When Ruth asked me if I wanted to review Amazon Prime’s new series, The Wheel of Time, I had to think about it. Anyone who read my JordanCon post from a few months ago knows I’m a fan of the Robert Jordan‘s books the show is an adaptation of. I don’t want to come across as biased or get too hung up on discussing the show as an adaptation, since a good show should stand on without requiring its viewers to be familiar with the source material. Obviously not all viewers will be familiar with the books, so I will do my best to review this as a stand-alone show. That said, some terms are hard to describe to people who haven’t read the books, so I want to give a special shout-out to my JordanCon friends group chat for helping me with the following summary. You’re all the best, and I can’t wait to see you in April!
The Wheel of Time follows Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), a member of a mysterious order of magical women called Aes Sedai, and her warder (a sort of bodyguard) Lan (Daniel Henney) as they search for The Dragon Reborn, a person prophesied to save the world or destroy it. Their search takes them to the small town of Two Rivers, where five young men and women- Rand (Josha Stradowski), Mat (Barney Harris), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), Egwene (Madeline Madden), and Nynaeve (Zoë Robins)- are caught up in a dangerous and life-changing journey.
I won’t say this is a perfect series- with only 3 episodes available so far, there’s obviously room to grow- but it’s off to a very promising start. Its greatest strength is easily its cast. I already loved Rosamund Pike and knew her versatility would lend itself well to the role of Moiraine, and she and Daniel Henney have incredible chemistry. The relationship between an Aes Sedai and her warder is an interesting one, and the wrong actors could easily mess it up, but these two perfectly convey the platonic but deeply loving friendship between them.
The young cast portraying the Two Rivers group are fantastic as well. Despite Zoë Robins getting the least screen time of the five so far, she’s easily a stand out, giving an absolutely fierce performance. Madeline Madden exudes this quiet strength that is so perfect for her character, and I’m so excited to see more of her. Josha Stradowski gives a subtle and likable performance. Marcus Rutherford practically radiates this inner warmth in every scene he’s in. And Barney Harris has incredible comedic chops while still bringing a solemnity to his character. A different actor (Dónal Finn) will be playing Mat in season 2, and while I’m sure he’s an excellent actor, he’ll have some big shoes to fill.
The show is visually stunning as well. The sweeping scenery and creatively designed sets are gorgeous. The Trollocs (flesh-hungry animal/human hybrid monsters) are sufficiently horrifying. I’m obsessed with the costume design; the clothing is unique but reflective of the environment the characters are in or from, and it’s so refreshing seeing an epic fantasy where the characters aren’t all dressed in generic medieval garb.
As I said though, the show is not perfect. There are definitely some pacing issues, especially in the first episode where the ending feels annoyingly rushed. It gets better in the next two episodes, but there’s still room for improvement. The “dead wife” motivation for one of the main characters is more than a little cliche, and having a woman killed after barely 5 minutes of screen time to drive a man’s character arc isn’t a great look. There’s also been some discussion of colorism in the casting; while there are several people of color in main roles, there are only a few actors with darker complexions, and they’re cast as either villains or victims. Even if it was unintentional, it’s understandably upset people, and hopefully more care will be taken in casting going forward.
Overall, though, The Wheel of Time is a beautifully produced and incredibly acted show, and I’m so excited to see the rest of the season. 8 episodes doesn’t feel like enough, but they’ve already started working on season 2, so at least we know we’ll have more to look forward to.
Have you seen The Wheel of Time yet? Well, what did YOU think?