“Twilight Canyons” still feels like a huge departure from the source material, but more coherent themes and less distracting, baiting silliness help this version of Pratchett’s Discworld to feel more worthwhile.
This recap of The Watch season 1, episode 4, “Twilight Canyons”, contains spoilers.
I wonder, sometimes, what people want from adaptations, and I suspect the answer would be different for everyone. So, it seems silly to criticize The Watch for how closely it adheres to its literary source at this point, especially since a lot of references in the latest episode, “Twilight Canyons”, suggest that it knows the material more intimately that previous episodes might suggest. This isn’t a misrepresentation of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld so much as a reimagining inspired by it. It won’t be for everyone, but it is what it is.
This seems truer in The Watch episode 4 than it has until now. There’s nowhere near as much baiting silliness as there was in the previous episode and it had a much more coherent two-pronged search for a dragon-controlling sword that belonged to a former member of the Assassin’s Guild. Both of the show’s major factions are pursuing it, with the Watch a little behind but on the trail thanks to a clutch of hair nicked from Carcer’s wizard companion Wonce. Things don’t go particularly well for them courtesy of a goblin clique, but I like the theme of prior kindness being paid forward.
Carcer and Wonce, meanwhile, discover the titular Twilight Canyons to be basically a retirement home, where Jocasta Wiggs, that former assassin who stole the sword from the Guild, is too far gone to be of much help. But a mural does the job for her, depicting a perilous journey to the Edge of the world with another woman, Perpetua, who subsequently betrayed her and took the sword for herself. She’s buried, they learn, above Jocasta’s empty tomb, and from there they retrieve the blade, only discovering afterward that a swapped hilt has culled its magic.
The matter of the missing hilt in The Watch season 1, episode 4 is deciphered by the Watch, though mostly by Carrot, admittedly. It’s the handle of Jocasta’s cane, and the cane itself has since been entrusted to retired Watch Sergeant Swires. Finally, ahead of their adversaries, Vimes insists on a sting operation that goes predictably wrong, facing Vimes off against Carcer and Wonce off against Sybil for the episode’s obligatory bit of idiosyncratic silliness (I didn’t mind this one, to be fair.) The sword and the hilt both end up in possession of the Watch, but even that isn’t enough, since apparently, it has forgotten how to control the dragon and only lovers can hear its voice anyway.
With that obstacle comes another – Carcer and Wonce enlist the disgraced head of the Thieves’ Guild to steal the sword on the orders of an omniscient order of space auditors who are beginning to view the newly aligned-in-purpose Watch as a bit of a problem – a problem that Carcer might have to pay the price for if it’s not brought under control. This all makes for a decent lead-in to the next few episodes, on the back of an episode that felt a bit more coherent, thematically, than some of the others have. Perspective is one recurring motif – made rather literal in the two distinct interpretations of Jocasta’s mural – as is, increasingly, love.
Maybe I’m just getting romantic in my old age, but I like the idea that the desire for companionship overrides even the kind of absurdity baked into this setting, which is weirder in this interpretation than it was in the books, and that’s really saying something. I suppose it makes sense for a rather outwardly progressive show to champion acceptance and connection in all its forms, since really, isn’t that what we all want, even if just for ourselves? The rest of the show’s obvious hang-ups – most of them in makeup and costuming and unnecessary bursts of ridiculous claptrap – are still present in “Twilight Canyons”, but for the first time, they don’t feel like the point.