It’s no secret that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (alongside literally every executive in the streaming space) wants to get his hands on the next Game of Thrones. At first, it seemed that Amazon Video’s Lord of the Rings spinoff was the platform’s most likely contender. However, Amazon has another epic high-fantasy adaptation in the pipeline: Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series.
The series began in 1990; following Jordan’s death in 2007, fantasy author Brandon Sanderson concluded the series per Jordan’s notes for its final installment in 2013. With some rights trouble, a last-minute pilot that aired during a paid programming slot in 2015, and a slander lawsuit now firmly in the past, the series has finally found a home at Amazon Prime. Although it’ll be some time before we finally see it hit screens, here’s everything we know about The Wheel of Time.
When will it premiere?
Currently, there’s no set release date for the series. Production began in September 2019, and the series is currently listed on IMDb as premiering in 2021, although there’s been no official word as of yet. Obviously, with most film projects on hold because of the coronavirus quarantine, production of The Wheel of Time has stalled as well. During a virtual Robert Jordan convention JordanCONline, showrunner Rafe Judkins made a surprise appearance during a panel, and gave some reassuring news about the state of the show, mentioning that, given all the downtime, he and his team are already deep into the writing stages of the second season.
“The nice thing about [the quarantine hold on production] is that we will now have all eight scripts going into prep for Season 2, which will let us do such a better job with it and it lets me focus more on the scripts and the editing that we’re doing right now because were not shooting,” Judkins said. He’s been working with Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s assistant Maria Simons, and Brandon Sanderson to honor the legacy of Jordan’s books, and has been watching tons of interviews Jordan gave to get the pronunciation of all the names, so it sounds like everyone involved with the show is doing everything they can to do this right.
Is there a trailer yet?
Not yet, since the show is still in production. We have gotten a few snippets of footage-and we mean SNIPPETS-showing important weapons in the series, like the forging of the iconic heron sword, and (above) the sinister ruby-hilted dagger of Shadar Logoth, as well as a couple seconds of Moiraine using the One Power.
Has it been renewed for a second season?
While there’s plenty of source material in Jordan’s novels, The Wheel of Time hasn’t yet been renewed for a second season. The series seems likely to continue so long as it does well on Amazon (there’s also the fact that Jeff Bezos is hellbent on getting Amazon its own Game of Thrones).
That being said, the writer’s room has already begun work on Season 2, even sans official renewal.
What’s the plot of the first season?
The Wheel of Time takes place in what is technically the future, but due to the cyclical nature of time in the series, looks a lot like Earth’s distant past. It’s during a time known as the “Third Age,” roughly more than three millennia past a cataclysmic event known as “The Breaking of the World,” which put an end to a technologically advanced era known as “The Age of Legends.” It’s all very A Canticle for Leibowitz, but in this universe, magic (controlled through an ability known as “channeling”) is real and society looks a whole lot like medieval Europe.
The first season of Amazon’s adaptation is based off of the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, which follows Aes Sedai (an all-female magic organization) member Moiraine Damodred as she attempts to find the Dragon Reborn, a prophesied figure whose actions will eventually save or doom humanity. After arriving in the small town of Two Rivers, Moiraine is unable to ascertain which of a group of three young men-Rand al’Thor, Matrim Cauthon, or Perrin Aybara-is who she’s looking for. Accompanied by their friend Egwene al’Vere and wise-woman Nynaeve, the group sets off for the Aes Sedai city of Tar Valon, avoiding forces sent by the Dark One that are also in search of the Dragon Reborn.
For those of you who want to get into theorizing already, the titles of some of the episodes in the first season have been revealed: Episode 1 “Leavetaking,” Episode 2 “Shadow’s Waiting,” Episode 3 “A Place of Safety”, Episode 4 “The Dragon Reborn,” Episode 5 “Blood Calls for Blood,” and Episode 6 “The Flame of Tar Valon.”
If that seems way too complex but you want to get into it anyway, the official Wheel of Time on Prime Twitter account is hosting a book club during quarantine, so you can read along with fans old and new.
Who’s in the cast?
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) leads the cast as Moiraine, the Aes Sedai character who acts as a mentor and guide to her younger charges. Rounding out the main group are Josha Stradowski (Just Friends) as Rand Al’Thor, Marcus Rutherford (Obey) as Perrin Aybara, Zoë Robins (The Killian Curse) as Nynaeve, Barney Harris (Billionaire Boys Club) as Mat Cauthon, and Madeleine Madden (Dora and the Lost City of Gold) as Egwene Al’Vere.
Also joining the cast are Daniel Henney (Big Hero 6) as al’Lan Mandragoran, Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones) as Tam Al’Thor, Álvaro Morte (Money Heist) as Logain Ablar, Hammed Animashaun (Black Mirror) as Loial, Alexandre Willaume (Tomb Raider) as Thom Merrilin, and Johann Myers (The Medallion) as Padan Fain. Maria Doyle Kennedy (Orphan Black) will be playing Illa, Narinder Samra will be Raen, and Daryl McCormack will be Aram.
Who else is involved?
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hemlock Grove writer Rafe Judkins is the show’s main showrunner and executive producer. Also executive producing are Red Eagle Entertainment’s Larry Mondragon and Rick Selvage, Radar Pictures’ Ted Field and Mike Weber, Darren Lemke, Marigo Kehoe, and Uta Briesewitz. Briesewitz is also slated to direct the first two episodes of the series. Rosamund Pike will also serve as a producer, with Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal and author Brandon Sanderson (who finished penning the series after Jordan’s death) serving as consulting producers.
The series is produced by Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television.
The visual effects (given this is a high fantasy series with a huge budget and a complex magic system, there will be many) will be done by a company called Cinesite, which has been responsible for the VFX in Avengers: Endgame, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Netflix’s The Witcher.
Hasn’t there already been a pilot?
The short answer: yeah, kind of. Back in February 2015, a pilot of a Wheel of Time adaptation titled “Winter Dragon” aired at 1:30am on FXX with little warning or promotion. No one really watched it (arguably the point), but the reason it existed at all is even more interesting: The Verge reported at the time that the conspicuous timing had something to do with the series’ rights, which were set to revert to Jordan’s estate on Feb. 11, 2015, should the rights-holder at the time, Red Eagle Entertainment, fail to produce an adaptation. So, the company rushed out a pilot and paid for airtime on FXX to get it out into the world.
At the time, Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal put out a statement (still available on Wheel of Time fan site Dragonmount), saying that the pilot was made without her “knowledge and cooperation” and without consulting Bandersnatch Group (Jordan’s estate). The Hollywood Reporter reported that those comments eventually led to a slander lawsuit on the basis that McDougal had, in fact, been informed of the upcoming pilot.
In any case, the legal issues were resolved in 2016 and McDougal confirmed that a television adaptation was in the works. Woohoo!Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.