‘The Wheel of Time’ review: A ponderous start before smooth sailings

If only the show were to get away from the shadow of ‘The Lord of the Rings’and become its own beastie, it would be truly great instead of being just good

British fantasy writer China Mieville had some unprintable and apparently anatomically-incorrect things to say about J.R.R Tolkien. In an interview with this writer, Mieville explained that while there are portions of Tolkien’s work he admired, he was against looking at The Lord of the Rings creator as the beginning and end of fantasy.

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Watching the lavishly-produced The Wheel of Time, based on Robert Jordan’s fantasy series, Mieville’s comments on the Tolkein template for fantasy, ring sharp and true. There is everything from The Lord of the Rings—the shire (Two Rivers), the fellowship (the famous five), Gandalf/Galadriel (Moiraine) Sauron (the Dark One) and Frodo (Dragon reborn). There are even Orcs (trollocs), a version of the night riders and the glowing Eye. Thankfully, the One Ring is absent—must have surely bound all creators in the darkness.

Read More | ‘The Wheel of Time’ Episode 1 and 2 review: Get your ‘Game of Thrones’ fix all over again

Tolkien and Peter Jackson (who directed the blockbuster movies) seem to be punished for being excellent at their jobs with all these imitations. Wonder what will happen with the series based on The Lord of the Rings commissioned by Amazon? While it is supposed to be set before the events of the trilogy, one wonders if the circle of creative cannibalism will ever be broken.

The Wheel of Time

  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 8
  • Creator: Rafe Judkins
  • Starring: Rosamund Pike, Josha Stradowski, Marcus Rutherford, Zoë Robins, Barney Harris, Madeleine Madden, Daniel Henney, Michael McElhatton, Álvaro Morte
  • Run time: 54 to 62 minutes
  • Storyline: The quest for the Dragon Reborn to confront the Dark One continues even as Moiraine and her five charges discover things about themselves and each other

Back to The Wheel of Time and putting The Lord of the Rings firmly in the back burner (yes, Aragorn and Legolas too), as mentioned in the review of the first two episodes, the show creaks to a ponderous start before bowling along smoothly on a well-worn track with couplings, love, lust, fear, other-worldly beings, seers and the mandatory bloody battles.

With the world plunging into chaos as the Dark One’s power increases, an Aes Sedai (women with magical powers), Moiraine, (Rosamund Pike) recruits five youngsters— Nynaeve (Zoë Robins), Egwene (Madeleine Madden) Rand (Josha Stradowski), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Mat (Barney Harris).

An ancient prophesy says the Dark One can only be defeated by the Dragon Reborn. Moiraine suspects one of the five is the Dragon Reborn but does not know which of them will make or destroy the world according to the prophesy.

On the quest, as the youngsters discover themselves, the back stories of Moiraine and her warder, al’Lan (Daniel Henney) are revealed. There is power play in the White Tower where Siuan (Sophie Okonedo) rules the Aes Sedai. Loial (Hammed Animashaun), an Ogier (fantasy continues its love affair of little differences in spelling) guides Moiraine and the youngsters to the Eye of the World to confront the Dark One. Choices are made and decisions owned as the wheel grinds to its slightly anti-climactic conclusion.

With an inclusive cast that is easy on the eye, excellent production values creating beautifully-realised worlds and gorgeous costumes, The Wheel of Time looks set for the long haul. The second season has been commissioned, and as Jordan has written 14 books and a prequel with 2,782 named characters, there does not seem to be any danger of running out of source material.

If only The Wheel of Time were to get away from the shadow of The Lord of the Rings and become its own beastie, it would be truly great instead of being just good.

The Wheel of Time is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video

 

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