5 ways The Wheel of Time improved the books (and 5 ways it failed them)

The Wheel of Time
The Wheel of Time /
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©2020 Amazon Prime Video; photo by Jan Thijs
©2020 Amazon Prime Video; photo by Jan Thijs /

Improvement: Pretty much everything involving Moiraine

The Wheel of Time show puts Moiraine Damodred front and center. She reads the opening narration, she watches the Red Ajah gentle a man in the first full scene, and she’s the only character to get an episode completely to herself: the remarkable “The Flame of Tar Valon,” which for my money was far and away the best episode of the season. The Wheel of Time is an ensemble piece — we spend time with all the characters — but if it can be said to have a lead, Moiraine is it.

Casting Rosamund Pike has a lot to do with the character’s success. She holds herself very still, but gives the impression of great inner strength and authority. She’s as compelling wrecking a horde of Trollocs with fireballs as she is sitting on the back of a horse recounting the battle of Manetheren. “The Flame of Tar Valon” pulls back the curtain on Moiraine even further, showing us how she can callously manipulate Egwene in one scene and be playfully vulnerable with Siuan Sanche in the next. The script gives Moiraine layers and Pike delights in peeling back each one.

However, there is a down side to giving Moiraine this much attention…

The Wheel of Time
Pictured (L-R): Zoë Robins (Nynaeve al’Meara), Barney Harris (Mat Cauthon), Daniel Henney (Lan Mondragoran), Rosamund Pike (Moiraine Damodred), Madeleine Madden (Egwene al’Vere), Josha Stradowski (Rand al’Thor), Marcus Rutherford (Perrin Aybara). Credit: Jan Thijs. © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC and Sony Pictures Television Inc /

Failure: Every character who isn’t Moiraine pales a bit beside her

While The Wheel of Time gives a lot of attention to developing Moiraine right at the top, the other key characters — namely Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene and Nynaeve — don’t shine quite as brightly, especially at the beginning. There’s a genericness to the Emond’s Field five that is partly carried over from the books, but is partly a result of the show’s decision to focus so much on Moiraine in this early stretch of story.

Moiraine is an important character in the books, but she’s not that important. Another consequence of giving her the spotlight is that the show is stuck following her even when the books are focused elsewhere. The first season ends with her losing her powers, something that doesn’t happen in The Eye of the World. Judkins has admitted that this was done because Moiraine doesn’t have much to do in the second book and they need something for Pike to do in season 2. Hopefully it’ll work out, but that could result in the other characters having screen time taken away from them when they should be stepping up to carry the story forward.

Happily, the rest of the cast gets more interesting as the season goes on. Nynaeve might do the best job of finding her own groove, particularly during the incident with Logain. The character who might suffer the most is Rand, which brings us to our next topic: