WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Wheel of Time Episode 1, "Leavetaking," now streaming on Prime Video.
When a book series like The Wheel of Time is adapted into a TV show, there are always changes that must be made, and sometimes that means eliminating characters or adding new ones. One such addition, however, may cause some controversy, even though she's only in the premiere episode.
Several of the main characters in The Wheel of Time have been aged up from their book counterparts, meaning that Rand, Mat and Perrin are men in their twenties instead of wide-eyed teenagers. Although the three are still close friends, their lives already seem headed in different directions, with one sign being their respective relationships: Mat is avowedly single, Rand is planning a future with Egwene, and Perrin is married to a woman named Laila.
Laila isn't based on any character from the books, but she fits well into the Two Rivers setting. Perrin is a blacksmith, and she's his partner in the forge, shown to be hard at work even when everyone else is celebrating at the festival. Their marriage appears loving and stable, although not without troubles, as Laila seems to be dealing with something of her own that's never fully explained. When the village is attacked, they swiftly find each other and fight the Trollocs side by side.
It's then that we see why Laila doesn't come along on the journey -- and that the change to Perrin's backstory becomes questionable. During the heat of battle, Laila startles Perrin and he whirls around and swings his ax, thinking there's another enemy behind him. It's a fatal blow, leaving her to die in his arms.
Perrin's clearly accidental role in his wife's death -- and the guilt that haunts him -- is not necessarily objectionable in and of itself. Unfortunately, the trope in which a woman dies to further the character development of a man is one that many fans will find frustratingly familiar, with it commonly being known as "fridging."
Set against a world full of interesting and active female characters, Laila's fridging isn't enough to ruin The Wheel of Time right out of the gate. It helps that care was clearly taken to give her some complexity and individuality in the little time she had onscreen. However, seeing her fate may still be a disappointment to many viewers, especially those who know that she was essentially included in the story for no other reason than to add drama to Perrin's beginnings.
Of course, Robert Jordan's book series is not without its flaws. There are even examples of women being fridged in its pages, which the TV adaptation can easily avert and perhaps compensate for this early plot point. And with the potential for many more seasons ahead and many long books full of material to adapt, it is likely the next surprises coming from The Wheel of Time will be of a more uplifting kind.
The Wheel of Time is now streaming on Prime Video, with new episodes released on Fridays.
KEEP READING: The Wheel of Time Announces Animated Shorts Exploring the Show's Prehistory
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