Murtaza Ali Khan
no secret that every major streaming platform and television network dreams to
have the next ‘Game of Thrones’ as part of its portfolio. The Amazon original fantasy
series ‘The Wheel of Time’ is another attempt to capture the space that’s been
left vacant ever since the popular HBO series completed its epic run. The
series is based on the American author Robert Jordan’s high fantasy novel
series of the same name and is produced by Sony Pictures Television and Amazon
Studios, with Rafe Judkins serving as the showrunner. The series stars Rosamund
Pike, Josha Stradowski, Marcus Rutherford, Zoë Robins, Barney Harris, Madeleine
Madden, and Daniel Henney in the pivotal roles. The first season, consisting of
eight episodes, recently premiered on Prime Video with the release of the first
three episodes. The remaining five episodes are set to air on a weekly basis
until December 24, 2021. The series has already been renewed for a second
Jordan had originally planned ‘The Wheel of Time’ to be a six-book
series but it eventually ended up spanning 14 volumes other than a prequel
novel as well as two companion books. The first volume titled ‘The Eye of the
World’ was published in the year 1990. Interestingly, the first novel in George
R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series came out only in 1996. Now, Jordan
died in 2007 while working on the final volume in the series but his notes paved
the way for Brandon Sanderson to complete the series. But instead of one final
volume as planned by Jordon, Sanderson would publish three more volumes viz.
The Gathering Storm (2009), Towers of Midnight (2010), and A Memory of Light
(2013). The novel series has sold over 90 million copies worldwide, making it
one of the best-selling epic fantasy series since ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
For the uninitiated, ‘The
Wheel of Time’ follows Moiraine (essayed by Rosamund Pike), a member of the Aes
Sedai, a powerful organization of women who can use magic. She takes a group of
five young people on a journey around the world, believing one of them might be
the reincarnation of the Dragon, a powerful individual prophesied to either
save the world or destroy it. Now, ‘The Wheel of Time’ draws on various
elements from Asian and European mythology, particularly the cyclical natural
of time as well as concepts of balance and duality and respect for nature.
Among the literally influences, Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel ‘War and Peace,’ which
chronicles the 1812 French invasion of Russia and the impact of the Napoleonic
era on Tsarist society, automatically comes to mind.
‘The Wheel of Time’ is well
known for its rather long narrative, meticulously created imaginary world and
magic system, and a vast panoply of characters. So right from the word go, Rafe
Judkins and team would have had their job cut out for them. Dealing with such a
voluminous subject matter is no cinch to begin with. But when you think of
adapting it as an episodic series spread across multiple seasons you have to
deal with the constant risk of an impending failure. And if that’s not enough
the endless comparisons to ‘Game of Thrones’ are bound to intimidate any maker.
What complicates the matters is that most people don’t understand the
difference between high fantasy and low fantasy. The former is set in an
alternative, fictional world where the rules differ from those of the real world.
On the other hand, the latter is characterized by being set in the real world (or
a rational and familiar fictional world) with the inclusion of magical elements.
The works of J. R. R. Tolkien, in particular ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ are
widely regarded as archetypal works of high fantasy. Even though mostly the
comparisons are being drawn with ‘Game of Thrones,’ it is actually ‘The Lord of
the Rings’ that ‘The Wheel of Time’ can more closely be compared to: be it in
terms of the setup or the wide array of characters on offer.
‘The Wheel of Time’ starts
on a very slow note with not much happening in the first couple of episodes,
except for a few occasional bursts of action. Remember, the world as well as
the characters is completely alien to us at first and the makers are fully
aware of it. Also, they have the luxury of taking their time for the setup
owing to the episodic format. However, despite a rather slow setup, the first
season has opened up exiting possibilities for future seasons. I can safely say
this on the basis of six episodes that were made available to the critics as
part of a special media preview. Now, it remains to be seen for how long Judkins can keep
us hooked to Jordan’s ‘The Wheel of Time’.
A version of this review was first published at The Daily Guardian.
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