Amazon has invested heavily in its attempt at filling the void left by Game Of Thrones departure from our screens. In addition to the adaptation of the Outlander series of novels and their imminent journey to Middle Earth with the upcoming Lord Of The Rings series, the latest material set to be adapted by the studio is Robert Jordan’s iconic and vast series The Wheel Of Time which has sold over 90 million copies worldwide to date.  Written between 1990 and 2013, the novels tell of the reincarnation of The Dragon who is said to be able to defeat The Dark One. The series is an adaption of the first novel in the series The Eye Of The World.

The Wheel of Time is led by Rosamund Pike as the mysterious Moiraine, a member of the Aes Sedai, whose mission is to find out which of a group of five young people is The Dragon reincarnated.  The dense lore of the series might prove challenging to newcomers and the show does not apologise for that fact. The show’s ability to balance the amount of information it is throwing in the direction of the audience whilst making it comprehensible is, however, one of its greatest strengths. While it may seem complicated at first, the series manages to introduce its narrative intricacies, multiple characters and evolving world, often via natural exposition between characters. One such example of this is when the folk of Two Rivers are given information about the wider acts of war beyond their sheltered existence which doubles as informative context for the audience.

The sheer scope of the series is admirable as we move from cityscapes through open landscapes and we get a sense of the vastness of the world these characters inhabit. The sense of peril surrounding the Dark Ones’ forces in inescapable and there are some really menacing creature designs as well, especially the Minotaur-esque Trollocs. The visual designs help you understand where the rumoured budget of $10 million an episode was spent. 

Rosamund Pike (Moiraine Damodred) – © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC and Sony Pictures Television Inc. Credit: Jan Thijs

The show’s first three episodes are certainly not light on action and it is to the show’s credit that the set pieces haven’t been saved for the back end of the series. We are treated to some intense battle between the aforementioned residents of Two Rivers and the Trollocs. The battle violence to this point in the series is more gruesome than something like The Lord Of The Rings but perhaps not quite at the level of Game Of Thrones

As far as the cast are concerned, Pike is used surprisingly sparingly which gives us the opportunity to bond with the young cast at the centre of the story. The cast of largely newcomers seem to have natural chemistry, bickering and offering some moments of humour to bring a lighter tone to proceedings. Madeleine Madden, in particular, is a standout as Egwene and offers a layered performance and sense of determination as she embraces the challenges presented. 

Daniel Henney (Lan Mondragoran) – © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC and Sony Pictures Television Inc. Credit: Jan Thijs

Pike does make a strong impression when on screen and seems to fit the part of Moiraine perfectly. Daniel Henney is a fine foil as al’Lan Mandragoran who travels with Moiraine.  While the cast is large the leads are given enough moments to stand out and it will be intriguing to see how their respective stories intertwine with one another going forwards. 

The Wheel of Time’s first three episodes offer an intriguing look at one of contemporary fantasy’s best loved series. Comparisons to other works of the genre seem inevitable but this is a fine start for the series introducing many characters deftly while filtering in elements of its dense lore that will surely be unpacked further as matters progress. With the second series already in development it is clear Amazon has faith in this series becoming a behemoth in its own right and based on the evidence from its first few episodes that may well be the case. 

Developed by: Rafe Judkins
Cast:
Rosamund Pike, Daniel Henney, Josha Stradowski, Madeleine Madden, Marcus Rutherford, Zoë Robins, Barney Harris