The Wheel of Time, a fantasy TV show based on Robert Jordan’s novel series of the same name, premiered on Amazon Prime Video on November 19, bringing new audiences and longtime fans alike to an adaptation of an expansive storey. The Wheel of Time, directed by Rafe Judkins and starring Rosamund Pike, follows five young people from a remote village called the Two Rivers: Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski), Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden), Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford), Nynaeve al’Meara (Zo Robins), and Matrim Cauthon (Barney Harris).A woman named Moiraine appears in the village on the eve of Bel Tine, a holiday celebration. She is recognised as an Aes Sedai, one of the women who can channel the One Power who is both revered and feared.
That night, the village is brutally attacked by Trollocs, and Moiraine plays a key role in defeating them. In the aftermath of the attack, Moiraine informs the young villagers that the Trollocs were looking for one of them, and she persuades them to leave and travel with her to the Aes Sedai’s stronghold, the White Tower, in the faraway city of Tar Valon.The production design is stunning.
I know some are using this point to damn the show with faint praise, but I don’t mean it that way: the show is visually stunning, and I appreciate that. So far, the scenery, cinematography, music, set design, costumes, and special effects are breathtaking. Some argue that CGI destroys the magic of bringing fantastical elements to life on screen, but I disagree: Give me all the beautiful post-apocalyptic landscapes and convincing monsters. The Trollocs and (so far) singular Fade designs are particularly effective—and terrifying. The opening credits, while similar to those of A Game of Thrones, represent the plot.
The opening credits of The Wheel of Time have been criticised for eerily resembling those of A Game of Thrones. And, yes, they do share some characteristics. While the opening credits of A Game of Thrones were captivating to watch, it was never clear how the clockwork map was supposed to represent the series’ themes.
The opening scene of The Wheel of Time, on the other hand, depicts the central themes of the storey, with imagery of weaving tapestries and depictions of the Aes Sedai and the seven Ajahs (references that will become clearer as the series goes on).The creators of The Wheel of Time have updated the storey in terms of diversity and equality.The first three episodes keep the show’s creators’ promise to update the storey in terms of diversity and equality.
The showrunners have updated the storey for the twenty-first century by casting people of colour in key roles and overtly erasing some of the gender lines installed and maintained by the source material.
Moiraine Sedai says directly in the opening voiceover that while the Dragon is reborn, they do not know whether they were born as a girl or a boy, and she also tells her Warder Lan that the Two Rivers has four “ta’veren” (a term expected to be made clear to non-book readers later): Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene. Only the three boys were explicitly named ta’veren in the books, while Egwene was not, which fans of the books argued was contradicted by the events of the storey.
It’s an authorial oversight, in my opinion, that I’m glad to see corrected, and I’m curious to see how the decision ends up reverberating through future events.
Whereas the books rarely mentioned homosexuality, the show has made a point of establishing that same-sex relationships are both acknowledged and common early on.The Wheel of Time brings key plot points from the book series to life.Non-book fans may find this confusing, but: Moiraine told Manetheren’s storey! She didn’t tell it quite the same way she did in the books, and it was edited to some extent, but that’s irrelevant.
Moiraine telling the Two Rivers people the storey of their ancestors, which they had forgotten until she brought it back to life for them, was one of the first scenes in The Eye of the World that gave hints of the sheer depth of its world-building, and it was also what firmly hooked me into reading further, and I love that the show kept it in.
I like it for what it is, but I also like that it suggests the showrunners recognised the significance of the scene, which I hope bodes well for the future.
I also appreciate that the show maintains “The Sentence”: the famous first sentence of every first chapter of every book in the series, which always begins the same and ends slightly differently for each book. The Eye of the World’s version is as follows:The Wheel of Time spins, and Ages pass, leaving behind memories that become legend.
Legend fades to myth, and myth, in turn, fades to obscurity when the Age that gave birth to it returns. A wind rose in the Mountains of Mist in one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past. The wind was not the first thing that happened. The turning of the Wheel of Time has no beginnings or endings. But it was a start.The addition of the line at the end of the pilot episode was the perfect finishing touch.
Rosamund Pike is an excellent Moiraine.Rosamund Pike, as Moiraine, carries a lot of the emotional weight of the storey so far—and she does it well. Moiraine has been a fan favourite character throughout the book series, so it’s heartening to see Pike treat her with such dignity.I also like Moiraine’s relationship with her Warder Lan in the show, which is a little, ahem, cheekier than it was in the books. (If you’ve seen the bathtub scene, you’ll understand what I mean.)
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