Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books go on for 14-odd novels and take months to read. In the spirit of all that, we’ll keep this review quite short. The books have a cult following and after a few false starts, a TV adaptation is finally here. Amazon has seemingly loaded a fleet of planes full of money and dropped it all on anything that looks like a wizard.
The result is a TV series that both follows the books too closely and at the same time not at all. By which we mean that much like the books it goes nowhere, but it’s also changed the story enough that the fans will complain. The Wheel of Time books have split opinion for years; many find the fantasy epic a meandering and tedious slog whilst others became addicted to Robert Jordan’s familiar prose. The series has sold millions and it’s main appeal appears to be that the books barely change.
The show is similar; the sets are gorgeous, the actors look amazing and the costumes are fantastic. Every episode has a breath-takingly choreographed action scene, but the problem is that each episode fails to move the story forward. What we have here is a ten dollar soap-opera in a million dollar cosplay. It looks very, very nice but this is essentially a small number of people interacting with each other and occasionally bashing monsters. It’s The Walking Dead, but with off-brand orcs and magic swords instead of zombies and shotguns. And a lot less gore.
The plot has been adjusted to focus mostly on the character of Moraine, played superbly by Rosamund Pike. She’s a wizard and is accompanied by what can lazily be described as a ninja. She’s looking for a Chosen One, the great Dragon who can bring about either great good or evil. She has four possible candidates (the rest of the main cast) and they embark on a long quest to the home of the Aes Sedai, an order of mystics. They bicker constantly. It's great in an unchallenging sort of way.
Your casual viewer is likely going to love or hate this show, indifference is not an option. Most of the critics will miss the point and declare it boring. Wheel of Time is comfort food for the fantasy fan. This is not Game of Thrones, it’s a warm hug of fantasy tropes, running gags and special effects. It will likely do very well, because those who adore it will watch it again and again.
Give it a go and if you love it, ignore the haters on social media, grab a duvet and some cake, and dive in.