Title: The Wheel of Time
Creator: Rafe Judkins
Stars: Rosamund Pike, Josha Stradowski, Daniel Henney
Between light and darkness, the world exists in a neverending cycle of rebirth, growth and destruction. Magic exists, but only women can use it without going mad.
The Wheel of Time is a TV series adapted from Robert Jordan’s book series of the same name. With more than 90 million books sold, this is one of the most popular fantasy series of all time.
A group of friends is found and taken from their hometown by a mysterious woman representing a powerful organization. She claims that one of them can save the world but admits not knowing precisely who. At the same time, the Dark One is conducting his own search. The one who can save the world can also destroy it.
Moraine, the mysterious woman, is played by Rosamund Pike. Her porcelain face and deep gaze go well with the character’s personality. In the first episode, Moraine arrives in the small town of Two Rivers with her warder, and we quickly get a feel for the special bond between them.
Her large ring with a serpent eating its own tail gives her away as an Aes Sedai, a powerful channeler from the White Tower. A channeler is someone who can use the One Power to influence the world; in essence, a person who can use magic as we might call it. She only knows that the Dragon Reborn is coming of age here and starts her search. We are introduced to four eligible young adults who know little of what transpires beyond their village. But Moraine is not alone in seeking out the candidates. The Dark One’s army also seeks the Dragon and attacks the town. Moraine and her warder turn the tide of the battle and take all four of them with them on a journey to the White Tower.
Moraine is portrayed as determined and unwavering. Brave and resourceful. But also knowledgeable and uncertain. Pike’s performance gives us a Moraine we can relate to; she needs to get the job done even though the ground under her feet is slipping away. Some things are just too important to compromise.
Even though season one is carried mainly by Pike, we see other actors telling believable stories through their characters. Moraine ends up taking along Rand (played by Josha Stradowski), a farmer skeptical of her words. He is tall with red hair and an even redder temper. We get a strong sense of his frustrations with Moraine’s secretiveness and hidden agendas. Rand’s friend Mat (played by Barney Harris), being a happy-go-lucky scoundrel, handles the changes to his life with more ease though he also wants to go back home. Perrin (played by Marcus Rutherford), a blacksmith burdened with the recent death of his love, reminds us of the hard life led by the people of the world and the challenging times we are in. Lastly, there is Eqwene (played by Madeleine Madden), Rand’s love and a recent initiate as a Wisdom, a wise woman in touch with the magic of the world, the Source.
The party splits up, and we are told three separate stories that later come together. Each tells a different but connected tale, like the patches of a quilt. This gives us a feel for the larger world of The Wheel of Time.
The visuals of the series cycle between mundane and wonderous. We see horses, campfires and tired travelers. But we also see fantastical landscapes and backgrounds. Also, the buildings give us a sense of another world. Albeit, the illusion does break from time to time. As does the sense of wonder when monsters remind you that underneath is an extra with a costume and heavy makeup and prosthetics. The costumes and makeup effects also come across as a bit synthetic and mass-produced at times.
The visual effects from channeling are beautiful and elegantly indicate what the magic is affecting. The battle scene in the first episode is striking and gives a good feel of what magic can do when no other option but violence is available.
All know that The Wheel turns. That is, history, if you will, starts anew, civilization rises, lives are lived, fates are played out, and the destiny of individuals shapes the forward motion of time back unto itself. The lives that are lived have been lived before, but they are not the same. Each new turn is influenced by the turn before it, and it was on the last turn men tried to cage darkness itself. When they failed, the seas boiled, mountains were swallowed up, cities burned, and the Aes Sedai women were left to pick up the pieces.
Women are in power, but they are not all-powerful. Coming into The Wheel of Time universe, I expected the power dynamics between the genders to be different; that the all-female powerful Aes Sedai would influence the story in a more feminist direction. In the end, though, they are just influential people with significant responsibilities regardless of their gender. The power dynamics between the suborders of Aes Sedai, though, is another matter. Each has a different color and motivation.
The Wheel of Time TV series should be a delight for fantasy lovers, with many well-known elements of the genre coming together with other inspirations to form a whole. The flow of the story is well-paced, and we are shown what feels like a little bit of everything in the world that makes up The Wheel of Time.
The first season with eight one-hour-long episodes premieres on Prime Video on the 19th of November 2021. But only the first three episodes are released on that date. The rest will be released weekly.