Late last year, Amazon Prime Video finally answered the calls of fantasy fans everywhere and began adapting Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time books for TV. The first season roughly covered the first book in the series, The Eye of the World. But there are 13 more to go (14 if you count the prequel) so the series could be running for awhile.
The first season had its ups and downs, although personally I liked it overall and am looking forward to more. Still, many fans weren’t happy with the changes the show made to the source material, and there were a lot of them. Some I think were fairly inevitable. For instance, I wasn’t too upset that the show skipped the section in Caemlyn given that they still covered most of the plot points there, just in a different location. But others left me scratching my head.
And there were others I thought worked really well! So in this article, I wanted to outline what changes I thought were great for the TV show, as well as which ones didn’t work as planned. Let’s start with something positive:
Improvement: Lan and Nynaeve’s relationship makes more sense
Robert Jordan had many gifts as a writer: dense worldbuilding, meticulous planning, impressive patience…but one of things he was less good at was writing convincing romances.
To wit, in The Eye of the World, Lan and Nynaeve get off to an inauspicious start when the resourceful Nynaeve tracks Lan and Moiraine after they leave Emond’s Field with Rand, Perrin, Mat and Egwene. There’s a bit of antagonism between the pair, but I didn’t notice much more than that.
Then, towards the end of the book, they suddenly declare their affection for each other, and I thought I might have missed a couple of chapters. Where did that come from? I dunno if Jordan thought he was building romantic tension, but it didn’t work for me at all.
The show does a much better job of building the relationship between these characters, and at interpersonal relationships in general. On the show, Lan and Nynaeve get to know each other a bit during the incident with Logain in “The Dragon Reborn,” and by the time they got to Fal Dara at season’s end, I was ready to buy them getting together.
Failure: Perrin kills his wife
One of the early controversies surrounding the show came right in the first episode: Perrin Aybara, one of the main characters, has a wife named Laila, a blacksmith like himself. Already, this is a big departure from the books, where Perrin was unattached before he left Emond’s Field. And then, in the climax of the pilot, Perrin accidentally kills Laila during the heat of a Trolloc attack.
Right off the bat, this choice is…weird. Like…why would you make such a drastic change to a major character right at the beginning? Showrunner Rafe Judkins explained that it was done so audiences would have an idea of what Perrin is going through earlier in the series:
"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."
And okay, it’s true that Perrin is a very internal character not given to vocalizing his feelings, which could be a problem for a screen adaptation where we don’t have access to his thoughts. And whenever someone on the show mentions death and they cut to his face, I do know what he’s thinking even if he’s not saying anything.
So I get what they were trying to do, but there had to be a more elegant way to get inside Perrin’s head than to create a whole new character and immediately fridge her. It changes something fundamental about the character right at the top of the tale and peddles in a hackneyed trope where a girl is killed to inspire a guy’s character development. I’m not sure what, if anything, they should have done instead, but I know they needed to think about it harder.