Wheel of Time Season 1 Wrap Up

For an infamously bloated fantasy series, the Amazon Wheel of Time adaptation covered a lot of ground in 8 episodes. There are spoilers below for those who haven’t read the books and spoilers about what was changed for those who have read the books.

I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation but I will confess that enjoyment was fuelled by low expectations. I don’t think Robert Jordan’s book series was great fantasy but it was a better than average example of the kind of 90’s fantasy potboilers that filled the market. Jordan’s books wandered around, keeping the ever-expanding cast of characters busy on side-quests in a way that undermined the basic tension of an impending apocalyptic battle. In addition, I always felt that how the key characters came across felt at odds with how they were intended to be. Yet, I read all those books.

The dramatic adaptation takes a harsh editor’s knife to the first book. It simplifies some aspects of the plot — for example, instead of ending up in Caemlyn, the main characters go to Tar Valon and the White Tower. The scenes before the opening titles are used in several episodes to establish key elements of the background (e.g. Rand’s birth and in the final episode introducing the Dragon’s previous incarnation & the pre-apocalypse high-tech civilisation).

Better dialogue and a competent cast, has greatly improved the characters — especially Nynaeve. In a wise decision of both plot & casting, Moiraine acts as the central character for the bulk of the season, allowing the story to attempt to create some ambiguity until the penultimate episode as to who the Dragon Reborn is. In the end, the writers didn’t take the more radical choice and make Nynaeve the actual Dragon but they did make it a credible possibility to the extent that going with Rand felt like a disappointment.

Overall, the show elevates the material and captures what I liked about the books. Probably the weakest episode is the first one but it rattles along pretty quickly after that.

Advertisement

20 responses to “Wheel of Time Season 1 Wrap Up”

  1. The last two episodes were a bit rushed, and they clearly had to work around whatever happened with Mat’s actor that forced him to be recast (although as a non-book reader, that character was pretty worthless to me anyhow). And it’s certainly not anything I think I would recommend to a non SF/F fan, but it was still highly enjoyable and I do look forward to where it geos from here. The first three episodes felt like they were trying to fit everything in from the novels, but they slowed it down thereafter and allowed other characters to shine – as you mentioned Nynaeve is amazing and her and Lan are just the best.

    Hopefully the next season is say 10 episodes to give it a bit more time to breathe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The latest Hugo nomination votes provided an interesting test of the new rules. I find it easier to comment now, thanks to people who supplied the vote totals and the rules being used. The Best Editor, Long Form showed a specific group of strong supporters able to carry their candidate through to the nomination, even though she did later declined to be listed. Smaller minority groups if dedicated thus can be heard. To swamp a ballot with nominees, the way slating once did, you would appear to need an awful lot of dedicated supporters, more than 300 rather than more than 30.

    The comment was made someplace that the mainland Chinese government has invested heavily in science fiction, clubs, author support, publicity, and in part as a result Chengdu will be the next WorldCon. There are political reasons for this. Consider how many people at NASA, etc., became interested in space or science via SF. The PRC may be imagined as believing that the same will work for them.

    There is an interesting contrast with the US, where literary fiction and genre fiction have gone their separate ways. By genre I am thinking of SF, horror, occult, fantasy, detective, western, espionage, contemporary near future politics (e.g. Tom Clancy), historical, and, of course, romance novels. L E Modesitt Jr. once gave a talk on this at Boskone or Arisia (I now forget which). There are now sharp differences between the two types of fiction. Literary fiction people do not believe that genre fiction is legitimate, as opposed to being trash published on pulp paper. His assertion as one of several distinctions is that modern literary fiction is often written in first person, present tense, while genre fiction is more typically written in third person, past tense*. The other distinction (I seem to recall an epistle from Forstchen on this) is that the literary fiction sorts have a very firm grip on grants and university posts, so that literary authors may receive grants but genre authors do not, while university posts for the study of literary fiction are reasonably well known, but university posts for the study of genre fiction are few on the ground.

    *There is also that abomination, second person. “You reach the top of the hill. You see before the humble cot of a lonely shepherd. You open its door. Before you is a marble staircase forty feet wide, richly inlaid with gold and gems, leading up.”

    Like

    • There is also that abomination, second person.

      Second person is hard to do well (I’ve tried it), but it can be done–witness N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy, for example.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Daryl Gregory wrote a great short story titled “Second Person, Present Tense” – exactly what it says on the tin. IIRC, it was in one of the Solaris anthologies.

        Liked by 2 people

      • One of my favorite short stories I read this year, although it’s actually in a 2022 release, is in 2nd person – a short story by David Bowles in the Reclaim the Stars anthology of Latinx SF/F writers.

        It can be done quite well, although it requires a bit more work.

        Like

    • That’s an interesting point George. At that time EPH was introduced it was seen in terms of being an “anti-Puppy” measure – not unreasonably because it was a response to impact of the Rabid Puppy slating. However, as people pointed out, it also more or less guaranteed that if there was a large minority of voters with related tastes in stories, then they would get at least some nominees through to the final ballot. It certainly wasn’t designed to keep the Sad Puppies out entirely – if there really was a consistent group of conservative leaning Hugo voters, EPH would improve their chances.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A lot of the people who supported EPH, including me, did so especially because — not in spite of — the way it de-powers slates without eliminating their choices entirely, and because it is completely agnostic and works on any slate regardless of ideology.

        I wouldn’t have supported anything that specifically targeted only Puppy slates — and I don’t know how you could do that anyway, except by having a human being decide which works were Puppy works and remove them manually. I and a whole lot of other people said OH HELL NO to that.

        Liked by 4 people

  3. Is it just me or has nielsenhayden.com vanished entirely from the Web? When I try to go there I get “404 Not Found”.

    Like

  4. Started watching the TV adaptation of Station Eleven, which I haven’t read. Really enjoying it so far. In style and focus it plays a lot like “as The Leftovers is to Left Behind, this is to The Stand” which makes sense since at least one of the Leftovers creators is involved in this. I don’t think I’ve seen quite this combination of “somewhat cozy catastrophe” (i.e. after nearly total extinction, life is hard but still pretty great compared to for instance The Road) with “we’re 20 years in, so there’s a new normal in place but lots of people still remember the trauma”.

    Also, the plague as depicted is so much worse than anything currently real that I didn’t really register it as an “extra hard to watch due to actual pandemic” thing. As a child of the ’80s I was already used to consuming lots of nuclear-war-related fiction while simultaneously worrying about nuclear war.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And in an example of how current events can make earlier stories *less* unsettling than they were meant to be: I also started watching & enjoying the 2019 series Counterpart, but it took me a while to realize that “we’re seeing a lot of people wearing face masks outdoors in Europe, but we haven’t yet said why” was supposed to be a mystery.

      Like

    • Sorry, I realized too late that I hadn’t posted that on the Susan’s Salon post as I thought I had. Didn’t mean to derail a Wheel of Time discussion with two unrelated shows.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The ending of The Wheel of Time (Season 1) really did feel rushed. Eight episodes definitely didn’t seem to be enough to do it justice. That said, some of the simplifications (e.g. no visit to Caemlyn) seem to have been good choices in general.

    And yet every episode was enjoyable. Even here in Tennessee at my mother’s house, we managed to get the Netflix app running on Eric’s laptop (not hard) and got it to broadcast to my mother’s old TV (much more challenging) so we could all watch it on Friday and not have to wait to get back to Seattle tomorrow.

    Our little guy has done pretty well. This was our first overnight trip with him away from our house, and our first airplane flight with him. It was almost his first trip outside Washington State. There was a little fear on the airplane–especially once when it banked and he glanced out his window only to be looking “straight down.” He rather comically jerked as though hit with an electric shock and then pointedly redirected his attention to his Nintendo Switch.

    I worried a little about how he’d cope with the way my family hugs people, especially kids. When he first came to us, our guy wouldn’t let himself be touched–much less hugged–especially not by men. It was about two months before he’d let me hug him, and maybe twice that before he ever asked for a hug, so I wondered how he’d cope with it from strangers. I did explain this to him–that my relatives are big huggers–but he just shrugged.

    By yesterday morning, he’d met everyone except my nephew the air-force major. He’d coped well with the hugs, mostly from women, and he charmed everyone. So we go to my sister’s place to meet my nephew. Our guy puts out his hand for a handshake, and my nephew gravely shakes it, but as the kid turns away, my nephew grabs him from behind, saying, “Not so fast–I always hugs kids like this” and lifts him up into the air, holding him tight. I just cringed, waiting for a disaster.

    But our guy laughed and grinned from ear to ear. He was happy and he clearly felt safe.

    Liked by 3 people

%d bloggers like this: