Review: ‘The Wheel of Time’ is The Epic Sprawling Fantasy We Have Been Waiting For

The first three episodes of Prime Video’s ambitious adaptation of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time have arrived on the streamer. For those who are unfamiliar with the source material, the series is an adaptation of a fourteen-novel book series, with the final three volumes in the series written by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death. The series is quite daunting for anyone who has arrived late to the franchise and is comprised of an incredibly intricate magical system, world, and cast of characters.

The Wheel of Time is The Epic Sprawling Fantasy We Have Been Waiting For

The Wheel of Time
Courtesy of Amazon Content Services LLC and Sony Pictures Television

I’m sure I’ll ruffle the feathers of a few fans of The Wheel of Time book series by saying this, but in order to watch Amazon’s adaptation of the novel, you do not have to read it. Go into it, as I did, and let yourself be overtaken by a new team of fantasy, magic, and lingo. The Wheel of Time is the perfect series for someone who is anxiously awaiting the next season of The Witcher after it soothed the aching loss of Game of Thrones, as well as diehard Lord of the Rings fans, or someone who has replayed the Dragon Age video games a dozen times. It’s dark, gritty, and utterly sumptuous.

The premise of The Wheel of Time is surprisingly straightforward, given the intense world-building that Jordan did when conceptualizing the universe. In a very medieval feeling world, there is a matriarchal society of magical women called the Aes Sedai who wield the “One Power.” This power allows them to tap into and channel a magical force (called the “saidar”) that allows them to do a wide variety of things. In these first three episodes, we witness this saidar used to heal, fight, and shield in very intriguing ways.

A long time ago, there were men who were able to use this power, but they nearly destroyed the world with it. Because of this, male channelers were killed or had their connection to the One Power severed to prevent the world from being destroyed. Following this, the Aes Sedai became a society for only women and some were tasked with tracking down male channelers and killing them—which we witness in the premiere. This is also how we are first introduced to one of the central characters of The Wheel of Time: Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), who is on a quest to find the Dragon Reborn.

The Wheel of Time
Rosamund Pike is magnificent as Moiraine. She commands every scene that she is present in and sets the tone for the entire series simply with her performance. At her side, is her loyal Warder, Lan Mondragoran (Daniel Henney) who offers an equally powerful presence as he gallantly fights terrifying beasts and comforts Moiraine during difficult stretches of their journey. They are, after all, a magically bonded pair, which not only adds layers to their relationship but makes for a very compelling duo.

The journey in question entwine’s Moiraine’s life with five young characters—Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski), Egwene Al’Vere (Madeleine Madden), Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford), Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris), and Nynaeve al’Meara (Zöe Robins)—who may be the Dragon Reborn she is seeking. There is an innocence in all of these characters who are thrown into an unimaginable situation and it lays the groundwork for each of them to grow and mature, whether they are the Dragon Reborn or just gifted young warriors.

The Wheel of Time
Courtesy of Amazon Content Services LLC and Sony Pictures Television

In the premiere, each of these characters is given enough backstory and fleshing out to make you genuinely care about them. You get glimpses of their relationships with one another, their hopes and dreams, and what drives them as characters. These throughlines carry throughout the first three episodes, and will undoubtedly play a major part in their growth together and separately. I was personally impressed with how invested I was in their lives before the major catalyst that propels them into the thick of the plot. When the credits rolled on the premiere, I was ready to hit “next episode,” now fully invested in these characters.

As one might expect from a fantasy series, Moiraine’s quest with these five young characters is neither straightforward nor easy. In fact, the first episode brings devastation into their lives, and from that moment forward they are tested, tried, and taunted by those who wish to interfere with their journey. From terrifying trollocs to the channeler claiming to be the Dragon Reborn (Álvaro Morte) to the unsettling—and grizzly—fanaticism of the Whitecloaks, it is clear their journey will be a dangerous one.

The Wheel of Time
Courtesy of Amazon Content Services LLC and Sony Pictures Television

With the first three episodes, The Wheel of Time is off to a promising start. While there is a lot of new information to learn—and words that are exceedingly difficult to understand without closed captioning—it can feel daunting. As someone who has not read the novels, I cannot attest to its accuracy, but I can speak on the way that it is presenting its world to both groups of audience members. For someone who only loosely knows about the world (I have a vague recollection of maybe attempting this series in middle school) it goes to great lengths to present its lore in small doses, entwining it with the driving force of the plot. There’s no overwrought exposition, but naturally provided context for new—and dangerous—locations, beasts, magic, and dangerous men.

It is also thrilling to see a fantasy series that’s fueled by a matriarchal society, where men and the patriarchy often reign supreme. Furthermore, it’s refreshing to see a diverse cast at the forefront of the story, being given major, important, and dedicated storylines and plots to grapple with. There is room for this series to go where a series like Game of Thrones never ventured.

As a closing note, I would personally be remiss not to mention how utterly stunning the costuming is in The Wheel of Time. Isis Mussenden has outdone herself with the costumes, from the core cast’s very common garments to the stark white uniforms worn by the Whitecloaks. They feel perfectly rooted in historical aesthetics, while fully leaning into the magic of this new realm of fantasy.

The Wheel of Time

9

The Wheel of Time is off to a promising start.

9.0/10
Managing Editor of Entertainment at Your Money Geek | Website | + posts

Maggie Lovitt is the Managing Editor of Entertainment at Your Money Geek, where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery. She is also a freelance writer and a contributor at Collider and Dorkside of the Force.

When she is not covering entertainment news, she can be found on one of her numerous podcasts or her YouTube channel. In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and a member of the Screen Actors Guild.