Review: The Wheel of Time Season 1

Natalie Anderson, Staff Writer

Spoiler Warning! Spoilers for the first season

The much anticipated show, The Wheel of Time, has wrapped up its first season on Amazon Prime. Heralded by critics as the new Game of Thrones, the first season is just the beginning of the adaptation of the 14 book series by Robert Jordan.

As an avid fan of the book series, I have eagerly anticipated the release of the TV show since I first heard about it in 2019. When I began watching the show, I went in with open understanding that there were going to be adaptations from the book, both storywise and due to budget constraints. However, the storyline deviated much more than I had expected. While I understand the necessity for some of the changes, there were others I feel could have been done differently.

The Wheel of Time is set in a high fantasy world where magic, called the One Power, can only be accessed by women called Aes Sedai. The last time a man wielded the One Power, he was called the Dragon. He broke the world imprisoning the Dark One. Since then, every time a man attempts to wield to One Power, it turns him mad. Now, the Dark One is trying to break free and the Dragon has been reborn. He will either break the world again, or save it. 

Tucked away in the mountains, the village of the Two Rivers is preparing for Bel Tine, a festival for the arrival of spring. As a reclusive village, the townspeople are surprised by the arrival of a strange noblewoman, otherwise known as Moiraine Damodred, or Moiraine Sedai (Rosamund Pike).

This is one of the changes in the TV show that I agree with. In the books, Moiraine keeps her identity as an Aes Sedai a secret until she reveals herself fighting in the Trolloc attack. Since the books are so extensive, it was necessary that Moiraine identified herself the moment she appeared in the show. It was understandable that the show was going to have to move at a much faster pace than the books. 

However, one of the changes that haunted me throughout the first season was the fact that Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) had a wife, and he accidentally kills her during the Trolloc attack. The director Rafe Judkins’s reasoning for this change was to give Perrin more character development. While Perrin is one of the main characters, most of his development occurs in the later books while the first book is focused more on Rand (Josha Stradowski). Judkins wanted to make sure the viewers knew his character from the very beginning.

While I believe it is important for the viewers to understand Perrin’s character from the get go, I think they could have gone about it in a different way. This is where I agree with Brandon Sanderson―who completed The Wheel of Time series―on what his thoughts were regarding this change. 

Perrin and his wife Laila (Prime Video)

In a post on Reddit, Sanderson said that the “biggest thing [Judkins] and I disagreed on was Perrin’s wife. I realize that there is a good opportunity here for Perrin to be shown with rage issues, and to be afraid of the potential beast inside of him. I liked that idea, but didn’t like it being a wife for multiple reasons. First off, it feels a lot like the disposable wife trope (AKA Woman in the Fridge.) Beyond that, I think the trauma of having killed your wife is so huge, the story this is telling cannot realistically deal with it in a way that is responsible. Perrin killing his wife then going off on an adventure really bothers me, even still. . . That kind of trauma, dealt with realistically and responsibly, is really difficult for an adventure series to deal with.

“I suggested instead that he kill Master Luhhan. As much as I hate to do Luhhan dirty like that, I think the idea Rafe and the team had here is a good one for accelerating Perrin’s plot. Accidentally killing your master steps the trauma back a little, but gives the same motivations and hesitance. One thing I don’t want this WoT adaptation to try to do is lean into being a tonal Game of Thrones replacement–IE, I don’t want to lean into the “Grimdark” ideas. Killing Perrin’s wife felt edgy just to be edgy.”

There was one other major change the show made that I would have liked to be done differently. That is the relationship between Mat (Barney Harris) and the dagger he took from Shadar Logoth. 

Mat and his dagger (Prime Video)

The dagger is a significant plot point throughout the first three books. The longer Mat had it in his possession, the more it tainted his soul with evil. When Moiraine discovered Mat had the dagger, she was able to protect him from the taint, but was unable to separate him from it without killing him. In order to separate him from it, she needed the help of several sisters and an angreal from the White Tower.

I was excited to see this dagger in the show because it shaped Mat’s character throughout the first three books. What I was not expecting was for him to be rid of it in the 6th episode after only having found it in the 2nd. 

When Moiraine found Rand and Mat in Tar Valon, she simply separated Mat from the taint of the dagger and that was it. There was no more dagger to be mentioned. 

While I believe the show still intends Mat’s previous connection to the dagger to play a role in the upcoming seasons, I was disappointed as to how that part of his storyline played out. His possession of the dagger in the second book is an extremely important detail which helps progress the story. I do not know how they will make the second season without it.  

Another grievance I have is that I felt like the show tried too hard to make Moiraine the main character. While Moiraine certainly is a driving influence in the books, she definitely is not a main character like Rand, Mat, and Perrin. Rosamund Pike is the highest profile actor in the show. It is my belief that because she has the most credit to her name, the show revolved around her more than the other characters. 

My last major complaint is the use of CGI. To put it into comparison, Game of Thrones had a $6 to $8 million budget per episode. The Witcher had a $15 million budget per episode. The Wheel of Time had a $10 million budget per episode. With that amount per episode, there should have been some amount of realness to the CGI. However, so much of it looked fake.

It was almost comical how often I could tell there was a green screen. When the Aes Sedai channeled, their weaves looked overly exaggerated along with the Aes Sedai’s movements. In episode seven when they were all traveling the Ways, instead of looking like a black wind, Machin Sin looked like a bunch of metal pieces zipping around. The only somewhat believable CGI aspect was the Fade (or the Mydraal, which I wish they would have called it at least once). If so much money was provided to each episode, where did it all go if it was not given to CGI?

Moiraine channeling the One Power (Prime Video)

While I have complained a lot about the show, overall, I did not think it was terrible. Could it have been improved? Yes. However, I did enjoy seeing the characters come to life. I particularly enjoyed Rand, Perrin, and Loial (Hammed Animashaun). 

To put it into perspective, I think if someone were to watch the show without previously reading the books, they would not have nearly as much to complain about. That being said, these books are my favorite books I have ever read. While I understood there were going to be changes to adapt them to television, I did not know they would be changed so drastically. Unlike Game of Thrones where they found a good middle ground between the books and the show, The Wheel of Time strayed pretty far from that middle.

Complaints aside, I will surely be watching the second season when it airs. I think the second season will either make or break the show. If it continues on the path it is currently on, I do not think I will watch any further than the second season. However, if the producers take the fans’ opinions into account (I know I am not the only one with similar complaints), and change the show to better fit the storyline and details of the books, I will definitely keep watching.

I guess “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.”