First Impressions : The Wheel of Time show

I read and reviewed the first book in The Wheel of Time series, The Eye of the Worldall the way back in 2019. Thankfully, this meant enough time had passed for me to not to be completely horrified by all of the many changes the new Amazon adaptation of The Wheel of Time made to the book. But even with my poor memory and retainment issues, even I remembered enough of The Eye of the World and its sequel The Great Hunt to be surprised by some of the choices of the show.

 

The Beginning

 

The biggest odd choice to me was the beginning of episode one of The Wheel of Time. In The Eye of the World, the novel immediately grabs you as it begins with a recounting of Lews Therin Telamon, the Dragon, going mad with the use of the One Power against the Dark One and killing all of his loved ones and breaking the world. It’s really a gut-wrenching scene and demonstrates how and why the One Power is not to be trifled with. The same goes for the title of the Dragon. The Eye of the World recounts how every couple years a new man with appears and claims to the be the Dragon Reborn, causing to wars and mass upheaval.

 

Strangely, the show skips all of this, choosing to show Red Ajah of the Aes Sedai hunting down a man with the ability to channel the One Power. Moiraine is shown observing their actions from afar with her Warder, Lan, and choosing to continue the search for the Dragon on her own. Then the show cuts to Nynaeve and Egwene, who is being initiated into the woman’s circle in the Twin Rivers. It’s confusing, to say the least, as there isn’t much of a distinction between these ladies and their rituals in the Twin Rivers and the Aes Sedai.

 

The Dragon Reborn

In The Eye of the World, we know who The Dragon Reborn is, as the novel is largely from his perspective. But in The Wheel of Time show, we are told that Moiraine believes that one out of the four, consisting of Rand, Mat, Egwene, and Perrin, is the Dragon Reborn, who is prophesied to save the world from the return of the Dark One. The show aims to keep the identity of the Dragon Reborn a mystery, even remarking that the Dragon could be a boy or girl. This struck me as an odd choice, because women don’t go mad from the use of the One Power, and could simply be inducted into the Aes Sedai. This could simply be a choice for added drama or to level the gender playing field. Regardless, a female Dragon reborn would take a lot of the fear out of the concept of the Dragon Reborn, as the world is really not keen on relying on a male channeller, who always go mad, to save them from the Dark One, something that last resulted in the Breaking of the World.

 

The Cast

 

 

I must say that by far my favorite cast member is Zoë Robins as Nynaeve. I always loved Nynaeve in The Wheel of Time and seeing her rightly portrayed as a strong-willed, resourceful, and powerful woman really floats my boat. I also truly love Barney Harris as Mat, and can’t help but be saddened that he was recast for Season Two. I do think Rosamund Pike fits the mystical bill of Moiraine quite well, adding much needed gravity to the show.

 

I was very surprised by the actor playing Thom Merrlin, Alexandre Willaume, for he wasn’t what I pictured as Thom at all! I always pictured Thom as a bit of a frail old man who was still wicked with knives and as sharp as them, but this Thom is more of a spry, silver fox with a devious streak, than anything else.  Perrin wasn’t at all what I imagined from the novel either, with actor Marcus Rutherford playing him as a big ole’ innocent loveable teddy bear, rather than the shy, watchful young man I had expected.

 

I really don’t want to comment too much on Madeliene Madden’s portrayal of Egwene, as I have never liked the character, and similarly don’t like her in the show, so I suppose this means the actress is doing a good job with the character. By far my absolute least favorite casting choice Josha Stradowski as Rand al’ Thor. I just found him to be quite bland, to be honest, and that he didn’t show a very wide range of emotions. His lack of inflection and ability to portray emotion is especially obvious when he’s interacting with the other actors and actresses, who do a much more convincing job.

 

The Diversity

I was a little surprised by the diversity in the casting choices. A big portion of The Wheel of Time series demonstrates how little diversity there is in the small town of the Two Rivers. What is diverse in this small town is frowned upon. Though I really like seeing this diversity normalized, especially in a fantasy show (something that is normally filled with predominately white male characters), it came at the cost of the character of Rand al’Thor standing out less.

 

the Gender Roles

 

 

After witnessing the trailers for the show, I was surprised how the show was being marketed as almost feminist, portraying women as the only users of the One Power, and with a girl as possibly the Dragon Reborn. I do think that Amazon’s take on The Wheel of Time is attempting to modernize the gender roles a bit and to certainly appeal to more female viewers. Though I hate to mention Game of Thrones in this post, as every article on the internet seems wholly incapable of comparing the two, I will say that the show was a cultural phenomenon that clearly made it acceptable for everyone, not just white men, to enjoy fantasy.

 

So I definitely think that the showrunners are keeping their female audience in mind, and trying to modernize the books, which don’t always portray its female characters in the best light. Some fans of the books even caustically remark that the female characters are great, until they fall in love, and then they just become silly. I have only read the first two novels in the series at the time of this writing, so I am excited to see how the show will continue its portrayal of its female characters.

 

Can I also just add that I love that the woman of the show wear pants?  I love the lack of the desperate damsel hiking up her heavy skirts while running for her life. I’m also a huge fan that no woman is being forced to ride side saddle. I am here for this.

 

The Aging Up

One of the other biggest differences in The Wheel of Time adaptation is that all of the main cast of characters are aged up. When I initially read that the characters were aged up, I was cautiously excited. After all, half the time we have actors well into their twenties playing teenagers, which I think is both rather harmful for actual teenager’s self-images and also threatens the believability of the characters. So, I was quite excited to do away with that trend by simply making the characters similar in age to the actors and actresses portraying them. However, I didn’t really consider the fact that this meant it was more acceptable for these characters to engage in more mature situations, such as sexual activity. Instead of Egwene and Rand’s will-they-won’t-they young love, they’re having outright sex in the downstairs of a full inn. In another completely gratuitous scene, we see Lan and Moiraine sharing a bath together,. I’m sure this is an attempt to appeal to viewers of the often mature, sex-and-nudity-riddled Games of Thrones, but it just seemed very unnecessary and out of place to me.

 

The Pacing

In The Eye of the World we spent a fair bit of time in the Two Rivers, getting to know their customs. The show barely introduces the town before the main cast is leaving it with Trollocs and a Fade hot on their heels. The show doesn’t really take a lot of time to explain the distrust of the Aes Sedai, or even the factions within it. For instance, though we see the Red Aes Sedai sisters of Moiraine, who seem quite more aggressive in their approach, viewers who have not read the books will not understand the nuances of the organization, for they are not really explained, only alluded to. And there really isn’t any time for this explanation as the show, which hurdles the cast out of Twin Rivers before we even really get to know them.

The Effects

 

 

I was not too impressed with the special effects of the Amazon show. Though I didn’t think the Trollocs looked bad, I definitely saw a tweet referring to them as “Walmart Orcs.” I was more unconvinced by the appearance of Moiraine’s channeling of the One Power. The Power appeared as almost a white spider web whirling in an invisible wind around her, and I was even more uninspired when she used it to toss rocks at the trollocs. How pedestrian. I also thought that the Fade looked like a lackluster Ringwraith Voldemort. I still remember how eerie and otherwordly the creatures came across in The Eye of the World, how the wind did not blow their capes, and I was sad to see that they didn’t quite translate to the screen.

 

 

The Three Episodes

I was really bummed that the entirety of the show didn’t release at once! I  was honestly hoping to binge the entire thing in one day! But I guess I’ll have to settle with the first three for now. I will definitely watch the rest of the season as it releases and hope to reread the rest of the series one of these days.

 

 

 

Did you watch or read The Wheel of Time? Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below!

 

 

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First Impressions : The Wheel of Time

Posted November 19, 2021 in Other Shows, Watch

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