The Wheel of Time S1

A few weeks ago I wrote about being pretty excited the new Wheel of Time series produced through Amazon. WoT may very well be the best series of fantasy books ever written, and bringing it to TV was pretty exciting.

Episode eight aired yesterday, ending the first season. It could’ve been worse, but overall, not great.

A few scattered thoughts:

  • The Moraine/Siuan scene really lost me. Some Redditors argue that there’s evidence of that relationship in New Spring, but it’s an empty rationalization. RJ purposely left it ambiguous, and it was long since over by the time they were full Aes Sedai. In the book, Moraine’s brutally chastised publicly by Siuan, and you’re shocked to later find out they’re actually friends and conspirators behind the scenes. This reveal is already good enough – there was no need for it to be inflated to a sexual relationship. It’s gratuitous, and cheapens the canonical relationships that both characters are supposed to have later in the series.

  • Loial – what in the name of all that is holy. Haven’t seen non-ironic character design this bad since low-budget sci-fi in the 80s. With any luck he’ll make a guest appearance in the next season of Rick & Morty, where he’ll be a much better fit.

  • Many characters’ personalities were changed to be aggressively hostile totally unnecessarily. In the books, Agelmar is a strong leader who’s respectful to the visiting Aes Sedai. Here, here’s a hubristic idiot for no reason other than to allow Moraine to make jokes at his expense (men are dumb, hah!). Similarly, Min is a prickly douchebag for no reason. Even the Red Ajah, who are never portrayed as good people per se, have had all their nuance stripped away, leaving nothing more than another cohort of cartoon villains.

  • Speaking of, nuance is lacking in general. Characters are either in bucket “good” or bucket “bad” (or bucket “smart” / “dumb”, “virtuous” / “not virtuous”, etc.), and everyone’s a single dimensional version of themselves. WoT (the books) revolves around detail, but there’s little of that to be found here.

  • The One Power of the books is fast, powerful, and decisive. The One Power of the TV version is slow and noisy, with many tai chi moves involved. WoT isn’t meant to be Dungeons & Dragons with long-bearded wizards reading magical incantations off of scrolls and brandishing bat guano as a spell reagant.

  • Special effects are going to be a tall order based on what we’ve seen so far. They generally didn’t look good in this season, and from here the battles, backdrops, and world-shattering powers are supposed to just get bigger and bigger. By the end of the series characters are wielding powers of gods.

  • They robbed the last episode of an epic finale. The encounter at the Eye of the World doesn’t contain even one of the interesting elements of the book, and confusingly, turned a pinnacle moment into an absolute snoozefest. No saidin, no Forsaken, no duel, no channeling, no banner, no horn, etc.

The series creator has gone on record saying that it’s not aimed to please book readers, which turns out to be an understatement. This is too bad because pulp fantasies are a dime a dozen – the real interesting works are those that transcend the genre, like what we saw in the first few season of Game of Thrones. WoT could have been one of these, but it’s not heading down that path.

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