I made myself something of a promise to eventually get to Amazon’s The Wheel of Time. Honestly, I’ve only ever read the first book, but the premise itself is intriguing, and there is a second season coming…eventually. My original plan was to go from Rings of Power directly to this series, but then a new season of Jack Ryan popped up.
Just based off this first episode, I kinda wish I’d skipped Jack Ryan already.
Now, I did read only one book, and my recollection is a little hazy. I suspect I would remember a lot of what happened if and when I ever get back to this series, but when I have stacks and stacks of unread books…well, I may not get to it anytime soon. I have friends who have read the books, and one (very recently) actually told me flat out that the series took some major liberties with the source material. I would imagine Robert Jordan, author of the novels, might have something to say about such things, but he’s been dead for a while, to the point where Brandon Sanderson had to finish the last few books.
For the record, there is a reason I didn’t get into this series as much as I may have wanted to. At the time, I was very much also into George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, a series that took the well-known and well-trod tropes of fantasy and turned them on their head. I saw it as a fantasy world where the people were, well, not the idealized good and evil types from classic fantasy, and I preferred that. Jordan’s novel, on the other hand, played the tropes straight. I mean, there’s a character whose name, phonetically, is “More Death”. Obviously a villain you shouldn’t take a dagger from. However, it was explained to me that the reinforcement of the tropes was actually the point of The Wheel of Time, how old stories are repeated again and again. It even more or less fits into the series’s title!
So, with that in mind, and knowing the series has already made some changes that even I recognize, what’s the pilot like? Does it establish the universe and the characters well enough so people who either A) haven’t read the novels at all or B) haven’t finished them or read them in a long time, i.e. me?
And, well, yes. Yes, it does. The problem is the Dragon, a major figure of magic and power, is going to be reborn soon. That could cause a lot of disruption to the world and needs to be dealt with to make sure the Dragon does not fall under the influence of the wrong people. That brings the sorceress Moiraine Damodred of the Aes Sedai to the small mountain village of Two Rivers. There are four possible candidates there, and other magic users who wish to destroy the Dragon before he or she can manifest their powers and defeat the Dark One are nearby. Moiraine’s only has her companion Warder Lan Mandragoran for help, but the bad guys…they have other things.
Regardless, the four possible candidates are lovesick Rand’al Thor, the object of his affections Egwene al’Vere, gambler and wannabe ladies man Mat Cauthorn, and blacksmith Perrin Aybara. Meanwhile, Two Rivers’s young “Wisdom” (healer and wisewoman) Nynaeve al’Meara would prefer Moiraine leave the village alone since it’s peaceful and nothing good comes from outsiders asking for help in wars and the like, and that’s before Moiraine really uses any magic.
Man, I am going to hate typing up some of these names for the next few weeks.
However, the episode does a good job of showing the different characters before, during, and briefly after an attack by Trollocs, large hairy beasts with horns, pig snouts, and a taste for human flesh. During the fight, Nynaeve does what she can to fight off one with a small dagger to protect Egwene and a wounded man before being dragged off, Egwene does what she can to give first aid, Mat rushes out of a safe place to lead two young girls to safety in the woods, Rand and his father double team one that breaks into their house with a pretty nifty sword Rand’s father had stashed away that Rand had clearly never seen before, and Perrin went all berzerker on a Trolloc that broke into his forge but accidentally killed his girlfriend and partner in the process.
I do remember enough about who the Dragon is and Perrin’s whole deal, but that’s for later. Suffice to say, good foreshadowing.
Oh, and Moiraine and Lan sure do kick a lot of ass in their own ways. I do like the way Moiraine casts spells by swirling her arms and/or body around in circles to cast spells of all kinds. There’s a grace to it enhanced by what look like a simple swirling effect that probably isn’t very simple at all.
So, bottom line…I like this more than Jack Ryan.