The Wheel of Time boss explains the big change with Perrin

The Wheel of Time
The Wheel of Time /

Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series is huge. It’s 14 books long huge, so huge that Jordan died before writing the end of it; author Brandon Sanderson came in to finish it up. With a series that enormous, naturally some things are going to need to be changed for TV, and viewers have already noticed a lot of changes in the first three episodes, which are streaming now.

Some of the changes are comparatively small, liking aging the main characters up a bit. According to showrunner Rafe Judkins, this was done to bring the first season — which adapts premiere novel The Eye of the World — more in line with the rest of the series. “I think the whole series of Wheel of Time books is much more aimed at adult audiences than the first Wheel of Time book is,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Eye of the World shares way more with Lord of the Rings than it does with Game of Thrones. It’s really very much that high fantasy, adventure storytelling. So for me, I wanted to infuse the first season of the show with a lot of the things that people love about the Wheel of Time series as a whole.”

"In terms of the changes that we were making for the adaptation, I think the ones that we put most up front were making it an ensemble piece — make that first book more like the rest of the books — and then the second main one was bringing the Aes Sedai in earlier; they don’t come in until the second book, and they’re such an iconic piece of the IP. Like, I think probably lots of Wheel of Time fans even forget that we didn’t meet the Aes Sedai until the second book. (Laughs.) And those two core ideas, you know, fluttered out into a lot of the other changes that are in it. Like, if it’s an ensemble, we should be seeing what happened to all the characters on Winter Night. If it’s an ensemble, we need to know who all five of these kids are instead of just one of them."

Winter Night is the event at the end of the premiere episode when Emond’s Field is attacked by murderous Trollocs. And indeed, in the books we don’t see any of it happen; we only see a Trolloc attack Rand and his father Tam at their farmhouse.

Perrin SPOILERS for The Wheel of Time beyond this point

But that’s where another big change comes in. You see, in this version of the story, Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) has a wife named Laila, whereas in the books he’s single. That might be a consequence of aging the character up a little.

To start, Laila isn’t a complete invention. “Well, there’s a scene in the books where Perrin says, like, ‘If I had stayed in the Two Rivers for a few more years instead of leaving, I think I would have married Laila Dearn,'” Judkins explained. “And so that’s what we took as inspiration.” But it’s not just that Laila exists that has fans worked up; it’s that during the attack on Emond’s Field, Perrin accidentally kills his own wife in the heat of battle, slicing her with an axe with a fierce blow meant for a Trolloc.

Why make this huge change? “So I talked to people, when we first started the adaptation, about like, ‘What are things you didn’t like about the books?'” Judkins explained. “One thing that pretty consistently came up was people felt like they didn’t really know Mat or Perrin, especially, until later in the books. You can’t really afford, in a television show, for one or two of your seven leads to not be characters that really pop until season four, right? (Laughs.) So one of our big tasks was to make sure that each of these five kids from the Two Rivers, you could understand the kernel of the story that they’ll face in season one — and through the whole series — in that first episode.”

"For this character that’s extremely internal — you really never get to hear his internal monologue that out loud in the book — we give him a moment at the beginning of the series where you understand why he, across the course of the series, has such a struggle with violence."

How do we feel about that?

It’s true that Perrin’s journey is very internal; he thinks more than he says. But I don’t know if they needed to add so drastic a twist to get audiences invested in him. Plus, it’s pretty much the exact definition of fridging — killing a female character to inspire character development in someone else, usually a guy — which is a hackneyed trope we’re better off leaving behind.

That said, I watched the show with a friend who had never read the books, and they found this turn pretty compelling. And the show does carry it through the future episodes.

Even with changes this big, Judkins’ goal is to preserve the spirit of the books even as the particulars shift. “Hopefully, what we’re getting across for people who really love the books is the core of the story and making sure that it really feels like The Wheel of Time, even though there are obviously a lot of cuts to, you know, make it eight hours as opposed to 800 pages,” he said. “Even in the first three episodes, I’ve seen people be like, ‘Oh, this character wasn’t there. I really miss them.’ But that person we do have a plan for. I think there will be those factors that keep surprising people as they watch it because there are pieces that it feels like we’ve gone past, but we actually find a way to work them into the show later.”

New episodes of The Wheel of Time drop every Friday on Amazon Prime Video!

Next. Review: The Wheel of Time is a solid adaption that welcomes newcomers. dark

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