“The Wheel of Time” Review: Amazon’s Attempt at a “Game of Thrones” Doesn’t Channel the Magic

Daniel Henney and Rosamund Pike in “The Wheel of Time.” Photo Courtesy: Prime Video

Rating: 5/10

I tend to like Rosamund Pike in all shapes and forms. The Londoner played the beautiful and above all warm and innocent sister Jane Bennet in Joe Wright’s version of Pride & Prejudice (2005); she showed the world she was a woman with two very different faces in David Fincher’s Gone Girl (2014); and she simply terrified me as the unscrupulous legal-appointed guardian Marla Grayson in I Care a Lot (2020).

Being a complete novice when it comes to Robert Jordan’s series of bestselling fantasy novels published in the 1990s and early 2000s, I approached The Wheel of Time as another way of enjoying Pike’s inability to typecast herself. In the eight-episode first season of this Prime Video adaptation, which debuts November 19 with the first three episodes and weekly releases after that, the actress plays Moiraine. She’s a member of an all-women organization called Aes Sedai. Its powerful members can channel the One Power (a.k.a. magic).

As with most fantasy, there’s a lot of world-building that needs to be done for the viewer to understand what’s going on. The Wheel of Time actually starts with exposition from the first frame of the show. Moiraine’s voice explains how some children are just coming of age and one of them is prophesied to become the next Dragon. They must find them before the Dark does. The last Dragon broke the world, but the next one could build it. All that while her character is getting dressed on screen and readying herself for the long journey.

What I failed to understand when I first started watching the show is that The Wheel of Time — at least when it comes to the majority of the running time for the six episodes available for review — is a road movie the same way The Lord of the Rings is. Moiraine gets on the road and goes on an adventure to find and bring to safety five possible contenders for being the next Dragon: Egwene (Madeleine Madden), Nynaeve (Zoë Robins), Rand (Josha Stradowski), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Mat (Barney Harris).

Moraine is not alone in her search. Her faithful Warder — a man with whom she shares a very special bond and whose main goal is to protect her — is always with her. Most Aes Sedais have at least one Warder. Moiraine’s is called Lan and is played by Daniel Henney.

The show does a lot of teasing — and not that much showing — at the maybe sexual nature of the relationship between some Aes Sedais and their Warders. Moiraine and Lan like sharing long silences and, when they talk, it normally shows how intimate the nature of their bond is. “I shouldn’t have had a drink. You always get emotional when I drink,” Lan tells Moiraine one night. What one feels, the other senses too.