Season 2 of Prime Video’s rendition of The Wheel of Time has been a long wait — perhaps not as long as it took fans to acquire a successful small-screen adaptation in the first place, but the gap between seasons has definitely built up more expectation for what lies ahead. Although the series was already renewed for a third season prior to the impending release of the second season, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding streaming shows and what their eventual fate may be.
However, if The Wheel of Time’s destiny is established, both longtime fans and novices have a lot to look forward to in terms of where the series is heading, based on the first four episodes offered for review. Season 2 doesn’t pull any punches this time around — it’s a distinctly darker turn of the Wheel, and now that our main characters are aware of the evil that exists in their world, it’s as if those of us watching are all the more primed to notice it as well, staring into the darkest shadows and wondering what might be lurking within.
At the end of Season 1, the small group of friends who formerly lived quietly in the little village of Emond’s Field suddenly find themselves as far removed from their original circumstances as they may be. Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski), a former sheepherder, has found that he is the Dragon Reborn, a man capable of channelling the One Power who has been predicted to either be the world’s saviour or to plunge it into absolute ruin.
His encounter with the Dark One (Fares Fares) at the Eye of the World has a number of consequences, the most devastating of which is the devastating confirmation that the Aes Sedai Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), who has been searching for the Dragon Reborn herself, has been cut off from the One Power, rendering her unable to channel.
Given that male channelers have always gone insane from wielding, and that Rand experienced that darkness in himself at the Eye, Rand decides to ask Moiraine to inform the rest of his friends that he died in the battle in order to protect them — and then he flees, leaving everyone he cares about, as well as his destiny, behind.
Given that The Wheel of Time has always been an ensemble show — say what you will about Moiraine being at the centre of all of Season 2’s advertising posters, which she deserves — Season 1 made the decision early on to have distinct narratives for a large portion of its primary cast. Despite the fact that the core group of Rand, innkeepers’ daughter Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden), local Wisdom Nynaeve al’Meara (Zo Robins), blacksmith Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford), and gambler Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris in Season 1, Dónal Finn in Season 2) began their journey to Tar Valon together, circumstances conspire to send them in wildly different directions, and Season
While Rand tries to live his life in relative anonymity, having fled to the Foregate beyond Cairhien to keep his head down, the others have their own purpose ahead of them, whether they desire to play their parts in the Wheel’s turning or not. Following their remarkable channelling show during the Battle of Fal Dara, Egwene and Nynaeve have joined the rest of the Aes Sedai at Tar Valon’s White Tower to continue their training. But, while Egwene approaches her new duty as a novice with care and trepidation, Nynaeve rebels against her masters at nearly every turn.
Egwene befriends fellow novice Elayne Trakand (Ceara Coveney), while Nynaeve, shockingly, reveals more levels to Liandrin Sedai (Kate Fleetwood) than anybody, including we viewers, ever knew about. Perrin has joined the hunt for erstwhile merchant and confirmed Darkfriend Padan Fain (Johann Myers), who escaped with the legendary Horn of Valere after the fight at Fal Dara, along with the Ogier Loial (Hammed Animashaun) and numerous Shienar soldiers. What about Mat? You’ll have to watch to find out where he’s ended up in all of this.
While seeing this fantastic ensemble together in scenes is usually a welcoming, warm thing, dividing off their narratives like this lets each individual actor shine on their own merits, as the show’s protagonists are plucked away from everything comfortable and thrust into new perils. Stradowski portrays a more paranoid, reclusive Rand, determined to resist the reality of his identity at any cost, despite the presence of other temptations (chief among them the gorgeous innkeeper Selene, portrayed with disturbingly witchy intensity by Natasha O’Keeffe).
Those hoping for more sisterhood moments between Egwene and Nynaeve will be rewarded abundantly in Season 2, but beyond that, Robins is given so much emotional heavy lifting to do when her character must face a significant trial in order to rise in the ranks of the Aes Sedai — and she infuses Nynaeve with all the defiance, power, and vulnerability that the sequence demands.
As a newbie to the group this season, Finn plays a Mat who feels quite different this time around — weathered and worn-down from his experiences, and unsure that he deserves to be reunited with his pals even if the opportunity arises. And with Moiraine cut off from the source of her power, it has ramifications for her relationship with al’Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney), who has his own soul-searching to do about the complexities of the Warder-Aes Sedai link, as well as where he fits into the larger picture.
With Season 2 of The Wheel of Time, it appears like things are set to darken just before a new dawn, albeit when that light will arrive is unknown. The Seanchan, a new imperialistic army introduced in the Season 1 finale (just in case you thought Rand and company had enough to cope with in terms of the danger of the Dark One), have come to prove they’re not fooling around.
They look like nothing else we’ve seen in this show before, and series costume designer Sharon Gilham and her team have truly outdone themselves with the Seanchan’s aesthetics, making them imposing on an outward level even before one of their numbers utters a single line of dialogue.
From magnificent insectoid-style gold headpieces to terrifyingly lengthy nail caps worn over the first two fingers, a single wave of a hand can signify the difference between life and death for anybody unlucky enough to be in that situation. As Perrin and the rest of the team hunting Fain discover firsthand, the Seanchan have no qualms about marching into any village or city and demanding allegiance from its people — as well as subjugating any who choose to resist them — and it’s one of the earliest signs that this new season is willing to go there in terms of devastating places.
Those who saw the first scene of Season 2 know that the Dark One is reconnoitring with his own gang of faithful followers, and one of the finest aspects of Jordan’s universe is that Darkfriends are frequently lurking in plain sight. Someone you’ve known your entire life could be a sympathiser, and the mystery surrounding who might be serving the Shadow — possibly even members of the Aes Sedai themselves — is emphasised in the new season, implying that any new face introduced into the story isn’t necessarily someone to be trusted.
It contributes to the underlying gloom that pervades the entire season. Even Rand, who is trying to exist on the periphery of the story, is drawn into the complicated political games in Cairhien, which Moiraine herself is drawn into as a sort of homecoming with ulterior motives, even if not everyone is pleased to see her return to her homeland.
There is no such thing as an entirely accurate adaptation. Certain modifications are required in the translation across mediums, from the page to the screen, not just to accommodate for differences in storytelling structure, but also to reduce a book (or two) clocking in at several hundred pages into a single season of television.
The first time I watched Prime Video’s adaptation of The Wheel of Time, I didn’t open The Eye of the World until I had almost finished Season 1; this time, I decided to read The Great Hunt while watching Season 2, and it made for an interesting experience in terms of seeing where the series chose to diverge from the original books. Finally, I came to the conclusion that these changes don’t necessarily detract from the story; rather, they enhance it while still evoking all the complexities of this fantasy world that successfully captured readers all the way back in 1990, when the first book in Jordan’s series was published.
Rafe Judkins, the show’s creator, as well as the season’s writers Katherine B. McKenna, John McCutcheon, Dave Hill, Rohit Kumar, Rammy Park, Justine Juel Gillmer, and Timothy Earle, all had a hand in capturing the unmistakable charm of this fictitious world on screen. The Wheel of Time Season 2 embraces the riches of its source material’s lore and worldbuilding, deviating from the books when it makes the most sense but never sacrificing depth of character and overarching plot — and remains one of the best fantasy adaptations on television.