Entertainment

Amazon's Gorgeous 'The Wheel of Time' Is Fast-Paced Fantasy

The Robert Jordan adaptation fits as much as it can into its hourlong episodes-sometimes too much.

Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime

With superheroes having claimed movies that are way longer than your average feature-length blockbuster, the realm of television is increasingly home to literature’s complex fantasy adaptations. From Game of Thrones to The Witcher, television is swiftly proving itself to have the bandwidth necessary to tell these convoluted tales, with multiple hours and many seasons devoted to realizing their source material’s richly imagined worlds. The Wheel of Time, Amazon Prime’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s intimidatingly dense 17-book high fantasy series, is well-suited to this kind of lengthy, episodic storytelling, its many characters hopping from one crucial location to another as their paths of destiny unfold and intertwine.

As a sort of audition for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series (especially as the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, draws so much of its plot structure from The Fellowship of the Ring), The Wheel of Time isn’t exactly auspicious, but there’s enough there to keep high fantasy fans watching, if only to absorb the bucketfuls of information thrown at you with every episode while you look at everyone’s gorgeous costumes and sets and sweeping vistas.

Three thousand years after an event known as the Breaking of the World, a group of female sorceresses known as Aes Sedai channel the One Power, a magical source of energy flowing through space and time and all living things, which is known to drive men insane if they attempt to wield it. A powerful Aes Sedai named Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) finds four young people in the nowheresville village of Emond’s Field-Rand (Josha Stradowski), Mat (Barney Harris), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), and Egwene (Madeleine Madden)-one of whom she believes to be the Dragon Reborn, an all-powerful figure whose first incarnation was responsible for causing the end of the world. Moiraine and her protector, a warrior named al’Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney), help the four youngsters escape from their village when it’s attacked by a band of Trollocs led by an eyeless Fade bent on corrupting the Dragon Reborn to the dark side.

Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime

With all that information to get through, the show at times feels much too breezy, with each episode spanning large chunks of narrative and backstory that would take hundreds of pages to get through in book form. The pacing is really my only criticism, though it’s a big one. I can’t help but compare it to something like the Lord of the Rings movies, which, even in their theatrical cuts, spent long stretches of time with certain characters in certain environments, allowing the audience to get a firm sense of place before moving on to the next thing.

The rest of the show is remarkable in its scope and general sense of aesthetics, dressing its characters in the type of swooshy cloaks and tunics and boots and belts that put me in the mood to find the nearest Renaissance Faire. The sets feel lived-in and detailed, with lots of scenes of characters sitting down in taverns with bread and ale, a high fantasy staple. The cast of mainly newcomers are compelling to watch more often than not, especially when they’re eventually separated into smaller groups and allowed meatier, talkier interactions with each other. Daniel Henney is fantastic as the stoic Lan, and Rosamund Pike is wonderful and a little bit terrifying, though she’s mostly out of commission in the first few episodes (the first three of which will all drop at once, a good strategy considering how much story there is to get through in three hours-you’ll know if you like the show by the time you’ve watched those).

The show has a lot going for it: rich source material, a cast who seem game for anything, well-choreographed fights (tons of them), some of the most beautiful visuals in a television show this year, and a very promising start, if a little clumsy with the exposition. If television is the new home of labyrinthine high fantasy stories, you could do worse than spend a few hours spinning around The Wheel of Time.

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.

Entertainment

Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.

Victoria

Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.

Queensland

BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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