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Rand and Mat meet a lady Darkfriend "Eye of the World" vs "Wheel of Time Season 1" Cannoli Send a noteboard - 09/01/2022 12:41:10 AM

Rand and Mat encounter a female Darkfriend at blade-point

In the book, Rand and Mat are sleeping in a stable, Rand has just recovered from an illness and is still weak, when a woman enters. She is well-dressed and evinces concern for Rand, suggesting some ability to help him. She approaches despite their demurrals and her ostensible purpose of coming to the stable to check on her horse. Upon ascertaining Rand’s weakness, she swiftly tries to stab Mat, who manages to avoid her thrust, grab her knife hand and get his dagger to her throat. They notice her dagger appears to be burning the wood into which her failed thrust jammed it. Mat separates her from the weapon and threatens to use his own if she moves.

Mat intends to kill her, after giving Rand her dagger, arguing that she deserves it for trying to kill them and being a Darkfriend, but Rand talks him out of it, saying they aren’t as bad as she. As they prepare to lock her up, she tries to persuade them to give up and stop running, arguing that their prior encounters with Darkfriends have made their pursuers nervous and could lead to them being killed in spite of their superiors’ intentions for the boys. Mat scoffs at her and in response she reveals that a Myrddraal is coming after them. Mat locks her up and he and Rand flee.

In the books, after several scenes interacting separately with Dana, the bartender or proprietress of a hospitality establishment, where she gives them shelter in exchange for work, she shows Rand to the rooms they have earned, where she teasingly suggests his and Mat's relationship is sexual, and then after a slightly more sincere conversation, tries to kiss Rand. When Rand pulls away, she apologizes for coming on too strong and closes the door with an ominous noise, while asking if she made a mistake in styling her hair like Egwene’s. She says she likes him and orders him to get back on the bed, from which he stood at the mention of Egwene’s name. She does this by brandishing a small knife at him.

Rand lunges for his sword by the foot of the bed, next to where she is standing, she seems to shove him, there is some indeterminate physical contest with a slashing sound and the knife falls to the floor. She draws Rand’s sword as he takes in his slashed palm. She holds him at swordpoint saying she’s waiting for Mat because she needs him, too. She goes to watch at the window.

Dana tells Rand “You know, I didn’t think you’d be this sweet. Makes it harder.” Rand shouts and begins slapping at the door she locked with both hands. We cut to Mat befriending Thom and then back to Rand still slapping the door and shouting for help. Dana tells Rand she brought him to this room specifically because the door is too tough for “three men your size” to break and no one can hear a thing outside, referencing her earlier suggestion that he and Mat could use the room for discreet sex. Despite her protests, he begins throwing his shoulder at the door, smashing it down and running off.

Rand encounters Mat in the village streets, Dana spots them and they take off running, because she has Rand’s sword. She chases them through the village until she uses a shortcut to get ahead of them. When Mat questions her actions, she says that she sees “all five of you” in her dreams at night, but only one of them can be the Dragon. She revels in her imminent promotion for bringing them to the Dark One and says they still remember Ishamael, because he was the last one to bring a Dragon to the Dark One 3000 years ago (bOoK KnOwLeDgE, FTW). She claims the Dark One does not want to kill them, but the Aes Sedai do, and the Dragon has a chance to end all bad things, from murder to natural disasters, by breaking the wheel. Rand tells her they’re going to leave, she flourishes his sword and tells them a Fade is on its way answering her summons.

Thom’s knife then dramatically penetrates her neck from behind. When Rand is astonished at Thom’s action, he asks “Didn’t you hear? her She’s a Darkfriend, boy!” and that they need to leave. Rand doesn’t want to go with him, but Mat follows when Thom says he’s going east. Rand retrieves his sword and seems troubled by her body, as her blood flows into a puddle to set up a scene transition.

Now the encounter in the books is one of a series. They were trapped in the storage room of an inn where they attempted to earn their keep, and Rand channeled unconsciously, blasting a way out and killing the Darkfriend pursuing them (they had been locked up by people seemingly intent on simple theft). Then they are accosted by a lone Darkfriend (to be revealed in a future book as Paitr Conel) who tries to persuade them, before Rand’s illness causes them to seek shelter in the place where the woman later identified as Shiane Alvarhin, born Mili Skane, finds them.

The interesting thing is, that while these encounters demonstrate an ongoing tension, they are told in flashbacks, so we know from the outset of both encounters after the channeling incident that the boys survive them.

Despite the terror of their initial confrontation, the ones with Paitr and Shiane actually demonstrate competence on Rand’s & Mat’s part as well as make them sympathetic. When Mat is blinded by the lightning strike, he fears being left behind by Rand. Not only does Rand not do this, he takes pains to cover more Mat’s difficulty moving, by aggressive behavior toward Paitr so he does not spot Mat’s weakness. Later, when Rand falls ill, Mat takes care of him, and procures food and lodging from the innkeeper they had intended to earn by entertaining. Mat wins the brief fight with Shiane, in a way that is plausible without giving them credit for skills they have not had the chance to learn.

Shiane’s skill with a weapon is not incongruous, since her origin and station is a mystery (rather than every datum appearing to confirm Dana's claims of having spent her whole life in a backwater mining town and giving no explanation for her implied swordcraft). And of course, details are sprinkled hinting at the effect of Mat’s dagger, with his fear of being abandoned by Rand, and his quickness to react to Shiane’s attack and willingness to kill her. We also get demonstrations of their character with Rand’s protection of Mat, and Mat’s care for Rand, and the choice to refrain from unnecessary killing of their assailant. They do not need rescuing by Thom, who has already been removed from their company at that point in the story.

The show, on the other hand, tries to do the work of all three Darkfriend encounters, or at least the first and last, deciding the second one was unnecessary since there was no combat or channeling or bloodshed involved. Rather than the mounting tension and horror of Rand and Mat being trapped in a hostile place as the walls close in, with threats from multiple angles, the show tries to go for shock, having the previously snarky and condescending Dana become friendly, seemingly won over by Mat’s charm and Rand’s work ethic, to flirtatious and suddenly flip to threatening. It is not immediately apparent what threat a heavyset woman poses to two young healthy men at least 6’ tall, so the show chooses to tell us she’s a threat by having them sprint desperately away from her. Rand actually dives for his sword to protect himself against a woman with a small knife. And fears her too much to try for a physical confrontation once she makes it clear they are locked in together, but does not fear what she’ll do to him when he turns his back on her to try forcing the door. Rand’s actions indicate an inconsistent level of fear, but objectively, it’s never clear why she should be a threat to any but a modern fuzzy thought process that equates all weapons as equally lethal and a physically unimpressive woman with a sword as dangerous as if she had a gun (There is a reason guns were called “equalizers” in criminal slang).

The encounter with Shiane was no presenting her as an overpowering danger, simply reinforcing the ability of Darkfriends to find Rand & Mat, and to convey a sense of paranoia because each encounter is different, so they never know what to look for. A foppish young man, a well-dressed woman, an unsavory inn’s staff, a wealthy traveler. Some want to rob them, others to persuade them, or take them captive, or stab them. Shiane does not need to present an overwhelming physical menace. That was established, well back with the Trollocs and Myrddraal who chased the Two Rivers folk from their homes, through the wilderness to the river, but later, by the crooked innkeeper and his bouncers in Four Kings and the wealthy and powerful man who appears to have disposed of that same inn staff after they locked Rand and Mat up for the night. By this point in the story, we understand that a Myrddraal or a Darkfriend with followers can easily subdue them, so the challenge is to stay ahead of the pursuit and avoid notice. Shiane and Paitr are there only to demonstrate how difficult that will be.

But there is really nothing else with the Darkfriends in the whole rest of the show. Rand and Mat meet a farm family, but there is no real fear of them brought up, rather they have to persuade the family of their good intentions so they will be allowed to earn their keep for the night. After leaving the farm, there is a one month time jump and Rand and Mat have made it to Caemlyn Tar Valon with no other reference to Darkfriends. They barely interact with anyone else, aside from Loial and the innkeeper who charged them a lot. The crowds of the city are presented a wonder, rather than some sort of sinister threat and there is no concern about how trustworthy their innkeeper might be. They even choose to stay in an inn among strangers rather than go to the White Tower in hopes of getting aid from Moiraine’s colleagues if they can’t find her there. Dana’s comment about having seen five targets in her dreams gets exactly as much speculation from our protagonists as her claims of compatriots’ pursuit.

What even was the purpose of their encounter with Dana, if she represents the entirety of the Darkfriend threat and is eliminated in the same episode? Maybe her final monologue suggesting an ideological motive that the books never felt the need for, showing Darkfriends as solely interested in power and advancement and the Dark One’s promise of immortality. I suppose they needed another incident they could later reveal to have been a channeling moment, but it didn't have to be Dana's trap. In fact, it's distinctly underwhelming and less effective than Rand's moment in the book. If the reaction of the readers-turned-viewers is "Oh how clever to hide that's what they were doing" instead of "They did a great job of depicting that moment on the screen" you have epically failed as an artist. It's like congratulating a magician on the effectiveness of his technique, rather than the seamlessness of his illusion.

The initial encounter between the boys and Dana seems casual, and she gives no sign of recognition. Combing through her dialogue at best we might say that she’s being very accommodating to their desire to work for lodgings so as to keep them at the inn, but she also mocks Mat and holds him up to ridicule. She leaves Rand unattended for apparently hours, evincing surprise at the amount of work he has done and that he’s still at it. So what was her plan if caught wind of another opportunity and left, or Mat got pissed at the mockery and took off? When Mat says he’s going to do whatever he has to earn enough money to go home, she suggests that’s not a good idea, because she wishes she could escape her lame small town. There is nothing in her portrayal to indicate she’s anything more than the sole employee of the inn, for all she spends a disproportionate amount of her time on a couple of customers who can’t pay. She’s distracted and busy when the plot calls for it, and has all the time in the world to show them around otherwise. She also warns Mat not to steal unless he wants to be executed by exposure, despite a thief who was caught stealing from him walking around free of consequence, so maybe she’s trying to scare Mat to prevent him from quickly acquiring the resources to leave her inn. But I have to stretch for that. There’s no supporting information and the context really suggests that it was there as a reminder of the Aielman occupying the punishment cage so Mat can later go out to rob his corpse and befriend Thom. Why would he do this? Because Thom is in the books.

The whole interlude at Dana’s inn is an odd mixture of “we don’t need no stinkin’ book material” and including plot points and characters for no other reason than their occurrence in the books. Thom really does not need to be in the show given his contributions, and given the ass-backward chronology of Thom and the Darkfriend menace, there isn’t really a need for the other element. We learn nothing from Dana, she tells us nothing about Rand and Mat we do not already know. Had they gone to sleep in the inn and left the next day for another reason it would not have appreciably changed the story. My best fan-splanation is that Dana’s revelations persuaded Mat that it’s not safe to go home to his sisters, as he claims is his intention in this episode. What I really think is that, as with Thom, the writers felt the need to have Rand and Mat encounter a Darkfriend and be told they are being hunted, and so they stuck both things into the episode, hooking them up with Thom, and combining elements of a couple of Darkfriend encounters and letting it go at that. They probably thought that by hitting the plot points in a single encounter and introducing Thom was being more efficient than the books, when in fact, all they did was demonstrate they don’t understand the characters or incidents at all, and having excised the need for them in the story, still felt compelled to show them.

What’s more, as I look at these comparable incidents, I am observing a recurring pattern, where most of the characters’ competence and small moments of accomplishment are being written away. Instead of handling themselves in solo encounters and staring down Darkfriends and Whitecloaks alike, Rand and Mat only get to do chores and run away. Their loyalty toward one another is nowhere in evidence, with Mat intending to head home without Rand after leaving Rand to chop the wood to earn a bed alone. Rand mocks Mat for having his pocket picked and jokes about not sharing his money. Most of their plot progression in the episode in question is separately, as each has his own chat with Dana and Mat with Thom. At best it seems like they are trying to highlight Rand’s lovable qualities, by making him nice, caring about his girlfriend, hardworking and honest, so as to make it hit harder when he is revealed as the Dragon, but they are doing it at the expense of Mat, in spite of their efforts to make him sympathetic through the little sisters he is overwhelmingly concern for. Sometimes.

I can't help but notice how Dana the Dumpy Darkfriend, played by a woman of possible color, was the dominating feature of the episode, while the boys essentially were stripped of any heroic qualities. I also can't help but notice how the clear intention (even if the writing does not always succeed) with Moiraine and Egwene is to enhance their portrayals and power over and above their book counterparts. Rather, scenes are invented or altered to give them chances to shine. If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck...

“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” GK Chesteron
Inde muagdhe Aes Sedai misain ye!
Deus Vult!
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Rand and Mat meet a lady Darkfriend "Eye of the World" vs "Wheel of Time Season 1" - 09/01/2022 12:41:10 AM 135 Views
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