Well, hey there! Welcome to the Leigh Butler Center For Kids Who Can’t Reread Good And Wanna Reread Stuff More Too! (It’s a center for Aunties!)
All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)
The Wheel of Time reread is also now available as an ebook series.
All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Soooo, it’s been an interesting past 48 hours or so in the WOT fandom, and thus it probably behooves me to comment upon it. SO I WILL. Be ye warned.
I can’t imagine anyone reading this blog post in the first place wouldn’t be at least peripherally aware of the happenings already, but in brief:
This Monday, a 30-minute “pilot” for a Wheel of Time TV series, bafflingly titled “Winter Dragon” and produced by Red Eagle Entertainment, aired out of nowhere on the FXX network—in the middle of the night, where the channel normally airs infomercials, with no prior marketing or advertising or, apparently, warning to anyone at all, including Bandersnatch Group, which is Harriet McDougal’s company for handling the estate of Robert Jordan. It was largely speculated (and later confirmed by Red Eagle) that this was an attempt to retain the rights to the Wheel of Time franchise, which I understand were due to revert to Bandersnatch this Wednesday (February 11th 2015).
Producing such rights-retaining pilots (called “ashcan copies” in the biz) is actually a fairly common, if hilariously shady, practice. Actually airing them, however, is not, and generally only done when there is no choice in the matter. I can only assume that the contract with Red Eagle and/or Universal Studios (to whom Red Eagle sold the rights in 2008) stipulated that an episode had to actually air in order to be “legit”—for extremely eye-rolling values of “legit,” of course—and airing it in the middle of the night was Red Eagle’s attempt to keep their letter-of-the-lawyering under the radar. To say they were unsuccessful in keeping it on the downlow is an understatement, as anyone in WOT fandom who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past couple of days can attest.
Harriet has already made her feelings on the existence of this “pilot” crystal clear. She also stated that Universal is the actual rights-holder to the franchise, and as she points out, there is no Universal credit anywhere on this thing (I checked). So as I write this, it seems to be unclear (at least from my outsider perspective) whether this ashcan pilot actually successfully retains the rights it was meant to snake from the Jordan estate, or not. What happens next, I don’t know, but I’m sure this brouhaha will get more ridiculous get hammered out in the days to come.
As far as my own feelings on the whole thing go, well. For obvious reasons, I have something of an automatic bias towards Harriet’s side of things, but I think even without that personal partiality, I would have regarded this as a supreme dick move on Red Eagle’s part, the legality or illegality of it notwithstanding. As I commented to friends earlier, it’s one thing when the people you sold your rights to go and make a proper good faith effort to produce something decent to fulfill their obligations, even if you don’t personally like the result, but it’s another thing entirely when the people you’ve entrusted with your artistic endeavor instead blunder around for most of a decade with nothing to show for it, and then slap together a deliberately sub-par effort at the last possible moment in order to exploit a patently absurd loophole in their contract, just so they can then dick around with your shit for another chunk of years, instead of being scrupulous enough to just let the rights lapse already, so you can sell them to someone who might actually be competent be able to do something with it.
I’m just saying, when the author of the work you’ve leased describes your behavior as “peeing in the soup” in one of his last public statements before passing on, maybe that should be a frickin’ clue, you know?
As to the pilot itself, well, I can’t in good conscience describe it as good (in fact I could really only bring myself to watch it all the way through once), but as someone with some little background in film production, the knowledge that nearly the entire thing was apparently shot in one day (according to the director’s tweets), on zero budget, and then edited in less than two weeks before airing, I can state with some assurance that it is not anywhere near as awful as it should be. The crew and cast, whom I will choose to believe had little or nothing to do with the sleazy corporate shenanigans behind the project, should in fact be commended for wresting as much blood from the stone they’d been handed as they did.
They actually made some pretty clever choices to make it work within the limitations they had. Like choosing to show the palace from Lews Therin’s perspective, for example, and only hinting at the destruction that was likely firmly outside of their budget to reproduce. Or avoiding One Power-related effects as much as possible. Sure, that was much less satisfying to see (and probably more confusing to boot), but the cheesetastic alternative would probably have been way worse, in my opinion.
I would be remiss not to note at this juncture that, in a tragic twist to this already thoroughly bizarre tale, the director of “Winter Dragon,” Seda James, died in a car accident this past weekend, just days after turning in the final cut. My heart goes out to him, who obviously worked so hard to do the best he could with what little he was given to work with. RIP, Mr. James. It may well turn out that you were the only person to air a Wheel of Time anything on American television, but even if that (hopefully) turns out not to be true, at least you can claim the distinction of having been the first.
All that being said, while the pilot gave a tantalizing hint of what could be done if the TEOTW prologue could be shot with an actual budget and a non-insane production schedule, I can’t see how it would be a draw for any viewer not already intimately familiar with the source material. It’s hard for me to be objective on this front, of course, but I have to think that for someone who’s never read WOT, the entire thing would have come across as nigh incomprehensible.
And… yeah. I could probably get into more detail on this, and I reserve the right to have more thoughts on it later, but I have already devoted way more words than I planned to to this debacle, so it’s probably time for me to move on to what I’m actually supposed to be doing here.
Chapter 33: The Dark Waits
Once again I find the icon choice odd. Why not the Dragon’s fang icon, for Darkfriends/Rand’s channeling sickness, or the dagger icon, for Mat’s near-murder of Mili Skane? Rand doesn’t use or even draw his sword in this chapter. Weird.
Worry creased Rand’s forehead. If Mat did not regain his sight, they would be slowed to a crawl. They would never get away.
Mat seemed to sense his thought. Despite the hood of his cloak, the rain had plastered Mat’s hair across his face. “Rand,” he said, “you won’t leave me, will you? If I can’t keep up?” His voice quavered.
“I won’t leave you.” Rand tightened his grip on his friend’s hand. “I won’t leave you no matter what.”
I said it pretty well in the original commentary: one thing you absolutely cannot fault either Rand or Mat on during this entire sequence is their loyalty to each other. Sure, you could cynically point out that it’s not like they have anyone else to be loyal to, but in that case you are a mean jaded person who hates happiness and I’m not listening to you, la la la!
And again, it’s even more impressive a virtue on Mat’s part, who is more or less literally having his brain eaten at this point, specifically the bits which ought to control things like “loyalty” and “faith” and “friendship,” and yet he never wavers in his determination to protect Rand. In fact he’s considerably more loyal to Rand here than he turns out to be later, once the revelation about Rand’s channeling is revealed and their situation is less immediately dire, and Mat’s brain isn’t being eaten anymore (or at least not as badly).
But that makes a weird kind of sense, to me. It is in extremity that we find out who we really are and what we’re truly made of, and that seems to be even more true of people/characters like Mat than for many others. Not to mention, it seems to me that Mat’s fierce devotion to Rand here could also be interpreted as his way of clinging to that last shred of humanity that the dagger is trying to take from him. Which is something he seems to realize by this point, if only subconsciously, and that makes it a lot easier to feel sorry for him instead of just irritated at him.
He only recognized the man from his clothes, his silk and dark velvets. Gode’s skin was red, burned and cracked and oozing. His face was almost a skull, his lips shriveled to bare teeth and gums. As Gode turned his head, some of his hair cracked off, powdering to soot when it hit his shoulder. His lidless eyes stared at Rand.
This is one of those images where (since we’re all thinking about visual adaptations today) seeing it on film would be considerably more horrific than reading about it on paper. It’s not that I didn’t read this and have a reaction of “ew/yikes,” but actually seeing a man with his face mostly burnt off (especially if the makeup folks really go for the gore factor) is inherently more visceral an experience, I think.
I love the freedom of what you can do in a printed medium, don’t get me wrong, but at the end of the day we are a visually-oriented species: we want to see things to really get the full impact of them, and I think that’s why we are so eager to see a film/TV adaptation of WOT even as we cringe in the expectation (or, er, the partial fulfillment of that expectation) of it not measuring up to what we’ve pictured in our heads.
He thought Paitr had only the vaguest idea of what had happened in Four Kings. That was why he was so frightened.
No, Rand, I’m pretty sure he has a much better idea of what happened in Four Kings than you do, and that’s why he’s so frightened. Heh.
Also, I’m amused, because in the original commentary I thought it was sad that I knew where both Paitr and Mili Skane would show up again without having to look it up, and now I think it’s sad that without the reminder there, by now I wouldn’t have remembered where they show up again without looking it up. I’ll just pretend it’s because I have so many moreimportant things to keep in my brain than I did five years ago. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Yup.
I do love that eventually even Hyam Kinch, Flashback Farmer, shows up again, in either TOM or AMOL, I think. It was a little thing, but anything toward the end of the series that harkened back to the beginning was great fun as far as I was concerned.
“And what Ajah will find you first, eh? Red? Maybe Black. Best to run, boy. Run.”
Huh. I think this is the first mention of either Ajahs in general or the Black Ajah in particular. And here I was convinced that we don’t hear about all that until TGH. Well, I’ll be.
And I meant to go further than this, but then someone had to go and air a secret WOT pilot, didn’t they. The noive. (Seriously, the nerve.) So we’ll pick it up again next week. Laters!