Every time author Brandon Sanderson has ragged on The Wheel of Time TV show

Brandon Sanderson, who wrote the final three Wheel of Time books, has called out Amazon's TV show for plot twists he felt missed the point, character arcs he didn't think went anywhere, and more.
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) /

Robert Jordan began publishing The Wheel of Time books in 1990, beginning an epic journey that would span 14 novels and 23 years, lasting even beyond his own life. Jordan died in 2007, but author Brandon Sanderson helped finish out the series with three more novels, ending with A Memory of Light in 2014.

Years later, in 2021, Amazon Prime Video premiered its Wheel of Time TV show, finally bringing this story to life in a way that fans had long contemplated but never seen. Josha Stradowski was Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn; Rosamund Pike was the Aes Sedai sorceress Moiraine...it was all here, made with Amazon's considerable resources. On the whole, it's pretty good.

But the show has its detractors, including long-time fans who take issue with how showrunner Rafe Judkins and his team of writers make changes from the books. Somewhat unexpectedly, one of those detractors is Brandon Sanderson, who is involved as a consulting producer but who has aired his issues with the series on several occasions.

To be clear, Sanderson has never outright slammed the show as bad, and he's paid the cast and crew plenty of compliments. But he's been more open with his criticisms than you'd expect a consulting producer to be. Let's hit some of the highlights:

The Wheel of Time /

Perrin and his wife

In the very first episode of The Wheel of Time, the sleepy country town of Emond's Field is invaded by an army of bestial Trollocs. The monsters are just barely defeated, and in the confusion of battle, the character of Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) makes a tragic mistake: thinking a Trolloc is invading his home, he swings an axe right into Laila (Helena Westerman), his wife, who dies from her wound.

This does not happen at all in The Wheel of Time books. Perrin does not have a wife at this point in the story, nor does he do anything remotely as grim. Showrunner Rafe Judkins came up with this early plot twist because he and his team wanted to give Perrin something to struggle with, in particular something that foreshadows the battle he'll wage against his own violent instincts for much of the story. But Brandon Sanderson thought it went way too far.

"I would remove killing the wife at the start," Sanderson said on an episode of his Intentionally Blank podcast. Later, he revealed to a crowd at the C2E2 comic convention that he tried to persuade Amazon to take a different path. "I presented a completely different thing to do with Perrin that would still get what they wanted," he said. "[I]nstead of the first big event that happens, [my idea was] what if [Perrin] wounds Master Luhhan? He's worried about the rage inside of him - you can get all the same beats without doing the thing that you did, and then he also won't be traumatized for the entire first season. And he can actually go on fun adventures with friends."

Obviously, Sanderson's suggestion was not taken, although the author said that Judkins "took it all the way to the higher-ups and fought for my version of it, and they said no."

Pictured (L-R): Zoë Robins (Nynaeve al’Meara), Madeleine Madden (Egwene al’Vere)
The Wheel of Time. Credit: Courtesy of Amazon Studios /

The end of The Wheel of Time season 1

The production of The Wheel of Time season 1 was difficult, mainly because the COVID pandemic started in the middle of it and the last couple episodes had to be rethought to accommodate the new restrictions. That comes across onscreen; in the climatic moment of the season 1 finale, "The Eye of the World," budding sorceresses Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) and Egwene (Madeleine Madden) combine their magical powers with that of three other women, and together they take down a whole army of Trollocs. This is a major battle scene with basically five fighters on the human side of things. It feels weirdly small.

Brandon Sanderson thought the finale fell short when it came to advancing character arcs for Nynaeve and Egwene. “I think that your ending episode just then needs to end with them both deciding to go train to be Aes Sedai,” he said on Intentionally Blank. “I don’t know why they did the whole linking thing to fight off the Trollocs. I think it would be a really easy to fix to have Egwene and Nynaeve need to be there to help with the defense…and they’re just not trained enough. Nynaeve can’t access her power the right way. Egwene can’t control, and at the end of it they’ve helped out, but then they realize ‘if we had been fully trained, all these people over here wouldn’t be dead. We need to go do the responsible thing, go learn to use our powers, and if there’s a hierarchy and power structure [in the White Tower] that is messed up, well then we fix it. We become part of the solution rather than just walking away.’ And if that alone had been there, I think their whole arcs would be really great through the whole season.”

Sanderson also had a thought about how to make better use of Lan (Daniel Henney), Moiraine's faithful warder. “Lan doesn’t do anything in the last episode except run to find Moiraine,” the author said. He would have preferred it had Lan, then cut off from Moiraine, instead helped our Nynaeve, with whom he had a budding romance. "Imagine if [in the finale] he’d run off to find Moiraine, and saw that the Trollocs were coming, and then you do the thing that I’m asking for where Nynaeve is fighting but she’s not good enough and things like that, but she is killing some Trollocs and one almost gets close to her…and then same perspective shot, Lan appears out of nowhere and gets the Trolloc. And for a few moments they’re fighting together, just like Lan and Moiraine were. Wouldn’t that have just been the most beautiful scene that you could imagine?"

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Rosamund Pike (Moiraine Damodred) in The Wheel of Time season 2. Image: Prime Video. /

Moiraine losing her powers

In October of 2023, Brandon Sanderson watched the finale of The Wheel of Time season 2 alongside YouTubers Daniel Greene and Matt Hatch, and he had a lot to say. Before we get into it, I'll reiterate that Sanderson payed the cast and crew plenty of compliments, but it's his criticisms we remember best.

Let's start with something that happens to the character of Moiraine at the very end of the first season: she loses access to the One Power, which basically means she can no longer wield magic. We later find out that she's only shielded from the One Power, not severed from it, and her connection is restored, but she spends most of the season thinking she's cut off forever.

Nothing like this happens to Moiraine at this point in the book series, and Sanderson did not like the change. "I fought pretty hard against the Moiraine not having her powers thing," he said. "I just don’t think it worked, and maybe again it’s just me looking forward, but…if we’re having people lose their powers and get them back just for convenience of like a few episodes it really detracts from the idea of losing powers, getting powers back. I don’t think we needed it. I tried on that one."

"It does some good things but I think it led to some of the weakest parts of the season, being Episode 1 and 2, Lan and Moiraine. I don’t think it worked, mostly because it led to a weaker start, which is a problem right? A weak start for Moiraine and Lan, who are two of our strongest characters."

The second season of The Wheel of Time is based in large part on the second novel in the series, The Great Hunt. Speaking of that...

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Dónal Finn (Mat Cauthon) and the Heroes of the Horn. /

The Hunt for the Horn

The Great Hunt is named after the hunt for the Horn of Valere, an ancient artifact said to be able to summon heroes from the past if blown. Several important characters spend the bulk of the book hunting for it, but in the show, only Perrin and the Ogier Loial go looking, and their quest is soon interrupted.

Sanderson wishes the show had paid more attention to the hunt. “We basically lost the Hunt for the Horn…something had to go," he said. "I don’t know, I was pretty sad to not have the actual Hunt for the Horn. All ofGreat Hunt the book…it’s a travelogue trying to get the Horn, get to the Horn, find the Horn. So it means when the Horn gets used, it’s been a centerpiece…it’s been the MacGuffin the entire book.”

The horn does eventually get used when Mat Cauthon blows on it during a climactic battle in the city of Falme. That scene plays out more or less the same onscreen as it does in the book, but Sanderson doesn't think it works as well on the show. “It was filmed well, it was beautiful, and the music was great. It’s a wonderful moment," the author said during a discussion on Reddit. "However, I feel it’s a completely defensible criticism that I feel it’s just not set up in the show properly. I felt from just watching episode eight that it had no relevance on the plot; it could have not happened.”

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Madeleine Madden (Egwene al'Vere) in The Wheel of Time season 2. Image: Prime Video. /

Egwene and the Battle of Falme

Egwene's story in The Wheel of Time season 2 received good marks from fans and critics alike. After spending the first half of the season training to become an Aes Sedai in the White Tower, Egwene and her friends are kidnapped. Nynaeve and new friend Elayne manage to escape, but Egwene is sold into slavery. For the rest of the reason, she is sadistically trained by a woman named Renna, who intends to break Egwene's will so that Egwene's ability to channel the One Power can be used to further the expansion of the Seanchan empire.

Watching Egwene be ground underfoot like this was powerful, if upsetting, and many fans couldn't wait to see her take revenge on Renna. That happens in the season finale, when Egwene manages to free herself from Renna's control, whereas in the book Egwene has help from Nynaeve and Elayne. On the show, Egwene kills Renna whereas in the books Renna survives.

Sanderson did not like what these changes did to the story. "Now, Renna was even more evil…in the television show than she was in the books, but I still had a pretty big problem with this," he said. "I will have to see how it goes in future seasons, but Egwene freeing herself really undermines a whole bunch of what’s going on with all of this. Part of the idea that I feel Egwene needed to learn was there are some situations you can’t get yourself out of. That’s a theme of the entire Wheel of Time that goes right up until the ending in my last book. You need everybody. You can’t do it yourself. [Robert Jordan] said that was one of the themes of The Wheel of Time in interviews. And Egwene frees herself and then kills her tormentor…I can see the brutal, kind of more grimdark version being she has to do the killing, plus there’s an argument of, you know, leaving someone as [damane] is crueler than killing them anyway. But I really don’t like that she just got herself out. It’s setting up the heroes don’t need each other. They don’t need anybody."

This also means that Nynaeve and Elayne have less to do in this climactic moment. "I feel like Nynaeve and Elayne didn’t have a lot to do after the really cool White Tower scenes earlier on, which were fantastic," Sanderson said. "I loved Nynaeve’s Accepted test. But yeah, if Nynaeve let Egwene go here, then Nynaeve has something, right?"

Egwene frees herself of Renna's control on top of a tower high above Falme, which is also where she, Nynaeve, Elayne, Rand, Mat and Perrin all face down the Forsaken sorcerer Ishamael, the big bad of the season. Sanderson thought the battle left something to be desired. “Nynaeve didn’t do anything. Perrin has a shield…Rand didn’t need to be there. Egwene just needed a sword…I don’t want to downplay how good the stuff that’s good in this episode was good. But it still bothers me that so many of the characters didn’t have to be there, and so much of it doesn’t seem to mean anything.”

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

Scenes over arcs

A lot of Sanderson's complaints come down to the show not constructing what he feels are meaningful character arcs. "The show is doing a lot of things fantastically, and it’s really good at scenes," he said. "But one of the things I keep arguing for is, ‘What are the arcs’? What is the theme? And arc and theme seems to fall by the wayside for cool scenes quite a bit, and that worries me. Particularly going into book four, where its the strongest Wheel of Time book and that’s partially because of themes of self-sacrifice and things like this."

Sanderson's final assessment of the show on The Dusty Wheel stream with Greene and Hatch damns the show with faint praise, at best. "I want to love it, and I like it," he said. "I think people are gonna enjoy watching this, I don’t think they’ll come back for it. Cause what brings you back are those moments where things culminate. You don’t come back for cool scenes."

These are some surprisingly blunt (and surprisingly public) criticisms, especially considering that Sanderson is a producer on The Wheel of Time TV show. Still, in the interest of ending this article with a plea for peace, we'll note that Sanderson himself has encouraged fans not to "rag" on the creators, saying that "there are some really good writers on that show" who were "working very hard to give you a fantastic experience."

The Wheel of Time team is currently deep into production on season 3, which will reportedly start airing in 2025. What will Sanderson have to say then? We'll be looking out.

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