THE WHEEL OF TIME – Season 1 – Episodes 1 through 3 – SPOILERS
More ‘Sword and Science‘ than ‘Sword and Sorcery‘; THE WHEEL OF TIME is an engaging, complex, and coherent fantasy world. Fans of the books seem generally displeased with the series’ divergence from the original, but fans of any book are almost never happy with the film or TV show made from it. Not having read the fourteen novels (but having read quite a lot about them) the fidelity of the show to the original material is not (for me) something of concern. But some worrisome things were pointed out in an article by Allison Flood in The Guardian titled: “Too much bosom: why The Wheel of Time is far from ‘great for women’“, which said (about the books): “…women are always thinking about how they look and what they’re wearing — or frequently what they’re not wearing…As one of the main characters puts it: ‘If the world is ending, a woman would want time to fix her hair.'” Flood cites this short passage: “He sounded like a bumblebee the size of a cat instead of a mastiff.” as one example (among others) of the novels’ questionable prose.
In the first three episodes, not one character, male or female, expressed any concern about their appearance, what they were wearing, or what they might plan to wear. There were no strained metaphors to be found, and it seems that the TV series has eradicated most of the sexist stuff from the thirty-year-old text, much like was done in the case of two other shows: Y:THE LAST MAN, and WYNONNA EARP. (Both of those were based on comics. The Wheel of Time books are unillustrated prose (although Amazon says they are aimed at the 12-17 age group).
At the start, Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) outlines the general situation: “The world is broken. Many, many years ago, men who were born with great power believed they could cage darkness itself. The arrogance. When they failed, the seas boiled, mountains were swallowed up, cities burned, and the women of the Aes Sedai were left to pick up the pieces. These women remembered one thing above all else — the man who brought the breaking of the world. And they named him Dragon. Now this man has been born again. We don’t know where or to whom. If he was reborn as a girl or boy. The only thing we know for certain is that this child is coming of age now, and we must find them before the Dark does.”
So Moiraine is on the hunt for a twenty-year-old whom she believes to be the prophesied reincarnation of The Dragon. (To oversimplify a bit, the Aes Sedai are the all-female Jedi Knights of this story, and the One Power behaves like a more scientifically defined version of “the force”.) Moiraine believes this reborn Dragon is in an isolated mountain area where “the old blood runs deep”, which probably means the gene pool is quite shallow there. Reincarnation is accepted as a reality by everyone in Wheel of Time even though no one can remember their past lives, and is probably a way of explaining the long term effects of inherited genetic traits to an uneducated public.
Moiraine comes to believe that the Dragon Reborn is one of four people: Egwene al’Vera (Madeleine Madden), Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski), Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford), and Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris). Followers of the Dark also seem convinced that one of these four is the new Dragon, because they send an army of super-soldiers, boar/human hybrids called Trollocs, after them. Moiraine wants to get to the new Dragon before the Dark can turn them into a destructive force similar to what the original Dragon became.
Showrunner Rafe Judkins told Liz Shannon Miller of Collider: “We have put more focus on Moiraine, who’s played by Rosamund Pike, as a character that is not only just your traditional guide that takes our characters and leads them out into the world, but we’ve tried to give her more of an emotional journey…I think a lot of people think as Moiraine as this iconic character. She was so different from any character who preceded her in that world. She broke what people thought a woman could be in fantasy when that book series came out.”
Notable side characters add spice to the adventure, especially Alexandre Willaume as the gleeman (minstrel) Thom Merrilin; Izuka Hoyle as the barmaid Dana; Maria Doyle Kennedy as Ila of the Tuatha’an; and Johann Myers as the peddler Padan Fain.
Liandrin Guirale (Kate Fleetwood), another Aes Sedai, has captured a man named Logain Albar who claims to be the Dragon Reborn, and is keeping him in a cage.
The Aes Sedai have three laws that govern them (something like Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, but for people). They are:
1. – To speak no word that is not true
2. – To make no weapon with which one person may kill another
3. – Never to use the One Power as a weapon except in the last extreme defense of her life (or the life of her Warder or another Aes Sedai)
In what is easily the best scene in these three episodes, Moiraine, who has been alive for a very long time, enlightens the four traveling with her as to the meaning of a folk song they sing as they ride. She tells them the story of how their home village survived the Trolloc Wars in a battle somewhat similar to Thermopylae. And how their Queen Eldryne lashed out in a moment of grief over her dead husband and destroyed the Trolloc army as it was on the verge of victory. Then she tells her four companions: “The old blood runs deep in you. Remember that.”
Rand al’Thor thinks he’s in love with Egwene al’Vere but there are some signs that he might end up in a relationship with Mat Cauthon. (After watching them for a day, even Dana the Barmaid jumped to the conclusion that the two were lovers. She was wrong, but she may have been prescient.)
New episodes will be released on Amazon Prime Video on Fridays, and the eighth and final episode of the first season will air on Christmas Eve. THE WHEEL OF TIME has already been renewed for a second and a third season.