5 biggest changes The Wheel of Time show made from the books

The Wheel of Time changed a lot while making the jump from page to screen, sometimes for the better and sometimes not so much:
Natasha O'Keeffe (Lanfear), Josha Stradowski (Rand al'Thor), Rosamund Pike (Moiraine Damodred), Daniel Henney (Lan Mandragoran)
Natasha O'Keeffe (Lanfear), Josha Stradowski (Rand al'Thor), Rosamund Pike (Moiraine Damodred), Daniel Henney (Lan Mandragoran) /

The Amazon TV show The Wheel of Time is based on The Wheel of Time series of novels by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, one of the most famous fantasy series ever written. Amazon has a mountain to climb in adapting these 14 books for the screen. We're rooting for them to finish telling the whole tale.

But with any book series that big, changes will be made; if they adapted every word of the series, the cast of young actors will be middle-aged by the time all is said and done. Some of the changes have been good and some have been questionable. As we wait for the third season of the show, let's go over some of the biggest ways Amazon has changed the source material for TV:

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Josha Stradowski (Rand al'Thor) in The Wheel of Time season 2. Image: Prime Video. /

The mystery of the Dragon Reborn

The main character of The Wheel of Time is Rand al'Thor (Josha Stradowski), a boy from a backwater farming village who is actually a messianic figure known as the Dragon Reborn. His destiny is not to herd sheep, but to save the world. He's got a lot of punches to roll with.

Rand's story kicks off when an Aes Sedai sorceress named Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) comes to his little town and bids Rand accompany her on an epic journey; the wicked servants of the Dark One already know the Dragon Reborn is alive somewhere in this area, and neither he nor his friends will be safe if they stick around Emond's Field. The tricky part is that Moiraine isn't actually sure if Rand is the Dragon Reborn or if it's one of his two friends: Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) or Mat Cauthon, so she takes all three. Rand's friends Egwene al'Vere (Madeleine Madden) and Nynaeve al'Meara (Zoë Robins) also go on the journey.

So Moiraine doesn't know whether Rand, Mat or Perrin is the Dragon Reborn, but we readers do. Rand is the one who's contacted by a mysterious fire-mouthed freak every night, and Rand gets the lion's share of point-of-view chapters. When it's revealed at the end of the book that Rand is indeed the Dragon Reborn, we're way ahead of it.

The show changes things around to maintain the mystery. Not only does it not telegraph that Rand is the Dragon, it suggests that Egwene or Nynaeve could be candidates for the title as well. While the first season was airing, first-time fans were earnestly debating which of the Emond's Field five was the chosen one, and when we learned the truth, it was a mystery solved, not an answer arriving well behind the curve.

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Rosamund Pike (Moiraine Damodred) /

Centering Moiraine

In The Wheel of Time books, Rand is the main character pretty much from the jump. On the show, Moiraine gets a lot more play.

Maybe this is because that was the only way to maintain the mystery of the Dragon Reborn; focus too much on Rand in the first season and you'll tip us off. Maybe it's because actor Rosamund Pike is the biggest name attached to the show, and one of the most talented performers in the cast. You can't blame the writers for wanting to highlight her.

Whatever the reason, Moiraine gets a lot more time to shine in this TV version. In season 1, we learn details about her relationship with fellow Aes Sedai sorceress Siuan Sanche (Sophie Okonedo) that we never get in the books. In season 2, she gets an arc where she loses the ability to channel, which basically means she can no longer perform feats of magical power. We see her work through these difficulties both with and without her trustworthy bodyguard Lan (Daniel Henney). We even meet her sister Anvaere (Lindsay Duncan) and her nephew Barthanes (Will Tudor), both of whom get expanded roles from the books.

I don't think this insistence of putting Moiraine front and center always works — I thought the plot where she lost her powers dragged a bit — but by and large, the show has benefitted from Pike's steady presence.

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Rosamund Pike (Moiraine Damodred), Sophie Okonedo (Siuan Sanche), and Gitara (Hayley Mills) in The Wheel of Time season 2. /

All those flashbacks

The Wheel of Time mythology runs deep. The story takes place during the Third Age (yes, just like The Lord of the Rings, we all noticed), when society is in a bit of rebuilding phase. Long ago, an event called the Breaking of the World marked the end of a golden era called the Age of Legends, when things were much more advanced.

We hear about crucial events from this distant past in the books, but rarely see them, at least in the early going. But the show has peppered in some fun flashbacks. In the season 1 finale, we see what the world was like during the Age of Legends and meet Lews Therin Telamon (Alexander Karim), the guy who was the Dragon before he was reborn as Rand. Later we see Lews Therin imprison one of the Forsaken, the villains of the piece. We see flashbacks to when Moiraine and Siuan Sanche find out important information about the Dragon Reborn, and we see a flashback to when Rand's mother, then pregnant with him, kills, like, 30 guys in the snow. That one's pretty nuts:

The flashbacks break up the main action nicely, and fill us in on the darkened corners of this world. They're always a treat.

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Natasha O'Keeffe (Selene) in The Wheel of Time season 2. Image: Prime Video. /

The Forsaken are here to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and bubblegum doesn't exist in this world so far as we know

I mentioned the Forsaken above. The Forsaken are a group of incredibly powerful channelers born during the Age of Legends. They served the Dark One, the embodiment of ultimate evil in this world. At the end of the first season, Moiraine and Rand accidentally set loose the self-appointed leader of the group, Ishamael (Fares Fares), after an imprisonment of thousands of years. He then frees the Forsaken Lanfear (Natasha O'Keeffe). Later, he frees all of the remaining Forsaken, including the creepy Moghedien (Laia Costa), whom we meet at the very end of season 2. There are Forsaken everywhere, and they're all going to be a major pain in Rand's neck.

All of this is more or less true to the book. But the Forsaken develop slowly in the books, as if Robert Jordan was figuring out their personalities and roles as he went. In the show, the Forsaken are fully-formed characters from the start, and it's delightful. When we first meet him on the show, Ishamael already has the melancholy persona he doesn't adopt until much later in the book series. And Lanfear, somewhat inscrutable when she first appears on the page, is a vampy bulldozer who smirks, seduces and blasts her way through the second season.

Villains are fun, and The Wheel of Time has some good ones. The show wastes no time in making the most of them, and we're very happy about it.

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Dónal Finn (Mat Cauthon) in The Wheel of Time season 2. Image: Prime Video. /

Mat Cauthon

Let's end with a change that's somewhat out of the show's hands. Mat Cauthon is one of the main characters of the story, a member of the Emond's Field five who leaves with Moiraine at the very start. In the first season, he was played by Barney Harris, who did a good job navigating a version of Mat who's a bit grimmer than the one in the books. But in season 2, Harris was replaced by actor Dónal Finn.

It's still not clear exactly why this change was made, but Finn proved an able replacement who put his own stamp on the character without missing a beat. But swapping out actors created some issues. In the first Wheel of Time book, The Eye of the World, Mat joins Moiraine and his friends as they travel to the border city of Fal Dara. But because Barney Harris wasn't on set for whatever reason, the show had to write him out of this section, making the excuse that Mat's selfishness won out and he stayed behind in the Aes Sedai city of Tar Valon. He's not present for the climactic events at the Eye of the World, nor is he around for the fallout when Rand leaves afterwards. He doesn't find out that Rand was gone at all until late in season 2.

In the second Wheel of Time book, The Great Hunt, Rand, Mat and Perrin all go on a hunt for the Horn of Valere. But because Mat was left behind when the gang left for Fal Dara, that plotline had to be rethought. In the end, Perrin was the only member of the Emond's Field Five to go on that hunt.

The actor switch-over had some unpredictable knock-on effects, but all told, the show weathered it pretty well. And now that everyone is on the same page and Dónal Finn firmly installed as our new Mat, it should be smooth sailing from here.

As for when we'll see new episodes of The Wheel of Time, the cast and crew have wrapped filming on season 3. We'll likely be watching their next adventure sometime in 2025.

Next. twot s3 ts. The Wheel of Time season 3 episode titles revealed — with a caveat. dark

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