There is a great wheel that turns and turns, and history turns with it. When it completes its cycle, the souls that have departed from the previous era return in new forms.
This is the cosmology of Amazon Prime Video’s new fantasy show, The Wheel of Time, hence the name. It is also a philosophy of television programming in which the old is relentlessly new again. Game of Thrones left this mortal world in 2019, and it’s no surprise Amazon hopes that The Wheel, which debuts its first three episodes on Friday, will be its second coming.
This is where I need to anticipate the readers of the science fiction novels that the show is based on. (Watch adaptations of the fantasy saga and you will inevitably have to deal with readers.) Robert Jordan’s cycle of 14 novels (plus additional reading) began many years before the books by George RR Martin, which formed the basis of Game of Thrones. Both Jordan and Martin have followed or responded to works such as JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. (To complete the lap or re-start the wheel, Amazon will also have the Rings series next year.)
But as a teleadaptation “The Wheel of Time” looks like it didn’t happen. intelligence you confuse this with Thrones, right down to the opening credits with their circular logo similar to the Ouroboros, which is not much different from the emblem in the credits of Thrones.
The good news for fantasy-hungry audiences is that this lush and ambitious series is fast approaching Thrones and even Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films in glory and glory. It is due to the inspiration of life and the depth of character that “Wheel” lags behind by several revolutions.
An extensive series like Jordan’s (which was completed by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death in 2007) can be a quagmire to adapt; a failed pilot, featured as a thief in the night at FXX in 2015. This new endeavor, designed by Rafe Judkins, hints at a gigantic world and mythology that should be built around a fusion of Eastern and Western philosophy and aesthetics.
But it all starts simple and accessible, in what you might call Frodo’s Modified Quest Mode: there is a prophecy, a wizard, a gang of ordinary people recorded in history, a dangerous journey, a ghostly enemy and talk of a decisive final battle.
The Gandalfian figure here is Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) of the Aes Sedai, an all-female order of sorcerers who weave smoky threads of magic. She appears in Two Rivers, a region nestled among the Sound of Music Mountains, because predictions say that one of the local youths is the embodiment of the Dragon, an epoch-making figure that appears at the end of each era.
The twist: she doesn’t know who it is. When an army of trollocs – minions of an invisible Dark – with bestial faces – appear to unleash chaos in Dungeons & Dragons, she escapes Two Rivers with her swordsman friend Lan (Daniel Henney) and a group of would-be reluctant saviors.
Their journey to the citadel of the Aes Sedai, which takes up most of the six episodes shown to critics (out of eight in the first season), gives us time to look around the set and get to know the characters.
The first is great. Scene by scene, it looks like a sumptuous 1980s fantasy paperback cover. The latter mainly belong to the fresh types of livestock, especially to young, waiting dragons.
Rand (Josh Stradowski) is a lunar, serious shepherd boy in love with Egwene (Madeleine Madden), an empathetic student of the village healer Nynaeve (Zoe Robins). Blacksmith Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) – gentle giant; Mat (Barney Harris) is a cynic with a sad past and a penchant for trouble. Two of the most notable appearances come from the antagonists: Alvaro Morte (Robbery of the Money) as the leader of the rebellion and Abdul Salis as the inquisitor of a group of religious fanatics opposed to the Aes Sedai.
The dramatic drive of the show comes from Pike, who endows Moiraine with a weighed down seriousness and intimidation. But it’s too often burdened with Fairport Convention lyrics like “The Wheel Wings The Wheel Wants” and try saying it 10x faster.
The ideas behind The Wheel do have potential. His worldview is not as realistic as Thrones’, but his concept of good and evil is promisingly complex.
Aes Sedai, for example, are sublime but ruthless, torn apart by domestic politics and not trustworthy. There are doubts whether the predicted Dragon will be the salvation or the death of the world. Even some followers of the Dark – an as yet obscure voice-over threat – believe their master wants to do good, breaking the historical cycle of suffering.
The gender dynamics of the show is perhaps the most thought-provoking trait. Women control magic in the world of the Wheel for historical and mythological reasons – something – something about the One Power, corrupted in such a way that it affects the men who try to use it – which, in turn, leads some men to indignation or the fear of being superfluous. …
This is a provocative premise, although it is not clear what exactly this “Wheel” is trying to say. All in all, the series’ lengthy play – that is, why you have to be careful enough to commit – is elusive, even if it ties the episodes together with the morning series. Somehow he manages to feel dynamic and static at the same time.
The “wheel” really has time to develop; he is already being picked up for the second season. What he lacks is his voice. Rather, it is, but it is a tough New Age dialect of typical high fantasy. Maybe this is a continuation of Jordan’s ponderous prose; perhaps it is due to too careful respect for the source material. But as I listened to character after character chat about the spinning of the Wheel, I yearned for Gollum or Arya Stark to breathe life into my creativity.
From the first minutes “Wheel of Time” is massively epic. But deep in his first season, he has yet to become human in scale. Nonetheless, it’s a pleasure to watch. First, the wanderers take refuge in the cursed city, its lonely streets adorned with Baroque architecture and sculptures. The “wheel” as a performance is felt exactly like that. This is a stunningly detailed building with no people.