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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Review of "Blood Calls Blood"


MahaRaj
  • Episode 5 of The Wheel of Time gives us the sad story of Stepin the Warder while the Two Rivers folk saunter toward a reunion in Tar Valon. SPOILERS through S1E5.


 

Rajiv Moté is Dragonmount’s book blogger with a lens on the craft of fiction writing. When he’s not directing software engineers, he writes fiction of his own, which can be found catalogued on his website.

 

Do you love Stepin, the affable, dual axe-wielding Warder of Kerene Sedai, whose easy charm brings smiles around the campfire and who did not appear in any of the books? If you do, I have good news and bad news. If you don’t love Stepin, the news is mostly bad: episode 5, “Blood Calls Blood,” centers around him. And if you love him, well, this episode chronicles his terminal decline and demise. It’s all to a purpose: it shows us that the bond between Warder and Aes Sedai is bone-deep, emotional, and carries consequences. When an Aes Sedai dies, it is as if her Warder “swallows her death.” He falls into a depression. He loses the will to live. These are the stakes of a Warder bond. I sure hope that doesn’t ever happen to someone we know. 

 

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Alanna the Green Aes Sedai plans to bond Stepin herself, as a way of saving his life. Moiraine mentions that she thinks it’s possible to release a Warder from his bond. A little world-building, a little foreshadowing. But alas, Stepin is a clever man. He gets a sleeping powder from Nynaeve, uses it on Lan, and takes the unsupervised moment to commit suicide before the doors of the Hall of the Tower. The Warders hold a throat-singing, chest-thumping funeral, and open, naked grief throws Lan off beat with the thumping. The pain he feels is mirrored in Moiraine’s eyes. The bond cuts both ways.

 

Daniel Henney is an empathetic, emotive version of Lan Mandragoran, not the stone-faced Warder of the books. It works because Henney’s charisma is of a warmer, emotionally wider sort. It’s easy for audiences to take to him, and to understand why certain characters might do so too. It also works because The Wheel of Time of showrunner Rafe Judkins is deliberately redefining the masculinity of Robert Jordan’s vision. Where the latter’s conception of masculinity was stoic, consumed with duty, and honor-bound, the show imagines men with the emotional room to fret over a daughter’s initiation, pine over a girlfriend growing more distant, and insist on the creature comforts of a hot bath. These men talk to each other about their feelings, swap personal stories, and stay up all night together when one is feeling sad.

 

Stepin’s tale is a valuable foundation for what may occur later, and Stepin’s history and the camaraderie of the Warders is touching, but this episode feels like a digression. Especially since our protagonists--the scattered Two Rivers folk--are a hair’s breadth from a reunion in Tar Valon. We started the journey because one of them is the Dragon Reborn, hunted by the forces of the Dark One, and requiring the protection of the White Tower. The only trouble is, the White Tower doesn’t seem to be in on the plan, because Moiraine keeps secrets.

 

Nynaeve is already in the White Tower, hidden away in the Warders quarters by Moiraine to “protect” her from the Red Aes Sedai, Liandrin. We’re given our first look at Aes Sedai politics: when a promising potential student shows up, she is noticed by all, and the Ajahs compete to lure her to their team. Moiraine warns Nynaeve, now that she’s seen how great she is in comparison to those she loves, she will never be the same. That deserved a braid-tug--Nynaeve knows who she is. For her part, Nynaeve has fulfilled her end of her knifepoint bargain with Lan. She kept Moiraine alive, and now she wants assurances that Moiraine will bring the Two Rivers folks to her as soon as her eyes-and-ears locate them. The promise Moiraine gives is not necessarily the promise Nynaeve hears, but Nynaeve isn’t the trusting sort--and Liandrin is happy to drive a wedge into that crack. Unfortunately for Moiraine, all Liandrin has to do is suggest Nynaeve go for a stroll in the Tower garden.

 

Mat and Rand arrive in Tar Valon, and Rand seems to recognize Dragonmount. Impossible--he has lived all his life in the Two Rivers. He must be thinking of another volcano. In a shock to book readers, Mat thinks they should go straight to the White Tower. But Thom the gleeman had given Rand the name of a trusted inn where they can rest and refresh. (In the world of The Wheel of Time, lying on your bed with your boots on is not just for oafs like Mat--Moiraine does it in this episode, too.) Mat has become dark and troubled in the month since fleeing Shadar Logoth. He snaps at children. He’s sullen and pessimistic. He wonders if he, not the Fade, killed the Grinwell family. He thinks he’s going mad, and he’s terrified of what that could mean. When he and Rand sit on the balcony to watch the Aes Sedai parade the caged, defeated false Dragon Logain into the White Tower, Mat imagines (?) Logain seeing him and laughing wildly. Madly. Does the false Dragon recognize the real Dragon? Or is this a part of the paranoid madness Mat feels seeping into him?

 

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Meanwhile, Rand is bored with Mat’s moping (and apparently incurious about seeing the peddler Padan Fain having a drink in Tar Valon) so he browses books in the library, like the Karaethon Cycle--the Prophecies of the Dragon. There, he meets a new friend, who isn’t put off in the least by Rand’s rudeness. Enter Loial the Ogier--big as a Trolloc, but much more chill. The show has rendered the Ogier with practical effects, and at first, Loial looks like an actor in a costume. My suspension of disbelief kicked in quickly, though, and he became the Ogier--a little less naive, a little more sure than his book counterpart, but still a gentle giant with good manners. Except, of course, when he tells Rand with absolute certainty that his red hair makes him an “Aielman.” At least Thom was discreet about that. I mean, have you seen the royal house of Andor? (No, we have not. In this adaptation, we skipped Caemlyn for Tar Valon.)

 

Loial’s access to the White Tower grounds, the apparent rarity of braided women, and Liandrin’s seemingly innocuous suggestion to Nynaeve, reunites three of the Two Rivers folk. It becomes immediately clear that Mat is going through something bad when he lashes out at Nynaeve. That, and the dark whispers. Logain was beset by voices, but we heard dark whispering in Shadar Logoth too. Rand and Nynaeve worry about Mat, but they worry about Perrin and Egwene, too. Nynaeve tells Rand a story about how Egwene survived (mysteriously) a childhood infection of the deadly breakbone fever. “Egwene is many things, but above all else, she is unbreakable.”

 

This is fortunate. Despite the Tinkers’ non-violent attempts to prevent the brutal Whitecloaks from taking Egwene and Perrin, the two end up prisoners of the gleefully villainous Questioner, Child Valda. Ever the gourmet and gourmand, Valda enjoys roast suckling pig as he sets up a deadly dilemma. If Egwene channels the One Power, Valda will kill her and release Perrin. Otherwise, Valda will flay Perrin and release Egwene.

 

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Perrin wants to die. As wolves begin to howl outside, he admits to Egwene that yes, he was directly responsible for his wife Laila’s death. Under Valda’s knife, Perrin’s eyes turn golden. Like a wolf’s. But Egwene won’t allow it. She tosses a feeble fireball at Valda, but manages to singe Perrin’s bonds enough for the big man to snap the ropes and break free.

 

There are so many ways this scene could have played. Perrin could have gone berserk, like during the Trolloc attack. He could have crouched on all fours and leaped like an animal at Valda. Hell, he could have wolfed out like Michael Jackson in “Thriller.” But instead he only groaned like Frankenstein’s monster and shambled forward--slowly. Valda, who has faced Aes Sedai and was just channeled at, can only stand paralyzed, and gasp “What are you?” Fortunately, Egwene knifes him in the back, ending the whole embarrassing scene. Outside the tent, wolves are savaging the Whitecloaks and Egwene and Perrin slip away.

 

“Blood Calls Blood” slows down the breathless pace of the first four episodes. Our heroes have fled the Trollocs, survived the dangers of the ruins, wilderness, and the road, and reassembled in Tar Valon. Along the way, Egwene has learned to channel unaided, Nynaeve has lit a beacon fire to her potential power, Perrin has gained the protection of wolves, Mat has found a dagger and started hearing voices, and Rand has discovered a talent for breaking down doors. The plan was to assemble in Tar Valon under the protection of the Aes Sedai sisterhood. That accomplished, the question becomes “now what?” Tar Valon has provided no answers yet. It’s clear that outside of Moiraine and Lan, nobody of the Tower knows about the Dragon Reborn. But the Amyrlin Seat, the leader of the Aes Sedai,  is coming, and presumably she’ll know what to do next. Until then, all we can do is put up our booted feet on the bed and wait.




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Yeah, the show is really going downhill, unfortunately. I understand the need to remove a lot of material and change some stuff, but they're taking way too many liberties with the source material.

 

Lan and Moiraine are basically completely different characters, and for some reason they've decided to shoehorn in a brand new character and dedicate an entire episode to him, while rushing through or completely skipping important parts of the books.

 

I really, really want to like the series, but it's becoming increasingly hard. And spare me the "it's another turning of the wheel" and "the books are the books and the series is the series" mumbo jumbo. It's The Wheel of Time, and by needlessly changing core aspects of the story and characters, they are disrespecting the source material, Robert Jordan, and the fans of the books.

 

Yeah, I know I'm coming off as entitled, but I'm usually very forgiving when it comes to adaptations of books and mostly enjoy series and movies based on them, such as LOTR, The Hobbit, A Song of Ice and Fire, etc.

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8 hours ago, Mailman said:

A disaster of a episode.

The drive, the strength, the intelligence of Moiraine from the books is nothing but a dream for the TV version.

Well, remember that The Eye Of The World has not been indicated to be under threat yet, which forced her to divert to that location instead.

It has not even been mentioned, which tells me that our two separate groups will have heard of that on their travels in the intervening month. Loial will provide the third piece when he speaks to Moiraine, which will start the exchange of information.

 

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Interesting read, Rahvin. I think the review sums up many of the thread discussions as well. Your thinly-veiled but courteous sense of disappointment is appreciated. "Embarrassing" is an appropriate description of the Valda/Egwene the Weak/Goldeneyes scene, imho.

 

Oh...apologies for the name confusion, Rajiv. But in case I'm wrong, please stop manipulating Morgase. Modern sensibilities won't allow it.

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Liked the episode, not as much as 4 - main quibble is spending a little too much time on Stepin.  I simply cannot believe the negativity of the wot fanbase - it's somewhat nauseating - wot was great (IMO) until about book 7 where RJ lost control - this show dropping/merging storylines (which will help it's appeal) is a great move, if you're a book purist just don't watch, but try and give it an open mind if you do, fans are so privileged it's annoying

 

 

 

 

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While I have some concerns as I mentioned in my previous post, with this one I will try to be charitable.   Part of me is curious why the main four that carry the story have gotten so little screen time compared to Moraine.  It struck me that maybe like GoT the first season is giving more time to it's more we'll known star in order to let the audience get to know the relatively unknown actors that will carry the show later.  I honestly hope this is the case rather than some ego driven reason that has us watching Moraine eat fruit while barely giving us a glimpse of the far more interesting Egwene/Perrin confrontation with the white cloaks.

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Stepin and Kerene Nagashi are from New Spring - the prologue. Remember they are adapting the series not EotW. 

 

What we see on screen "parallels" some of the NS material from 20 years early. Puts a whole new spin on Kerene's death for example. NS also describes Moiraine taking her oath - the official trailer shows Moiraine in white with her AS  oath as a voice over which also happened in NS and is when Moiraine's relationship with Siuan started (of which we have had a hint with the dog story) and the secretstart of the hunt for the dragon. So much back story which is also a part of the series. They have said that they are not "making things up". Adapting, compacting and showing things that happened "off page" which - due to the books being POV account we didn't see - but not making up.

 

So far I see the show operating on two levels. One for non-book readers - who they have to carry along - but also one for book readers. OK some of the book stuff is very brief but its there: the nod of approval from Tam when Rand looked at him before they left; the name of the inn they met the dark friend in; the briefest flash of red hair on the Aeil that Thom cut down; the name of the little doll Matt was given and what the gird said the doll wanted to do; the angreal; the heron marked blade; the shadowy shape that led Matt to the dagger; the bravery of the EF folk when they attacked a trolloc; that Padin had visited TW for "years"; the whistling that is following Padin around;  Rand's shock that his father could fight; Thom's song (they actually admitted that this was deliberately subtle and not something non-book readers would pick up on until the story has unfolded); the angreal; even a reference to crows. So much that resonates drawn from the source that will pass over the heads of non-book readers ..... for now.

 

They have also explained that its not practical to cover some people/places that have "minor" parts early on but become "major" later because they couldn't guarantee getting the same people to play the part or the same location to shoot in. Which seems to fit what has happened with Camlyn and the people introduced there in EoTW. I assume they pick up from the arrival scene in TGH and Siun can fill in any "critcal news" from Camlyn when she returns from there in episode 6. (And they will have no problem with young actors growing older either if it runs to multiple series!)

 

Despite these and other limitations though they are covering the story. Check out this site's chapter by chapter summary https://dragonmount.com/books/eye_of_the_world/chapter-recaps/ . When you see the book laid out as 1 or 2 lines per chapter and compare that with what we have gotten so far - its impressive. And we can't rule out that some gaps may yet be filled in later e.g. Siuan is returning from Camlyn to Tar Valon in episode 6 so extra details may be provided about events in the city; the prologue stuff may get covered in the last episode.

 

Now personally I could have lived with less Stepin! Seeing the reaction of many, many non-book readers though - it worked. As one of the people who "started again" when a new book came its easy to forget just how much there is and how easy it would be to lose those who have no idea how vast the story is. 

 

As an adaptation of the series though in my opinion its in excellen hands. We even got the story of Manetheren and the opening "The Wheel turns ..." at the end of episode 1 which some non-book(?) reading critics described as exposition! Which they are not but were added anyway - just Robert Jordan let readers know that it was a big world with a lot of history. 

Edited by gervaise

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Two things I really liked from this episode is the introduction of the Forsaken. That was a very fascinating look into their impact. The other one was Loial.

I did not like the photo still, but loved it in motion.

He was funny and endearing. I am looking forward to the other Ogier when they get the chance to do them.

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Halfway into the 5th episode, I have given up on this series and decided not to watch it anymore. I no longer have to find stupid reasons to justify the mangling of a beautiful story. The showrunner has used RJs loyal fanbase to get some free publicity. That's what irks me

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On 12/5/2021 at 3:43 PM, Andromedus said:

Liked the episode, not as much as 4 - main quibble is spending a little too much time on Stepin.  I simply cannot believe the negativity of the wot fanbase - it's somewhat nauseating - wot was great (IMO) until about book 7 where RJ lost control - this show dropping/merging storylines (which will help it's appeal) is a great move, if you're a book purist just don't watch, but try and give it an open mind if you do, fans are so privileged it's annoying

 

 

 

 

I believe the negativity comes from the hatchet job done to a much beloved series.

 

This TV series continues to do everything wrong.

 

it’s painful to watch and doesn’t seem to have any relationship with the book.

 

Please, name something this series got correct?

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On 12/10/2021 at 9:05 AM, Michael Gardner said:

I believe the negativity comes from the hatchet job done to a much beloved series.

 

This TV series continues to do everything wrong.

 

it’s painful to watch and doesn’t seem to have any relationship with the book.

 

Please, name something this series got correct?

 

We look at this from different viewpoints.

 

The first 6 books of this series are strong, after that, it starts to fall apart IMO.  

 

I just reread AMOL - I mean, it's not a good book IMO.  What an awful ending written by a guy who can't write grey characters or "evil" without making them seem ridiculous.  I SINCERELY HOPE they change a ton in the show.  RJ succumbed to the money they were throwing at him after about book 6.

 

I'm good with the changes, they are getting the themes and major events right to me and I'm excited how it will differ from an enjoyable yet ultimately bloated, flawed series.

 

Ditch all the pointless side plots, get the essence of the series right, have good acting and action, and I'll be happy.  Don't even get me started on how women are portrayed by RJ, that's another great change to me.

 

If you don't like it, don't watch, simple as that.  You seem like a bigger fan of the series than me, so I guess you wanted a word for word remake for the tv show 🤷🏽‍♂️ - that's not possible and to me, a blessing.  Love the show.

 

 

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Batsu

Posted (edited)

On 12/11/2021 at 5:45 PM, Andromedus said:

The first 6 books of this series are strong, after that, it starts to fall apart IMO.  

 

I agree with this...the books had a notable shift at this point in the series. It almost felt as through there was a struggle to decide how to proceed. To me they picked back up some spark where Brandon Sanderson jumped it to carry the series over the line, even thought the spark was a little...different.

 

However, to me the series already feels like the wheels are coming off (pun intended?). I'm almost at the point where I have to tell myself it is an entirely different story, just so I don't get irritated. I would that is likely my main issue : The changes are significant enough that it irritates me to the point that it is distracting from the show itself. I can't objectively enjoy the show because in my head I am saying thing s like "Wait...If saidar is needed to open a Waygate, how are the Trollocs and myrddraal able to travel and attack various places? In the books the Borderlands kept them at bay". It feels like the changes were sometimes made just for the sake of change, without thought to the implications down the road.

Edited by Batsu

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