Based on the beloved high fantasy series by Robert Jordan, Amazon Prime’s THE WHEEL OF TIME is about a cyclical battle with evil that occurs every three thousand years in a fantasy world. I grew very curious about it when a reviewer called it superior to GAME OF THRONES, though I ended up finding such comparisons best left alone. The same with LORD OF THE RINGS, with which THE WHEEL OF TIME shares a lot in common. Overall, THE WHEEL OF TIME is engaging and fun, but its odd combination of heavy melodrama and perfunctory storytelling kept it from becoming a favorite, making me wish I’d read the books first.
In this story, Moiraine, a sorceress, is searching for the Dragon, a reincarnated hero who appears every three thousand years to fight the Dark One. What’s interesting about the prophecy is the Dragon could be any gender or even number of people, and the Dragon will either save the world or break it. Moiraine travels to a remote village with a proud history, where she meets five locals, one of whom she believes is the Dragon. Hunted by Trollocs, who are basically the Orcs of this world, they must travel to the White Tower and from there to the Dark One’s lair.
The world building is interesting. The Dark One has made it so any man who uses magic goes mad, basically making women the more powerful sex. Oddly, there is little tension resulting from this; the men just go along with women calling the shots enthusiastically. The sorceresses are pretty cool, with interesting powers, and when they use them in battle, it’s pretty awesome to watch them rain wrath and destruction on their enemies. Sets such as the haunted ruins of a city, the White Tower, the Dark One’s lair, and so on are great to look at. What’s missing, though, is an element tying them together. One could argue GAME OF THRONES is overly dense in the beginning with history and characters and family relationships, but wow, does its world ever looked lived in and feel real.
The characters are interesting enough, though there is a lot of contrived conflict, and it’s a relief to see some of them finally have a rational conversation and solve their problems. The central conflict, meanwhile, remains fairly perfunctory and kind of uninteresting throughout. There’s plenty of romance, though it rarely feels organic with far more telling than showing. Overall, there wasn’t a single character I could really get invested in. Repeatedly, I kept wondering if I would have enjoyed the show more if I’d read the books first, if for nothing else to fill in all the background stuff and get in the characters’ heads more.
So while THE WHEEL OF TIME never reached a favorite status for me the way GAME OF THRONES did (well, up to the fifth season, anyway, when GoT started to jump the shark and screw the pooch), I kept finding myself drawn back to it. It turned into a chicken soup kind of show for me, good but not great, and very comfortable to watch. So overall, I liked it, and I’ll watch a second season, but I’ll go on hoping that somebody, someday, will recreate the magic of GAME OF THRONES.