This will contain spoilers. So many spoilers. It’s downright spoiled. If you haven’t watched the first episode of the Wheel of Time and read all of the books, beware!
I’m also assuming that you know basic terminology like Aes Sedai, Ajahs, etc.
First off, I wasn’t expecting to spend so much time with the kids from the Two Rivers. Things people said about the focus of the first episode being on Moiraine and being about the rebirth of the Dragon Reborn, I was expecting more New Spring and less Eye of the World in the first episode. And, instead, the New Spring-y stuff is limited to the first few minutes. Then we get Moiraine and Lan watching a bunch of sisters of the Red Ajah catching a man who can channel (was that Logain?) and when it turns out that he isn’t the Dragon Reborn, Moiraine leaves for the Two Rivers.
Rafe Judkins, creator of the television series, is attempting to obfuscate who the Dragon Reborn will turn out to be in part by saying that the Dragon Reborn can also be female and making Egwene or Nynaeve (or both?) ta’veren as well as the three boys, to which I say, “about damn time.”
There’s a lot I liked about Jordan’s attempts at egalitarianism. I liked the fact that so many of the countries of Randland have female rulers, for example. But as with everyone, Jordan had some blind spots. Channeling is stereotypical and, kind of kinky. Men are more powerful and they take an active role in channeling. Women are weaker and channel by surrendering to the Power. The balance for men being stronger is that women can join their abilities together, while for men, they can only join together if there’s a woman in their circle. See? Kinky.
In one big departure from the books, it seems clear to me that Nynaeve knows that “listening to the wind” is channeling. She doesn’t know who her parents are (which is odd. Where is that going?) and she was raised by the former Wisdom of Emond’s Field (a name that I don’t think I’ve heard in the series yet, so far they’ve just called it The Two Rivers), who could “listen to the wind” and went to Tar Valon to train to be an Aes Sedai and was refused because of her ragged clothes and her “peasant accent.”
As part of the attempt to make it uncertain who will be the Dragon Reborn, we also see way more than we do in the books. We see the ceremony where the Women’s Circle braid’s Egwene’s hair and we see the events of Winternight, rather than just seeing the destruction afterwards, which was nice. Well, watching the people of Emond’s Field be slaughtered by Trollocs wasn’t nice. But having those blank filled in was nice. Oh, you know what I mean. I think.
Now for the biggest, most spoilery, question, was Laila fridged? For those who have never heard the term “fridge” used that way, it’s based in a Green Lantern comic book featuring the stupidest Green Lantern of them all, Kyle Rayner. The villain Major Force kills Kyle’s girlfriend, Alexandra, and sticks her in the refrigerator. This leads Kyle to develop as a character. It has come to mean any time a female character is sacrificed (to death, or to incapacitation or whatever) to advance a man’s storyline.
Now, at first glance, Laila’s accidental death at Perrin’s hands (or axe, I guess) does look like fridging. Perrin will change and grow or otherwise develop (maybe in a maladjusted way) to this trauma. I hope that they find a way to subvert this trope in further episodes, but if that’s the only major problem I have with the show, then we’re doing pretty well.
Mega Spoiler for a book that won’t be adapted until season 3, I think, follows:
And what will happen when Perrin returns home with Faile after leaving town before Laila’s funeral? I suspect we may not have the happy Emond’s Field wedding of the book series.