Last Updated on December 17, 2023
The Wheel of Time season one was a controversial show that caused a split among fans of the books as well as fantasy fans in general. Amazon itself seemed to have less faith in it than they should have, being more interested in Rings of Power than the works of Robert Jordan. The show creators wanted not only a full ten episodes but a two hour season pilot. They got neither. Honestly, this issue is about ninety percent of my issues with the adaptation right there as it is incredibly difficult for people who haven’t read the books to know who is who, what is what, and why is why.
Honestly, I wasn’t going to watch the second season. Which is a shame because there was a lot to love in the first season. However, I feel like so much was lost in the weeds that it became impossible for my wife and niece to follow the story. This despite the fact that both of them are huge Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon fans. They’re dedicated fantasy fans but the show just did a bad job of establishing what was going on. Still, they were interested in giving it a try and so we binged it a couple of months after release.
Overall? Much improved. The problem is that the show is still damn near incomprehensible for people who haven’t read the books and a lot of the most important moments are undermined by lack of time developing them. If these questions are things that strike you as “the kind of things you should explain” then you might have a problem as a person who is new to the show. “Who are the Forsaken?”, “Why are they imprisoned?”, “What’s a Black Ajah?”, “Who are the Seanchan?”, “What’s this horn thing and why is it important?”, “Who are the Aiel?”, and “When did reincarnation become a thing?” If you’re a book fan, you understand these are not small questions. They’re kind of important details.
I’m reminded of the fact the original animated Lord of the Rings had to combine The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers into one movie. The showrunners are making a game effort and the show has a lot of fanastic bits left and right. All of the cast are on point, including the recasting of Mat Cauthon that works much better this time around, and have quite a few standout moments throughout the season. The new characters are introduced much better and with lots of great moments between them: Elayne, Aviendha, Lanfear, and Liandrin are all fantastically realized.
The action and production values have also improved significantly. A flaw of the first season was the fact the show frequently looked cheap when it needed to look grandiose. Game of Thrones did many clever tricks to disguise the fact that it didn’t have the budget for the massive scale of Martin’s books and sometimes still failed (like the tournament or royal hunt) but here, we really get a sense of the grandiosity of the conflicts.
Fans of the book will note that there have been significant changes to the text but I actually don’t mind these ones as it feels like they’re getting back on the tracks that the previous season jumped off of. Some of the changes are also improvements. I know, shocking. Just little things like the fact Lanfear in the books pretended to be a woman Rand’s age but here is allowed to be an older woman he’s attracted to. We also get some meaty bits for Siuan and Loghain that were frequently lacking in plot relevance.
Season 2 of Wheel of Time is flawed and I wouldn’t recommend this series to anyone not familiar with the books or at least someone there to explain details constantly in the most annoying manner possible. Nevertheless, it no longer feels like a train wreck and I’m actually excited about Season 3.