The Wheel of Time Is Not a Prime Adaptation

Having been a fan of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series for almost three decades (particularly the early books, before Jordan became much too interested in every else’s story line but the main characters, and the later books, where he returned to his main characters again), I was excited to see what Amazon would do with the series. Readers, I must say I’m disappointed. Outraged. Stupefied. Perplexed. The lesson it seems to have drawn from the Lord of the Rings movies amplifies the mistake that Jordan made, which is to figure out who the main character is in the story and then focus on someone else.

Besides making the worldly Moiraine the main protagonist instead of her unworldly charges from the Two Rivers (much like the worldly Aragorn was made the focus in the movies, rather than the unworldly Hobbits), the series manages to change critical plot points to score cheap emotional points, or no point at all. Having watched all eight episodes of the series, here is what I consider the most egregious offenses (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD for both the Amazon series and the books):

  • In the Amazon series, Perrin is already married in the Two Rivers, then accidentally kills his wife so he can feel guilt throughout season one. In the books, Perrin doesn’t marry until much later and is single when we first meet him.
  • Some unnecessary backstory on Mat Cauthon being poor and having a drunk mother and two younger siblings.
  • Far too few visions of Ishamael, whom the three friends thinks are the Dark One/Ba’alazamon. In the books, he addresses each of the three ta’veren in their dreams; in the series, he just stands there and looks evil.
  • Logain, who is mentioned in the first book but ony becomes important later, gets his own episode where he apparently is able to break through an Aes Sedai shield — something that only Rand is able to do. Logain is powerful, but not that powerful. He also doesn’t kill any Aes Sedai in the book, but he does in the Prime series.
  • Nynaeve doesn’t superheal everyone after Logain almost butchers them. Perhaps it was a way to show how powerful she was, but the The Eye of the World never resorted to such silly plot points.
  • Moiraine isn’t exiled from the White Tower, and she (and Rand) don’t meet the Amyrlin Seat till the second book.
  • Rand does meet Elayne Trakand in the first book, though, which I’m guessing Amazon is holding off on until season two.
  • Way too many flashbacks. Jordan was smart in limiting his jumps in time so that the story flows chronologically.
  • Calling Lews Therin Telamon “The Dragon Reborn” in the flashback. He’s the Dragon, thank you very much, since he was the original incarnation. And also, this plot point reveals something not revealed until much later in the book series. Why not adapt the prologue from the book, where he turns himself into Dragonmount? How cool would that be?
  • The whole sequence with getting to the Eye of the World and revealing the Dragon Reborn. Until the end of The Eye of the World, we don’t know much of anything about the Dragon or the Dragon Reborn, or why Trollocs and Fades are after Perrin, Mat, and Rand. It’s not until the entire party (not just Moiraine and Rand) reach the Eye of the World and talk to the Green Man (absent here) and fight two of the Forsaken (also absent here) AND Rand fights Ishamael/Ba’alzamon that Rand realizes he’s the Dragon Reborn, leading to one of the great ending lines in the entire series. In the Amazon series, by contrast, Moiraine is stilled by Ishamael/Ba’alzamon (never happens in the books) and Rand decides to take off on his own (which doesn’t happen till later in the series). Also, Moiraine’s “plan” in the Amazon series is beneath what the book version of Moiraine would do. Finally, the Horn of Valere is found in the Eye, not in the Borderlands, and while Padan Fain does steal it, he steals it from Matt.
  • This one’s more difficult to quantify, but the feel of the books is missing. Part of that is because the series focuses more on Moiraine than Rand, Matt, and Perrin, as the worldview is more knowing (and she tells them outright in the series that one of them is the Dragon Reborn, whereas she’s more cryptic in the books). But it also has to do with pacing and the sense of mystery and wonder that the storytelling misses, even if the CGI occasionally contains it.

And yet, there are some good things about the series. Rand looks like Rand from the books (though lacking the personality), Rosamund Pike makes an excellent Moiraine Sedai, Lan and Loial look as I thought they would, and Shadar Logoth and The Ways are both wonderfully depicted.

I plan on re-reading The Wheel of Time at some point (well, except for maybe some of those books in the middle). I don’t plan on watching the second season.