similar setup to the show in putting Perrin at the forge before the battle starts. I think jumpstarting his arc with a little violence was a good choice, but their execution of it was flawed. As Brandon Sanderson has mentioned, he disagreed with the show's choice to have Perrin accidentally kill his wife. I feel similarly. Not only is it a fridging trope, but it raises the intensity of his character arc too high too quickly. So my plan is, as Sanderson suggested, to have this scene happen with Master Luhhan, the blacksmith and his mentor, instead. I haven't decided if he'll kill Luhhan or just lose control yet. I also like having this scene with Luhhan because he's one of the few characters that Perrin is willing to open up to about his insecurities at this point in the story. So much of his character happens in his head that he really does need someone to confide in early on to ground the audience in his character.
What Did I Change?
Read on for an in depth breakdown of the elements that I changed in my version of the story!
Although I enjoyed writing it in my first draft, I eventually chose to omit the scene in the books that depicts the final clash between Lews Therin Telamon, the Dragon, and the Forsaken Ishamael.
It's a powerful moment, and does nicely set stakes and do some world-building. But ultimately, it's too much for a non-reader to really sink their teeth into at this point, and I think too long for a screen cold open. I'd love to go back in a later season and show flashes of The Age of Legends. There's so much that I'd love to see brought to life there.
I feel that the show leaned too heavily on the One Power and the capture of a man who can channel for their opening. It's intense and exciting, but doesn't really give audiences enough to sink their teeth into.
Instead, I chose to open with a monologue from Moiraine that sets the high stakes of her quest early, so that audiences know what to look forward to even while we spend most of the episode in the quiet of Emond's Field. It doesn't overpower the rest of the narrative, but gives a nice teaser of what is to come, as an opening is supposed to do. Game of Thrones and the Witcher did very similar things with their openings and I think that method works well.
Moiraine: In times of darkness, men pray for their salvation. But they do not consider its price. In the last Age, thousands of years ago, the Dragon, that arrogant man, that desperate hero, broke the world trying to save it. I shudder to think what the Dragon Reborn will do to it. I shudder to think what I will do to ensure that they succeed. I don't pray for salvation. I pray that there will still be something left to save.
This is followed up by Lan and Moiraine arriving at Emond's Field, exchanging some light banter to lower the intensity back down, while hinting more directly at their mission. It's digestible, but still doing some good work to ground and engage viewers.
It does also imply that Moiraine knows more about the original Dragon than she did in the books. I like this change because it allows her to give more information early on, without breaking the essential plot. It also still makes sense in my opinion because she's been searching for the Dragon Reborn for twenty years and it's not unreasonable for her to be pretty well-informed.
I felt that the show did not do enough to set up the beginning of each character's arc before sending them off on the central adventure of the story. The pilot episode needs to show us who these people are under normal circumstances so that we have enough context to be emotionally engaged when things get intense. As such, doing that kind of character work was my primary goal in writing this script.
Rand's opening is not with the rest of the main cast, but working with his father. Readers of the books will know that this relationship is pivotal for his larger arc. Non-readers will still get a sense of the character's initial innocence, and warmth as he looks to his father for support and wisdom. This scene also establishes Rand's tendency to take everything on by himself, a tendency that frequently leads him into trouble throughout the series.
The show had a similar introduction with them walking into the village. But all I really got from that interaction was a general sense of a father-son bond. I hoped to convey a little more tenderness and depth in my portrayal.
TAM: Well. Keep on like you were doing, and you’ll break your fool back before you even get the chance to ask Egwene to marry you.
RAND(teasing) : When I get married, will I finally stop getting lectures from you?
TAM: After you’re married, you think you’ll be needing my advice less? Ha! Don’t you worry, lad. It’ll be a long time before you’re rid of me nattering on in your ear.
Next is Egwene. I really liked how the show gave us a full view into the ceremony by which a girl is inducted into adulthood in the village. It was something we didn't get to see in the book that really could have given us more glimpses into the character.
At the same time, I don't think the show got enough mileage from this scene. It didn't develop the friendship between Egwene and Nynaeve, or lean sufficiently into the central themes around what it means to be strong that the books explore. I loved the concept of "trusting the river" as a metaphor for Saidar, however, and kept that in.
I changed the ceremony slightly, making it similar to the tradition of Aiel Wise Ones, where apprentices declare themselves equal to their masters as a sign that they are ready to join them. I made the water imagery more explicit to better evoke the series' larger themes on strength and oneness with the world.
Most of Egwene's character moments come in lighter scenes with the rest of the ensemble, and through her relationship with Rand. In the next episode, I hope to explore Egwene more as an individual. Particularly in the battle scene at Winternight, I hope to show some glimpses of the tough as nails leader she will one day become.
EGWENE: A woman. That is what I am. I came alone. Without my mother to guide me, to shelter me. I came alone.
NYNAEVE : You would face us alone? You would stand before us and claim to be our equal?
EGWENE: I do as I must. I go where I must. I am what I must be. I am not a child, but a woman.
NYNAEVE (ritualistic scorn, fading to warmth): You are what you must be. A child thinks that strength is in the rock. A woman knows it is in the river. Strength is not in foolishly weathering the wind, but letting it stir the current within. In being like water. Changing your shape, but never your nature. In being what you must be.
While I appreciated that the show tried to jumpstart Perrin's arc around his conflict with violence, I thought their execution could be better. Perrin's hesitation around violence only has meaning if we understand the gentle, soft-spoken man that he was before getting swept up in this adventure.
As such, I introduce Perrin very much like the book does: A gentle giant who is barely able to push his way through a crowd for fear of hurting anyone, or being too brusque. The physicality of this moment is key to giving viewers a strong impression of the character, and pulling it off will require good direction.
Now, when we see Perrin struggle with the wolf within, we can contextualize it with the reference point of the gentle man that he wants to be and used to be.
The show depicted Matrim Cauthon as a scoundrel with a dark side. I understand why they made this choice - to give him a more gripping character arc earlier on in the story.
But ultimately, I think this is a mistake. Mat's charm is in his light-hearted demeanor in the face of dark things. When he gets angry or sorrowful, it carries greater weight because we know him best as a somewhat comical figure. His light presence also provides an excellent counter balance against the dramatic weighty events that are to come.
As such, I introduced Mat in a lighter way, cracking a joke with a quarterstaff in hand. Most of his development comes via interactions with the rest of the ensemble, and an amusing training scene with his and Rand's dad. Right now, Mat doesn't need to be more than a light-hearted rogue. More development can come as he grapples with the dagger from Shadar Logoth, and his dealings with the Aelfinn and Eelfinn.
I also enjoyed adding the training scene with Mat, Perrin, Mat's dad, and Rand's dad. It was a fun, lighthearted moment that also let me set up "the flame and the void" a mindfulness technique that many characters employ in combat. The flame imagery also pairs well with the water imagery from Egwene's ceremony, especially since they're suggesting similar things, just in different ways.
A quarterstaff swings down into view
MAT: My money, or my life!
PERRIN: I don’t think the phrase goes like that, Mat.
MAT: It should. I’ve lost most of my money, and my life’s boring as piss. So, frankly, you’re welcome to them both.
One of her driving motivations in the show and in the books is protecting her people. But in the show, especially in the first half of the season, I can't fully believe that she cares so much about protecting her people because I've barely seen her speak to them. I've tried to fix that by giving her a number of interactions with Egwene, some light dialogue with Mat, Rand, and Perrin, and a number of scenes with Lan that really bring out her devotion to her home and its people.
Her romance with Lan is vastly improved in the show compared to the books. But I think it would be better to introduce them pre-departure, instead of post-departure, so that we get a softer dimension to their relationship earlier on. That's why I had Moiraine send Lan to help Nynaeve prepare for the Bel Tine Festival to distract the Wisdom while Moiraine collects information about the villagers.
LAN: All that work arranging things, and you don’t even get to enjoy it?
NYNAEVE: We all have our burdens to bear.
LAN (thoughtfully): We have a saying where I come from. Duty is heavier than a mountain. Death, lighter than a feather.
NYNAEVE looks at him curiously before offering her tankard.
NYNAEVE: You need this more than I do.
Lan and Moiraine
As pivotal as these two are to the story, and as much as I enjoyed watching Daniel Henney and Rosamund Pike work together in a scene, I think the show makes a serious mistake in putting them in the spotlight at the expense of the rest of the cast. They deserve development, but it needs to be proportional to their role in the story and grounded in their relationship with the rest of the cast. This isn't just about Lan + Nynaeve, but Lan and Moiraine both guiding the rest of the Emond's Fielders.
They also are useful vessels for world-building as some of the only people in the cast who really understand what's going on and why. I've used them to introduce some things about the Pattern, Ta'veren, and the Dragon. These are just initial teasers, more than anything else. I hope to get into more detail as time goes on.
Although it won't be too long before the cast splits up, each pursuing their own adventure, the time we have with them all together is critical in establishing two things: The happy life they've left behind, and the care they have for each other.
The first is important to give some stakes to their development. The conflict between the heroes they become, and the people they used to be, provides a lot of good tension throughout the series.
The second is important because it gives weight to the clashes that they have with each other later on in the story. Seeing people who like each other get into meaningful conflict is compelling.
I'd add that I think it's easier for an audience to care about characters who have people they care about and care about them. It very quickly humanizes and grounds them as individuals in viewer/reader's head.
As such, I've spent a few scenes just to give them a history and establish their relationships.
Rand And Egwene
I like that the show leaned more heavily into the relationship between these two. But I didn't get a strong sense of depth to the relationship until Episode 7 (which I did enjoy quite a bit). Not having that investment early on, their inter-personal conflicts didn't resonate with me emotionally in most episodes.
I've tried to address this by adding more complications to the relationship in this pre-departure portion of the story.
They are actively planning to get married in this version, but these plans face a serious snag when Egwene plans to become Wisdom. Taking that position would complicate their plans to have children together, which they discuss and handle like adults. What they don't discuss, is Egwene's worry that Rand will not actually be able to handle living in the shadow of a more powerful wife. This mirrors the Warder Aes Sedai relationship, and Nynaeve's own struggle with asserting her authority as a leader in the village.
I've chosen to introduce Thom at this point in the story - just as the book does - because he is also a really useful world building vessel, and has some important relationships with the rest of the cast.
THOM: If you think Aes Sedai are monsters, you’ve been listening to the wrong stories, boy. They're just people. Powerful, yes, but only people. That’s what really makes them frightening.
MAT: But they broke the world, didn’t they? Seas boiling, mountains shattering, all that?
THOM (with a decidedly somber tone): Thousands of years ago. And that was the men of the Aes Sedai. After they sealed away the Dark One. And went mad for it.
Luhhan, the blacksmith that Perrin apprentices for, isn't critical as a character unto himself. But he is someone that Perrin can go to for wisdom and support, teasing out more from his character.
Luhhan: Light knows I appreciate a hard working apprentice. But it might be good for you to ease up on yourself sometimes.
PERRIN (uneasy): I… I don’t think that’s true, Master Luhhan. Least not for me. You remember how I was like. Before starting here. All wild, out of control. I need structure. I need the work. It keeps me grounded. Calm.