With Game of Thrones coming to an end, everyone is looking for the next great book series to become a hit. And Amazon is banking on The Wheel of Time, one of the most prominent and successful fantasy series of the last 30 years. And Wheel of Time is a great pick; it is a contemporary to A Song of Ice and Fire, but at the same time, a decidedly different tale from that of political intrigue and scheming for a throne.
Here are five big reasons it could make for a great tv series.
It Doesn’t Assume A World Run Only By Men And White People
It’s still a bit of an exhausting cliché in fantasy, tracing all the way back to Tolkien himself. The world is patriarchal. Most of the characters are men. The few women present are fighting the patriarchy. It’s an unfortunate default that’s never willing to consider the wide breadth of gender politics that can exist in fictional worlds.
Wheel of Time differs in a big way. For starters, Original Sin was committed by a man. And because of the inherent gender played in accessing the Source (WoT equivalent of magic) then it’s drastically altered gender politics in the many years since. Almost nowhere in all of Randland is there a society where men run everything and women have no voice. Quite the opposite in fact. And that’s only just scratching the surface without even addressing things like the all-female Aes Sedai, and matrilineal and matriarchal civilizations like Andor and the Sea People.
What’s more, Jordan was clearly drawing on real-world cultures and peoples for his inspiration. So while Andor and Cairhien generally lean toward light-skinned folk, nations like Tear, the Sea People, the Seanchan, and the Borderlands indicate comparable ethnicity from the likes of Japan, India, the Middle East, and so forth. This means there will be many great opportunities both for women and people of color to dominate the screen, far more than in Game of Thrones.
It Has More Fantastical Elements
Game of Thrones has its virtues, but if you’re looking for a classic fantasy, it’s not necessarily the obvious go-to source. The actual fantasy elements tend to exist more on the edges, while the political intrigue takes the stage. And things are, quite frankly, almost entirely the opposite in Randland.
Magic plays a substantial role, on both a micro and macro level, and the rules are a huge factor for the world development, numerous characters, and across pretty much every civilization. There aren’t traditional mythical creatures, but there are an abundance of Jordan-crafted monsters, like Trollocs, gholems, and raken. There are also numerous plot devices in play (the different kinds of angreal, the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn, and Tel’aran’rhiod, just to name a few).
Jordan was a master of worldbuilding, and this is one of the areas in which the tv series could really shine.
Good And Evil Aren’t Binaries
For a story about the forces of light coming together to face against the source of all evil itself, The Wheel of Time has an impressive level of nuance when it comes to what qualifies at the two ends of the moral scale. And the larger the world expands, the harder it becomes to classify different peoples into “good” and “bad.”
Take the Children of the Light – an organization one would assume, based on its name, to be something reliable for the good guys. And while they do live and die by swearing off the Dark One, they also act as almost literal witchhunters with a McCarthy-esque mentality that makes them as dangerous as many a corrupt institution. They have a deep-seated mistrust of women (since they’re the only ones able to safely wield magic) and tend to assume a “guilty until proven innocent” stance when dealing with anyone outside of their ranks.
At the other end of the scale, we have characters like Elaida. A member of the Aes Sedai who rises to power, and becomes a cloying, domineering, ruthless, and self-serving tyrant. Yet for all the terrible things she does, it’s made very clear that she is most definitely not a Darkfriend. Her kind of evil is something all its own, something accomplished without swearing herself to the Dark One.
Being The Chosen One Is A Huge Burden
It’s such a commonality in fantasy that it’s become a cliché, if not a stereotype. Young, white male, potentially enacting a bit of wish-fulfillment for readers, finds out he’s the most Special of people in all the world. Not because of anything he’s done, but simply because of his birth.
While it’s true that Rand fulfills many of the traditional monikers, it’s far from a picnic. The last time the Dragon was around, he and a bunch of his male Aes Sedai companions near about destroyed the world. Men who can channel inevitably go mad, and those cut off from the Source lose the will to live. And since his birth portends the coming apocalypse, many dread his very existence.
From there, it only gets more complicated. Some people want to kill him, others want to use him, and then basically everyone else wants him to be their literal savior. Fix everything in their lives, become the leader of every nation, try to mend hundreds of years of infighting, and all the while just try to get everyone to cooperate and unify as a race because it’s literally the end of the world.
In The Wheel of Time, Jordan suggests that being the Messiah would be such an incredible burden, it might be too much for any single, small human to handle.
The Book Series Is Already Finished
The Harry Potter films managed to space themselves so they finished after JK Rowling did. The Expanse tv series should be fine, thanks in no small part due to the reliability with which is writers have been putting out new novels. But Game of Thrones notoriously ran into a lot of trouble when it ran out of books. A fact further complicated by Martin’s reputation for time in between new novels, and that - even with the show ending - the book series itself has yet to come to a close.
While The Wheel of Time has a reputation for similar problems (Jordan kept extending the length of the series, sometimes lost interest in finishing it, and wrote more than one bloated, go-nowhere novel) it also has the benefit of actually being a complete story. This will work enormously to the writers’ advantage, since it will be easier to plot things out, knowing exactly where characters and storylines are going to end up.
And while Jordan himself has passed on, his widow and editor Harriet McDougal is still around, while Brandon Sanderson – who gamely finished the series after his death – no doubt could prove a substantial contributor to the task as well.
What’s more, with the entire thing scoped out, it will be easier to see what can be excised from the final product. What characters to remove (note: there are a lot of characters in this series). What plotlines can be shaved down. What’s most important to the tale, and what will be improved by diminishing the amount of time devoted to it.
Of course, it will likely be years more till we see any of this. But if handled right, with a good team, a lot of financial backing, and patience from audience and producers alike, The Wheel of Time tv series could potentially become something great all its own.