Four huge ways The Wheel of Time is different from the books
The Wheel of Time takes a big leap from the page to the small screen.
Ask any fan about The Wheel of Time, and they’ll tell you that the books are dense reads. The books continuously introduce new characters, and they offer details of magic, worldbuilding, and garments with no sense of brevity. Yet, every element in the world created by author Robert Jordan matters, resulting in an immersive storytelling experience. Considering all the customs, cultures, divisions, magic wielders, and more, the novels’ glossaries at the end of each installment grow relatively dog-eared over time.
In the series adaptation created by Rafe Judkins, The Wheel of Time wastes little time in throwing viewers directly into this world with spellbinding visuals and pitch-perfect casting decisions. Rand (Josha Stradowski), Egwene (Madeleine Madden), Mat (Barney Harris), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), and Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) are whisked away from their village by the enigmatic Aes Sedai, Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), and her Warder, Lan (Daniel Henney). They set out to discover who in their group might be the prophesied Dragon Reborn, a person with the power to destroy or save the world.
With all these characters and rich details, you may need a little help keeping track of what’s happening in The Wheel of Time. Now that we are more than halfway through the first season, here are the four biggest changes the show has made thus far.
Mild spoilers ahead for The Wheel of Time Season 1.
1. The Wheel of Time sets its own pace
At the end of Episode Two, Moiraine and her group of potential “chosen ones” have already made their way to Shadar Logoth, which indicates the group's first imminent split. This happens about a third of the way through the first novel, The Eye of the World, and at the show's current pace, there’s no doubt that it could easily incorporate some of book two, The Great Hunt if desired.
Based on specific casting choices and storyline divergences, it wouldn’t be surprising for part of the first book to find itself in Season 2 or elsewhere for the sake of cohesive storytelling. After all, the show adapts a book series where one pivotal character didn’t appear for an entire novel.
Also, considering there are 14 books to adapt, it’s only natural for the show to forgo the Game of Thrones one book per season method. So far, the changes and speed at which the plot is being burned through have been necessary; it spares viewers from seeing the characters spend too much time traveling from one landmark to the next.
2. The Wheel of Time’s setting is more apparent
The Wheel of Time’s story technically takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. The novels hint at the setting and timeline, but it’s also an easy detail to miss for readers. However, the TV series makes the setting blatantly clear.
The story always felt removed from the standard linear timeline because of how the books present the cyclical nature of time. The camera scans the earth and depicts ruined cities in the first episode, suggesting a cataclysmic event.
The series refers to the cyclical nature of time as the Ages, and the story plays with the notion of reincarnation as people tend to be reborn in each new Age throughout time. Hence, the need to find the Dragon reincarnate, a man or woman capable of either saving the world or destroying it, is central to The Wheel of Time’s plot.
3. The main characters are older
In the novels, Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene are in their late teens, but the show ages them up to their 20s. According to showrunner Rafe Judkins’ interview with Decider, he didn’t want the show to feel like a young adult series.
Aging up the characters a few years doesn’t make much of a difference, aside from allowing for more enriching character backstories due to them being older. However, this brings us to the most significant change the show has made thus far.
4. One character gets a controversial new backstory
If there’s any real notable change to the characters, it’s their backstories. The show gives many of them better-developed relationships or familial drama. However, the real divesting from the source material moment comes with Perrin, our gentle giant of a character. He wasn’t married in the first book, but in the adaptation, he has a wife he accidentally murders with his ax as they fight off Trollocs in the first episode.
In the same interview with Decider, Judkins said he saw this as a necessary change to showcase how the characters would’ve had roots to their home, which makes leaving more difficult.
“So, it seemed very natural that at least one of these characters would be married if they were living in this town and they were in their early twenties,” Judkins said. “It felt like it was an important choice to have one of them have that and Perrin was the most natural choice to sort of fit into that…”
For fans of the book, this is a somewhat puzzling change. Despite how the producers are playing with the storyline, one can’t help but feel like it still fell into the framework of “fridging,” a means of killing off a female character for the sake of creating motivation for the male partner. It worked as a visceral moment of shocking violence, but for a series that thus far has done well in writing better female characters, this felt both unnecessary and ill-thought-out.
Despite much of the coverage surrounding the series, The Wheel of Time isn’t simply a knock-off of the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones. While it might be one of Amazon’s attempts to capitalize on a viewing public’s want for epic stories, it is not, in the episodes we’ve seen, done anything to suggest that its goal is to replicate the HBO drama.
If anything, these changes exhibit just how much The Wheel of Time succeeds in standing out on its own as a major fantasy epic.
The Wheel of Time releases new episodes every Friday on Amazon Prime Video.