This blog post is proudly brought to you by the Black JeopardyTM category “FID’NA”.
As in, I’m fid’na bitch-slap the next mealy-mouthed gatekeeping little cunt who says the words “true fan” or “emotional investment in the books” halfway into the next internet argument. I’ll destroy you, not out of righteous outrage or defensiveness over my fan-cred, but simply because it’s fun.
Let’s start at the end.
The show was a solid adaptation, and although I was left baffled by a lot of the decisions the creators made I wasn’t disappointed, let alone offended, by the product. I’ll check out season 2 and I found the whole thing very interesting.
What else? Having exchanged hundreds of messages over Discord and Twitter about this show, I find myself without much else to say here. I started out hyped and excited by this show, then as the episodes went by I got steadily more meh as they cut and changed more and more things, but ultimately I was left feeling like it had been a fun and intriguing and very watchable experience. I enjoyed watching it with Mrs. Hatboy and Wump and Toop, and we always have the books still. The TV show didn’t go back in time and punch teenage Hatboy in the dick while he was reading Lord of Chaos. The TV show didn’t sneak into my goddamn house and burn my copies of the books. It’s fine.
As you can no doubt imagine in the event you haven’t seen any of it first-hand, there is a lot of divided opinion on social media. That’s what social media is for.
Some people were fine up until the last episode, and then decided the whole thing was a bust. Some people thought the final episode was the best episode, although for me I guess it would have to be episode 5, with Stepin’s fate and Perrin and Egwene escaping Valda. That was a high point for me.
Anyway, point is, yeah the show sort of shat the bed and fell apart after a bit, but I honestly wasn’t expecting anything else.
“I wish I was more like Mat or Perrin, they’re way better at … talking … to girls…”
– Okay, see, some things were improved upon in the adaptation.
Part of the disappointment, for me, was in discussing the pros and cons of each development and deviation from the books with other long-time WoT nerds. Not the discussion itself – that was a highlight – but the realisation that we had definitely put way more thought and care and consideration into the story than any of the showrunners had. I went ahead with the benefit of the doubt and the possible explanations and ways they could explain or justify decisions, based on an obsessive familiarity with the source material. But at a certain point, I just had to accept that the writers of the show just weren’t there with me. As I’ve joked time and time again with Disney / Marvel / big budget CGI BST spectaculars, give me a call and I’ll fix your fucking story.
But sure. I’m nobody, there’s no reason to give me any credence. This was their show, and I’m glad it did well. I hope they’re happy with the result and that it gets more time and money to get more seasons out. Like I say, I’m not mad at the show. I’m not even disappointed, really. It was an adaptation and adaptations are hard.
They don’t have to be this hard, but they don’t not have to be this hard, either.
I get, on an intellectual level, the need to put something of your own creative flair into a translation of someone else’s work from one medium to another. You don’t want to scene-for-scene, line-for-line convert a book into a TV show or movie. That’s how you end up with Bilbo trying to pickpocket a troll and the troll turning out to have a talking purse. No. Peter Jackson’s hand was very clear in the Lord of the Rings adaptations, and I know it’s unfair to compare anything to such a perfect set of movies, but that’s the bed they made for themselves. His hand was clear, but the adaptation was nevertheless flawless. FLAWLESS.
In contrast, I’m having a very hard time picking out what Rafe Judkins’s creative vision was here, and how his hand is visible. Aside from “just changing things so they’re not the same as the books,” which is … okay, sometimes that’s a good idea, like I say. But other times, I had to wonder why.
And the determination, good idea or why, is going to be different for everyone and for every scene, line, character, arc, and special effect. So short of going through the whole series and labelling every single change from the books as good idea or why, there doesn’t seem much point in it.
“It comes in pints? I’m getting one.”
Big picture? The book series is enormous, the world and plot are far-reaching and ambitious, and something had to be condensed or rearranged to allow a TV show of uncertain episode commitment to happen. Can every aspect of the geography, history, politics, alternate worlds, magic systems and cultures go in there? Probably not. But it almost seemed like more effort to do it differently. The material was all there. All they had to do was less work, and it would have been better. You don’t need expensive high seas tall ship shoots – just put a guy (for example) in Atha’an Miere garments in the marketplace in Tar Valon, and you’ve shown that the Sea Folk are a thing. Like I say, that was an example of a thing they did, and it was good. But there was precious little of that.
I could go on and on. And I probably will, as more thoughts shake loose and I let this simmer for a while. But my main take-away is just sort of confusion. I can see how the Game of Thrones writers lost their way, because Martin is asleep at the wheel. Jordan is dead, and Sanderson knows his shit, and the books are there. Everything you need, plot and script and characters and sets, is provided for you. You don’t need to make anything up. Anything you do make up, runs the risk of reducing the quality of the finished product. A far higher risk than the chance it might enhance it. Enhancements happened, but that risk was taken an unnecessary and baffling number of times, for reasons that escape me. Was it all just the hubris of an artist thinking he could improve on a work he was contracted to bring to new audiences? It sort of seems that way.
But then, Jordan thought he could improve on Tolkien too, and all he really did was write more books. He, too, took that risk. And here we are.
Here we are, specifically, in … *checks notes* the Winespring Inn, where the Wisdom of Emond’s Field habitually *checks notes again, blinks* fixes to pull a fucking shiv on anyone who walks in the door.
Confession time: I never liked the casting of Moiraine. Rosamund Pike was not right for the role and it irked me from the start. Her performance was fine, especially considering the performance actually required of her (which overlapped with “Moiraine” on only occasional beats), but I never liked the casting choice. As I said here already, but now I can be clearer on the subject because I’ve actually seen the show.
She’s reading this Wikipedia page in her head.
Confession the second: I never warmed to Loial. Sorry.
I knew it would be this way. That’s why I did this.
Again, Hammed Animashaun did a fine job and his delivery was great, but the costuming was so fucking goofy and the size scale was so absolutely wrong, it literally reduced him to “weird human.” Given that Loial is my favourite character from the books, and all they needed to do was a bit of goddamn forced perspective from time to time, how hard could it have been to make him look 150% human size? I mean I get that they didn’t have a Lord of the Rings budget, but they had a budget, right?
This is how you do it. It’s not that fucking hard. You just need to do less than what they did in The Nevers.
Anyway, that’s it for my confessions, and that’s it for me and this TV show, at least for now. I’m looking forward to the next season, despite my grumbling and head-scratching. Some of the casting was just amazing. Overall, the show was more or less on a par with a decent Terry Pratchett book adaptation. With the caveat that there has really not managed to be a good Pratchett adaptation yet, but the decent ones might edge out the Wheel of Time TV show on faithfulness to the source material, even if they swung and missed. At least they swung.
In the meantime, I got a bit of perspective up me as I watched the first episode of the latest Pratchett adaptation The Watch on HBO. It was fucking appalling. So yeah, I’m going to sit and watch more of The Wheel of Time, not necessarily because it’s a good adaptation, but because you clueless shitbirds don’t know what an offense to the source material really is.