How Brandon Sanderson would have changed The Wheel of Time

Pictured (L-R): Daniel Henney (Lan Mondragoran), Zoë Robins (Nynaeve al’Meara)
Pictured (L-R): Daniel Henney (Lan Mondragoran), Zoë Robins (Nynaeve al’Meara) /
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The Wheel of Time was one of Amazon’s big hit shows for 2021, and the studio is already looking forward to a long and bright future for the series. The bestselling book series by Robert Jordan spans 14 door-stopping tomes and one prequel, so there’s no shortage of source material for the studio to draw on. After Jordan passed away from a rare blood disease in 2007, Mistborn author Brandon Sanderson was brought on board to finish the final three books. He was hand-picked by Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal, who was also the longtime editor for The Wheel of Time, and it’s pretty much agreed by fans across the board that he did about as good of a job wrapping up the original author’s vision as possible given the circumstances.

Both Sanderson and McDougal serve as consulting producers on The Wheel of Time television show on Amazon Prime Video. Sanderson reviewed scripts for the first six episodes of the show’s opening season and gave feedback.

On a new episode of the Intentionally Blank podcast, where Sanderson discusses various topics with fellow author and Writing Excuses co-host Dan Wells, he shared some thoughts about The Wheel of Time season 1. Sanderson discussed his involvement in the process, including which episodes he was able to give notes on, how COVID challenged the production, and what he would have changed about the series.

How involved was Brandon Sanderson with The Wheel of Time show?

“I had a lot more influence over episodes one through four-ish, one and two in particular,” Sanderson explained. “Five and six I still consulted on before they were filmed. And then COVID hit, and nobody knew what was going on…filming was interrupted. Lots of things were going on, and I heard radio silence out of [the show’s team] for a long time. I pinged [showrunner Rafe Judkins] and he was like ‘things are rough right now. We’re figuring out how to work with COVID to get our last two episodes filmed.”‘

"And somewhere in here, I don’t know when because I didn’t hear about it until months later, there were issues where they knew that Barney [Harris] was going to leave the show."

Harris played Mat Cauthon, one of the main characters. After his sudden and so far unexplained departure, he was replaced with actor Dónal Finn for season 2. When Wells asked if that was something Sanderson could talk about, the author gave a quick and decisive, “Nope.”

He expanded a bit, saying he “only knows a sentence or two” about Harris’ departure, and went on to reiterate that his involvement in the show is very limited — he’s not part of the writer’s room and doesn’t attend any meetings for the series. He only discusses the scripts with showrunner Rafe Judkins.

By the time the dust had settled on COVID and Sanderson was able to see scripts for the final two episodes of season 1, they had already been filmed. As such, none of his notes were able to be used for episodes seven and eight since the show was already in post-production at that point.

Brandon Sanderson thinks The Wheel of Time show was pretty good

Picking up on the impassioned debate among a lot of Wheel of Time fans online, Sanderson went on the record as saying, not for the first time, that he thinks Judkins and the team behind the show did a solid job. His words have been twisted against the show by angry sectors of the fandom in the months since its release, and he wanted to make it very clear that he supports the production.

“It’s very dangerous in some ways for me to even talk about all this, because the fandom is very passionate about The Wheel of Time and very passionate about Rafe,” Sanderson said. “I don’t want my criticisms of the show to turn into ‘you guys are all right,’ if that makes sense. I think there are legitimately some things to talk about with the show. I am not in the camp that, ‘what Rafe has done is some tragedy,’ and things like that. I think Rafe has done a good job. I think that he has adapted a very difficult book to adapt, he picked an adaptation style that suited his writing and his team’s vision for it, and they executed on that pretty well.”

So there you have it. Let Sanderson’s word on the topic be the final word, and let’s not infer he means anything other than what he’s said here. However, that’s not to say that he doesn’t have thoughts on how the show could have gone differently.

The Wheel of Time
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon Studios /

How Brandon Sanderson would have changed Perrin’s story on The Wheel of Time

Much of the discussion centered around those final two episodes of season 1, “The Dark Along The Ways” and “The Eye of The World.” After pointing out some things he enjoyed, such as Rand’s confrontation with the Forsaken Ishamael, Sanderson talked about the things he would have advised changing had he been given the chance to give feedback. (After reiterating again that he likes the show and is glad Rafe Judkins is running it. These are things he finds “interesting,” not things he wants leveraged as ammunition against the show.)

The character that Wells and Sanderson discussed most was Perrin. The show made some big changes to the character by having him accidentally kill his wife in the season premiere, but his plotline somewhat fizzled over the course of the season. Sanderson puts forth that Perrin’s brutal beginning meant that he was essentially starting the show at his lowest point as a character. As a result, the only option was to allow him time to deal with his trauma for much of the season, but that had the adverse effect of preventing Perrin’s arc from concluding in a satisfying way in the finale.

"Seeing it all together, the revision I would recommend for Perrin if I could have read through the whole thing, right, and had time with it and what not — and I don’t know that they had the time for all of this with COVID and things — what I would have said is…I would remove killing the wife at the start, we’ve talked about that ad nauseum. If you’re gonna go with this thing [of having him deal with his trauma all season] I would have Perrin decide to follow the Way of the Leaf, by meeting with the Tinkers so that the Tinkers have a point in the narrative. He picks that up, and he tries to not then fight back. And comes to the decision that this is not for him. There’s at least an arc there."

He goes on to discuss the different points where Perrin’s conflict between violence and passivity could have forced him to “berserk,” where he explodes in violence and then grapples with fear and regret like he does in the books. He points out the confrontation with Child Valda, the commander of the zealot Children of the Light who tortures Perrin and Egwene, as a place where this could have happened.

All that said, Sanderson still believes that the show made some good moves with Perrin. “Let’s give credit where credit is due. Having a character who spends the whole season dealing with trauma be unable to fight back at the end because of his trauma, is actually pretty legit. It’s not a satisfying traditional cinematic arc, but it’s pretty legit where they went with Perrin. And it’s kind of a natural outflow of where they started, and it’s kind of a responsible way to deal with the things that they’re doing with Perrin. It just didn’t feel that satisfying as a complete arc for a season.”

“That’s the issue that we’re getting into,” Sanderson continued. “I think Perrin is just this special thing, where they’re trying to do something very different from the books with Perrin, and I’m just not on board completely with it.”