Wheel of Time pt 7: Season 2's Rapid but Short-Lived Improvement

I gave Prime another chance, and this time they partially delivered.

Wheel of Time pt 7: Season 2's Rapid but Short-Lived Improvement

The Wheel of Time is a lengthy fantasy book series, massive in both its following and scope. It is comprised of 14 books and a novella, created by Robert Jordan but completed by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan's unfortunate passing.

Roughly one and half years ago, I wrote an article condemning Season 1 of the TV adaption (see here). I was partially through reading the series, and the disingenuously poor approach of the show actually made me appreciate the novels, their world building and the original characters so much more.

It took me 15 months to complete the books, an experience almost equally arduous as it was pleasant (see my reviews/ the preceding parts of this series here). It seems that Season 2 of the TV adaptation follows suit in its viewing. Read on for my reviews for every episode of Season 2 of Amazon Prime's The Wheel of Time show.

Each episode review may contain spoilers for the preceding episodes. Contains only light spoilers for the book series.

S02 E01 · A Taste of Solitude

Watched on September 23rd, 2023

This was so much better than season 1. I mean seriously. There was a sense of scale, a sense of urgency, a fast moving plot with every scene having substance, and it seems that they're putting our characters in interesting places for their arcs to begin.

We finally get some key character introductions, including Bayle Domon, Elyas Machera and Verin Sedai. Our core cast of Emon Fielder's and Moraine/ Lab will have some interesting places to go this season, but more importantly the show seems to want to quickly move through the story whilst respecting the key feelings of the source material. There was a little adult allusion which made me roll my eyes a bit, but apart from that a solid start (from the back of the disastrous season 1).

S02 E02 · Strangers and Friends

Watched on September 23rd, 2023

This season is so much better than Season 1, and I found myself actually hooked on events occurring and moments in this episode. We spend significant time with Rand, and the show's compressed timeline means we have breezed past certain developments regarding his sword-fighting and romance with Selene. These decisions were initially jarring, but with the rest of the show moving at such a brisk pace they soon felt fitting.

Moraine and Lan remain the heart of the show, with some beautiful and gut-wrenching moments between them. Pike and Henney draw so much more out of their characters than the books, partially as the show has to conjure up material to justify these people remaining as lead cast members. The Aes Sedai also grow in prominence and interest, with Verin, Liandrin, Sheriam and Alanna presenting intriguing loyalty angles. Elayne Trakand makes a suitable appearance, and the show's writers find a smart way to summarise the wedge between Egwene and Nynaeve that featured so heavily in the books.

Having Perrin and the Shienarins continue their pursuit of Fain and Darkfriends gives viewers the more classic "male fantasy warrior" archetypes. Between sweeping shots of the villages they visit and Tar Valon, the show truly feels epic in scale and boasts high production value. The mentions of events from other parts of the world (and books) also ensures that grand scale is maintained in story. Mat gets some great character moments and unexpected character interactions, but better be doing something in the next few episodes...

Whilst the lengthy book series still remains superior in characterisations, I enjoyed all of these portrayals as a different (and far more adult) turning of the Wheel.

S02 E03 · What Might Be

Watched on September 26th, 2023

This show is definitely taking broad strokes from the books, but crafting it's own take on the Wheel of Time. Nynaeve undergoes her Accepted trials, Rand plays the Game of Houses, Mat begins his tower escape and the Seanchean make their presence *very* known through some hardcore forced loyalty. The show is overall a lot more adult than the books, but at least in this Season they are getting the essence of the characters and moments right. There's also some fun foreshadowing.

S02 E04 · Daughter of the Night

Watched on September 26th, 2023

Wow! All the characters have moments that personify their book personalities. There was a great sense of urgency created by that shocker ending. I like that the show is digging further into our core cast, providing great scenes with everyone. The long list of highlighted conversations include Lan and Alanna's warders, Moraine and Lady Anvaere, Perrin and Elyas, Mat and Min, Nynaeve and Liandrin, Rand and Selene of course and every scene involving the Father of Lies. Whilst this cast seems a lot smaller than that of the books, crucially this world does not feel smaller or depopulated - the set design is excellent at providing this lived-in fantasy, capturing the different locations in varying shades and closer camerawork than Season 1 making everything feel bigger.

S02 E05 · Damane

Watched on September 30th, 2023

Such a brilliant episode of Wheel of Time TV 🥹 A scene that wasn't straight from the books but combined those aspects in familiar ways that made me genuinely weep with joy. Stakes are real, book moments are being hit, characters are compelling to watch on both light and dark sides.

S02 E06 · Eyes Without Pity

Watched on October 1st, 2023

ABSOLUTELY AWESOME. This adaptation of the books embraces the brutality of the Seanchen, pushing it a realistic extreme and making them genuinely terrifying. This is going to cause some interesting wrinkles down the line with future book events, but with the way the show has been going, I'm actually genuinely interested to watch how the creative team will make it unfold. Rand, Mat and Lan actors sell their emotional states on the male side. Moraine, the return of the Amyrlin and basically every Aes Sedai + Lady Anvaere absolutely dominate the screen. Then we get our Wonder Girl trio, who quickly emerge as some of the best characterised characters this entire season.

S02 E07 · Daes Dae'Mar

Watched on October 3rd, 2023

And... it's a hard crash back to S1 levels of mediocrity. After a solid run this season where the writing team was adapting character feels and hitting essential story beats in a refreshing manner, the weight of previous story decisions comes back in force here. It's almost as if viewers are kept too close to the cast now, as if they zoomed out and viewed the larger story there's things that logically crumble. Hey, at least we finally get Rand meeting the Amyrlin, a scene set in the opening of Book 2 The Great Hunt.

One particular piece of criticism I digested and have to unfortunately agree with is the utter lack of agency or positive characterisation for most of our male leads. Rand, Mat, Lan and slightly Perrin suffer from constant failure and an air of sadness, whereas female counterparts shine. As evidenced by my love for the characters from the books I have no issues with strong female MCs, but when the literal Dragon Reborn and two strongest ta'averen of the Age and the heir to the Malkier throne are constantly ingratiated or ineffective in achieving their storyline goals, it leaves a lot to be desired for book-familiar viewers.

Otherwise the rest of the episode ranged from mild to good moments, with one key reveal (delivered by an oddly-chosen character) doing some work in redeeming S1's finale. There's a clear focus on the interpersonal conflicts of the main cast, especially surrounding Moraine/ Lan. I'm glad that all the plot threads are culminating in Falme, even if there was some odd plotting required to make it happen. Despite the above, I've been impressed by a large part of the rest of Season 2 and I'm eager to see how the writing team wraps events up and sets the stage for Season 3 in the final episode. They probably don't need to mention the "flaming banner across the sky" line again, though some work towards Ingtar, the Seanchan history, the Horn itself or male channelling would probably have been more welcome.

S02 E08 · What Was Meant to Be

Watched on October 6th, 2023

So conflicted on how to rate this, but ultimately going on the lower end. Despite the high production value, amazing individual moments and set-up for future seasons, the Season 2 finale is ultimately a deflating disappointment. This is further made noticeable by the tangible improvement in writing, shooting, acting and respect for the book series throughout this season. Admittedly, Season 1 set the bar (very) low, but man did the first 6 episodes of this season cover significant ground in making up for it.

However, the Dragon (protagonist and most important character in this series) really doesn't get any of the moments he needed here. Instead, our main cast of characters are clumped together in initially interesting but then quickly tiring ways. The Dark lose a bit of their intriguing set-up and most of the villains in this episode present some baffling logic. Yes, viewers get cool moments but despite a slow-motion sequence I cannot help but feel the condensing of a lengthy list of events for this extra-long (70 minute) season finale. Hey, at least fans got the cool title sequence back...

Episodes Ranked

  1. S2E6 · Eyes Without Pity - 4.5/5
  2. S2E5 · Damane - 4.5/5
  3. S2E4 · Daughter of the Night - 4/5
  4. S2E1 · A Taste of Solitude - 3.5/5
  5. S2E2 · Strangers and Friends - 3/5
  6. S2E3 · What Might Be - 3/5
  7. S2E7 · Daes Dae'Mar - 2/5
  8. S2E8 · What Was Meant to Be - 2/5


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