This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Episodes Watched: 4 of 8
Amazon Prime returns with another one of their staples, this time, the fantasy series known as The Wheel of Time. This series originally premiered back in November and was even renewed for a second season months before an official date. Then, The Wheel of Time got renewed for a third season which got announced back in July 2022.
The Wheel of Time is a compelling fantasy series that revolves around the character of Moiraine, a prominent member of the esteemed Aes Sedai organization. As she embarks on a mission of great significance, Moiraine sets out to locate and identify five humble villagers who might possess the extraordinary potential of being the fabled Dragon Reborn. This individual is prophesied to hold the fate of the world in their hands, standing as the ultimate harbinger of salvation or ruination.
Though Rand thought he had defeated the Dark One, evil has not yet gone from the world. Threats new and very old seek out our young friends from the Two Rivers, now scattered over the world. The woman who found and guided them is now powerless to help, and so they must find other sources of strength. In each other, or themselves. In the Light… or the Dark.
There was no full intro like in the first season, which was something I noticed throughout each of the episodes. They have shortened it so that it only displays the title. This could indicate that this season will be darker and more serious in tone, and from the first half of the season, it seems like the threats are even bigger than in the previous season. It could also be the result of something as straightforward as them simply deciding they didn’t want to play the theme.
These first four episodes nicely depict the characters’ whereabouts following the season finale, but that’s all they actually manage to do. The narrative doesn’t really begin to take off and progress until episodes three and four. Each character has a current story arc that they are going through, and for the most part, they are engaging stories, but because of the ensemble cast, it suffers from the problem that most ensemble shows or films have: not every character will be compelling.
Since the first season, Egwene hasn’t really had an interesting narrative or much substance. Towards the close of that season, she gave us some intriguing moments that would have helped her develop, but this season does nothing except entirely ignore her. Watching her story play out slows down the overarching story because she’s the only character on this show who is severely one-dimensional. One of the strongest storylines this season belongs to Nynaeve. The development she goes through and Zo Robins’ portrayal contribute to the growth of her character.
Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) is another character that makes this show entertaining and worthwhile to watch. She lost her connection to the One Power and lied to Lan about Rand during the first season’s conclusion, as we saw. All of this has an impact on where we find her when this season begins and it creates an intriguing story arc for us to follow along with her. She has always been this enigmatic figure who keeps a lot of information to herself and this season is no exception. Watching her behavior when disconnected from the One Power is fascinating, showcasing her intuitive nature as a character.
In this season, one of the actors didn’t come back to play their role: Barney Harris, who played Mat before. He left the show for unknown reasons during the first season, so the storyline had to leave his character behind. They even used old footage of him for the finale. Now, Dónal Finn has taken over the role of Mat due to ongoing issues. Although Mat doesn’t appear much in these episodes and it feels like they’ve forgotten about him, Finn’s performance has actually made me like the character even more. He still captures Mat’s personality while bringing something new to it.
It’s difficult to discuss the remaining members of our ensemble group without giving away anything about their storylines, but every single one of them has significantly improved from the previous season. Rand (Josha Stradowski) is back this season and he’s better than ever. He also runs into familiar faces from Season One, and that alone made it fascinating to watch what happened to him. Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) is back as he continues his search for the Horn of Valere. On this quest, we meet a lot of new people and learn a lot more about Perrin as we delve further into his true identity.
One thing this season of The Wheel of Time gets right is that it expands on the lore of this world a lot within just the first half of the season. It keeps asking more questions about the revelations that continue to keep revealing. The worldbuilding and the lore is this show’s strongest suit and is what keeps me watching. There’s a lot of information to take from the book and compress that into an eight-hour television show and though I haven’t been able to delve into the book, The Wheel of Time does its best in trying to give us all this information.
Sadly, it has an impact on the show’s rhythm, which can become rather sluggish. The fact that it takes the show till halfway through the season to truly get rolling is a problem that has existed. The show has another season in the works, so I can only hope that as the story progresses, it will become less plodding and maintain a steady pace.
The Wheel of Time is an entertaining show overall with a rich narrative and character development that nonetheless has pacing issues. It does its best to translate this 700+ page book series into this episodic format, even if it fails to maintain every character arc as compelling as the last one.
The Wheel of Time‘s second season premieres September 1 on Prime Video.