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The Untold Truth Of The Wheel Of Time

In 1990, Robert Jordan published the first novel of the sprawling fantasy series The Wheel of Time. The series explores a universe in which the nature of time is truly cyclical, setting the narrative in both the distant past and the far future. With a massive cast of characters, an intriguing magical system, and elaborate world-building, the series has become a favorite in the fantasy genre. And now, at long last, it's finally coming alive on screen.

Showrunner Rafe Judkins is behind Amazon's Wheel of Time series. With Rosamund Pike starring as Moiraine Damodred and relatively unknown actors like Josha Stradowski playing important characters like Rand al'Thor, fans are greeted by familiar faces and introduced to rising talents. What does the future have in store for The Wheel of Time? Will certain beloved characters be cut from the series? And what changes did the writers make when adapting the series for TV? Let's explore everything that has been revealed about The Wheel of Time series.

The mysterious pilot episode

Rumors about a potential Wheel of Time TV adaptation have been flying for years. In 2015, the production company Red Eagle Entertainment aired a random pilot episode for a potential series. However, they had no real plans to follow it up with a full season — the only reason they rushed to film a single episode and get it on the air was so they could retain the TV rights to the story. Basically, Universal Pictures had a contract with Jordan's estate that granted the company TV rights to The Wheel of Time until February 11, 2015. But if an episode had not aired by then, the rights would go back to his estate.

The pilot, entitled The Wheel of Time: Winter Dragon, was aired during the 1:30 AM slot on FXX. The few fans who went out of their way to watch it were universally disappointed. To make matters worse, the pilot was produced without the knowledge of Jordan's estate or his widow, Harriet McDougal. Thankfully, this new series represents a fresh start, and has nothing to do with the rushed 2015 pilot.

The first season's narrative

So far, the showrunners have not revealed the plot of the first Wheel of Time episode. But we do have some interesting hints that might give us clues about what will happen throughout the season. Of course, it's safe to assume that the series will kick off by covering the events of the first book. But some devout fans have investigated further, and by analyzing the episode titles, they've figured out a few specific details that will likely make it into the first season.

The first three episodes are titled "Leavetaking," "Shadow's Waiting," and "A Place of Safety," which are all chapter titles from The Eye of the World. However, the fourth episode is titled "The Dragon Reborn," which is actually a chapter title drawn from the second book in the series, The Great Hunt. Therefore, it might be safe to assume that the first season will cover the events of the first and second books.

Exciting teasers have been released

Amazon has released several teasers for the highly-anticipated show. Back in September 2020, fans got to see a sneak peek of a possible village set in a short clip. In October 2020, Amazon dropped a short audio clip featuring two main characters, Egwene and Perrin Aybara, having a harried conversation as chaos ensues in the background.

Then, in December 2020, Amazon revealed a teaser that clued fans in on one specific deviation being made. In the books, the gleeman Thom Merrilin is a skilled harpist and flutist — but in this teaser, it's shown that he'll be playing the guitar in the TV series instead. Finally, the first teaser of 2021 was released on January 15. In this clip, Judkins speaks about the themes they'll be exploring in the first season, and fans get a glimpse of the concept art that inspired the sets. The lush designs certainly look promising — it seems likely this series will be visually stunning.

It's not just for fans of the book series

If you've never read The Wheel of Time books, you might be wondering whether or not it's worth tuning into this series. Maybe you've been hoping for a new high fantasy show to dive into since Game of Thrones wrapped up — but do you really have to read the whole series before watching the show? Judkins says no. The writers crafted the show with viewers who haven't the read the books in mind. This likely means that the first couple of episodes will introduce plenty of helpful exposition. Viewers won't be expected to know who every character is and why every location is important right off the bat.

Of course, if you have the time and you're a fan of fantasy tales, you might want to check out the books anyway. After all, there's a reason millions of people love them so much! And with a little bit of background knowledge, watching the series might be even more enjoyable.

Brandon Sanderson and Harriet McDougal are consultants

As Jordan passed away in 2007, fans may be worried that the series will falter without his input. But his widow, Harriet McDougal, has been heavily involved with the show's production. Specifically, McDougal has been spending her time on The Wheel of Time set in Prague, where she personally reads all of the scripts and gives her feedback to Judkins. 

Additionally, Brandon Sanderson has also played a role in bringing the series from the page to the screen. After Jordan's death, McDougal personally chose Sanderson to finish the final Wheel of Time books: He went on to publish The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and A Memory of Light. Sanderson reads over all the scripts and gives notes to the writers and showrunners. He also spent some time in Prague, and gave the team a little extra advice on set before they started filming. With Sanderson and McDougal involved, the series is in good hands.

Expect practical effects

Today, many fantasy and sci-fi productions rely heavily on CGI for special effects. It's easy to see why: Today's CGI visuals often look incredibly realistic, and it can be easier for the crew to create them than work with practical effects. But Judkins has stated that the team behind The Wheel of Time will be relying on practical effects whenever possible.

Daniel Henney, who is playing the warder al'Lan Mandragoran, says that the massive sets are truly awe-inspiring. "I've never before in my life seen sets like this," Henney commented in an Instagram Q&A session. "It is incredible. It's like everything you ever dreamed of as an actor. As a fan of these books, I can only imagine what it would be like to see these sets."

In addition, the actors have been working with real wolf-dogs. That's right — the wolves in the series are not CGI creations! The wolf-dogs came from the Z Molu Es Kennel in the Czech Republic. They'll probably be playing the wolf pack that the blacksmith Perrin encounters in The Eye of the World.

Will the characters look like their book descriptions?

After years of reading and re-reading the Wheel of Time books, fans have certain ideas about how the characters they've come to know and love should look on screen. So far, some of the show's casting choices haven't quite matched up with the characters' physical descriptions. For instance, fans have pointed out that Moiraine is supposed to be fairly short, yet Rosamund Pike is quite tall. Some have wondered whether the crew might try to make her look shorter through tricky camera work. 

But for Judkins, making sure that the actor is a spitting image of their character in the books isn't a top priority. "I'm of the belief that my most important job is to bring the truth and heart of these characters to life. I'm much more concerned about acting than physicality," Judkins explained on Twitter. He continued, "It's so much more important to me to get someone high caliber who embodies the character than a perfect physical match." So while some of the characters may not look the way fans pictured them, their personalities will still shine through.

Have important characters been cut?

Naturally, everyone wants to make sure that their favorite characters from The Wheel of Time make it into the series. Fans have specifically reached out to Judkins to ask if the writers had cut Min, a woman whose visions help her discern the future, or Narg, a Trolloc who is unique for his ability to speak the common tongue.

Judkins reassured fans that cutting key characters is the last thing the writers want to do. "I genuinely think we are cutting less than most people think. When I see people ask questions like, 'Are you cutting Min?' It blows my mind," Judkins explained during a Q&A session on Instagram. "I don't know how you do an adaptation without some of these characters." He also confirmed that Narg would be included.

Judkins also revealed that none of the new characters on the show are totally original creations. "There's no one fully invented. Anyone 'new' is either a character pulled from somewhere in the series and changed or a composite of groups or types of characters personified in one individual," he stated.

Some changes might be "polarizing"

The Wheel of Time series includes 14 books, so adapting it into a TV series comes with inevitable changes. Naturally, fans who plan to watch the series are seeking clues about what those changes might be. Sanderson himself has confirmed that fans will notice some deviations from the source material, and that while he's happy with the creative new directions that the writers have explored, some fans might not share his opinion.

"As the alterations go, I'd say they fall in line with positive changes made in bringing LOTR to the big screen – things that were altered in order to make the films work for the medium," Sanderson explained in a Reddit comment. He continued, "I'm certain there will be polarizing decisions made by the team, but the changes are coming from a good place, and I really like most of them." For instance, seeing Alexandre Willaume as Thom Merrilin playing the guitar might be a welcome change for some fans and an unwanted switch for others!

Sanderson also stated that the episodes will not be scene-by-scene recreations of the events in the books. But as long as they have Sanderson's seal of approval, these changes will likely be received well by most fans.

You'll hear brand new dialogue

Longtime Wheel of Time fans are looking forward to seeing their favorite characters and settings come to life. But will they be hearing any of the most moving and impactful lines of dialogue from the books? Judkins says that fans shouldn't expect conversations to be recreated word for word.

"Especially for scenes that aren't from the books at all, we will find scenes from the books with the same characters together or talking about the same thing thematically," Judkins explained. "That said, predictably, almost all of the dialogue in the show is not from the books so as to sound as natural as possible with out locations/actors/scenes as they're played."

It seems like the writers have had to revise much of the dialogue from the books in order to account for changes they've made to the narrative. But Judkins did say that "almost" all of the dialogue would be modified, meaning that a few key lines from the books might make it into the series.

Accurate weaponry

How far will the crew go to get the books' little details right on screen? With their commitment to practical effects (and a generous budget from Amazon), they can afford to invest in real craftsmanship for props like the weapons that will be used in the series. In December 2020, Amazon released a clip that detailed the design process for Tam's sword, from the initial sketches to the final product. The clip lavishly illustrates how they constructed the bronze heron and long hilt that Jordan specified in the novel. Seeing small details like this make it into the series will be exciting for eagle-eyed fans.

When it comes to the weaponry that fans will see on screen, the team has spared no expense. Judkins has confirmed that they have a skilled swordmaster on set who tests out basically every prop as a weapon. In other words, we'll be seeing some incredible battles, raids, and fight scenes.

The writers are ready for a second season

Like many other series, the production of The Wheel of Time was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While fans may be disappointed with a longer wait to weather, Judkins has reassured those who are eagerly anticipating the release that this extended downtime might actually benefit the show in the long run.

"The nice thing about this is that we will now have all eight scrips going into prep for season two, which will let us do such a better job with it, and it lets me focus more on the scripts and the editing that we're doing right now because were not shooting," Judkins explained during his appearance at JordanCONline, a virtual Wheel of Time convention. 

It's important to note that The Wheel of Time has not officially been renewed for a second season yet. But it's clear that Judkins and the writers feel quite confident that the first season will earn a positive response from fans and critics, and that a second season could get the greenlight soon enough. So far, it looks like the first season has the potential to establish The Wheel of Time as the next must-watch fantasy series.