The Wheel of Time Pulls Out All the Stops in Season 2: “It’s Truly a Nailbiter”
The Prime Video series is bigger and better in its second season, and things get “even crazier” from here.
The heroes of The Wheel of Time are a long way from home in Season 2.
The first installment of the Prime Video series saw Rand al'Thor (Josha Stradowski), Egwene Al'Vere (Madeleine Madden), Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford), and Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris) whisked from their lives in the nondescript town of Two Rivers and subsequently called to something much greater. According to the powerful sorceress Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike), one of these four small-town saviors is the Dragon Reborn, the one being powerful enough to either save the world ... or break it.
Uncovering the Dragon’s alter ego was the main task at hand in Season 1, but the series also had to work hard to establish each of its four potential saviors against the sprawling world of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books. With all that exposition in the rear view, The Wheel of Time now has much more room to spread out in Season 2. And for Sanaa Hamri and Thomas Napper — who each directed two of the season’s first four episodes — an expanding scope allowed them to flex their muscles as unconventional visionaries.
Hamri and Napper have each directed music videos for some of the biggest names in the game. Now, they’re traveling to far-off lands to tackle Robert Jordan’s 14-novel fantasy series. To hear Hamri tell it, though, their experiences in the music industry make them uniquely qualified for the “fanfare” of a world like The Wheel of Time’s.
“I just love tackling these types of worlds,” Hamri tells Inverse. The heightened visuals of The Wheel of Time are a natural progression for the director and executive producer — but neither she nor Napper were willing to skimp on the heightened emotions that the first season of the series delivered. As The Wheel of Time returns for Season 2, Inverse speaks with the series directors about committing to the action, angst, and adventure to the fantasy world.
This interview was edited and condensed for length and clarity.
During the first season, there was a bit of chatter about how The Wheel of Time compared to fantasy shows on other streamers. Moving into Season 2, were you concerned with setting the series apart or carrying over the momentum from Season 1?
Sanaa Hamri: I mean, Season 1 was such an amazing feat, and is a great type of fantasy show. When delving into Season 2, it was really about expanding upon those stories and the characters. I think there’s no worry. It’s about focusing on servicing those stories and those characters. What’s great about Season 2 is that we were able to travel even more so to various countries. We’re all over the Czech Republic. We went to parts of Italy. We were in Morocco and the Sahara Desert because that’s where the story took us, to this different type of landscape and topography. Season 2 naturally is the jump-off of Season 1, and I think one will be able to see that when you watch the show.
We’ve got to talk about the action, because it’s so much bigger and bolder as well. What went into crafting some of those massive set pieces?
Thomas Napper: I think I have to give a shout-out to Jan Petrina and the stunt team, Marek [Brichcin] and Roman, the swordmaster. It’s an amazing team here, a real gold-standard stunt team. They make the actors work really, really hard. There’s a lot of prep, as you would expect — but they really do go there, so there's a lot of training.
I’m really keen to get actors to do as much of their own stunt work as possible. I want to give a shout-out to Daniel Henney for his fight sequence at the end of Episode 1, which he did all himself. There’s nothing that he didn’t do in that sequence where he’s fighting three Fades, and that was an incredible achievement in terms of prep and the work that he put in. He’s such a fine athlete and a fit guy, but he was really broken by the end of those three nights of shooting.
Season 2 also feels a lot more emotionally driven. What went into balancing all the action and the worldbuilding with those quieter scenes between characters?
Hamri: With this specific show, we always service the characters and the stories. When there’s action, it’s through the point of view of the character versus trying to just have some action moves — even though that's fun and bright. It’s always great to really delve into the point of view of where the character is going. We focus on each character as they struggle, by themselves, for the first time. They’re solo and they meet new people. To me, that is what we’re servicing as filmmakers.
I feel like it’s important for us to allow the characters to breathe and to capture them intimately within an amazing setting. Not to forget the setting, but the setting is just the backdrop to these characters and the emotion that they’re going through ... The idea for me is about telling the story the best way I can.
Sanaa, your episodes really dive into the complexities of the Aes Sedai. I particularly love that we get more chances to really see Nynaeve grating against that. As someone that’s outspoken about developing characters with nuance, how did you tackle those scenes in episodes 3 and 4?
Hamri: For Nynaeve, which Zoë Robins is so impeccable in, it’s about leaning into what we can relate to. I’m so drawn to the show because I can see myself in it, and the actors are so capable of [bringing] a modern-feeling tone to this kind of fantastical world. Nynaeve, who has to face the arches, has to struggle in facing her own fears and being brave enough to do so. That’s such a great symbolism.
I especially love the feminist twist to The Wheel of Time, [and] to the Jordan books, in which the Aes Sedai have the power and they have warriors who are men. If there’s a man who can slightly channel, he’s locked up, that type of thing. I think that’s really important, to have a different point of view of the power dynamics that we never see before. Throughout the season you’re going to see that struggle, and you’re going to see how those power dynamics play in the most strong and dynamic ways.
Is there anything you want to tease about the back half of the season, or even for Season 3 moving forward?
Hamri: Well, the back half of the season, it gets even crazier. I won’t tell you what type of crazy, but it will be a lot of fun, but a lot of peril and danger. We will fear for our characters, and it is truly a nailbiter. We have had the best team, the best collaborators: from the cast to the crew, and of course to our showrunner Rafe Judkins and the writers, who are amazing. I just feel like you’ve got to watch Season 2 entirely, and it’s going to be a really crazy and fun ride.
Sanaa, you were recently on another fantasy series for Prime Video. How does The Wheel of Time compare to The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power? Is there anything you can reveal about the coming season?
Well, Wheel of Time and Rings of Power, they’re two different worlds, [with] writers that are different. Jordan is eclectic. He pulls from a lot of Eastern philosophies from all over the world. Then, I mean, Tolkien is an academic in linguistics and Anglo-Saxon literature, and a lot of his mythology is rooted in European myths. These are two different stories; they’re both within the fantasy genre.
What I love about that is that this space — just like dramas and television, that we have so many dramas — it allows this space to have two different shows with completely different worlds, with characters that are struggling with different things. I just love tackling these types of worlds. For me, it was a natural kind progression from my prior career, working with musical artists and the fanfare of all that back in the day, and being able to take rooted and grounded drama in a very heightened visual world, which is just so much fun.