By Ani Bundel
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and go, but since the first season isn’t actually out on Amazon yet, fans will have to wait for that. Thankfully, they got a taste of the new series at NYCC 2021 as part of Amazon Studio’s takeover of the Javits Main Stage. With a majority of the main cast on hand, the panel discussed what fans can expect from Season 1 and who’s turning up come Season 2.
The panel included showrunner Rafe Judkins, stars Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney, who play Moraine and Lan, plus most of the Two Rivers gang: Josha Stradowski and Marcus Rutherford as Rand and Perrin, and Zoë Robins and Madeleine Madden as Nynaeve and Egwene. (Due to the casting turnover of Mat’s role, he was missing. Consider it an homage to Book 5.) Judkins was quick to make sure that the assembled fans in the room understood that though making a faithful adaptation was what he wanted in his heart, there was no way the series could accomplish it.
Instead, the goal was to capture that same feeling of the books in the series, even if your favorite moments or favorite lines don’t make it. Judkins also argued that trying to make a super faithful adaptation would feel stilted, a nod to the fact that ten years after Game of Thrones Season 1, audiences have moved on from that style of straight from page to screen series to something more interpretive.
The clip the panel then introduced certainly had the atmospherics of the novel, in the famous scene where Lan and Moraine arrive at the Winespring Inn.
If the scene looks familiar, though, don’t be surprised. Everyone on the panel talked about how difficult it is to visually depart from the expected fantasy tropes of a small-town village like the Two Rivers. That being said, Rutherford marveled at the 360 sets created while Robins gushed over the detailing of the props.
But many aspects of The Wheel of Time depart from the traditional, especially the matriarchal structure of the series and its eastern religious themes. Pike said one of the reasons she was convinced to take the role, despite always assuming fantasy would not be her thing, was the relationship of Moraine and Lan and the profoundly intimate and trusting bond between them that was in no way sexualized. And Judkins said the story’s idea of bringing balance, rather than good defeating evil, felt especially relevant for our unbalanced times.
The enormity of the story also means the series won’t get that far with Season 1. (Not that the cast is that far either. Of those who are reading the books, only Stradowski and Robins have made it into Book 11 of 14.) Having two seasons greenlit out the gate means fans won’t meet some early characters until next season, including Elayne Trackand, who Judkins revealed will be played by Ceara Coveney (The Amazing World of Emma) in Season 2. He also confirmed that the series has cast Natasha O’Keeffe (Peaky Blinders) and Meera Syal (Doctor Strange) but would not reveal who they play.
The Wheel of Time Season 1 will premiere on Amazon on Nov. 19, 2021.
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