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Friday, 27 May 2022

The Wheel of Time: A Load of Trollocs Or A Streaming Show With Potential?


Six months after the rest of geekdom, I finally made time to watch the eight-episode first season of Amazon's big budget Wheel of Time adaptation... and I have to say, I was totally underwhelmed.

I have no connection whatsoever with Robert Jordan's mega-saga of chucky fantasy novels, so can't comment on how good an adaptation this was, but the TV show came across as essentially a reskinning of Lord of The Rings

Seemingly borrowing numerous traits from Tolkien's books and Peter Jackson's movies, if I'd turned "spot the homage" into a drinking game I doubt I would have made it to the end of the season.

It also tries too hard to be clever, for instance ogres aren't called ogres, they're "ogier".

And the foot soldiers of the bad guys - goat-headed beastmen who really reminded me of Runequest broo - are called, I kid you not, "trollocs". The jokes just write themselves...

A trolloc

The Wheel of Time has obviously had Amazon-sized money thrown at it, I particularly enjoy the swirling tendril effects when anyone weaves a magical spell. 

The grand scale magic-centric fight at the end of the first episode was a genuine stand-out sequence - unfortunately setting a high bar that later episodes failed to clear. 

There also seems to be an issue with the costuming. Not only were there too many contemporary-looking outfits, giving the show more a feeling of a Ren Faire than Game of Thrones, but everything also looked so clean all the time.

For instance, two of the main characters, escaping the trollocs, have supposedly been on the road for a month without proper rest and finally rock up at a city dressed in immaculate, unmuddied, outfits.

Talking of the main characters, the central story revolves around four young villagers - who have been identified by a powerful sorceress - as possible reincarnations of a powerful being who will either save the world or destroy it.

But they're all so whiney and drab.

When something interesting happens - and don't get me wrong, there are some very impressive moments in this first season of The Wheel of Time - it generally involves characters other than this main quartet.

I thought I'd sussed out a clever twist in the prophecy that was going to reveal itself in the season finale, only it didn't. In the end it played the prophecy very straight.

There was actually a genuinely revelation at the start of the eighth episode, about the nature of the world, but it was never addressed again (I'm guessing this will come up in future seasons).

However, as bland and generic as this season turned out to be, I'm certainly not writing The Wheel of Time off.

Season two is on the way, and I'll try to be on the ball when that drops.

The first of 14 volumes in The Wheel of Time series

Why am I cutting The Wheel of Time such slack when I've been so critical of it? 

Because, not only only were there some very inventive nuggets scattered throughout this season, but I was reminded of the fact that some of my favourite fantasy serials took a moment to find their feet (for example, The Outpost had a very weak first season, and I initially gave up on Legend of The Seeker - which would eventually become my favourite of this pulpy ilk - during its first season).

Thus, because I can see the grains of potential in it, I'm still looking forward to the sophomore season of The Wheel of Time, just to see what develops, what changes, what's introduced, and what is expanded upon.

Also, because I was reminded of Legend of The Seeker, I got a massive jolt of inspiration to work on certain parts of my Frankengame and have been hammering away at the keyboard - between Wheel of Time episodes - sorting out bits and bobs, crafting and twisting rules and character classes to fit my new perspective.

Of course, there are still going to be typos and errors, but hopefully I'll pick them up in future read-throughs.

However, I'm rather pleased with what I've achieved in the game - mechanically - of late, and I owe that to an avalanche of inspiration that started with a Wheel of Time-shaped pebble rolling down the proverbial hill.

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