Way back in the 90s I knew two different people who had a handful of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time novels in their cars at all times. It’s possible the titles changed as new books were acquired. Being a fantasy fan, I asked if they were any good.
“The last few have been absolutely terrible,” I was assured on both occasions. “But I have to know how it pans out.”
The new Amazon series The Wheel of Time cuts to the heart of the matter by being terrible right out of the gate. Not in a truly egregious manner, but in that soft, generic, rote kind of way that’s boring without being outright risible. It’s the sort of terrible that can lull you into thinking it might get good any episode now, and so you settle into a couch stupor and before you know it, a page has fallen off the calendar and your life is no better for it.
The source novels are vast and sprawling, with over 10,000 pages to them and almost 3000 named characters, but boiled down by showrunner Rafe Judkins, it comes to this: in a somewhat matriarchal fantasy world that gets bonus points for racial diversity but still looks like a Renaissance Faire, women can use magic but men can’t, and the few guys who can are ruthlessly exterminated by the Aes Sedai, a kind of Bene Gesserit-esque order of women magicians. There is a prophecy that an ancient figure known as The Dragon will be reborn, and he will either save the world or destroy it.
In point of fact, The Dragon may have already been reborn, and so Aes Sedia member Moiraine (a bored Rosamund Pike on Gandalf duties) and her Warder (that’s bodyguard to you and me) Lan (Daniel Henney) head to the village of Two Rivers, where four candidates live: hunky Rand al’Thor (Joshua Stradowski), his girlfriend Egwene (Madeleine Madden), bruiser Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), and roguish Mat (Barney Harris). Which one is the prophesied saviour/scourge? Before anyone can figure it out (but even newcomers will, because it’s blindingly obvious) the forces of darkness are on the march, and Moraine gathers the photogenic foursome into, well, a kind of fellowship and they hie off in search of sanctuary.