The Wheel of Time makes it mark on the fantasy television landscape with its long-awaited television adaptation.
With the success of recent fantasy properties such as Game of Thrones and The Witcher, many adaptations of beloved fantasy series are making their way to screen. The Wheel of Time, a book series that debuted in 1990 from author Robert Jordan, is the latest to be adapted into a series on Amazon Prime. With the series’ first three episodes, released simultaneously, the series does a good job setting up the world and the characters. While many of the familiar tropes of the fantasy genre are present, the story and characters make the series compelling to watch.
The Wheel of Time takes place in a fantasy world made distinct by its unique magic system. The magic of the world is divided by gender, though much of how it works has yet to be revealed. While the magic system was creative for its time, it can’t be helped that the rigid gender binary in such a fictional setting deserves more scrutiny with a modern lens. It raises a lot of questions about how trans and non-binary characters would fare, and hopefully, this modern adaptation will make an effort to be somewhat more inclusive in that regard.
The world of the series is visually beautiful with lush scenery and impressive special effects. I was surprised to learn that the story was intended to have a post-apocalyptic setting, as there is little evidence of an apocalypse in what we’ve seen besides the dialogue and the abandoned city set in the second episode, “Shadow’s Waiting.” The action sequences at the end of the first two episodes, “Leavetaking” and “Shadow’s Waiting” in particular are visually impressive and well-choreographed. The magic shown on the screen is visually interesting, and the prospect of seeing more as the series goes on is exciting. The show’s title sequence that debuts in “Shadow’s Waiting” is also creative as it effectively shows off the aspects of this particular reality.
For better or worse, the plot of The Wheel of Time falls into many familiar tropes that most viewers have seen in other properties. When the Dark One returns, Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) and Lan (Daniel Henney) seek out the Dragon Reborn, the young person who is destined to save the world. The identity of the Dragon Reborn is narrowed down to four people, Rand (Josha Stradowski), Egwene (Madeleine Madden), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), and Mat (Barney Harris). After an attack on their village, the group goes on the run from the Dark One’s army.
While the plot is familiar, the likable characters make the show compelling to watch. The live-action adaptation has done a great job at diversifying its main cast, and the actors do justice to their role. Each character has a distinct personality and it’s fun to see their interpersonal interactions as well as their individual reactions to being forced onto this grand journey. When the identity of the Dragon Reborn is revealed, hopefully, the roles of the other three aren’t diminished too much.
For those who have read the books, there have been many changes made in the adaptation from book to screen. While most changes serve to streamline or add new perspectives to the narrative, not every change is for the better. In particular, the addition of Perrin having a wife that is killed moments after her introduction is particularly controversial. For all of the well-rounded female characters already present in the series, the idea of adding a new character for the sole purpose of fridging her seems to run counter to that. Perrin’s guilt over accidentally killing his wife provides conflict, but it doesn’t feel necessary in the grand scheme of things.
After the group is split up at the end of the second episode, some interesting plot threads are introduced in the third episode, “A Place of Safety” that provide intrigue for the season’s remaining episodes. The return of Nynaeve (Zoe Robins) after being kidnapped and presumed dead in the first episode is welcome after her strong introduction. In addition, the episode provides potential new friends and enemies, and it will be intriguing to see how everything with them ends up playing out.
The Wheel of Time’s first three episodes may play into familiar tropes, but the adaptation does its best to set it apart from other fantasy properties. While there is much to learn about the world and its characters, the journey seems off to a promising start and will hopefully live up to fan expectations.
Note: Editor and writer Farid is recording reaction and review videos for season one of The Wheel of Time over at The Geekiary’s YouTube channel.
Author: Jessica Wolff
Jessica Wolff is a graduate of Drexel University with a BS in Film/Video. She has a passion for entertainment and representation in entertainment. She currently resides outside of Washington, DC.