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Amazon Already Has The Next Great Fantasy Series, And It Isn't The Rings Of Power

After years of anticipation, Season 1 of "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" arrived in September and introduced viewers to another side of J.R.R. Tolkien's universe. Taking place in the Second Age of Middle-earth, the adaptation chronicles the rise of Sauron and the creation of the titular rings, which leads to some drama among the Orcs, Elves, humans, and other denizens of Arda's main continent. 

One year prior to the release of "The Rings of Power," however, Amazon Studios unleashed another high-concept fantasy series. Based on Robert Jordan's book series of the same name, "The Wheel of Time" also takes place in a magical world that's torn apart by the forces of darkness. The similarities between both shows are undeniable, but it seems that the Jordan adaptation is playing second fiddle to its counterpart.

That said, "The Wheel of Time" is the show that Amazon should prioritize in the long run. In addition to offering the action and adventure that fantasy fanatics want to see, the series' success proves that it can hang with "The Rings of Power," and the risks involved are fewer.

The Wheel of Time is cheaper to produce than The Rings of Power

According to CBC, "The Rings of Power" will soon cost Amazon Studios over $1 billion dollars to produce. The first season cost $465 million, and the fantasy series will demand a significant budget with four more installments planned. Granted, the upcoming seasons could be less expensive as the producers can repurpose the construction and costumes created for the first chapter. However, each season is still going to cost more than other prestige fantasy series out there. For comparison's sake, the first season of "House of the Dragon" cost an estimated $200 million (via GQ), and the budget for that series wipes the floor with almost every other show out there at the moment.

"The Wheel of Time," meanwhile, offers similar fantastical thrills at a discount price. A GQ piece revealed that "The Wheel of Time" Season 1 cost an estimated $80 million, though it's unclear if the figure included post-production work and reshoots. Still, an average of $10 million per episode is modest compared to Amazon's other tentpole fantasy adventure yarn.

The creators of "The Wheel of Time" have said that while Amazon Studios gave them a substantial budget to work with, it was tiny compared to that of "The Rings of Power. "In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Rafe Judkins described "The Wheel of Time" as "the most expensive redheaded stepchild ever." However, like many redheaded stepchildren, "The Wheels of Time" arguably has more potential than its siblings.

The Wheel of Time has more source material to adapt

"The Lord of Rings: The Rings of Power" Season 1 made some unexpected changes to J.R.R. Tolkien's lore that didn't sit well with some fans of the author's work. From telling origin stories that Tolkien never envisioned to the existence of Adar, the series takes some creative liberties and then some.

Of course, the creators bringing their own ideas to the table was essential in order to tell a substantial story. "The Rings of Power" takes place during the Second Age of Middle-earth, which Tolkien's books never covered in great detail. Furthermore, as Vanity Fair notes, copyright issues meant that Amazon could only acquire the rights to "The Lord of the Rings," "The Hobbit," and their respective appendices. This meant that the creators either had to repeat what's been done before or "come up with the novel Tolkien never wrote." They chose the latter.

"The Wheel of Time" creators don't have to worry about filling in the blanks, though. With 14 books in Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series, there is no shortage of material to mine from. Additionally, Season 1 proved that the creators are willing to update and change things just enough to keep long-term fans on their toes. Moving forward, though, their biggest issue will be figuring out how to condense Jordan's novels for the screen.

The Wheel of Time is a low-key ratings juggernaut

It's fair to say that "The Wheel of Time" has been overshadowed by "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power," but that was always going to be the case. The Tolkien adaptation is the most expensive series ever made, after all. However, that doesn't mean that the "redheaded stepchild" series has gone unnoticed by viewers. According to Business Insider, Parrot Analytics found that "The Wheel of Time" was the biggest new series in the United States in 2021, beating shows such as "The Book of Boba Fett" on Disney+.

Per The Wrap, "The Wheel of Time" rang up an estimated 1.163 billion streaming minutes during its first week of release, topped only by Netflix's "Red Notice." By comparison, "The Rings of Power" premiere accumulated 1.25 billion minutes of streaming (via Deadline), making it the biggest debut ever for Amazon. Still, "The Wheel of Time" numbers weren't far behind, and the show arrived with much less hype than "The Rings of Power."

The data shows that "The Wheel of Time" Season 1 was a bona fide hit for Amazon, despite lurking in the shadows of the pop culture discourse like a Myrrdraal.

The Wheel of Time is the fresher option

"The Wheel of Time" novels debuted in 1990, so the stories have been around for a while. In the current television landscape, though, the series feels fresh. Robert Jordan's novels weren't adapted prior to the Amazon series, whereas most fans of film and television are overly familiar with Middle-earth at this point. That alone makes "The Wheel of Time" more exciting than another "Lord of the Rings" adaptation.

Jordan's world is rife with interesting characters and creatures, and the central story about young people coming of age in a brutal world gives the series some meaty narratives to sink its teeth into. As the story progresses, the main characters embark on their own epic quests in an effort to save their world from apocalyptic evil. Season 1 did a great job at building the foundation, but viewers can expect the series to become more ambitious and grandiose as it continues.

As previously mentioned, "The Wheel of Time" has more source material to work from, which gives it an advantage over "The Rings of Power." Right now, the latter series faces the almighty task of stretching out the slim source material for five seasons, which will ultimately lead to the creators having to take more gambles. "The Wheel of Time" has the opposite problem as Jordan gifted the creators with too much material. That's a good problem to have for any series with long-term goals.