Review by Dan Skip Allen
With the popularity of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter films over the past couple of decades also came the deluge of fantasy and young adult book series to be adapted into films or television shows. The latest of these is from Amazon Studios, Sony Television, and showrunner Rafe Judkins. It is based on the best-selling, world-renowned series from writer Robert Jordan called The Wheel of Time.
This series deals with similar themes as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter films combined. It has a story of a powerful sorceress Moiraine (Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl) a member of a sect of women known as the Aes Sedai who seeks out young men and women who might be the savior of the world known as the reincarnation of the dragon. She rescues five young men and women from a small village when it is attacked by ghastly beasts known as Trollocs led by a demon horse rider with no eyes, Myrddraal. They are also seeking the five.
The show is full of unknown actors and actresses playing all of the young men and women, other than Pike that is. They all have their own character arcs within the show. Along the way, all the main characters run across various other characters, some good and some bad. The show is filled with questionable people with motives all their own. The show deals with all these character arcs separately and as it progresses we learn about each of them one by one. It doesn't rush into anything too soon even though the show is only eight episodes long.
The five are separated after leaving Moiraine and her servant/bodyguard Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney). They end up in a dark enchanted city and this separates them into three groups. They all end up going on three separate adventures. A couple of them meet a group of gypsies known as the Tinkers, a band of nomads traveling around from place to place. Three others seek the help of the Aes Sedai, while two others run afoul of a dangerous barkeep and a strange singer Thom Merrillin (Alexandre Willaume) who travels with them, all while keeping their distance from another group known as the White Coats.
The show has some good production value as well as decent visual effects. The show's cinematography is quite breathtaking as well. The show was filmed in Eastern Europe in places like Prague, Slovenia, and Dubrovnik. These are areas not previously seen on television in this form of fantasy show. The dampness of the weather and fall and winter seasons played right into the overall setting of the show. The costumes by Isis Mussenden and hairstyles are pretty amazing as well. It's always nice to see how these shows dress and prepare their actors and actresses for a show such as this.
The show is based on a popular book series of the same name, so it's no secret that it focuses on a sect of women, and women, in general, are at the forefront of all the main story arcs and key aspects of the show. Jordan wanted to show women in positions of power in the series from the get-go. In the era of the MeToo movement, it was a good idea to have this series made into a television show for the world to see. It also has plenty of Asians, Black, and other races besides white in key roles of the show. This just shows how Hollywood has progressed in the regard of casting decisions on its films and television projects.
There are some films and shows similar to this one I've seen before with a similar feel to this one. Not having read the book series, I can't judge the show based on how good the books are or aren't. The show doesn't stand out as anything too great or not so great either. It's an interesting show with intriguing character arcs. The set production, production value, and cinematography are all fine. The cast is also strong as well, with Pike as the standout in a cast of relative unknowns. Season 2 is on its way so maybe it'll be bigger and on a grander scale. Until then we'll have to be happy with what we've gotten in Season 1 on Amazon Prime on November 19th.
The Wheel of Time streams on Amazon Prime beginning November 19. All eight episodes reviewed.