TV

‘The Wheel Of Time’: 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Dive In If You’re Looking For *Your* Next ‘Game Of Thrones’

The streaming services can’t help themselves. Everyone wants to make the next Game of Thrones, and that includes HBO, which is bringing the House of the Dragon prequel series to air in 2022. Depending on how you felt about that eighth season, you may or may not be into the idea of another GoT, but it will likely materialize, sooner or later. Perhaps we won’t witness that successor as a weekly “event” series (since binging is here to stay), but the TV powers that will keep trying their damndest. Netflix has given the feat a shot a few times already, first with puppets in The Dark Crystal, a stunning show that proved too expensive and labor-intensive to continue producing. Then came The Witcher, which already existed as a franchise before the first Netflix season and could eventually eclipse Thrones in popularity and longevity, along with the speed at which prequels and movies keep spinning into action.

Now here’s this: The Wheel Of Time stars Rosamund Pike in a sweeping, complex adaptation of Robert Jordan’s fantasy book series. Is it Thronesy enough? The show won’t match that title for everyone, but it might for you.

Actually, Amazon Prime currently boasts two contenders for “must-see epic fantasy series” on the way. One of them, Lord of the Rings, is due in fall 2022, but consider this: founder Jeff Bezos (who, yes, is not the most stellar human being, but many billionaires are not) reportedly straight-up declared that he wanted to knock everyone’s socks off with a new Thrones. The first candidate arrives this week, and The Wheel Of Time is every bit the sprawling story that successful fantasy epics should be made of. There’s even a “you know nothing” dropped into Episode 3 to make you think of Jon Snow’s chronic grumpy face. Yet there’s this consideration, too: The Wheel Of Time desperately wants to conjure up Westeros, and it cannot hide that intent.

Now, let’s talk about why — if you are looking for your new Thrones — you should give this series a whirl, while being a little more chill than the show’s own dreams.

Wheel of Time with Rosamund Pike
Amazon Prime

– The source material already exists and will last for eons: If you aren’t yet familiar with the story, then you can at least rest assured that there’s no George R.R. Martin-type scenario where the source material’s author keeps promising to finish another book, and then the show decides to stop waiting and blows past author intent in a way that many found to be (to put this kindly) unsatisfying. That sort of thing hurts when you’re so invested and loved a show so much, and then it careens into an ash-filled city and some unassuming fellow in the corner wins the game, despite all the maneuvering. Opening yourself up to yet a similar epic saga takes some trust. I get it.

Here, Robert Jordan’s popular fantasy book series includes over a dozen novels with hundreds of characters, and fans of these characters have wanted to see the story’s settings spring to life from the printed page for decades (the first book published in 1990). That’s enough for Amazon to have already greenlit a second season, and it’s likely that the existing fanbase should keep this thing afloat for the show to lay extensive groundwork and move past the “worldbuilding” stage of the initial episodes. There’s an abundance of content potential, which showrunner Rafe Judkins would like to mine for eight seasons (*cough* like Thrones).

– The epic nature of the story is undeniable: Anything that I write here would not adequately speak to the sheer volume of what this show’s sorting out, and I’ve seen six episodes that barely scratch the story’s surface. This first season follows Rosamund Pike’s quest as Moiraine, a member of the Aes Sedai, a group of ladies (and only ladies) who possess immense magical powers. This is a story where reincarnation is the sh*t — hence The Wheel Of Time title, which isn’t exactly a “time is a flat circle” thing — and that includes Moiraine’s assertion that the Dragon Reborn, who will be the key to humanity’s fate is among a group of young adults. That person, whoever it might be, has quite a job ahead of them against evil forces. There are battles and showdowns and a quest, and yes, all epic and rendered against beautifully vast landscapes with plenty of adult themes and graphic violence to shake your home theater system.

– Rosamund Pike: That’s a big enough point here to stand on its own. She’s the biggest name, and granted, she’s not playing a sociopath here. Yes, that’s unfortunate because “deranged” is what she does best, but it’s nice to see her stretch her wings. She’s much more restrained than usual in this role, but it’s swell to have her around as an anchoring presence amid a cast of largely unknowns (shoutout to Daniel Henney, who holds down the Lan Mandragora role, which bears some passing similarities to Jorah Mormont). I do, however, wonder why producers somehow did not slide Sean Bean into this show. That would make for some nice crossover potential.

– It’s all about finding your new Thrones: Sometimes it’s easy to forget, especially when a show was such a cultural juggernaut, that the way Thrones hit was highly specific to individual taste, and different aspects of the show landed differently with different people. What I’m saying is this: Thrones managed to appeal for a myriad of reasons, including the colorful characters, morphing motives, magical storylines, the tantalizing (although sometimes disappointing) reveal of villains, the maneuverings of power, and the game itself, and so on. That leads me to believe that the search for the next Game of Thrones is a search in vain. This should be more about viewers’ search for their own next Thrones. And for a decent amount of people, The Wheel Of Time will fit that bill. Some people will still prefer The Witcher or wait for Lord of the Rings or some other streaming show to come in the future.

– Don’t overthink it, man: It’s easy to get tripped up during the first few The Wheel Of Time episodes while attempting to make sense of dozens of characters. And it’s easy to not care too much about the out-of-the-gate battle scenes without having established emotional stakes in these characters, but the tapestry does begin to fall into place. So, if you’re looking for another Thrones, keeping an open mind (even if you haven’t read a show’s source material, and there’s a huge time investment if you actually want to read Jordan’s books now) is key. You’ll hopefully find what you’re looking for, but first, you’ll have to give it a shot.

Amazon Prime’s ‘The Wheel Of Time’ debuts on Friday, Nov. 19.

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