I just finished watching the final episode of the first (and only so far) season of Amazon’s Wheel of Time adaptation. I’m pretty upset by it! It was…well let’s start from the beginning.
By the end of the first two episodes I didn’t have much of an opinion on it. I wanted it to be good — I’m halfway through the 14-book series and love it — but the only word I could use to describe the first few episodes was, “Okay…” That’s it. Not good, not bad, just okay. Serviceable. The old-school Wheel of Time fans might not like it, but maybe the less picky fans wouldn’t be too upset. Maybe people who haven’t read the books would enjoy it and maybe they’d go on to read the series. My hopes were high; maybe a bit too high.
“But it’s different than the book! They changed too much!“
Let’s get this out of the way because I don’t think it’s ever a valid complaint. Movie/show adaptations are not books. You cannot take a book and put it perfectly into a different format. That’s not how books work and it’s not how films work either. It’s like trying to turn a painting into a song; sure you can get the general vibe of it, which a good adaptation does, but you can never capture the original in its entirety. Things inevitably change between books and films, and no one should use that as a serious reason to complain. They’re simply different formats and bitching about a movie/series not being 100% accurate to the source material is missing the point.
The Wheel of Time changed too much, and many times I don’t even get why. Some changes have nothing to do with pacing (probably the biggest reason things are cut in a film adaptation) and I’m left wondering why.
The best example and biggest gripe I have is about our main concern in the series: the Dragon Reborn. Prophecy and all of that shit says this person will be the Dragon reincarnated and save/destroy the world. In the books it’s a guy. He must be a guy because it’s how Robert Jordan’s magic system works in his series. Men can only use the ‘male half’ of the One Power, called saidin, while women use the female half, called saidar. Since saidin is tainted by the Evil Guy, and the dragon reborn is destined to go mad, he must be a male. It’s just how it works in the books.
The series shits all over this for some reason by allowing the Dragon Reborn to be either a male or a female. Hell, they even say that the Dragon Reborn could be multiple people! ‘Scuse me, what? While change isn’t necessarily bad when adapting to a different format, this commits several sins. Mostly: why? Why is this change necessary? There is nothing wrong with keeping to the books here and the only explanation I can see is to bUiLd DrAmA! We don’t know who or how many Dragon Reborns there could be! At the end of the season the series does get back in line with books with the Dragon Reborn being the guy he’s supposed to be, but everything before that, all of the unknowns with the guy/gal, are total fluff and pointless.
That is one of many example, probably the most egregious, and the others have decent explanations to them if you’re generous enough. Someone on Reddit said something like this: “Just follow the book. Cut what you need to make the show work, tweak a few things if you have to, but change as little as possible and just keep with the book!” It shouldn’t be a hard thing to do.
The pacing is fucking breakneck in the series. The first season covers the first book, The Eye of the World, a book that is ~700 pages long. Whatever, it’s doable, but the first season is only eight episodes! Word is the season was supposed to be longer but was cut back to it’s current length. You can guess already that such a detailed book being compressed into eight episodes is going to cause pacing issues.
The first episode fucking blew through 25% of the book. The seires skipped right over the growing sense of dread that the book nicely sets up, the sense that something isn’t quite right with the world and your small-town idyllic life is about to get totally fucked up. In the first episode, bam, it gets right to it. Trollocs (big monster guys show up) attack a tiny village and a magical woman named Moiraine shows up and is like, “Shit, one of you is the Dragon Reborn! Let’s gtfo of here!” About thirty minutes later they are literally thousands of miles away from home without much to say about the in-between adventuring. Like you’d think the forces of the Dark One would give these people some trouble — and they do in the book, adding to the sense of impending dread — but all of this is absent in the adaptation.
Look, big adventures like what happens in The Eye of the World are supposed to feel big. There is no sense of scale to how far they’ve traveled or how much shit they went through. On the TV it feels like they’ve only casually walked about 80 miles from home and didn’t just travel for months halfway across a continent with people constantly trying to kill them.
The series doesn’t let the source material breathe. Jordan’s worldbuilding is fantastic and condensing everything down to only eight episodes doesn’t do the material justice. It’s non-stop action because it must be paced that way to get through the book in such a short time.
It’s been awhile since I read the book but I was struggling to follow along with what was happening. What was anyone’s motivation for doing anything? It all seemed so clear in the book and something was lost in translation. I don’t know why anyone was doing anything in the show.
My best example is when Moriaine (aka Magical Woman) hears about a dream from her friend/lover/boss about the titular Eye of the World. In thirty seconds she goes from ignorant about the Eye to saying, “Oh shit. That’s how we save the world! We’re leaving tomorrow!” No research, no cautious plotting or thinking it over. Someone not related to the direct plot has a dream and sends everyone off on a big adventure to save the world. Like I said, I don’t remember how it went down in the book, but I sure wasn’t thinking, “Hey, this doesn’t make much sense and seems kind of spur of the moment and rash.”
Why is everyone meeting at Tar Valon? Why does Mat grab the cursed dagger? Why does he turn into a total evil asshole? Why are the dudes in white so goddamn evil? Who is the dude in the suit? Like I know their motivations from reading the book, but if you haven’t read the book I’d imagine you’d spend a good deal of your time watching the series wondering what the actual fuck is going on. It just isn’t set up and explained well at all.
“What’s ‘taters,’ precious? What’s taters?”
“Po-tay-toes. Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew? […] Even you couldn’t say no to that.”
“Oh yes we could!”
That little one-minute scene in The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers gives more characterization to Smeagol/Gollum and Samwise than anything in the first season of The Wheel of Time. It’s humorous. It’s lighthearted. Even in the midst of their Big Adventure, Sam, when Scary Shit is trying to kill them, finds time to rag on Gollum for his ignorance of potatoes. Sam isn’t even being as mean as he usually is; like maybe even Sam has a tiny part of him that is fond of Gollum!
This is a complaint with nearly everything overtly serious but I really noticed it while watching The Wheel of Time. Everything is too serious. Like you know before any major battle or after a big, serious speech, people would be like, “Dude, we’re fucking fucked! Like, shit, this is a bad situation! We’re all gonna die.” Don’t people use humor to deal with really shitty situations? You’d think these people possibly being the Dragon Fucking Reborn would find the universe slightly cruel at least in a hilarious way, at the very least as a coping mechanism. Mat Cauthon in the books, is a hilarious dude. He’s cusses a lot, get’s shit on by the women for being so vulgar, and doesn’t seem to give a shit about anything. It’s hilarious how much he doesn’t give a shit about saving the world or being important. He routinely jokes about how shitty their situations are, and obviously this is absent in the series. Mat is just cold and brooding. Everyone is cold and brooding. No one smiles or jokes or laughs or is casual. The entirety of the eight episodes is Seriousness™. We have to save the world! We might be the Dragon Reborn! Nothing to laugh about at all here!
The Season Finale
Ya know, things were looking up for awhile there. The first episode sucked, but the series became better with each passing one. The ones in the middle we’re fantastic. You got some lore, and the show finally slowed down and showed you some of the character’s humanity. You understood their personalities a bit more, and discovered some of their motivations for doing the things they do. I’d say up until the last episode I was getting pretty hyped for the series as a whole.
Then the last episode happened and shit all over my positive and hopeful feelings for the series. It just…it kinda sucked to be honest. There was some Big Battle that I don’t think even happened in the book (but there has to be a Big Battle in a finale!), and the main characters didn’t do anything they did in the book. They all stayed back in the city and fought the Big Battle while Rand and Moiraine dicked off to the titular Eye of the World for reasons. That’s not how any of the people in the book would act – Rand is one of their best buds and they’re not going to let him go commit suicide without trying to stop him – but that’s what they do in the show. Why? Why, why, oh why?!
The finale has it all! Cringy magic scenes, awful pre-battle speeches that are way too serious, action scenes that don’t make much sense, a Big Battle for the sake of having a Big Battle, characters that aren’t faithful to the book doing shit that they wouldn’t do, DRAMA for the sake of DRAMA, and so on. It’s just…urgh. It’s frustrating.
I want the series to be good, I hope it gets better, but damn is it depressing to see a series you recently gotten into be shit all over on TV. Amazon, please, please for the love of The Light, do better going forward.
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